By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Michael Loden, who coached Pontotoc High School’s boys this season to their first state championship in soccer, believes a lot of folks contributed to the Warriors’ success.
Pontotoc finished with a 19-3-1 record and defeated West Lauderdale 6-2 to win the MHSAA 4A title.
“J.T. Thompson, who had coached the boys, had a good foundation built,” Loden said. “We had to build only a little bit on it.”
Pontotoc, which lost to Corinth last season in the North Mississippi title match, had a powerful trio of players returning in Piercen Burchfield, Fredy Gutierez and Rafael Vidana.
“The talent was here. I didn’t have to do a lot,” added Loden, a Mooreville native who coached fastpitch softball and junior high football at Potts Camp before coming to Pontotoc. “With the talent and skill here, we were able to focus on a lot of other things. We learned to be a team.”
However, some credit should go to Loden for putting a talented cast of players together to win a state championship. For those efforts, he has been named the 2013 Daily Journal Coach of the Year in boys soccer.
The Warriors, who finished the season ranked No. 6 overall in the state, won 16 consecutive games after a 3-3-1 start. The team’s losses were to defending 5A state champion Starkville, Center Hill and Madison Central.
One of the team’s early wins was against 6A Tupelo.
“We finally got all of our starters back (three from cross country) and had everybody healthy, things kind of clicked for us,” Loden said. “We got better and better as a team as the year went on.
“At the end of the year, we were playing as well as anybody in the state.”
Pontotoc scored 22 goals in four playoff games against Senatobia, New Albany, Florence and West Lauderdale.
“That’s pretty impressive against the level of competition we played,” Loden said. “As talented as these kids are, they didn’t get lazy. They got better and better.”