2023-2024 All-Area Soccer — Coach of the Year: BA’s Alex Brown

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

Alex Brown, Brookhaven Academy

The soccer culture in southwest Mississippi is one that continues to build with grassroots growth of travel teams in the area, recreation leagues filled with young athletes and more local high schools offering the sport than ever before.

Brookhaven Academy is a school that has seen significant development in soccer over the last half decade and that can be attributed to the hiring of head coach Alex Brown, the first head coach hire dedicated to the sport in program history.

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In 2023-2024, Brown led both Brookhaven Academy teams to unseen heights.

In the girls’ season, which MAIS member schools play at the start of the school year, with matches beginning under the scorching August sky, Brookhaven Academy finished 19-4-3 and won the first ever playoff match in program history.

During the boys’ season, which is played during the winter months, Brookhaven Academy was nearly unstoppable, going 21-2 and losing in the MAIS Division II state championship match to Pillow Academy by a 2-0 final score.

For his combined success leading his team, Brown has been named the 2023-2024 All-Area Coach of the Year for both girls’ and boys’ soccer.

It wouldn’t be right to not mention a few other coaches who led their teams to great triumphs this season as many of the local soccer coaches are friends off and on the pitch.

At Brookhaven High school, girls coach Dustin Bairfield and boys coach Aaron Ayers had teams that set win marks for the school and qualified for the MHSAA 5A playoffs in a tough soccer region that features strong programs in South Jones and Florence High.

Loyd Star coach Jordan Lea once again had two strong squads as his Hornets swept the top spot in Region 7-Class I and once again won a pair of opening round playoff matches on both the girls’ and boys’ side. The boy’s region title was the first in program history.

Wesson boys coach Hank Jordan took his team on the road in the first round of the postseason and beat Enterprise-Clarke, giving the Cobras only the second postseason win in program history.

With the improvement of the form in local soccer, the hope is that more teams will get a taste of what postseason success feels like.

Brookhaven Academy got to experience that as Brown guided his girls’ team to the first playoff win in program history, a 3-0 victory over St. Aloysius Catholic. The BA girls were then knocked out of the semifinal round by East Rankin Academy.

Brown’s boys club took their success a step further as they topped Parklane Academy 8-0 in the quarterfinals and then beat East Rankin Academy 3-2 at home in the semifinals.

The win over ERA was especially sweet after the Patriots and Cougars had split their regular season meetings.

That set up the first state championship appearance in program history for Brookhaven Academy.

While they didn’t overcome Pillow Academy this time, expect Brown and his teams to stay near the top of the MAIS Class II standings again next year.

In his three years at the school, the Cougars have a combined record of 96-23-5 in girls’ and boys’ soccer.

The girls’ team loses its two leading scorers in seniors Mallory Martin and Reagan Fortenberry along with defenders Ramsey Brown and Carmen Lambert but will return a strong back line. Developing the next group of strikers will be a big focus going forward for Brown and his assistant coach Brannon Dickerson.

The BA boys’ side will see the graduation of seniors Cooper Strickland, Levi Dale, Andrew Estess, Matt Newman, Jesus Antonio and Trace Stewart, but there will be plenty of offensive firepower returning next season in Yojan Hernandez and All-Area MVP Noah Fisher-Butler.