West Point’s Michael Carr Aberdeen’s Jameika Hoskins

Players of the Year

The Dispatch All -Area Teams

Success, change and determination characterize Golden Triangle sports
2009-2010 Players of the Week

School Spirit: Band, cheerleading squads

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Faith turned West Oktibbeha around.

West Point looks to defend state title in 2010.

Playing in a new division breathes new life into Oak Hill Academy.

Writing on the Wall
Tradition inspires Hebron Christian’s district title dynasty.

Players of the Week
2009-10 Players of the Week revisited.

Area bands and cheerleading squads featured.

Players of the Year 4 Michael Carr and Jameika Hoskins earn top honors. Making their Mark 8 Columbus athletes reap benefits of hard work, determination. The Payoff
Heritage Academy’s Ford does a little bit of everything in final year.

Despite facilities, Caledonia track one of the best in the state.

A breakdown of The Dispatch’s All Area teams and Players of the Year.

Realizing Potential
West Lowdnes’ Hill uses Keffer McGee as motivation for success.

Jameika Hoskins dominates with a humble attitude.

Goal Goal Goal
Soccer reigns supreme at MSMS.

Haynes, Atkins and Tutor lead their softball teams.

New Hope highlights 2009-10 with championships and eye to the future.

Starkville High fighting its way back to the top.

Huddleston, Day, and Shoemaker shine as top players.

Immanuel athletes show versatility in competition.

Starkville Academy shows its strength in soccer.

West Alabama, Small School, and Large School athletes honored

2 Winning becoming the norm at Victory Christian Academy.

The Turning Point
One game set tone for East Oktibbeha success.

West Alabama, Small School, and Large School athletes honored


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Dispatch staff photographer Kelly Tippett took this photo of West Point football player Michael Carr, the Boys Player of the Year, and Aberdeen’s Jameika Hoskins, the multisport athlete named Girls Player of the Year.


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MIDST ALL OF THE FESTIVITIES, MICHAEL CARR REMAINED CALM. The West Point High School senior welcomed the hoopla surrounding a 35-14 victory against Wayne County that helped the football program win its sixth state title.
lead West Point to a 14-1 record. Carr was the X-factor on a run-dominated team, making 38 catches for 832 yards and 16 total touchdowns. He also intercepted one pass and had a 35-yard return, and returned 15 punts for 415 yards, with a longest return of 84 yards. All of those achievements helped prepare Carr for the pageantry of winning a state title. He said he was ready to celebrate beating Wayne County after the game, but he said he heard a voice from God deep down inside him that said to exercise restraint. “He said, ‘It isn’t over yet.’ He told me to stay humble,” Carr said. “I know I have to get ready for the next level and enhance the talent He has given me.” Carr hasn’t always had the patience to step back and look at the bigger picture. He said Jesus Christ changed his life when He touched him when he was 17. He said God keeps him at peace and he is grateful for all of the doors He has opened for him. “I always saw myself playing sports, but I never saw myself giving Him the glory at the end,” Carr said. “But when I had that encounter with Jesus Christ, it changed my whole lifestyle, the way I think, the way I move, and my inner self.” Carr attends church and thanks God for all of the things He has given him, which allow him to affect the sports world and the people in it. He joked that he encouraged his teammates “to stay humble” so many times this season they grew tired of hearing him say it. But that doesn’t prevent Carr from proclaiming how important his faith is to him. “I give the glory to Him and I celebrate it and celebrate telling Him I am very thankful for winning a state championship,” Carr said. Carr believes that mind-set will drive him to even higher goals at MSU. The 6foot-1, 195-pounder feels he has something to prove, even though he was a highly regarded recruit who chose the Bulldogs over the University of Mississippi Rebels. “People think I am just going for the fame, but if I am going to give God the glory I have to shine,” Carr said. “I see big dreams and goals ahead. I just plan to keep working hard like I have been in high school, but I am going to multiply it and enhance it and do it better when I go to college. “I have a lot to prove because you have great athletes who worship God. But a lot of them are taking His name in vain by not living the lifestyle. I want to live the lifestyle, put His name first, and win. I want to show them God is still alive.” Carr knows how God guided him through his final season and allowed him to realize the fruits of his labor. He also realizes this season was the last step of one journey and the first step of another one. Carr knows how important it will be for him to stay humble as he prepares for those next steps, and he will celebrate God with every move he makes. “You have to stay humble and work hard, no matter how many touchdowns you have in a game,” Carr said. “You have to push yourself harder than what you did the last practice. You also have to stay humble and keep God first. As long as you do that, you will go far in everything you do.”I So while teammates, coaches, and friends and family let loose at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Carr stayed humble. After all he had been through, Carr gave thanks to God because without His help he wouldn’t have been able to realize the goal so many members of the Green Wave program before him had attained. “It wasn’t difficult,” Carr said of not getting caught up in all of the hype after the game. “He has humbled me. It felt like I had already won (a state championship) when I won it. I celebrated, I was happy for it, I was thankful for it, I was grateful for it, but I knew there was more to do to stay humble and go to the next level.” The championship helped Carr solidify his position as one of the state’s elite athlete. He showcased his game-changing ability against Wayne County by scoring on a 64-yard reception and on a 78-yard kickoff return. He finished the game with four catches for 128 yards. For his efforts, Carr is The Commercial Dispatch’s Boys Player of the Year. “It has been a great year,” Carr said. “It was hard work and dedication to the team. I am still dedicated. Family is the main thing that brought me through.” Carr signed a national letter of intent earlier this year to make official the verbal commitment he made to Mississippi State as a junior. The No. 5 prospect in the state regardless of position by was recruited as an athlete, and he figures to help the Bulldogs in the secondary or at wide receiver. The Mississippi Association of Coaches Class 5A All-State first-team pick helped


2010 GIRLS

AMEIKA HOSKINS BELIEVED SHE HAD FOUND THE RIGHT FIT. Earlier this school year, the Aberdeen High School senior thought Alcorn State was going to be her college destination.
“She thought this is where she wanted to go to play to take her game to another level,” Gray said. “She has very high aspirations. She wants to develop a couple of more skills to contend for a scholarship from maybe a Southeastern Conference school in our area.” Hoskins said she “felt at home” with the coaches, players, and everything when she went to ICC. She feels her stay at the school will be just like an extended recruiting period in which she can play against tougher competition and prove to coaches at four-year schools she has what it takes to play at an even higher level in Division I. She said it will help that her family and friends will be close by to support her. “My friends and family have always been there since I started playing basketball,” Hoskins said. “It is not only them being there to watch me play. I think it is a good move for me. Alcorn State is too far out there for me. If I go to ICC and do everything I can and work on all my skills, I feel I can be at a better Division I school playing basketball.” To make that happen, Hoskins feels she needs to improve on her defense. She also said she will work hard to enhance her ballhandling skills, especially with her left hand, and her mid-range game. She said hopes to attract interest from Mississippi State or the University of Mississippi, but she isn’t limiting herself to those two. “I have a lot of confidence,” Hoskins said. “I am getting a new start, and I am going to work as hard as I can to do the best I can.” Hoskins thanked Aberdeen High girls basketball coach Latorrence Bivens, Aberdeen High boys basketball coach Roy Hazzle and her youth coaches for helping her get to this point. She especially praised coach Kim Clarett, a youth coach who coached her when she was 8-12, and who still coaches a youth team in Aberdeen. Bivens said Hoskins’ decision to go to ICC will help “bring her out of her shell.” He feels confident Hoskins will be able to rise to the challenge and take her game to another level. “I think she will go to ICC and play right off the bat,” Bivens said. “If she stays injury free it will happen because I know she is going to work. I think she is going to get a top Division I offer when she leaves because academically she is set and she has a strong mind.” Gray believes that will be the case, too. She said she is anxious to see Hoskins mature into a player who is consistent for longer stretches. She said there were times in her high school career Hoskins didn’t go all out for a whole game. That will change in college. “The kids are going to follow her and pick up on her enthusiasm for the game and her desire to be a better player,” Gray said. “That is huge for a coach anytime you bring that into a program. “I think (getting a scholarship from a SEC school) can be a reality. It will depend on how hard she is going to work and what she brings to the game.” That shouldn’t be a problem because Hoskins knows ICC is the right fit for her.I But the more Hoskins considered her choice she realized she wasn’t comfortable going that far from home to go to school and to play basketball. It’s not that Hoskins didn’t believe she couldn’t play at the Division I level. In fact, she would like to attract more attention from bigger Division I schools, including the ones in this state. Those aspirations are part of the reason Hoskins changed her mind last month and signed a national letter of intent to go to Itawamba Community College in Fulton. The short ride up Highway 45 North should help Hoskins find the fit she is looking for after a standout senior season in which she was named The Commercial Dispatch’s All-Area Volleyball and Small Schools Girls Basketball Player of the Year. For her accomplishments, Hoskins is The Commercial Dispatch’s Girls Player of the Year. Hoskins intends to improve on her 21.7 points per game scoring average as a senior with the Lady Indians. She might have even continued to play volleyball, but ICC doesn’t offer the sport. That’s fine with ICC women’s basketball coach Nanci Gray, who is excited to have the Monroe County standout join her program. Gray said she watched Hoskins this season and listened as fans and people who followed the Aberdeen High girls basketball program said Hoskins wanted to stay close to home. It was only natural for her to inquire about the possibility of getting Hoskins to come to ICC. It turns out the both parties found what they needed.



OLUMBUS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT-ATHLETES made their mark at both ends of the spectrum in the 2009-10 school year.
to be experienced to push to the front of the line and become one of the state’s top powerlifters. On the basketball court, freshmen KiKi Patterson and Maggie Proffitt


On one end, senior Danté Oliver realized a career’s worth of hard work and came into his own as one of the state’s top 400-meter performers. Justin Verner showed you don’t have

TOP OF PAGE: Columbus High girls basketball players, front row, from left, Maggie Proffitt and KiKi Patterson and track and field standout Danté Oliver and Justin Verner, back row, represent the promise and the potential of the Falcons’ athletic program. OPPOSITE: Top: CHS quarterback Cedric Jackson delivers a pass as the Tupelo High rush closes in. Upper right: Stefan Hairston delivers a pitch, while, lower left, Ebony Ross attempts a kill in volleyball. Lower right: CHS boys tennis players Nick Missel and Houston Walker advanced to the semifinals of the Class 6A No. 2 doubles state tournament.


flashed the potential they hope will help them lead the Columbus girls to championship contender status. The performances of all four student-athletes were just a handful of many in a solid year for the Columbus High athletic program. Verner’s accomplishment stood out because the football player/powerlifter is only a sophomore. He made people doubt that statement when he lifted a combined 1,505 pounds to win the Class 6A 242-pound weight class last month at the Mississippi High School Activities Association State meet at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. “It was exciting to bring a state title to the school,” Verner said. “I expected to do well because I worked so hard through the summer and after football season was over.” Verner, a starting right guard on Columbus High’s football team, recently turned 16 and has come a long way from his freshman year, when he said he messed up a lot trying to master the technique required to record official lifts. But Verner said he remained focused and made his biggest gains this season after the North Half State meet, adding 50 pounds on squat, 25

pounds to his bench press, and a little bit on dead lift. “I just wanted to go in every day and work as hard as I can,” Verner said. “I believed I could do it. I think I made a huge impression on everybody (at the state meet).” Columbus High powerlifting coach Grady McCluskey thought Verner would do well at the state meet, but he didn’t think the only sophomore in the group would make such a splash. “His potential in that sport is unlimited,” McCluskey said. “He should set some records next year.” McCluskey said Verner squats 600 pounds and attempted 635 at the state meet but missed it. He said Verner could have done a lot more than 315 on the bench press and just did what he needed to win on the dead lift. “He is a great kid,” McCluskey said. “He does everything we ask, he is real conscientious, and he just has a special talent, in football, too. He did a great job. We’re looking for a lot of positive things in football and in powerlifting in the next couple of years.” Oliver’s maturation into a collegebound sprinter came quickly. Last year, he recorded a time of 49.26 seconds in the 400. This year, He delivered a first-

place time of 47.99 at the Region 1 meet and followed that up with a personal-best time of 47.05 at the North Half State meet. South Panola’s Montez Griffin (47.01) edged Oliver for first. Oliver’s finish at the Class 6A state meet wasn’t available at press time. Oliver hoped to push into the 46-second range at that meet. “It has been an amazing season,” Oliver said. “Two seconds is a lot in track, and I am happy I have gotten (his time in the 400) down that low. It has been through hard work, and coach (Jim) Hamilton is a good coach and he has helped a lot.” Oliver said he realized early this season he could reach his latest plateau. He said he sliced his time into the 48second range pretty quickly and realized he had plenty more in him to go even faster. That improvement has sent colleges scurrying to get close to Oliver. The University of Mississippi is believed to be the leader in the recruiting process at press time, but Mississippi State, Florida, Tennessee, and LSU are just some of the suitors that are trying to convince Oliver to showcase his speed at their schools. “I didn’t think I would be running

