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Knights focus on state title

By By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
Feb. 9, 2002
Eight years ago, Alex George didn't know exactly where the West Lauderdale soccer program was headed.
But today, as his Knights take the field at Pearl High School to battle for their second State Championship in three years, George knows exactly what it has become.
The Knights, ranked No. 10 in the state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, face a Madison-St. Joseph's team that is 15-6 and playing in its first state championship.
West Lauderdale, which has played Mercy Cross for the MHSAA Class 1A-2A-3A State Championship in each of the last three seasons, heads into today's showdown with an 18-4 record.
The Knights reached the title game by beat Clarkdale High School 5-0 on Thursday night to claim the South State Championship. The three previous years WL won the North State title, setting up big games with Mercy Cross.
West Lauderdale was 20-0 going into last season's finale, where the Knights dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker. The previous season WL won the title with a convincing 4-0 win over Mercy Cross.
Mercy Cross won the 1999 title by a 3-1 score over the Knights.
In fact, Clarkdale eliminated Mercy Cross on its march to the South State showdown with West Lauderdale.
George said his strategy over the past several seasons as he began to grow the program was to improve the strength of the team's schedule.
Three of West Lauderdale's four losses this season were to Class 5A schools, while the other was a 1-0 setback to Class 4A Northeast Lauderdale.
Clinton defeated WL 5-1 and 2-0, while Northwest Rankin downed the Knights 7-0.
Among the most impressive victories for West Lauderdale this season were 4-1 and 7-1 wins over Class 5A Columbus. The Knights also beat Class 5A Meridian High School twice and Class 5A Starkville once.
The Bruins of St. Joseph, who defeated St. Aloysius of Vicksburg to reach the finals, will be led by senior captains John Spencer and David Yokum.
The WL-St. Joe game will be followed by the Class 4A and Class 5A title games.