(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With their 1-0 win over Saxony Lutheran Wednesday night, the Sikeston Bulldogs set a new team record in wins for the boy's soccer program.
Having tied the previous record of 13 with their 2-1 decision over Poplar Bluff Monday, the Bulldogs were able to hold onto an early one goal lead to set a new benchmark for Sikeston in what was their final game of the regular season.
"I'm pretty excited about that," Sikeston coach Doyle Noe said. "That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year to try to get to 14 wins. We still have districts left so hopefully we can get a few more."
Being Senior Night, it was fitting that senior Grant Hinton provided the Bulldogs with what ended up being the game-winning goal.
Set up near the left goal post at the 12 minute mark in the first half, Hinton took a cross field pass from a crowded right side of the playing field.
With no defenders between him and the net, Hinton hit a shot low and to the right side of the Crusaders goalie to give Sikeston a 1-0 lead.
"I believe Tyler (Neal) played it across the box," Hinton said. "A couple people missed it and I just put it in the back of the net."
Pleased to get an early lead, Noe was glad to see his team able to adapt quickly.
"He was where he needed to be and the other players saw that and switched the field," he said. "They caught the defense kind of standing a little bit and he was there and put a good shot in. That was a really good goal."
Seven minutes later, Sikeston goalie Michael Gipson made a key save on a potential game-tying penalty that turned out to be one of Saxony's better scoring opportunities of the night.
Lined up for a penalty kick at the top of the goalie's box, a Crusader forward hit a high shot just out of the reach of Sikeston's line of defenders. Diving to his left, however, Gipson was able to deflect the shot to maintain the shutout.
"He's real quick side-to-side," Noe said of Gipson. "He covers a lot of room and made a great save right at the post to keep that out of there. He made some good plays tonight for sure."
Though Sikeston spent the rest of the night locked out of the net, the Bulldogs defense held tight, putting them at 14-11 entering their first round district game against Perryville on Saturday.
"We just couldn't put it in the back of the net," senior Clayton Kinder said. "We've been playing hard and our offense had been really good this year, but we just couldn't put it in the back of the net today.
"We played well, but I think once districts come around we'll play a lot better."
With the regular season over, the Bulldogs will face a familiar opponent this Saturday when they open up the Class 2, District 1 Tournament against Perryville.
When play begins at 4 p.m. at Notre Dame High School in Cape Girardeau, it will be the fourth time the two teams have faced each other this season.
"We beat them twice and they got us the last time we played," Noe said. "They're a very aggressive, physical and strong team and they've beaten some good teams this year.
"Playing the same team four times in a season is tough. You feel each other out and know what to expect so there's not going to be a lot of surprises. It's just going to be who wants to show up and who wants it more Saturday."