NEW HOPE — In the 34th minute of Tuesday’s MHSAA Class 5A first-round playoff match, just after the New Hope boys soccer team had scored its third goal of the night, a defenseman from visiting Vicksburg voiced his frustration.
“We didn’t drive all this way for nothing, man,” the frustrated player told his white-clad teammates.
The Trojans (13-2) quickly went on to definitely prove that the Gators (10-6-1) should have saved themselves the trip.
New Hope scored eight more goals in the next 16-plus minutes, earned an 11-0 mercy-rule win and moved on to the second round against either Ridgeland or Saltillo.
“We feel unstoppable,” New Hope junior Trey Parnell said. “We feel like we can take on anybody and beat them.”
Based on Tuesday’s big win, Parnell and the Trojans might be justified in that feeling. The striker had a whopping five goals against the Gators, scoring on a penalty kick in the 21st minute and following it up with scores in the 25th, 30th, 39th and 48th minutes. That output even came after a headbutt from a Vicksburg defender endeavoring to slow Parnell down.
“It just shows I’m capable of it still,” Parnell said. “I can get knocked down and get right back up and keep playing like I have been.”
His development as a player hasn’t just been achieved in terms of scoring, either. Before the season, New Hope coach Andrew Olsen challenged Parnell to lead the team in assists; Tuesday, the junior stepped up to the challenge with three as Christian Juarez had a hat trick, Jose Castillo had two goals and Hayden Dodson got his second goal of the season.
“They can’t just zone in on him because other people are scoring, so I think his game’s progressing nicely,” Olsen said of Parnell.
The coach said his favorite goal of the night — with plenty to choose from — was Parnell’s skillful redirect of a Cole Crawford free kick with 10 minutes to go in the first half. But it was the previous goal, in which Parnell simply blew the ball by the Vicksburg goalkeeper, that put New Hope 3-0 — an advantage comfortable enough to open things up even more.
“We’ve usually been pretty good at playing with a lead,” Olsen said. “Sometimes in the past, we might have laid back, foot off a little bit, but I think us keeping the pressure on them and making them make quick decisions helped out tonight.”
Parnell added two goals before the half, Castillo put in his second goal of the night in the 39th minute and Juarez scored on a tough shot just before the halftime whistle to give New Hope a commanding 8-0 lead.
Just 34 seconds into the second half, Juarez added another goal. His third of the night, less than five minutes later, prompted an unexpected question: Would New Hope’s scoreboard at the east end of the field even accommodate double digits? After a brief pause, “10” flashed on the Trojans’ side, and the issue was resolved — though not for long. In the 49th minute, about 70 seconds before the game was whistled to an end via the mercy rule, Parnell chipped a ball effortlessly into the goal for his fifth score of the night.
“It feels like we can intimidate the opponents that are coming up,” Parnell said. “It shows we’re capable of competing in the playoffs at a high level.”
Of course, it took the Trojans longer than they expected to get things going against the Gators before the compressed offensive explosion. Vicksburg pushed the ball into the attacking third and nearly scored before Castillo deftly slotted the ball into the right side of the net for New Hope’s opening goal in the 16th minute.
“I think it kind of kicked us in the rear end a little bit to get motivated — that it could all be taken from you at any moment,” Olsen said of the Gators’ close call. “I’m proud of how they responded.”
Excepting the first 15 minutes of the match, the Trojans proceeded to average one goal in just about every three minutes, a rip-roaring pace the likes of which exceeded the scoring output of every other match New Hope played this season.
In fact, the Trojans scored more goals Tuesday than they’ve allowed all season — a number still in the single digits. And while the outburst counts the same as a 1-0 win in the scorebook, New Hope is happy to advance to its second-round road game on a high note.
“Any time you can get a win in the playoffs, it’s a good feeling,” Olsen said. “I’m proud of the guys and the effort they put in tonight.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.