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St. Andrew’s hands Bulldogs muddy loss

MEADVILLE — As the mud grew thicker, so did the St. Andrew’s’defense Saturday afternoon in Louie Mullins Memorial Stadium. TheSaints, defending Class 1A/2A/3A state champions, kept their repeatchances alive with a dramatic 4-0 defeat of the Franklin CountyBulldogs in the second round of state playoffs.

Franklin County finishes its season a school-best 17-6overall.

“We gave it our best try today,” said Bulldogs head coach AndyDiaz. “I’m very proud of our guys and the great season we had, buttoday the other team just played better.”

Diaz, who is assisted by Brad Mullins on the FCHS soccer staff,watched sloppy field conditions catch his team like quicksand inthe first half. The field, which was covered with frost two hoursbefore game time, quickly became a slick and slippery landscapefilled with moisture.

“The field was a complete mess,” added Diaz. “It was sloppy outthere.”

The Saints (11-6) adjusted to the muddy conditions and quicklyjumped out to a 1-0 lead off a goal from senior Aubrey Green at the30-minute mark.

St. Andrew’s sophomore Tolu Shekoni (Nigerian descent) scoredthe Saints’ second goal of the day at 26-minute mark for a 2-0lead. Franklin County, coming off a 4-0 win over Piney WoodsTuesday, could not get anything going offensively against thedefending state champions.

“We were a little sloppy in front of the goal, but we createdour chances,” said St. Andrew’s coach Eric Johnson. “The muddyfield slowed us.”

Johnson watched his team score two additional goals in thesecond half. Sophomore Jerrod Myers and freshmen Daniel Duddlestonadded a strike apiece for the Saints late in the period. The St.Andrew’s defense also secured the shutout.

“We did not concede any goals, and that’s what we wanted to do,”added Johnson.

The Saints only allowed the Bulldogs five shots on goal theentire contest. Bulldog goalie Danny Mullins and sweeper AustinMcCormick made multiple saves to keep Franklin County in thegame.

At the 21-minute mark of the second half, FCHS career scoringleader Ryan Ratcliff was taken out of the game due to a minorconcussion which blurred his vision. Ratcliff scored a state-best43 goals this season for the Bulldogs.

Despite the loss of Ratcliff, Franklin County kept trying tobreak the air-tight St. Andrew’s defense. Bulldog center midfielderJosh Dixon came close to scoring twice in the game, but came inchesshort.

“They (St. Andrew’s) found a way to score,” added Diaz. “Theyare a tough team, and the defending state champions. Our guysbattled them the entire game.”

The Saints advance to Tuesday night’s Class 1A/2A/3A South StateChampionship. The will play the survivor of the NatchezCathedral/Biloxi Mercy Cross contest.