Central Hinds routs St. Al for 57th win in a row

Published 12:16 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Through all of one game and half of another, the St. Aloysius Flashes proved their mettle as worthy challengers to Central Hinds’ throne.

Then the Cougars spent 40 minutes reminding St. Al why they’re still the biggest, baddest dudes on the block in MAIS Class AAA boys’ soccer.

Central Hinds scored three times in the first six minutes of the second half — and added a fourth six minutes after that — to crush St. Al 6-1 Monday night at Balzli Field.

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Central Hinds had won a tough 5-4 decision when the teams played two weeks ago in Raymond, and Monday’s game was tied 1-1 at the half. Once the Cougars broke out, however, it turned into a blowout and a statement that the three-time defending Class AAA champions aren’t giving up their crown without a fight.

“Coach was saying they’re out for blood and we have a big target on our back, but we like that. That’s what three state championships do for you,” said Central Hinds senior forward Tanner Leggett, who scored four of the Cougars’ six goals.

With the win, Central Hinds (15-0, 9-0 District 3-AAA) clinched the district championship and home field advantage in the Class AAA playoffs. It also won its 57th consecutive game.

St. Al (11-5-1, 7-2) seems likely to get one more shot at the Cougars. The teams would meet again in the Class AAA semifinals, and both are favorites to get there. St. Al coach Scott Mathis remained optimistic that his team can regain its footing heading into the playoffs that begin Feb. 20.

“We’re not out of it. If we win out, we just have to travel and go beat people at their place. That’s the way it is. And who knows, maybe their smaller field is the better field for us. I know it’s hard to beat somebody three times,” Mathis said.

After combining for nine goals in the first meeting, the Flashes and Cougars got off to another fast start in Monday’s match.

Leggett scored a minute into the game to give Central Hinds an early advantage, but Jorrit Willemsen headed in a deflected corner kick by Brandon Teller in the fifth minute to tie it up.

After that early flurry, the game settled into a defensive battle in the midfield. The teams combined for only seven shots in the half, and the only great scoring opportunity came when Leggett was stoned by St. Al keeper Townsend Derivaux on a breakaway in the 38th minute.

“We got up early and got big-headed, and they put one in. They fought well the first half. They were winning 50-50s,” Leggett said. “Then we changed it up and our mentality got higher and we pushed the ball the second half.”

In the opening moments of the second half, Central Hinds ended the stalemate.
In the 42nd minute, Cooper Currie launched a deep kick from midfield that landed nearly on the foot of Leggett inside the 18. Leggett beat Derivaux from the right side to give Central Hinds the lead and it never looked back.

Leggett fired a laser past Derivaux from the right side of the field into the upper left portion of the net in the 45th minute, and then Davis McDade headed in a corner kick from Currie a minute later to make it 4-1.

“We changed our formation a little bit, and coach told me to make them smile. When he tells me to make them smile, he knows I’m doing my job,” Leggett said. “It’s an adrenaline rush. Especially when you drop one or two, they get down and that’s when you get in attack mode and step on their throat.”

Leggett scored on a short breakaway in the 52nd minute to make it 5-1, and the Cougars finished the scoring with an own goal in the 66th minute. The goal was credited to McDade after a corner kick bounced off three players — the last being St. Al’s Chandler Rosech — in front of the net.

It was an embarrassing moment for the Flashes, but one that seemed to add more insult than injury. The Flashes didn’t take a shot in the second half until the 69th minute, and were outshot 9-2 over the last 40 minutes.

“Emotions got the better of them,” Mathis said. “We can blame it on referees all day, we can blame it on Tanner (Leggett), we can blame it on whoever. The fact of the matter is, is we let our emotions get the best of us and we broke down and we started playing individually instead of like a team. You saw it in the first half, and we should be able to play all 90 minutes that same way.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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