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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Sikeston soccer prepares for sectional

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Sikeston's J.R. Bizzell (2) and Joel Kinder.
FENTON - Sometimes when a fledgling program finally breaks out of its shell and wins that first district championship, that's reason enough to celebrate by itself.

And sometimes teams focus all their energy on just reaching the playoffs and they don't play their best in the playoff game.

But not the Sikeston Bulldog soccer team, which, captured its first district championship in its 12th year of existence.

The team had never posted a winning season before.

But that is assured this year with a 12-10-1 record and they will try to add to that mark when they take on Affton (14-6-3) today at the Anheuser-Busch Center in Fenton at 6 p.m. in a Class 2 Sectional.

The Bulldogs reached the playoffs in dramatic fashion as they beat longtime nemesis Notre Dame on its home field in a four-overtime thriller, 3-2 to clinch the Class 2, District 1 title.

"We just have to get focused back on the game," said Sikeston coach Derrick Long, who now has 49 wins at Sikeston. "With that game the other night, all the guys are still celebrating that win. I just want them back on task with the same mentality we had Friday night. Every time we've had a big win this year, we've bounced back ready to go. Our guys are pretty focused. They really want to get to the final four."

This is uncharted territory for the Bulldogs, so it would be understandable if the players' minds were a little scattered.

But Long says that hasn't been the case.

"We had a pretty good practice today," said Long. "We talked about the Notre Dame win and talked about what we did right and wrong. And then we started focusing on Affton. I worked them pretty hard today so they should be ready. They know what's ahead of them."

Also uncharted is the Bulldogs' opponent -- the Affton Cougars.

"I don't know a lot about them," said Long. "They've got one guy who's got 33 goals this year and we're going to key on him at the beginning at least until we can see what he can do. We've played some common opponents. We're pretty even just looking at how we played some teams. It's just one of those things where you don't know anything about them, but the good things is they don't know anything about us. We're going to try to attack them early with Blake (Taylor) and (J.R.) Bizzell and try to hit a bunch of balls to them early and try to get a lead."

Senior Anel Ibrcic is the top player with his 33 goals for Affton.

Drawing the unenviable task of trying the cover the high scorer will be senior Eric Chappell.

"We'll probably just start with Eric Chappell -- he's probably our best cover man on defense -- and play them a little more defensively at the start of the game," said Long. "We did that with Lutheran South. We just want to keep an eye on him at least starting out. I hear they are a real physical team so we just have to make sure we keep our heads and not get any silly fouls or yellow cards. We just have to keep our composure. We've been beating teams all year by taking it outside with our speed and popping it back in the center. It's got us this far so we're going to keep with it and see how the game dictates it."

Sikeston has its own dynamic duo in Bizzell and Taylor, who each have 25 goals. Bizzell also has 25 assists, which is a school record, while Taylor has 14 assists.

"That's pretty unique -- you don't see that too often with two guys with 25 goals leading the team at the end of the year," said Long. "A lot of it feeds off Chris Carnell up there too. He's got a great outside shot which he showed Notre Dame. So when they started having to cover three guys, then there's so many gaps that open up for Blake and Biz. All three of those guys move around a lot so they're not easy to cover. When our midfielders get them the ball anything can happen."

Carnell has six goals and eight assists. Another statistical leader is E.C. Atchison, who has 12 assists and four goals.