By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
FLORENCE – Pontotoc obviously wasn’t fazed Tuesday night by the ejection of Fredy Gutierrez.
The Warriors – with their red-carded star center midfielder watching from the sideline – punched their first-ever ticket to the MHSAA Class 4A state championship game with a 3-1 late-night semifinals victory against Florence.
The game was delayed for an hour and 15 minutes by an overtime girls state semifinal between Florence and Germantown.
Pontotoc (18-3-1) will play South winner West Lauderdale at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Clinton for the title.
“That put us a man down, but we were able to make adjustments,” Pontotoc coach Michael Loden said of losing Gutierrez. “We’ve played without him before … early in the season when he was injured.
“We’re versatile. This was a total team effort.”
Loden will check with the MHSAA on the staus of Gutierrez for the title match. “He got a soft red,” the coach noted.
Brayden Timmons scored two second-half goals, one to seal the win in the 78th minute, to lead Pontotoc. Rafael Vidana scored the Warriors’ first goal in the first half.
Pontotoc took a 2-0 lead in the 46th minute on a goal by Timmons in traffic.
Florence cut the Warriors’ lead to 2-1 in the 65th minutes on a goal by Jamie Hicks past keeper Daniel Harrell, who had four previous crucial stops in the second half.
Vidana ended a first half of near misses for the Warriors when he deposited a left-footed shot into the Florence net for a 1-0 Pontotoc halftime lead in the 39th minute – seven minutes after Gutierrez was ejected for his second violation.
Florence missed an opportunity to go ahead 1-0, but a powerful shot by Jake Holland hit the top of the goal standard.
Florence (9-11-2) beat Amory 2-1 last Saturday to prevent an all-Northeast Mississippi semifinal.