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Heritage Academy boys soccer beats Starkville Academy

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Heritage Academy''s boys soccer team needed to avenge a loss against Starkville Academy to qualify for the postseason.  

 

History wasn''t on the Patriots'' side, as they''d never made it to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools playoffs.  

 

Recent history didn''t favor the Patriots either, as they entered the game on a two-game losing skid -- one of which came at home Thursday to the Volunteers. 

 

Faced with the prospect of their breakout season ending short of their primary goal, the Patriots overcame fatigue and unfavorable odds to post a 2-0 victory. 

 

Freshman Graham McCain scored a hard-earned opener in the 71st minute, and McGee Ledbetter put the game away two minutes later with a 25-yard free kick. 

 

Heritage Academy (9-2) finished No. 2 in Class AAA, Division 2, while Starkville Academy (8-5) took third.  

 

Heritage Academy''s first-round opponent hasn''t been determined. It will open postseason play Monday. Starkville Academy will travel Monday to Presbyterian Christian. 

 

Heritage Academy coach Joe Asadi said his squad channeled the motivation of winning for former teammate Spencer Perkins, who passed away prior to the start of the season.  

 

"I told them, if for nothing else let''s do it for (Perkins)," Asadi said. "It was our goal to get to the playoffs for him." 

 

The win capped a three-day stretch in which Heritage Academy lost two games and earned a victory. The logjam created by winter weather made the match more challenging.  

 

Asadi said he could see the fatigue in his players after just five minutes, but was confident they would right the wrongs of a sloppy 2-1 loss to Starkville Academy on Thursday.  

 

"They came to our field, scored first, and then we started getting a little bit sloppy with passing and not doing what it takes," Asadi said. "That was the first loss in our season. I told the kids, if they can beat us on our field we can do the same. They put their heads together and said, ''Let''s get it.'' " 

 

The Patriots had few chances on goal in the first half and were fortunate to see Jake Goodwin push a shot wide in the 15th and send a first-time shot at goalkeeper Matt Sykes in the 18th.  

 

The Volunteers had a goal disallowed because of an offsides call in the 16th. 

 

Ten minutes into the second half, Heritage Academy took its turns misfiring on goal.  

 

Cauthen Mordente shook defender Zach Slaughter in the 47th but shanked his 10-yard shot wide of the post. Three minutes later, Starkville Academy goalkeeper Davis Pigg whiffed on a clearance and got caught 10 yards outside the 18-yard box, but Sawyer Perkins missed the open net.  

 

Starkville Academy''s disjointed defending was further exposed on Heritage Academy''s first goal, which started via corner kick. Pigg saved an initial shot and saw another deflected in front of him before McCain poached the opener.  

 

On Ledbetter''s free kick in the 73rd, Pigg was caught too far off his line and could only get a hand to the dipping shot. 

 

"The little things we usually do well, unfortunately they were rushed today," Starkville Academy coach Robert Gardner said.  

 

Gardner bemoaned his side''s lackluster play in midfield and the lack of a "foothold" in the middle of the field. 

 

"Long story short, we just didn''t give ourselves time on the ball," Gardner said. "We took too many touches. We didn''t take the shot at the right time. We stumbled over ourselves. We killed counter attacks at our own will. It was just a tough day for us. We''ll lick our wounds and be ready to go Monday." 

 

 

 

 

 

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