By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 2016 campaign has been worthy of a novel for the Millington Trojan Soccer team.
The record finished at 6 wins, 5 defeats and 4 deadlocks. Head Coach Larry Dagen and Assistant Coach Andy Dupree had to navigate their players through a season of change, pains and future gains.
The future looks bright with young players like Kyle Strange and Antonio Roddy racing up the edges of the field. Even the underclassmen endured some injuries and setbacks.
But the hardest hit group by the injury bug appeared to be the seniors. Dagen’s determined and battle-tested 12th graders were still nursing aches when Jackson North Side arrived to the USA Stadium Soccer Field May 9 for the first round District 15-2A contest.
“Austin comes out here today after getting back to us missing the beginning of the season and turns his ankle,” Dagen said. “It’s just been that type of year for him and us. Ethan was not 100 percent and Jake has been hurt. But my boys gave their all today.”
After falling behind quickly and trailing 3-1 at halftime, the Trojans rallied with defense and two goals in the second half to force overtime. But the Indians prevailed 6-3 in extra time to advance and end the season for the Trojans.
Enduring the pain to compete against JNS were seniors like Austin Smith, Ethan Dupree and Jake Hawkins.
The speed and athleticism of the Indians gave them a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes. Before Smith left the game with his injury he stopped the JNS momentum with a laser goal off the head of an opponent.
The Indians led 3-1 at halftime. The Trojans were in comeback mode the rest of regulation. With some adjustments by the coaching staff on defense, Millington got shot opportunities for players like Dupree, Hawkins, Sergio Mireles, and Strange.
Meanwhile Millington senior goalkeeper Hunter Beckham did his job keeping the Indians scoreless. The lanky keeper used his tall frame to block shots out of mid air and grab the ball like a rebound in basketball.
Then the Trojans got a breakthrough when Mireles scored on a header off a corner kick to make the score 3-2 in favor of JNS.
The second half was drawing near a conclusion with the Trojans still trailing by a goal. With less than 2 minutes remaining, Hawkins raced up the field and toward the net with the ball. He launched a shot that was blocked but teammate Douglas Membreno was there to chip in the rebound to tie the game.
“They never gave up,” Dagen said. “There were times they could have just folded out here behind 3-1. But quitting never entered their minds.”
With momentum on their side, the Trojans entered the overtime of two 10-minute halves ready to seize the moment.
As both teams evenly possessed the ball early in the first half of overtime, the whistle blew a penalty was called in the box on a Trojan setting up a one-on-one with a JNS striker and Beckham.
Once the goal was scored giving JNS a 4-3 lead, it appeared the wind was knocked out the cells of the Millington players.
“We ran out of gas,” Dagen said. “We expensed a lot of energy getting back into this game. My boys played with the heart of a champion today. I couldn’t ask for more.”