Vikings dominate Neshoba Central to reach Class 6A soccer semifinals
Published 11:02 pm Friday, February 9, 2024
Warren Central advanced to the MHSAA Class 6A boys’ soccer semifinals with a championship-caliber performance.
Jacob Porter and Jonah Artman scored goals a minute apart early in the second half, and Warren Central thoroughly dominated Neshoba Central to win 3-0 in a second-round playoff game on Friday.
The Vikings outshot Neshoba Central 26-5. Artman added another goal late in the game, and Charlie Esparza had one assist.
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“We had a hard time finishing the first half, but they stayed with it until they started getting them in,” Warren Central coach Greg Head said. “Our defense did a great job. They didn’t come close to the goal except for a couple of those free kicks. They played great.”
Warren Central (17-4-1) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in nearly 30 years. It will face the winner between Center Hill (17-2) and Ridgeland (14-4), who play in another second-round game Saturday.
The semifinal will be played Tuesday. A time and location will be determined this weekend.
“I’ve been here 18 years and we’ve never made it past the second round. We’ve come close numerous times,” said Head, who has been Warren Central’s coach since 2006. “These kids have done a lot. Going from 3-15 last year to 17-4 and making it to the third round? They’ve come a long way.”
Warren Central improved its record to 7-0-1 since New Year’s with perhaps its best performance during that stretch.
The Vikings outshot Neshoba Central 14-1 in the first half and stayed on the attack most of the time. Only an outstanding effort by Neshoba keeper Conner Jimmie and the goal itself kept it from being a rout.
Jimmie made 14 saves and the Vikings hit the post or crossbar four times. The game was scoreless at halftimes.
“That was pretty frustrating. It was nice to know we were getting those shots and they weren’t, but it was a lot better feeling when we could actually put them in,” Artman said.
Early in the second half the Vikings finally were rewarded for their dominance.
In the 44th minute, Porter gained control of the ball near the top of the box, neatly pirouetted around a defender, and sent a hard left-footed shot past Jimmie for the game’s first goal.
Artman made it 2-0 a minute later and the Vikings were on their way.
“I think that really boosted us up, and the way the game was going we felt like we had it. That’s when (Neshoba) really started dipping their heads,” Artman said.
Artman’s third goal, off a 30-yard free kick with less than two minutes remaining, was simply an exclamation point on a memorable night at Viking Stadium.
Head received an ice water shower as a couple of his players dumped a cooler over him, and the team took several photos together afterward.
“I thought they were going to get the other coach but they tricked me. I knew they were coming so I tried to thwart it, but it didn’t work,” Head said of getting doused. “But it’s good. They’re excited and I’m proud of them.”