The Meridian Star
For the second-straight year, the Southeast Lauderdale boys soccer team's season was cut short by South Pontotoc, as the Tigers fell 4-1 to the Cougars at home on Thursday night.
“I felt like we had a chance to advance and we didn't,” Southeast head coach Mike Thomas said. “This team will be back intact next year. We exceeded expectations this year, we won the district, and we have a lot to build on for next year.”
The difference in the game came down to ball control – something the young Southeast team could not maintain early on.
The Tigers were unable to get anything started on offense in the first half, allowing the Cougars to keep the ball on the Southeast half and create scoring opportunities.
Seven minutes into the game, the Cougars would make Southeast pay. After maneuvering his way past a Southeast defender, South Pontotoc's Cole Caples broke towards the box, were he crossed the ball to Matt Collums who buried it in the back of the net to put the Cougars up 1-0.
“We knew when we came in here tonight we were going to have to play hard and win the ball,” South Pontotoc head coach Horace McCoy said. “We were able to do that tonight. That was big, to score early. Southeast's keeper was fantastic, he blocked some shots we've made all year. He may be the best goalie I've seen all year.”
Southeast keeper, Noah Johnson did his best to prevent the damage, stopping 10 shots on the night. However, the Cougars would continue to stock pile opportunities.
After heading into halftime up 1-0, South Pontotoc delivered another blow six minutes into the second half. The Cougars' Ramiro Rangel found Sam Ivy, who jumped to kick the ball mid-air, beating Johnson and increasing the South Pontotoc lead to 2-0.
The Cougars would get another goal on a penalty kick 14 minutes later, before Ivy tacked on his second goal of the night with 10:51 to play to give South Pontotoc a commanding 4-0 lead.
“I thought I had a pretty good night, but I give all the credit to my team,” Ivy said. “They passed me the ball real well, and we were getting good shots all night.”
Despite being down 4-0, the Tigers refused to let up. Southeast kept battling all night and was rewarded in the game's final minutes, when Ryder Leifried broke away from the defense and knocked the ball into the net to prevent the shutout.
“I just wanted to show the other team that we weren't going to quit,” Leifried said. “We were going hard the whole entire game.”
South Pontotoc will move on to round three where they will face the winner of Saturday's matchup between Forrest and Philadelphia.
For Southeast, the focus turns to next year, as the Tigers return all but one of their players from this season and appear poised to make another run into the playoffs.
“It was great playing with all these guys this season,” Johnson said. “All these guys, we had the most heart out of anyone. You can mark my words, next year we will be back in the same position, but in Clinton playing for the state championship.”