St. Al hosts Central Hinds in Class AAA soccer semifinals Thursday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Shortly after their respective first-round playoff games concluded, St. Aloysius soccer coach Scott Mathis called his counterpart Dave Riley at Central Hinds.

The two coaches, their teams and their destinies have seemed intertwined in the past few years. The district rivals have also met in the playoffs twice. St. Al supplanted Central Hinds as the MAIS Class AAA champion last season. At the end of this one, both Mathis and Riley plan to step down from their jobs as well.

So on Monday, as they swapped scores, it didn’t seem to catch either by surprise that they’ll meet up one more time for all the marbles.

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St. Al and Central Hinds will face off in the Class AAA semifinals Thursday at 5 p.m. at Balzli Field. The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game at Jackson Prep and earns a lifetime of bragging rights in a rivalry that has grown friendlier and more respectful as it’s gone along.

“It’s funny how it’s adding up. It’s (Riley’s) last year, my last year, and here we are again in the playoffs,” Mathis said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Central Hinds advanced with a 2-1 win over Central Private in the first round of the playoffs on Monday. St. Al pushed through with a dominant 4-0 victory over Adams County Christian School.

Ryan Theriot had two goals and an assist for the Flashes (15-1-1), while Reed Bourne and Lee Hanks had one goal apiece. Kieran Theriot had three assists.

Hanks and Ryan Theriot each scored a goal in the first half and Haden Luke stopped a penalty shot as the Flashes took a 2-0 lead into halftime. They finished off the victory with an outstanding defensive performance in which ACCS only mustered one shot on goal.

“They got through the defense a few times, but we mostly kept the ball on their side of the field. We didn’t get to practice this weekend but we had gotten three good practices in last week before it rained. If they’re not ready now, they’re not ready,” Mathis said. “We’re playing lights out right now.”

Now the Flashes will need to figure out how to get by Central Hinds one more time.
Central Hinds beat St. Al five times during a 71-game winning streak that included four Class AAA championships from 2014-17. Since St. Al snapped the winning streak in last year’s semifinals it has beaten the Cougars three times in a row and assumed the role of the team to beat in Class AAA.

St. Al is the reigning Class AAA champion and beat Central Hinds 7-0 and 3-0 in two meetings during the regular season. St. Al is also a No. 1 seed and, thanks to the Cougars’ win Monday, has home field advantage. It would have had to travel to Baker, Louisiana, if Central Private had won.

“It’s working its way out like we wanted it to,” Mathis said.

The one hiccup in the plan might be the weather. Rain is forecast all week and could turn the grass turf at Balzli Field into a slippery and equalizing muddy quagmire. Mathis said because of the compact playoff schedule there is no option to postpone the game, so it’s something both teams will have to deal with.

“We’re just going to have to play through the rain. There’s really nothing we can do,” he said. “I just hope it’s not raining during the game. We can deal with a muddy field vs. a rainy muddy field.”

Thursday – Semifinals

5 p.m. – Central Hinds at St. Aloysius
TBA – Starkville Academy at Heritage Academy
Saturday – Championship
11 a.m. – Semifinal winners, at Jackson Prep

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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