Mustangs wear down Hattiesburg in the second half to advance in boys soccer playoffs

Photo/James Pugh

How the sign made its way to the West Jones bench, and from where it came, head boys soccer coach Josh Sullivan seemed unsure. It read, “Own It All.”

The second half West Jones owned Monday night in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A soccer playoffs. You could say they owned the first half judging by possession but came away with no goals to show for it.

After a scoreless first half, West Jones outscored Hattiesburg 2-1 in the final 40 minutes to move on. 

Hattiesburg’s season ended, while West Jones will face Long Beach later this week in round two.

“It wasn’t pretty,” said Sullivan. “We played a team with a bunch of athletes who can run fast and play hard. When we made a bad touch, they jumped on it. Credit to them, they’re a much-improved team from where they were at the beginning of the year.”

West Jones beat Hattiesburg by a larger margin at the onset of the season in non-district play, 4-1.

“We played a little tight, and you could tell,” Sullivan added. “You can tell that we’re young right now. It took us a while to get going in the regular season, so hopefully, that’s behind us, and we’ll play a little bit better.

“But big win though. Anytime you can advance in the playoffs; it’s a big win. I was glad to be a home tonight, and we had a great turn out from our fans. We appreciate them.”

Both goals came from junior Luis Ramirez. The West Jones captain broke the scoreless tie in the third minute of the second half (43rd overall minute) with a goal inside the box. Almost exactly ten minutes later, Ramirez put the Mustangs up two-nil with his second of the contest.

“He’s been solid [for us],” said Sullivan. “In the first half, he was a little off [his game]. I think we tried to be a little too fancy instead of letting things happen naturally.”

West Jones’ numbers are what wore down Hattiesburg eventually. The Tigers had just two subs on the bench, while the Mustangs had a supporting cast full. 

“We’re very fortunate with [our numbers],” said Sullivan. “We have some older guys that we rely on, and we have some younger guys that work their tails off. 

“You could tell in the second half that their middle guys were getting tired and they started pushing a little bit to score one and we took advantage of that with the corner, and they didn’t have the legs for that.”

West Jones will travel to Long Beach this Friday or Saturday for round two of the 2018-2019 boys soccer 5A playoffs.

Sports Editor

James is a graduate of Stringer High School and Jones County Junior College. He is an award-winning AP and MS Press photographer, writer, and layout designer.

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