By Zach Adams/The Itawamba County Times
FULTON – As first-year Itawamba AHS soccer coach Randy Earnest knelt amongst his boys team before last Saturday’s match against Tishomingo County, he demanded just one thing from his players: 100 percent effort.
It didn’t matter if such effort could only be maintained for 15 minutes before subbing out, he asked each player to give his absolute best and not worry about the outcome.
As the game unfolded, the effort and determination was there, but the skill and experience wasn’t. The Indians lost 5-0, following a 3-0 Lady Indian defeat that completed the Tishomingo sweep.
When both games were called, there was no anger that sometimes accompanies being shut out. The players congratulated their opponents and reflected on the contest, knowing that they are but novices in a sport that is brand new to Itawamba County.
They will remember the losses as they improve. The cold, windy December afternoon will serve as motivation on the long path to building a program from the ground up.
“One of the advantages (of building a program) is that you are able to play a bunch of your seventh, eighth and ninth graders,” Earnest said after the game. “You’re really able to teach them and get them into the system, something that will show in a couple of years.”
“We are faced with a lot of kids who haven’t played soccer, so you have to take a step back and realize it is a building process,” he continued. “Patience is one of the challenges.”
The Indians hung tough early as both teams did a good job of keeping the other off balance to begin the first half.
Tishomingo (9-6) broke the stalemate and surged ahead with a goal by senior Andre Remedios in the 13th minute that was quickly followed up two minutes later by another goal, this time by Logan Long.
A Dane Degraw goal off of a header in the 18th minute rounded out the first half scoring for the Braves.
Jamarcus Marion and Kris Billups threatened for the Indians in the second but were unable to score to get their team back into the contest.
Remedios put the finishing touches on the win with two goals in the final 10 minutes of play.
“We are definitely getting better,” Earnest said. It’s a building process, but we are taking strides in the right direction.”
Laying the foundation
With only one player from each the boys’ and girls’ teams having played competitive soccer before this season, Coach Earnest had to teach the game to complete beginners. It was a challenge that saw even some of the sport’s most basic aspects become big obstacles to overcome.
“At the beginning we couldn’t make a 10-yard pass,” Earnest said. “We couldn’t receive a pass and dribbling was a challenge. Overall, we have taken huge strides. Just looking at them, it’s hard to imagine that they are the same teams.”
With about half of their inaugural season behind them, the Indians and the Lady Indians hope to translate the lessons learned during these early games into wins either this season or next. But before that can happen, there is still a lot of work to do.
“We need to work on communication,” Earnest said. “That is one of the biggest things in soccer because there is no time outs and no set plays. They have to coach themselves on the field.”
Zach Adams can be reached at 862-3141 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.