The Meridian Star
On paper, Meridian Futbol Club's 1-0 win over Premier Futbol Club of Meridian Saturday in the State Games of Mississippi U10 Youth Soccer Tournament held little significance. With only three teams entered in the U10 division, both teams were assured a spot in Sunday's medal round.
However for supporters of MFC and PFC, city pride was on the line –– bragging rights that MFC now holds until the teams meet again.
“It's always fun,” MFC head coach Matt Castleberry said of the rivalry. “I don't put a lot of emphasis on them, because there are better teams that we have played and have been lucky enough to beat. The kids enjoy it, and we kind of talk it up afterwards.”
Meridian took the field an hour after a narrow 3-2 loss to Brandon and battled through heat and fatigue for much of the first half as PFC controlled the ball in the game's opening quarter. Late in the first quarter, MFC put itself in a good position with an opening in the box. However, PFC goalie Braden Dixon was quick on his feet, pouncing on the loose ball before MFC could control it for a shot.
MFC would get another golden opportunity in the second quarter, as it was awarded a free kick just outside the box. But once again the PFC defense snuffed out the threat, knocking the ball away from the box, and out of danger, as the two teams went into the half knotted at 0-0.
In the third quarter MFC finally broke through, when attacker Avery Anders weaved his way through two PFC defenders on the right sideline and blasted a shot past Dixon on the near post for the game's only goal.
“I thought I was going to miss it,” Anders said. “I just got lucky. I was trying to cross it at first, but no one was there, so I decided to take the shot.”
Castleberry said he was proud of the hustle he saw from his trigger-happy forward on the day and was glad to see the goal finally come.
“Avery has always got a motor,” Castleberry said. “He doesn't always do the best thing every time, but he puts shot on frame and has a big motor on him.”
Moments later, MFC nearly connected on another goal as Kirby McCracken made a nice cross to Anders in the box. However, Dixon swooped in just in time to snatch the ball mid-air before it could reach Anders foot.
PFC rallied in the game's closing minutes with a couple of quality looks from forward Zagar Cooper. The physical attacker broke free from his man on two separate occasions but failed to connect, missing just above the cross bar both times.
“They have had two hard games today,” Castleberry said of his team. “We lost the first one 3-2 to Brandon and had to play an hour later. With the heat out here today it was not the best conditions for them, but they played well.
“I'd like to see them start to move the ball a little bit better, but overall a win is a win.”
MFC and PFC will meet again today at 11:45 a.m. at the Jaycee Soccer Complex in an elimination with the winner advancing to the gold-medal game against Brandon later in the day.
Castleberry said expects a hard-fought and entertaining game from both sides.
“We just try to have fun,” Castleberry said. “We lost to them last time we played them before this game, and you can't get mad or anything. It's just going to be fun.”
PFC head coach Traye Torrance declined to comment after the loss.