Warriors cruise past Biloxi in first round

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – The Oak Grove Warriors used four different goal scores to pull away from the Biloxi Indians Thursday night, winning the first-round matchup 5-3. The Warriors advance to a second-round contest with Ocean Springs, which is set for Saturday at Oak Grove High School.

Oak Grove coach Jesse Lang said Ocean Springs wanted to play Friday night after the girls’ second-round game featuring the same teams, but Lang wanted the extra day of rest.

“It won’t be as tough as trying to play (Friday) night,” Lang said when asked if a two-day turnaround in the playoffs would be tough for his squad. “That’s when they wanted to play and I said, ‘absolutely not,’ because I knew this one was going to be a struggle.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from Matt Bush

In the opening minute of the game, Lang got on to senior midfielder Kyren Seymour for taking too many touches with the ball at his feet instead of turning upfield. Seymour answered Lang’s disapproval with a highlight-reel worthy goal in the fourth minute.

From the left side of the 18-yard box, he sent a high arching ball over the keeper’s outstretched hands into the right upper 90 to give the Warriors an early 1-0 lead.

“That was amazing,” Lang said. “I thought he was crossing it, and he hit with his left foot and got under it. It curled enough to get in there.”

Oak Grove got on the board again in the 20th minute, pushing its lead to 2-0 over the Indians. The Warriors use Michael Pitts for long throw-ins, and he threw a ball deep into the box. The ball bounced in front of the keeper and over his head, then junior Blake Ortego put his head on it for the goal.

Lang called Pitts a weapon for his team, especially when Oak Grove is deep in opponents’ territory.

“I asked at the first part of the year how far can he throw it,” Lang said. “When he threw it, I knew we could use that, but we haven’t until the last half of the season. It’s like a corner. When we get it down to within 30 yards, he can throw it in the box.”

Biloxi, however, answered two minutes later with a 30-yard rocket from Alessandro Doria. The Oak Grove keeper tried to play the shot hop, but the ball snuck underneath him for the goal to cut the Oak Grove lead to 2-1.

In the second half, sophomore Elian Fajardo broke free over the top twice to score two second-half goals. Lang said most teams try to limit Fajardo’s goal-scoring opportunities, but thanks to the two goals by Seymour and Ortego, the Indians’ defense had more players to lock in on.

In the 48th minute, Fajardo was wide open with the ball past Biloxi’s backline, then he juked the Indians’ goalkeeper to the right and finished for the easy goal. That pushed the Warriors’ lead to 3-1. Senior Adam Stone notched a goal two minutes later to give Oak Grove a commanding 4-1 advantage, then Fajardo padded the lead with his second goal in the 61st minute.

Fajardo, again, got past the Indians’ defense as the ball rolled into no man's land between the keeper and Fajardo. When the two players looked like they were going to collide, neither player came away with the ball. As the keeper laid on the ground, Fajardo gathered the ball and finished easily to make it a 5-1 game.

Thursday’s two-score night brings Fajardo’s season total to 24 goals this season.

“A lot of times he creates his own with the way he touches the ball,” Lang said. “We had a couple of other people score, so they can’t press him that tight because they’ll leave other guys open. That kind of opens it up a little bit, too.”

Biloxi added two late goals in the 74th and 78th minute to bring the contest to its final.

Oak Grove recorded 11 shots and nine shots on goal in the game, compared to Biloxi’s 12 shots and five shots on goal. Biloxi also had six corner kicks, which resulted in zero goals. 

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