Houghton, Scruggs among area soccer signees

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, February 4, 2016

Football may grab the spotlight on national signing day each year, but it’s not the only sport that has high school athletes making life decisions.

Soccer held its signing day Wednesday as well, and four local players will be continuing their career at the next level.

The Lafayette High girls team saw three of their seniors ink with two- and four-year schools. Alley Houghton signed with Ole Miss while Nikki Kelser and Ana Branch will play for Itawamba Community College.

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Oxford’s Zoe Scruggs signed with Delta State.

It has been known for a long time that Houghton was going to keep playing soccer in her hometown, having committed to Ole Miss during her junior season. She made it official Wednesday morning, faxing her letter of intent across town to Ole Miss coach Matt Mott.

“It’s probably the best birthday I’ve ever had” Houghton said after winning the 4A North Half title match Wednesday night. “Last year we won on my birthday, but signing just added on to it.”
Along with Houghton, Kesler and Branch will remain teammates.

“They’ve worked so hard, and to accomplish what they’ve accomplished in itself is big time at this level,” Lafayette coach Melinda Scruggs said. “Now to see what they’re going to accomplish at the next level is going to be fun to watch as a coach.”

Scruggs stays with Statesmen
Much like Houghton, it was no secret where Zoe Scruggs was going to play soccer in college as she committed to the Lady Statesmen last March. The only hiccup on the road to Cleveland was the coaching change that was experienced with Delta State’s team.

“I never really had this feeling like, ‘Oh, I should probably be playing somewhere else,’” Scruggs said. “I never doubted it or had second thoughts, but (Wednesday) I’ve been telling people that this is one of the most important days of my life. I can’t put into words how important this is to me.”

Scruggs is not taking what she called a “milestone” lightly and just used her experience of dealing with change when former Oxford coach Laura Flint decided to not return as coach this season and start over with a brand new coach when Hunter Crane took over in the summer.

With this being Crane’s first season, he is not unfamiliar with what Scruggs brought to the field as he was the boys’ assistant coach before that. Scruggs is one of the seniors that helped him adjust to his new job.

“Zoe just loves the game so much,” Crane said. “To be able to come in and have that kind of passion for the game from one of your senior leaders has been huge for me, for our team. She’s been the heart and soul of us all year right there in the center. Just couldn’t have been more excited to have her.”