Rapid goals lead No. 4 Pearl River to win over No. 8 Gulf

Published 4:36 pm Sunday, September 26, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The No. 4 Pearl River men’s soccer team put themselves in an early hole Friday night but scored three goals in a span of nine minutes to top archrival No. 8 Gulf Coast, 3-1.

“I thought we settled in and didn’t let the early goal phase us,” head coach Drew Gallant said. “It’s just the second goal that we’ve given up this year. Maddux (Francis) was able to get a hand on the penalty kick which means he’s reading it well. I’m not happy with how we started the game, but their goal seemed to wake us up. We started moving the ball well and we looked all over them in the first half.

Two minutes into the contest, Gulf Coast (3-3 overall; 3-1 MACCC South) was awarded a penalty kick after the referee ruled that Pearl River (6-0-1; 5-0) had committed a handball. The Bulldog midfielder booted the kick, and despite Maddux Francis (Poplarville) getting a hand on the ball it snuck into the net, giving Gulf Coast an early 1-0 lead.

Gulf Coast had two chances to increase their advantage in the 6th and 9th minute, but Francis denied the Bulldog forwards with big saves.

The Wildcats began scoring quickly in the 10th minute of the game, claiming three goals in rapid succession.

A ball played into the box was headed away by an MGCCC defender, but landed near Andre Nicholson (Kingston, Jamaica.; Clarendon College). On his first touch, the midfielder smashed the ball to the left of the diving goalkeeper evening the match, 1-1.

“I was glad to see Andre finally scoring goals like he’s capable of,” Gallant said.

Pearl River took the lead two minutes later thanks to freshman Jason Irias (D’Iberville). A ball played into the box for Harper Baggett (Ocean Springs) was deflected by the Gulf Coast goalkeeper and slowly rolled to the left side of the field. Realizing that there was no one nearby, Irias dashed for the ball and hammered it past a Gulf Coast centerback who was trying to block the shot.

The Wildcats scored their last goal of the night in the 19th minute. A corner kick to the far side of the box found Gavin Taylor (Gulfport) who flicked the ball back inside to Baggett who headed it home, making the score 3-1.

Neither team was able to mount much of an attack for the remainder of the half as the Wildcats entered the break ahead, 3-1.

The best shot attempt of the second half for the Wildcats came in the 60th minute when Ryley Smith (Manchester, England.; Castlebrook) lined a shot from more than 20 yards out, but the Gulf Coast keeper was able to make the save.

A red card caused the Bulldogs to be down to 10 men for a large portion of the contest. Despite the disadvantage, Gulf Coast was applying the pressure on Pearl River for much of the second half, but saves from Francis kept them off of the scoresheet for the remainder of the contest.

“Maddux has been so consistent this season,” Gallant said. “He doesn’t give up many goals. We’ve been lucky to have really good goalkeepers here.”

The score held, allowing the Wildcats to take home a 3-1 victory over archrival Gulf Coast.

UP NEXT

Pearl River hits the road next Friday to take on Itawamba. The match is set to begin at 4 p.m.