OXFORD â€“ It seemed the Starkville High School boys' soccer team had caught the momentum after a nice block by goal keeper Michael Godley.
Godley deflected a penalty kick by Oxford's Eddie Terry early in the first half, but Terry got a second shot as Godley moved before the kick.
The Chargers (16-3-3) rode the momentum and out-manned the Yellowjackets 3-1 to claim the Class 5A North Half State championship Tuesday night at the OHS football field.
"They called Godley for stepping forward as the ball is being kicked," SHS head coach Brian Bennett said. "You have to wait. It's hard to tell from the angle I got. It looked like he took a little shuffle step from the side."
Terry was taken down by Starkville's Charlie Henderson just inside the box. Terry executed on the retry and the Jackets took a 1-0 lead with just over 30 minutes remaining in the first half.
"You save that and that turns the momentum of the game," Bennett said. "I really couldn't believe they made that call. He must have come off the line. That was a huge turning point."
The Chargers didn't let up as they scored 2 minutes later when Hunter Stewart found the back of the net and Oxford took a 2-0 lead.
Playing with the wind, the Chargers took advantage of it. It was something the Jackets were hoping they could get to start the game.
"They won the toss and went with the wind," Bennett said. "That was our plan if we won. That is exactly the same thing we were going to do. (We wanted to) try to get on them in a hurry."
There were three yellow cards between the two teams, but the referees let the game go for the most part.
"They are a very physical team," Bennett said. "We knew it because we saw it last year.Â You can talk about it, but until you get out there and see it. We might've should have brought our football pads because it was a very physical game."
Starkville took out Oxford on the same field a year ago on its way to the Class 5A State championship. This year the Chargers will be representing the North in Clinton.
The physicality of the game was something that could have gone either way. Depending on what type of referee is calling the match, the different the calls are.
"If they are playing with a referee that is calling it tight, that's a big disadvantage to them," Bennett said. "If they are playing with the referee like they had (Tuesday), it's a huge advantage for them. We couldn't match up with their physical play.
"That's their game. They are going to go physical and hard. (There are) not a whole lot of calls, but probably a whole lot more should had been made. There is just nothing you can do to really prepare for that."
Oxford got one more first half goal when Stewart connected on another kick with over 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.
Arman Borajani's shot on goal was deflected by the Charger goal keeper with just under 3 minutes in the half. Oxford took a 3-0 halftime lead.
"We just told them 'you can't have a great comeback if you're never behind,'" Bennett said. "I told them 'I know we can score.' We have scored three goals in a half before. We had the wind. We changed up. We tried to go up with another forward and push on them a little bit since we had the wind. It kind of got exciting. They did come out and play hard in the second half. We just couldn't get enough goals."
SHS tried to put itself back in the contest late. Senior forward Taylor Wise was awarded a penalty kick and took advantage of it with just over 8 minutes remaining in the game.
The Chargers did a good job of holding onto the ball and keeping the Jackets out of the box the rest of the way.
"We weren't getting rid of the ball quick enough," Bennett said. "We were deliberant with it. We probably should have gotten rid of the ball quicker, knowing that they were coming in hard every time."
Starkville finished the season with a 15-2-1 record.
View more articles in: