Warren Central conquers Clinton for first time since 2010
Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018
CLINTON — Six yards separated Sean Dixon from Clinton goal keeper Will Duke.
Six yards and a correct guess separated Dixon and his Warren Central teammates from ending eight years of frustration against their bitter rival.
Dixon took a deep breath and kicked the ball toward the left side of the net. Duke dove to the right.
And just like that, Warren Central had finally conquered its nemesis.
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Dixon’s goal capped a penalty kick shootout that the Vikings won 5-4, after they and Clinton played through 80 scoreless minutes of regulation and 20 more of overtime. Officially, it will go in the books as a 1-0 victory. Unofficially, it was the biggest win for Warren Central in almost a decade.
The victory gave Warren Central (15-3-2, 2-0 Division 3-6A) its first win over Clinton (8-9-3, 1-1) since 2010, as well as its first division championship in that same span — assuming it can beat a weak Provine (1-1 in division play) team Thursday night in Jackson.
“It’s amazing. It’s the greatest feeling of my life, pretty much. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. This is all we talk about is beating Clinton. Every single year. It’s so special,” Dixon said. “Beating Clinton for the first time in eight years, we won district … I can’t wait to see what goes on now. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.”
The Vikings were to face Class 4A power Florence on Tuesday night, in a game not many of them seemed to care about in the wake of Monday’s victory.
Warren Central and Clinton traded blows for 100 minutes on the turf at Arrows Field — metaphorically and literally; each side received two yellow cards for hard fouls — with both generating plenty of scoring chances but neither able to finish them.
Warren Central’s players sent five shots sailing just high over the goal. In the 79th minute, a throw-in from the right corner deflected off of Duke but the Vikings were unable to put it in the open net before Clinton cleared it.
Clinton took a whopping 12 corner kicks in the second half and overtime, yet generated only two shots on goal. WC keeper Chase Graham got caught out of position on a flurry in front of the net in the 78th minute, but Isaiah Johnson pushed a shot wide right from inside of 10 yards.
“It felt like they were shooting at us a pretty good bit, but luckily they didn’t put it in the back,” Graham said. “It was one of the funnest games I’ve ever played in, for sure. No one could score. Both teams were playing good. It was an intense game. I wouldn’t want anything more.”
As the minutes ticked by, each rush and kick became magnified. In a game that was expected to be decided by one or two mistakes, the window for taking advantage of it — or recovering from it — became increasingly short.
“Every free kick they got, my gut was in my throat,” WC coach Greg Head said.
With neither team able to score a regular goal, the issue was settled with a penalty kick shootout. Five players from each side lined up to take their shots. Clinton’s Victor Razinobakht and Ruben Melo, and WC’s Braylen Greer and Shamar Lott each converted their chances to start it off.
Carson Barefoot was up next for Clinton. He tried to go low to the right side, but Graham guessed correctly, dove and smothered the ball to open the door for the Vikings.
“I was kind of aiming to one side to get him to guess that way. Luckily it worked,” Graham said.
Hank Holdiness converted on his kick to give Warren Central a 3-2 lead in the shootout. Nathan Thomas and Andreas Mazy scored to keep Clinton in it, and Brandon Gilliam did the same to keep Warren Central ahead.
That put it all on the shoulders of Dixon, the senior forward and East Central Community College signee. Despite being the last shooter, he said he was oblivious to the situation.
“I didn’t even know that was for the win. I was just blocking it out,” he said.
As Dixon struck the ball, Duke committed to the right side of the net and the ball zipped into the open left side. Dixon’s teammates, who were lined up at midfield, rushed toward the goal and mobbed him in a celebration eight years in the making.
“We’ve been working hard all year and we’ve been hearing, just like we were hearing on the field, ‘Oh we beat you all eight years in a row.’ We’ve been hearing that year after year after year, and I keep telling the boys we can play with them,” Head said. “To win it like this, it’s great. I love it for my kids because they deserve it.”
(G) Clinton 4, Warren Central 0
Kaci Craft, Andrea Rodriguez and Jada Jelks each scored a goal to lead Clinton (11-8-1, 2-0 Division 3-6A) past Warren Central (9-7, 1-1) to clinch the girls’ Division 3-6A championship.
Clinton beat Warren Central for the ninth consecutive time, and won its 27th straight division game since 2011. The Lady Arrows outshot WC 19-5, with only two of Warren Central’s shots making it on goal.
Goal keeper Layken Stockstill made 13 saves for Warren Central.