Smith-Cotton senior Tommy Branstetter recorded the season’s first hat trick, junior Jacob Ideran added two goals and the Tigers defeated Capital City 7-1 Tuesday at Susie Ditzfeld Memorial Field.
With a loss in the Kickapoo final against Nixa and another decided by penalty kicks against Rock Bridge, The Tigers (13-5-1) have won five of their last seven matches.
Smith-Cotton head coach Ethan Weller said the team improved as the season progressed. The Tigers host Boonville on Thursday, finish a five-game homestand Tuesday, Oct. 29 against Southern Boone and conclude the regular season on Halloween at Ozark.
“For the first half of the year we were trying to figure out who we were,” Weller said. “We even switched formations because we didn’t like what we were seeing and we couldn’t see them turning a corner yet.”
S-C dominated possession moments after first touch, but its cohesion slipped after landing two shots on goal. Awarded a free kick via handball, Capital City’s Ryan Crane lifted a shot above S-C’s four-man wall and tucked it into the lower left corner of the net to give the Cavaliers a lead in the eight minute.
After the team’s second corner kick, Branstetter settled the ball and delivered a charge from about 30 yards away to tie the match. Two minutes later, Ideran slipped through the Capital City line and beat the goalkeeper to score the go-ahead goal. Tigers sophomore Vicente Saldana recorded the assist.
Branstetter and Ideran added to their tallies in the 35th minute. S-C senior Ty King drew a foul and Branstetter buried the free kick, while Ideran scored moments after the first touch after the goal on an assist from junior Austyn Wenner.
Before scoring four goals, Smith-Cotton head coach Ethan Weller cleared his bench entering six substitutes in the 20th minute. While he understands the team played — and won — last night against Battle as part of a three-game week, Weller said the Tigers lacked effort after the opening moments.
“I think we were conserving some fuel,” Weller said. “If I had 10, I would have subbed everybody. … We won’t get away with that in a district game.”
S-C senior Ty King, sophomore Sam Cash and Branstetter scored in the second half, with senior Keith Hawkins earning the assist on the latter two. Weller said his best defender took advantage of the opposition on Tuesday.
“In a game like this, he’s able to get up a little bit and he’s able to have some offensive opportunities,” Weller said of Branstetter. “He certainly capitalized tonight.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @abagueros2.