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“I just wanted to go in every day and work as hard as I can. I believed I could do it. I think I made a huge impression on everybody (at the state meet).”
Columbus powerlifter Justin Verner
track on a collegiate level,” Oliver said. “A lot of people tell me I can run, but I guess I really didn’t see it. This year has opened my eyes. I knew I had potential, but I didn’t know I can do what I am doing now. I didn’t expect any of this. I am glad it has happened.” Oliver said slipping into the 46-second range will serve as motivation the rest of the offseason as he prepares for his next step. He said it is still hard to believe he has progressed this far, especially since many sprinters who are competing in college ran the same times in high school he is running now. “That just drives me to do more and to achieve more when I get to college,” Oliver said. “I know my time is going to go down when you get to college and get on a college training plan.” Oliver admits the road has been long and included plenty of changes (four coaches since his eighth-grade year). In that time, the work, the passion, and the support from his teammates made it even more satisfying. “It was a nice journey,” Oliver said. “I love it. It is a good experience doing track, especially if you have the people around you. I really enjoyed my four years at Columbus High School running track.” Columbus High girls basketball coach Yvonne Hairston hopes Patterson and Proffitt can help the Lady Falcons have similar results. Patterson earned firstteam honors on The Commercial Dispatch’s Large Schools All-Area Girls Basketball team after averaging 15 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. Proffitt earned honorable mention accolades after pouring in 14.9 points and grabbing 3.7 rebounds per game. The freshman guards were asked to play such key roles because the Lady Falcons didn’t have a lot of size or experience in the post. The team also had to adjust in the middle of the season to the transfer of Chy Cunningham to Tupelo High School. The challenge didn’t faze Patterson or Proffitt, who used their experience on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit to help take control of the team. Patterson knew Hairston expected her to take on such a big role. As one of the team’s point guards, Patterson helped set the tone with aggressive play and a fine shooting touch from the perimeter. Patterson tore ligaments in her right ankle and missed the final six games. She said she is fine now and is looking forward to honing her skills and taking on an even bigger role. “I learned how to be a leader on and off the court and how to encourage girls who are older and younger than me,” Patterson said. “I learned a lot how to be a team player and how to work hard.” Proffitt also showed a deft shooting stroke, albeit from a little deeper. While Patterson might be more adept at breaking defenses down and driving into gaps, Proffitt showed consistency from 3-point range. Proffitt said she didn’t know what to expect or what role she was going to play. In her first season after transferring from Heritage Academy, Proffitt showed she was capable of playing the game against some of the state’s toughest competition. “The first day I came in they were all so welcoming,” Proffitt said. “It was just so easy because I just came in and played. They all accepted me from the start. “I think I did OK for a freshman. I know I have to get better and work harder.” Patterson and Proffitt showed how well their skills complement each other. They believe their friendship will be just one thing that grows stronger as they learn how to be better teammates and how to strive to help Hairston get a championship ring before she retires, or at least before they graduate. “The standards are set high (by Hairston) and the school and (Columbus High Principal) Mr. (Craig) Shannon,” Patterson said. I

Congratulations on a great year Maggie!



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Zach Taylor, left, Madison Ford, Jessee Mims, and Tyler White helped Heritage Academy have a successful 2009-10 sports season.



REG SYKES KNEW EARLY ON MADISON FORD was going to make her mark. Sykes first started to work with Ford in the shot put when she was a seventhgrader at Heritage Academy.

Sykes soon discovered Ford didn’t want just to compete, she wanted to be the best. “She puts the extra time in and she makes the effort to be better than the rest,” said Sykes, who coaches Heritage Academy’s track and field teams. “In basketball, she was up there in the gym all summer, even when the team wasn’t. She is the same way in the shot put and the discus. She is always coming to practice earlier and staying longer than anybody else. She is such a great kid.” Heritage Academy rewarded Ford and the rest of its seniors May 13 at its annual Class Day program. Ford received a host of athletic and academic awards in addition to a host of scholarships. She then joined her classmates in recapping the history of the Class of 2010 by reading summaries of what each class accomplished every year since kindergarten. “It has been a very positive experience,” Ford said. “All of my academics and athletics have made me grow into a strong person. I feel I have a good base to take with me to college.” Ford will attend Mississippi State in the fall. She said she never looked at a smaller school in part because her mother and her

story and photo by ADAM MINICHINO



father went to school at MSU. She said a possible trip to medical school likely will keep her from continuing her days of varsity team sports, but she will stay involved in intramural athletics. Ford easily could have gone on to play basketball at a four-year school. She received the team’s Yandell Harris Award, was the squad’s MVP, a member of the North AAA All-Conference team, and a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools All-Star. In addition to her prowess on the basketball court, Ford also was a member of the fast-pitch softball team and the track and field team. She was the MVP of field events on the track team. She also logged the most hours as a bat girl for the school’s baseball team. Ford said the teachers and coaches at Heritage Academy helped her learn the value of good study habits, how to be responsible, and how to get things done, especially with such a busy schedule. “There were never enough hours in the day, but, when it came down to it, I just had to put first what had to be done,” Ford said. “My dad (Norman) always told me you never can quit something you start, so if I am going to do something I am going to do it to the best of my ability.” Heritage Academy girls basketball coach Bruce Allsup, who also is the school’s athletic director, said Ford’s enthusiasm and determination carry over to her peers and to her teammates. “Whether it be at school or in athletics, she wants to be successful in everything she does,” Allsup said. “She is a winner. She has that kind of fire about her, and I think her mother and father have instilled that in her over the years.” Ford showed at the school’s Class Day program just how much of an impact she made at Heritage Academy. Not only did Ford receive the Spirit Award, but she also won the school’s prestigious Bo Simpson Award.

In addition, Ford joined Buck Bateman, Boyd Hardy, Ann Marie Chilcutt, and Carolina Borland in earning Hall of Fame honors. Sykes said Ford, who won a state title in the discus (106 feet, 3 inches) as a sophomore, never allowed her focus to waver and remained a positive example for her peers and teammates. Ford’s mettle was put to the test at the meet. After sub-par throws on the discus in her first two attempts, Ford, who entered the event as the top seed, regained her form and delivered the winning throw. Sykes said Ford might have been nervous as the top seed, but he said she put the anxiousness aside and allowed her hard work to take over. He said Ford continued to excel in every sport, even if her marks in the shot put (32-4, fourth) and in the discus (1005, third) didn’t earn her another title in her final season.■

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New Hope High School football players gather for a practice early in the 2009 season. The Trojans had a program-best 11-2 season and advanced to the Class 5A North Half State title game.

Titles highlight 2009-10 season at New Hope High, provide plenty of optimism for future



HE 2009-10 SCHOOL YEAR WAS FILLED WITH HIGHLIGHTS FOR NEW HOPE HIGH SCHOOL. The fall season began with a program-best effort by the football team and another state championship for the slow-pitch softball team.
in 2007 and ’08 before moving up to Class 5A in the state’s latest reclassification. New Hope had 17 hits in the mercyrule victory in game one. Haley Tutor had three hits and an RBI, Lauren Holifield had three hits, including a double and a triple, and three RBIs, and Ashley Boyle (RBI), Anna McCrary, and Anna Holley (RBI) had two hits as 10 of the 11 Lady Trojans who batted had hits. New Hope loses just two seniors — Morgan Hardin and Empress Shirley — from the slow-pitch team. In football, coach Michael Bradley’s team went 11-2 and lost to eventual state champion West Point 41-21 in the Class 5A North Half State title game. West Point (14-1) was the only team to beat New Hope. The finish marked another step in the development of a program that lost nine of 10 games in Bradley’s first season as coach. A group of 13 seniors served as the guiding force for the program’s success.

Coach Tabitha Beard’s Lady Trojans beat Brookhaven 10-0 and 7-5 to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title series. Buoyed by a six-run fifth inning, a strong relief job by pitcher Rachel Rhoades, and a balanced team attack, New Hope rallied in game two and then held on to claim the title at the V.A. Fields. The title was the third in a row for New Hope (22-7), and 12th overall. The Lady Trojans won the Class 4A state title



“We started believing we can win instead of thinking, ‘We are just New Hope. We are never going to win,’ ” Justin Flye said. “We started to believe that we are a good team and we started winning.” Bradley said the change in attitude is a key reason why New Hope has become a title contender. When he first arrived, Bradley said there were 30 guys on the team who thought they should be the starting running back, and that the players who weren’t the starter weren’t going to go hard unless they were the starting running back. He said seniors like Eddie Preston helped change that and have paved the way for future classes to remember only winning teams at the school. I In the winter, the boys and girls basketball teams won district championships. The title for the girls was the first in 18 years. Both teams had their success with first-year coaches. Drew McBrayer took over for veteran coach Robert Byrd and guided the Trojans to a 25-4 season. The end came in controversial fashion, as an official’s decision helped give Callaway a 78-75 victory in double overtime in the Class 5A North Half State semifinals. Deville Smith, who later committed to play at Mississippi State, scored 48 points, including all 12 of his team’s points in the second OT to help end New Hope’s season. “I thought it was an extremely wellplayed ballgame at both ends of the floor by both teams,” McBrayer said. “It is one of those games these kids are going to remember forever. It is going to hurt for a long time because I thought we had it.” McBrayer believed the Trojans were going to pull the upset thanks to the heroics of Raymond Walters (27 points), who scored only three points in the first half and shook off a stomach virus to have a monster second half. The senior guard apparently capped the game with a fallaway 3pointer at the top of the key with 4.7 seconds remaining that gave New Hope a 55-53 lead. But the officials put 2.2 seconds back on the clock after New Hope called a timeout. The added time enabled Smith to work his magic. The speedy junior guard took the inbounds pass and looked to create a shot on the left wing. Johnathan Brandon

Johnathan Brandon (34) had a standout senior season for the Trojans.

blocked his path and appeared to have him contained just outside the 3-point arc. With the clock winding down, Smith lost the ball, regained control, and went up for a shot. Brandon kept his arms straight up and looked to avoid contact. His defense appeared to good enough, as Smith’s shot missed at the buzzer. But the officials didn’t agree. Brandon was whistled for the foul, which sent Smith to the free-throw line with no time left on the clock. Smith made the first, missed the second, and swished the third to send the game to overtime. The call didn’t sit well with Brandon or McBrayer.

