By JOEL COLEMAN
Starkville High boys soccer coach Brian Bennett didn't feel like his team played its best match Saturday against Amory.
Still, it was good enough.
The Yellowjackets got two first-half goals, one each from Taylor Wise and Justin Gordon, then held on for a 2-1 win against Amory.
"We just kind of looked flat today," said Bennett. "We missed some chances. We could have put them away and relaxed, but we couldn't ever really get relaxed. We had a game (Friday), but it wasn't too rough, so I don't know what it was. Those kinds of things, if I could figure them out, I'd be a lot better off."
Regardless, the Jackets were able to survive and move to 7-0-1 for the season.
A big part of that was the play of Jackets goalkeeper Muhammad Dalhalalla.
The senior back-up goalie, playing in place of starter Addison Watson who was out of town, halted numerous Panther scoring opportunities throughout the contest, allowing just a second half goal to Michael Wathen.
"He's done really good," said Bennett. "He played great (Friday against New Hope) too. He got a shutout Friday, and he made several key stops (Saturday). Those are the things he's good at. The only thing that really hurts him as a goalkeeper is his height. He doesn't have a big wingspan. Everything else, he's pretty tight with."
While Bennett was pleased with Dalhalalla, one thing the SHS leader would have liked to have seen Saturday was a little more offensive production.
Bennett met with his team for several minutes following Saturday's contest to emphasize as much.
"We've been working on just getting the ball in front," said Bennett. "We kind of played it to the keeper (Saturday). We didn't quite get it out far enough. Some of them, we just let it get by us. I wish I knew why. Some of that has to do with speed. (Amory) is a little bit better than some of the other teams we've played so we kind of had to play a little bit out of our comfort zone with our speed level."
Even with a game opponent, SHS continues to roll on.
The Jackets' only blemish this season came in a tie against Clinton.
"That was probably our best game," said Bennett.
To keep up the top-notch performances, Bennett says it's vital that his team absorbs potential injuries and inevitable absences, even though the cast of characters behind the Jackets' starters are getting better each game.
"We're solid with our first 11," said Bennett. "But somebody could get hurt or not be here. So sometimes, guys are going to have to step up. The bench guys have been really improving so that could be a big key later on in the season."
After a blistering hot start, Starkville High's girls soccer team seems to have hit their first snag.
The Lady Yellowjackets fell to Amory on Saturday, losing for the second time in as many days.
New Hope defeated Starkville 2-1 on Friday.
Amory's Addie Forbus scored all three goals for the Lady Panthers (3-6) on Saturday.
Forbus, who is verbally committed to Ole Miss, spoiled what Starkville head coach Anna Albritton considered to be a very strong performance by her team.
"We dominated the entire game," said Albritton. "We just can't finish. To be honest, it just has to do with inexperience. I have 12-year olds, 13-year olds and 14-year olds out there running my midfield and as my striker. You just have to keep sending them out there and let them keep doing it."
Save for Friday and Saturday, Albritton's youthful team has done just fine for themselves.
Starkville (6-2) opened the year with six-straight wins.
"We played some teams that were, in all honesty, weaker than us," said Albritton. "But it helped us gain our confidence. I knew after Thanksgiving we'd hit the hard part of the schedule and we'd see what we were made of."
That stretch began with Friday's loss to New Hope.
"An unfortunate handball in the box," said Albritton. "That's what gave (New Hope) the break."
It continued with Saturday's loss to the Lady Panthers.
"I have to learn to be patient," said Albritton. "I have to keep their heads up. They're all learning. There are some girls learning new positions and some that are just out of their comfort zones."
Adding to the tough weekend, Albritton's daughter, junior outside midfielder Ashley Albritton, injured her knee in Saturday's loss.
Coach Albritton says her daughter's season is most likely over, and possibly her career.
"We're going to miss her," said Coach Albritton. "My job now is to find someone to replace her."
Though Ashley Albritton is out, Coach Albritton says her Lady Jackets still have plenty of others who can help the squad stay competitive.
"Christine Mazzola is a junior who has held the middle well," said Albritton. "Alex Mazzola is a ninth grader who has done an outstanding job. So has Jennifer Henderson and Meghan Wolf on defense."
Coach Albritton's roster of talent has her excited about the possibilities for both the remainder of this season and the years to come, despite the current growing pains.
"I looked at the sidelines (Saturday) and asked the team if they saw the potential of how good we can be," said Coach Albritton. "They all said yes. We just can't finish right now."