Jake Benton won a state boys soccer championship at Northwest Rankin High and a national men’s soccer championship with Belhaven University.
Now he has coached a state championship boys soccer team.
Benton led his Hartfield Academy boys soccer team to the MAIS Division II state title Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Washington School at Jackson Academy.
Benton was a first team All-State selection and led Northwest Rankin to a Class 6A state title as a senior in 2008. Then Benton, as a junior, helped Belhaven to a NAIA national title in 2012. He was the only Mississippian on the team.
Benton was hired by Hartfield after graduation from Belhaven and has been at the Rankin County private school for the past six seasons. He won first state title this past fall with the girls team after being in the finals three other years. And the boys made it to the finals last season for the first time.
Hartfield’s boys finished with a 13-6-1 record with twolosses to MAIS Division I powers Jackson Prep and Jackson Academy and a tie to Madison-Ridgeland Academy. Prep, which defeated JA for its 10th straight Division I state title, and JA, who had won the Division I state title from 2017-2019, each only beat Hartfield 2-0. Hartfield also defeated MAIS semifinalist MRA and lost to public school power St. Andrews. Hartfield lost twice to Washington, the team Hartfield defeated in the championship game.
Hartfield didn’t have any seniors and had one junior, five sophomores, three freshmen and two eighth graders in the starting lineup. Junior midfielder Zach Sorey and sophomore striker Blake Primos are the two captains. Soreyscored the winning goal against Washington in the state title game and Primos scored the first goal. Freshman center midfielder Gage Sorey and freshman defensive midfielder Kaden Archer are two more of Hartfield’s top players.
“Even though we have an extremely young group I think the pain from last year’s loss (in the championship game) stayed with them all year,” Benton said. “We have a young team, but they are all talented soccer players. We’re not big so we worked on moving the ball quickly and making sure we kept the field extremely compact defensively all year. My DNA is all about hard work so with all my teams, that’s the first thing I try to ingrain in them. This team worked hard all summer with strength and conditioning. It sounds easy, but during all the difficult conditioning I’m focusing on building their mental strength. The mental game is what took us to the next level this year, believing in themselves and their teammates. These boys really fought for each other and made it about something bigger than themselves. They played with heart, passion and a desire to win all year long. The greatest satisfaction to me was seeing them push through adversity and being rewarded for all they went through during those long, tough training sessions. I think we all saw that hard work pays off in the end. The magic was good old fashion hard work.”
“The success of a great high school coach starts with relationships. They develop trust with their players, model hard work, and put the time into teaching skills of their sport,” Hartfield head of school David Horner said. “Those are the areas where Coach Benton has been successful – as a result of it, he’s developed a championship program.”
“Jake was a great team player and worked for everything he accomplished,” Northwest Rankin coach Chris Gardner said. “He was All-State and received a scholarship as a result. Jake was a tremendous goal scorer for us, but ended up playing different position in college and was successful in that role as well. He has become a fantastic young man. I’m hoping one day he takes over for me at Northwest. I’d trust him with this program.”