How much potential does the Starkville Academy boys soccer team have?
As far as SA coach Robert Gardner is concerned, all someone has to do is look at Tuesday night's second half against East Rankin Academy.
The Volunteers were locked in a 1-1 battle at halftime, but scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half and went on to a 5-1 victory at the Starkville Sportsplex.
Gardner was not pleased with the first half, but liked the effort of his squad more in the second 40 minutes.
"It's no secret that we didn't play up to our potential in the first half," Gardner said. "The first half was confusing for me. We didn't communicate well and didn't press the final four of the field.
"The challenge I offered them was to win by using their heads and not just by being physically dominant. I just wanted them to work as a team and if we do that, we can get the result. We scored our third goal in the second half by the 10th minute. That's the only proof we need there.
Drew Pellum scored all three of his goals in the second half, while Jake Goodwin also scored as Starkville Academy secured the decision.
Pellum said Gardner's message at halftime was to "possess the ball more and attack the defenders."
"That was vital in us keeping the ball as long as we had it," Pellum said.
Gardner values Pellum's leadership and told him so after the match.
He was also pleased with the play of Goodwin and the other wide midfielders.
"(Pellum) is such a good player and extremely smart," Gardner said. "Drew will be the first one to tell you that he didn't play as well as he could have in the first half, but I thought he was much better in the second half. It's not just the goals, but his movement. I thought he involved his teammates extremely well, just by holding the ball up and using the support of Jake Goodwin and the wide midfielders.
"Jack Burton played well in the first half as well as the second half. It was good to see because it was plenty of energy at the start of the first half."
The other goal for the Vols was scored by Matt Jones in the first half, while East Rankin got its goal on a penalty kick.
Starkville Academy, which improved to 8-1-1 overall and 5-0 in Class AAA-District II play, plays Jackson Prep at home Thursday night.