Vikings rally to beat powerful Brandon

Published 7:55 am Friday, January 6, 2017

Last month, Warren Central boys soccer coach Greg Head reconfigured his schedule to fit in a game with perennial power state Brandon. The idea was to give his team a challenge heading into next week’s big Division 4-6A showdown with Clinton.

The Vikings got that and a whole lot more.

Braylen Greer scored the go-ahead goal and assisted on another in the second half, and goal keeper Chase Graham stopped a penalty kick with only eight minutes left as Warren Central beat Brandon 2-1 Thursday on a slippery pitch at Viking Stadium.

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“The team played a great game. We were missing two starters and they still played together and played well. It was awesome,” Head said. “You just have to listen to the guys talk to see how big a confidence boost it is. They were not going to let this one slip through their hands again.”

Warren Central (10-2) was playing without two starters. Midfielder Hunt Holdiness received a hard red card in the team’s last game Dec. 17 against Madison Central and was serving the first half of a two-game suspension. Another midfielder, Jack Richardson, was away on a family vacation.

The Vikings more than held their own. Brandon had a 17-11 advantage in shots, but its only goal was a deflection off a WC player in the 36th minute. Carson Giles was credited with the goal.

Eight minutes into the second half, the Vikings got the equalizer when Sean Dixon scored off a cross from Greer. It was the first goal Warren Central has scored against Brandon (11-2-1) in four meetings, and only the third one Brandon has allowed this season.

Then, in the 60th minute, Brandon was called for a handball in the box and Greer converted a penalty kick to put Warren Central ahead 2-1.

“We’ve been working on our short game, trying to be quicker and move the ball up the field, and I think it worked well,” Head said.

Warren Central’s defense — and Graham — then stood tall down the stretch as Brandon pressed for a tying goal. The Bulldogs were awarded a penalty kick for a foul inside the goal box in the 72nd minute, and Graham stoned Morton Holstebro’s attempt.

Graham finished with nine saves.

“He was our player of the game,” Head said.

The victory gave Head exactly what he wanted heading into Tuesday’s home game against Clinton (7-3-3). The two teams are the class of Division 4-6A, and the winner will only need to beat hapless Greenville (0-5) and Murrah (7-2) afterward to take the division title.

More importantly, Head said, the come-from-behind victory showed the Vikings they can compete against the state’s best as they turn an eye toward the Class 6A playoffs.

“It’s easy to get down and say, ‘We lost this one.’ For them to come back and play hard enough to get the lead, they know now that they can play against anybody in the state,” Head said.

(G) Brandon 8, Warren Central 0

Jocelyn Jones and Stella Vinson scored two goals apiece, and four other players scored one as undefeated Brandon (14-0) routed Warren Central (5-6-1) in the girls’ half of the doubleheader.

Zoe Ellis, Anna Kate Carter, Pepper Ann Filbert and Savannah Lowe also scored goals for Brandon.

Warren Central keeper Layken Stockstill made seven saves in the first half. Anna Hoben played the second half and made six saves. Sweeper Aryn Greer also made two non-keeper saves.

Warren Central will play Desoto Central, Saturday at 1 p.m. in a neutral-site game at Jackson Academy. WC will then host Clinton in a key Division 4-6A game Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.