(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With his team locked in a physical, defensive battle with Perryville on Monday, Sikeston goalkeeper Michael Gipson blocked all 15 of the Pirate's shots to lead the Bulldog's to a 1-0 win.
"We battled today," Sikeston coach Doyle Noe said. "Michael made some great saves in goal that really helped us out a lot. He had a great game to get the shutout so I was very proud of him. I'd say he's the player of the game for sure."
Still looking for the upper hand midway through the second half, the Bulldogs caught a big break when junior defender Josh Hampton took a free kick from center field near the midline with 18:02 to play.
As his teammates got in position to head-in his ensuing kick, Hampton sailed the ball high and over the unprepared goalie, landing in the back of the net for the go-ahead score.
"I was just trying to put it in the far bar and hopefully somebody would head-butt it and put it in goal," Hampton said. "But I wasn't expecting it to go in."
"We get a free kick close to the midline and their keeper is a little young and he's inexperienced," Noe said. "He was way off his line, Josh saw that and played it in to the goal and just floated it over his head to beat the kid.
"You hate to see a great game end like that, but obviously you take them anyway you can."
With no room for error, Sikeston's defense spent the final 18 minutes trying to hold off a Perryville team desperate to knot things up with a late goal.
Holding strong until the final seconds, the Bulldogs defense caught a break when Perryville's Bryce Weibrecht took a pass for an open shot from the right corner of the net with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Fortunately for Sikeston, Weibrecht's shot sailed wide left to lock up the Bulldog win.
"They caught us on a counter attack and it went off the post there in the last few seconds," Noe said. "Definitely caught a break there, but I'll take it anyway I can get it.
"Good teams find ways to win and that's what we did today so I'm proud of the boys for that."
Recording 14 shots on goal in the contest, Sikeston was led in shots by sophomore Zach Harrison who had four. Tyler Neal was second on the team with three shots while Josh Bill and Hampton had two apiece.
Though none of their shots found the net, one of Perryville's biggest opportunities came midway through the first quarter.
Holding the ball in Sikeston's box, the Pirates sent of a barrage of five, short range shots at the Bulldog's goal in under a minute. While each shot was on target, Gipson and a handful of defenders kept the net clean.
"They played one that was probably by Gipson and Josh Hampton was able to clear it off his line," Noe said. "They took four or five just point blank shots and defenders were blocking shots and Mike made a great save and kept the ball out. With good defenses, that's the way you play."
Despite his team suffering its first loss of the season, Pirate's (2-1) coach Jerry Fulton was pleased with his kid's effort.
"I thought we came out strong and the first 20 minutes that we really controlled the game then Sikeston settled in and came right back," he said. "I thought it was a great game. We hadn't played a lot of quality teams up to this point and this was a great test for us.
"Sikeston is in our district and just knowing that we can stay with them and play with them makes us feel pretty good. We'll try to bounce right back tomorrow and give Poplar Bluff a game."
Now at 4-3 on the season, the Bulldogs will travel to Cape Girardeau today to play the Cape Central Tigers at 5:30 p.m.
"We lost to them last year on our field on penalty kicks so we have something to prove tomorrow," Noe said.