“My hand was straight up,” Brandon said. “I hate for the officials to decide the game. This was for it all, and it means everything for us to go to Jackson. ... Let us go out and play ball. He is a (member of The ClarionLedger’s) Dandy Dozen. If he makes a clutch three, let him make a clutch three.” Said McBrayer, “Most of the time it is a non-call, especially with as little contact as was actually there. When a game comes down to those three guys in the black and white stripes it is out of our hands. You just hope they make the right decision and don’t cheat the kids, but the majority of the time the whistle is not blown.” The New Hope girls beat Oxford


48-46 in its district tournament opener, but the true test of how far the team had come came against West Point in the district final. Having lost to the Lady Wave twice during the regular season, coach Laura Lee Holman knew it would take a gritty performance to shut down Kelsei Ewings, The Commercial Dispatch’s Large Schools Player of the Year. Ewings had 21 and West Point had an eight-point lead at halftime, but Kelli Petty and Kia Edmonds combined to score 26 points, which helped propel the Lady Trojans to a 42-40 win. “Those first five minutes in the locker room, just to see that joy on their faces was incredible,” coach Laura Lee Holman said. “When we got in the locker room, the first thing they said was, ‘Coach, you said we’d be having fun in February.’ That was a special feeling to know they accomplished something that hadn’t been done in 18 years.” The Lady Trojans moved on to the North Half State playoffs, where they lost to Canton 57-52 to finish 16-10. In boys soccer, first-year coach Jerry Byrd led the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 or 2005, but the run ended with a 2-1 loss to Callaway in the first round of the Class 5A North Half State playoffs at Trojan Field. Tanner Ryals scored on a penalty kick in the second half, but Callaway answered with the game-winner late in the game to end the Trojans’ season at 6-6-1. “Effort wise I can’t complain,” Byrd said. “That’s one thing I like about these kids, they’re going to give you their best effort. We may be deficient in other areas, but our effort has always been there. “I am pleased (with the first season). I had hoped (we would make the playoffs). My expectations at the beginning of the season were to win, to put a good product on the field, to put good kids on the field. If you can do that, good things will happen. I wish we could have won a few more games, but it didn’t work out for these guys.” I In the spring, senior Kelli Petty showed she was deserving of a track and field scholarship to Mississippi State with a strong season. Petty won the 100 meters (12.52 seconds), the 200 (25.93), and the high jump (5 feet, 1 inch) at the regional meet to qualify for the Class 5A State meet. She closed her high school track

New Hope slow- and fast-pitch softball player Anna Holley (16).

and field career by finishing second in the 100 (12.09), third in the 200 (25.49), and fourth in the high jump (5 feet). The baseball team reaped the benefits of experience to win its first district title in a number of years en route to a 23-8 record. First-year coach Lee Boyd, a New Hope High School graduate, thought the team came together and picked up on his style of managing. The only problem was he felt the team peaked too soon, especially at the plate. After a streak of hot hitting in the middle to late in the regular season, New Hope scored nine runs in its three-game series victory against Neshoba Central in the first round. It

lost game one to Hernando 6-5 in 11 innings on a walkoff home run by Jon Vernon. The Tigers then completed the sweep with a 5-3 victory in Columbus. Still, there was a lot for the team to savor. Boyd said the program should take pride in its first district championship in five years. He credited the leadership of seniors Mitch Elkin, Gabe Franks, Davis Lee, Blake Roberts, Jake Smith, Seth Stillman, Philip Tice, Jake Upton, and Brent Younger. “They always played as a team,” Boyd said. “These guys have been together since they were 13 years old, and as far as adjusting to me they always adjusted and made me proud.


“We started believing we can win instead of thinking, ‘We are just New Hope. We are never going to win.’ ”
New Hope football player Justin Flye
“We’re going to be extremely young next year. We probably will only have three guys with any playing experience coming back. But you have some young kids who have worked hard and it is kind of hard to see how those kids will work and develop. But I am extremely proud of our guys this year.” Hernando also put the fast-pitch softball team out on the same day. The Lady Trojans lost game one 3-0 at Hernando, rallied for a 9-3 victory in game two in Columbus, and then dropped a 2-1 decision in eight innings in game three. The Lady Tigers capitalized on the international tiebreaker rule that puts a runner on second base to start the inning once the game reaches extra innings. Hernando scored a run in the top of the eighth thanks to a bunt, while New Hope pushed a runner to third base and then saw its season end when Lauren Holifield’s line drive hit Kaitlin Bradley. The umpire ruled Bradley was in fair territory and called her out. After the game, New Hope coach Tabitha Beard honored designated player Empress Shirley, the team’s only senior, and credited her for persevering and not giving up on the team or herself. Beard said her team, which featured several freshmen (Holifield and catcher Kasey Stanfield) and eighthgraders (D.J. Sanders and Bradley) in key roles, matured as a group throughout the season. Still, she said it was disappointing to see the season end because she had seen the players execute in the field and deliver at the plate. She said everyone will have to learn from the experience and the younger players will have to continue to improve if the Lady Trojans are going to take the next step. “Softball is a team sport,” Beard said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we have to progress as a team. It can’t be about individuals. It is like that old adage, ‘You’re only as strong as your weaker links,’ and our weaker links are going to have to work. All we can do is keep playing and working.”I Staff Writer David Miller contributed to this report.

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Front row, left to right, Silvia Carr, Holona Yarber, Felicia Bowen, Birney Imes, Connie Harris; second row, Steve Mullen, Terri Collums, Celsie Staggers, Tammie Honeycutt, Tina Perry, Debbie Foster, Adrian Turner; third row; Adrian Bohannon, Beth Proffitt, Buster Wolfe, Peter Imes, Elbert Ellis, Jackie Taylor, Patsy Bowen, Jan Swoope, Linda Massey; forth row, Jerry Hayes, Vernon Hedgeman, Henry Matuszak, Tyson Wilson, Jamie Morrison, Ronald Gore, Carol Talley, Sid Lee, Canyon Boykin, Jason Browne, Matt Garner, Jeff Lipsey and Lonnie Shinn.

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TUDENT-ATHLETES AT SMALL SCHOOLS don’t have many opportunities to specialize in sports.
Overall State meet. “It was a lot harder because when I ran the mile I didn’t get to slow down any. It was just another two laps of pushing hard,” Lake said. “I did pretty good with the transition.” The performance was one of plenty standout efforts this season from studentathletes at Immanuel Christian. Lake also was part of the 3,200-meter relay team that finished seventh. Lake, who last year became the school’s first state champion when he won the 800 (2:12.44), teamed with Justin Perkins, who was sixth in the 800, Ross Moore, and Reed Williams to finish with a time of (10:06.81).

Immanuel Christian’s Wesley Lake is a perfect example of how busy a studentathlete can be practicing and playing one sport and trying to prepare for another sport in the next season. Lake, who played football, basketball, and baseball, knew the plan for him in track and field season was to move from the 800 meters to the 1,600. To prepare for the step up to the mile, Lake realized he had to train on his own so he would be ready once it came time to run. The work paid off as Lake finished second in the 1,600 with a time of 4 minutes, 58.47 seconds at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools

I Ray Campbell was pleased with the girls soccer team’s 4-6 record in the district (4-8 overall). Senior Nyki Baudoin, one of three seniors on the team, was selected to participate in the MAIS Senior All-Star game and was named All-District.

Meghan Cooper, top, dribbles the ball against Heritage Academy, while QB Ross Moore makes a handoff.


Left, football coaches Shawn Gates and Daniel Merchant led the football team in 2009, while at right student-athletes Nyki Baudoin, Wesley Lake, front row, from left, and Ross Moore and Mary Katherine Good, back row, from left, were just some of the standout performers in the 2009-10 school year.

Senior Elizabeth Cook, a defender, also was named AllDistrict. Campbell said he has had 22 players sign up for the 2010 season, which adds to the excitement. He said many of the teams Immanuel Christian competes against don’t have junior varsity teams, so he will try to get the players as much playing time as possible in varsity games. “I thought we did pretty good for a young team,” Campbell said. “We will get everybody back this year, so I am looking for good things.” Baudoin also competed in cheerleading, basketball, and track and field. She said it was exciting to be a part of the first girls basketball team at the school to advance to the state tournament. The Lady Rams beat Kemper Academy for the first time and defeated Hebron Christian for the first time in five years. “It was an amazing year for me to end on my senior year,” Baudoin said. Things were equally amazing for Mary Katherine Good, Lake, and Moore. Good, a freshman in her second year competing on the track and field team, finished third in the 3,200. Good said her goal was to advance past the North Half State meet and to place at the overall state meet. She accomplished her goal and ran a personal-best time of 13 minutes, 58.73 seconds in the process. “It is going to push me more and I am going to practice throughout the year rather than just wait for track practice,” said Good, who also was a member of the basketball and soccer teams. “It is going to push me to get first place.” ■ Daniel Merchant, who works as an assistant coach to Shawn Gates on the football team, led the baseball team to four victories and a 3-7 mark in the district this season. Like Campbell, Merchant had a young team, with two AllConference selections — Jeremy Davidson and Christian Good. Brandon Westover, Dustin White, and Justin James were named honorable mention All-Conference. “We were better offensively. We scored 111 runs this year and only 82 last year, and we don’t lose anybody,” Merchant said. “I think we have a chance to be real good next year. I have seen progress in each and every year, so I am looking forward to it.” ■ Moore, who also played football, basketball, baseball and track and field, said the boys basketball team had an up-anddown season. The team won the district title before it went on to

lose two games at the state tournament. As quarterback on the football team, Moore said he learned plenty of “life lessons.” He learned how not to get too frustrated and to enjoy what he was doing. The Rams’ youth and lack of depth sometimes made that tough at times, but he is confident the Rams can regroup from last season’s 1-9 finish. “We’re going to continue to get better and better,” Moore said. “The hard thing is to get guys to come here so we can get the numbers. It is hard to get people excited about football. “But we have the chance to win a lot more games this year than we did last year.”■

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HE DYNASTY CONTINUES TO GROW. WHETHER IT WAS WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS in football and girls basketball or having state-level success in volleyball, boys basketball, baseball, and cheerleading, the 2009-10 school year was one to remember at Victory Christian Academy.
“It has been a really successful year,” Victory Christian Academy Athletic Director Chris Hamm said. “We made the state tournament in everything except softball. Two years ago, we didn’t have a softball team.” The softball team, which opened a new field this year, showed signs of progress, winning three games after going winless in its first year. Hamm admits it might take a few more years for that program to reach a championship level, but he is encouraged by how quickly the program is growing. Softball isn’t the only program at the school that is gaining momentum. A signup sheet on the window of the front office for the 2010 volleyball team was nearly filled with more than 20 signatures in the middle of May. Those girls will try to help the program improve on first trip to the state tournament in several years. Dale Latham got a late start to the season as coach of the volleyball team, but the Lady Eagles recovered and clicked at the right time. “He did really good. He listened to us and we listened to him, and we had to work together to grow,” senior Caitlin Osterman said of Latham. “It worked. We got a lot farther than I expected to get with all of the things that were stacked against us. Hopefully next season they will go farther.” Osterman, Erin Williams, Kathryn Scarbrough, Sarah Simpson, Heather
From left: Victory Christian Academy’s Erin Williams, Caitlin Osterman, C.J. Bell, and Parker Eaves played key roles in helping most all of the school’s sports have championship seasons.

