Jackson upended Notre Dame 1-0 for SoccerFest title

Sunday, September 2, 2007
Jackson's Spencer McCormack passes the ball away from Notre Dame's (#26) during the Notre Dame SoccerFest on Saturday, September 1, 2007. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Unlike most teams that wait until a playoff victory to pour the Gatorade cooler over the coach, Jackson did it just a week into its season after knocking off last year's Class 2 state champ, Notre Dame.

The Indians pulled off a 1-0 upset of the Bulldogs on Saturday night to win the 2007 Notre Dame Soccerfest tournament.

"They didn't get me too bad [with the Gatorade]," Jackson coach Zack Walton said. "With some last-second reflexes, I got kind of lucky there."

Indians senior Robbie Martin scored the lone goal during the first half, chipping one over the head of Bulldogs goalie Ryan Bass, who came forward to try to make the stop.

"I started to fall and the ball just hit off the top of my foot," Martin said. "Senior year on their field -- there's nothing else like it. ... It was the biggest game of the year we'll probably play. I'm excited as can be."

The Indians players entered the game looking to prove the Bulldogs were not the only talented local soccer program. Notre Dame defeated Jackson 4-1 in last year's SoccerFest championship game.

"They've been pumped up a little bit to play Notre Dame since the very beginning when all the press came out and covered the [Bulldogs]," Walton said. "They kept that in the back of their heads and couldn't wait for a chance to play them. They played hard and intense and did what they needed to do to get a win. I was proud of them."

Jackson's four defenders -- Dylan Dee, Tyler Engelhart, Garret Stone and sweeper Caleb Beussink -- led the Indians man-to-man defense, which only allowed 17 shots. The Bulldogs are returning two 20-goal scorers from last year in Ty Williams and Ryan Willen.

"We shut these guys out for 80 minutes, so the defense has got to get a lot of credit," Walton said. "It's not just the back four. The back four played phenomenal but everyone had to play defense and everyone had to step up. The forwards had to pressure their backs and they did a good job, and we defended as a team real well."

The man-to-man defense included match-ups of Dee covering Willen, Stone covering Brock Dirnberger, and Engelhart switching between coverage of both Dirnberger and Williams.

"We just tried to man up and play them tight and not give them any room to work the ball in the middle," Beussink said. "They have a strong offense, so we made sure to make mark them up and hold them tight."

Notre Dame's best chance to tie the game came during a free kick just outside the box with about 9 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game. Williams blasted it over the net.

"I just should have gotten over it more," Williams said. "I tried to hit it low but I just got underneath it too much.

"We struggled tonight to work as a team as a whole," he added. "Hopefully, if we keep working, it will come. If we had played more as a team, I think it would have come better.

Notre Dame coach Brad Wittenborn said the offense struggled because forward Mark Himmelberg missed the contest after spraining his toe last night.

"Jackson is a big, strong team and they're very physical," Wittenborn said. "We hit a period of the game where tried to force too much and we tried to hold the ball too much, and it was too physical a game to be holding the ball for as long as we were trying to."

As for Jackson, Walton said that his team will just continue to take one game at a time, trying to improve and to repeat as a Class 3 district champion.

"We got to continue to work hard all year and get better because I'm sure everyone else will."

Notre Dame plays Tuesday evening at Rockwood Summit, while Jackson's next test also is Tuesday on the road, at Poplar Bluff.

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