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By DANNY P. SMITH
It was a realization of dreams eight years in the making.
The Starkville Bulldogs Powerade Under-14 boys soccer team put together quite an impressive string of championships which have never before been witnessed in the city.
By capturing the state Division 3 (Recreation) championship, the Division 2 (Challenge) championship and the State Games of Mississippi title, soccer enthusiasts believe the Powerade Bulldogs have accomplished more than any team in the history of sport in Starkville.
Glenna Sullivan, the team manager of the Bulldogs, reflected with her husband on how much the hard work of the coaches and players paid off.
"It's been awesome and it has taken us several years to reach this point," Sullivan said. "These boys have worked so hard and dedicated so much time and so have the parents."
Sullivan said the majority of the Bulldogs have been together since they first played soccer with Under-6 and there was a commitment to keep the team in tact throughout the years.
Through that effort and the hard work of the coaches, it has turned into what Sullivan calls a "win-win" situation.
"The boys get to win and get their name in the newspaper," Sullivan said. "They get a new board at the Sportsplex and it's what rec sports is all about. You start from the bottom and work your way up. Hopefully it has led these boys to see what hard work can do for them because it's definitely not been easy."
The members of the Starkville Bulldogs are Michael Bennett, Dantae Bush, Arman Borazjani, Connor Dunne, William (Pierce) Fondren, Michael Godley, Caleb Gwaltney, Luke Josey, Christian Kingery, Layton Little, Daniel Luck, Ben Mackin, Aaron Meek, Alex Ross, Juan Salazar, Corey Sherman, Michael Sullivan, Alan Vasquez, Cameron Whittle and Grant Wolfe. The coaches are Merrill Bush and Erik Mylroie.
The championship at the State Games was the third-straight for the Bulldogs.
Bush said the reason for the success has been due to determination and commitment as a team and individual players.
"They showed up at the practices and trained to constantly try and get better," Bush said. "They came together and supported each other well. Those are the things that make a good team a great team. The guys definitely have the chemistry where they want to win at any level they go to.
"We had our goals on winning the Kohl's Cup, the President's Cup and the State Games. We won all three and also represented Mississippi in the regional playoffs against 12 other surrounding states. We competed well against an Arkansas team, a South Carolina team and lost against North Texas."
The loss to North Texas was the first for the Bulldogs in three months.
In Mississippi, there's basically three levels of soccer. There's the rec team that plays Kohl's Cup and Starkville had enough boys to make up two teams there. The second level is called D-2 which is the bridge between rec and Select. For extra training, D-2 is the bridge to get on for the President's Cup and State Games. The final level is the Select soccer.
"We only had two rec teams in our age group and got first and second in the Northern District and first and second in the state so we're kind of proud," Sullivan said.