Article Comment 

Columbus' Hayward, Caledonia's Pounders sign with EMCC

 

Adam Minichino

 

Junior Noel continues to mine the Golden Triangle for its top soccer talent. 

 

The East Mississippi Community College men''s soccer coach landed two more standouts Friday when he signed Caledonia High School''s Tyler Pounders and Columbus High''s Mike Hayward to national letters of intent. 

 

"I had been looking at both schools and they were key players for the two years I have been here," said Noel, who is from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the southern Caribbean. "I think they will fit into my program pretty good. They come in with a wealth of experience at the forefront of their programs. I see them coming in and making an impact right away." 

 

Noel played professionally in Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi During his high school playing days, he was a member of Trinidad and Tobago''s National Team. 

 

His goal is to transform a men''s soccer program that went 1-12-1 last season. He hopes his recruiting success in this area will help him accomplish that goal. 

 

Hayward and Pounders will join Caledonia High soccer standouts Taylor Chisolm and Seth Wood, Starkville High''s Eduardo Fumo, Steven Geraci of DeSoto Central, Brandon''s Brian Meza, James Nichols of Northwest Rankin, Saltillo''s Josh Harden, Justin Knight of Quitman, and Heidelberg Academy''s Corey Devun. 

 

Caledonia High''s Tyler Aldridge, who played goalkeeper this season for the Confederates, earned a baseball scholarship to attend EMCC. 

 

Hayward, a four-year starter at Columbus High, led the Falcons (11-10) with 13 goals and 11 assists as a senior. He also earned the team''s Most Valuable Offensive Player Award for the second straight year. 

 

The 5-foot-9, 150-pound midfielder/forward scored nine goals as a junior. He also lettered four years in tennis for the Falcons. 

 

Hayward said he always wanted to go on to play soccer in college but he wasn''t sure where he would land. He said he attended a tryout at EMCC in April and did well. He said he spoke with Noel after the tryout and hoped that he would end up in Scooba. 

 

"I have always felt like I needed to play with better players," Hayward said. "I am ready for the next level of soccer and to see what I can I do." 

 

Hayward, who also considered attending Delta State, is confident he can do whatever he sets his mind to and that he will look to score a lot of goals for the Lions. 

 

Richard Martin, who coached Hayward the past three seasons at Columbus High, said Hayward has very good speed and a strong shot, which should serve him well as he transitions to college soccer. 

 

"He has a good shot of being a forward at EMCC," Martin said. "He also could be an outside player with his speed." 

 

Pounders, who played midfield/defender, scored five goals and had four assists to collect all-district and team MVP honors as a senior for the Confederates (14-5), who lost to Pearl 6-1 in the Class 4A North Half State title game. 

 

The 6-1, 190-pounder was a three-year soccer starter. He also hit .380 with four home runs and 18 RBIs as Caledonia''s starting shortstop this spring. 

 

Morgan Mansfield, who guided the boys soccer team to the best finish its in history, said Pounders is an athlete who will make an impact wherever he plays. 

 

"He is gifted and he can move around the field for a bigger guy," Mansfield said. "He also understands the game and has a lot of good athletic ability. I would think they might move him to more of a defensive midfield role or play him stopper or a sweeper." 

 

Jason Forrester, who coached Pounders on the boys soccer team for three years, said the multi-talented athlete should fit in well with the Lions. 

 

"He is a real good person," Forrester said. "You don''t have to tell him more than once what to do. He tries to do the best he can no matter what the situation. Whether you are down 10 goals up 10 goals, he still will do what he has to do to make sure he is doing his best for the team." 

 

Forrester said Pounders played up top early in his career but he settled into a role in the middle of the field. He said that position suits Pounders because he is very unselfish and doesn''t want a lot of glory for himself. 

 

That''s is just one of the qualities Noel sees in Pounders and Hayward that makes his excited to add the players to his program. 

 

"They both have a good understanding for the game and a love for the game," Noel said. "I think the kids from Caledonia and from Columbus will make an impact on the program." 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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