Sumrall soccer wants to take next step

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Sumrall soccer program isn’t a baby anymore. The Bobcats and the Lady Bobcats are in the midst of their fourth season as a program, and they’re primed to continue the tradition of making the playoffs every year of their existence.

However, neither team has ever won a playoff game, which is the next step for a pair of soccer teams that have seen so much regular-season success. After all, both squads aren’t strangers to the postseason, but the goal this season is to get past the first round.

It might be more of a mental battle, though.

“We’ve been close the past couple of years, but we’re experienced,” Todd Siders, the coach of both teams, said. “All of our girls have played for a long time now and all of our guys have played for a long time now, so it’s that mental leap that we belong here. That’s what it’s going to take for us to get over the hump.”

Both the Bobcats and Lady Bobcats are on pace to make the postseason easily. The Sumrall boys are 10-6 overall and 3-0 in the region with a 12-1 goal differential, while the Lady Bobcats are 10-4-1 overall (3-0 in region) after a 1-3 start to the season. The boys have three more region games left while the girls will play five more.

Both teams beat Philadelphia on Saturday to get their first wins in the new year, but Bobcats fell to Poplarville 3-1 Tuesday while the Lady Bobcats earned another win. The Lady Bobcats haven’t lost a game since Dec. 3 against Stone either, as they’ve collected seven wins and one tie to help right the ship. The three losses at the beginning of the season came against two 6A teams (Petal and D’Iberville) and 5A South Jones.

“We played some really good teams right off the start and figured out what we were good at and what our weaknesses were,” Siders said. “We’ve kind of minimalized some of those, and we’ve had a lot of young girls who have really developed and stepped up for us. They’re making big plays for us and making us more of a complete team than we were at the beginning of the season.”

Freshman Kylie McNair and junior Faith Abram were the first two names Siders mentioned when asked about those younger players. Abram has six goals this season while McNair has added five. Sumrall also has a handful of eighth graders and a seventh grader seeing the pitch, and the team will need those girls to set up down the stretch.

Junior Caragan Childs leads the team in goals scored this season with 38, but at least 11 other players have found the back of the net to help add to Sumrall’s scoring depth. Having so many threats to score gives Sumrall an advantage because opponents will key in on stopping Childs.

“She’s special,” Siders said of Childs. “It’s a rare combination of her speed and her powerful ability. That left foot is a gift from God. She can use her right. She’ll say she can’t, but she can. She has another level to her game that she doesn’t even know she has, and we need her to play like that. She knows that and she’s a talented player.”

On the boy’s side, similar to the Lady Bobcats, the boy’s team has started to pick up momentum since a Dec. 3 loss to Stone. Sumrall is 6-2 since that date, but it’s coming off a 3-1 loss to Poplarville Tuesday. 

After starting the season 1-2, Sumrall beat South Jones 1-0 in what Siders said was “arguably one of our better wins in our history,” but the win came with some consequences. The Bobcats went 2-2 immediately after the South Jones win, but then they won six out of the next seven games. It still hasn’t satisfied Siders, though.

“I don’t know if it got to our head a little bit,” Siders said of the South Jones win. “We’ve struggled to put the ball in the back of the net, and we’ve left too many out there. We just don’t hate losing enough. We’ve lost some games I’ve felt like we shouldn’t have, and we have to learn to get a little more angry about it and get better from it.”

Junior Benson Trussell leads the team with 14 goals, but seniors Gabe Dent and Jathan Stevens both have six and five goals, respectively. 

“We have to get somebody to step up and score for us, because Benson has been doing a lot for us lately,” Siders said. “We need him to, but we need some of the other guys like Jathan, Gabe and some of our seniors. We’re heavily senior-laden and we have a lot of ability, but it’s time for us to put it together.”

Sumrall has three region contests left on the schedule, but it’ll play undefeated Franklin County and a tough Sacred Heart team in non-region games to help get the Bobcats ready for the postseason. Sumrall could very well sweep the three remaining region games, but the matchups like Franklin County and Sacred Heart will make the Bobcats better, too.

“We play some teams that we know are better than us so we can see first hand what we have to improve upon,” Siders said. “We play games we know going in that we’re probably going to win if we play well, so it’s all about getting ready for the district and the playoffs.”