BY JAMES BEASLEY
In deplorable conditions that could best be described as a “mud bowl”, the River Oaks Mustangs edged Copiah Academy 1-0 in Monroe, Louisiana, last Saturday to win the MPSA Division II state championship in soccer. The victory earned River Oaks a fourth straight state title, while the Colonels lost in their first-ever championship game.
Despite the heartbreaking defeat, CA finished with the best record in school history, 17-3. Copiah’s only other losses were 3-1 to Laurel Christian and 4-0 in an exhibition game against Division AAA Presbyterian Christian. In that game, two key CA starters were out due to basketball.
The Colonels got to the state title game after beating the University Christian Flames 5-2 in overtime and blanking the Mt. Salus Eagles 2-0.
University Christian took a 1-0 lead on Thomas Adams’ wind-blown kick that eluded CA goalkeeper Hunter Greer at the 8:00 mark of the first half. Five minutes later, the Flames’ goalkeeper Nathan Buckalew buried a penalty kick to put his team up 2-0. Copiah’s Nathan Madison scored in the 26th minute to cut University Christian’s lead to 2-1 at the half.
Senior sparkplug Richard Henley tied the score 2-2 on a direct kick in the 24th minute of the second half, and then put the Colonels ahead 3-2 during the second 10-minute overtime period. Moments later, Daniel Sims scored an insurance goal, and then Henley capped off the scoring with the final goal of his hat trick.
Two days later, Copiah blanked Mt. Salus of Clinton 2-0 in the semi-finals as Richard Henley scored in the first half and Nathan Madison in the second half. Meanwhile senior goalkeeper Hunter Greer and the CA defenders held the potent Eagle offense in check to register the shutout.
Then came the championship game against the defending state champs – not once or twice, but three times. The Colonels matched the Mustangs kick for kick until Johnny Saye buried a shot from the 19 off a throw-in with just over five minutes left in the first half.
On at least two occasions in the second half, Copiah came close to scoring, but both times the ball stuck in the mud long enough for the goalkeeper to dive on it before it rolled into the net.
“We played well enough to win,” said second-year CA coach Jamie Madison afterwards. “You just wish that a game like this would be able to be played in ideal conditions, but you have to play with what you’re dealt. I’m really proud of our guys. They took Copiah Academy soccer to places it’s never been. It’s been a great year.”
“Copiah is a good team,” River Oaks coach Mark Alexander told “The Clarion-Ledger.” “Our defense did an awesome job shutting them down.”