The families of Zach Slaughter and Colby Henderson along with Meridian Community College coach Alex George and Starkville Academy soccer coach Robert Gardner support Zach and Colby as they sign on Friday. Zach's parents Sammy and Beverly Slaughter stand with Colby's parents Lisa and Michael Henderson. (Photo by Sandra Gladney, For Starkville Daily News)
Athletes in the sport of soccer are instructed not to use their hands unless they are a goalkeeper or throw the ball in from out of bounds.
On Friday morning, Starkville Academy soccer players Zach Slaughter and Colby Henderson were encouraged to use their hands.
Slaughter and Henderson took a pen and signed their names to continue their soccer careers at Meridian Community College.
The pair of Volunteers took the time to celebrate the occasion with family and friends at the SA media center on Friday morning.
Meridian Community College was the place Slaughter and Henderson had their eyes on and talked about for a while.
"We were real excited about going there because we want to continue playing," Henderson said.
Slaughter saw other Volunteers move on to the next level in various sports over the years and was anxious for the moment to join them.
He is happy about moving to Meridian and having Henderson along for the ride.
"When I was little, I saw people signing with junior colleges," Slaughter said. "We loved soccer enough that we wanted to do the same. We just pursued it enough, the coach called us and he watched us play a couple of times. Now we're here."
Meridian Community College coach Alex George has recruited Starkville Academy before and knows what he's getting with Slaughter and Henderson.
"It's the same story with Starkville Academy," George said. "If they come out of Starkville, they are good kids. They are not only good players, but good citizens and boys. I met all of their families. It's a picture perfect moment.
"In getting kids from Starkville Academy, going back to Terry Silva back in 2007-08, you know they are always hard-working and you never worry about them going to class. They offer a great deal on the field as well. It's a good day for us."
The Volunteers are enjoying a good season on the soccer field with an overall record of 8-2-1.
Starkville Academy soccer coach Robert Gardner said Slaughter and Henderson have been a big part of the progression of the program over the last three seasons.
"Both of them have been a benefit to the program," Gardner said. "When I started, they were both sophomores, but after almost three full seasons now, they have meant a ton.
"Zach has been a captain for two years and his leadership on the field as well as off is probably more valuable than his play. Without him, we'd be a much different team. Zach is a fantastic player and fantastic kid. He really is a joy to work with.
"Colby has really stepped forward the last two years and I've enjoyed the time working with him. He became a first choice player last year as a defender, then there was an injury to Davis (Pigg) and he went to goalkeeper. Now he's back as a defender this year in the midfield. He's a very versatile player and he's one always willing to do whatever job I ask of him and he does it well,"
Gardner doesn't take the importance of Slaughter and Henderson for granted and looks forward to following their careers at Meridian Community College.
Before Slaughter and Henderson turn their attention to junior college, there is some unfinished business on the field with the Vols.
After hosting Presbyterian Christian today, Starkville Academy is back at home Monday against Heritage, then plays Parklane Academy next Friday on senior day at the Starkville Sportsplex. That is surely to be a special day for Slaughter, Henderson and the other seniors.
The Vols are anxious to get back on the field after losing a 4-0 decision to Jackson Prep on Thursday night.
It may be a busy time, but Slaughter doesn't look at it as a negative.
"It's a good thing to keep playing," Slaughter said. "You don't want to take off too much. The playoffs are coming up quick and we want to be ready.
"We've had a good season. Prep is a good team and haven't been beaten yet. They've beaten some public schools that are highly ranked. Losing 4-0 without two starters is not great but a step in the right direction."
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