By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Itawamba men’s soccer team was able to play it safe Wednesday, and at the same time stay aggressive.
In their annual contest at Ballard Park in Tupelo, the Indians surged to an early lead, eventually claiming a 4-1 victory over East Central.
“This wraps up a playoff spot for us,” Itawamba head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We started slow, but then we got in the groove of things.
“We were missing some players, but we’ll be back at full strength Friday.”
Among the story lines from this contest, Itawamba (9-5-2, 5-1-1) clinched a spot in the state playoffs with the victory. And with a win Friday in Fulton over Holmes, Itawamba would be able to host the State Tournament (Oct. 22-23) for the first time.
Another story line was who was not on the field.
The state’s leading scorer, sophomore Hil Fradenburg from Tupelo Christian, did not play against East Central. Fradenburg, who ranks fifth in the nation in scoring with 18 goals, was held out for health reasons.
Also missing from the contest was Starkville Academy’s Will Goodwin, sitting out from an accumulation of yellow cards from previous contests.
On the field, Itawamba was just fine with the 11 players that Sullivan sent out, led by sophomore Abraham Saleh from Tupelo, who scored twice for the Indians.
Watch and learn
After taking a few minutes to figure out how to attack the East Central formations, Taylor Nabors from Tupelo found Ashley Page on the right. The Alabama native made a nice move on the East Central goalie, and put the ball into the open net for the Indians’ first goal about midway through the first half.
A goal kick set up the Indians next score, with Saleh racing to receive the ball, and eventually scoring just inside the box.
“Abraham stepped up with Hil not being here,” Sullivan said. “And our defense played good tonight, and has played good all season.”
In the second half, Page picked up an assist, with Nabors firing one into the net from a sharp angle on the right. Later in the period, Saleh grabbed his second goal with an assist from Amory’s Madison Francis.
In the women’s game, ICC rallied in the second half to win 2-1. Courtney Baker, Hanna Rayburn scored for ICC.