RAYMOND — Revenge was sweet on a soggy field Monday night. Mississippi Gulf Coast avenged a pair of regular-season shutout losses to Pearl River when the Bulldogs administering one of their own. They won 1-0 at Tom Shepherd Field to advance to the MACJC championship game.
"It's super sweet to beat them because they're really, really good," Gulf Coast coach Chris Handy said. "They've handed us some timely losses in the back, so it feels good to win in that situation."
Gulf Coast (13-6) advances to play in Tuesday's state championship game against Jones, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Pearl River's season ends at 9-3-1.
The Bulldogs split the season series with Jones, each team winning on the other's field. Gulf Coast won 2-0 at Ellisville at the end of August, and Jones won 2-1 in overtime at Perk at the start of October.
The Bulldogs stopped a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats over the past two seasons. Going into the game, Handy said the key was to limit mistakes which had cost them the two previous meetings against PRCC this season, and the Bulldogs did.
Isaiah Gore (Fr., Laurel/Laurel) stopped all eight shots he faced, backstopping the second playoff shutout in a week's time.
"It means a lot," he said. "We've worked hard. We've lost some games we shouldn't have, so It means a lot to beat the team that knocked us down multiple times."
James Redmond (Fr., Oberschule Roter Sand/Bremen, Germany) scored the game's only goal three minutes into the second half. Gulf Coast administered about 10 minutes of heavy pressure coming out of the locker room, and the Bulldogs converted on one of a series of corners.
Cisco Thomas (So., Meadowvale Secondary/Mississauga, Ontario) had his initial corner semi-cleared, but the ball came back across the field to him. He spun a right-footed cross into the box that feathered onto Redmond's chest.
"I saw Cisco just chip it in, and I got behind the central defender," Redmond said. "I tried to do the best with it. I didn't hit it well, but that's soccer."
A couple of minutes later, Griffin Bush (So., Pearl/Pearl) appeared to have doubled the lead following another corner. A shot rebounded off the post, crossed the goal and he banged it home, only to have been ruled offside.
Redmond had nearly put Gulf Coast on top in the final five minutes of the first half off a long throw-in. The ball landed at his feet, and he slashed it toward goal only to see it saved.
Pearl River had a golden opportunity a minute later when a rebound fell inside the box. The Wildcats had a point-blank opportunity of their own, but were denied by defender Luke Mills (So., Cedars Upper School/Leighton Buzzard, England).
"I just stuck my leg out," he said. "Everyone was on the line, so there was no real room. Someone was going to get on the end of it. It was just fortunate it was me."
Gulf Coast got the shutout without key central defender Chad McKnight, who picked up a red card late in the quarterfinal win at Itawamba. Mills said the Bulldogs communicated well in the back and survived the less-than-ideal field conditions.
"Those guys did a great job, and they've been doing a great job the last couple of games," Handy said. "Isaiah got another shutout, and he was big, especially late. I was very happy with the group, and without Chad (McKnight), I was super impressed with them they're a different team today than they were a month ago."
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