(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Sikeston soccer program's biggest rivalry will be renewed on its biggest stage tonight at 6 p.m., when the Bulldogs face off against the hosting Notre Dame Bulldogs for the Class 2, District 1 title.
"You can't deny that just the match-up between us and them adds intensity (to the championship game)," Sikeston coach Doyle Noe said. "In any sport we play them (even) the regular season games are magnified. There's more effort on both sides and more spirited play and more intensity.
"The fact that this is for a district championship puts it way up there."
Sikeston earned a trip to title game thanks to its 3-0 win over Perryville in the first round of the tournament Saturday afternoon while Notre Dame opened up with an easy 6-0 rout of Fredericktown to earn its spot.
Though the Bulldogs' game wasn't the rout like their rivals, Sikeston held held control of the game from early on as Hunter Williams put his team up 1-0 on the Pirates off a free kick just five minutes into the match.
A goal by Evan Underwood early in the second half, followed by another from Williams sealed Sikeston's trip to the title game.
Now Sikeston will face the defending champions who have won four-straight titles and won the two teams' only match up of the regular season back in early September.
Fighting to a scoreless tie in regulation, Notre Dame's Jonathon Clements ended the game in overtime
"That game was back-and-forth, could have went either way," said Noe. "Unfortunately we didn't put one in and they got us in overtime."
Happy with his team's play in the game though, Noe added that the contest showed his squad can hang with the blue Bulldogs.
"We know we can bring the effort and stay right there with them," he said. "The guys are confident. We're not cocky or arrogant by any means because their the defending champs and they have beaten us this year.
"We haven't done anything yet, but we know we belong on the field."
If Noe's squad can pull of the win, it will be the third district championship in school history.
The school's current championships came back-to-back in 2004 and '05, both on overtime wins over Notre Dame. It was the following year that Sikeston made their last appearance in a title game, falling to Notre Dame to start the blue Bulldogs current streak of titles.
In facing Notre Dame, Noe knows it will take a well executed game to hang with the perennial champs.
"Up top it's going to be the pressure we can put on their defense." he said "Their defense is solid, they are organized and their keeper is really good. He's one of the best around.
"We're going to have to capitalize on any kind of chances we get, finish some goals and stay organized in the back."
As if playing a district rival for the championship isn't enough motivation, Sikeston can also pull from the sting of an early exit in districts last season to a team they had already beaten twice in the regular season.
Opening up the tournament against Perryville, Sikeston saw the Pirates bring their season to a premature close with a 2-0 shutout.
"That left a bad taste in our mouth all summer and we've been focused on that," said Noe. "To get to this level this year just one year later is a major improvement, but we're not even close to satisfied.
"We want that game (tonight)."