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Perryville soccer team claims first district soccer title with 3-2 win against Central
Perryville's Luke Schlichting saw the play developing.
The Pirates had just coughed up a 2-0 lead in the Class 2 District 1 soccer championship game, and the Perryville sophomore knew he had to make a run.
Schlichting sprinted from midfield, cut in front of a Central defender and deflected a cross into the net, propelling the Pirates to their first district crown.
"I saw our player coming up the side with the ball and I was at half, and I was thinking I got to make that run," Schlichting said. "I got to get in there for that ball, and I saw the cross and it went over our guy's head and I was just there to tap it in."
The goal gave Perryville a frantic 3-2 win and the first district title in the five-year history of the Pirates' program.
"It's great," Perryville senior Alex Thieret said. "Greatest feeling in the world."
The title didn't come easily.
Central battled back from a 2-0 first-half deficit and tied the game with 12 minutes to play.
That's when Schlichting responded.
Four minutes after the Tigers equalized it, Perryville senior Austin Roth controlled the ball on the right side of the field in Tigers territory. Roth beat his man right and floated a cross that cleared both a Perryville and Central player before Schlichting volleyed the ball with his right foot into the net.
"I knew we had to go then or else it would be their game," Schlichting said. "We picked it up. We started to win the balls and everything."
Perryville threatened early in the first half when Matthew Moran blasted a shot from 30 yards out that Tiger goalie Austin Bagley dove and punched over the net, a play that set up the Pirates' first goal. On the ensuing corner kick, an initial Pirate header was knocked down by Bagley, but Perryville freshman Conner Stark tapped in the loose ball.
"Getting up in these district tournaments means everything," Thieret said. "Getting up quick and not backing down means everything. It means the game."
Thieret made it 2-0 just four minutes later with 12 minutes left in the first half. The senior took a pass from Schlichting just outside the 18-yard box and fired a bullet into the net that grazed off Bagley's hands.
"I knew I wasn't going to get a better look at it if I took another touch," Thieret said. "So I just one-touched it and I was lucky enough to put it in."
Central answered immediately. The Tigers' Nick Barnes beat his man to the right inside Perryville's box and his cross was knocked into the goal by a Pirates' defender to make it a 2-1 game.
"I thought we had a decent first half, but there was a good eight-minute span where we broke down," Central coach Dan Martin said. "They netted a ball off the corner, it was a good save by our keeper and we didn't mark up and they framed the goal very well. The second goal, we knew they liked to shoot outside the 18 and that guy hit a rip. I mean when our keeper gets hands on it and it still goes into the back of the net, it's a good shot, I give them all the credit."
The Tigers regained their poise in the second half and got back to the basics.
"We went back to our game, keep it on the ground and knock it around and don't get caught up in direct play," Martin said. "Once we settled down a little bit good things happened, and we were able to equalize."
The equalizer came in the form of an Ethan Groshong header. Central earned a corner with just over 12 minutes left in the game, and Chandler Bagley played a cross that Groshong headed into the net.
"I felt pretty comfortable when we got the two-goal lead," Perryville coach Jerry Fulton said. "Unfortunately one of my fullbacks misplayed a ball in the back and puts the first goal in for Cape and kind of tightens things up. Cape is a great ballclub. They've done a lot of good things this year. They stayed with it and they tied the game. At that point I couldn't tell you what was going to happen. I tried to tell my guys no matter what happened tonight we had a plan, we had a plan of attack, we had to stay with that plan. They did it. They got the winning goal, and not bad for a five-year-old program."
Perryville seemed to kick it back in gear after Groshong's header and started to possess the ball, leading to Schlichting's game-winner.
"We've worked hard for the past four years," Thieret said. "A lot of these seniors that I'm here with have played on varsity for four years. It's been tremendous the effort we've put in and it's well deserved."
Perryville earned the crown not only with its offensive performance, but also by shutting down the Tigers' top two scoring threats, Matt Chism and Chandler Bagley. Both found little room to work as the Pirates were solid in the backfield.
"Usually we're successful in turning the end line," Martin said. "And (Perryville) did a good job of preventing that and keeping us from our outside play, which is what we were successful all year with. And they stopped that, and they transitioned very well."
The Pirates face Windsor in the quarterfinal round Tuesday. The Pirates defeated the Owls 3-2 in overtime earlier this year.
For now, though, Perryville will savor their well-deserved title.
"These guys had a game plan all year," Fulton said. "All year long they kept telling the coaches ‘We're going to win districts, coach, we're going to win districts,' They set out on that plan, and not a whole lot rattled them early in the games because of the that. They did what they had to do. They fought to get the first seed, they got the first seed. Then we had to come up and beat a Farmington team at Farmington, which is never easy to do. They've totally earned this. From day one on August 6 to today, it's been hard work and dedication for this team."