By Gene Phelp/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – John Mathis has been a scoring machine – 40 goals – all season for Corinth’s soccer team.
He didn’t slow down his offensive output in Friday night’s MHSAA Class 1A-2A-3A state championship match against Hattiesburg Sacred Heart.
The sophomore forward knocked in three goals, two in the second half, to lead the Warriors to a 5-0 win against the Crusaders at Clinton High School. The state title was a first for Corinth’s program and came in its first trip to the championship game.
“All the credit goes to my teammates,” Mathis said, moments after hoisting and waving a large Corinth flag. “They were getting me the ball. This has been a fun year.”
Corinth’s fourth-year coach, Gregg Parker, knew he’d get a championship effort from the offensive star.
“He’s an absolute workhorse,” the Gatorade-drenched coach said. “He’s got speed, great vision and he’s a team player.”
Corinth (21-1-2) took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute of the first half when Estevan Garcia drilled a direct kick into the back of Sacred Heart’s goal.
Moments later, Mathis missed on a chip shot following a perfect pass from John Foropoulos.
“That one was wide open,” Mathis said, smiling. “It happens. I was trying to get enough for us to win.”
Mathis rallied to score his first goal on a header in the 35th minute to give the Warriors a 2-0 halftime lead. Taylor Smith was credited with the assist.
Foropoulos scored a breakaway goal down the left sideline from 10 yards out to give Corinth a 3-0 lead in the opening minute of the second half.
Six minutes later, Mathis scored on a corner kick from Garcia to give the Warriors a comfortable 4-0 lead.
Despite the four-goal edge, Corinth remained focused on its mission and used its depth to wear down the younger South state champion.
“One of the things we’d heard about Sacred Heart was that they never give up,” Parker said. “I’ve got 17 starters and we always have fresh legs. We can run and wear a team out.”
Sacred Heart (15-5) was definitely on the receiving end of Corinth’s deep attack.
“We knew coming in they would probably out-muscle us,” Crusaders coach Joe Falla said.
Mathis scored his third goal in the 72nd minute to give Corinth its 5-0 lead.
“We played our game,” Mathis said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better one from this team. All of our seniors, all 11 of them, they get the credit.”
Click view slide show link below picture above to see photos from the state championship victory.