by Anthony VanCourt, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, December 5, 2o23, the Long Beach Bearcats hosted the George County Rebels in a Region 4 – 6A soccer match to see who would take control of the division. The back-in-forth contest would favor the Bearcats as they ran their current winning streak to six games after an early goal gave Long Beach a lead they would not relinquish in their 1-0 victory over the Rebels.

The Rebels headed into the matchup with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-0 record in Region 4 – 6A while The Bearcat soccer team was riding high after winning their last five straight games including a 3-2 win over Hancock last week.

As the game got underway, the Bearcats wasted no time in gaining the advantage. With ten minutes gone in the first half the Bearcats earned a free-kick just outside the George County penalty area when Long Beach’s Landon Tyre was brought down from behind.

With pressure solely on the Rebels to keep the game scoreless, Bearcat senior and PRCC signee Landon VanCourt stepped up to take the kick and lofted a perfect ball to the back post where fellow senior Alexander Mink’s well-timed header found the back of the net giving Long Beach the early 1-0 lead.

While the Bearcats were leading 1-0, George County picked up the pressure forcing the Long Beach defense into action several times throughout the night, and the game was not without some second half drama to make things interesting.

Early in the second half, the Rebels were awarded a penalty-kick when Gavin Knowles was brought down in the Bearcat penalty area giving George County a brief moment of hope and a chance to turn the game around.

With the game on the line, Samuel Rogers stepped forward to take the penalty for the Rebels choosing to go to the bottom right corner, but Freshman Bearcat keeper Gunner Borden was equal to the task making a great save going to his left to keep the Bearcats in control of the game and securing the 1-0 victory for Long Beach who took sole possession of first place in Region 4 – 6A.

“It’s a young group, led by a small but very experienced and talented group of seniors. We’re excited to see what we can achieve together and build on the success of the program,” said head coach Matt DeFillips.

Next up for the Rebels is a home contest with the Hancock Hawks (3-4-2, 0-1) while the Bearcats will travel to rival West Harrison (2-3, 0-1) on Friday for an opportunity to move their region record to 3-0 while West Harrison will be looking for their first win against the Bearcats since the 2020 – 2021 season.

Earlier in the night, the Lady Bearcats soccer team used a late winner from Freshman Kaydence Cook to move their record in Region 4 – 6A to 2-0 after defeating the George County Rebels 1-0 in a physical match that came down to the very end.

The Lady Bearcats were coming off wins against the defending 1A-2A-3A state champion St. Patrick Lady Irish and the Hancock Lady Hawks before the George County Lady Rebels came calling with a chance to move into first place in Region 4 – 6A. George County entered the night in a tie for first place with both Long Beach and West Harrison after a dominating performance against Pascagoula by the score of 4-0.

In the scoreless first half, both teams saw good opportunities come up short while demonstrating why Region 4 – 6A will be one of the most competitive regions in the state. Each team’s defense proved to be stingy and resolute as they repelled each other time and time again.

The Lady Bearcat defense was led by seniors, Natalie Crapps and Pressley Carothers, who used their physical play to throw off the Lady Rebels’ attack. Crapps recently signed to play for coach Tom Cosgrave at Co-Lin Community College while Carothers has signed with the recently crowned NJCAA D2 National Champion Jones College soccer team coached by Dolores Deasley. In the attack, Long Beach relies heavily on the leadership of junior Morgan Eleuterius and another Jones College signee in Riley Rolison.

Despite the numerous veterans on the Long Beach roster it would be a freshman that would determine the outcome of tonight’s game. With 12:32 left in the second half, Crapps played a long ball behind the George County defense and found Kaydence Cook who volleyed the shot from her first touch 20 yards out past the Rebel goalkeeper to give the Bearcats the 1-0 lead as the game was coming to a close. The Bearcats would see out the victory and earn sole possession of first place in Region 4 – 6A.

Next up for the Rebels is a home contest with the Hancock Hawks (2-6-1, 0-1) while the Bearcats will travel to West Harrison (3-1-1, 1-0) on Friday for an opportunity to move their region record to 3-0.