By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Lewisburg coach Michael Evans gave his best player a simple assignment:
Shut down Fredy Gutierrez.
The plan slowed down Pontotoc’s hot-shooting junior midfielder, but it didn’t stop him.
Gutierrez scored a pair of first-half goals and led the Warriors to a 6-1 win against the Patriots in the second round of MHSAA Class 4A soccer playoffs on Saturday.
Pontotoc visits Corinth on Tuesday for the north championship.
“I knew coming into the game how good (Gutierrez) was,” said Evans, who assigned Northwest Mississippi signee Christian Zelaya to the task. “I put my most athletic man on him, who shut down a kid from New Albany last week. We tried, but we just slowed him down a tad bit. He still did his thing.”
Zelaya’s defense helped the Patriots to a 3-2 win over New Albany in the opening round. The plan faltered against Pontotoc (19-2-1).
Gutierrez pressed Zelaya and booted the first goal from 18 yards out on the right side in the 14th minute.
Rafael Vidano made it 2-0 in the 19th, then Guitierrez won ball control and added another in the 24th for a comfortable lead.
Brayden Timmons also scored a pair of goals for Pontotoc, netting one with four minutes remaining in the first half and another in the opening minute of the second.
“We expected a hard and physical game,” said Gutierrez, who has 22 goals this season. “It got a little easier after that first goal.”
Pontotoc’s Cole Westmoreland scored off an assist from Alex Anderson in the 67th minute to go ahead 6-0. Max Martin scored the lone goal for Lewisburg (14-4-2) in the 71st.
“For the first 15 minutes or so they matched our intensity,” said Pontotoc coach J.T. Thompson. “Then we scored one and our guys smelled blood after that.”