By Robert Wilson
Photos by Brad Bridges and Robert Smith

       There is a new boys soccer champion on Lakeland Drive and it’s not Jackson Prep.

       Hartfield Academy rallied from three goals down in the first half and upset nationally ranked Prep 6-4 in overtime in a remarkable comeback to win the MAIS Division I state championship at Hartfield in Flowood.

       Now, Hartfield can claim the title of King of Lakeland Drive in boys soccer in the same classification as Prep, who has won 24 state boys soccer titles in its history, including 10 straight from 2010-2018.

       Hartfield, which was playing in its fifth consecutive state championship game, finished 13-5 and won its third title in four seasons, the first two were Division II in 2020 and 2021 before the Hawks moved up to Division I last season and lost to Jackson Academy in the championship game. Hartfield had lost to Prep 4-2 and 5-1 in the two regular season meetings this year.

       Prep – ranked No. 6 in the country by MaxPreps – finished 23-3 and lost its first game to a MAIS team this season.

       It looked like Prep – which had allowed only 11 goals and had 14 shutouts before Monday night – was going to cruise to another championship. Prep jumped out to a 3-0 lead when senior forward Nathan Werne scored off a cross from junior Wilson Berry, senior forward Luke Harrigill scored off a rebound and senior forward Will Upton scored on a long kick for the big lead midway through the first half.

       Said Hartfield coach Jake Benton: “My message was to keep fighting. We still have 60 minutes to play and plenty of time to turn it around.”

       And turn it around Hartfield did.

       Junior Hudson McIntyre put Hartfield on the board with a goal at the 28-minute mark and then senior Matthew Barone tapped in a header by senior Gage Sorey to cut the lead to 3-2 at halftime.

       Upton scored his second goal on a breakaway five minutes into the second half for a 4-2 Prep lead then Hartfield answered when Sorey scored to cut the lead to 4-3 two minutes later.

       Hartfield eighth-grader Colin McIntryre, off an assist by Barone, scored on a header to tie the game at 4-4 with 4 minutes to play.

       Neither team scored in the first 10 minutes of overtime then Sorey scored his second goal on a header from an assist by Hudson McIntyre one minute into the second 10-minute overtime period for a 5-4 Hartfield lead. One minute later, Hudson McIntyre scored a goal for a 6-4 lead. Hartfield held Prep scoreless for the last eight minutes.

       “The amount of fight and selflessness the boys showed was everything I desire as a coach, a husband and a dad,” said Benton, who won his fifth state title (three boys and two girls) in his nine years at Hartfield. “We get one shot at life and the boys treated last night like it was the last chance they had to play this beautiful game. Never, ever give up until they blow that final whistle. There’s not enough words I could use to describe how proud I am to get to coach these kids. We had some rough patches during the season but late on we regrouped, and everyone committed themselves to one another. Winning is fun and all, but my main takeaway is all glory be to Christ. Thankful to be a part of something special. We stayed true to our motto – hard to win, easy to lose, be hard to beat. That’s been our mentality all season.”

       Meanwhile, Prep – the dominant boys soccer program for the past four decades – failed to win a championship for the third consecutive year.

Hartfield’s surprising comeback denied Prep coach Jon Marcus Duncan of his 15th boys soccer state title and 29th overall (he has won 14 girls soccer state titles).

       Duncan has a 791-159-68 overall record – a remarkable 83.2 winning percentage – and 28 state titles in his 23 seasons at Prep. He has a 437-76-27 boys record and a 354-83-31 girls record.

       Duncan, 46, is second in Mississippi history in career combined boys and girls wins behind Karl Friedrich, who finished with 831 victories in 32 seasons at Harrison Central.

       “I thought we came out of the gates exactly how we needed to,” Duncan said. “Our possession was good; we were creating chances on goal and our defense was solid. To go up 3-0 20 minutes into the match was a great start. Momentum definitely shifted at halftime when Hartfield cut the lead to 3-2. Our response in the second half was spot on and Will Upton got us a two-goal advantage. From there, the game shifted again. Credit to Hartfield players, and especially Coach Benton for battling back. It is a difficult task to come back down three goals but they did it. I’m extremely proud of our team this year. It’s never easy losing the last game especially when that’s the game that will mostly be remembered. We had a great group of seniors and I’m excited what we have coming back next year.”