Vikings stay on track for Region 2-6A boys’ soccer title by beating Vicksburg

Published 1:38 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

When Warren Central’s boys’ soccer team was slogging its way to a dreadful 3-12 record last season, there was always the idea that a young roster was paying its dues and better days were ahead.

Better days are here.

Tyler Godshaw scored three goals, and fellow seniors Colby Solomon and Laney Lewis each netted one on senior night, as the Vikings defeated Vicksburg 7-0 on Monday.

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Warren Central won its 12th game of the season and remained on course to win its first region championship since 2018. It needs to win at Columbus on Thursday and beat Ridgeland at home on Jan. 30 to clinch the MHSAA Region 2-6A title.

“We had one of the toughest schedules we’ve ever had last year and I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to make men out of you. The only way we’re going to get better is by playing tough teams.’ Last season we won three games and I told them this was going to make us ready for next season,” Warren Central coach Greg Head said. “Now we’re such a young team — we have three seniors and three juniors starting for us, and the rest of them are ninth- and 10th-graders — so we’re only going to be better next year. They’ve grown up a lot since last season. I’m proud of them.”

Warren Central (12-4-1, 6-0 Region 2-6A) beat Vicksburg (4-13-2, 1-6) for the 17th consecutive time since 2011. Godshaw scored in the 13th and 31st minutes, and Laney Lewis in the 25th to take a 3-0 lead into halftime and dominated throughout.

The Vikings outshot Vicksburg 27-3. Only VHS keeper Arthur Davis, who had 12 saves, and the Vikings’ own excitement to score kept it reasonably close. Warren Central was called for offsides nearly a dozen times on breakaway opportunities.

“They were pulling that offsides trap. I was trying to explain to them how to work it, but they just wanted to go to the goal. They wanted to score. They know better. (Vicksburg) did a good job catching us,” Head said.

Vicksburg came up empty on a scoring chance in the opening minutes of the second half, and then Jonah Artman converted on a long run up the left side to put Warren Central ahead 4-0 in the 44th minute.

The Vikings finished it with a flurry of three goals in 13 minutes late in the game. Duke Esparza and Godshaw each netted one, and in the 77th minute Charlie Esparza was fouled in the box to earn a penalty kick.

Any player on the field is allowed to take the kick, and Head called on his keeper Solomon to do the honors.

“It was senior night and my other two seniors had scored, so I said let me get my goal keeper in there and let him score,” Head said. “I’d told him if we got a penalty kick and the game was out of reach I was going to put him in there.”

Solomon converted the PK for the first goal of his high school career and a decidedly non-dramatic walk-off moment. The goal made it 7-0 and finished the game by the mercy rule three minutes before the final whistle would’ve sounded anyway.

“It felt very nice because we worked very hard to get where we are, and it felt very nice to get that last goal in. Especially on senior night,” said Solomon, who also made one save on a slow night in the net. “I said, ‘Someone flop going to the goal and I’ll come in there and get it.’ I thought I missed it, but it was a good goal.”

While Warren Central is eyeing a region championship, Vicksburg still is holding on to some slim playoff hopes. It needs to beat Neshoba Central Thursday at home, and have Columbus lose its last two games vs. Warren Central and Neshoba Central.

Considering the Gators only won one game last season, head coach Maurice Gilliam was happy to head into the regular-season finale with a chance to make the playoffs.

“It’s still a good thing,” Gilliam said. “If the guys come in and play lights out and we beat Neshoba I told all of them I’d buy pizza.”

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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