Missy Gators get Clinton in rematch for South State title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2002

[02/05/02]Leave it to a football coach to bring today’s South State championship soccer game into focus.

“I got one word to say to you, superstar,” VHS head coach Alonzo Stevens said to sophomore Brandi Parker. “Clinton.”

The Lady Arrows (19-5-2) and Missy Gators (17-2), ranked second and fourth, respectively, renew their heated rivalry today at 6 at Memorial Stadium.

The winner gets their tickets stamped to the state championship game a place almost as familiar to these two schools as each other.

The two have combined for five of the six state championships since 1995-96. The games these two play have become the bar each measures its season by.

“I told our girls Saturday to rest, and get ready mentally and physically,” said Vicksburg coach Kevin Manton, whose team has knocked Clinton from the playoffs twice, including last year. “It will probably be low scoring and we have to be ready to play. Clinton will be.”

In the last 10 games between the schools, nine of them have been decided by one goal. The lone exception came in last season’s 3-1 thriller in the North State championship.

Clinton holds a 14-8 series lead, but the Missy Gators are 3-1 against Clinton in playoff or championship games. The lone Lady Arrows’ win came in a shootout in the 1997 state title game.

Clinton won all three regular-season meetings last season, then lost on its home field in North State.

“They remember that,” Manton said. “They’ll be ready to get after it. It should be a very tough game.”

Vicksburg and Clinton, with a history so fierce and tightly contested one VHS player said beating Clinton would be bigger than winning the state championship, will square off again today with a trip to the state championship on the line.

“They have a good team, and we look forward to playing them again and hopefully fix what went wrong last year,” Clinton coach Thomas Bobo told The Clarion-Ledger Sunday.

Coaches say that the familiarity between the players is one reason the rivalry is so intense.

“Starting in rec leagues, these players go against one another and play select on the same team as one another,” Manton said. “It starts very early.”

In their lone meeting this year, the Lady Arrows scored in overtime to take a 1-0 win and the division title.

That loss could turn out to be a blessing for Vicksburg, which is mirroring its state championship run last year: Travel and win in the first round, then host the second round.

In past years, the tournament’s South State championship would be decided at Clinton, but the format was changed to play the South and North state championships at a host school. Clinton has not yet traveled in these playoffs. Vicksburg has not lost at home this year.

“It should be a knock-down, drag-out,” Manton said. “It could come down to who makes the big mistake. We just have to come to play.”