By John Wilbert / NEMS Daily Journal
Don’t look now, but the Starkville and Mooreville boys soccer teams – each with winning records – will be playing in the 2011 MHSAA soccer playoffs, and James Blount has had a hand in both of those programs.
“Yeah, I was the first Starkville High soccer coach years ago,” Blount said on the phone Monday afternoon.
The Yellowjackets have come a long way since 1985. They just missed out on winning the Division 2-6A title and finishing the regular season undefeated.
Coached by Brian Bennett, Starkville – which plays at Horn Lake tonight in a Class 6A first-round playoff match – went 15-1-1.
“Over the years, they have gotten better and better,” said Tupelo senior player Jackson Nabors, whose team clinched the Division 2-6A championship with Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Yellowjackets. “And this year, they’ve been the closest to us talent-wise than they’ve ever been.
“It looks like this is going to be a future rivalry – a big rivalry in the future.”
Last season, Blount found himself as Mooreville High’s first boys and girls soccer coach. In two seasons, the Mooreville boys have gone 10-7.
Meanwhile, the Lady Troopers (6-3) just missed out on winning the Division 1-3A title this season, losing out on a tiebreaker to South Pontotoc.
Nonetheless, it took just two seasons for the two Mooreville teams to qualify for the postseason. Led by goalkeeper Drew Wheeler, defender/midfielder Carlos Gutierrez and midfielders Grant Bishop and Cody Cryder, the Troopers (5-4) will look to knock off a traditional playoff team, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, in a Class 1A/2A/3A first-round playoff match set for 7 tonight in Columbus.
“Their soccer program has been going for a long time,” Blount said of MSMS, “and they have a really strong boys team. They’ve been in the playoffs several years now.”
The Lady Troopers, who will also play MSMS in Columbus tonight at 5, have been led all year by the play of senior goalkeeper Kelsey Miller, junior player Lynn Dunnam, sophomore Raena McGregor and a pair of freshmen in Lakyn Cryder and Madison Parham.
Win tonight and both Mooreville teams have a shot of hosting a quarterfinals game on Saturday – a first in the school’s history.
n Playoff schedule, Page 2B