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Maroon Tide boys soccer team falls in state playoffs

SHUTOUT: Picayune’s Tyler Polderman (17) and Pascagoula’s Hayden Hamm lock  up in an attempt to reach the ball in the first half of prep soccer playoff action at War Memorial Stadium Thursday night. Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Press

SHUTOUT: Picayune’s Tyler Polderman (17) and Pascagoula’s Hayden Hamm lock up in an attempt to reach the ball in the first half of prep soccer playoff action at War Memorial Stadium Thursday night.
Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Press

PASCAGOULA — Picayune’s return to the state boy’s soccer playoffs was a short trip.

A pair of Griffin Sublett goals in a seven-minute span of the second half proved to be the only goals of the game, as homestanding Pascagoula shutout the Maroon Tide 2-0 in opening round play of the Class 5A South State playoffs Thursday night at War Memorial Stadium.

The loss ends the Maroon Tide’s season at 10-9, while the Panthers move to 13-3-3 overall and will play Laurel in the South State semifinals on Saturday.

It was the seventh consecutive season that the Picayune boys have qualified for the postseason. The game was originally slated for Tuesday night but postponed two days because of inclement weather.

“We finally got the game in and with the weather as bad as it’s been, I think the guys’ touch was a little off,” Pascagoula coach Willie Denton said. “We took a lot of shots and we weren’t that great on-target, but we kept them from shooting. The big thing was getting past this game, and moving on to the next.”

Pascagoula played smothering defense all night, holding Picayune to just a handful of clean shots. The Maroon Tide’s best scoring opportunity came early in the second half, when a free kick by the Maroon Tide’s Tyler Polderman deflected off the hands of Panthers keeper Jackson Graham and over the cross bar.

For the most part, the game was played nearly entirely in the Pascagoula half of the field. The Panthers had a few opportunities in the first half, but could not hit the net, and went to halftime in a scoreless tie.

“We had trouble getting it across midfield,” Picayune coach David Mitchell said. “Pascagoula is a team that is notorious for taking shots 30-35 yards out, and that was part of our game plan to make them take low-percentage shots. That’s what they did for the most part. I didn’t think our center midfielders played very well tonight.”

After almost 50 minutes of scoreless action, Sublett finally broke the deadlock by finding the top-left corner of the net following a throw-in. The sophomore gave the Panthers all the cushion they would need seven minutes later when he connected on a long kick that hit the left post and ricocheted across and into the twine.

The 2-0 score held up the rest of way, giving Pascagoula its eight consecutive victory, all by shutout. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 23-0 in that span.

“They only had the one shot that was on-target,” Denton said. “As long as we keep them from shooting, we’re in good shape. And we took a lot of shots. We got two in the hard way, but we got them in.”

It was Pascagoula’s second shutout of the season over the Maroon Tide, after the Panthers won 4-0 in tournament action in early December.

“We had kind of a rebuilding year. We’re really young,” Mitchell concluded. “We actually had an eighth-grader out there starting tonight. We had a better year than I thought we would. There’s a lot of speed, a lot of young kids, a lot of potential out there. I think we turned it around pretty quick.”

The winner of the Pascagoula-Laurel game will meet the survivor of the West Harrison-Pearl game Tuesday for the South State title and the opportunity to play for a state championship.