Flashes fend off Gators in early-season soccer match-up
Published 10:29 pm Monday, November 13, 2023
Monday’s boys’ soccer match-up between St. Aloysius and Vicksburg High was the kind of early-season game both teams could be happy with — fun, competitive, and entertaining.
One team just left a little bit happier than the other.
Carter Smithhart scored two goals in the first half, and St. Al held off a charge by Vicksburg in the second to hang on for a 4-2 victory at Memorial Stadium.
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“We’re still trying to figure out where our team is and what kind of team we’ve got. It worked out good,” St. Al coach Jay Madison said.
Smithhart scored in the eighth and 28th minutes, both times after winning 50-50 balls from a Vicksburg defender and turning them into short breakaways.
A corner kick in the 34th minute led to a scrum in front of the net, and Sam Hall pushed it past VHS keeper Xavier Williams for a 3-0 lead that appeared to have the Flashes on their way to an easy victory.
Two lightning bolts early in the second half changed all that, however.
Cannon Jackson converted a penalty kick in the 47th minute, and a minute later Braylon Green scored again to cut it to 3-2. Green gathered a ball played into the middle of the box, kicked it off Caleb Tucker as the St. Al keeper tried to make a play on it, and then directed the rebound into the net.
“It was second nature. The ball came to me, I just had the feeling I had to score,” Green said. “We were down and I had to get us up and get us in the game.”
The two quick-strike goals got the Gators back into the game, but also left them wondering what might have been after they missed three other golden opportunities to score.
In the first half, Green hit the side of the net with a shot — it initially appeared to go in, but following a lengthy discussion the officials ruled it rippled through — and Jackson sailed a penalty kick high over the crossbar.
In the second half, Dacion Brown got a turnover in the box and made a nifty move to beat Tucker, but his shot hit the left post and caromed back out into the field with no one there to follow up.
St. Al (2-2) missed on a similar scoring chance in the 56th minute, but was able to finish more of its chances than the Gators (1-3) and that wound up being the difference.
John Ellis Montgomery scored on a 40-yard free kick in the 76th minute to finally seal the win for the Flashes.
“We had three or four shots that could’ve taken it the other way in a heartbeat. Three or four shots that if we’d finished, I think it’d be a different ballgame,” Vicksburg coach Maurice Gilliam said.
On the whole, Gilliam was more pleased than displeased with his team’s performance. He was happy that the Gators didn’t fold after falling behind by three goals and that they went toe-to-toe with a more experienced team. Vicksburg took 10 shots compared to St. Al’s 11.
“I always tell them don’t get your head down, because these games for us are just to see where we are and what we need to fix,” Gilliam said. “Keep fighting and you never know what’ll happen, and that’s what they did. When you get a team like that, it’s a team you really want to coach.”
Madison also left the field feeling pretty good. He said he’s using the early part of the schedule to tinker with his lineups, and found a few things that worked better Monday than when they lost to Brookhaven Academy in their last outing.
St. Al plays again Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at Manchester Academy.
“It’s a little bit of experience. In the past we’ve always had that known leader, and this team has about 10 leaders. That means one of those has got to step up and be THE leader. We’re trying to figure some of that out,” Madison said. “There’s not that rah-rah intense guy like we’ve had in the past — which is fine, but we’re trying to feel our way and get ready for district in December.”