Watch: Goal bonanza in Gulfport-Harrison Central
Twenty-five teams entered. Fourteen survived.
The second round of the MHSAA soccer playoffs run Friday and Saturday with 14 of South Mississippi’s best still in play.
The Long Beach girls, along with both Bay High teams will play Friday, with the rest of the teams set for Saturday.
Two of the Coast’s three reigning champs all are still alive. Although West Harrison eliminated Class 5A boys champion Stone on Tuesday, St. Stanislaus (4A) and St. Patrick (1A/2A/3A) each cruised into Round 2.
St. Patrick remains undefeated at 15-0-3 and flashed some serious depth Tuesday in its 12-1 win over Clarkdale. Coach Mario Camps said he started substituting players when the Irish went ahead by four goals, but even the reserves got onto the score sheet.
“I put the whole bench in and destroyed the formation,” Camps said, adding it’s hard to tell the players not to play aggressive even when the reserves get into the game.
St. Patrick won’t have as easy of a game Saturday at 1 p.m. when they visit St. Joseph. The Bruins are a playoff regular, so Camps said his team will need to flush Tuesday’s lopsided outcome.
“They know what’s at stake. We go to the playoffs every year,” Camps said. “They know when we get to this level of the playoffs it gets extremely hard. Anything can happen.”
Luckily for the Irish they have one of the better scoring duos around in Tyler Musial and Eiland Stebly. Just Tuesday, the two combined for nine goals.
“They’re two players who are extremely comfortable with the ball,” Camps said. “They’ve been playing together since the seventh grade so they’re familiar with each other. That’s a big advantage.”
It has become an annual tradition for Bay and nearby St. Stanislaus to meet in the post-season.
For the Rockachaws and Tigers to clash, however, they’ll both need to take care of business first. The Tigers host Northeast Jones at 7:30 p.m. Friday, following the Bay girls’ game against West Lauderdale at 6 p.m.
“Northeast Jones has had the misfortune to play St. Stanislaus in the second round each of the last three years,” Ross said. “They always give St. Stanislaus a match. When it comes to playoff games you have to show up.
“We need to show up and play well.”
Ross has already talked to his players about not overlooking Friday’s matchup.
“There’s no Tuesday if we don’t show up on Friday. You worry about Friday first,” Ross said. “If we aren’t prepared for that game, there won’t be a South State Championship Game for us this year.”
Ross continued: “I think they all know we have a worthy opponent Friday. No team is going to drive an hour-and-a-half to lay down for you. They’re going to come and try to take it from you. We have to continue to be hungry for it. It’s not our birth right or anything.”
One of the biggest turnarounds on the Coast this year belongs to Long Beach’s boys. Two years ago the Bearcats were winless and struggling to turn the corner. After making small strides last year, Long Beach has amassed a 12-1-3 record and appear to be a legitimate contender in Class 5A’s playoffs.
“It’s just them working hard here in the last year and a half and wanting to be able to turn around,” said second-year coach Andee Wilburn, who moved to the Coast from the Memphis area. “Getting them to buy into the team (was important). Ditching the me stuff and buying int’ the ‘we.’
“They’re not selfish and know it’ll take the whole team.”
Wilburn said when he saw the team’s 0-14 mark two years ago, it wasn’t a deterrent. In fact, it was more intriguing than anything else.
“I've been at other places before and they were in the same situation,” he said. “I probably get it from my dad that I like the underdog. I like being able to see the turnaround.
“I enjoy the challenge and seeing how far we can take it.”
The Bearcats have gone from not getting close to the playoffs to being one of the final eight Class 5A boys teams remaining. They’ll look to extend their winning streak Saturday when they host West Jones at 6 p.m.
Oak Grove at George County, 6 p.m. Saturday
Brandon at Ocean Springs, 3 p.m. Saturday
Oak Grove at Ocean Springs, 1 p.m. Saturday
Gulfport at Brandon, 3 p.m. Saturday
Long Beach boys at West Jones, 6 p.m. Saturday
South Jones at West Harrison, 2 p.m. Saturday
South Jones at Long Beach, 6 p.m. Friday
West Harrison at West Jones, 5 p.m. Saturday
Northeast Jones at Bay, 7:30 p.m. Friday
St. Stanislaus at West Lauderdale, 1 p.m. Saturday
West Lauderdale at Bay, 6 p.m. Friday
Pass Christian at Northeast Jones, 3 p.m. Saturday
St. Patrick at St. Joseph, 1 p.m. Saturday
Our Lady Academy at St. Joseph, 3 p.m. Saturday