Maybe for the next week or so the Gulf Coast should go by the nickname “Soccer Coast.”
We’re now two rounds into the playoffs with two more to go and South Mississippi still has nine teams vying for state championships. Fourteen teams advanced to the second round Saturday.
Tuesday’s crowded South State slate includes St. Patrick hosting Sacred Heart at 6 p.m.; St. Stanislaus hosting Bay High at 7 p.m.; West Lauderdale traveling to Pass Christian at 5:30 p.m.; West Harrison’s boys and girls hosting West Jones and South Jones at 7 and 5:30 p.m.; Brandon girls visiting Ocean Springs at 5:30 p.m.; and George County going to Ocean Springs at 7 p.m.
Ocean Springs girls
The Lady Greyhounds (15-6-4) had to rally Saturday to squeak out a 1-0 victory over Oak Grove.
New Ocean Springs coach Ryan Joiner, who previously led St. Stanislaus’ team, sees a lot of similarities between Oak Grove and Tuesday’s opponent in Brandon (18-1).
MaxPreps.com ranks Brandon as the second-best team in the state and it’s easy to see why as the Bulldogs have only lost one game all season — a 3-0 defeat to Oak Grove. The Bulldogs have outscored opponents 108-8, with thee of the goals coming against the Warriors.
“They have a real dominant forward (Jocelyn Jones) up front and they keep the ball really well,” Joiner said. “There’s not a bad spot on their team all the way around.”
Brandon and Ocean Springs clashed earlier in the year with the Bulldogs pulling out a 2-1 victory. Joiner expects a similar battle Tuesday.
“It will be a very equal game in my opinion,” he said. “It’s one of those games that’ll come down to one goal, 1-0 or 2-1. ... We know we’re going to have to play sound defensively.”
“Kayley is very calm on the ball, very physical,” Joiner said. “She’ll allow us to play in behind a little more and stretch them.”
West Harrison boys
This has been a wild season for the West Harrison boys.
The Hurricanes had high hopes heading into the 2016-17 season but stumbled out of the gate, posting an 0-8-2 record. The playoffs looked like an incredible long shot for a team that won nine of their first 10 games a year ago.
But then something clicked in December and the Hurricanes are now set to face West Jones at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 5A South State Championship.
“Last year we started 10-1 and then the wheels just came off the bus. This year we forgot to put the wheels on the bus at the beginning of the season,” WHHS coach Ryan Walton. “We had a pretty rough start. That was definitely not the start my assistant and I were anticipating. We lost some really good talent from last year and were expecting to play better team soccer at the beginning of the year, but we just didn’t click.”
Walton felt some of the Hurricanes’ early lopsided scores weren’t indicative of the team’s play. A flip switched in December, however, and the Hurricanes (8-10-2) have compiled a 8-2 record heading into Tuesday’s match. The run includes a 1-0 win in the 5A opener against defending champion Stone and an overtime victory Saturday against South Jones.
“I have a group of guys who just decided it’s starting to click. We’re getting hot at the right time,” Walton said. “Right now the guys are working well together and appreciate all the hard work we made them do in August.
“We’ve been telling them it’s the little things that prevented us from where we wanted to go, but they’re starting to get that cleaned up.”
Interestingly enough, West Harrison’s first win came Dec. 5 in the form of a 1-0 victory over Tuesday’s opponent. Walton believes his team may have a slight mental edge over West Jones thanks to the win, but he said he expects Tuesday’s game to be much different.
“It’ll be a completely different game tomorrow,” he said. “We’re not playing the same soccer we were playing two months ago and I know West Jones is not either.”
West Harrison girls
West Harrison’s girls are becoming a post-season mainstay. Last year the Lady Hurricanes made a run to the Class 5A State Championship. This year they have another shot at playing in Madison, but first the Lady Hurricanes (15-4-2) will have to take care of South Jones (13-3-2) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The two teams played twice last year, with West Harrison sweeping the set. This year, Coach Todd Moniz sees a lot of similarities between the two teams from a year ago.
“They’re an improved team, but they’re also returning a lot of players just like we are so both teams kind of know one another,” Moniz said. “They’re a well organized team that has some pretty special players all around the field.”
For West Harrison to come out on top, the Lady Hurricanes will need to mark Anna Kate Howard. The senior is fifth in the state with 38 goals.
“She’s a difference maker,” Moniz said. “We have to pay special attention to her.
“We might shadow her or just trust in our defenders to make sure we keep an eye on her. If we forget her for a minute she can punish us.”
As for West Harrison, Moniz credits another complete team effort for their success.
“We have a well-balanced attack. We can score in a number of ways,” he said. “Much like last year, our strength is working together and not relying on one or two players.
“We rely on everyone to work together as one big unit.”
State championship schedule
MHSAA championships will be held throughout the day Saturday at Clinton and Madison Central high schools. Class 4A girls (noon), 4A boys (2 p.m.), 5A girls (4 p.m.) and 5A boys (6 p.m.) will be hosted at MCHS. Class 1A/2A/3A boys (2 p.m.), 6A girls (4 p.m.) and 6A boys (6 p.m.) will be held at CHS.
1A-2A-3A Boys: Sacred Heart at St. Patrick, 6 p.m.
4A Boys: Bay High at SSC, 7 p.m.
4A Girls: West Lauderdale at Pass Christian, 5:30 p.m.
5A Girls: South Jones at West Harrison, 5:30 p.m
5A Boys: West Jones at West Harrison, 7 p.m.
6A Girls: Brandon at Ocean Springs, 5:30 p.m.
6A Boys: George County at Ocean Springs, 7 p.m.