Cougars convert late chance to beat Green Wave

Published 9:10 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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WESSON — Cathedral and Brookhaven Academy fought through a cold mist in a district boys soccer match Wednesday afternoon at Co-Lin Community College. In the end, BA finished a chance to score and win the game 1-0. 

Cathedral started off the game on the strong foot and created plenty of opportunities in the attacking third but was unable to generate quality shots on goal. John Carter Austin said the Green Wave just could not convert those chances. 

“It was important to us to get started but we couldn’t capitalize on those chances. It sucks to lose like we did,” Austin said. “BA had a stacked back line and had like five guys playing back there. We were man marked and it was hard to get open. We came close a lot but that back line was hard to score on. They are smart and can defend.” 

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At halftime, Cathedral had controlled the majority of the game’s chances and had shown up to play with intensity. Brookhaven Academy’s head coach Alex Brown challenged his players to step up. 

He told them he understood it was cold and he was freezing too but they needed to win the game. Brookhaven Academy is not technically out of the MAIS playoffs but winning their final three games would help out a lot. 

Brown told the team he needed them to win it in regulation and not go to overtime or penalty kicks. The Cougars came out after halftime and fired a low shot at goal which was their first real attacking opportunity 20 seconds in to the second half. Brown said it was a much better start. 

Brookhaven Academy began to increase pressure and created some more opportunities from free kicks and corners which were dealt with by the Cathedral defense. The match looked to be destined for overtime as neither team could find a goal going into the final 20 minutes of the game. 

Enrique Hernandez, who was named to the MAIS All-Star team, drew physical fouls to set up Brookhaven Academy with free kicks. His efforts paid off with about 15 minutes to go in the game when he drew contact from Cathedral senior Grayson Guedon. 

Hernandez was taken down from behind and the center ref blew his whistle, reached into his pocket and produced a second yellow for Guedon. The Green Wave player protested the call as he walked off the field. 

“It is challenging. One person can change the game. Grayson is a key player for us so losing him was tough,” Austin said. 

Seven minutes later, BA’s Cooper Strickland waited on a free kick to be delivered into the box. The ball was played across and found Strickland’s feet. 

In a mad goal mount scramble, Strickland was able to fire a shot on goal just past the converging Cathedral defense and goal keeper. He wheeled away in celebration of the go ahead goal. 

“I thought Reeves would score but it fell to me. The only shot I had was straight. There was not a chance I missed,” Strickland said. “I’m glad we got the win. I was ready to go home. It is cold and I want to get warm.” 

The Cougar was wrapped up in a camouflage blanket after the game trying to warm up. Strickland was selected to the MAIS Futures game along with Yojan Hernandez and showed why he was chosen in the match. 

Strickland has played soccer since he was three years old in rec league and at school. Last year, he played at North Pike but moved to Brookhaven Academy. He is looking forward to the futures game so he can meet new players. 

BA closed out the match by weathering a flurry of frenzied attacks by Cathedral but hung on. Strickland was happy to get the win. 

“It was a good win and we had to win to make the playoffs,” Strickland said. “These next few games matter a lot. I feel more pressure this season. We need to win and make the playoffs. Hopefully, we don’t have to play at St. Joseph if we do.” 

Cathedral’s playoff hopes are over. They are playing for pride at this point in the season and will have a chance at bragging rights in Natchez Friday night. If the weather cooperates, they will play ACCS on Friday. 

Austin said they will have to play with confidence in the game. Both opponents are familiar with each other. It will be a good match and senior night. Austin is a senior who moved into the striker role this year after playing as a winger the last few years. He plans to study forestry in college and get a real estate license. The last two games are the most important to him right now. 

“It is different. Over the last few seasons if you lose it’s okay,” Austin said. It’s tough losing as a senior. You want to keep playing. I think we are out of the playoffs. We have to move on and win the rest of our games.”