November 10, 2009 11:06:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
CALEDONIA -- It''s only one game, but Brandon Webber showed Monday night he just might have what it takes to challenge Taylor Chisolm''s scoring record.
Webber kicked off the 2009-10 season in style by scoring three goals to lead the Caledonia High School boys soccer team to a 3-1 victory against New Hope in the season opener for both teams.
"He is definitely a goal scorer," Caledonia coach Morgan Mansfield said of Webber. "He is very unselfish. There was a couple of times when he could have taken a crack and he laid it off. You want him taking shots because if you get up there sooner or later these coaches start picking up on that and you need to make sure when you play the ball to somebody they are ready."
In the first game, Kaleigh Reynolds had two goals and Lindsey Burton added another to pace the Caledonia High girls soccer team to a 3-1 victory against New Hope.
Both Caledonia and New Hope teams faced each other Saturday in a preseason event at Caledonia High. Caledonia won both of those 40-minute matches.
The rematches, which were originally scheduled to be played Tuesday but were moved up a day to miss today''s rain, were equally competitive. The Lady Trojans held a 20-13 edge in shots in the opener, while the Trojans showed potential with plenty of speed up top.
Unfortunately, the New Hope boys fell victim to a well-timed offsides trap that Caledonia used to force numerous offsides. The defense, led by speedy sweeper Nick May, also negated nearly all of the runs that managed to stay onsides.
Mansfield said his team delivered a fine performance considering it had little time to prepare for the game being moved up. He said the Confederates also did a good job of adjusting to the narrower field. Both matches were played on the Caledonia High football field, which Mansfield said has a better playing surface but is 15 yards narrower than the school''s soccer field.
Caledonia played without Kye Van Someren, who missed the match due to school reasons.
Goalkeeper Matt Gresham played well in taking over for the graduated Tyler Aldridge. After tearing two ligaments in his ankle a month ago, Gresham made several key plays to keep the Trojans off the scoreboard. In the first half, he backpedaled to prevent a lofted ball to go over his head. He then touched it past an onrushing New Hope player and then caught Eric Edwards'' shot in his stomach.
In the second half, Gresham came off his line to smother another scoring bid by Edwards. He wasn''t tall enough to deny Sidney Wilson''s chip from the right side that sailed over his head into the upper left corner. The goal early in the second half cut Caledonia''s lead to 2-1.
"Him and Randy are battling back and forth to see who is going to get the nod," Mansfield said. "After the classic, Gresham showed a little more that I like to see. Nothing against our other goalkeeper, but I like Gresham right now."
But Webber''s third goal, off an assist from Kevin Kugel, with a little less than 28 minutes remaining in the match sealed the victory. He took a lead pass and then offered a well-struck ball into the upper corner that closed the scoring.
Webber scored his first two goals on a well-struck shot off a direct kick in the first half and another blast less than a minute to go before halftime.
The goals give him a good start on trying to reach the 28 goals Chisolm, who recently completed his freshman season at East Mississippi Community College with former Caledonia High players Seth Wood and Tyler Pounders, scored last season. Those goals came in a program-best 14-5 season that saw Caledonia lose to eventual state champion Pearl in the Class 4A North Half State title game.
With 11 minutes to play, Gresham provided his final well-timed play as he slid out to knock away a Kaleel Wainwright pass intended for Edwards.
"Once he gets full strength in that leg, I think he will be fine," Mansfield said of Gresham. "He is so aggressive back there. I would rather him be aggressive and if he gets burned that''s fine as opposed to sitting back and waiting because that is usually when goals happen."
First-year New Hope coach Jerry Byrd said his team''s effort was better than it was showed Saturday. He said the Trojans still have work to do on their mental game to avoid offsides and to improve their touches in the final third.
"Athletically, those guys up top have some talent, so, hopefully, they can learn how to stay onsides," Byrd said.
Byrd anticipates receiving a lift from Zak Thrasher and Tanner Ryals, the quarterback and kicker on the New Hope High football team. The football team will play Callaway on Friday in the first round of the Class 5A North Half State tournament.
Until Byrd gets those two players back, he said the Trojans will continue to work on finishing their chances.
"I am pleased with what we have got," Byrd said. "I am anxious to see what the football guys will give us. I hope they give us some athletic ability and some toughness."
Caledonia girls soccer coach Jason Forrester was pleased and relieved that his team was able to shake off a "flat" start to win its opener.
"It is always a tough match when we play New Hope," Forrester said. "They have a very good team and a lot of aggressiveness."
New Hope controlled the first 20 minutes before Peyton Stanley''s shot off a counterattack went wide left of the goal. Less than a minute later, Reynolds took a throw-in and tapped it past goalkeeper Brandi Brantley as she came off her line.
Morgan Hardin and New Hope controlled the start of the second half, too, but it appeared they almost had too much time as several excellent scoring chances went wide, over the crossbar, or were stopped by goalkeeper Shaina Cruse (10 saves).
Cruse made a diving save to her left to deny Morrison in the first minute of the second half.
"Shaina is a good teacher, too, because the people she is working with as her backups are learning a lot from her," Forrester said. "She is a good leader. All of my seniors are good leaders."
Burton made New Hope pay for not cashing in those chances when she took a touch from Stanley, who collected the ball after a failed clearance, and tucked the ball into the lower left corner for a 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes to go.
Seventh-grader Effie Morrison, who played in the game after playing earlier in the day in a middle school basketball game, finally helped New Hope get on the scoreboard with 12:40 to play in the match.
Morrison, seventh-grader Brittany Walker, and Sarah Hern were two of the Lady Trojans'' most dangerous scoring options. The only problem was New Hope missed too many opportunities that easily could have been goals.
Still, New Hope coach Mary Nagy was proud of her team''s improvement from its loss to Caledonia on Saturday. She said she hopes the Lady Trojans will continue to make strides each game.
"We''re young (four seniors). We have a lot of talent and we have several girls who can start, so we''re looking for team chemistry," Nagy said. "We just had some hard breaks hitting the post three times. There was a lot of things that we can work on that are correctable."
Reynolds, a speedy sophomore, put the game away with less than two minutes to play when she raced on to a ball that bounced over the last defender''s head and beat the goalkeeper with a right-footed shot to the right corner.
Forrester said Stanley, a freshman, and Reynolds, a sophomore, work well together up top and blend nicely with the team''s four seniors.
"Peyton has great speed," Forrester said. "Her ball control skills are coming around. Kaleigh Reynolds is a little small, but she can handle the ball real well. You kind of lose her because of her size and then she shows up and the ball is by you before you know it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.