SUMRALL – History repeated itself for the fifth consecutive season as the Sumrall boys’ soccer team clinched the regular-season region championship with a 7-1 win over North Pike on Thursday.
“We have lost a lot of quality players for such a young program,” Sumrall coach Todd Siders said. “I am very proud of the boys. We knew it was going to be a little bit of a rebuild. They have come and responded well. Can’t say enough about how far this program has come.”
While the Bobcats dominated the game and notably outshot the Jaguar 25-3, Sumrall held just a 2-1 advantage.
However, Sumrall did manage to take an early lead, with Eliu Puerto scoring in the ninth minute of the game. Chance Douglas followed in the 14th minute by scoring on a penalty kick.
North Pike’s defense then settled down as it held off 15 totaled shots and three corner kicks in the half.
The Jaguars then caught a lucky break in the 20th minute and took advantage of Sumrall’s goalkeeper out of position, and scored from a 30-yard kick to narrow the Bobcat lead 2-1.
“I thought the play was fine,” Siders said. “They had one shot on goal. Our keep was out of position, and we have to learn from that. We struggled to put the ball in the back of the net consistently. We don’t have a true goal scorer. It’s good that we got a lot of opportunities, but when we are in the playoffs, we have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”
In the second half, Sumrall quickly got back on the board. Cole Cooper scored on a breakaway in the 44th minute, and Gilbert Puerto scored from a 30-yard goal to push the lead 4-1.
“They were missing some guys, and we are too,” Siders said. “Everybody is right now in this weird season. We started wearing them down and started to see the lanes a little bit better than we had, getting better pace on our passes and finding the right spot. Just doing it consistently is our biggest challenge.”
However, Sumrall’s fifth goal of the night was the highlight of the win. In the 30th minute, Sumrall had an opportunity to score with a penalty kick. In an unorthodox movie, senior goalkeeper Camden Russell stepped in to take the shot. Russell’s initial kick bounced off the crossbar, but he found the ricochet and scored the goal on a header.
“That’s a first,” Siders said. “He gets on the score sheet with a header. How often does that happen from the keeper? He’s a senior, and we just wanted to give him a chance to get on the goal sheet is what we were trying to do.”
Sumrall then finished the night with back-to-back goals from Gage Herrington, who scored in the 67th and 69th minutes.
“We have been really relying on set pieces for our goals, so the run to play goals were good tonight,” Siders said. “I thought some of the young guys came in and played really good tonight. Marlon Huddleston came in and played really well for us. He is an eighth-grader and has a bright future. We had a seventh-grader and another eighth-grader out there, so it’s good to get that experience. The future is very bright for that group.”
Looking ahead as Sumrall looks to prepare for the playoffs, the Bobcats will have the goal of being the first team in school history to advance to the second round.
“We have got to be gritty,” Siders said. “I think ultimately we are going to end up playing Poplarville. (they) always have a great program over there. We have to be really gritty and organized. We can’t make any bad mistakes, or we will go home. We have to take advantage of the few opportunities we will get.”