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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Sikeston soccer claims first-ever district title

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Notre Dame's Abe Dirnberger headed the ball away from Sikeston's E.C. Atchison.
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- If the Sikeston boys soccer program was going to make history away from home, perhaps there was no better setting than Notre Dame Regional High School.

The Bulldogs won the school's first boys soccer district championship Friday night by beating Class 2, District 1 tournament host and top seed Notre Dame 3-2 in four overtimes.

Sophomore Blake Taylor headed in a corner kick from senior J.R. Bizzell, setting off celebration on the middle of Notre Dame's mucky field with players and a hundred or so Sikeston fans.

"They've been our nemesis every time we play them," Sikeston coach Derrick Long said. "I think it's been two years since we even scored on them. We just wanted it more from the get-go."

The first half ended scoreless, but Sikeston (12-10-1) put Notre Dame on its heels from the opening minutes.

Less than 15 minutes into the game, sophomore Chris Carnell fired a shot that hit the left goal post and bounced back across the crease before Notre Dame cleared the ball.

After each team scored two goals in a wild second half, during which Sikeston never trailed, the teams then played scoreless through three 10-minute overtimes before Sikeston scored the winner midway through the final stanza before penalty kicks.

"It was a great game played by both teams," said Long, in his sixth year coaching the Bulldogs. "You hate to see anyone lose a game like this."

But for Sikeston, avoiding the loss brought history.

The Bulldogs play in a state quarterfinal game 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Anheuser-Busch Center in Fenton against an opponent to be determined. The District 2 tournament at Affton was scheduled to conclude Saturday.

Sikeston will be led into the quarterfinal by Bizzell, who had two assists and scored his 25th goal. His team-leading mark was later tied on Taylor's winning goal.

Bizzell set up Sikeston's first goal with a corner kick that was knocked home by E.C. Atchison, who had set up the corner with a shot deflected wide by Notre Dame keeper Nathan Kolda. That tally came just 1 minute and 10 seconds into the second half.

It also fired up the Bulldogs, who kept up the pressure and had a string of three consecutive corner kicks during a flurry of activity around the Notre Dame goal.

But Notre Dame withstood the barrage and knotted the score with 17:27 remaining when Frankie Ellis crossed a pass from the left side to Bryce Willen for the goal.

Bizzell answered in less than a minute. The senior took a pass from Carnell, who had taken advantage of a misplay by a Notre Dame defender on a long Sikeston ball, and dribbled in for the shot.

Sikeston was on the verge of celebrating a victory -- the public address announcer had even instructed fans crowded along the sideline to stay off the field at game's end -- when Notre Dame tallied the equalizer with 8:10 to play. This time, it was Willen feeding Ellis.

"They just kept coming back," Long said. "We couldn't even waste time against them. it was just two good teams going at it."

Sikeston kept up the pressure in the overtime with an early header toward the goal that was knocked away by Notre Dame defender Andrew Buelow.

But Notre Dame suffered a costly blow at the end of the first overtime when Willen was injured while pressuring the Sikeston goal from the right side.

He dribbled along the end line and fired a shot -- which struck the side of the net -- before colliding with Sikeston keeper Scott Droddy. Willen was taken from the field in a cart and went to the hospital.

"That was devastating for us. It was devastating for basketball," said Notre Dame coach Brad Wittenborn, concerned that Willen may have torn a ligament in his right knee.

Willen not only is Notre Dame's top basketball player, "he's our best guy as far as going up in the air," Wittenborn said.

"We gave up two goals off corners," he added. "They did a better job in the air tonight."

Willen's absence may have played a role in the final goal, but it was set up when Sikeston's forwards rushed past the Notre Dame defense to get to a ball near the end line.