HUDSON — A very unfortunate breaks in the first half and something the Bluejays could do nothing about — a height differential — combined to bring a sad end to another outstanding season for the Perry soccer team.
Ninth-ranked Perry (15-4) was seeking a third consecutive trip to the Class 2A Boys State Soccer Tournament, but sixth-rated Hudson (17-2) was not about to play the role of accommodating host and scored twice in the second half to deny the Bluejays, 2-1.
Perry started in exactly the way they would have hoped, as senior David Cardenas scored off a short pass from Ivan Garcia close to the Pirate goal in the ninth minute for a quick 1-0 lead.
The Pirates countered when Brandon Rottinghaus beat two Bluejay defenders down the left side, then cut inside enough to score on a tight angle shot in the 61st minute. Rottinghaus’ corner kick was headed in by Jackson Twait with 7:45 to play to seal the win.
“He (Rottinghaus) is a tough player who gave us trouble the whole game,” Perry head coach Gary Overla said. “He just blew by us and scored a really nice goal, that’s all there was to it.”
Overla said Twait’s goal — which came on the third consecutive corner kick awarded in a brief flurry — exposed a weakness Perry struggles with each year.
“We just don’t have a lot of tall players like some other teams do, so set pieces can hurt us and it sure did today,” the coach explained. “They had a good pass and got a head on the ball — what can you do? This is a good team — they were not 16-2 for no reason.”
Perry held a clear edge in possession in the first half but, similar to their 2-0 Substate Semifinal win over South Tama County, simply appeared snake-bitten in putting the ball into the netting.
On two occasions Perry shots sailed inches over the crossbar, while one long blast — which had beaten the keeper — blazed wide by no more than the width of the ball. A crossing pass which missed a wide-open Jesus Rodriguez and two strong saves from Hudson keeper Cody Croskey kept the guests from blowing the game wide open.
“I told the team at the half that a 1-0 lead is hard to keep and that they were going to come out and pressure us as hard as they could,” Overla said. “We starting losing the battle in the midfield and made a couple of defensive mistakes and that was all it took.”
Possession heavily favored the Pirates after the intermission, leaving the Bluejay unable to launch sustained attacks and forcing the visitors to try and score on counter-attacks. A frantic final few minutes saw Perry take several shots on goal, with Chance Webster’s header with three seconds remaining off-target by just enough to miss going in.
Perry’s loss to DC-G is almost certainly what forced the Bluejays to make a 130-mile trip for Saturday’s game, rather than have the Pirates required to travel over two hours by bus. Overla, however, downplayed the venue as a critical factor in Hudson’s favor.
“They were still going to be the same team,” he said. “We just didn’t play our best today and I am sorry to see the season end here instead of at state.”
Five seniors who have played major roles for Perry in the past three or four years saw their prep careers end Saturday, as David Cardenas, Ivan Garcia, Ian Velasco, Jeffrey Gutierrez and Panorama’s Chance Webster donned the Bluejay colors for the final time.
“David is probably going to be a First Team All-Stater and Ian, too, and I think Ivan probably has a good chance,” Overla said. “Those three, and Chance and Jeffrey, they all contributed quite a bit this year and have helped make this program what it is. I hope the younger guys see what they did, how they went about it and what it means and that they will step up and keep it going.”
Perry’s senior class were 47-12 overall the past three seasons. In 2014 the Jays were the state runner-up and last season the team returned to the state tourney. The team won the RRC championship outright with undefeated seasons each of the last two years and has posted a 20-1 mark in conference play since 2014 while outscoring all opponents 159-31 during that stretch.
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