CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Notre Dame Bulldogs sent an early message to the Sikeston Bulldogs with a dominating performance in their first encounter of the fledgling season.
Sikeston, the two-time defending district champion over perennial district favorite Notre Dame, was drubbed 6-1 by the host Bulldogs in the opening round of the Notre Dame Soccerfest on Thursday.
In a contest played almost exclusively on Sikeston's defensive end, Notre Dame, forged a 5-1 first-half lead.
"They looked good, a lot better than I was expecting," said Sikeston coach Derrick Long. "We can't let our defense and (goalie Scott) Droddy get peppered like that."
Notre Dame, with all players sporting blond hairdos, outshot Sikeston by a whopping 36-5 margin.
Despite the lopsided score, Droddy played well, stopping 20 shots on goal.
Notre Dame (2-0) opened the scoring with a goal at the 28:06 mark of the first half on Jack Wedemeier's goal off an assist from John Unterreiner. At the 23:04 mark, they ran the score to 2-0 on a goal by Abe Dirnberger from Ryan Willen.
Sikeston came back with a header goal in the box by Blake Taylor off a corner kick from Adam Gillean to cut the margin to 2-1 with 7:26 remaining in the half.
"I wasn't happy with giving up that goal on the corner to Blake because we know that's who they're trying to go to on that play and we had a guy assigned to take that away," said Notre Dame coach Brad Wittenborn.
Any thought of a Sikeston comeback, however, was short-lived, as Notre Dame deposited another goal less than two minutes later to reclaim a two-
goal lead at 3-1. Dirnberger and Willen again teamed for the score.
Notre Dame, which scored two more goals in the half, controlled the action throughout with crisp passing, a deeper bench and an attacking offensive approach.
"Well, it's early in the year and we're still trying to figure out just who fits where, but I thought we moved the ball very well, especially for early in the year," said Wittenborn. "I thought we moved the ball on the ground well and I was very pleased with how we checked to the open areas and did a nice job of creating opportunities."
Ty Williams, who recorded a hat trick, scored the fourth Notre Dame goal on a high, looping kick from the left wing that caromed off the right goal post into the net.
Williams picked up his second goal with 50 seconds to go to stretch the lead to 5-1. His third, off a penalty kick play, closed the scoring at the 9:45 mark of the second half.
"They're real quick and they're real strong," said Long. "They knocked us off the ball a lot tonight and pressured our box while we were trying to cover seven of them with four guys."
Long said the mismatches in the box were a result of inexperience in the midfield.
"I knew we had question marks there," he said. "We've got to build it from the defensive side up."
Notre Dame, quicker to the ball all evening, scored two goals off corner kicks and held a decided edge of 11-3 in that statistic as well as using its height advantage to control the box with several headers to score or set up points.
Said Wittenborn, "We're a lot better in the air than we've been the last couple of years and I credit Coach Vollink (assistant coach Matt) with that.
"He does most of the training of the players for us and we've tried to emphasize getting better in the air because I thought that was a weakness and an area we needed to improve."
Long reminded that his Bulldogs dropped their season opener by a five-goal margin last season, too, on the way to an eventual district title.
"I'm not stressing about it," he said, of the opening-game loss. "It just shows us we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot to prove to ourselves, but we'll get it going."
Sikeston falls to the losers bracket in a 3:30 contest on Saturday against Carbondale, Ill.
In other first-round action, defending tournament champion Carbondale dropped a 2-1 decision to Poplar Bluff, Marion, Ill., edged Cape Central 2-1 and Jackson blanked St. Pius X, 2-0.