Brookhaven Academy finishes historic season runner-up to state title

Published 6:47 pm Thursday, February 15, 2024

JACKSON PREP — Brookhaven Academy lost 2-0 to Pillow Academy in the MAIS Division II Boys Soccer Championship Thursday. It was the second loss for the Cougars this season as they claimed silver medals and a state runners-up trophy.

Cougar fans showed up in full force to support the team and the team played hard with their support behind them. Brookhaven Academy had a good start to the match creating chances early. 

Pillow Academy opened the scoring on a deflection off of a Cougar defender six minutes in. Senior Andrew Estes said the team was ready for the challenge and felt both sides were equally matched. 

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“We knew they were going to be a great team. We saw them as our equals and it could have easily finished 2-0 for them or us,” Estes said. “It didn’t work out the way we intended. We were ready to go and had prepared for this moment all year. They were a really good team. I think the early goal got in our heads a little bit.” 

Head Coach Alex Brown urged his team to stick with it. The Cougars responded by continuing to press for a goal. Pillow Academy was pretty physical and found a way to win 50/50 balls. 

BA caught a big break when Parker Miller cleared a shot off the goal line. BA followed up his heroics by winning a free kick 36 yards out. The Cougars were not able to get a shot on target from the chance.  

Right before halftime BA won a free kick but was not allowed to take it as the referee blew for halftime. Brown was frustrated with the call and was shown a yellow card by the center referee. He told the team afterwards he would always fight for them. The team gave everything they had for him. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of my boys. They’ve worked their tails off this year,” Brown said. “As a coach, it’s such a blessing to be able to coach kids that love each other as much as this group and that love football the way they do. They are such great boys.” 

Brookhaven Academy’s goalkeeper Ben Watts made a huge save early in the second half. Pillow Academy struck soon after on a penalty kick after a foul in the box. 

With 11:35 left in the second half, Yojan Hernandez was called for a dangerous foul while going for a 50/50 ball. Hernandez was shown his second yellow of the game resulting in a red card. Brookhaven Academy finished out the match with 10 men. 

BA’s best chance of the game came with about nine minutes left. Noah Fisher-Butler, a junior from England, found a loose ball and tried to chip it past Pillow Academy’s goalkeeper. His shot went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper snuffing out the chance. 

As the time trickled away on the Cougars season they continued to press and fight for a chance back into the game. A goal never came. BA’s fans applauded the team’s effort at the final whistle. Brown was appreciative of the support and his assistant coach Brandon Dickerson.

“I’d like to thank my administrators and my parents for supporting soccer the way that they do,” Brown said. “Thank you for making BA such a great place. Coach Dickerson might be the best assistant in the MAIS. He does such a great job with the kids and is such a good example to them. I couldn’t do my job without him.” 


Bouncing back

Brown gave a lengthy speech after the game to console his boys and remind them of how great of a season they had. Brookhaven Academy went 21-2, won a district championship and won a South State championship. All of the team’s accomplishments were due to how hard they worked, he said. Senior defender Levi Dale said he would miss the team. 

“His speech is something I hope I can learn from in the future. You work so hard and do so much to get to this. I don’t know the words for something like this,” Dale said. “I’ll miss the team. It is really fun to play with them. We have more fun than a lot of other sports would. We still had fun and were able to be a good team. I’m going to miss this team more than anything.”

Senior captain Cooper Strickland told the team it was the best one he had ever been a part of. Strickland scored crucial goals for the Cougars in his career. His time with BA isn’t over yet. He will play tennis along with Dale and Fisher-Butler. 

Estes said he came back to the program from Brookhaven High School and was grateful for the season. In 5 or 10 years, he may reflect on the season and the bonds he made.  

“These are my friends and my family. I’m sure I’ll remember losing this game but I’ll also remember the 21 games we won,” he said. “I’ll miss the people. It has always been about the people. I came back to this school to play for the coaches.”

Estes said he plans to attend Mississippi State University after high school and study international business. His mom did international business, which helped influence his decision. Dale will be his roommate in Starkville where he will study petroleum engineering and maybe play intramural soccer. 

Brown opened up his heart to the squad after the game about his faith. He reiterated the spiritual lessons learned from sports in a conversation after the match. 

“There are so many things that the Lord can teach us through sports. The Lord will always be teaching us, growing us, molding us and maturing us. In all the positive things but also the negative ones,” Brown said. “I know the game didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I also know my boys will be better young men because of tonight. There are a lot of things that we can all learn through adversity. That is part of our responsibility as Christians. I love my boys and I’m proud to be their coach.”