Starkville's Austin Wileman (17) and Lewis Maynard (13) look to get control of the soccer ball in a match earlier this season, while Price Day (8) moves in to assist. The Yellowjackets play for the Class 5A State Championship today in Clinton. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville High School football and soccer teams' have something in common.
After today, both will have played in a state championship game.
The soccer Yellowjackets play Pascagoula High School in Clinton at 3:30 p.m. and it has been a surreal experience as it is looking to do something that has never been done before at SHS.
"To win that game, it will mean making history," senior Jacket defender Austin Wileman said. "Our school has never won it before and to have the ability to win that and be down in history for Starkville High would be amazing."
Just like the other playoff games, there is little turnaround for this match. SHS head coach Brian Bennett has seen the Panthers play this year, but has done some additional research.
"We watched them play," Bennett said. "We went down to the coast earlier. My assistant coach is from that area so he has been on the phone and Internet and is getting a lot of good information on them. They are a good solid squad."
The Yellowjackets have eight seniors on the roster and they know the season will end after this game but they want to go out with a win.
"I am really pumped up about it," senior SHS goalie Addison Watson said. "Six guys that are staring are seniors. I know we are all going to go out there and play our hearts out. It's for sure our last game this time. Nobody wants it to end but sooner it later, it's going to have to. We have got four of those guys that are starting that are seniors that aren't really going to get much more of an opportunity to play again. I really expect a lot out of those guys and they expect a lot out of us and themselves. I really hope we can go down there and win the state title for the school, for the guys and for me. I and really that hope we can come away and take the victory."
This week's practice has been light with most of it focused on communications and getting in the right mind.
Bennett was hoping to find a field to practice on Thursday and Friday with a similar turf as Clinton's.
"I gave them off (Wednesday) so they could get rested and get their emotions back down," Bennett said. "(We want to) Just do a lot of talking about what we need to do and the mental state because that is huge in soccer."
Watson has started at goalie for five years in Starkville and this is new territory for him. He knows that saving energy this week is what they need to do.
"We don't want to do anything to physical that is going to hurt us," Watson said. "But we want to make sure our consistency is still there. It's really going to be about us talking and communicating in practice and making sure that everybody is OK and good to go for (today). Coach does a really good job of keeping us fresh for a games, but the main emphasis is just going to be to speak to each other on the field , play like we have been playing and we will win that state championship."
The Jackets used to play in Class 6A, but they dropped down to 5A and everybody was excited about the change.
The players began the season with the goal of winning a state championship and they knew they could make it this far.
"We definitely had it mind," Wileman said. "Once we dropped down to 5A, it boosted our spirits because we knew 5A had some skill, but we knew we were better than a lot of the teams and we knew we could get through a lot in 5A."
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