Vicksburg reaches 4A playoffs|[01/23/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ryan Ferrington made one great play. Bowen Woodson made a bunch of them. And, thanks largely to their efforts, the Vicksburg Gators can now call their season a good one.

Ferrington dribbled past three defenders and scored a goal a minute into the second half, Woodson made 11 saves against heavy pressure, and Vicksburg beat Ridgeland 2-0 Tuesday night to secure a berth in the Class 4A playoffs. Perry Tolliver added VHS’ second goal during second-half stoppage time.

The Gators (8-13, 3-2 Division 3-4A) have struggled through a tough up-and-down season, but clinched second place in the division with the victory and will now face either Northeast Lauderdale, West Lauderdale or Caledonia in the first round of the playoffs next Tuesday.

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“It just shows we’ve gotten better throughout the year,” Vicksburg coach Jason Bennett said. “These last two weeks since Christmas, except for one game, we’ve been playing the best soccer we have all year and we put it all together tonight and got a win.”

Ridgeland dominated Tuesday’s game on the stat sheet, but couldn’t sneak one past Woodson. The Titans (13-6-1, 2-4) outshot Vicksburg 14-7 — including a 10-3 margin in the first half. They misfired on a penalty kick midway through the first half, though, were denied by Woodson on a breakaway a few minutes later, and sent a half-dozen shots high or wide of the goal in the second half.

“They did things we didn’t do, which is put the ball in the net,” said Ridgeland coach Preston Nailor, a former VHS assistant. Nailor added that Woodson’s play had a lot to do with his team’s poor shooting. “Bowen is a long kid. He’s got long arms. We tried to put the ball in the corners, but he cut that off.”

Unfortunately for Nailor, no one cut off Ferrington during his spectacular run early in the second half.

Ferrington got the ball around the 40-yard line, dribbled a few yards and made a quick tap to get the ball around a defender. He juked another 10 yards farther up the field, then another a few steps later to get into shooting position. He fired a shot past Ridgeland keeper Robert Jackson for the game’s first goal.

“It was tough. I was just going for the goal,” Ferrington said.

Ridgeland turned up the pressure midway through the second half, but never got a quality shot thanks to Woodson and the VHS defense. Woodson came out of goal on several occasions to challenge shooters, and flopped into the mud to stop some shots. During one late sequence, he didn’t have to do anything. It was the defense that deflected five shots before clearing the ball.

Vicksburg finally took control in the closing minutes, taking three shots in the last 10 minutes and stoppage time. One of those was a soft, short floater by Tolliver that sailed just over Jackson and bounced off the inside of the far post for the clinching goal.

“There’s a lot that I had to come out and sacrifice for. I got nicked up a little bit,” Woodson said.

The Gators’ ego also took a beating from the referees. They were called for six yellow cards, including one on Bennett for a constant, gamelong barrage of criticism toward the officials. Ferrington drew a double yellow and an ejection 10 minutes into the second half. Ferrington took Cristian Eslava down with a hard foul for the first yellow, then got the second when the two started jawing back and forth. Eslava was not carded — and neither was Ridgeland for the entire game.

“I said I’d come back for him,” Ferrington said sheepishly.

While some of the Gators’ fouls and cards were well-deserved, Ferrington said he was given the impression by the officials that the game would be called looser than it was because of the muddy conditions.

“At the beginning of the second half, he said the field was muddy and they were going to try to keep it under control. But after I got my cards, it was a catastrophe,” Ferrington said.

(G) Ridgeland 7, Vicksburg 2

Vicksburg did something no division opponent ever had against Ridgeland. It still wasn’t enough to win.

Ridgeland scored four goals in the last 22 minutes to blow open a close game, and scored five times overall in the second half, to beat the Missy Gators (4-12-3, 1-4). Angie Smith had three goals and an assist for Ridgeland (16-2-1, 6-0), while Sloan Bancroft had two goals and an assist, Becca MacNeill and Kelsey Givan each had a goal and two assists, and Carmen Bofill had an assist. Ridgeland outshot Vicksburg 35-15.

Becky Wilson scored a pair of unassisted goals for Vicksburg, and made history in the process. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Ridgeland had allowed one goal to a division opponent in its history. Wilson and the Missy Gators got two.