POPLARVILLE, Miss. — A big part of Pearl River's success over the last two seasons is moving to the next level.
Sophomore Cooper Grafe (Kiln; Hancock) has decided to stay close to home and sign with William Carey over interest from numerous other institutions.
"William Carey was the right choice for a combination of things. It's a good program to go into, they have a good team and I like the fit," Grafe said. "I have played with a number of my future teammates going back to rec and travel ball so it will be nice to know some of the guys who are on the team."
Grafe's signature continues a pipeline from PRCC to the Crusaders.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Cooper to continue playing and get his education," Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. "In the past we've done a good job of getting players to William Carey; usually our guys go there and start or are contributors to a program that's normally Top 5 in the country."
Grafe proved to be a versatile asset for Gallant in 2018 and '19.
As a freshman midfielder, Grafe scored three goals with five assists for 11 points. The performance landed Grafe on the All-MACJC squad.
Grafe moved to left back this season and despite registering just two assists, the sophomore still earned a spot on the All-MACJC team and was named an MACJC All-Star.
As Gallant puts it, Grafe's value to the team went well beyond what might show up on a standard stat sheet.
"He's extremely versatile and two-footed. I wish we had more players like him. He definitely has more intangibles about him as far as work rate, want to win; most kids say they want to win but he really means it," Gallant said. "He has very good vision and does a good job of getting forward. Whether it's in the midfield or at left back, he sees the opportunities before they appear."
As a critical part of two MACJC South Championship teams, Grafe said his experiences at The River will remain with him.
"I have a lot of good memories. We had some great games," he said. "Overall, being around the guys and the coaches will stay with me."
Cooper Grace signs with William Carey