Coach Jon Marcus Duncan won his 25th state soccer championship Saturday afternoon for Jackson Prep. But this one was different.
Prep was the hunter, not the hunted this time.
Jackson Academy had won the last three girls state championships and had defeated Prep eight straight times, including two this season.
This time the day belonged to Prep. Prep defeated JA 2-1 for the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools Division I championship to give Duncan his 12th girls state title to go along with 13 boys state titles. The Lady Patriotsfinished 19-2, with its only two losses to JA.
“All the state championships are special, but this onehad a different feel,” said Duncan, who is in his 20th season at Prep. “The girls were locked in today. I have six seniors and they had lost to JA eight times in a row and wanted this one. It was also special because my daughter, Jessie, was a starter (sophomore defender) and that was icing on the cake. It reminded me in the spring of 1991 when I was an eighth grader and my dad (Jimmy) was the coach and it was special for him.”
Duncan, whose boys teams have won nine straight titles in a row, was excited for his six seniors on the girls team, who hadn’t tasted the sweet flavor of a state title since 2015. Forwards Anna Grace Morgan, Maggie Muenzennay, Summer Wheat and Campbell Perkins and defenders Cassidy Zummallen and Caroline Dreher was able to be winners in their final high school game. Morgan scored the first Prep goal 10 minutes into the game and Muenzennayscored the second Prep goal seven minutes later. Prep was able to hold JA to only one goal in the second half to claim the championship.
“We had lightning in a bottle Saturday,” said Duncan, who has been assisted by T Jay Busin for the past two seasons. “This senior group was always picking each other up and the rest of the team as well.”
It was a tough ending for JA, which finished this season with a 14-4-1 record. The Lady Raiders, despite losing eightstarters from last year’s state title team, and having a new head coach – Robert Gardner left to become an assistant girls coach at Jacksonville (Ala.) State – put together a championship contender and appeared ready to make it four in a row. After losing three of their first five games, JA had not lost since August 24 and came into Saturday’s title game with a lot of confidence.
“We only had three full time starters returning and had lost a lot of seniors for the past two years,” said first-year JA head coach Phillip Buffington, who was an assistant for the past three years to Gardner. “We have some good players on this year’s team, but they had to get adjusted to playing day in and day out and the whole game. We had fairly high expectations of this group and we hit our stride in September.”
The top seniors from last year – who went undefeated their junior and senior years – were Erin and Avery Hederman, both playing at Mississippi College, Darby Douglass, playing at South Florida, and Camille Couey, who is going to school at Ole Miss.
JA had won only one state title – under coach Nic Henderson in 2009 – until the recent three-year run. Forwards Gabby Healy and Alayla Jackson and defender Katie Carter provided leadership for this year’s JA team, which avenged its only two MSAIS losses to MRA in the semifinal game earlier this past week to reach the final against Prep. But Jackson’s goal in the second half Saturday wasn’t enough to the Lady Raiders.
Buffington knows all about the JA-Prep rivalry. Buffington, who is considered one of the top boys players to play soccer in Mississippi, set the Mississippi record with 61 goals his senior season at Prep in 2005. He led the Patriots to four straight state titles and was coached by Duncan, whose first year at Prep was when Buffington was an eighth-grader. Buffington played one year at Marshall then three years at Mississippi College. He played three years of pro soccer, two in the United States and one in Australia. He has been coaching club soccer with the Mississippi Fire, now Mississippi Rush, since 2012 and was head coach at Manchester Academy in Yazoo City from 2013-2016 before coming to JA in the fall of 2016.
“Jon Marcus has done a great job at Prep and won an amazing number of championships,” said Buffington, who also is going to be the head coach for the JA boys team this fall. “He has a lot of good players who play club soccer and he does a good job of coaching them as well. It’s an unbeatable combination and he has had amazing results.”