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Goodwin helps direct Starkville Academy's victory


Starkville Academy’s Austin Miles moves the ball past Heritage Academy’s Spencer Bailey during Thursday night’s game in Columbus.

Starkville Academy’s Austin Miles moves the ball past Heritage Academy’s Spencer Bailey during Thursday night’s game in Columbus. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff


Adam Minichino



"Jake, Jake, Jake." 


The shouts came from all directions and within seconds of each other. The urgency behind the pleas indicated the players needed the ball immediately if they were going to make things happen. 


Jake Goodwin has come to expect his voice to be called from the opening whistle. His hearing has become so keen he can recognize the shouts from just about anywhere on the field, even when he isn't able to have his head on a swivel and turn to face the call. 


Such is the life of a conductor, or orchestrator, or conduit. Regardless of how you refer to him, Goodwin showed Thursday afternoon how effective he can be directing an attack, registering two assists in the Starkville Academy boys soccer team's 4-0 victory against Heritage Academy. 


"I know where everybody is, kind of," Goodwin said. "I try to have peripheral vision. ... I try to think what I am going to do before it do it." 


Drew Pellum had two goals, and Matt Jones and Dylan Dempsey also scored to help the Volunteers improve to 4-0-1. They held a 29-3 edge in shots and controlled much of the action with a possession style of play. 


Goodwin helped organize that attack in a variety of ways. He served as a target player who could receive, hold, carry, and distribute. He also worked back to gain possession, to pass to teammates, and to get the ball back to keep the Volunteers moving forward. 


Early in the match, Starkville Academy coach Robert Gardner reminded Goodwin about how best to pick his spots after he tried to chip the ball ahead through the middle of the field. Gardner encouraged Goodwin and the Volunteers to play balls wide to stretch the Patriots so they could have more space to work in behind the defense. The suggestion worked, as the Volunteers extended the field and used their creativity and speed to create dangerous scoring opportunities just about all match. 


Gardner said Goodwin plays an integral role in sustaining pressure as an attacking midfielder. He said the strength of the Volunteers' midfield gives Goodwin the flexibility to move forward and to be a creator. 


"He also offers support wide, he offers support to the players behind him, and to the players in front of him, so he has massive responsibilities," Gardner said. "He obviously is a key point and a focal point to our offense. As much as he can create, we have other players around him who can finish and offer support because it is not a one-man job." 


Pellum scored his first goal following a buildup by Jonathon Burton and Austin Miles. He took a pass off a header at the near post and tucked the ball to the far post in the eighth minute for what proved to be the game-winner. 


Goodwin showcased his quick-thinking and passing ability on the second goal. Taking a pass from Jack Burton, Goodwin looked up and saw Jones streaking toward goal with at least two defenders running with him. Goodwin had time to gather himself and to slide the ball in between the players to Jones, whose shot to the lower left corner made it 2-0. 


"I have always played with (Pellum and Jones). We just kind of have this connection," Goodwin said. "It is just instinct, I guess." 


Goalkeeper Matt Sykes (six saves) denied Pellum's try for a second goal by deflecting his blast minutes later, but Pellum didn't miss a chance in the first minute of the second half. With Pellum and Jones charging toward the goal, Goodwin chipped the ball to the left side of the box, which allowed Pellum to run on to it and to bury in the lower right corner for a 3-0 lead. 


Pellum said Goodwin typically is on target with his passes, which makes his job as a finisher even easier. 


"It is pretty much whatever he wants because he usually knows where I am," Pellum said. "Sometimes I will call his name. He has the freedom (to play the ball how he wants). It just depends on how the defense is playing. If they are playing real tight, he will just chip it over." 


When he has time, Goodwin said he will monitor his teammates' hand gestures to see where they want him to try to play the ball. He said a sweeping movement with both hands usually means a teammate wants him to play the ball through, so he will slide it on the ground, chip it, or scoop it to give them a chance. 


"It is split second (to make a decision how he is going to play the ball)," Goodwin said. "When it is low pressure, I kind of try to re-start it and keep possession. I like to get it wide and they usually play me back in and I like to switch it back over. That usually works." 


On this night, Goodwin showed an impeccable ability to hit moving targets and to anticipate where his teammates would be. He did all that while sorting out a chorus of "Jake, Jake, Jake" for most of the evening. 


"You can be quiet and he will get you the ball," Pellum said. 


That's the sign of a conductor who knows how to make beautiful music out of what others might consider -- "Jake, Jake, Jake" -- just noise.


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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