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W. Jones turns table on BHS soccer team

In an emotional turn from Tuesday night, the Brookhaven Pantherswere eliminated from the Class 4A State Soccer Tournament by theWest Jones Mustangs. With the game the night before lasting almostthree hours, Wednesday’s restart lasted almost a minute as WestJones forward Ben Pace finished off a ball that had strayed from apile of players in the center of the field.

Brookhaven head coach Rob McCreary had nothing but praise forhis Panthers after the tough, sudden-death defeat. “I couldn’t beany prouder of our kids for the effort they gave.

“Our seniors have led the way this year,” said McCreary. “DavidEasley, Seth Flynn, Daniel Gates, Matt McGehee and Justin Windhamhave provided leadership that got us to this point in the season.They fired up our underclassmen and always had words ofencouragement for them.”

In discussing the events that led to the restart, McCreary hadsome pointed comments to make on the ruling by the Mississippi HighSchool Activities Association. “It’s too much for anyone to ask agroup of kids to rebound and play again when you told them they hadwon the night before,” said McCreary.

“I understand a rule is a rule, but nobody in the MHSAA officehas coached these kids for six months. I wish Ennis Proctor (MHSAAPresident) had the guts to come down here and explain the wholeruling to my team. But he can just sit in his big office in Clintonand rule whatever way he wants.”

McCreary was referring to a ruling by the MHSAA that theofficials at Tuesday’s match were wrong by going straight topenalty kicks after playing two 10-minute overtimes. The MHSAAdeclared the officials should have played two 5-minute sudden-deathovertimes before going to PK’s. The ruling forced Brookhaven tostart with the score 1-1 instead of the final score of 7-6 from thenight before at the Sports Complex.

West Jones coach Jerel Wade had protested Tuesday night’sovertime procedure to the MHSAA. The Mustangs will play St.Stanislaus Saturday in the second round.

The setback finishes Brookhaven’s season at 12-5. The game wasalso the last for McCreary, who will now move on to full-time dutyas an assistant principal at Mamie Martin Elementary School wherehe started in August. McCreary coached the team for six years,compiling a record of 100 wins and 30 losses.

Charles Willoughby, who served as co-head coach with McCreary inhis first season at Brookhaven, will take on sole responsibility ashead coach next year.

“The Lord has truly blessed me, giving me a chance to coachthese kids, and I will miss them,” said McCreary. “But I know theywill be well coached with Coach Willoughby running things.”

The Panthers graduate 5 seniors and return 6 starters for nextseason. Brookhaven will try to defend its Division 6-4A title. ThePanthers have been the division champions every year since theMHSAA divided 5A and 4A schools in the 1999-2000 season. They havemade three straight state playoff appearances.