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Starkville boys soccer advances in MHSAA Class 6A playoffs after hard-fought win over Madison Central

STARKVILLE — The release after a goal in soccer is reflective of the intensity of the buildup toward it. And the moment when Starkville High School broke through Wednesday night was electric.

Yellow Jackets forward Tony Shin, who had been a menace on Madison Central’s wing all night, found himself on the end of a well-worked break forward after about 12 minutes of play in the second half. Receiving the ball on the right wing, he had the option to shoot quickly from a difficult angle but chose to take on his defender to create a better chance. He shimmied past the overcommitted marker to drive central and shot powerfully enough that the ball went through the keeper’s grasp and bounced into the net.

“I was feeling the energy, and I was pumped up for the game,” Shin said of his goal. “I just really wanted to score, and in the first half I was doing pretty well, but in the second half I knew I’ve got to get a goal, and I got one, and I went crazy.”

The goal was the only one of the match, giving Starkville a 1-0 win over Madison Central. The Jackets (14-4) took down the defending Class 6A champions and punched their ticket to the next round of the playoffs.

The decisive goal was deserved, and it was almost one of many for the Jackets as they swarmed their opponents early in the second half. They created chances for themselves in the first half, but after halftime they really took over, playing with intention and getting the goal that their forward-thinking play warranted.

“I think we came out as the better team,” head coach Evinn Watson said, “and I think we were the better team all first half. We lost a little bit of momentum towards the second part of the first half, but other than that I thought we were the better team. I just told them we need to go out there and put a goal in the back of the net and keep doing what we’re doing.”

The match was unfortunately overshadowed at the end by disciplinary actions, with the referee sending off two Jackets players. The first was a second yellow card offense for time wasting, but shortly after that Shin went down hurt. The Jackets sent on a substitute, but Shin hadn’t noticed. The referee then stopped the game to issue another red card for the Jackets adding a player after the first send-off. Chaos ensued as the Jackets sideline looked for answers after the miscommunication, with the administration eventually coming down to question the officiating as well. Unfortunately for the Jackets, however, the red card stood, and they will be without both Shin and Ben Buehler for their next playoff match.

It was a disappointing end to a good night for Shin, but with his teammates holding on through added time to seal the win, he was able to celebrate knowing the part he played in sending the squad through.

“It felt awesome,” he said. “I know what it means to go out in the first round. We got out at the first round for like three years, and I know what it meant for the team. I wanted to score, and it was a very happy moment.”

Getting through finally after shortfalls the last few years, and doing so against a Jackson-area team meant a lot to the players and to the coaches who saw them assert themselves in the match and overcome an opponent who previous teams had tried and failed against.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to tell these boys,” Watson said. “For all these years Jackson teams come up and beat us year after year. I told them this is their chance to put themselves on the map and get a big win, and they came out here and did it.”

The Jackets will next face Hernando in the next round of the playoffs, the quarterfinal stage, after the Tigers took down Center Hill 4-1 on Tuesday. The match will take place at Hernando at 5:30 pm Saturday.

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