This week he has two on his radar – his South Pontotoc boys and girls soccer teams – that are putting the pedal to the metal in the MHSAA Class 1A-2A-3A playoffs. Both play in a state semifinal this week.
“They are giving it everything they’ve got,” Kitchens said. “These are the best boys and girls teams I’ve ever coached.”
The Cougars (12-5) play today at Philadelphia while the Lady Cougars (11-4) play Thursday at Clarkdale. The winners advance to Saturday’s state championship matches scheduled for 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Clinton High School.
South Pontotoc had never had a team make it to this round, but wins last week against Southeast Lauderdale (boys) and Choctaw Central (girls) changed history.
“They’re playing well, playing clean soccer, moving the ball around and taking good shots,” Kitchens said. “I’m proud of them.
“We’re very capable of ... being in those championship games.”
South Pontotoc’s boys have plenty of weapons and depth, Kitchens noted. The forwards are Cole Caples and Matt Collums while the midfielders are Manuel Almazan and Sam Ivy.
“They can score on you,” Kitchens said. “Defensively, we’re coming together.”
Philadelphia (19-0-1) is the defending North Mississippi champion.
The Lady Cougars’ match against Clarkdale was moved to Thursday to allow Kitchens to coach in both semifinals. Clarkdale defeated them 3-1 last season in the playoffs.
Kitchens has two daughters on his girls’ line up. Senior defender Breanna is in the middle and Tristain leads the attack with 19 goals.
Seventh grader Judith Mills, who scored the winning goal against Choctaw Central, is also on the attack and keeper Breauna Holly has nine shut outs.
Judith’s two sisters, Anna and Mattie Mills, roam the midfield and have scored nearly 40 combined goals.