January 26, 2010 9:11:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Some players have a knack for making a difference on one end of the field.
Whether it is with blazing speed or a deft touch, forwards and midfielders can wreak havoc on defenses.
But defenders who have those skills often don''t attract the same accolades. Their satisfaction comes from the final zero on the scoreboard.
Price Day showcased his ability to help his team do both last week for the Starkville High School boys soccer team.
Day was part of a defense that helped Starkville blank Tupelo 1-0 on Tuesday in Starkville. The victory is believed to be the program''s first against Tupelo in a division game since the late 1980s.
Later in the week, Day added a hat trick (three goals) in a victory against Columbus and played a key defensive role in a 2-2 tie against Starkville Academy.
For his efforts, Day is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Day, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound sophomore, has been a member of the Starkville High varsity program since his eighth-grade year. This season, he has five goals and four assists. He will help lead the Yellow Jackets against Northwest Rankin today in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North Half State playoffs.
Price used to play his club ball in Tupelo but recently transferred to play for the Central Jackson Soccer Organization. A two-year member of the state''s Olympic Development Program (1993s), Day said the victory against Tupelo was especially sweet because he has played with many of the current members of the Tupelo High team.
"It was a really big win," Day said. "All of us were ecstatic after the game."
Day helped anchor a defense that used the same strategy it used for a portion of the first meeting against Tupelo this season. Starkville High coach Brian Bennett opted to use Day at the top of a diamond-shaped defensive formation. The goal was to have Day disrupt Tupelo''s buildup and to prevent attackers from getting behind the defense. The move worked as Day, JR Tomlinson, and the rest of the Yellow Jacket defense delivered a gem.
"The first time we played them we had some flaws, but we came in and figured those out," Day said. "The second time we played them we did what he had to do and we capitalized and made them pay."
Bennett said the decision to move Day into the top of the diamond gave sophomore Kase Kingery more freedom to attack. As a result, Kingery was able to create the game-winning goal scored by Mike Klaskala.
Bennett said Day possesses several key traits any quality defender has to have.
"He is not scared to go up against anybody," Bennett said. "He also is smart and has quick feet."
Day, who was the team MVP last season as a center midfielder, moved back to defense this season to help compensate for the Yellow Jackets'' graduation losses. His experience playing left back on his club teams has allowed him to make the transition and complement Tomlinson, the team''s only returning starter on defense.
"It was a sacrifice I had to make," Day said. "I was kind of happy to do it for the rest of the team."
Day showed against Columbus you don''t have to be a forward to get involved in the offense. With the blessing from Bennett to attack, Day made several rushes and relied on the passing ability of Kingery and Daniel Fumo to set him up for two goals.
On the third, which he called the toughest of the day, he made the run, was fouled in the box, and converted the penalty kick.
"Kase and Fumo, both of them really know the time to play a through ball and all I had to do was make a run," Day said. "They played beautiful through balls and it was just easy finishes for me."
Day feels his ability to contribute on both ends of the field is his greatest strength. He said he needs to work on his vision and his ability to recognize plays and situations faster.
Bennett said Day always has been a "tenacious and tough" player. He said he believes Day has the potential to earn a Division I scholarship to play soccer if he continues to improve and to mature.
"He is very smart," Bennett said. "He has a midfielder''s mentality. If a defender pulls off their man, he can slip a pass to an open guy, which makes him that dangerous."
The question Day might have to answer is where he will play on the field. Bennett said the answer is obvious to him.
"A defender with the ability to score is pretty valuable," Bennett said. "If I were him, I would be looking to use that role."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.