February 11, 2010 9:29:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jackson Prep''s boys soccer team showed no signs of being an underdog Wednesday in its first-round Mississippi Association of Independent School''s playoff tie against No. 1 seed Starkville Academy, allowing just one shot on goal and dismantling the previously unbeaten Volunteers 5-0.
Prep''s precision led to a one-sided match that saw the visitors take a 3-0 halftime lead. That advantage proved too much for Artie Cosby''s team to overcome.
A Roy Miles'' corner was the Volunteers'' highlight in a frustrating first half that produced several counterattack chances, only to see the experienced Prep back line match and clear any runs or lead balls.
SA''s frustrating offensive display was a stark contrast to the fluidity in which the Patriots (12-7) networked the ball. Unlike their hosts, the Patriots remained organized and displayed the patience and precise passing of a championship side.
Despite the field conditions at the Starkville Sportsplex, Prep head coach Jon Marcus Duncan said his team turned in its best performance of the season.
"When I heard this team was undefeated, it kind of opened my eyes," Duncan said. "We knew we would have to focus and really want it today, and I was proud of my guys. We were able to open up gaps, our backs were able to get forward, and I thought our center midfielders controlled the game. Our four in the back did a great job, and, of course, you look at our guys up front and how they took advantage of their chances."
Prep will face the winner of Jackson Academy and Washington School on Saturday, with the winner set to host the MAIS title game.
The Patriots got a pair of second-half goals from freshman defender Chandler Pride to put the game out of reach.
Tramel Reeves opened the scoring in the seventh minute, while Macon Humphries made it 2-0 in the 30th. Cooper Simmons added a dagger at the stroke of halftime.
Giving up two goals in 30 minutes created a tough hole, but Cosby said conceding the third just before the break was a massive blow.
"Anytime you''re down 3-0 in a soccer game, that hurts and is hard to overcome," Cosby said. "I felt like if we could have gotten one of those opportunities in the first half and them not get that third goal, it could have been a different second half."
Still, the Volunteers (10-1) had to be drained after defending the channels, turning and running, and defending set pieces early on. SA conceded seven corner kicks while earning just one in the first half. Shoddy attempts to clear a Humphries'' corner allowed Tramel to finish upper 90 past goalkeeper Herston Williamson in the seventh minute.
Mayhem in the SA back four led to another unlucky shot on Williamson, who was left scrambling to corral a rebound that Humphries slotted home.
As if the conditions and Prep''s play weren''t enough, misfortune struck the Volunteers in the 39th minute when a Prep shot deflected off defender Heath Walker and dropped into the path of a charging Simmons, who bagged the Patriots'' third goal.
"They did a fine job possessing the ball," Cosby said. "We broke down several times and weren''t keeping our shape and they were making us pay for it every time it happened."
SA''s brief spell into space in the second half saw Justin Pritchard and Frankie Jones hook up on a deep through pass, which led to a Miles corner that Kris Simmons could barely get a head to.
Pride shook free of the defense for a pair of second-half goals, and SA center back Jake Read was unfortunate not to turn away the first ball he got a piece of through a slide tackle in the box.
Pritchard had the Volunteers'' only clear-cut chance on goal in the 70th minute, but his low shot didn''t test goalkeeper Chase Bullman.
Starkville Academy hadn''t allowed more than two goals in a game all season.
"You hate it for the team and you hate it for everybody because you never want to lose your last game, but I don''t want to take anything away from our guys because going 10-0 in the season was pretty special," Cosby said. "We felt like we had a decent chance, as good a chance as anybody coming into this game."