Arrows beat Brandon for 5A state title|[2/12/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 13, 2006

JACKSON – Neither wind, nor cold, nor snow, nor the Brandon Bulldogs could keep Clinton from celebrating its second consecutive state championship on Saturday.

Clinton scored two goals in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game, then settled in and played nearly flawless defense to beat Brandon 2-0 in the boys Class 5A state championship game. It was the second straight state championship for the Arrows (22-3-4), who gave up one goal in eight playoff games during their two-year reign.

The shutout was Clinton’s 11th overall this season, and the Arrows only lost one game against a Mississippi team — in a shootout to Northwest Rankin, a loss Clinton avenged in the North State championship game.

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“These guys wanted to get that respect. A lot of people thought it was a fluke last year, so they were determined to prove it wasn’t. I think they did that tonight,” Clinton coach Jeff Long said. We beat the very best, going through the playoffs, going through the North, and then beating Brandon here tonight. We feel like we definitely deserve that number one spot.”.

It was a tough day for Brandon’s soccer program. Its girls team lost 1-0 when Tupelo scored with a minute to play in the second sudden-death overtime period. The overtime backed up the start of the boys’ game nearly an hour, during which time the temperature dipped to a brisk 40 degrees – with a wind chill of 32 and a few snow flurries.

Once the boys’ game finally started, the Arrows came out as if they just wanted to get it over with.

Just five minutes into the contest, sophomore Taylor McKee booted in a throw-in from Logan Barksdale to give Clinton a 1-0 lead. It was McKee’s third game-winning goal in four playoff games this season. He also scored the first goal against Tupelo and Northwest Rankin.

About two minutes later, the Arrows stunned Brandon (18-4-4) again. Michael Pardue boomed a free kick about 50 yards into the goal box, where it deflected off of one Arrow before Barry Prather headed it in for a 2-0 lead.

&#8220The ball was played over the top. The defender misjudged it and I was standing there behind and just headed it in,” said Prather, who finished the season with 24 goals. &#8220Our plan was to attack quick. We did it, and then just played defense the rest of the game and won the game.”

Brandon coach Randy West said the two quick goals took his team out of its gameplan and forced it to press for a goal early.

&#8220We wanted to be more patient. Our passing game is so much better than what we’ve been playing. When we got behind, we were rushing things a little bit,” West said. &#8220They played good defense, and they have been all year long. I don’t think it was anything special, other than the fact that they’re just talented and played well.”

Brandon actually outshot Clinton 14-10 for the game and controlled the action down the stretch, but had few quality scoring chances. Arrow defenders seemed to be in the middle of every passing lane or at the end of every kick toward the goal.

When Brandon did get a clean shot, Michael Goodlett was there to stop it.

Goodlett made 10 saves for the Arrows, recording his third shutout of these playoffs. He was beaten once, on a header with 8 minutes to play, but officials ruled the ball was out of bounds before the pass that set up the shot, and the score was disallowed and it remained 2-0.

&#8220We just couldn’t get our attack going. Every time the ball would come out they’d have a backup. We just couldn’t get it flowing today. I don’t know why,” said Brandon senior sweeper Joshua Furby. &#8220I just think we started out slow, that’s all it was. At halftime we were flowing and going good.”