The drama could not have been more intense, the reward more satisfying.
Fifth-ranked Perry (16-3) held off a furious rally from a determined DC-G (10-8) squad to secure an appearance at the State Soccer Tournament for the second straight year with a 2-1 win in their Substate 7 Final at Dewey Field Saturday.
“This is an incredible feeling,” senior Zac Stetzel said. “We were nowhere near as loose as we were last year … we were a lot more nervous. They (DC-G) kept coming at us the whole game, but there was no way we were going to give up that lead.”
The Bluejays had trounced a disinterested Mustang squad, 4-0, at Dewey Field May 11, but were faced with a DC-G unit that hardly resembled the team Perry saw earlier in the month.
“I told the guys yesterday that the May 11 game meant nothing, that DC-G was going to come after us and be as physical as possible, and that is just what happened,” Perry head coach Gary Overla said. “We did a great job of turning back some attacks and scored two really nice goals, and when we get two we feel we should be in good shape. As it turned out, it was just good enough.”
Leading 2-0, Perry faced a blistering offensive charge in the final 20 minutes from the guests, with Will Arthur finding the back of the net with just under 17 minutes remaining as DC-G was finally able to get a shot past Bluejay keeper Jorge Soto, who finished with an unofficial 10 saves.
The tension was cranked up several notches with 9:57 still to play when senior defender Cameron Martinez drew a yellow card, forcing Perry to switch several players’ positions and taking an experienced leader off the pitch.
“Those last 10 minutes felt like forever,” Overla said. “I think I might have aged a few years, but the fellas showed what they are made off and stepped it up.”
Martinez said he knew DC-G would try to attack throughout the game and not lay back and hope to suffocate Perry’s offense.
“They came after us hard, but we handled it,” he said. “This is a great feeling, to go back again after that is what everyone expected us to do.”
Perry’s few attacks in the first 20 minutes were either thwarted or denied on quality saves from the DC-G keeper, but the hosts finally moved the scoreboard in the 23rd minute when Ivan Garcia scored on a well-placed shot.
Standing just inside the 18-yard box on a tough angle with the goal to his left, Garcia lifted a bending hook that dipped inches under the bar while curling just inside the far post to give Perry a lead they would not relinquish.
“That was real important,” Martinez said of scoring first. “It let them know we were here to play and that they had to worry about our offense.”
Perry scored again just before the half when Jesus Rodriguez collected his own rebound and ripped a blast from in close that stretched the onion bag for a 2-0 advantage.
Soto made four saves in the first half and then helped keep Perry in the game with numerous saves after the intermission, thanks in large part to his aggressive style of play, which cut down angles and denied several would-be chances for leaping head-shots.
Perry will face Central Clinton, DeWitt, in a 2A Quarterfinal at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines Thursday at 2:45 pm.
ThePerryNews.com will have preview coverage of the opening match later this evening.
2A SUBSTATE 7 FINAL
at Dewey Field, May 30
Scoring by minute
PRY — Garcia (9), 23rd.
PRY — Rodriguez (19), 39th.
DC-G — Arthur (6), 63rd.
Saves — PRY: Soto, 10.
Video courtesy of PEGASUS TV12 and volunteer Doug Wood. Visit www.pegasustv12.com for air times of full contest.