Two goals three minutes apart and a big save enabled Gulfport to repeat as 6A boys soccer champion with a 2-1 victory over Northwest Rankin Saturday.
The Admirals scored both goals early in the second half after a scoreless first half was highlighted by a save by Gannon Key on an early penalty kick by the Cougars’ Austin Lincoln.
Key dove to his left to make the save. He wasn’t guessing.
“I expected him to go that way by the way he lined up and opened his body,” Key said.
“It was a disastrous start for us, giving up a penalty kick four minutes into the game, but Gannon came up big for us as he has all season,” said coach Henrik Madsen.
Joseph Cumberland opened the scoring for Gulfport 6½ minutes into the second half, connecting from 10 yards out on a shot just inside the left goal and just out of the reach of a dive by Northwest Rankin goalie Lee Hardy.
The Admirals made it 2-0 when Durron Myers headed in a perfectly place corner kick from Mohamed Diallo.
“I was just trying to get it to the back post,” Diallo said.
He takes all the Admirals’ corner kicks and said “maybe about 10” resulted in goals this year. He said Madsen makes him practice corner kicks every day “until I can score 20 in a row.”
Northwest Rankin cut the deficit to 2-1 when Gavin Gaudin scored on a penalty kick from 30 yards out with 26 minutes left.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock at Ridgeland High School, Northwest Rankin pressed the attack, looking for the equalizer. But Key and the rest of the Gulfport defense was able to slam the door.
Gulfport, the top ranked team in the state according to the website MaxPreps, finishes 19-2-4, with only one defeat against a Mississippi opponent, a 1-0 loss to Madison Central. In the playoffs, the Admirals also defeated Pearl 5-1, Oak Grove 4-3 in overtime and Ocean Springs 3-1 in the South State final.
Northwest Rankin, a four-time state champion, finishes 20-3-3. The Cougars advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 win over Madison Central in the North State final.