Wells, and newcomer Nicky Croft helped the team work hard through the slow start and assisted Latham, a volunteer coach who replaced David Johnson, as he acclimated himself to the sport and to being a head coach. In February, the girls basketball team rallied to beat defending champion Eastwood 25-20 in the Alabama Christian Education Athletic Association Division I State Tournament at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Hamm, who also is the principal, coached the football and girls basket-

ball teams. While he thought the football team had a good chance to repeat as champions, he joked he used his uncertainty about the girls basketball team’s chances to motivate the squad. It worked. The girls basketball team’s championship came on the heels of the title the boys basketball team won in 2008-09. Williams, who also played on the volleyball and softball teams, said the softball team should be on the rise quickly because a lot of the younger players have experience playing the sport.



teammates. He said the team, which is She also put pressure on the 2010-11 losing six players, has a chance to girls basketball team. make it three titles in a row if it comes “Next year is probably going to be together. just as good,” Williams said. “There are Hamm said the enthusiasm and para lot of juniors who are seniors who are really, really good basketball players ticipation from student-athletes, parWe’ll probably have another (title) next ents, volunteers, and everyone else has year.” become contagious, just like winning, Osterman agreed the victory was a and he hopes it translates into more little sweeter because it was unexpectchampionships next season. ed, and with Williams that the future “As a small school, we want to be for the program is extremely bright. able to provide the best possible athletThe same is true for the baseball ic program,” Hamm said. “We have a team. lot of people who volunteer and help us Led by first-year head coach Brent simply for the reward of doing it. Harris and assistant coach Wes Jones, Without them, we wouldn’t be in the the Eagles advanced to the ACEAA position we are. We have a tremendous Final Four at Northside Methodist support staff.” Academy in Dothan, Ala. Eaves agrees. The senior quarter“I was real pleased with the progress back hopes he helped set an example the baseball team made this season,” for his younger teammates and the Hamm said. other students in the school. He said Senior C.J. Bell said the team Victory Christian Academy Athletic hard work in the offseason helped set clicked early, regrouped after a loss, Director Chris Hamm guided the Eagles the tone for what proved to be a season and “shocked” itself advancing to the to their second consecutive Christian filled with championships. state tournament. Football Association title in 2009. The “We just worked together and really “We pretty much played our hearts championship was the program’s third helped each other a lot,” Eaves said. in four years. out no matter what,” Bell said. “Next “Whenever you do that, the wins just year, they’re probably going to have to come and you start a dynasty. I hope they can keep it going, work a little bit harder to be better, but I know with the and I know they can, if they work hard like we did. It takes coach they have they’re going to work hard.” unity and knowing each other.”■ Led by Parker Eaves’ 320-yard, four-touchdown effort, Victory Christian defeated Tuscaloosa Christian 49-6 in the Christian Football Association title game in Cottondale, Ala. The victory helped the Eagles (10-0) win their second CFA title in a row, and third in four years. “We played as one this year and brought the thing home again,” Eaves said. Running back/defensive Landon Ellis didn’t practice the week of the title game after suffering an injury in the semifinal-round game. Just when the team was ready to leave to go to Cottondale, Ala., for the title game, its charter bus died. The Eagles scrambled to find enough parents and pickup trucks to get everyone to the game on time. Victory Christian also received contributions from new places, as sophomore Kaleb Holliness stepped in for Ellis at defensive back. The Eagles needed someone to emerge because Tuscaloosa Christian came out in Victory Christian’s offense with two split ends, two slot backs, and a quarterback in the shotgun. Holliness, who is 5-foot-7, was matched up with a 6-2 receiver. Hamm said Holliness overcame the height disadvantage to intercept a pass and break up several others. One of those pass breakups came early in the game when Holliness was in great position to break up a fourth-down pass in the end zone. But Victory Christian’s sports teams weren’t done. The cheerleading team also won the ACEAA competition. “Cheerleading has been a strong sport at our school,” M Memorial and 716 2nd Avenue North Hamm said. “They go to summer camps every year and do 903 College Street Columbus, Mississippi Gunter & Peel Columbus, Mississippi a good job.” (662) 328-4432 (662) 328-2354 Funeral Homes Like Williams, Eaves put pressure on his former football

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Front row, from left: Caledonia High School’s Sarah Guess and Jessica Comer and, back row from left, Chris Warren and Zach Senneff are four reasons the school’s track and field program is one of the state’s best despite not having a track facility at the school.

story and photo by ADAM MINICHINO

the school’s soccer field. Other than that, you will have to look hard to find any signs one of the state’s top track and field programs in Class 4A exists. But once you get to a meet it’s easy to see Caledonia High’s athletes more than make up for what they don’t have. Caledonia girls track and field coach James Reed, who also coaches the school’s cross country teams, said both teams are so competitive because the athletes


HE WARMUP TO THE BIGGEST SPORTS SUCCESS AT CALEDONIA HIGH SCHOOL in 2009-10 came on a “facility” that doesn’t resemble anything else in the state.

The Caledonia girls and boys track and field teams have a borrowed pole vault pit, a set of shiny, new hurdles obtained this year, a netted area for discus throwers, and makeshift running lanes around what is set up to be


are motivated. He said their drive to be the best helps them overcome the limitations they face with facilities and equipment. “It is not the NFL. We can’t trade them or change cities,” Reed said. “We’re here and we’re going to make do with what we have. The kids have bought into that.” Reed said the programs have been fortunate to get handouts from other schools and to receive support from the Caledonia High booster club, which has purchased equipment, and from the school, which has paid transportation costs so they can compete at better facilities. Both teams have made the most of their opportunities. The girls team used individual victories by Jessica Comer (800, 1,600, and 3,200 meters), Jelisha Hackman (triple jump, 400), Glenda Rhone (long jump), Carlee Gurley (pole vault), and Nellie Miller (100 hurdles) to win the Class 4A, Division 4, District 4 title last month at Kosciusko High School. Caledonia scored 164 points to beat Noxubee County (second, 118 points), and Amory (third, 113). Louisville was fourth with 42 points. Comer repeated with victories in all three of her races, while Hackman won the triple jump and 400 to help lead the Caledonia girls to a Region 2 title. Zach Senneff, who won the 3,200 (10 minutes, 59 seconds), and Chris Warren, who won the 1,600 (4:55), helped the Caledonia boys take second at the Region 2 meet. At the North State meet, Comer won the 800 and the 3,200 and finished second in the 1,600, Hackman won the 400 and finished second in the triple jump, and Sarah Guess was second in the discus to qualify for the Class 4A meet. Senneff (third in the 3,200), Chris Warren (third in the 1,600), and Curtis Fluker (fourth in the triple jump) also qualified. Guess has exceeded the goals she set for herself at the beginning of the season. She thought she would be able to make the North Half State meet, but a throw of 89 feet, 6 inches helped her take the next step. “We don’t have as much as other people do, but we have enough to get us there,” Guess said. “We take pride in our school no matter what the condition. I guess the reason we take so much pride is we have spirit and that ounce of pride. We have come together as a team to motivate everybody to go farther than their limits.” Senneff said the teams don’t allow what they don’t have to distract them. He said running is running, regardless of whether it is on a track or on a grassy surface. “Making excuses is not going to make you better,” Senneff said. “If you want to win you’re going to run like we are. “We work hard because we want to. We want to be the best, and we try to strive to do what needs to be done to be the best.” While other student-athletes profess to be “invested” in their programs, members of the Caledonia High track and field team pay to be on the team. Reed said the money from the athletes goes to defray costs of travel. In addition, Reed said the team does fundraisers to help it pay its expenses. “The kids we have are kids who want to excel,” Reed said. “We get them early. I probably had the best middle school track program in the state, but they had to move up to compete on the varsity team. “They know we’re different. ... Most of our budget comes from picking up other peoples’ trash. We work the football games and after the football games they pick up this stadium.

I have to have good kids because they pick up this stadium Friday night before they leave to get up and leave Saturday morning. I don’t have to look for them.” Reed said the athletes on both teams know they are invested in their sport and expect to get something out of it. Warren said Reed and boys coach Jason Forrester encourage the athletes every day in practice but make sure they are challenged to do what is expected. “I think we all have some grudge or determination (because of what they don’t have),” Warren said. “It really helps to have someone like coach Reed push us in practice, and our boys coach (Forrester) pushes us harder than the boys coach we had before.” Some might consider Reed’s approach a little “old school,” but he is honest with his kids in that track and field is a sport that doesn’t lie. If you put in the work, the results and the times will come. “In other sports, and I am not picking on other sports because I have coached a little bit of all of it, it is easy to make a team and to sit there and to watch other people,” Reed said. “If you get your shot you might not do real well but you can say, ‘Well, the umpires, the weather, the coaches, or whatever.’ In track and field and cross country, you shoot the gun and you run. I get them to the meet. We prepare them as best we can and we get them to the meet and they expect to do well.” The results speak for themselves, despite the state of the “facilities.” “They’re representing themselves and the school well,” Reed said.■

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West Lowndes’ Hill uses Keffer McGee as motivation for success
story and photo by ADAM MINICHINO


EFFER McGEE WATCHES OVER EVERYONE who visits West Lowndes High School.

Situated above the doorway to the school’s main office, an artist’s rendering of the former prep and college football standout looks out into the hallway that leads to the gym and to the rest of the school. McGee’s image is an enduring symbol for a school and a community that remembers one of its greatest student-athletes. Brandon Hill has seen that picture every day the past four years. It has motivated him to realize his potential on the football field. It has driven him to be the best he can be in the classroom. It has helped him secure an opportunity to play football at Mississippi State. Only months before he will report for his freshman season with the Bulldogs, Hill said he is ready to take the lessons he has learned from McGee and to set the same example. “I consider myself as the other half to the story of Keffer McGee,” Hill said. “I want to carry his memory as well as his success. I want to try to move that forward. ... I want to rise any way I can and make a success story out of it.” McGee died Aug. 5, 1997, in a swimming accident. He graduated from West Lowndes High in 1993 and went on to be a three-time member of the AllSoutheastern Conference Academic Honor Roll as a member of the MSU football team. As a sophomore, McGee rushed for 1,072 yards. He led the SEC in rushing and ranked third nationally with 481 yards when he suffered torn knee ligaments in a Sept. 28, 1996, game against South Carolina. He had surgery in October, participated in spring drills, and was expected to be at full speed for the first time the following season. He was 22 and a graduate student when he died. An autopsy later revealed McGee had an undetected heart problem that likely contributed to his death. McGee’s left

West Lowndes High School football player Brandon Hill stands in front of an artist’s rendering of Keffer McGee.

main coronary artery was 90 percent blocked and there was other evidence of hardening of the arteries, Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt told the Associated Press. Former MSU coach Jackie Sherrill said McGee was more than just another football player. “Keffer was a very special, special person,” Sherrill told Paul Jones in an article for “He was respected by his teammates, his friends on campus, his coaches, and his professors. I don’t know of another student that had the presence that he had on campus.” Hill said McGee is an inspiration to him and to the rest of the West Lowndes High community because he was “getting it done academically and athletically.” He said he will do his best to live up to those standards at MSU. “I want to carry that and take that on my shoulders and move it forward,” Hill said. Hill said his mother, LaTanya Fenster, was pregnant with him when she was in high school. He said his mother was older than McGee, and that McGee used to carry his mother’s books. Years later, McGee’s and Hill’s lives intersected again when WCBI used images of McGee to introduce a highlight package of Hill on their National Signing Day special broadcast. Hill, a 6-foot-2, 215-

pound linebacker/wide receiver, didn’t know how the television station was going to use pictures of McGee, but he said the images were powerful. “I felt like that was the biggest honor I could receive at the moment,” Hill said. “It was almost like a tear-jerker situation. I still had to remember I had an interview to do.” Hill isn’t shying away from the responsibility he feels to carry on McGee’s legacy. He understands he will go to MSU shouldering his expectations, his family’s expectations, and the expectations of those at West Lowndes High, and in the community. That’s a huge burden to bear for any individual, but Hill already is following McGee’s example. “I consider myself an icon for West Lowndes,” Hill said. “I consider myself a role model, also. Any way I can encourage the young people. I speak to elementary and middle schoolers, even high schoolers who are up and coming. I speak with them to try to encourage them any way I can because I really care about my school. I want everyone to be successful. I lead by example. I don’t expect anything to come toward me, and I try to go get it any way I can. Anytime somebody asks of me, I try to do more than what is asked of me.” Hill plans to live up to that credo in the next few months. He already is doing plenty of individual conditioning, like


