Caledonia High School senior Nolan Blakney poses for a picture Friday morning during a signing ceremony to celebrate his decision to play soccer at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia. Standing, from left: Caledonia High soccer coach Louis Alexander; Blakney’s father, Joey; Blakney’s mother, Anita; and brother, Andy. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
December 1, 2018 11:59:32 PM
CALEDONIA -- Nolan Blakney has found a home as a defender.
Blakney started his soccer career as an attacking player, but when he was 12 he said one of his coaches moved him to defender. Blakney said he didn't take to the position change immediately but that it grew on him and he eventually changed his thinking.
Today, it's to the point Blakney doesn't hesitate to say, "I love defending. Other people wanted to go score goals, but I think it is just the spot for me."
On Friday, Blakney secured the next step in his development as a defender when he celebrated his decision to play soccer at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia.
Blakney said he signed the National Letter of Intent last week. He said he waited until Friday to make sure everyone could attend the signing ceremony.
"I was always an aggressive player on the field," Blakney said. "If someone stole the ball away from me I was always going to get it back. I guess one of my coaches saw I would be great with defense. I don't know. I just fell in love with it."
Blakney's decision will keep the pipeline from Caledonia High to Northwest Mississippi C.C. open for coach Mark Hogan, who led the team to a 2-10-1 finish (1-6-1 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges) in his first season.
Last season, Nolan's brother, Andy, who also is a defender, was a member of the Northwest Mississippi C.C. men's soccer team. Former Caledonia High players Quaid Phillips and Daniel Longmire also were on the roster.
A former Caledonia High player has been on the Northwest Mississippi C.C. roster every year except 2014 dating back to 2012. In 2016, Cooper Weseli, Will Jones, Chandler Lester, James Longmire, and Robert Mims were Rangers.
Nolan Blakney is eager to follow in that tradition. He said his brother told him he thought Northwest Mississippi C.C. was the best fit for him. Nolan said he agreed after he visited the campus, considered his academic options at the school, and sorted through his scholarship offers. He said he isn't sure what major he will pick next year, but he said he is looking forward to continuing his maturation as a soccer player for as long as his career goes.
Caledonia coach Louis Alexander is in his third season coaching Blakney. He said Blakney played as a right back as a sophomore and followed a natural progression that enabled him to move to center back.
"The main thing that has impressed me with Nolan is his consistency," Alexander said. "When something goes well, he doesn't get too high. When something doesn't go the way we would like it, he doesn't get too low. He is very reliable. He is not going to do something wrong by trying to do too much. He kind of anchors us back there."
Alexander feels Blakney will be an "asset" to Northwest Mississippi C.C. because he has improved as a player. A year ago, Blakney was the Confederates' defensive player of the year. Alexander said Blakney has learned how to be a better communicator and organizer.
"He has progressed the way you want someone to progress from a sophomore to a senior," Alexander said.
Alexander said Blakney also has become a more patient player and has learned how to contain attacking players and has a great sense of timing when it comes to pouncing on a bad touch. Being the last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper, the ability to make decisions in a split second is an essential ingredient.
Blakney said he used to go for immediate gratification when he lost possession of the ball, so his development is a reflection of how much he has grown mentally and physically. He is excited to take the next step in that journey at Northwest Mississippi C.C.
"I had to disciplined with it," said Blakney, who started playing soccer when he was 4 years old. "I had to learn the game is not all about scoring goals. Me defending is helping other people win the game and score goals. Defending is an important part of the game, and I am proud to do it."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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