Serafin Simon describes his Redbulls youth soccer program as a “unique family.” So when a dozen club teammates square off in Monday’s matchup of Pillow Academy and Delta Streets, expect an entertaining battle between brothers.
“The talent that’s going to be on the field Monday — for a small town in the Delta, it’s incredible,” said Simon, who coaches the Mustangs in addition to the Redbulls.
Simon has developed a special connection with his current group, a majority of whom grew up with his son, Serafin III, watching Hispanic adult league games on Sundays at Wagner Park.
“All these little guys that you see now growing up, they were there watching us playing on Sundays,” Simon recalled. “It developed into something more than watching, though. These guys wanted their own team. They wanted to play, so we made it happen.”
What began as one youth team has now grown into seven squads. Last year, his U16 group took home first at the Meridian Games after years of losing in the championship match.
At the team’s first tournament this season in Starkville, the Redbulls rolled to a first-place finish and an impressive 30-0 goal differential.
“Combining these two schools together on the Redbulls, the talent shows when we go out to tournaments,” Simon said. “A lot of people are talking about it.”
When they’re wearing different uniforms during the high school season, the Lions have had a hard time keeping up with the Mustangs. In their first meeting two years ago, Pillow left the pitch with an 11-0 blowout victory.
But this year, the lopsided local rivalry should level. DSA freshman Danny Vargas has emerged as an explosive playmaker alongside senior striker Juanelo Mata. During a preseason scrimmage against a shorthanded Mustangs roster, the Lions rallied from a 3-1 deficit to claim a 5-3 win.
With no players taller than six feet and three seventh graders seeing action, DSA will likely be at a disadvantage in both size and experience against Pillow.
On the opposite sidelines, the Mustangs also boast dangerous Redbulls products like Lawson Harvey and Kevin Hernandez, an eighth grader who racked up three goals and two assists by halftime of Monday’s 8-0 rout of Magnolia Heights.
“Soccer runs in his blood,” Simon said of Hernandez. “He knows the game. He knows how to touch, where to move, how to shoot. He’s there when you need him in the right spot.”
Simon believes introducing soccer to Greenwood’s public schools could be the next step to making the local soccer scene even more competitive.
“I heard they were trying to implement soccer into their athletic program, but nothing has been done,” said Simon, who grew up in Arkansas without soccer in his public schools until his family moved to Mexico, where he found a love for the sport as a teenager.
“I think it would be a great asset to the Greenwood Leflore School District because of the footwork,” he said. “The footwork that you gain playing soccer is going to help you out to play basketball, football, anything else. It’s a great asset, in my opinion.”
• Contact Riley Overend at 581-7237 or email@example.com. Follow @OverendOut on Twitter.