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By JOEL COLEMAN
Earlier in the week, the Starkville Academy boys soccer team traveled to Columbus and beat Heritage Academy on their home turf.
Saturday, the Patriots returned the favor.
Heritage broke a scoreless tie late in the game and went on to defeat SA 2-0 at the Starkville Sportsplex.
"I'm not sure there was much up," said Volunteers head coach Robert Gardner. "We never had a foothold in the middle of the field. Thursday night, when we won 2-1, we owned the final 60 minutes of that game. The reality was our midfielders were brilliant on Thursday night. (Saturday) we just didn't have enough through our midfield and that's where games are won and lost."
Under cold, blustery conditions on a wet playing surface, neither team was able to score until Heritage's Graham McCain found the goal in the 71st minute.
It wasn't long until the Patriots added insurance as McGee Ledbetter scored on a free kick in the 73rd minute.
"I told the kids, if (SA) can beat us on our field, then we can do the same," said Heritage head coach Joe Asadi. "We put our heads together and said let's get it, and we got it."
With the win, Heritage improved to 9-2.
The Volunteers fell to 8-5.
"Heritage was the better team (Saturday)," said Gardner. "They deserved to win."
Gardner said it seemed his team was in a hurry all day on Saturday, a factor that contributed to SA's sluggish performance.
"The little things we usually do well, they were rushed today," said Gardner. "Long story short, we just didn't have any time on the ball. We took too many touches. We didn't take the shot at the right time. We stumbled all over ourselves. We killed counter attacks at our own will. It was just a tough day for us."
Saturday's results put Heritage into the playoffs as the division's runner-up.
Starkville Academy enters postseason play as the No. 3 team in the division.
The Vols will open the playoffs Monday in Hattiesburg against Presbyterian Christian.
Game time for the opening round contest is yet to be determined.
"(Saturday) was just a tough loss," said Gardner. "We'll lick our wounds and be ready to go on Monday."