Pekin vs. Illini Bluffs isn’t just another game every year in the Pekin Invitational boys soccer tournament.

Pekin coach Gus Kormah and Illini Bluffs coach Gerard Smith are good friends. 

Smith has coached many Pekin players on club teams including current Pekin assistant coach Blake Stout and Smith’s daughter attends Pekin.

“I have a lot of respect for Gus. It’s tough to play against your good friend,” Smith said.

Illini Bluffs got the best of Pekin on Friday at Coal Miners Park, winning 3-0.

After a scoreless first half, the Tigers struck three minutes into the second half when Tyler Baer poked a cross from Reid Sondgeroth into the back of the net.

Smith said the best goal of the game came at the 56-minute mark. 

“Sondergoth laid the ball off to Nolan Rademaker, who looked up and shot from 25 yards over the keeper’s reach and into the top right corner,” he said.

Two minutes later, Songeroth sent a low shot into the net off an assist from Rademaker,

“I’m very happy with how we played in the second half,” Smith said. “There was a definite will to win.”

Cam Scott, Ben Krumpe and Tyler Hutchinson each played goalie for Illini Bluffs. They combined for four saves and shared the shutout.

Kormah wasn’t happy about the loss.

“The team that played Normal Community (in a 3-0 Pekin loss earlier in the week) didn’t show,” he said.

Illini Bluffs ended up going 2-1 in the round-robin tournament, improving its season record to 3-1. Short-handed Pekin went 0-3 in the tournament and fell to 0-5 for the season. 

Chillicothe IVC went 3-0 and won the tournament. Rock Island Alleman, the fourth team in the tournament field, went 1-2.

Pekin and Illini Bluffs will meet again Sept. 13 at Coal Miners Park in a non-conference game.

Steve Stein can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.