by Anthony VanCourt, Contributing Writer

Long Beach used an extra-time winner from senior Jason Marshall to give the Bearcats a 3-2 win against the George County Rebels in the South State Championship match capturing their seventh straight South State title and a chance to keep their current State Championship streak alive for another year.

Long Beach head coach Matt DeFillips had this to say after the match, “I thought it was a really solid performance that we made a little harder than it should’ve been with some costly mistakes.  Overall, I was really proud of our boys last night for digging deep and finding a way to win in another overtime playoff match on the road.”

Coming into the South State final, the Bearcats beat Pearl River Central 2-1 in extra-time and Picayune in a penalty shootout while the Rebels took out Terry 7-0 and West Jones 4-2 to reach the South State Championship match.

The Bearcats and Rebels had previously split their regular season match-ups with the Bearcats getting a 1-0 win at home in December while the Rebels claimed a 3-0 win in the return fixture played on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in January. The 3-0 victory allowed George County to claim the Region 4 – 6A title and the 1 seed heading into the playoffs based on head-to-head goal difference.

The contentious South State matchup began rather nervy as neither team wanted to give away any advantage early, but it was the Bearcats who struck first when the Rebels failed to clear a Long Beach free-kick that fell to sophomore Braiden Bonds who slotted the ball past George County’s keeper for a 1-0 lead early in the first half.

Unfortunately, the lead would not hold after a George County cross into the Bearcat goal area was sent into the net by a Bearcat defender for on own tying the match 1-1 heading into halftime.

The Bearcats would regain the lead 15 minutes into the second half when a Landon VanCourt freekick found the head of Jason Marshall who flicked the ball past the George County keeper for a 2-1 lead. That lead would be erased by another Bearcat miscue when a relatively harmless Rebel free-kick slipped past Long Beach keeper Alan Long and into the goal tying the match at two goals a piece.

At the end of regulation, the match remained tied 2-2 setting up another extra-time finish for the Bearcats.

With both teams showing fatigue in extra-time, Long Beach senior Jason Marshall took matters into his own hands as he picked up a ball from Braiden Bonds in midfield weaving in and out of the George County defense before placing his shot into the bottom right corner for a 3-2 lead and celebrated the moment with a backflip as his teammates followed him to the corner to share their appreciation.

“Jason put in a shift last night helping to control the midfield and giving us a spark offensively when needed. It was awesome to see one of our seniors get the game winner from an incredible run and finish,” said DeFillips.

This time the Bearcats held the 3-2 lead until the final whistle sending the Bearcats back to the State Championship match for the seventh consecutive year.

Long Beach has won the last three championship matches they have played and are hoping to make it four in a row.

The win takes the Bearcats’ record to 17-4-1 heading into the state final match while the Rebels record fell to 12-5. The 6A State Championship soccer game will be played on Saturday, 6:00pm at Germantown High School against Center Hill.

LB Game Stats:

Goals: Braiden Bonds, Jason Marshall (2) Assists: Jason Marshall, Landon VanCourt