“I consider myself as the other half to the story of Keffer McGee. I want to carry his memory as well as his success.”
West Lowndes football player Brandon Hill
jumping rope and running stadium steps, and working out three or four times a week at the YMCA. Initially, the work was designed to prepare him to play linebacker. But Hill said MSU coach Dan Mullen recently told him he plans to use him at wide receiver, so Hill said he is trying to shed a few pounds so he can help add depth to that position. Hill had 23 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He also had 64 tackles, made one interception, had one sack, recovered three fumbles, broke up three passes, and tallied three tackles for loss. He returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown. gave Hill a four-star ranking and listed him the No. 24 athlete in the nation. listed him as the No. 22 prospect in the state regardless of position. Still, some area coaches wondered whether Hill made enough plays to merit those rankings. Hill also has faced questions about how he will stack up against higher-rated prospects. He doesn’t mind the questions or the doubters because he knows it will be up to him to earn playing time. “Everyone has something to prove,” Hill said. “You can’t just go out there and expect it just because you walk out there. Everyone has a grind they have to go through. I understand if someone is ranked higher than me because they get a little more attention than me or they went to a bigger school than I did. It is just a mind-set. I understand I have got to work to be successful. If he can outwork me, he deserves it. I doubt I am going to allow anybody to outwork me because I have it in my mind that I got to work hard to get where I need to get.” Hill also said his spirituality will guide him. He knows the Lord gave him the opportunity to play football at MSU and that he is eager to take on that challenge. He said the key to success will be staying humble and having a mind-set that nothing will be given to him. Hill said that attitude will help him realize the goals he will set for himself. He knows, too, that everyone at West Lowndes High and in the community will be watching him and pulling for him, so he has to work even harder to satisfy all of those people. McGee faced similar expectations and showed what hard work can help someone accomplish. Hill wants to do even more to make McGee and everyone else proud. “I have to work for myself and my community,” Hill said. “The thing with West Lowndes is we get a lot of backlash and negativity. I want to be the one to show the community, the state, to show whoever needs to know, that West Lowndes, we have pride and we have icon students, marquee students, who can do well in any challenge we receive. I want to be that example.”I

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Mississippi School for Math and Science boys soccer team, top, from left, are Ryan S., Joseph N., John W., Tyler C., Josh Rester, Ryan M., William Maddox, Arslan Arshad, and James Johnson; bottom, from left, are Eric Brisco, Chase T., Josh Stone, Joey, Chad Hickman, Morgan W., Taylor Potter, and Nam Pham.


HE MISSISSIPPI SCHOOL FOR MATH AND SCIENCE BOYS SOCCER TEAM delivered the biggest highlight for the school’s sports teams this season. The Blues (6-2) defeated Forest 2-1 in the opening round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A/2A/3A North Half State tournament.
Even though MSMS lost its next game to Corinth, the program took pride in the fact it earned its first postseason victory in a number of years. Seniors Josh “Brody” Rester and Ryan Mackay and junior Taylor Potter helped lead the team “We didn’t really know what to expect from Forest,” Mackay said. “We have been playing mostly in our district (against Aberdeen and Winona), but we played well. It was very satisfying.” Chad Hickman and Mo Weems scored goals for MSMS against Forest. MSMS beat Class 5A New Hope in the regular season and tied Class 6A Columbus in a preseason tournament. The victory and tie were especially satisfying for Mackay and Rester, who are from Columbus. They admit they have heard the whispers from opponents doubting the ability of the



“We got really lucky this year because of how many people were interested. We just have a lot of talent.”
MSMS senior soccer player Ryan Mackay
players because they attend an academic school. They also are used to having teams overlook them and count MSMS as a victory on their schedule. “We got really lucky this year because of how many people were interested,” Mackay said. “We just have a lot of talent.” The team expects to return 13 juniors from this season’s team. I The cross country teams competed Nov. 7 at the state meet at Choctaw Trails in Clinton. The girls team placed seventh in its division. Eighty-six boys and eighty-one girls ran in Division 3A. Senior Lanie King paced the team on the 4-kilometer course with a time of 19 minutes, 40.8 seconds. Senior Flo Osbourne (19:43.1), senior Katherine Timm (19:56.5), junior Leena El-Sadek (21:55.7), senior Hillary Hardwick (22:02.1), and junior Reanna Bierig (24:13) also competed. Senior Tony Green (21:42.3) paced the boys on the 5-K course. Junior Joshua Stone (21:49.9), junior Darrien Kelly (25:01.4), senior Alan Wells (25:59.9), and junior Frank McDonald (28:24.9) also competed. I The MSMS swimming team sent five to the state meet in Biloxi. Bowen Han, of Starkville, Wilton Liana, of Starkville, Ryan Mackay, of Columbus, Adam Grant, of Biloxi, and Samantha Nanayakkara, of Oxford, competed.

I The tennis team was the runner-up in its district, and sent five to the state tournament: Mackay and Grant competed in boys doubles, Sindhu Shivaji, of Starkville, and Eric Briscoe competed in mixed doubles. They won their firstround match and lost in the second round. Rebecca Kim, of Ridgeland, also qualified for the state tournament. I In its first year with a track and field team, Courtlandt Perkins was fifth in the 200 (23.09 seconds) and Jamarius Waller was eighth in the discus (111 feet, 11 inches at the Class 1A State meet. “We’re real proud of our athletes,” MSMS Executive Director Charles Brown said. “Here it is truly student first and athlete second. The kids work real hard to keep themselves in playing shape, and have a real desire to do well.” MSMS offers 10 sports. Brown said the school will try to keep as many sports as it can as it prepares for the 2010-11 school year. The school, which is on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women in downtown Columbus, and focuses on academics. It offers cross country, track and field, swimming, soccer, and tennis. “As always, we are academics first,” Brown said. “We really want to be able to have our kid to be able to compete. It helps with sprit and good, life-long habits.” I

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Yellow Jackets fighting their way back to top
Starkville High quarterback Jaquez Johnson (12) looks for throwing room against Columbus High.


team won the 6A state title this season, and girls basketball, volleyball, and the girls and boys soccer and baseball had playoff seasons. The boys track team has produced All-Americans and a two state titles in the past three years. Football, though, is the big ticket. Missing out on a healthy gate at the biggest venue on campus can put a strain on an athletic department. To regain interest in Starkville High football, Mitchell has vowed to be an integral figure in fundraising and community relations. As he sees it, he has no choice. “It’s how you build championship programs,” Mitchell said. “The community has to have pride in its team, but this team has to win ballgames. My job is to hit the pavement and get out in the Starkville community. We need them.” Mitchell’s first day of spring practice saw 89 players on hand. The Yellow Jackets finished the fall with less than 50 on their roster. Low numbers, at least for HANGE IS IN THE AIR FOR A FOOTBALL PROGRAM the spring, won’t be an issue. Part of the reason Starkville’s numbers that has fallen on hard times. Usually, a team coming off a were low in recent years centered around postseason berth doesn’t need major renovation. eligibility. With proof that 3A or 4A roster counts can happen at a 6A school, Mitchell Fulton school. But when standards are far higher is taking a hard-nosed approached to keepMitchell’s move to Starkville might than current results, a new plan needs to ing his players on the field. have seemed mistimed considering the be mapped out. “It’s at the top of our chart,” Mitchell Back-to-back losing seasons and dimin- state of the SHS program and the roll he was on at IAHS, but Class 6A jobs are cov- said. “We cannot afford to lose players ishing interest in the program produced because they’re not academically eligible. sparse crowds at Yellow Jacket Stadium in eted. I’m a little bit behind the eight ball coming In his time at Olive Branch, Mitchell the last two years of the Bill Lee era, which in at the end of the school year. This time faced Tupelo, South Panola and Starkville includes the team’s last of its four state next year, we’ll have a whole lot better in division play. titles (2001). Since he left the Conquistadors to take grasp on kids’ grades. That’s something When Lee announced his retirement, it over in Fulton, the Jackets are 3-15 against we will monitor, probably by-weekly with left Starkville High with vacancies at the all of our kids. top of the athletic department and football Olive Branch, Tupelo, and South Panola, “We understand you can’t force a kid to the programs that are considered the best program. pass, but we’re going to strongly encourin the region. A familiar face in former principal Dr. age them and they are going to underTitle aspirations in Starkville have Stan Miller was named athletic director, stand the importance of grades. We just become simple talk as the “Big 3” have and his choice to lead Starkville football controlled the region and faced a Starkville can’t lose kids, and that’s going to be back to a championship level was Jamie team that usually has earned the last play- stressed very heavily.” Mitchell, a noted program-rejuvenator. Mitchell has a list of needs and to-dos off spot. Mitchell turned Itawamba Agricultural Mitchell’s approach is energetic and High and Olive Branch High into consisfor the program on and off the field. He tent playoff teams. He arrives in Starkville auspicious, and he enters at a burgeoning stressed the importance of identifying the time for SHS athletics. The boys basketball team’s specialists. He has Alvaro Pichardo with a 40-10 record in four seasons at the



Starkville High’s Chuck Tillery, left, and Billy Shed were two of the team leaders on offense. Their efforts helped the Yellow Jackets qualify for the Class 6A North Half State playoffs.

and Daniel Fumo from the SHS soccer team to work with, but he must replace last year’s snapper and holder. The offensive line is a key spot, too, as Jarrod Atterberry and Chris Prater are the top returners. Size along the offensive and defensive lines is lacking, especially compared to division rivals. “There’s no question that’s where our shortage is,” Mitchell said of the line size. “I’ve seen that in the couple weeks I’ve been there, but we’re going to have to take what we’ve got and develop those guys. We’d love to have 6-5, 285 type guys but we don’t. What we’re going to do is take the ones we have and coach them. “ Off the field, Mitchell and Miller have campaigned for a new field house, though the odds of getting Starkville School District funding is highly unlikely. Improving the playing surface at Yellow Jacket Stadium is in Mitchell’s future plans, too. He also wants to improve team strength and cohesion with structured weight lifting periods during school hours for freshmen. Mitchell met some of those future freshmen in the two weeks prior to the start of varsity spring practice. “We finished up with our junior high spring with next year’s eighth and ninth

graders and there’s no value you can put on that time,” Mitchell said. “For us to get over there and get our hands on those kids was critically important. “We had a very good week, and those are classes that are going to be good for us. It’s also important to build relationships with kids of that age group.” ■ Starkville High basketball finally captured the state title, but how they did it made for an even better story. At 31-2, the Yellow Jackets turned in their most dominant season with the 6A and Grand Slam crowns. Rashad Perkins was named The Commercial Dispatch Large Schools Player of the Year and The Clarion-Ledger’s Mr. Basketball, which is awarded to the state’s top player. Starkville posted a thrilling win against Jackson Lanier and shut down Rodney Hood in the 6A title win against Meridian. Perkins, a senior power forward, led the Yellow Jackets with 22.3 points per game and 13.3 rebounds, while point guard Edward Townsel averaged 18.8 points, 7.9 assists, and 4.5 steals per game. The Yellow Jackets had the state’s best guard-forward combination and received major contributions from sophomores Gavin Ware, Mike Brand, and Calvin Young.

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Starkville High’s Nick Brooks (1) arrives at third base safely as Columbus High’s Avery Ford (5) covers.

