By TIM TUTOR /Sports Editor
NEW ALBANY — The 17-3-1 Warriors of Pontotoc High lived to play another game when they defeated the 10-10 Bulldogs of New Albany 6-4 here at Kitchens Field on Saturday.
The Warriors held a comfy 5-1 first-half lead, but had to hold on to survive in the second period of this MHSAA 4A quarterfinal postseason game.
Pontotoc junior Rafael Vidana scored four of the Warrior goals, with three of them coming in the first half. Inside the final five minutes of the half, senior Brayden Timmons headed one in off a corner kick and junior Diego Pizarro nailed the last one to give Pontotoc the 5-1 halftime lead.
“We knew coming in this would be a tough game,” said Warrior first-year head coach Michael Loden, while noting the skill of New Albany senior Anthony Fernandez who led the Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory over Germantown in round one of the playoffs on Tuesday of last week
“He scored all four of their goals in that game. We knew he could be a threat.”
Fernandez scored the lone New Albany goal within the 26-minute mark of the first half to trim the Pontotoc lead to 2-1 and netted their first of the second half inside the 36-minute mark to cut the Warrior lead to 5-2 and keep his team very much in the game.
The Bulldogs made only six shots on goal, while scoring on three of those attempts after the break.
Sophomore Zachary McDonald thrilled the New Albany faithful with a goal off a nice cross-kick feed from Fernandez inside the 22-minute mark to make it a 5-3 affair.
In less than three minutes, Vidana responded with yet another PHS goal to make it a 6-3 affair.
“Rafael had a great game,” Coach Loden said. “His scoring effort gave us the margin we needed to come away with the win.”
New Albany was not ready to give up the game and a chance to go further in the playoffs with more than 20 minutes still left to play. But the Bulldogs were able to muster only one more point.
New Albany sophomore Ethan Rainey banged in the last Bulldog goal off another excellent cross kick to bring Saturday’s game to an end at 6-4.
This win gave PHS a 3-0 record against New Albany this year, with regular-season wins coming November 17 (5-3) and December 7 (5-2). Also, and more importantly, this quarterfinal victory gave the Warriors of Pontotoc High a shot at the MHSAA North State Championship with a trip to Rankin County to take on the Eagles of Florence High.
The game was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29.