By Brandon Speck
Eric Reynolds knew nothing about soccer. Neither did Saltillo. A perfect match.
In only the 10th year of Saltillo soccer, there were a lot of firsts under fifth-year coach Reynolds, a 1998 graduate of Saltillo baseball fame.
Reynolds is the Daily Journal Boys Coach of the Year.
Naturally, he’s also an assistant baseball coach. After all, he does have his own Bowman rookie card – from 2001 in a Yankees hat, after he was drafted out of Itawamba CC in the 9th round in 2000.
Coaching soccer wasn’t a driving ambition, but wanting to be a part of the high school baseball staff was. Reynolds accepted the soccer job as part of his move from Guntown Middle to the high school.
“I said, ‘I’m going to have to learn a lot. I don’t know anything about it,’” Reynolds said. “I had never played, never watched it on TV, never anything to do with soccer. Those first two or three years, it was absorb as much as you can.”
Like the program, Reynolds figured it out. This season paid off with the program’s first division title, first playoff win and first trip to the North finals.
The Tigers came within a win of their first trip to the Class 5A state championship game.
‘Coaching is coaching’
Reynolds credits his players, like versatile senior A.J. Rye, scorers like Ian Huckaby and passers like Lance Crabtree. He went through the lengthy list of contributors, name-by-name.
“Coaching is coaching,” he said. “Just the content you coach is different. We’ve got a lot of guys that are as talented as anybody around.”
It just took a while, he said, to implement the tactical side of the game.
After opening the playoffs with a win against Lewisburg, this season’s quarterfinals matchup had always been a problem, Ridgeland. But Saltillo continued a 13-game win streak with a dominating 6-1 win.
“It’s nothing I’ve done,” Reynolds said. “When you’ve got the defenders we’ve had, fast, and if they get beat, they know they’ve got a 50-50 shot with (keeper) Drake (McCarter) back there.”