Searcy boys, girls sweep state soccer tournament

by Donna Lampkin Stephens

The Class 6A State Soccer Tournament couldn’t have gone any better for Searcy.

Judging by recent history, that was no surprise.

The Lions and Lady Lions, both seeded No. 1 from the East, hosted, and both teams swept their final home games before taking their respective state championships, both over Siloam Springs, at the University of Arkansas’s Razorback Field.

It was the fourth time Searcy had won both state soccer titles in the same year.

“As far as the soccer program goes, it’s right on the money,” said Walter King, the boys coach. “Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing right. There’s no sense in changing what we’re doing. We’ll just keep building on what we’ve got.”

The Lions, who finished 18-3, won their sixth state title. Previous championships came in 2007, ’08, ’09, ’10 and ’11.

Searcy rolled in the state tournament, knocking off Pine Bluff, 9-0; Greenwood, 5-0; and Russellville, 4-2, to reach the championship game. Siloam Springs, which had won the last two Class 5A state titles before moving up to Class 6A this year, took a 2-0 lead before the Lions rallied to force overtime.

Searcy senior Kevin Berkheimer scored the deciding goal at 3:21 of the OT.

The Lions had lost early to Little Rock Christian and Russellville, but King said the regular-season finale loss at Cabot was a good wake-up call.

“We went into the state tournament with all cylinders firing,” he said.

A key was a senior-laden squad. A majority of the 14 seniors had played for four years.

“You just had to keep them motivated and really turn them loose,” King said. “They knew what was at hand; they’re experienced. They responded well to the Cabot loss.”

That senior class won state titles as freshmen and sophomores before falling in the semifinals last year.

Graduating were Berkheimer, MVP of the state tournament, and Evan Scarbrough, both of whom played in the recent Arkansas High School All-Star game; Tanner Scarbrough; Conner McClellan; Cody Redman; Joe Atkins; Eduardo Suarez; Malik Freeman; Luis Hernandez; Kenneth Wilson; Lawrence Maizon; William Bingham; Madison Wright; and Cam Woodruff, the Lions’ leading scorer who scored 10-12 goals in the state tournament, King said.

Evan Scarbrough will play at Alabama-Birmingham next year. Several others were expected to play closer to home, the coach said.

And despite the number graduating, King said he wouldn’t be rebuilding for 2014.

“I’ve got some guys who played a lot on this year’s team and one who’s really going to be a leader is Trace Laffoon,” he said. “Two real good defenders will be back in A.J. Maizon and DaQuan Perry; both goalies are coming back (Corey West and Anthony Navarro) and a forward (Thomas Casteneda). And I’ve got a few more guys who are going to be young sophomores and juniors who will fill some shoes also.”

Larry Stamps’ Lady Lions, who finished 15-3-1, earned a bye in the first round of the state tournament before rolling through Jonesboro and Mountain Home to reach the championship. There they beat Siloam Springs, 3-1, for their fourth state title following championships in 2008, ’08 and ’10.

The state championship Searcy Girls Soccer Team. (Photo courtesy of Lifetouch)

Stamps, in his 10th year at Searcy, said his seniors had a lot to do with that success.

“When they were freshmen we won it,” he said. “When they were sophomores, we got beat by Russellville in the second round. Russellville went on to win it, and we finished runner-up to Russellville last year.”

His seven seniors included Sam Stewart and McKenna Smith (who played in the All-Star game); Averie Albright (MVP of the state tournament); Machen Beard; Jade McCoy; Ashley Barnes and Allie Wilbourn.

Smith and Albright will play next year for Harding. Stamps said Barnes would play for a satellite campus of Rutgers and McCoy would walk on at Arkansas State.

The Lady Lions, too, have a good group coming for the future.

“You hate to say reload, but the parents produce a lot of kids here,” Stamps said. “They want to play soccer.”

And winning never gets old.

“We got beat last year, and that’s a horrible feeling,” the coach said. “So they had that taste in their mouth, and they didn’t want to go through that again. You could tell they were determined.”

 That determination paid off.