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Angry Dogs: Natchez uses struggles as motivation for early season success

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Players including Franklin County High School’s Matt Brasher and Natchez High School’s Anthony Barnes and Herbert Steadman, right, reach for the ball during a game between the two teams earlier this season. Natchez fell to Franklin County 5-0 but is still 8-2 this season.

NATCHEZ — Herbert Steadman remembers the somewhat taunting questions last season from Brandon High School.

On the list of goals for the Natchez High School boys soccer team: beat Brandon.

“They made a complete fool of us,” Steadman said. “They were asking us if we were a real soccer team. They kept asking us, and we would say yes, but we just weren’t together (as a unit).”

But the Bulldogs are off to a good start this season at 8-2, and Steadman said there’s a world of difference between this year’s squad and last year’s.

“Our speed and teamwork is coming together at practice, and we’re staying together instead of everyone disagreeing,” Steadman said. “We’re working harder, and everyone is realizing their assignment.”

Fellow senior Nick Barnes said there are still instances the players argue with one another, but it’s not affecting them as much during the games.

“We argue more this year than last year,” Barnes said. “Much more. But there are less arguments in the game, and whoever has the ball will take the kick.”

Barnes did say the practices could and should go better than they usually do.

“In practice, we’re unfocused, but in the game we’re focused on making the goal or getting a defensive shutout,” Barnes said.

But even if there are problems at practice, Steadman said this year’s squad is light years ahead of last year’s in having the right attitude.

“We argued a lot and played around at practice, and people came to practice just so they could go to the away games and not to learn,” Steadman said. “This is a dedicated sport, and you have to be dedicated to play it.”

It’s also a sport that’s difficult to pick up, Steadman said.

“You have to learn the basics, and if you don’t, you won’t learn at all,” Steadman said.

But with a strong group of seniors, Steadman said the Bulldogs are poised to finish the year strong and hopefully make the playoffs.

“We have a lot of seniors that have been playing for a long time,” Steadman said. “People have been wanting to win, and once we started winning, people started to care.”

Steadman was selected to play in the MHSAA Class 6A North versus South All-Star game Feb. 9 in Clinton. Before he worries about any All-Star games, though, he wants his team to get past Brandon and go even further.

“We just want to make the playoffs,” Steadman said.