■ The SHS girls basketball team exited the playoffs early, but Kristie Williams’ squad finished 16-9 and the runner-up in the Class 6A Region 2. Expectations were high entering the season coming off a region championship after a North State run. The team, led by versatile seniors Kala Williams (18 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Shay Bonner (13 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals), started the season 12-1 before dropping four of six. The Lady Jackets dropped a pair of onepoint games to Kosciusko and South Panola at the end of the regular season and lost by four to Northwest Rankin in their satellite playoff game. Still, the Lady Jackets posted their third winning season in the past four years. Bonner signed with Itawamba Community College to give the Lady Jackets five college signees in the past two seasons. ■ Starkville High enjoyed another season of playoff baseball after a 14-9 season. The Yellow Jackets, though, had the misfortune of facing defending state champion in Madison Central in the opening round of the Class 6A postseason. The Jaguars swept the Yellow Jackets in the best-of-three series, but there were plenty of highlights in the team’s second straight playoff season. SHS finished second in Class 6A,

Region 2 and led the region 205 runs. R.J. Johnson led the team with a .492 batting average and 12 home runs, while outfielder Chuck Tillery batted .408 and had a team-high 38 runs. Johnson also led the team on the mound with a 2.72 ERA and 83 strikeouts. “There’s guys on this team, like Chuck and R.J and Cody (Berryhill) who’ve started for three or four years,” SHS baseball coach Danny Carlisle said. “Then you take Reggie (Campbell), who worked hard to get where he is. Those guys have given a lot to this program, and I hate to see the year come to an end for them.” ■ Brian Bennett knew his boys soccer team was loaded and ready for a breakout year roughly three years ago. So when SHS started the season with 400-plus minutes of clean sheet soccer, Bennett wasn’t surprised. “Guys just had to get experience,” Bennett said. “We knew we were going to have the talent watching these kids play Select soccer.” Starkville had just one senior on its squad and built around its defensive sophomore trio in goalkeeper Addison Watson, center back J.R. Tomlinson, and The Commercial Dispatch Player of the Year, defender Price Day. SHS finished 9-2-2 and pitched seven shutouts. The team also posted its first shutout of state power Tupelo before falling to Northwest Rankin in the opening round of the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets had four players (Alvaro Pichardo, Tomlinson, Kase Kingery and Watson) make The Commercial Dispatch All-Area First Team. Pichardo led the team with 11 goals. Kingery scored five and had five assists. ■ Lady Jacket soccer battled scoring woes in 2009-10 but still made the playoffs and finished 9-5. SHS lost to Madison Central in the first round of the playoffs but had Morgan Miller, Mariah Duck, Ida Knox, Christine Mazzola, and Bailey Clark make The Commercial Dispatch All-Area Soccer Team. Goalkeeper Raevonne Shoemaker finished with an 84-percent save rate and a 60-percent shutout clip. She was named The Commercial Dispatch Player of the Year, an honor Shoemaker took home after saving eight of 13 penalty kicks this season. “The second you see those hips turn, that’s where you go. I took pride in every PK I stopped,” Shoemaker said. Miller scored six goals and Duck had five. ■ Starkville High’s senior volleyballers

played one extra game this season, but it was a special way to end a career on the court. Six upperclassmen got the chance to play in the postseason, taking second in Class 3, Division 2 with a 12-18 overall record and a 4-2 division mark. Starkville lost to Clinton in the opening round of the state playoffs, but it was the first block in first-year coach Lauren Love’s master plan. “We grew a little bit every time we were on the court,” Love said. “It was important for us to have that communication, both verbal and non-verbal.” Team leaders were Janae Poe (119 kills), Deanna Rieves (38 blocks), Elizabeth Scott (63 aces), McKay Richardson (190 digs), and Wheeler Richardson (359 assists). ■ Year 2 of the Mimi Milling era of Starkville softball showed movement in the win column. The Lady Jackets (5-14, 2-4 Class 6A Region 2) finished third in their region, but Milling’s squad managed four more wins than it did in 2009. Jonissa Buchanan had a breakout season with a .395 batting average, 15 RBIs, and 20 runs. Donnasha Hubbard hit .340 with 11 RBIs, while East Mississippi C.C. signee Tamara Bell hit .270 with 11 RBIs.■

Starkville High’s DeAnna Rieves gets into position to make a pass in a match against Columbus.



RTIE COSBY INHERITED A FULL CUPBOARD when he took over Starkville Academy soccer. He knew it, too.

The former Mississippi State kicker had been involved with Starkville youth soccer leagues and was aware of the talented players he’d lead. An undefeated regular season and No. 1 seed in the playoffs made the 2009-10 boys soccer team the biggest story in Starkville Academy athletics this year. The Volunteers wiped out Heritage Academy and Clarksdale Lee, posting a string of eight-plus goal games. It also

Starkville Academy midfielder Roy Miles, right, and Jackson Prep’s Tramel Reeves converge on a ball in their Mississippi Association of Independent Schools playoff match on Feb. 10 at the Starkville Sportsplex. Jackson Prep won 5-0.


tect of a team that displayed incredible balance on both ends of the field. Starkville Academy allowed 14 goals in 11 games, with five coming in its playoff loss to Jackson Prep. Right winger Frankie Jones ended his senior season with 10 goals and 10 assists, while central midfielder Roy Miles had four goals and seven assists. “Coming into the season, I knew Roy, Will (Goodwin) and Frankie,” Cosby said. “I had seen these guys growing up and remember seeing them at a UAB camp several years back, so I knew we had some talent coming into the season. But I was surprised by some of the guys who I didn’t know. “Then I had no idea what the competition would be like with my first time in this league. Some games we’d win big and I’d think, ‘We look good but gosh, there’s got to be better teams.’ I knew there were teams from Greenville and Greenwood who would always have talent in Rec and Challenge.” Washington and Pillow put up challenges, but Starkville Academy’s roster was loaded with experience and drive to avoid the sub.-500 record in 08-09. Miles, the team’s midfield anchor, was one of five Starkville Academy players named to The Dispatch All-Area Soccer Team. Jones, center forward Will Goodwin, goalkeeper Herston Williamson and center back Jake Read joined Miles on the list. With the exception of Williamson, who joined the team this season, the Volunteers’ seniors had played together at Starkville Academy since the eighth grade. That year, they went undefeated and tied Jackson Academy twice. Miles knew it could be done again. “We all played together and took the game serious then,” Miles said. “We had a great chemistry then, and ever since we were in the ninth grade we knew our senior year was going to be special. It honestly set in at the first practice (this year) when we were all there. The starting team worked the ball great, and we just felt it from that point.” Miles role with the team was crucial, as he formed a strong link with Read on the backline and Goodwin and Jones up top. Miles was a facilitator and ball-hawk

showed the ability to finish games with one-goal wins against Lamar School and Pillow Academy. Cosby takes little credit for the success, instead pointing to a dominant senior class that produced three college signees. But there’s no denying the archi-

Lyndsey Haynes led the Starkville Academy fast-pitch softball team to a 23-8 record.


Starkville Academy’s Bailey Wofford (5) slides in safely ahead of the tag by Bayou Academy’s Laken Wilson (15).

for Cosby. “That’s part of what made him such a good midfielder, just having the attitude of always wanting the ball,” Cosby said. “To want the ball, you’ve got to be in position to get the ball. He always tried to make himself available, and he’s a very smart player.” For every great team, certain things have to “go their way” throughout the course of the season. A stroke of luck for a ball to bounce in your favor or a feared injury just turn into a tweak is needed, but for the Volunteers they had a position to worry about from the start of camp. Josh Senter graduated and the team was faced with the thought of moving Read in goal to replace the Mississippi Gulf Coast signee. In came that stroke of luck. Williamson, who’d played tackle for the football team and first base for the baseball team, joined fall camp and quickly established himself as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper. “It was obvious Herston had quick reflexes and good hands,” Cosby said. “He got in goal and immediately started stopping shots. With that, all we had to do was teach him the game.” Williamson shed 20 pounds getting into soccer shape and finished the season 104 saves and just 14 goals allowed. “That was crucial for us, especially early when we were thinking about putting Jake in goal,” Cosby said. “We just couldn’t afford to put him in goal and leave too big of a gap in our defense. We had Jake out there kind of coaching Herston through the game. Sometimes Herston didn’t know when he could touch it. A lot of that was trial by fire for him.” The memorable season included a 2-2 comeback draw against Starkville High and Goodwin and Miles signing with ICC. Defender Heath Walker signed with East Mississippi.

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“We’ll take this experience and always remember it. You couldn’t ask for a better season and how we came together.”
Starkville Academy midfielder Roy Miles
I Randy Haynes couldn’t have had a better swan song as Starkville Academy’s head softball coach. After three years at the helm and three more as an assistant, Haynes guided the Lady Volunteers to a 23-8 record and third place in the MAIS Class AAA North Tournament. Though the team narrowly missed out on the playoffs, the Lady Vols had three infielders and two outfielders to replace from the previous year. There was no depth in the circle, either. Starkville Academy beat rival Pillow Academy three out of four times this season and won the Starkville Invitational to cap an 8-1 start. “If they had told me we’d be 23-8 at the end of the season, I would have just took it right then,” Haynes joked. “I couldn’t have ever dreamed, percentagewise, that we’d have that kind of a record. I mean, we had girls who were starting for us that we had to teach to throw a ball.” Pitcher Lyndsey Haynes was named MAIS All-Star. Catcher Bailey Wofford led the team in batting and runs scored. I Glenn Schmidt leaned on a trio of seniors and a freshman in the Lady Volunteers solid season on the basketball court. Senior forward Maggie Gladney (9 ppg., 4.5 rpg.), along with fellow upperclassmen Anne Claire Craig and Kylie Lockhart, helped guide the Lady Volunteers to a 19-15 record and a firstround playoff berth. Freshman guard/forward Tiffany Huddleston, a member of The Dispatch Large Schools All-Area Second Team, led the team with 11.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. As much of a key as Huddleston was to the Lady Vols’ success, transfer point guard Anna Prestridge (6.5 ppg., 3.1 apg., 2.2 spg.) added stability and was often praised by Schmidt for her positive assist to turnover ration. I Artie Cosby’s first year at the school covered both soccer programs, and his start in the fall with the Lady Volunteers produced a playoff berth. The girls finished 7-7 and 7-4 in North AAA contests. The team played

“We’ll take this experience and always remember it,” Miles said. “You couldn’t ask for a better season and how we came together. Now I get to go do it at the college level.” I Confidence was in the air prior to Starkville Academy’s season-opening football game against Ackerman. Lifted by their positive outings in jamboree season, the Volunteers were ready to shock opening weekend. It didn’t happen. Ackerman, eventual MHSAA Class 2A state runner up, left jam-packed J.E. Logan Field with a 55-2 win. The Volunteers never recovered. Year 2 of Brian Sims’ tenure turned into an 0-11 season in which the Volunteers gave up 40 or more points in six games. Injuries along the line came before quarterback Will Goodwin was shelved with a knee injury. Inexperience took to the field and Sims’ spread offense never took off. With 15 straight losses dating back to 2008, Sims resigned amid pressure and growing negative energy outside of the program. “I don’t worry about the parents so much as I do the kids,” Sims said. “I don’t listen to parents much because they seldom know what they are talking about. I just felt like everybody was pulling in different directions and obviously it was time for a change.” In steps Jeff Terrill, whom no one could have put on Starkville Academy’s shortlist to replace Sims. The former Itawamba Community College head coach became SA’s third coach in four years when he was introduced Dec. 17. Terrill’s experience alone — 38-36 record at ICC — should give the program a boost. The Vols hope the timetable for competing at a level comparable to the 2005 state title team is a short span. “This is probably as low a situation as I’ve been involved in,” Terrill acknowledges. “When we inherited ICC, they were coming off a 3-6 season. In high school football, though, the turnaround can be quicker than expected. When you’ve got a younger players (sophomores) that year of experience makes a lot of difference.”


with youth, but fielded talented freshmen in leading scorers Sallie Kate Richardson and Tiffany Huddleston and goalkeeper Garland Willcutt. The team will lose three seniors, two of whom — defender Michelle Padgett and midfielder Anne Claire Craig — were named MAIS All-Stars. I After a dominant 2008-09 basketball campaign, Clay Stringer probably didn’t foresee the struggles the Volunteers faced this season. Starkville Academy lost the likes of Johnathan McKenzie, James Blair, Brandon Sharp — starters the previous season — Will Goodwin and Jake Read from the previous year. Juniors Patrick Jones and J.R. Gerhart became the elders of the team, but with so many new pieces the Volunteers were behind the curve in 2009-10. The Volunteers finished 1-23. Their lone win on the road against Oak Hill brought a refreshing moment to a season filled with frustration. Five juniors return next year, when Stringer is confident the accelerated minutes will have his players ready to have complete-game performances. I Three coaches in the span of two months, including one gone incredibly wrong, highlighted the baseball team’s offseason. The Volunteers’ season ended below .500 and without a postseason place. Former head coach Justin Brewer accepted a job at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and the Volunteers hired former New Hope High AllAmerican and former minor leaguer Shane Bazzell. At his introduction, Bazzell spoke of running a tight ship and having a disciplined ball club. On Jan. 15, his era came to an end when he was arrested for having a stolen four-wheeler in his front yard. Then, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics completed a two-year drug investigation and a grand jury indicted Bazzell on four felony counts of obtaining Adderall by fraud. Bazzell wasn’t retained and interim coach Neal Henry took over. Henry led the team to a 14-16 record, as it struggled down the stretch after reaching 9-7 overall and 4-5 in district play.I




One game set tone for East Oktibbeha success
story and photo by DAVID MILLER


OUR GAMES INTO THE 2009-10 BOYS BASKETBALL SEASON, the East Oktibbeha Titans were falling well short of coach Barnett Robinson’s expectations.

