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Winship returns to West Jones

May 18, 2012
West Jones Jr Sr High School



When the new soccer coach was introduced to the West Jones booster club on Tuesday night, it’s doubtful name tags were necessary. If the Mustangs’ supporters didn’t know Craig Winship when he grew up in Ellisville or when he coached at West Jones for more than a decade, then they certainly got to know who he was during the last three epic state championship battles against the Lady Mustangs.

Winship will take the reins of the West Jones boys and girls soccer squads this season. His hiring was approved by the Jones County school board on Monday night. “It’s a good time to come home,” Winship said just before meeting with boosters. “I’m just going to try to build on all the success that Jones County has had. There’s so much talent here.”

Winship coached at West Jones from 1994-2007, serving as the boys’ head coach his last four years. But he made his mark coaching girls at perennial powerhouse Ridgeland, where he won three state titles in his five seasons. His Lady Titans and West Jones clashed for the state championship the last three years in a row. Winship’s squad beat coaches Chip Gieger and his good friend Tony Buckley this season, 2-0, but lost the previous year, 3-2, in the Class 5A finale after beating the Lady Mustangs in the 4A title match the year before. It was right after that last showdown that Winship got the idea he might be able to come home again.

“Tony and I talked after that and he said he was going to call it a career,” Winship said. “He thought I might be interested.” Buckley said that Winship is “more than qualified” to take over the program, so he

knows it will be in good hands. The two were among the pioneers of youth soccer in Jones County, coaching the first local select team — Winship with the defense, Buckley with the offense. Of that squad’s 15 players, 12 went on to win state championships in high school, Winship said. He also pointed out that the state’s last three girls to win the Clarion-Ledger’s coveted “Ms. Soccer” award had roots in Jones County — West Jones’ Sara Coleman and Macie Wallace, and his daughter, Carly Jo, who went to West until her father took the Ridgeland job. All three players earned Divison I scholarships.

“We’re going to do a lot of training here. There’s just a ton of talent here,” Winship said, “and this is an opportunity to see what’s next.”

Winship is already planning to play in seven-on-seven tournaments and to scrimmage with Northeast Jones and his alma mater South Jones, where he graduated in the Class of 1986. On the field, his teams are known for “organization and movement,” and he will be looking to “find the 11 best” to put on the pitch. He knows all of them well from intense scouting for state championship games the last three years. He will have all but two seniors — top scorer Coleman and standout defender Jamie Grice — back this season.

He has plans for his team off the field, too. “We’re going to work hard on character and do a lot of community service,” he said. “This whole area has been blessed with good Christian leaders over the years. I look forward to being a part of that.”

Buckley helped keep the program going strong as a volunteer with Gieger after Coach Aaron Avila’s abrupt departure at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. He said he enjoyed his time coaching at West Jones, but pulling double duty as Jones County’s District Attorney and helping coach both soccer teams for the last two years has taken its toll. “I will miss the kids and miss the coaching,” Buckley said, but “it’s time West Jones gets a full-time soccer coach.”

He does have one regret, though. “I would’ve liked to have one more crack at Ridgeland,” he said.


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