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Come fall in love with soccer

I spent several hours Saturday at the recreation department soccer complex. Several matches were ongoing simultaneously all through the morning and early afternoon. Other local teams were playing on the road. Parking was at a premium. Excited soccer players from toddlers to teenagers were running all over the place. Coaches hoarse from screaming were in various stages of elation and frustration. I thought back 20 years to when our daughters began to play. There was one game at a time, maybe two on a busy day. Most parents, including this one, didn’t know the rules. Our youngest tried out for the area’s first academy team and made it. My soccer journey began and I have enjoyed every minute of it. For the past several years I have had the pleasure of working with the LC Lightning select team, the first such team made up almost entirely of Lamar County girls. Eleven of them, all but one being freshmen, play on the Lamar County varsity girls team now and are key contributors because they were immersed in fundamentals very young under coach Jeff Mason. It is amazing how much these young ladies have grown and developed since I went to my first practice with them in the summer of 2018. Last week, I watched the Lady Trojans easily win a Sweet 16 playoff game I thought they might lose before a huge crowd at the LC soccer stadium. It was the largest crowd I have seen at a high school soccer match. The following day, the Trojans also won a Sweet 16 match and nearly duplicated the crowd size. It was thrilling to hear the crowd chant ‘LC. LC. LC.’ at soccer matches. Coaches Wayne Calvert and Dontauneia Traylor of the Lady Trojans and Ed Jules and Ricci Jules of the Trojans have guided their teams to the Elite 8 round of the playoffs. That has happened only once before in 2014. Which brings us to Wednesday, which will be a mammoth day for LC soccer. Both LC teams drew Bremen as their next opponent. Both the Blue Devils and Lady Devils are ranked #1 in the state. They will be here for a soccer playoff doubleheader in which both LC teams will be underdogs looking to slay Goliath. The games have huge implications for this season but will also serve as a barometer of local player development. Both LC teams are young with perhaps their best years ahead of them. Can these teams – and these players – take that next step and prove themselves to be elite? I have spent the last three years working with the Lamar middle school girls and have watched the middle school boys closely. Coaches Kelly Adamson and Chaz Ellerbee are doing a great job grooming their players. Rest assured, there is talent – a lot of talent – in the pipeline. Wednesday provides an opportunity for this program to emerge as a dominant one. It will be an evening to remember. If you are already a soccer fan, this is about as good as it gets at the high school level. If you are not a fan, come expose yourself to what fans worldwide call ‘˜the beautiful game’. The action begins at 5:30 p.m. Bring a chair. It will be a packed house!

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