High School Sports

Mary Persons sharp in playoff-opening shutout

FORSYTH -- As strong and balanced efforts go, it could not have gone much better for Mary Persons on Wednesday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA boys soccer tournament against Bainbridge.

The Bulldogs posted a shutout and also got two goals a piece from Josh Hampton, Dawson Daniel and Matthew Hellier in a 6-0 victory against the Bearcats.

Mary Persons, which scored on a pair of goals by Daniel in the match’s first 17 minutes led 3-0 at the half.

“We’ve been balanced all year,” Mary Persons head coach Allen Luton said. “This team, the way they share the ball, can create a lot of opportunities. We like to share the ball, we’re a very unselfish group. All we care about at the end of the day is, ‘did we get a win?’ (Wednesday), we did.”

Mary Persons improved to 15-4, and will host Northwest Whitfield on Wednesday.

Mary Persons kept Bainbridge (11-7) flustered throughout the match, limiting the visitors to just five shots against a back defensive unit anchored by goalie Harper James, who had pair of saves in earning his ninth shutout of the season.

“We’ve been a solid defensive team all season,” Luton said. “The guys in the back, I trust them a lot. Every time we have had a challenge this year, they have stepped up.”

Still, the Bearcats were not without their scoring chances, one being a header from the outside which bounced off of the crossbar.

Bainbridge had a golden chance with 10 minutes to go in the first half, as well. A downfield pass was corralled by the Bearcats’ Jaycee Castro, only to have Mary Persons defender Jacob Berkebile wrestle the ball away from him to end the scoring chance.

“We just had to play smart and focus and getting the ball out of the back,” Berkebile said.

The Bulldogs, who got a first-half goal on a powerful outside shot from Hellier, kept up the momentum in the second half. Hampton served notice as to why he is regarded as one of the region’s top players, scoring 15 minutes into the half and doing so again with 15 minutes to play for the final score as he reeled in a crossing pass from Trea Atkins.

Hampton’s goals sandwiched a score a minute earlier from Hellier.

“The guys came out and really played well and played our kind of soccer, I was really pleased with the performance,” Luton said. “We’ve been in really good form lately and it just continued. The guys were ready to play and pretty much did exactly what we had done for most of the year.”

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