By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – John Mathis, playing with a heavily-taped sprained right ankle, went down swinging in the final seconds of his high school soccer career.
Corinth’s star forward launched a 25-yard bicycle shot that was saved by a leaping Bay goalkeeper, Grant Adams, seconds before Saturday’s weather-delayed MHSAA Class 4A championship match ended, preserving the Coast team’s 2-1 victory.
“I knew we didn’t have much time,” said a rain-soaked Mathis, who suffered the ankle injury in Tuesday’s state semifinals win against Pontotoc. “You go with what you got. I didn’t expect to make it, but I thought we might get a follow-up.”
The state title win for Bay (16-7-2) was the first in the program’s history. Corinth (17-3-2) won a state championship in 2010.
“This was our goal at the beginning of the season,” Bay coach Kelly Ross said. “I knew if we stuck together we could do something special.”
Mathis scored his 33rd goal of the season early in the second half, knocking in a short shot past Adams, who fumbled a corner throw-in.
The goal tied the score at 1-1 in the 44th minute.
“When the throw-in hit the goalie, it squirted away from him,” Mathis said. “I felt bad for the goalie, but there’s nothing you can do on a wet ball like that.”
Paul Johnson gave Bay a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute with a goal off a corner kick.
The match was played in a heavy rain much of the first half. At one time, the rain and blowing wind made it difficult for the players to play and the coaches to coach.
“I never played in rain like that; I couldn’t see,” Mathis said.
“I couldn’t even see,” Corinth coach Gregg Parker said. “I don’t think the players could hear me 10 yards away … but both sides had to play in it.”
Corinth struggled offensively in the first half, but roared back in the second half after an hour weather/lightning delay to make Bay work for its victory.
The Tigers scored their go-ahead goal in the 49th minute off another corner kick. Michael Stringer hit the eventual winner.
Mathis later missed on a header following a corner kick by Josh Trest. The Warriors also missed on another header attempt, this one by Graves Marshall. Trest later misfired on a crossing shot.
“We played much better in the second half, but we had some difficulty … the ball was running from us,” Parker said. “We had some really good shots on goal, but they didn’t fall.”