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Central, Notre Dame earn respect in state with winning ways
Central, ranked No. 6 in the Class 3 state poll, hosts No. 7 DeSmet of St. Louis County today.
At one time, St. Louis was considered the soccer capital of the country.
In high school boys soccer, St. Louis remains the premier region in Missouri.
With the continued success of Cape Girardeau schools Central and Notre Dame, it appears Southeast Missouri is slowly starting to gain respect across the state.
"There's two good teams in Cape Girardeau, not just St. Louis and Kansas City," Central senior Sam Bornstein said.
Currently, the Tigers (19-2-1) are ranked No. 6 in the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association state poll in Class 3, while the Bulldogs (15-3-3) are ranked No. 4 in Class 2.
Central will host perennial St. Louis power DeSmet, ranked No. 7 in Class 3, today. A junior varsity game at noon kicks off the action.
"They're always one of best teams out of St. Louis," Bornstein said. "That will be a good matchup to see how we stack up going into district and sectional."
Notre Dame and Central both have made recent trips to St. Louis for the state final four, helping to solidify themselves among the state's elite. The Bulldogs were the first non-St. Louis school to win a state title in Class 2 in 2002.
In 2003, the Tigers entered the Class 3 state final four with a 26-0 record before falling to eventual state champion St. Louis University High 3-2 in overtime. Central finished fourth.
"We've been in the upper echelon of the small schools for a while," Notre Dame coach Brad Wittenborn said. "I think Central has a little tougher path in the big schools in St. Louis, but what they've done in recent years has got some attention up there."
The attention Central has received enabled it to get a storied program like DeSmet to travel to Central. It also helped the Tigers get into events such as the Quincy Tournament the Tigers played in this season.
"Now all the good teams want to play us because we are one of those good teams, one of the good programs," Bornstein said.
Currently, the Tigers have five St. Louis area schools ranked ahead of them in Class 3, including four private schools that are members of the Metro Catholic Conference with DeSmet. Chaminade is ranked No. 1.
For Central, after today's home game, it will make road trips to St. Louis County to play Lafayette and Rockwood Summit. Summit was a state final four team in Class 3 last season, while Lafayette knocked out Central in the sectional round.
"These last three games could have an impact on the poll," Central coach Tom Doyle said. "I want to play well. I'd like to win all three. I think Lafayette and Rockwood Summit are very winnable. DeSmet, we'll have to have our 'A' game."
The Bulldogs this season have faced two top-five Class 1 schools, including a 2-0 win over No. 2 Festus St. Pius. Notre Dame lost a 1-0 game to three-time defending Class 1 state champion Whitfield earlier this season.
"I'll say this: We play Lafayette, Columbia Hickman, Whitfield, St. Pius, and Cape Central is far and away the best team we've played," Wittenborn said. "We don't have to leave Cape Girardeau to play good competition."
Notre Dame has just one game remaining on its schedule, a home game Tuesday against Poplar Bluff. The Bulldogs will have the top seed when they host the Class 2 District 1 tournament which starts Oct. 29.
"I think we have a decent chance to go to state this year if we play focused and with energy," Wittenborn said. "We're right there with the best teams in Class 2."