St. Al advances to state title game, ends Central Hinds’ 71-game win streak

Published 8:12 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

RAYMOND — It was an accomplishment so nice, the St. Aloysius Flashes celebrated twice.
After two years of beatdowns and heartache, the Flashes finally knocked off four-time defending MAIS Class AAA champion Central Hinds on Wednesday, winning 2-1 in the state semifinals.

Jack Dowe scored two goals — including the game-winner that deflected off a Central Hinds player and into the net in the 28th minute — to send St. Al to a boys’ soccer state championship for the first time in school history. It will play at either Heritage Academy or Starkville Academy Saturday at 1 p.m.

Heritage and Starkville play in the other semifinal on Thursday.

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“It means the world to me. We lost 8-0 to them earlier this year, came back with two goals today, and I couldn’t ask for anything more in my senior year,” Dowe said. “This team, we played so hard this year and we’ve done so many great things. We have one more game to go.”

Central Hinds (11-1) had not only its state championship reign come to an end, but a remarkable 71-game winning streak as well. Five of those victories, including two this season, had come against St. Al (13-5).

It’s the first time in eight seasons that the Cougars will not play in the state championship game.

“I told (St. Al) Coach (Scott) Mathis that he better not fall short at state. When we get together at the coaches’ meeting I want to see that ring on his finger,” Central Hinds coach Dave Riley said. “They deserved it. They played great.”

The Flashes got to celebrate their victory twice. The officials blew the whistle right at the 80-minute mark — for a lightning delay, not to signal the end of the game. A thunderstorm deluged the area a few minutes later.

When the players returned to the field about 30 minutes later, five minutes of stoppage time was added onto the clock. Most of Central Hinds’ sideline was under a couple of inches of water, and the middle of the field was a patchwork of large puddles and mud islands.

Central Hinds had one scoring chance but missed, and St. Al managed to hold on.

“The whole time we were in (the locker room), we were strategizing,” St. Al coach Scott Mathis said. “We didn’t talk about it being over or anything like that. We only talked about coming back out and finishing it.”

The “overtime” period brought a bizarre end to an intense and exciting state semifinal. St. Al outshot Central Hinds 11-3 and controlled the pace of the game, but never gained any sort of separation.

Dowe’s corner kick curved into the goal to give the Flashes a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute, but Central Hinds answered in the 20th with an own goal. Houston Ezell’s cross from along the end line deflected off St. Al defender Lee Hanks and into the net to tie it.

In the 28th minute, Dowe avenged the slip-up with an own goal of his own. His shot from about 20 yards out tipped off a Central Hinds player standing a few yards in front of the keeper. The redirected shot made it into the net to give the Flashes a 2-1 lead, and the score remained there the rest of the way.

“I knew once we got that lead our defense was going to lock down. I have so much faith in those guys. I knew we had it after that,” Dowe said.

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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