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Picayune soccer looking to punch playoff ticket

The Picayune Maroon Tide boys soccer team took on the Hattiesburg Tigers Tuesday evening and won 4-1.

Sophomore Issac Brice scored twice while junior Daniel Moore and freshman Justin Arcega each scored once.

Picayune had beaten Hattiesburg earlier in the season 2-0, so Tuesday’s performance saw the Maroon Tide sweep the Tigers this season.

Head Coach Britton Fortenberry said his team did a good job of pressing the Tigers when they didn’t have the ball and that the players’ passing was incisive.

“They moved the ball well and created a lot of good chances. Defensively we wanted them to do a more press style of play and they did a good job of pressing when (Hattiesburg) tried playing out of the back,” Fortenberry said.

The four goals scored by the Maroon Tide was the team’s most in a match since early November.

Picayune has been able to create scoring chances all season, but the difficult part has been finding the back of the net.

Against Hattiesburg, the Maroon Tide players were clinical in the final third, which is something the team has been focusing on in practice.

“We’ve been working on finishing and creating those chances. Last year, the whole season I think, we scored 9 goals total. At this point in the season with a couple games left we’ve doubled that,” Fortenberry said.

Picayune employed a high press against the Tigers this week.

Hattiesburg was trying to use their center backs as outlets to then start moving the ball up the field.

However, the Maroon Tide players quickly closed the space between the defenders, forcing them to hit a long ball up the field that could easily be recovered by Picayune.

The strategy paid dividends and will add another layer to Picayune’s game plan as they finish the season.

“We’re sitting back deep on restarts and invite the team to play to the backline. Once they do we send our forwards to close the space fast, while doing it in a way to force them to certain spots,” Fortenberry said.

The high press limits a team’s creativity and often times forces the central defender into positions he’s not comfortable with.

It may be a strategy Picayune employs when they take on the Pearl River Central Blue Devils on Jan. 17.

The away game for Picayune will have a lot riding on it.

Not only is the upcoming match up against a county rival, but if Picayune wins the team secures a spot in the playoffs.

Picayune defeated PRC 1-0 earlier in the season.

Even so, Fortenberry said the Blue Devils are always a tough opponent, so he’s hoping his players come out with the right level of energy when the game starts.

“There’s a lot riding on the game and we need to get a result. I want to make sure the kids come out and play hard, play intense. If we execute from a tactics standpoint I think we’ll be alright,” Fortenberry said. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m.