(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Less than one minute in and the Sikeston Bulldogs already had an advantage.
At the 39:01 mark, Brandon Goodwin hit the back of the net with a header to give his team a one-goal lead which led to a 3-0 win over Poplar Bluff Thursday at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
"Getting a goal early like that is huge," Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said. "You capitalize early and that lets you relax a little bit."
Sophomore Hunter Taylor ran with a ball towards the right side of the goal and snapped a pass towards Goodwin, who was patrolling the left side of the south goal. Goodwin received a perfect bounce right at eye level to sneak it in past Poplar Bluff's goalie.
Goodwin's goal, in a matter of moments, completely shifted the momentum heavily in Sikeston's favor as Poplar Bluff seemed stunned by the early deficit they encountered.
"That's the second game in a row that's happened to us," Poplar Bluff head coach Rusty Crafton said. "We can't let first goals like that happen. It gets us down -- it gets the morale down."
From that point on, however, it was a stalemate between both schools. The next 60 minutes following was a defensive battle with neither team wanting to give in.
At the 63rd minute mark, Poplar Bluff had their best chance to tie the game with a penalty kick.
Luis Rivera was the Mule stepping up to take the shot, but hit a laser at Sikeston keeper, Josh Hampton, who deflected the ball with ease and sent it back the other direction.
"Rivera is very quick with the ball," said Noe. "If you stab at him or are aggressive with him, he'll beat you and score goals. Our defense really did a good job of not giving him a ton of space in the middle."
After four minutes had passed, sophomore Adam Johnson essentially sealed the game with Sikeston's second goal of the night, beating Poplar Bluff's keeper in a one on one situation. Fellow sophomore, Tyler McClinton, came up with the assist.
"It was a game until that second goal," Noe said. "Once that goal went in, we were able to move the ball around a bit more, keep our shape and tighten up on defense."
After another four minutes had ticked away, senior captain Chase Baron assured a Sikeston victory by squeezing in a goal the narrowly escaped Poplar Bluff's goalie and the goal post for the final score of 3-0.
"I felt like we came out not ready to play," Crafton said. "I don't feel like we played up to our potential. We're a much better team that what we showed."
As the unsung hero of Sikeston's 9-3 start to the season, their defense once again nullified much of what the Mules' speedy forwards wanted to do.
Especially their standout, Rivera.
"He's probably one of the best players around here," Noe said about Rivera. "Chase Baron did a great job of marking him in the final third."
Sikeston will be on the road Saturday when they head to the First Kentucky Bank Orange Classic at Marshall County High School.