East Oktibbeha High School boys basketball coach Barnett Robinson, right, and leading scorer Doug Chandler helped the Titans to a 23-7 record and a region title this season.

After winning a division tournament title in 2008-09, much was expected of a Titans squad that returned one of the area’s top scorers in Doug Chandler. And after sitting out most of the previous season, forward Kirby Sherman was available to give Robinson the post presence the team lacked last season. When the Titans went to the West Lowndes Tournament on Nov. 27, no one could have imagined how one win would spark a breakout season and an undefeated division record. That night, the Titans beat Ethel 71-60, starting an 11-game winning streak that laid the foundation for a Class 1A South State final berth, where the Titans were one quarter away from punching their ticket to Jackson. Robinson called the game “the turning point” in the team’s season, not because it was the first of 23 wins but because of how the team played. “I worked them pretty hard that week in practice, and I think they saw that with hard work they could continue to win,” Robinson said. “There’s not really much else than that. The guys just kept working from that point.” Chandler, who led the Titans with 18.7 points per game and 2.7 assists, could pinpoint the team’s deficiencies early on and made it a point to help reinforce what Robinson was preaching. “We had to start focusing on our defense and using our big men,” Chandler said. “We lost four straight, and I told the guys we had to do better, practice harder, run the floor,

and get back on D. “I knew we would have a good season because we had a good team, even last year when we were struggling. When we brought some more boys in this year, we had a feeling we would have a good season. We just couldn’t keep losing games like we were.” Chandler formed an explosive backcourt combination with junior Casey Neal, who averaged 10.4 points per game and a teamhigh 3.1 steals per game. New to the starting lineup this season was 6-foot-3 small forward Geonte Richardson, who averaged 8.5 points and 7.5 rebounds and gave the Titans a top perimeter threat on the team. Robinson felt he had a more complete lineup and multiple scoring options to get the team through nights when opponents entered the gym to stop Chandler. “You can have a lot of talent, but getting players to put their egos aside and play team ball is the biggest thing,” Robinson said. “You never know what type of offense you are going to rely on each night. One night, you might have to feed it inside to Kirby. The next you may have to rely on Geonte shooting the ball from the outside. Then you might have to rely on Doug or Casey driving to the basket and pushing the ball. “We had choices this year, and the guys recognized that anybody on the team could carry us.” Finishing 23-7 (10-0 in Class 1A, Region 5), the Titans beat Nanih Waiya for the region tournament title. McAdams eliminat-

ed East Oktibbeha in the South State tournament. Despite losing Chandler, Sherman, and Richardson, Robinson is confident the team can continue the year-to-year improvement he has seen in his three years at the helm. ■ The 2009 football season could have had a much different ending if not for a play here or a play there. Second-year coach Anthony King’s Titans raced to a 4-3 record after back-toback 50-point wins against Thomastown and Edinburg, only to see a pair of four-point losses and a pair of six-point losses close the door on their playoff hopes. The Titans (4-7, 3-6 Class 1A Region 3) also dropped a heartbreaking 26-24 match at rival West Oktibbeha. ■ Randy Brooks’ return to the sideline produced a winning record for the East Oktibbeha Lady Titans, who rebounded from a shaky start to earn a division runnerup finish. The Lady Titans lost their first five games before going 4-2 before the Christmas Break. The team had to overcome the uncertainty of Alexius Selvie being available after the point guard suffered a preseason injury. Then there was the adjustment period with Brooks taking over for Cynthia Davenport, who guided the team to the 2007 Class 1A state title. However, the team found stride and finished with an improved record after a down season in 2008-09.■


UIETLY, THE WEST OKTIBBEHA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM used a surge of enthusiasm and faith to make one of the significant turnarounds in the area.

turned West Oktibbeha around

West Oktibbeha High School football coach Adam Lowrey prays with his team.

Both feelings came with winning football, but faith came well before the team went into the final week of the 2009 regular season fighting for a playoff spot. In ’08, Adam Lowrey took over a Timberwolves program that was struggling in every way. The team hadn’t had a winning season in two years, as the rigors of playing in a stacked division and dwindling support left a mountainous task for the young head coach. His arrival during the fall semester that year was met with 15 players ready to dive into what turned into a 1-9 season. In six games that season, the Timberwolves were held to eight points or less. Faith is hard to maintain when your team is smaller than every opponent and losses become more lopsided by the week. And when no one cares, why bother? That’s where the Timberwolves were entering 2009 with virtually the same skeleton crew from ’08. One constant, even as the team saw kids join the team and flake out days or weeks later, was Lowrey’s belief that the happiness they wanted from football would come as long as the team worked hard and believed in Christ. “Faith without works is dead. And when you have no faith at all, there will be no works,” Lowrey said. “If you believe in something greater than yourself, you can fail and still rise up and have something pull you up. The same goes for the team as a whole. That camaraderie and faith in each other can pull you out of tough spots.” The ’09 season would be much like the roller coaster of the previous year, but the

second ride provided more highs than lows and saw the team finish 5-6 record and fifth in the re-worked Class 1A, Region 3. But after opening the season with backto-back losses to old division rivals East Webster and West Lowndes by a combined margin of 70-6, Lowrey’s faith came close to faltering. “I wondered if it would turn around, but I didn’t know what would happen,” Lowrey said. “It’s like pulling down that one-armed bandit, waiting to see what comes up. But we hit it big. We hit all cherries. “Can’t do nothing but thank the Lord.” It was a breaking point, one that had to come with application and extra work toward team progress. Again, the idea of “works and faith” prompted Lowrey and his staff to make major changes. He owed it to his kids, who had faith in him that he could lead them to wins. Lowrey’s “best athlete” would ultimately carry the responsibility of leading the Timberwolves out of the offensive quandary that marred an entire season and showed every sign of scarring yet another. Junior Dwight Quinn opened the season as the team’s starting quarterback, but the offense wasn’t built for the inexperienced offensive line that still lacked size. A different approach was needed, and Lowrey brought the idea of starting freshman wideout Von Smith at quarterback and Quinn at receiver. Quinn didn’t need much persuasion from Lowrey; he knew Smith could excel and that a drastic change had to be made. “I always knew it would work because Von is going to make it work,” Quinn said. “If one thing doesn’t go right, he’s going to find a way to get around it. He likes to come to me, and we talk about football throughout the day.

“I didn’t see it coming with the way the season turned out but after the Noxapater game we all knew.” With two weeks to install a new passing offense, the Timberwolves were in overtime against Noxapater and in a walkoff scenario they hadn’t been in much. The Timberwolves won 36-28 and followed with a pair of wins to put the team above .500 for the first time since opening the ’07 season with a win against Falkner. Quinn established himself as Smith’s goto receiver, racking up 572 yards and six touchdowns on 48 catches despite missing three games. The Timberwolves scored 167 points after managing just 59 the year before. “Me and the coaches started with building a fort around Von,” Lowrey said. “We knew he could throw, but we couldn’t get him hit. We built around our strength and put our great athlete at wide receiver to start. We really didn’t know what we were doing last year and still threw for 1,500 yards.” The finish has sparked interest, as Lowrey has 29 players on his spring practice roster. The hallways and the classroom, though, haven’t completely jumped on board. Faith, again, applies to what Lowrey and Quinn believes is the last element needed to take the program to higher heights. “It was kind of hard because some of us got the big heads,” Quinn said, “but to be honest, some of the people in our school don’t even cheer for us. They cheer for East Webster down the road. So it was hard not to come back to school and feel like ‘I told you so.’ “We feed off that negativity and we like that because we’ve already been through so much more.”I


West Point looks to defend state championship in 2010


EST POINT HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH CHRIS CHAMBLESS isn’t having any trouble motivating his players to work hard in preparation for the 2010 season.
“We’re always going to have some good memories, but we’re already feeding off of it going into the next year,” Chambless said. “We’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason so far. I hope that will carry over so we can make another run if we can. “These guys coming back, I constantly remind them that to have true ownership of a state championship you have to win it as a senior. That’s what the juniors coming up as seniors want next year. They want their own. That’s what they’re working for.”

West Point High players have set their sights on repeating as state champions after winning the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state championship in 2009. West Point won the sixth state title in school history on Dec. 5, 2009, when it beat Wayne County 35-14 at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson. West Point (14-1) won its final 14 games after a season-opening loss to Shannon to cap a season the players and coaches will remember for the rest of their lives.

West Point coach Chris Chambless led the Green Wave to their sixth state championship in school history.

story by HENRY MATUSZAK photos by STAN BEALL


LaKenderic Thomas rushes through West Point’s offensive line

Winning the state championship was the realization of a dream come true for the Green Wave. “You set goals every year, and your ultimate goal is to win a state championship,” Chambless said. “We try to set three different levels. We want to do is win our nonconference games and get better. You want to win your district. Then you want to go into the playoffs and try to win a state championship. You just want to accomplish one step at a time. It’s kind of like climbing up a ladder. That’s how we approached it.” West Point beat Canton 36-0, Pearl 34-7, and New Hope 41-21 in the first three rounds of the playoffs before adding the final piece of the championship puzzle by beating Wayne County. The Green Wave outscored their opponents 485-177 en route to the championship, averaging 32.3 points and allowing 11.8 points per game. The championship was Chambless’ first as a head coach, and he said he’ll always have special memories. “Things pop in your head all the time,” Chambless said. “You just try to recapture those feelings you had when the last seconds ticked off the clock. That’s one of the most memorable things, looking up and seeing the score and knowing you came out on top. That’s probably the most memorable moment I’ve ever had.” West Point won the title after going 122, 11-2, and 8-3 Chambless’ first three years as head coach. The Green Wave put it all together in 2009 after coming up short the previous three years. “They were just determined,” Chambless said. “The season we had a year ago (2008) probably helped us more than anything because we weren’t good enough and to them that was unacceptable. It was unacceptable to me and the

