When the Sumrall Lady Bobcats held their first-ever tryout four years ago, 20 girls showed up, and for depth purposes, all 20 of them made the team. Compare that to the 70-plus who showed up last week to contend for a spot.
So for the first time in program history, the Lady Bobcats will field a junior high team next season. Most of their players will be fairly new to the sport. Many are intrigued by what the team has accomplished in just four years. And several are simply excited to, one day, play alongside Caragan Childs—Sumrall’s soccer superstar.
Yes, soccer is in the air in Sumrall, and Childs is a big reason why.
“She’s a great leader and a great soccer player,” Lady Bobcat coach Todd Siders said. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to be on the team.”
Childs wears many hats for Sumrall. Most notably, she’s a goal-scoring extraordinaire. Her 51 goals this past season led the entire state of Mississippi and ranked ninth in the nation. Had the junior not found the back of the net an average of two times a night, the Lady Bobcats would likely not have won 16 games, repeated as Region 6-4A champs or reached the postseason for a fourth consecutive year.
That played a huge part in Childs being named Sports601’s Hattiesburg Girls Soccer Player of the Year. But more than just a goal-scorer, Childs holds a passion for being a great teammate. In addition to leading the team in goals, she led them in assists (14), too.
Childs moved to Sumrall from Oak Grove prior to her freshman year in 2016, which was Sumrall’s second year playing soccer. At Oak Grove, she often played alongside players who shared her club soccer background. Sumrall was different, though. With many of her new teammates new to the sport, she needed to adjust.
“She’s had to change her style and be a leader and show by example,” Siders said.
Now, she’s a role model for many young girls walking the halls at Sumrall. Of all her accomplishments in three years at the school, that’s what means the most.
“It gives me this feeling,” Childs said. “Like, if I can make somebody want to come out here and be a better player, it makes me wanna be better. It makes me wanna be a better leader for them and show them good character and good personality. And that they can be a leader, too, and inspire somebody else as well.”
Put all the attributes together, and you get the complete package.
“I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find a better soccer player in the area right now,” Siders said.
He jokes that many area coaches approach him thinking that Childs had just completed her senior season. But no, she’s chomping at the bit for one last ride with her Lady Bobcats.
“Our goal this year was to win the first round, and it didn’t go our way,” Childs said. “But just because it didn’t go our way, that just pushes me 10 times more for this upcoming year. We’re gonna go out with a bang.”