Starkville's Justin Gordon (7) looks to gain control of the soccer ball against Saltillo Wednesday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville Yellowjackets know the effort has to step up a notch in the Class 5A playoffs if they are to match what they done last season in winning a state championship.
That's why SHS junior Justin Gordon said, "we had to put our best foot forward."
Gordon and three other Jackets used their feet to score goals in a 6-0 victory against Saltillo in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs Wednesday at home.
"Everybody went hard and we talked about that before the game," Gordon said. "We knew (Saltillo) wasn't going to take us lightly. We've been chilling around throughout the season, but we knew in the playoffs, we were going to have to put everything out there."
Dylan Howard opened the scoring with a goal for Starkville and Juan Salazar got the first of his two goals before Gordon scored the third goal of the match with 2:50 left in the first half.
After Taylor Wise scored the final goal of the first half to give the Jackets a 4-0 lead, he got another within the first minute of the second half. Salazar's second goal came on a penalty kick for the final point.
SHS boys coach Brian Bennett said it's been a pretty common sight to have Salazar, Gordon and Wise providing the scoring. He was happy to see Howard get in on the fun.
"You've got four spots scoring," Bennett said. "If we can get a couple more going, we can be completely dangerous. I think our outside halfbacks played good (Wednesday night) and really looked well when getting it out wide. They did a good job of getting the balls to those goal scorers."
Bennett did not think the Jackets played their best on the artificial surface of the Mississippi State football practice field during a 2-1 victory at New Hope last Friday.
He was glad to be back on the familiar turf of Yellowjacket Stadium.
"It's a good way to open the playoffs with a good strong showing," Bennett said. "The surface helps. We were able to play longer balls, let it hang up for us and give us a chance to get under them. On that hard surface, that just doesn't happen. I was very pleased with the effort."
Starkville improved its record to 15-1-1 and hosts Hernando Saturday in the second round. The Jackets play at 4 p.m. and following the SHS girls' match against Center Hill at 2 p.m.
Despite the competition getting tougher, Gordon believes the Jackets are set to meet the challenge.
"We're a small team, but we have to play hard against those big guys," Gordon said.
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