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Vikings pull out first-round playoff win on penalty kicks

Feb. 3—ECRU — The term "crazy" gets tossed around a lot, but it was an apt descriptor for what happened at North Pontotoc on Saturday.

The host Vikings escaped defeat by the thinnest of margins and edged Newton County 2-1 in the first round of the Class 4A boys soccer playoffs. The match came down to penalty kicks, which North Pontotoc won 4-1.

"Man, it's crazy stuff right there," North coach Travis Little said. "We didn't play our best soccer, especially in the first half. But our kids are pretty resilient, and they will fight."

The defending North champs were on the brink of losing in overtime. Newton County (6-12-4) had broken a scoreless tie on Lyle Hollingsworth's header early in the first OT, and the second OT was nearly over when Hector Mejia came to the rescue.

On what would have been the final play of the match, Anibel Mejia sent a corner kick into the box, and Hector Mejia got a head on it. The ball floated beyond the reach of Newton County's 6-foot-6 goalkeeper, Jayden Butler, to tie the match at 1-1.

It was the first goal of the season for Mejia, who plays on the back line.

"I thought (Butler) was going to be able to block it since he's very tall," Mejia said. "As soon as it went in, I was very surprised. It's very crazy."

After neither team could score during a pair of five-minute sudden-death periods, the match went to penalty kicks. North Pontotoc senior goalie Jarrod Coleman made two saves, and Luis Andrade booted home the match-clinching goal.

Newton County notched 10 shots on goal, including eight in regulation. One of Coleman's biggest saves came in the first OT on a free kick from just outside the box. That kept it a 1-0 game.

"Jarrod played a great game tonight — maybe the best game I've ever seen Jarrod play. At the best time, too," Little said.

Despite the teams playing to a scoreless tie in regulation, there was no shortage of action. North Pontotoc (14-7-1) had a great chance to score in the 75th minute, but Butler made tough back-to-back saves.

The Vikings will travel to Caledonia on Tuesday for the second round.

brad.locke@journalinc.com