High School Sports

Gulfport keeps Harrison Central’s keepers busy in soccer doubleheader

Harrison Central’s goalkeepers got plenty of work in Friday night as the Red Rebels and Rebelettes played host to rival Gulfport.

The Lady Admirals opened the evening with a 4-0 victory, while the Admirals cruised to a 6-0 win.

“Whenever Gulfport plays Harrison Central it’s a big rivalry game,” GHS girls coach Chris Pryor said. “I’ve been coaching Gulfport a long time and they’re always one of our biggest rivals. They play us tough on their home field.”

The trend held true early on as the only Lady Admirals (12-3-2) goal in the first half was a Britton Simpson tip-in off a centering pass through the box. A big reason for the narrow lead was the play of HCHS goalkeeper Alyssa Stoner.

Only a freshman, Stoner was under constant pressure and stood tall each time. Several times Stoner was forced to make sprawling saves to keep the Red Rebelettes (4-11-1) in the match.

“Alyssa is one of those players who I wish I could clone,” said HCHS coach Laquitta Smith. “She’s completely focused – and it’s not just on the field but in the classroom. She’s going to go somewhere.”

Gulfport broke through in the second half with three goals to put the game away.

“Their goalkeeper was absolutely on the money,” Pryor said. “We made a few adjustments in the second half and things opened up a bit for us.”

All-South Mississippi selection Alexis Arnoult was a catalyst, scoring twice and assisting on the third Lady Admirals’ goal of the half.

“She has really been finding her stride,” Pryor said. “It really makes a difference when you have a player like that up top who makes the defense stay honest.”

Arnoult put GHS ahead 2-0 when she broke in on goal from the right side and banked a shot off the far post. Her next goal required a bit of luck as a point-blank shot ricocheted off a HCHS defender running across the box and into the yawning goal.

Saari tallied Gulfport’s final goal knocking home a point-blank pass from Arnoult off a corner.

Gulfport 6, Harrison Central 0: GHS coach Henrik Madsen saw a much better effort from his Admirals (10-9) Friday night compared to the first time the Admirals and Red Rebels clashed. While GHS still won that Dec. 12 matchup 3-0, it took the Admirals a while to get going. There were no such issues Friday night as Gulfport jumped ahead 4-0 in the first half.

“Harrison Central is always tough to play. The first time we played them we got all the way to about 20 minutes to go and it was still 0-0,” Madsen said. “We put some chances away early tonight which was nice because it kind of gave us a comfort thing.”

The Admirals featured a balanced attack with five difference players factoring into the season-high performance.

“I think that’s how we’re built this year,” Madsen said. “We don’t have the one guy who scores all of our goals. We’re pretty much spread out to whoever is having the good day on the pitch.

“They’re very good and work hard. Hopefully this will give them a spark.”

Daniel Powell opened the scoring early on Friday, hammering a rebound past the outstretched HCHS keeper. Before long, Ashton LeBlanc extended Gulfport’s lead to 2-0, heading in a corner from Christopher Bruni.

Miguel Hernandez pushed Gulfport’s lead to 4-0, scoring on a low shot that skipped along the turf and then a blast from a sharp angle on the right side that beat the keeper inside the near post.

“He was funny,” Madsen said of Hernandez. “He came off at halftime and I asked him if that (second goal) was a cross or a shot. He said, ‘that was a shot.’ It was one of those where you hit it in and if it goes in, it goes in.”

Although the Admirals hit a lull early in the second half, the visitors popped in two goals close together to put secure the win.

Benji Thames scored on a header and only a few minutes later Matt Stanley beat the backkup keeper on a long-range shot.

John Marquez and Patrick Loughman split the shutout in goal.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs