Vikings beat Ridgeland in shootout to clinch Region 2-6A soccer title
Published 1:17 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024
If things go well, this won’t be the last time Warren Central’s boys’ soccer team lifts a championship trophy this season. Its players still took the opportunity to savor the experience, though.
Tyler Godshaw scored the tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation, and keeper Colby Solomon made a clutch save in a penalty kick shootout to give Warren Central a victory over Ridgeland on Tuesday and the MHSAA Region 2-6A championship.
The game went to the shootout tied 2-2, and Warren Central won the shootout 5-4.
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“Perfect ending. I waited four years for this moment and now it’s come true. I just can’t believe it,” said Godshaw, who converted his shootout chance as well as scoring the tying goal.
Warren Central (13-4-1, 7-0 Region 2-6A) won its first region championship since 2018 and will host a first-round game in the Class 6A playoffs on Feb. 6.
This meant more than just winning the program’s first title in a while. The Vikings finished with a 3-12 record last season, and went from those depths to the top of the mountain with a roster that only has three seniors on it.
“I told them, what kind of story would this be if we go from one of the worst seasons Warren Central has ever had to district champions in one year?” Vikings coach Greg Head said. “That tells me a lot about the character on this team, the heart that we play with. It would be a perfect ending to a sorry season last year. What we can control is how the story ends, and it ends tonight. These kids stepped up. They played with heart.”
In fitting with their larger comeback story arc, the Vikings had to author a dramatic one to win Tuesday.
Jacob Porter gave them a 1-0 lead with a goal in the opening minutes, but Ridgeland’s Jared Aguilar scored twice to put the Titans ahead 2-1 midway through the first half. It stayed that way for nearly 60 minutes until Godshaw finally got the equalizer.
A foul in the left corner led to a free kick that was deflected out of bounds, then a throw-in, and finally a corner kick. Laney Lewis passed it short to Godshaw, who curved a perfect shot around the defense and into the upper right corner of the net with about 90 seconds left in regulation.
“Originally I was thinking we were just going to cross it. And then no one was on me so we played it short,” Godshaw said. “I was going to cross it in at first, and then I looked at it and said, ‘I can make that.’ So I just put it right over his head. Perfect lean right in that back corner.”
The Vikings and Titans played through two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods to set up the penalty kick shootout in which each team gets five shots and the one who is ahead at the end wins.
The first three shooters on each side scored, and then Ridgeland’s Josh Butts stepped up to the spot. He tried to beat Solomon to the left side, but the keeper read it correctly and knocked down the shot.
“I saw his foot and where he was going and I dived the way I wanted to, and I got it — finally,” said Solomon, who had 10 saves in regulation and overtime as well as the one in the shootout.
Lewis followed with a goal for Warren Central to give it a 4-3 lead in the shootout. Aguilar converted to keep Ridgeland alive, and then sophomore Luke Bond knocked in his try to give the Vikings the victory — and the championship.
After Bond scored the Vikings swarmed he and Solomon, who was standing off to the side of the goal. They then paraded the trophy around Viking Stadium in a moment six years in the making.
“It feels amazing. We came into this season knowing that we needed to improve. We had unfinished business from last year. We had something to prove,” Godshaw said. “Last season did not reflect how good we were. So we made sure we came through this year and we put in the work.”
The Vikings didn’t necessarily need to beat Ridgeland (12-4-4, 6-2) to win the region title. They still have another game left Thursday at Columbus, and could’ve clinched with a win there provided they stayed within a goal of Ridgeland and had a tiebreaker work in their favor.
Still, Head said, walking it off was sweet satisfaction — especially for his seniors Solomon, Godshaw and Lewis, who all endured the awful 2022-23 season and played key roles in putting the program back on top.
“With the goal differential, I think even if we would’ve lost we would’ve won the trophy. But I don’t want to take chances. When destiny was in our hands we took control and won it,” Head said. “These seniors went through a lot last year, so I’m happy for them.”