Arrows put down Vicksburg|[02/04/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 5, 2007

JACKSON – Vicksburg soccer coach Jason Bennett felt his Gators would be at a huge disadvantage on the big, wide and fast turf at Millsaps College’s Harper Davis Field against two-time defending Class 5A champion Clinton.

Bennett’s concerns proved warranted as the Arrows took advantage of a depleted Gator squad for a 4-1 win in the quarterfinal round of the 5A playoffs. Clinton (26-1-1) advances to the North State final at Tupelo which beat Northwest Rankin 2-1 in Brandon. Vicksburg ends its season at 20-6.

Afterward, Bennett voiced his displeasure that Clinton was allowed to move its home playoff game to Millsaps.

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&#8220It’s a shame the MHSAA allowed Clinton to move this game to this field. This field is too big. It’s too big to play the championship game on. It’s not fair.

&#8220Our team spends all season playing on a 54-yard wide football field and then we have to come here and play on a field that’s marked at 70 yards wide,” Bennett said.

The soccer set up at Millsaps had the sidelines go at least eight yards wider than the football sideline.

&#8220The field affected us because its so wide. That’s more ground we have to cover,” Bennett said.

And Arrows coach Jeff Long made sure a thin Gator squad would get worn down by making several early substitutions.

&#8220He was sending three in at a time while I’m pretty limited to just one at time … what can we do?” Bennett asked.

Long said Clinton’s home field was unplayable.

&#8220We have no grass and your foot just sinks into the ground. We wanted to play on a good surface,” Long said.

&#8220Playing here does help us because the surface is good and the field is wide. The wider the field the better it brings out the skilled players.

&#8220Vicksburg has a great starting 11, but I thought we could wear them down. I was hoping we could get a two-goal lead so I could keep bringing fresh guys in,” Long said.

Clinton got its first goal just 10 minutes into the game when Logan Barksdale used the back of his foot to sidewind a kick past both Gator keeper Bowen Woodson and sweeper Josh Dixon.

Ten minutes later, the Arrows showed the speed that Bennett also had been concerned about. Barry Prather took a long kick from past midfield and outraced four chasing Gators to send a 20-yard cross kick into the net for a 2-0 lead.

Vicksburg got right back in the game when Ryan Ferrington split a pair of Arrow defenders and found Michael Cooper open. Cooper was taken down by Clinton keeper Joe Cole, resulting in a yellow card. Cooper converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1 with 3:40 left in the first half.

Any chance of a further Gator comeback was put to an end in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Prather scored off a free kick to up the lead back to two goals at 3-1 with 33:01 left.

Cooper had a 25-yard direct kick blocked and Paul Valazquez’s 20-yard free kick was grabbed by a leaping Cole for one of his six saves on the day.