It was quite an afternoon for Starkville High School soccer player Taylor Wise on Saturday.
After signing with Hinds Community College earlier in the day, Wise scored a pair of goals to lead the Yellowjackets to a 2-0 victory over Hernando in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
"It's been an all around great day," Wise said after the match. "Being in the second round of the playoffs, trying to go back-to-back (state champions) and moving on to a college career, it doesn't get much better than that."
Wise said there was a little bit more motivation than normal after signing with Hinds because he had family, friends and past coaches there to witness the occasion.
With 20:45 remaining in the first half, Wise scored off an assist by Dylan Howard to put Starkville up 1-0.
"At first, I was looking for a teammate because I didn't think I was going to be able to slide that in," Wise said. "I saw that the goalie went more out to the goalline instead of toward me, so I just tried to go far post and it just went in for me."
The second goal for Wise and the Jackets came in the last 2 minutes of the match on a penalty kick.
SHS boys soccer coach Brian Bennett has noticed Wise turn up his level of play in the last two matches.
"He has been picking it up his whole career," Bennett said. "He has a big frame and is starting to put some muscle on it. He's getting in position to kind of bump people out of the way."
Wise was valuable part of the Jackets during last year's Class 5A State championship run and he knows the prize can't be accomplished without effort.
"It's tiring, but you've got to give it all to win a state championship," Wise said. "You've got to have people beside you, teammates and coaches. You've just got to give it your all."
Bennett knew going into Saturday's match that Hernando was going to present a tremendous challenge.
He was pleased with the way SHS possessed the soccer ball and played defense.
"We knew that Hernando was a very dangerous team and had most of their guys back from the North State championship game from last year," Bennett said. "In the first half, we (possessed) the ball better. We had chances to score and should have put them away and would have made the game a little bit more relaxed.
"Hernando is known for its scoring ability. (Michael) Godley has only been scored on twice this year (Tupelo and New Hope). He's been strong all year and the team plays real confident with him because they know if something goes wrong, he's there covering for them."
The Jackets improved their record to 15-1-1 and travel to Oxford for the Class 5A North State championship match.