Jaguars blank Gators, 3-0

Published 12:01 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MADISON — Madison Central finished the second half the same way it started — with a goal and a celebration.

Marcus Epps scored a minute into the second half to break a scoreless tie, and Connor Sutherland scored just before the final whistle to give Madison a 3-0 playoff victory over Vicksburg on Tuesday night. The goals book-ended a dominant second half in which the Jaguars outshot VHS 7-2 and seized control of the game.

“They were playing defensively, and they did a very good job of it. Especially in the first half. I thought we brought a lot more pressure in the second half,” said Madison Central coach Jay Harrison, a Vicksburg native. “When you’re playing a defensive game and you get down, you have to try and get a goal and it opens things up.”

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Madison Central (18-2-2) advanced to a second-round Class 6A playoff game against either Horn Lake or Starkville on Saturday. Vicksburg’s season ends with a 9-10-3 record, and it heads into the 2011-12 campaign looking to replace seven senior starters.

“Losing eight seniors, seven starters, you’ve got to take what you get,” Vicksburg coach Jason Bennett said. “A bunch of our young guys got a lot of experience this year. It’s another year of older under their belt that they’ve had to mature.”

Vicksburg was without two starters and played conservatively in the first half in an effort to keep Tuesday’s game close. The Gators limited Madison to just five shots in the first half while generating a few opportunities themselves, and went into halftime tied at 0.

It took less than a minute for that to change.

Epps took a shot from the left side that was slowed by Vicksburg keeper Taylor Brocato, but not stopped entirely. The ball went off his hands and into the net behind him for a soft goal that gave Madison a 1-0 lead.

Brocato made nine saves, but the deflection shifted the momentum in Madison’s favor.

“It hurt,” Bennett said. “Mistakes happen. We’ve given up worse. But it hurts when you go toe to toe with someone and then make a mistake like that.”

After Epps’ goal, Madison pressed the attack and got another goal from Chase Rawson at the 15-minute mark to take a nearly insurmountable 2-0 lead. In the final minute, Sutherland added the capper on a 45-yard free kick. The referee blew the final whistle as the Jaguars celebrated the goal, leaving Bennett and the Gators fuming.

“I think the AR (assistant referee) was trying to get the center ref to call the game, and he should’ve called it,” Bennett said. “Don’t add insult to injury.”