Rob Putthoff faces two challenges as the soccer coach at St. Michael the Archangel: build a program from scratch and revive the success of its predecessor.
Putthoff inherited the tradition, but not much else, from the Archbishop O’Hara program that ended when the school closed its doors last spring. Six of his players are former Celtics, but like the rest of his roster, they are all underclassmen.
And being a young team, St. Michael’s is 5-10 and taking its lumps this season. On Wednesday the Guardians took on Lee’s Summit at Bud Hertzog Stadium and lost 10-0 in a game that ended midway through the second half.
“This hopefully is one of those moments in your first year when you look back three of four years from now you can kind of smile about,” Putthoff said. “This is building the foundation for where we’re headed.”
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Boys soccer was the last hurrah for O’Hara, which was slated to close by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph with St. Michael’s opening this fall. The Celtics won the Class 2 state championship in 2016 and made it back to the final four with a 20-8-2 record in its farewell season. Putthoff didn’t coach those teams, but as an O’Hara graduate and a longtime soccer coach in the area, he’s well-aware of the tradition.
“I’ve got a connection to the school and the alumni,” Putthoff said. “We tap into the tradition there and try to carry it over. We’re a young team and we’re trying to get back to the level they were at over the last few years.”
Puttoff has only one senior on his roster – goalkeeper/midfielder Zach Bolger – and four juniors, three sophomores and 11 freshmen. Sometimes the Guardians have as many as eight freshman in their starting lineup.
“With our heavy schedule they’re getting a lot of experience,” Putthoff said. “Playing time-wise they’re probably sophomores or juniors by now. They’re getting a lot of time on the field.”
St. Michael’s youth proved no match for Lee’s Summit’s older and deeper squad. Keenan Johnson scored the Tigers’ first goal 30 seconds into the match, and the Tigers outshot the Guardians 19-1 as they won almost every ball at midfield in the first half. The Guardians didn’t get a shot until Dan Jakobe received a ball in front of the net with 18 minutes left in the half.
Mason McQueen, Joe Vandenbos and Zach Froehlich scored two goals each for Lee’s Summit, which led 7-0 by halftime. Erik Holm, Riley Wilson and Jackson Wood also scored goals. Wood’s shot from the top of the 18-yard box with 15 minutes left accounted for the Tigers’ 10th goal and ended the game.
The scoring outburst was a welcome sign for Lee’s Summit coach Dave Wiebenga. Last week the 6-4 Tigers dropped three straight matches in the Top Dawg Tournament at Blue Valley, getting outscored 9-1 despite creating numerous opportunities
“We knew we had to put it together tonight and just see the ball hit the back of the net,” Wiebenga said. “That does so much for a player’s confidence and the team’s confidence. Because we’ve been playing good soccer.”
Putthoff also found plenty to like despite the lop-sided score. Goalkeeper Vincent Haggerty, a freshman who started the first half, made several big saves and blocked a penalty kick early in the half. Brett Zagar, another freshman who played the second half, helped curtail Lee’s Summit’s attack.
He’s coming along really well,” Putthoff said of Haggerty. “In the second half I thought we came out with a little more heart and least gave them a little more competitive half.”
Wiebenga, who has known Putthoff a long time, expects the Guardians to be a more formidable foe in the future.
“He’s going to do well with those kids and he’s going to get the program going,” Wiebenga said. “They’ll get in the final four again sooner rather than later.”