Perryville Outlasts Sullivan
Jacob Wiley made one great save after another.
But a free kick in front of the net was too much.
For 80 minutes Thursday, Sullivan went toe-to-toe with Perryville, one of the strongest programs outside St. Louis and Columbia and came out with a 1-0 loss.
“It was a bummer to lose,” said Eagles head coach Bill Kackley. “I feel like we played really well. When we started the program, we would have got beat bad against a team like that. We gave them everything they wanted. I told the boys it’s nothing to hang their heads about.”
After a game like that against a program that won the Class 2 state championship in 2014 and finished runner-up in 2015, Kackley has firmly changed his expectations.
“I told them I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year, but they’re proving me wrong,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep going to that next level.”
Sullivan (5-1) couldn’t find enough quality chances against a strong Pirates defense that contained leading scorer Jacob Rohrer. Perryville stood strong during a roughly 15-minute period in the second half when Sullivan turned up the aggression.
Perryville challenged a young Sullivan defense throughout the game, delivering several cross passes from the corner. They were unable to crack Wiley.
“He played to his potential,” Kackley said of his keeper, who split time in net as a junior varsity player last season. “He’s come a long way.”
Sullivan had to rebuild the defensive unit after graduating multiple seniors from the 2016 team, but Kackley thought they played well Thursday. He’s hoping to find the right combination of players to make the rotation deeper, “so we can get more breathers.”
Cole Gerstenberger provided all the scoring Perryville would need when he booted a free kick — deep in the box — past Wiley in the 17th minute. The kick was set up by a penalty.
Wiley would go on to stifle Perryville’s offense from there. He made a terrific dive to take away a goal in the 32nd minute. Perryville couldn’t convert on a corner kick early in the second half, which nearly led to a Sullivan goal. Rohrer was set up for a shot by Owen Mercer, but Trent Unterreriner deflected the attempt.
Danny Keogh, who had the game-winner a week earlier against Laquey, put two headers on goal in the 54th and 69th minutes, but Unterreriner collected each shot.
The Eagles got their best opportunity in the 72nd minute when the ball dropped to Zach Fortner, who was positioned to Unterreriner’s right. With Pirates’ defenders caught out of position, Fortner lined up a shot, only to watch it whiz past the goalpost.
With three minutes left and the Eagles scrambling for a goal, they caught a break on a foul by Perryville. Rohrer set up for a penalty kick roughly 20 yards out. His shot was on the mark, but Unterreriner knocked it down.
A 1-0 loss to a quality program like Perryville will help Sullivan’s seeding when districts roll around next month. Kackley said teams may look at the final score and think they “packed it in” — a term for playing it safe to keep a low score — but they were aggressive.
“We had nine to 10 shots on goal. We controlled the ball a bit at times, they controlled the ball a bit at times. It was back-and-forth,” he said.
Sullivan will continue a string of home games when they host Valley Park on Tuesday and Festus on Thursday.
“Valley Park always gives us problems for some reason,” Kackley said. “They have a talented kid (Timmy Ballard) who we’ll have to keep an eye on.”
Sullivan beat Festus 4-0 last season. The Tigers defeated St. Clair 2-1 on Thursday night. “I think they’re better than they were last year,” Kackley said.