(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Not content with winning the first their first district title in six years, the Sikeston Bulldogs soccer team hopes to keep their postseason push alive this Tuesday when they take on the Farmington Knights.
"At this point in the season if you lose a game you go home," Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said. "You don't want to be that team and we've ended the season of two different teams. We've extended our season and we want to keep going."
After routing Fredericktown 8-0 in the Class 2, District 1 tournament, the Bulldogs earned their second-straight trip to the title game, where they took on Perryville this past Wednesday.
There, senior Hunter Williams provided Sikeston the match's lone goal just 9:29 minutes into the the game to propel the Bulldogs to their third district championship in school history and first since 2005.
Now the Bulldogs stand at the precipice of yet another record as no Sikeston squad has ever advanced past the first round of the Class 2 playoffs.
Already this year Sikeston has broken the school record for most wins in a season, which stands at 19 and counting, while goalkeeper Michael Gipson holds the mark for most shutouts in a season that was pushed to 11 in the title game.
Now if Sikeston wants to continue their winning ways, they will have to get past a tough Farmington team that scored 10 goals in two games on its way to the Class 2, District 2 championship.
"They're a very, very good team," Noe said of the Knights. "We actually beat them earlier in the year 2-0, but we were very fortunate to get out of that game with a victory. They're skilled, physical and very aggressive. They play with a lot of energy and put a lot of pressure on you.
"They've done well this season. They won our conference, (the SEMO Conference), and beat Jackson and Notre Dame. We're going to have to play really, really well to try to come out with a victory on Tuesday."
In the two teams' lone matchup this early, Sikeston (19-4) edged out the Knights (16-5) 2-0 on goals by seniors Josh Bill and Hunter Williams.
Though they shutout Farmington in that contest, which was played early in the regular season, Noe expects to see an aggressive Knight's team putting pressure on the Bulldog's defense.
"That's their key," Noe said the Farmington's offense. "They have two forwards that put a lot of pressure on the other team and they have a really good central midfielder that controls the ball.
"If you're not ready to go or if you're a step slow then he's going to take the ball from you, you're going to get knocked down and he's going to move the ball up the field. They have a lot of good forwards and midfielders. That's going to be the key to the game game, is just stopping them from scoring."
While not happy with how his team played last time they saw Farmington, Sikeston defender Paul Hughes thinks the nearly week of practice time the Bulldogs have to get ready will have them well prepared.
"We didn't play too well against Farmington last time," he said. "But we have a while to practice before until we meet them and I think we'll do well.
"Possession (will be the key) definitely. Our defense is a lot better than it was last time we played them so I think we'll lock them down."
Confident in his backfield teammates, Williams added, "Farmington's a good team. They move the ball around well, but our defense should be all right if we keep moving around and staying active.
"I think we can probably get some goals in and our defense usually holds on for us. They help us out a lot back there."
Starting with Williams, Sikeston has plenty of firepower on offense to offset Farmington's weapons, boasting a deep roster that has put up 98 goals on the season. Leading the charge, Williams scored his team-high 25th goal of the season in the district title game. Close behind, junior Brandon Goodwin had 24 goals on the year while Bill has 11 goals and 19 assists with freshman Tyler McClinton contributing 11 goals on the campaign.
"We have a lot of other guys (besides Williams and Goodwin)," said Noe. "We have three guys with 11 goals and we've scored 98 goals on the season.
"That's by far the most we've scored in a season. To have a 25 and a 24 goal scorer is huge, but when you have 49 more goals on top of those two guys, that's a lot of guys that can score."
Noe is hoping that the Bulldogs strong transition game, which led the winning goal in their district title game, will play a big part in Tuesday's matchup.
"I think their defenders aren't as strong as their forwards are," he said of Farmington. "So we're going to try and put a lot of pressure on them up top and try to force them in to mistakes and try to capitalize.
"I have two really good goal scorers in Brandon and Hunter up top that can score goals at the drop of the hat. We're going to put a lot of pressure on them, try to force them into mistakes and try to make them pay for those mistakes.
One final advantage that Noe feels swings his team's way is, unlike in districts, Sikeston gets to host. That means the Bulldogs will be playing on the same natural grass that they've gotten use to all season.
"They play on turf up at Farmington," he said. "You always get true rolls and true bounces on that turf and if you're not use to playing on grass then that could play a roll in it.
"So I think home field advantage will big. We expect a huge crowd on Tuesday night, so hopefully it will be a fun atmosphere and hopefully that will play in to our hands and we can come out on top.
The two teams will kickoff on Tuesday at 6 p.m.