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Oak Grove escapes Brookhaven 1-0

Time ran out on the Brookhaven Panthers Saturday afternoon onKing Field. A last-minute, line-drive kick by Oak Grove’s AlexConerly lifted the Warriors to a narrow 1-0 triumph over Brookhavenin the opening round of the Class 4A state soccer playoffs.

Oak Grove (15-4-1) advances to the second round and hostsNortheast Lauderdale Tuesday. Northeast eliminated George County’sboys 2-0 Saturday.

Brookhaven (10-5) went unbeaten in eight division games but wasunable to score against Oak Grove. It was the second straight stateplayoff appearance for the Panthers.

Conerly’s winner was launched from 25 yards out, directly infront of the goal. It barely cleared the outstretched arms ofPanther goalkeeper Domenick DiPaolo. Time ran out 10 secondslater.

“The buzzer on my watch went off when (Conerly) kicked it,” saidOak Grove coach Jesse Lang who is in his first year at the helm.Lang is a converted football coach.

“My heart can’t take much more of this,” said Lang, laughing.”We’ve had some close games this year.”

Oak Grove is the defending South State champion. The Warriorsallowed Brookhaven just two shots on goal in the first 40 minutesand took 8 shots themselves, using their speed to dominate. AWarrior goal failed to beat the clock as the first half ended.

“Brookhaven is a lot more physical than we were,” said Lang.”That’s been a problem for us all year.”

Several of the Brookhaven Panthers wept openly, emotionallyshattered by the hard-fought setback. Three second-half, directkicks by Brookhaven’s Ben Giust were almost successful.

“My kids gave a good effort,” said Brookhaven head coach RobMcCreary. “It was just a fluke kick out of nowhere.

“I was getting ready for overtime,” admitted McCreary. “I thinkwe would have won in sudden-death.”

McCreary said his Panthers were outplayed in the first half. “Wecould have easily been down 1-0. I should have substituted more thesecond half and kept our players fresh.”

McCreary praised the Warriors. “They are strong and fast. OakGrove should make it to the South finals and play St.Stanislaus.”

Looking back on Brookhaven’s success this season, McCrearypraised his seniors. “Our seniors, especially Jamison Roane, DanielBoyd and Ben Ross, have meant so much to our team.”

In the first half, Daniel Gates and Judson Langston ofBrookhaven both had shots on goal. Both came with under threeminutes left.

Oak Grove’s Sam Khrut appeared to score on a short header buttime had expired.

In the second half, Gates launched a scoring shot in the 37thminute but it sailed over the goal.

The Panthers played hard on defense. On one play DiPaolo wasknocked down as Oak Grove tried to punch in a goal. His teammatesrose to the occasion and knocked the ball out of bounds.