Duo keeps WC rolling

Published 1:05 am Sunday, April 13, 2014

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Kurtz handles switch well; head steady

Like a proud parent, Warren Central coach Greg Head talks in glowing terms about his latest group of seniors.
Most of them were four- or five-year starters, he points out, who never had a losing season. Two, Curtis McClain and Jade Pollock, have accepted offers to play in junior college, and four others declined offers to play in order to attend four-year schools.
It’s one of those four that Head reserves some of his highest praise for.
Chris Kurtz spent his first four seasons in the Vikings’ lineup playing on the defensive back line. When the team needed an offensive threat this season, Head turned to his returning team captain to get the job done.
Kurtz did that and then some.
The senior moved to the midfield and led the team in scoring with 13 goals. He assisted on eight more and helped Warren Central finish with a winning record again, at 11-8-1.
Kurtz was selected as The Vicksburg Post’s boys Soccer Player of the Year for his efforts, which also helped Head reel in the Post’s Coach of the Year award for the third consecutive season.
It’s the fifth time in six seasons that a Warren Central player has won the Player of the Year award.
“It’s pretty special. It’s what I’ve been working for all year. I’m proud to bring it back to Warren Central,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz had played defense throughout his soccer career but was moved to midfield when graduation took away two of WC’s top three goal scorers.
Head said he tried a number of different players at the spot last summer, but none handled both the physical and mental demands of the position as well as Kurtz.
“Chris could control a game, and you win games by controlling the midfield. He was the logical choice,” Head said. “He knew exactly what we wanted to do. When we changed formations, he knew exactly what we wanted.”
One of those requests was some offensive punch, which Kurtz was happy to provide. After four years of preventing goals, he relished the chance to score a few.
“It was a challenge. It was always something I wanted to do, to score like that,” Kurtz said. “I used to play offense when I was younger, and they slowly moved me back to defense. Playing up top was always what I enjoyed doing.”
The great senior season was a memorable send-off for Kurtz. He had drawn interest from Meridian and Hinds Community Colleges, but turned them down to take an offer too good to refuse from Mississippi State.
Kurtz was given early entry to MSU’s veterinary school.
“I live on a farm. All different types of animals — horses, donkeys, peacocks, ducks, you name it,” Kurtz said with a laugh. “It made sense. I love animals, so why not?”
Kurtz will have a spot waiting for him in vet school when he completes his undergraduate work, but must attend Mississippi State for all of it. That meant the end of his competitive soccer career, although he said he’ll try to play on State’s club team.
Kurtz said it was a sensible, if tough, decision to leave soccer behind. Head was proud of his player for making it.
“It takes somebody really intelligent to put soccer behind them and say, ‘I want to go to school,’” Head said.
The departure of Kurtz — as well as fellow seniors McClain, Pollock, Baxter Richardson, Gray Cordes and Taylor Pace — will leave a gaping hole in the Vikings’ roster next season.
Head, though, has undertaken rebuilding projects before without missing a beat. Kurtz said it’s partly due to Head’s approach, which includes a soccer boot camp for even the most experienced players at the start of every fall practice.
The rigorous week stresses the most basic fundamentals and is designed to get returning players back in the flow of things and younger players versed in Warren Central’s system.
“He starts us all off at the beginning at the same spot and we build from there. When you’re 12, 13 years old, it really helps you to learn,” Kurtz said. “He can put some pressure on you, but he praises you. He brings out the best in all of us.”
Head has a 99-76-11 record in nine seasons with Warren Central. He admitted this will be one of the toughest offseasons to adjust to, and not just because he’s losing so many talented players.
This group of seniors have been with Head for their entire high school careers. Watching them grow as players brought success, but watching them grow as people brought smiles.
“I got those kids as seventh-graders, so they were with me for six years. They’re like family. It’s going to be hard not to see some of those faces,” Head said. “They know the game, and what I wanted. When we hit the field, they knew what to do. It’s hard to let a class like that go.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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