March 11, 2010 8:54:00 AM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- Already part of a strong sophomore class, Price Day earned the captain''s arm band and made it his mission to make the Starkville High School boys soccer team the best defensive team in the area.
And after Starkville High started the season with more than 400 minutes of shutout soccer Day, The Commercial Disptach''s Boys Soccer Player of the Year for 2009-10, knew the Yellow Jackets were in for a special season.
With a final record of 9-2-2, Starkville beat Tupelo 1-0 at home for its first victory in the series in 10 years before falling to Northwest Rankin 4-0 in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs.
But if there was one glaring difference between Starkville High''s team this year and last year, it was the poise and skill in its back line.
In particular, the middle of the Yellow Jackets'' defense -- Day and J.R. Tomlinson at center back and Addison Watson in goal -- proved to be a fortress.
What made the trio''s season more unique is their relationship away from SHS soccer. All three play for the Central Jackson Select team and all three are sophomores.
Outside of the five goals he scored this season, Day said he is most proud of his involvement in Starkville''s defensive turnaround.
"If we''re always together, we''re building chemistry all the time," Day said of playing with Tomlinson and Watson. "We know what each other is comfortable with. We all realize we need to make the most of playing together.
"Last year, we didn''t have as much skill in the back, but we had more strength. Having more skill this year kind of changed our game plan all around. We recognized when we had to pass, when we had to clear it up, and it all changed completely. Last year, we pretty much cleared it up and hoped."
Starkville High coach Brian Bennett said having an anchor like Day, who could push up and initiate offense, helped the offense and the defense.
"Having someone like Price controls the game," Bennett said. "You can take your chances with your outside backs and everyone is a whole lot more relaxed. We were able to control and pass with our backs this year, and it opened up so much for us."
For a team that had just one senior -- backup goalkeeper Jessie Coffey -- picking a captain came down to a team vote, which Day won at the beginning of the season. But as a sophomore, becoming the leader of a talented team was a serious task.
Bennett, however, had no reservations handing the armband to Day.
"Price is one of the most driven guys I''ve sen in a while and he pushes himself," Bennett said. "He plays club ball, ODP, goes to Wake Forest soccer camps, and is always working. As good as he is, he''s going to get better.
"Being captain this year, he handled it well. He''s serious about his soccer and loves to play. He wasn''t jumping on people when trying to lead. He picked his spots and was effective."
Day, like any other captain, knew the best way to lead was by example. It also helps to have a lot of talent, Day said.
"My main thing was trying to be a role model for other players," Day said. "I worked on a lot of things like my speed, skill, everything you need for soccer. Other than that, I had to keep my physical shape up and have confidence in the guys around me."
Bennett thinks Day will be one of the state''s top players as a senior, not just because of skill, but because of his will to win.
"He had one of the most horrendous fouls in the Tupelo game and I had to take him out," Bennett said. "He had cut marks on his knee, it was swollen, and he went back in that game. He''s one of those guys that never backs down."
BOYS formation: 4-3-3
Boys POY: Price Day, So. CB, Starkville High (captain)
GK: Addison Watson, So., Starkville High (7 clean sheets, first ever clean sheet against Tupelo, started the season with 400-plus shutout minutes)
LB: Kye Van Someren, Jr., Caledonia, (7 goals)
CB: Jake Read, Sr., Starkville Academy
CB: JR Tomlinson, So. Starkville High (1 goal, two assists)
RB: Houston Walker, Sr., Columbus, (5 Goals 8 Assists)
LM: Alvaro Pichardo, Jr., Starkville Academy (11 goals in nine games, 4 assists)
CM: Roy Miles, Sr., Starkville Academy ( 5 goals, 7 assists)
RM: Kase Kingery, So., Starkville High (5 goals, 4 assists)
LF: Blake King, Sr., New Hope, (18 goals with 5 assists)
CF: Will Goodwin, Sr., Starkville Academy (4 goals, 3 assists)
RF: Frankie Jones, Sr., Starkville Academy (10 goals, 10 assists)
Match Day Subs
GK: Herston Williamson, Sr., Starkville Academy (14 goals allowed all season, 104 saves)
MF: Brandon Webber, Jr., Caledonia (13 goals, 2 assists)
F: Zach Khima, So., Amory (35 goals, 6 assists)
MF: Tanner Ryals, Jr., New Hope, (10 goals with 10 assists)
MF: Cameron Newman, Sr., Columbus (5 goals, 7 assists)
MF: Evan Thomas, Fr. Amory (13 goals, 8 assists, 9 takes)
Josh Kugel, Fr., Caledonia (6 goals, 3 assists)
Kevin Kugel, Jr., Caledonia (8 goals, 6 assists)
Sidney Wilson, Sr., New Hope, (5 goals, 2 assts)
Nick Missell, Sr., Columbus (6 goals, 14 assists)
Ricky Hackler, Fr., Columbus (5 goals, 3 assists)
Matthew Esquivel, So., Columbus (14 Goals 12 Assists)
Ryan Mackay, Sr., MSMS
Josh Rester, Sr. MSMS
D: Ryan Hill, Jr., Amory (7 goals, 3 assists, 69 takes)
Will Alexander, Jr., Amory (115 takes)
Quincy Lewys, Sr., (1 goal)
F: Evan Wester, Jr., Caledonia (12 goals, 2 assists)
Salem Gibson, Sr., Columbus (2 goals, 2 assists)
Sebastian Vasquez, Sr., Columbus (5 goals, 6 assists)