By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – For most of the second half of regulation, the Corinth Warriors almost appeared in survival mode, just waiting until extra time.
Until the last precious few seconds of the match.
Earning an unlikely corner, Corinth executed its most crisp play of the final 40 minutes to stun the Pontotoc Warriors with a successful header by defender Kyle Webb and claim a 3-2 victory in semifinal action of the Class 4A state tournament.
With the last-second victory, Corinth plays for a second straight championship in an 11:30 a .m. contest Saturday in Clinton against Bay High.
“We wanted to make sure we were able to put a head on the ball that last corner,” an almost dazed Corinth coach Gregg Parker said. “I sent one of my backs up, and he was the one who put his head on the ball.”
Usually standing at midfield for corners, Webb moved up and was on the receiving end of Josh Trest’s corner, burying the shot in the middle of the net.
Corinth moved up to Class 4A this season after winning a state title as a Class 1A-2-3A team last year.
“We controlled the ball, we controlled the game, we controlled every stat you look at except the one that matters,” Pontotoc coach J. T. Thompson said. “We’ll look back on this later, and we accomplished a lot of our goals.”
Both clubs accomplished a lot in an entertaining first half.
With momentum swinging back and forth, Corinth star John Mathis struck first with a goal barely two minutes into the contest. The Pontotoc offensive pressure was up to the task, and at about the 31-minute mark, Rafael Vidano tied it with a goal.
Not wasting time, Mathis put his Warriors back in the lead with a picturesque goal that curved into the back right corner of the goal just two minutes later.
Soon after, Pontotoc had one of the better chances later in the half as Victor Castandedo rattled the right post, with the rebound then rolling slowly across the entire face of the goal.
Then inside of 5 minutes, Vidano tied the contest at 2-2 with a shot from the left wing, that grazed the right side of the crossbar before hitting the back of the net.
In the second half, the contest had a strong Pontotoc advantage, except for the play of Corinth goalie Cullen Grantham, who stopped three Vidano shots from well inside the box. Corinth was also working uphill with Mathis out the final 32 minutes due to an ankle injury.
“Grantham is as tough as nails, and tracks the ball well,” Parker said. “This is a resilient team, that’s why I love them.”
(B) STARKVILLE 3, HERNANDO 1: The Yellowjackets
(13-3) won at home to reach the Class 5A championship game, breaking open a 1-1 halftime tie. They’ll play Pascagoula at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Clinton.
(G) RIDGELAND 3, OXFORD 0: The winners advance to play West Jones for the 5A title. Oxford finished 10-9.