Panther kickers fall in OT

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Sophomore Hunter Ford booted Laurel’s winning goal in overtimeTuesday night, lifting the Golden Tornadoes to a thrilling 3-2victory over the Brookhaven Panthers. Ford’s winner came on anassist from Brett Barlow on a corner kick., advancing Laurel to thesecond round of the Class 4A state soccer playoffs.

Laurel (11-5) will play Gautier Saturday in the second round.Gautier (18-6) eliminated East Central 3-0 yesterday.

Brookhaven’s season ends at 16-3-2 as the Division 6-4Achampion. The Panthers saw their 10-game winning streak halted.

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“I told our kids the key in the state playoffs is focus,” saidLaurel coach Julio Martinez. “Brookhaven scored on two of ourmistakes.

“This is a young team and they played hard,” Martinez pointedout. “They have a lot of heart. I feel honored to coach them.”

Martinez is in his sixth year at Laurel’s helm. His Tornadoeswere runners-up to Petal in the Division 5-4A race.

The two teams battled to a 2-2 deadlock at the end ofregulation. They were tied 1-1 at halftime.

Ole Brook claimed an early lead on Tyler Alexander’s goal whichricocheted off Laurel keeper Tyler Caldwell. Laurel responded with7:35 left in the half when Brandon Brunley’s kick glanced off theoutstretched hands of Ole Brook goalie Thomas Nguyen.

The Panthers kept Laurel’s defense busy in the first 20 minutesof the second half. Forward Guy Orr broke away from the pack on along kick from Nguyen and scored on a fast break in the 59thminute.

Laurel’s Barlow connected with a short goal in front of the netwith 11:46 left in regulation, gaining a 2-2 deadlock. Both teamsbattled for possession in the closing minutes and Orr was wideright on a kick with 7:09 showing on the scoreboard clock.

Ford rammed in the winner with 1:15 showing in the first half ofovertime. Ole Brook had four more shots at the net in the next 10minutes but came away empty.

“Brookhaven has some great players,” said Martinez. “It feelsgreat to beat a good team like them.”

Ole Brook coach Kevin Bower said he was disappointed by thesetback, especially after his Panthers led Laurel twice. “Thatmakes it hard when you lose after being ahead.

“Laurel has a good team and they passed the ball well,” Bowernoted. “Sixteen wins is more games than we played last year. Welose some very good seniors.”