January 27, 2010 11:05:00 AM
A one-goal lead is the most dangerous advantage a team can have.
The worst fear for coaches is the cushion can lead to a false sense of security and give the opposing team momentum to rally.
The New Hope High School boys soccer team nearly made that adage come true Tuesday night.
The Trojans used a penalty kick by Tanner Ryals late in the second half to tie Callaway, only to see the Chargers score the game-winner minutes later to steal a 2-1 victory in their Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A first-round North Half State playoff game at Trojan Field.
First-year New Hope coach Jerry Byrd said his team adjusted to Callaway''s speed and quickness at halftime and used a more aggressive mind-set in the second half. The result was a period in which the Trojans controlled most of the play and had several scoring opportunities.
The problem was the Chargers (10-3) knew about Ryals, the Trojans'' best attacking player up front, and contained him. New Hope also couldn''t possess long enough to work the ball wide and break Callaway down.
"We should have been able to match their effort and intensity, and I thought in the second half we were able to do that," Byrd said.
Josh McKay, Sidney Wilson, Frank Richardson Jr., and Blake King helped generate most of the offense for New Hope, but goalkeeper Lance Daniels was there any time the Trojans had something that looked dangerous.
New Hope (6-6-1) didn''t capitalize until the final 10 minutes when a handball in the box set up Ryals, who blasted a shot into the lower right corner.
But instead of lamenting what it had lost, Callaway responded and scored the game-winner minutes later off a second header by Carlos Daniels in the box.
The goal came on the heels of a first-half score by Marlon Hairston.
Callaway coach Michael McGeown, an assistant coach at Belhaven College, said his team didn''t intend to sit back after Hairston''s goal and absorb as much pressure as it did, but he said the Chargers were fortunate they were able to do that.
"They really tested us tonight," McGeown said. "It was a credit to the boys after playing so well and coming back so good after getting a setback with a penalty so late in the game."
Byrd credited the players for helping the program return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 or 2005. He hopes this season is a starting point for a team that is on the rise
"Effort wise I can''t complain," Byrd said. "That''s one thing I like about these kids, they''re going to give you their best effort. We may be deficient in other areas, but our effort has always been there.
"I am pleased (with the first season). I had hoped (we would make the playoffs). My expectations at the beginning of the season were to win, to put a good product on the field, to put good kids on the field. If you can do that, good things will happen. I wish we could have won a few more games, but it didn''t work out for these guys."
n In other local games, the Caledonia High boys lost 2-0 to Center Hill and the Caledonia girls lost 4-0 to Lafayette County in the first round of the Class 4A North State playoffs.
Also in Class 4A, Amory rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat Lewisburg 2-1.
In Class 5A, the New Hope girls lost 6-0 to Ridgeland.
In Class 6A, the Starkville boys lost 4-0 to Northwest Rankin and the Starkville girls lost 8-0 to Madison Central.
In Class 1A/2A/3A, the Mississippi School for Math and Science boys beat Forest 2-0 and the MSMS girls lost 2-1 to Philadelphia..
Neew Hope girls coach Mary Nagy''s team had only three shots and ended its season 10-7. Nagy said six-time state champion Ridgeland, which won their 25th postseason match in a row, used its edge in experience to score four goals in the first 20 minutes.
From there, New Hope held Ridgeland (16-1-1) scoreless for the next 40 minutes.
"I am really proud of the girls because they never folded and kept playing," Nagy said. "They very easily could have laid down, but they fought to the end."
Ridgeland opened in the 2002-03 school year and won six consecutive state titles before not making the playoffs last season.
Nagy hopes New Hope can build on a season in which the team returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
"We played every one of the 24 girls we brought and it was really good to see how some of them stepped up," Nagy said.
For the Caledonia girls (9-10), goalkeeper Shaina Cruse might have suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first half as she came off her line to make a save.
Caledonia coach Jason Forrester said Cruse tried to avoid making contact with a Lafayette County player as she collected the ball, but her leg twisted under her and she heard a "pop."
Freshman Sarah Freeman replaced Cruse and played well, but the Lady Confederates couldn''t capitalize on any of their scoring opportunities.
"The girls played well," Forrester said. "They possessed pretty well for a while and we had a few opportunities to finish early, but we were out of position to take a shot."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.