(Photo by Chris Moore, Staff)
The Sikeston Bulldogs played inspired soccer in the first half against the No. 3 team in Class 2, as the Bulldogs went into the half tied 0-0 with Notre Dame.
However, Notre Dame caught fire and scored three unanswered goals in the second half to win the Class 2, District 1 title over a game Sikeston club.
After upsetting Notre Dame in the district championship the last two seasons, Sikeston was denied the three-peat.
"The game plan heading into the game was to play a defensive-minded contest," said Sikeston head coach Derrick Long. "They have so many weapons over there we just hoped to maybe get into a shootout like last year (Sikeston won 1-0). We put Timmy Hart in back with Blake (Taylor) and hoped to counter attack if possible. It was a good game plan on paper. It worked in the first half but they got us in the second."
Much of the action in the contest was on the offensive end of Notre Dame.
Led by Jack Wedemeier, Ty Williams and Ryan Willen, Notre Dame put constant heat on Sikeston's defense. In the first half alone, Notre Dame outshot Sikeston 11-1.
"This is our fourth time playing Sikeston and they play extremely hard," said Notre Dame head coach Brad Wittenborn. "They play some solid defense and know how to play on this field. It (field) is a little smaller than what we are use to."
Coming out in the second half, Wittenborn tried to settle his kids and focus on the last 40 minutes of action.
"We tried to calm the kids down after the first half," said Wittenborn. "We didn't want them to panic. They played well in the first half, just shots didn't go in for us. We told them there was no need to get nervous, just go out and play the way we are capable of playing."
Notre Dame came out in waves at Sikeston early on in the second half and finally got on the board at 47:00 on a nice goal from Williams.
After the first goal by Notre Dame, the floodgates seemed to open. Three minutes after the Williams goal, Willen put one past Sikeston goalie Scott Droddy to put Notre Dame up 2-0.
"Notre Dame scored their first goal on a basic backdoor cut that we were lost on," said Long. "After that, we moved Timmy out trying to get a goal back and they got to us. If you lose 1-0 or 3-0, it is still a loss. We had to try and attack to get the score tied again and they took advantage. Give them credit, they have a very good team with a lot of weapons."
Senior Abe Dirnberger iced the game with the third and final goal for Notre Dame.
"We have got some kids that can score for us," said Wittenborn. "But give credit to our defense tonight. We kept Taylor, Hart and (Chris) Carnell away from the goal and really limited their offensive possibilities. It is a good win for us, but I will give credit to Sikeston. Those kids played with a lot of heart and they left everything out on the field tonight."
Sikeston could not get its offense going and were outshot by Notre Dame 25
-3 for the contest. Despite giving up three goals, Droddy did yeoman's work in goal for Sikeston.
"Scott played a great game and is just a great player," said Long. "I can't say enough good things about the way Scott played tonight. He basically kept us in the game in the first half. But you give a great team like Notre Dame enough chances, they would eventually get to us and they did."
Sikeston (13-12-1) ends its season with a loss after winning eight straight games. Sikeston will have to replace seniors Taylor, Carnell, Sam Raines and Adam Gillean for next year.
It's Sikeston's second winning season in school history. Last year marked the first winning season.
"They're going to be some big shoes to fill for next year," said Long. "Those kids won two district titles in their four years here. Taylor ended with 96 career goals, Gillean and Raines were solid kids for us and Carnell is just a great soccer player. It is going to be tough without them."
Notre Dame (23-1) moves on to the sectional round in St. Louis and will face Lutheran South.