Photo by Robert Smith

By Robert Wilson

Hartfield Academy’s Gage Sorey had his sights set on playing college soccer next season, but after his outstanding season on the football field this fall, he might choose or add another sport to play at the next level.

The senior free safety is tied for the lead in the nation with 12 interceptions, according to MaxPreps. Sorey is a big reason why Hartfield has a 9-2 record and is one win away from returning to the MAIS Class 6A state championship game. No. 3 seed Hartfield plays No. 2 seed Jackson Prep today at 7 p.m. at Prep in the semifinals.

Photo by Robert Smith

The 6-foot, 180-pound Sorey is tied with Kevin Dodard of Lake County Christian in Fort Worth, Texas, and Jack Nash of Colony High in Palmer, Alaska, for the national lead. Gage is three interceptions away from tying the Mississippi record, set by the late Steve McNair, who had 15 interceptions in 1990 for MHSAA Class 1A Mount Olive High before going on to be an All-American quarterback at Alcorn State and Super Bowl winner in the NFL.

Sorey has 145 interception return yards and has returned two interceptions for TDs, one each against Greenville Christian and Jackson Academy.

Sorey is also Hartfield’s top receiver with 41 catches for 774 yards (an 18.9-yard average) and eight touchdowns and has returned 17 punts for 151 yards (an 8.9-yard average). In addition, Sorey is the holder on field goal attempts, including holding for Conner Mullins’ 39-yarder on the last play of the game to upset three-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy two weeks ago.

Photo by Robert Smith

“Gage is the type of player who doesn’t come along very often,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “He is a very good soccer player and so he understands space and angles. Gage has been a three-year starter in our secondary and has always been a standout player. He understands every aspect of our defense and has a knowledge of where everyone is on the field. Gage is where he is supposed to be and is able to close in on the ball very quickly. He is also fun to coach because he has such a high level of understanding the game.

“Gage will be an incredible asset to whatever school and sport he chooses. We were all really excited when we saw he was tied for the most interceptions in the country. That is really exciting for him, his family, and our school. Gage always brings his best. He is one of the hardest practice players I have coached and that is why he has had so much success on Friday nights.”

Millsaps College, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Hinds CC and Birmingham Southern has shown interest in football.

“I think I have been able to get a lot more interceptions this year because of my technique and instincts got better,” Sorey said. “It’s really cool for me to be leading the nation in interceptions. I have improved this year with the help of our new defensive back coach (Ryan Lindsey). He helped me a lot with my technique. I do not know which sport I will be playing yet any more in college. I originally only wanted to play soccer, but now I’m not sure.”

Sorey’s parents, Tina and Todd, were standout tennis players and won several state championships at Forest High in the late 1980s. Tina played at Southern Miss and Todd played at Jones County Junior College.

“Gage has the athletic gift of instinctually seeing the whole play develop right after the ball is snapped,” Hartfield defensive coordinator Jeff McFerran said. “He is also a student of the game by watching a lot of film. Gage has been fun to watch because he thrives on the challenge as a defensive back to create illusions to quarterbacks that he is beat or not near the ball then breaks at the right time to break up a play or get an interception.”

Photo by Robert Smith

“Gage has had such a great season because he’s an extremely hard worker with instincts and intangibles that you just can’t teach,” said Lindsey, who played at Wingfield High from 2002-2005 and is the head coach of the Mississippi Wolfpack national travel team since 2017. “His feel for the game is second to none. Gage never cheats the game and trusts what he sees on film. He is what I call an eraser because he cleans up everyone else’s mistakes and that in itself is invaluable. Having Gage out there is just like having another coach on the field. I was able to show him a few things that he wasn’t quite familiar with and also help him clean up some small things within his footwork to eliminate false steps. Gage is a such a great player and it’s a blessing to be able to work with him this year.”

Sorey has been a starter on the Hartfield soccer team since the seventh grade. He has helped the Hawks to two state championships and two runner-up finishes. Sorey scored 12 goals and led Hartfield to a 16-2 record and a state runner-up finish last season. The Hawks have played in the state title game for the past four seasons.

Hartfield opens the season against MHSAA Class 6A state championship contender Oak Grove Nov. 29 at Hartfield.

“Gage is an incredible player,” Hartfield coach Jake Benton said. “He’s the kind of guy that you trust to show in the big moments. He craves the game changing play. Last year we went to penalty kicks twice with Jackson Prep and Gage was the fifth kicker and he had to score to win both games. When you watch him on the long walk up to the ball you just know it’s a wrap. Gage oozes confidence but not arrogance. I’ve coached him since the seventh grade, and he’s started every game. I’ve learned that Gage is the type of player you don’t take off the field. His moment will come, and he will be ready in the big moments.

“He has spoken with a few Division I schools (Tulsa and Alabama-Birmingham). (Division II) Mississippi College) wants him. At this point he has a tough decision to make. I know he can play football at the next level too. There’s not a college in Mississippi who doesn’t want him on the soccer field.”