Starkville High School soccer players Addison Watson, seated left, signed with Missouri State University and Austin Wileman, seated right, signed with Itawamba Community College on Wednesday. Among those lending support were Addison's mother Dorothy Watson, SHS assistant coach Stephen Frederick, SHS boys soccer coach Brian Bennett, SHS assistant coach and Austin's mother Diana Wileman and Austin's father Steve Wileman. (Submitted photo)
Football had to share the spotlight with soccer for a little while at Starkville High School on Wednesday.
Goalie Addison Watson signed with Missouri State and defender Austin Wilemon inked with Itawamba Community College.
Missouri State plays in the Missouri Valley Conference and is located in Springfield.
"It's huge," SHS head coach Brian Bennett said of Watson's scholarship. "It is something he has worked for. He has put a lot time in with his club teams and extra practices. It is one of his big goals and I am glad he has got to achieve it."
Watson has been a five-year starter for the Yellowjackets. He is excited for the rare opportunity.
"Well, it's not an opportunity you see much in the state of Mississippi to be able to go play for a Division I school or even a junior college, but it's a really good opportunity," Watson said. "I am really proud of all the guys who came to support me during this process and all the people that have helped me. My mom especially. I really just want to give thanks to all the people who have been out there with me on the training grounds and helped me."
Soccer is not a big sport in the state of Mississippi so it is considered a big deal that he gets a Division I scholarship.
The campus and his choice of study were huge draws for him to sign with the Bears.
"I really like the campus," Watson said. "The coach really seemed like he was interested in the abilities I (have). Their coaching staff seemed very beneficial. The campus is a beautiful campus and with criminology kind of their focal point, that's the main reason I liked it."
Missouri State head coach Jim Leamy is excited that Watson chose the Bears.
"We are really excited about Addison choosing us," Leamy said. "He came to our camp this summer, then he visited us in the fall and got to see a game. He is a good fit."
Watson's academics and work ethic set him a part and gives Leamy a lot of confidence in his abilities.
"He is a good student," Leamy said. "He has got that perspective. He works hard and he does the extra things on his own. He will continue to make improvements."
Wilemon will be taking his talents just north to play for head coach Mike Sullivan, who is a SHS graduate.
"Big strong, tall, physical guy," Sullivan said of Wilemon. "He looks like he has good ball skills that we will be able to use at our level. I like the size. Right now, we are building. Our back line next year is going to be huge. He will be able to move and play. He is quick on his feet. One of the the things I really like, because at the next level it's a much more physical game, he can definitely be a part of the physicalness I think. He is playing for somebody who is a great coach now so he will be use to our style of play which is going to be very possession-oriented, kind of like what Starkville is doing now. I think he is going to fit in very well with us. We are looking forward to having him."
Wilemon is quick to credit his teammates for his scholarship.
"This opportunity is huge," Wilemon said. "Just to have an ability to keep playing soccer. I couldn't have done it without my team. I am really not a solid player unless I have a good team on my back too."
Bennett and Sullivan played together for the Yellowjackets and Bennett helped coach the Indians in an assistant role for one year. Bennett pushed Wilemon toward the Indians.
"My coach Brian Bennett use to play with Sullivan," Wilemon said. "He told me about how great the campus was. It's huge. I just enjoyed my visit there and that's basically why I chose it because it's a really nice campus."
That is not the only exciting opportunity the two players have this week.
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They will be leading the Jackets into the Class 5A State Championship Saturday at Clinton High School against Pascagoula High School at 3:30 p.m.