While the St. Stanislaus and Gulfport boys squads are no strangers to soccer state titles, the Long Beach boys and girls teams aim to make history Saturday.
The four teams make up the Coast’s contingent in search of state championships in the Jackson area.
Neither the Long Beach boys or girls have won state championships before and their Class 5A South State titles helped created a buzz on the school’s campus this week.
“The environment is very positive,” Long Beach girls coach Neil Scott said. “It’s a rare situation. Sacred Heart is also sending its boys and girls teams, but it’s an attribute to our athletic director (Forrest Williams) and him helping us be successful. Anything we’ve needed, he’s helped us get it. We are his hires and we’re operating under his program.”
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St. Stanislaus will face Amory at 2 p.m. for the Class 4A championship at Brandon High School.
In the Class 5A title games at Brandon, the Long Beach girls will play Germantown at 4 p.m. and the Long Beach boys will take on Saltillo at 6 p.m.
Admirals in hostile territory
The Gulfport boys (17-4-3) will play Madison Central (17-2-1) at 6 p.m. for the Class 6A championship at Ridgeland. Considering the Madison Central campus is located less than 3 miles from Ridgeland High School, the Jaguars will have a big home field advantage.
Gulfport coach Henrik Madsen hopes to lead the Admirals to the program’s second state championship.
Sophomore Durron Myers leads Gulfport with 11 goals while sophomore Mohamed Diallo and Christopher Bruni both have six assists.
St. Stanislaus, which is led by head coach Danny Patton, is in search of its 10th state championship since 2006.
The Rockachaws (18-3-1) have three players who have double-digit goals this season – senior Beau Rimmer (16), Parker Slade (12) and senior Charlie Demetz (10).
Dominant Lady Bearcats
The Long Beach girls have dominated the competition this season for a record of 20-0-1. The Lady Bearcats are on a 20-game winning streak after tying Ocean Springs 1-1 in the season opener way back on Nov. 4.
Scott points to the play of his defenders as playing a major role in the team’s success. Long Beach has given up only four goals all season and two of them came in a 3-2 win at Hattiesburg on Tuesday in the Class 5A South State title game.
“We’ve only allowed goals to three out of the 21 teams we’ve faced and one of those goals was on a penalty kick,” Scott said. “(The play of the defenders) makes it easy for our attackers. We rely on our defenders as our base.”
Junior Alexa Beets, junior Susie Stevison, junior Holly Weaver and freshman Lauren Bennett serve as Long Beach’s top defenders.
“Our back four is so solid that our goalkeeper doesn’t have to do much,” Scott said.
With 37 goals, senior Maddie Beets, who is Alexa’s older sister, ranks seventh in the state in total goals this season.
“Maddie has been our leading goal scorer the last two years,” Scott said. “Last year, she didn’t have all the help that she has this year. She’s surrounded by better players so she’s had more quality looks at the goal.”
The Long Beach boys (14-5-1) got hot late, winning their final six games after hitting a rough stretch in mid-January when the Bearcats lost three of four matches.
Long Beach, which is led by Coach Andee Wilburn, has allowed only one goal all postseason and is coming off a 3-0 win over West Jones for the 5A South State title.
Senior Brennan Ladner leads Long Beach with eight goals this season. Senior Dylan Picchi and junior Kai Vancourt both have seven goals. Picchi is the team’s leader in assists with five.
Saturday’s title games
Class 6A boys - Gulfport vs. Madison Central at Ridgeland, 6 p.m.
Class 5A boys - Long Beach vs. Saltillo at Brandon, 6 p.m.
Class 4A boys - St. Stanislaus vs. Amory at Brandon, 2 p.m.
Class 5A girls - Long Beach vs. Germantown at Brandon, 4 p.m.