February 4, 2009
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
PEARL -- The Caledonia High School boys soccer team had life.
Taylor Chisolm raced up the far sideline and saluted Caledonia''s fans after a goal, just like he had in the team''s first two playoff victories.
In those matches, Chisolm''s scoring provided the spark Caledonia needed to defeat New Albany and Hernando.
But Tuesday was different.
Just as quickly as Caledonia sensed an opening, Dillon Walker and his Pearl High School teammates snatched the momentum back.
Walker scored a goal three minutes after Chisolm scored to steady the Fighting Pirates and set them up for a three-goal second half that they used to earn a 6-1 victory in the Class 4A North State championship match at Tiger Stadium.
Pearl (18-5-1), the four-time defending Class 4A state champion, will play St. Stanislaus, a 4-2 winner against Gautier, at noon Saturday at Clinton High School for the state title.
Caledonia (14-5) finishes its most successful season in program history.
Lowranzo Spann scored two goals in the first 4 minutes, 40 seconds on the Fighting Pirates'' first two shots to set the tone for the evening.
"They were a good team, they had good ball control, and they knew where they were," Chisolm said. "I think we started out a little flat-footed. We didn''t really know what to expect. We usually start the first 10 minutes and just feel a team out, but against a team like Pearl that attacks you like that, you can''t really do that."
Chisolm''s goal, though, brought hope. The senior forward notched his single-season school record 27th goal when goalkeeper John Wixson allowed his free kick to slip through his hands and trickle behind him into the net.
"I think getting a goal on them was kind of like, ''Hey, it can be done,'' " Chisolm said. "But then we kind of got back to our flat-footedness."
The goal gave the Confederates reason to hope Chisolm could rattle off a few more goals, much like he did when he had four in the second half against New Albany.
"It hit me pretty quick," Caledonia goalkeeper Tyler Aldridge said of the momentum the team had after Chisolm''s goal. "I thought we were going to go up on them and get 2-2 and at least come back with a victory."
The Fighting Pirates quickly squelched that optimism.
Jeremy Brown controlled the ball on the right side of the field and slid a pass back through the middle. Spann dummied the ball, which allowed Walker to hustle in and bury the ball into the lower left corner of the net for a 3-1 lead.
"It gave them life," Pearl coach Andy Kivlan said of Chisolm''s goal. "I have told my guys on any number of occasions a two-goal lead is one of the worst leads to have because you tend to sit on it. Then, all of a sudden, it is a one-goal lead, which is what happened. When we put in our third I think it took a little momentum away from them."
Caledonia had the first shot of the second half, but Spann completed his hat trick 6 minutes into the half. Walker made it 5-1 and Trey Fontaine completed the scoring with less than 8 minutes remaining.
Kivlan let his players know at halftime he wasn''t pleased with their effort. Despite not being pleased, the Fighting Pirates used their speed to capitalize on open space on the left flank. Sophomore midfielder Cody Berry repeatedly was able to move into that area and create opportunities.
"I like to play the ball wide," Kivlan said. "I think it opens up a lot of chances and pulls the defense out."
Even though it was outshot 21-5, Caledonia didn''t quit. Aldridge (eight saves) did his best to keep the Confederates in the game, making several strong saves in the first half, but the Fighting Pirates were not going to be denied.
"They were good and well rounded," Aldridge said. "They played around us and we should have came out there and at least lost 1-0. But those two goals in the beginning were luck. I don''t see how it happened."
Spann''s first goal came when he walked in all alone on the left wing and somehow slipped the ball between Aldridge and the near post to put the Confederates back on their right from the start
"He snuck it past me. I have never been beat near post," Aldridge said. "I was kind of keying on the pass to the PK dot and he didn''t do it. Instead he shot it and I couldn''t react."
Caledonia first-year coach Morgan Mansfield said he wasn''t disappointed with his team''s effort. He believed his players showed up and were ready to play, but that they allowed the Fighting Pirates to take the game to them too much, especially early on.
"They''re good," Mansfield said. "They play the sport 12 months a year. These kids, that''s all they do. They play select soccer and you can look at the (state title) banners they have up (on the side of the athletic facility). They''re good, and we knew they were good, but you can''t go down to any team 1-0 in the first minute and expect to win."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.