High School Sports

Epic competition: Coast soccer squads set to square off in Round 2

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALDGulfport's Alexander Hopkins, center, attempts to break through Biloxi goalkeeper Jacob Clark, left, and Koray Easterling while going for the ball on Tuesday.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALDGulfport's Alexander Hopkins, center, attempts to break through Biloxi goalkeeper Jacob Clark, left, and Koray Easterling while going for the ball on Tuesday. SUN HERALD

Coast soccer teams got offensive in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs and will now turn their attention to Round 2.

Even with three more first-round matchups remaining as of press deadline, South Mississippi's playoff contention had out-scored their opponents 79-32 in the first round.

So much for soccer being low scoring.

True contenders will begin to surface starting Friday with the start of the second round.

Class 6A

Class 6A features two Coast showdowns, all on Saturday.

On the Coast, Biloxi's girls host Ocean Springs at 5:30 p.m., while the Greyhounds travel to Gulfport at 2 p.m.

In addition, Gulfport's girls and Biloxi's boys both travel to Brandon. The Lady Admirals play at 1:30 p.m., with the Indians hitting the pitch at 3:15 p.m.

There's no real way to sugar coat it, the Lady Admirals (15-2-3) will have their work cut out for them against a 20-0 Brandon team that has 14 shutouts on the season and is ranked by some publications as the No. 1 or 2 girls team in the nation.

"It's going to be a tough draw for us, there's no doubt, but we're no strangers to playing in tough games," GHS coach Chris Pryor said.

Pryor's team will need to play smart and find a way to take the game to the Lady Bulldogs.

"It's going to be one of those games where we can't can't afford to make many mistakes on back line, but if we just sit back and park the bus in front of the net it's going to be a long night for us," Pryor said.

There's good news for GHS: Alexis Arnoult is back after missing most of the season due to injury. In Gulfport's 7-0 win over Terry, the sophomore scored four goals.

OSHS girls coach Patrick Hayes said his team is anxious about it's match with Biloxi after not playing the Lady Indians during the regular season.

"I'm expecting an intense, competitive match," he said. "I think anytime Ocean Springs and Biloxi play each other it's like a rivalry game.

"When there's a rivalry, anything can happen. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

On the boys side, OSHS coach Jeff French said he doesn't have to do much to get his team pumped to play Gulfport.

"It's Gulfport. They have one of the better coaches in the state and always have a talented players and a talented team," French said. "All bets are off. All past results don't matter. We have to show up and play if we want to advance."

Added GHS coach Henrik Madsen: "We're going to have to match their intensity and make sure we're just as tough as they are. I think it'll be another epic Ocean Springs-Gulfport battle"

Class 5A

West Harrison's girls have had one of the stronger showings on the Coast in 2015-16, especially on defense. The Lady Hurricanes (15-3-2) ripped through their region, posting a perfect 6-0 record while out-scoring foes 14-0.

"We just have a solid defense. We don't look to pack it in and defend," first-year coach Todd Moniz said. "On the contrary, we like to step up and defend in their half when we can."

Next up is a perennially strong South Jones squad that WHHS defeated 4-1 in a November showcase. The catch is both teams were without

key players and now the Lady 'Canes must hit the road.

"I expect it to be a very challenging game, especially playing at their place," Moniz said. "I believe it's not the easiest place to go and play so our message is just to play our game.

"If we play our game, I think we'll come out on top."

Other 5A action: Long Beach's girls knocked off Brookhaven 2-1 (4-3 penalty kicks) on Thursday and will travel to West Jones on Saturday. Gautier knocked off Provine 9-0 Thursday and will travel to Laurel on Saturday. Pascagoula's boys still had to play at Brookhaven late Thursday. Stone's boys play the winner of Pascagoula-Brookhaven.

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Class 4A

The margin for error will be tight Friday with the Bay High boys hosting East Central at 6 p.m.

"We scheduled up so we could be battle tested for when the time comes," Bay High coach Kelly Ross said. "We're just trying to stay focused on the fact that our next game could be our last so we need to bring it 100 percent every game."

Bo Bowman and Ethan Loftin are focal points for Bay High, but Ross said Mark Johnson has been crucial in the team's success.

"(Johnson has) been the glue that holds everything together," Ross said. "He's a good all-around player who you can put anywhere."

Other Class 4A action on Saturday: St. Stanislaus at Northeast Jones, 5 p.m.; Pass Christian girls at West Lauderdale, 3 p.m.; Bay High girls vs. Northeast Jones, TBD on Saturday.

Class 1A/2A/3A

Our Lady Academy will host Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. Saturday, while Resurrection's girls travel to St. Andrew's for a 1 p.m. kickoff. On the boy's side, St. Patrick also travels to St. Andrew's with a 2:30 p.m. start, while Resurrection hosts Sacred Heart at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

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