DES MOINES — The boys soccer season ended right where the Perry team had hoped it would: at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines while playing in the Class 2A State Tournament. What the Bluejays did not anticipate or want was an exit in the quarterfinals.
Leading 1-0 at the half, Perry (16-4) fell victim to an unfortunate set of circumstances that only fueled an already deadly Central Clinton-DeWitt offense, which scratched out two goals in an eight-minute span to claim a 2-1 victory.
The two Saber goals marked the first time in 35 games — dating back to April 11, 2014 — that Perry had surrendered more than one goal in regulation.
Dutch exchange student Ferre Devos entered the game tied for fourth in 2A for most goals scored with 30, and while his presence was a constant threat, he was largely controlled by the Perry defense and midfielders.
Devos had a golden opportunity to set the tone earlier when the Sabers were awarded a penalty kick just six minutes into the game. However, Devos fired a rocket hard off the crossbar and Perry escaped danger.
Jesus Rodrigruez made the Sabers rue the missed chance 10 minutes later when the shifty sophomore beat Central Clinton keeper Justin Schwennen to his left and stretched the onion bag for a 1-0 Perry lead.
“I thought the combination of having them miss the penalty and then us scoring the first goal was huge and hopefully a good sign for us,” Perry head coach Gary Overla said. “We knew they would not stop coming at us, so scoring first was key.”
The Sabers played a 3-5-2 formation, designed to control the middle of the field. They repeatedly attacked down the right side, sending numerous crossing passes over the middle of the defense from right-to-left and rarely used any other kind of offensive plan.
Perry’s midfielders played a strong first half to deny repeated opportunities by the Sabers, with a brilliant diving save from Bluejay senior goalie Jorge Soto in the 27th minute helping to keep Perry in the lead at the intermission.
Already down starter Ian Velasco (along with Oscar Chavez and Soto a team captain) due to an injury sustained May 12 at ADM, Perry had German Alvarenga suffer a minor injury in the first half. Adding to the Perry concerns was Rodriguez’s health, as a sore hip limited his athleticism.
Further compounding matters was an ugly gash to the head — a result of battling a player for a ball in the air — that drove Alvaro Soto from the game.
The Sabers capitalized on the changes to the Perry lineup when Jacob Van Laere found the back of the net in the 55th minute to tie the score. A miscommunication eight minutes later left John Stammayer open just yards from the middle of the net and the senior scored against a helpless Jorge Soto for a 2-1 lead for the home team on the scoreboard.
Perry attacked furiously over the final 15 minutes and had three looks at the goal, but one shot went high and Schwennen made a pair of fine saves.
“You don’t take anything away from Clinton, because they are as good as we have seen, but it would have been nice if we had been at 100 percent,” Overla said. “We played hard the whole game but just could not come out on top.”
Central Clinton (18-1) will face South Tama (18-3) Friday in one semifinal after the Trojans upset top-seeded Bishop Heelan, 3-2. The other semifinal pits Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-2), a 1-0 winner over ADM, against Norwalk (16-3) after the defending champions topped Waverly-Shell Rock, 2-1, in double overtime.
Oscar Chavez, Cameron Martinez, Zach Stetzel, Saul Tellez, Jorge Soto and Luiz Terra Vale played their final games for Perry in the setback, but have the consolation of being part of a team that was a two-time quailifier.
“Last year everyone said we were just lucky to be here and then when we got here they said we were lucky to win two games,” Jorge Soto said. “They said we were lucky again this year. I don’t believe that. We have proven we deserve to be considered a threat and I think it will continue — I think with the guys who will be back and the tradition we have started that Perry will be back.”
Stetzel expressed much of the same sentiment.
“We just missed winning it all last year and then when everybody said that was our one shot we came back and made it here again,” he said. “It is humbling, in a way, to think of what we have done. We wanted more, but that doesn’t take away from what we did do.”
“This was a great group of seniors who did some amazing things,” Overla said. “They can be proud of what they have achieved. With what we have coming back and the system we have established we are still going to be very competitive. This won’t be the last time the Bluejays play in the state tournament.”
Class 2A State Quarterfinal
at Cownie Complex, Des Moines, June 4
CENTRAL CLINTON, DeWITT 2, PERRY 1
Scoring by minute
PRY — Rodriguez (20), 16th.
CC — Van Laere (13), 55th.
CC — Stammeyer (4), 63rd.
Saves (unofficial) PRY: Soto, 5; CC: Schwennen 7.