BRANDON — Newton County boys soccer coach Will Thompson knew St. Stanislaus’ plan going into Saturday’s 4A championship game.
And for one half, the Cougars executed their own game plan.
But the second half was an entirely different story as St. Stanislaus scored four unanswered goals and took a 4-1 win over Newton County to capture the Class 4A state championship at Brandon High School.
Newton County finishes the season with a 23-2 record. St. Stanislaus finishes with a 19-6-1 record and won their 10th state championship, the most of any school in the MHSAA.
It was a memorable season for second-year coach Will Thompson despite the loss in the final game.
“It was an awesome season,” Thompson said. “Right now, everybody is broken-hearted, but they had an awesome season. It’s something to be proud of. We started two ninth graders on that back line, and our goalkeeper is a sophomore. The guy who scored was a sophomore so we feel good about the future.”
Newton County only had four seniors on the roster with a majority of underclassmen on the field.
“I thought we had a lot of underclassmen perform well today,” Thompson said. “So we are excited about next year. Hopefully these guys can take that and channel it for next year. They are a perennial powerhouse. They have all been here and done that. They were all here as seventh and eighth graders, and that makes a difference. This was a new experience for us.”
The contest started out in Newton County’s favor when the Cougars scored early in the eighth minute as Lee Hill connected with Graham Lewis, who broke past the St. Stanislaus defense and snuck the ball past the Rock-a-Chaws for an early 1-0 lead.
With 22:58 remaining in the first half, Newton County got another clean shot on goal with a two-on-one but missed the shot to keep the game at 1-0.
“We got a quick goal in the first half, and had we been able to get that second goal, I think the game would have come out a lot differently,” Thompson said. “We had a couple of balls that we were so close on that didn’t go in.”
Despite the 1-0 lead by Newton County, St. Stanislaus controlled the first half as they doubled up Newton County in shots on goal at 10-5.
“They had a game plan, and we knew what it was,” Thompson said. “We practiced it all week, and they just executed it perfectly. They were going to attack our center backs directly in the air and put dangerous balls in the air, and that’s what they did. We had them at 1-0 at the half, but came out in the second half and scored four goals. They just sort of stayed with it in the second half. By the end there, we were tired and scrapping away.”
In the second half, the Rock-a-Chaws continued to press the action, and St. Stanislaus finally broke through in the 44th minute on a high ball by Austin Schruff, just over the arms of Newton County goalie Griffin Bailey.
St. Stanislaus took the lead six minutes later when Jackson Thriffiley scored on a header in a collision with Bailey inside the box to make it a 2-1 game.
“We had seen it in their previous games, when they got that second goal, they just dropped that second midfielder back and just sort of locked it in,” Thompson said. “It seemed like every time we got the ball at our feet, they had two guys on us. Every time we turned, they were right on us. We like to play balls to feet, and they kind of got us out of rhythm.”
St. Stanislaus added another goal in the 55th minute on a Grant Sides kick to make it 3-1. The Rock-a-Chaws added their last goal in the 62nd minute as Sides added his second goal of the game.
Newton County only had two shots on goal in the second half to 10 for St. Stanislaus.