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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“It’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.
“Our 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.
“The 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.
“He 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.
“We have no grass and your foot just sinks into the ground. We wanted to play on a good surface,” Long said.
“Playing 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.
“Vicksburg 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.