WEST POINT — Johnasia O’Neal wanted one more goal.
The Columbus High School girls soccer team had just taken a 7-0 lead into halftime of Thursday’s district match at West Point, so the sophomore forward and the Falcons weren’t exactly dying to score again. Still, O’Neal — who already had a whopping six goals in the first half — hoped for one more shot.
Just over 10 minutes into the second half, she got it.
O’Neal beat the Green Wave goalkeeper one final time to extend her career night, end the match via the eight-goal mercy rule and reach an additional aspiration: posting a scoring tally equal to the No. 7 on her white road jersey.
“I was just proud of myself,” O’Neal said. “I came out here, and I gave it my best — made my team happy, made myself proud.”
She and the Falcons had plenty to write home about in Thursday’s 8-0 district win, Columbus’ second victory of the season — both against the Green Wave (0-5) — with one match remaining.
“It meant a great deal,” Falcons coach Katie Brown said. “All season, that’s been us on the other side of that, so it’s a great morale boost for them, especially at the end of the season, to get a good game in and some good passes.”
Nearly all those passes ended up on the deft foot of O’Neal, who became the first player to put seven on the scoreboard at McCallister Field since the Green Wave football team wrapped up its season two months earlier.
“She’s probably one of the hardest-working people out there on our team,” Brown said. ” … The whole team looks up to her, so she did a great job.”
O’Neal said the Falcons’ goal Thursday was to score as many goals as they could — she mentioned 10 as a possibility — and said Columbus began to play up to its potential.
“It’s a step up from how we usually play,” she said. “We came out here, and we gave it our all.”
Included in that was a major fix Columbus had to make after beating West Point 5-2 on senior night on Jan. 5. All night long, the Green Wave caught Falcons players offside to such effect that Columbus dedicated an entire practice to avoiding a repeat performance.
“That was definitely something that we took from our first game that we worked on, and it definitely made a difference tonight,” Brown said.
She also instructed the Falcons to get on the board as early as they could Thursday, and the plan worked: O’Neal found space for an easy goal in the third minute.
After O’Neal achieved a hat trick with her third goal of the match in the 14th minute, senior Diana Maya found the net off a short free kick in the 19th. O’Neal got in three more goals before the match reached halftime.
West Point coach Ashley Dauzat said her team didn’t play quite as well as it did in prior matches, including last week’s game in Columbus. She said she hoped to see more from the Green Wave on offense, particularly with ball control and communication.
“I’ve seen them play better,” Dauzat said. “I feel like they just let the game and the pressure of it being senior night and the pressure of it being a home game, they just let it get to them.”
Although West Point still has three matches to play, the Green Wave chose Thursday to hold their senior night. Between the girls and boys games, West Point sent off its five seniors — Faith Coggins, Ashtynn Cade, Zarcayla Murphy, Takayla Wofford and Anarri Morton.
Dauzat, in her third year coaching the Green Wave, described the maturation process she’s seen with the quintet of players and what the team will lose once their careers are done.
“In that time, I have seen disappointment and failure but yet excitement and growth out of those seniors,” Dauzat said. “I really feel like we’re going to lose a dominant senior class out of those girls.”
Columbus boys 1, West Point 0
Before the Columbus boys began their long walk to the bus waiting just outside Hamblin Stadium, they closed their post-match huddle with two words they’d been waiting to utter for most of the evening.
It’s what West Point players told them whenever the Green Wave knocked down the undersized Falcons during the match, insinuating Columbus needed to get in the weight room to get strong enough to compete.
But when the Falcons finished off an important 1-0 road win Thursday, they looked to claim the phrase for themselves.
“We won, so we wanted to say weight room, too,” Columbus eighth-grader Destin Poindexter said.
By that point, the Falcons had earned back the bragging rights they lost by suffering a 3-2 defeat to the Green Wave on Jan. 5.
“Last week, they just didn’t come out to play,” Columbus coach Joseph Richardson said.
He and Poindexter concurred in saying the Falcons were overconfident about a win, and when it didn’t happen, they had to regroup. Throughout this week at practice, Richardson said, the team had long conversations about the loss and how they planned to recover from it.
“They felt like they needed to do what they had to do,” the coach said.
On Thursday, the Falcons did it. They recouped the communication that went missing last week, cleaned up their passing and solidified their defense.
The last of those changes, Richardson said, was in part due to moving senior Josh Jefferson back to the back line.
Jefferson led Columbus’ defense to the clean sheet Thursday. His bark also matched his bite, screaming “you can’t score on me” to a West Point forward after denying him a chance at a second-half equalizer.
The Falcons senior was true to his word once West Point striker Antonio Facella’s last-second attempt from near the baseline was scooped up by Columbus’ goalkeeper, who booted the ball down the field as the referee blew the final whistle.
West Point coach Anthony Watt said Facella was playing with a twisted ankle and that the Green Wave performed admirably on just one day of rest after losing to Grenada on Tuesday.
“Overall, I’m pretty proud of the guys,” Watt said. “… To hold a good team like Columbus to one goal, I’m proud of them.”
That lone goal came off Poindexter’s foot in the 14th minute as he slotted the ball to the right of Green Wave goalkeeper JaKobe Pate. The eighth grader extended his team lead in goals, though he makes his presence known in other ways, too.
“Vocal leader out on the field, always talking, always getting things moving,” Richardson said of Poindexter.
For West Point, Pate provides a similar style of leadership. The keeper, along with defensive “general” Justin Jones, was honored prior to the match as part of the Green Wave’s senior night ceremony.
“JaKobe Pate is really the heart and soul of this whole soccer program here at West Point,” Watt said.
Prep Girls Soccer
MSMS 5, Philadelphia 0
PHILADELPHIA — Madison Johnson had a hat trick as the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science girls beat Philadelphia High School 5-0 in a Class I, Region 4 road matchup Thursday.
MacKenzie Pitts had a goal and an assist for the Blue Waves (4-1, 1-0), and Lauren Rutherford had a goal. Ashley Mangus and Elena Eaton had assists as MSMS played for the first time in nearly two months.
“For our first match since before Thanksgiving, the girls did splendidly,” head coach Chuck Yarborough said in a news release from MSMS. “After a slow start, our communication on the pitch consistently improved, and some beginner players got great playing experience.
“It was wonderful having Madison notch her second hat trick of this season, and Camille Newman’s five saves to preserve the clean sheet were outstanding,” Yarbrough added.
MSMS will play at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday in Ridgeland.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.