By JOEL COLEMAN
To the casual observer, the Starkville High boys soccer team's 4-0 win over Columbus Saturday at the Starkville Sportsplex might have seemed a bit like a replay.
Just six days after the Yellowjackets defeated the Falcons 3-0 in Columbus, SHS put away its Golden Triangle rival again by a similar margin, but Starkville head coach Brian Bennett said Saturday's triumph was strikingly different than Monday's victory.
"(On Monday) it just seemed like we were playing long ball and not really getting into any kind of rhythm in the game," said Bennett. "(Saturday) we were really concentrating on getting some passes down and working it."
Starkville's renewed focus led to four different Jackets scoring goals as SHS improved to 4-0 for the young season.
Aiding Starkville's cause, according to Bennett, was the wider dimensions of the field at the Starkville Sportsplex.
"That was an advantage for us and helped us play balls and keep them on the ground a little better (Saturday) than we did (Monday)," said Bennett. "But we worked on that in practice all week too and that's something that we've got to do as we start playing better teams. If we make ourselves chase balls for 80 minutes, we're going to be one worn out team."
The Jackets controlled the pace of Saturday's match from the beginning, keeping the majority of the action on their side of the field.
That finally paid off for SHS late in the first half when Dylan Howard scored to put Starkville up 1-0.
The Jackets maintained their slim advantage until the middle portion of the second half when Kolby Howard and Taylor Wise each added goals.
Justin Gordon put in the contest's final goal with just seconds remaining.
All the while, Columbus struggled to find any scoring opportunities, giving SHS goalkeeper Addison Watson a slow day.
"We were missing a couple of guys in the back, but we had some guys step up and make the plays when they needed to," said Watson of Starkville's defense. "That makes my job easy having strong defenders like that."
Bennett said defensive performances like Saturday's are an example of what his team is capable of.
"(Defense) is definitely one of our strong points," said Bennett. "We dropped guys back there to keep it strong. Ideally, we want to build from the back and start those passes from the back and work it up.
"We want to be strong in the back, not just physically and having the ability to kick the ball far, but we want to be able to settle that ball and pass it around."
Starkville will look for similar defensive success on Nov. 29 when the Jackets return to play by traveling to Tupelo. The girls' match begins at 5 p.m.
Carolina Berryhill's hat trick sparked Starkville's dominant win over Columbus.
Aside from Berryhill's three goals, Hannah Laird scored twice and Kate Mattox, Haley Jenkins and Katelyn Swiderski each had a goal apiece for the Lady Yellowjackets.
"We played an excellent game," said Berryhill. "We played with confidence and did what we needed to do to win."
Starkville improved to 4-0-1 this season with the victory.