By Gene Phelps / NEMS Daily Journal
FLOWOOD – Tupelo’s 3-2 win Saturday against Northwest Rankin ended in overtime with a pulse-pounding finish in front of the Golden Wave goal.
The host Cougars had the opportunity for one last shot on a throw-in from the corner, but couldn’t convert in the Class 6A boys state soccer quarterfinals match.
“Gee whiz, what a game!” an excited Tupelo coach Nathan Hall said. “That was fun. Our kids played their hearts out.”
Tupelo (16-4-1), which lost to Northwest Rankin, 3-1, earlier this season, advances to the state semifinals scheduled for Tuesday against Madison Central, a 2-0 winner against Starkville.
Garrett Rogers scored the go-ahead goal on a header in the first of two 10-minute overtimes to give the Golden Wave its eventual winning edge. He converted in the box after taking a pass on a header from Jackson Nabors.
“It was a great cross from (Nabors),” Rogers said. “I just headed it in. There was havoc in there. It was all crazy.”
Rogers helped send the match into overtime with his goal on an assist from Alx Little in the 75th minute that tied the score at 2-2.
Little also had an assist on Tupelo’s first goal, a shot by Hunter McGhie in the 51st minute, that tied the score at 1-1.
Northwest Rankin took a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute on a goal by Cody Bailey, then went ahead 2-1 midway through the second half on a shot by forward Ive Burnett.
Hall believes Tupelo’s defensive scheme against Burnett and Michael Hill – the Cougars’ leading scorers – was the difference.
“We could not have schemed them any better,” Hall said. “We knew they had two guys who could score. We tried to mark them up. After we scored the third goal we were able to get an extra defender back there.”
McGhie said the team’s hearts sank a little when Northwest Rankin answered his goal to go up 2-1.
“We were pushing and pushing, but it seemed hopeless,” he said. “I’m proud we came back and fought.”
• Game summary, Page 2B