On Tuesday, Cape Central displayed crisp passes and ballhandling skills that stymied the Sikeston Bulldogs during a 3-0 shutout at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
"One of the things that has bothered us this season is our play at midfield," Cape Central head coach Tom Doyle said after his team improved to 3-4-1. "When we lose the midfield play, we don't perform nearly as well.
"When we control the midfield, it means that we can control the flow of the game, move the ball to the wings and get scoring opportunities on the back side. One the things that we like to do is bring our defenders up and get them involved in our offense. When we do that, our opponents just can't sit back. They have to come up and defend them too," he added.
For more than 30 minutes Saturday, Cape Central's entire soccer team was trapped inside a glass elevator at Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters. The Tigers were killing some time between matches of the Francis Howell North Tournament, when they decided to go to the mall.
After fire crews were called to the scene, Cape Central coaches and players were pulled to safety through a door on top of the elevator.
"Tonight, we came to play soccer after having a tough weekend up in St. Louis," Doyle said. "I thought we played well in that tournament, but we just couldn't score goals against the three Howell teams. But I told the players, tonight, that we could use the momentum that we had built up from the weekend."
And the Tigers did exactly what Doyle wanted.
Cape Central held the ball deep in Sikeston territory for nearly 70 percent of the match. If not for Bulldogs' goalie Scott Droddy, who stopped Brooks Osburn's penalty shot in the 56th minute and turned away Cape Central scoring attempts with a trio of diving saves, Sikeston would have been defeated by a wider margin.
"They possessed the ball a lot longer than we did," said Sikeston head coach Derrick Long, whose team dropped its overall record to 3-5. "Cape Central was relentless tonight. They kept it in our end and pushed through. If we didn't have Scott (Droddy) back there, it would have gotten out of hand early."
Sikeston defenders Hunter Dillender, Ashton Cantrell, Daniel Sanders, Dakota Trevino and Nikko Galang were under fire for most of the match as the Tigers out-shot SHS in on-goal attempts 17-3. They were handed the task of stopping Cape Central forwards Jesse Lawrence and Zach Zaruba and defender Tommy McGowan, who eventually broke free to terrorize the Bulldogs.
The first golden scoring opportunity of the match for either team came in the 19th minute. When the Tigers' Lucian Johnson zig-zagged his way through the goalkeepers' box, his hard shot from close range deflected off Trevino and into the arms of Droddy, who made 14 saves in the contest.
But Lawrence put Cape Central ahead 1-0 in the 32 minute after a chip-shot went from the tip of his foot and over Droddy, who came out of the net for defensive purposes.
The Tigers increased their lead to 2-0 in the 44th minute, when McGowan sent a pass from the left wing to Zaruba, who was waiting at the top of the penalty box.
Sikeston's offense was limited to a total of five free kicks, with all of them coming from beyond the penalty box. Trevino had all three free-attempts that were on-goal shots for the Bulldogs.
"We have so many question marks on the scoring end," Long said. "Right now, it seems like we're playing on our heels, defensively, because we know the ball is going to be down there. We're not getting a counter-attack and don't have a prolific scorer that we can turn to."
All-in-all, two-goal deficits are extremely hard for Sikeston to overcome.
Garrett Duncan helped Cape Central put the match out of reach in the 61st minute, after he split the Sikeston penalty box defense, slowed up and tapped the ball into the lower right corner of the goal.
Cape Central was a 2-1 victor against Sikeston in the junior varsity match as Grant Hinton scored for the Bulldogs.