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.