areas and some areas I thought we should have been much better in,” West Point coach Buddy Wyers said. “We improved offensively. We improved as a team. We’re still not where we need to be by any means, but we did go through some pretty good stretches.” The Green Wave started their win streak on April 9, when they beat Oxford in a district game. “We went through about a week and a half where we won several games and won some pretty big games,” Wyers said. ■ The fast-pitch softball team made the MHSAA Class 5A state playoffs and finished 5-14. “I thought we improved through the year, and I think we’ll continue to improve coaches. We knew we could do better and the next few years,” West Point coach Libby Forrester said. we preached that all year in the offseason ■ The boys soccer team experienced and going into the season. They didn’t growing pains with an inexperienced team accept giving anything less. They got tougher. That’s how we approached things and lost all six of its matches. “We were kind of young,” West Point That made us better.” coach Blake Hutchinson said. “We only Six West Point High football players had three seniors. We had a lot of young signed scholarships in February. Michael guys with some who had never played Carr and Curtis Virges signed with before. They played hard. I was proud of Mississippi State, Jeremy Cannon, Xavier them. It seems like we got better every Hogan, and Matthew Lewis signed with East Mississippi Community College, and game and by the end of the year we were in every game we played. We were proud Desmond Boyd signed with Hinds C.C. By winning the state championship, the of them in that aspect.” ■ The girls soccer team went winless Green Wave created excitement in the in 10 matches. West Point community and captured the “We could have been better if we would imagination of their fans. have worked harder,” West Point coach The Green Wave’s goal now is to give the fans another special year to remember Keith Manning said. ■ The volleyball team didn’t win a with another state championship. ■ The boys basketball team finished 8- match in Dionne Keys’ final season as 16 and Winston Varnado resigned after the coach. Keys has retired after 24 years of coachseason to assist his son, Jarvis, prepare for ing girls sports at West Point High and has a career in professional basketball. Jarvis moved to Collins. set the NCAA record for career blocked “We’d always maybe win two (games) shots this season as a senior center at and they would come back and win three,” Mississippi State. Keys said. “We were competitive but we Former Oak Hill Academy boys coach Brad Cox replaced Varnado on an interim never could get over the hump. We enjoyed the season. We just didn’t do as basis and is expected to become the new well as we could have. I had a young team coach. ■ The girls basketball team made it to because I had mostly seniors the year the first round of the Class 5A North State before. I had maybe two girls that played Tournament and finished the season 17-8. at all from last year and all the other girls this was like their first year to play. It was a “I think we peaked at the right time,” young team full of freshmen and sophoWest Point coach Jemmye Ann Helms mores.” said. “We were playing good right before ■ The girls track finished fifth in district. I was excited. I was proud of my regionals at Oxford and didn’t qualify for girls.” North State. Kelsei Ewings averaged 22 points and Nekeisha Walker finished fifth in the five assists per game to lead the team. long jump and the 4x100 and 4x200 relay ■ The baseball team had a six-game teams of Walker, Jemeka King, Malikah winning streak during the season and finQuinn and Elizabeth Salmon finished fifth ished 10-14. at regionals.■ “There were some positives in some






AK HILL ACADEMY GIRLS BASKETBALL COACH STAN HUGHEY had good reason to like playing in a new district this past season.
lot of disappointments, too. “ Oak Hill was in the same division with Carroll Academy, Manchester Academy, and Winston Academy. Bonnie Riley led Oak Hill Academy in scoring with 16 points per game, while sophomore Tori Ellis added 15 points per game. Senior Megan Holton paced the team in rebounding with eight per game. Riley added 7.5 per game. “Bonnie was so good at creating her own shot off the dribble,” Hughey said. “She scored a lot of her points by taking the ball to the basket.” I The football team lost to Lamar

Oak Hill Academy girls basketball coach Stan Hughey poses for a picture with the school’s All-District players. From left: seniors Megan Holton and Bonnie Riley and sophomore Tori Ellis.

Hughey’s Lady Red Raiders didn’t lose a league game in their first year in Mississippi Association of Independent Schools North District 2AA en route to a 21-12 record. “Any time we don’t have a chance to compete for a state (title) it’s a disappointment, but it was fun to be in a different district and have a district tournament,” Hughey said. “We went undefeated in the district, and that was pretty neat. Any time you win any kind of championship, whether it a district or state or North State or whatever, it’s something the kids remember. There were some highlights, but there were a



“We were proud to make the playoffs just because there’s been so little history of football success at Oak Hill.”
Oak Hill Academy football coach Leroy Gregg

School in the first round of the MAIS Class AA state playoffs and finished 3-9. “We were proud to make the playoffs just because there’s been so little history of football success at Oak Hill,” Oak Hill Academy football coach Leroy Gregg said. “We were proud of that, but we weren’t proud of how our record ended up.” The Raiders were decimated by injuries. Running back Jake Orman suffered an AC joint sprain the fourth game of the season against Leake Academy. Quarterback Davis Clayton suffered a knee injury in the ninth game against Kirk Academy. Orman rushed for more than 500 yards in the first three games before getting hurt. “We had some very untimely injuries, but that’s part of football, too,” Gregg said. “It just seems the people you could without the least are the ones who end up with the injuries.” I The boys basketball made it to the MAIS District 2AA North State tournament and finished 11-17. “We had only eight players,” Oak Hill Academy coach Brian Middleton said. “We only lost one, so we’ll have seven Oak Hill Academy football coach Leroy Gregg back next year. The junior high won the district and finished 19-5, so we’re moving up a lot of young talent. We’ve got our two leading scorers coming back. We’re enthusiastic about that.” The leading scorers were junior Zach Bryan (12 ppg.) and Steven Jones (10 ppg.). I The baseball team missed the playoffs by one game and finished the season 6-13. “We were just a young, inexperienced team that got better as the season went along,” Oak Hill Academy coach Marion Bratton said. “Our pitching was so young we couldn’t get four innings out of a pitcher. I wasn’t going to hurt a kid’s arm. We just didn’t have any depth. We did the best that we could.” Oak Hill Academy’s playoff chances took a hit when pitcher Kale Pierce was unable to finish the season for undisclosed reasons. “He was that one guy that was good enough to get us a win on Thursday nights and we needed one against Carroll and one against Winston and we would have been in the playoffs,” Bratton said. “He also was probably our best hitter. He would have been our MVP.” I The fast-pitch softball team placed third in the MAIS Class AA North State tournament, second in its conference and finished 13-11. Oak Hill Academy played the season without its No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Mary Helen Hays and Paige Dawkins. “We struggled to score runs this year,” Bratton said. “Mamie Allen pitched very well for us. We played a lot of lowscoring ballgames where we lost by one run. Almost every game we played was like 3-2, 4-3, 1-0, you know, those kind of ballgames. We weren’t in any blowouts. We were playing 505 Willowbrook • Columbus • some younger girls and they got an opportunity to play.”I


Just like your family, we are so proud of you! Thanks for making your high school days, one of our best!
Emily Jamison, CFNP

Dr. James L. Holzhauer


Hebron Christian baseball coach Greg Watkins, left, received key contributions from Dylan Prisock (11), J.D. Edwards (13), and Blake Harrell (22) en route to another district championship and a 14-6 finish.

Tradition inspires Hebron Christian’s district title dynasty


HE HEBRON CHRISTIAN BASEBALL TEAM has started a trend it hopes it can continue for years to come.

For the second year in a row, Hebron Christian’s seniors signed their names on the wall in the dugout as a tribute to winning a district championship. In addition, this season marked the second year all of the players signed a block in the dugout in recognition of being district champs.

Hebron Christian finished in a three-way tie for first place in Mississippi Association of Independent Schools North District 3A with Central Academy and Winona Christian and won a tiebreaker to be declared the district champ. “These are the first two years we’ve ever won district,” Hebron Christian coach Greg Watkins said. “After winning the district last year and the kids getting to write their names on the wall and doing it again this year, it has kind of started a tradition. Next year’s group was talking, ‘We’re going to win district and we’re going to write our names on the wall.’ ” Hebron Christian (14-6) repeated as district champion despite losing six starters from the previous year. “That was big for this group,” Watkins said. “We lost a lot from last year. We started out slow. The kids kept working harder and harder and we just improved over the year. We played some pretty good ball.” Dylan Prisock, Blake Harrell, and J.D. Edwards hit better than .400, while Kevin Simmons hit better than .300 to lead Hebron Christian. Prisock, Harrell, and Will Corbin Rogers led the team on the mound. Prisock was MVP of the district and chosen to play in the MAIS All-Star game, Edwards was the district’s offensive MVP


“We lost a lot from last year. We started out slow. The kids kept working harder and harder and we just improved over the year. We played some pretty good ball.”
Hebron Christian coach Greg Watkins
and chosen to play in the MAIS All-Star game, and Harrell was the district’s codefensive player of the year. I The football team finished 4-6 in Watkins’ first season as coach. “It went pretty good,” Watkins said. “We had a real tough schedule. Our goal was the make the playoffs and we fell short, really one touchdown pass short of making the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of excitement for next year’s team. We’ve got some returning starters at skill positions, which we didn’t have last year. Our numbers will be up five or six compared to what we have had.” I The boys basketball team finished 12-8 in Gary Vaughan’s last year as head coach. “I’m going to step down,” Vaughan said. “I’ve had some health issues. I’m an old retired public school coach and administrator. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years now and probably getting a little too old to keep the fast pace you have to do to coach.” Hebron Christian was besieged by injuries throughout the season. The team’s leading scorer, junior Carlton Clay (14 points per game), missed games with a twisted knee and illness, point guard Blake Harrell broke his ankle and missed the district and regional tournaments, and Chad Smith broke his hand. “We just sort of had some bad things to happen to us,” Vaughan said. “It just seemed like every time we would get something going, something would happen.” I The girls basketball team went 19-7 and won its fifth consecutive district championship. Hebron Christian beat Immanuel Christian Academy in the championship game.

“It was great,” said Watkins, Greg Watkins, left, guided the Hebron Christian football team who also coaches girls basket- to a 4-6 record in his first season. ball. “These girls worked hard. When you win four straight you have that bull’s-eye on you and this year it was pretty tough. In the district tournament we ended up having to go to overtime in the final game. It was a big achievement for them to have won it five years in a row.” I The softball team finished 13-11 after placing second in its district and making it to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class A North State Tournament. “Early in the season we just didn’t have it for whatever reason,” Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley said. “We lost some game, some really close, that we didn’t expect to. About halfway through the season we got it turned around and then they responded like I had expected them to. I think we were 10-1 through our last 11 games. We finished well, which was like what we expected early in the season. We just ran out of gas in the North State Tournament. It ended on a pretty good 427 Main Street • Columbus • 662-328-1000 note.”I



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EDWARD TOWNSEL KALA WILLIAMS Starkville High Starkville High Boys basketball Girls basketball

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New Hope High School Marching Band Roster
Takika Abrams, Kristy Alexander, Sherrie Alexander, Karansa Anderson, Destiny Bailey, Spencer Bailey, Amberle Baucom, Austin Beatty, Hunter Brown. Larissa Bruce, Amanda Burleson, Shane Burns, Justin Cline, Chris Cole, Katherine Cole, Megan Coleff, Alexandria Coleman, Ashley Craddieth, Leebo Davis. Nicole Davis, Amy Dempsey, Brianna DeRosia, Jacob Elsmore, Justin Elsmore, Franklin Fairley, Beth Feazel, Jaquari Ferguson, Lee Fisher, Ariel Gordon.

Marquis Gray, Rayon Greason, Alexis Green, Amanda Green, Tevin Henley, Rebecca Hicks, Jameson Holder, Juwan Hunter, Tyler Hurt, Rebecca Hyde. Antoinette Ingram, Kevin Jasko, Cindy Jennings, Brandon Johnson, Shaniqua Jones, Tiara Jones, Amy Kimbrel, Cameron Lamar, Alex Laminack, John

Laminack. Sarah Latham, Laterrica Lockett, Ryan Lowe, Morgan McNabb, Aaron Miller, Andrew Miller, Tavares Mixon, Miracle Moore, Breana Newton. David Newton, Deshon O’Neil, Chris Paine, Brittani Paster, Maci Peoples, Brittney Perkins, Tiffany Pullum, Acia Rice, Andrea

Robertson, Josh Robison. Iesha Rockett, Willie Sharp, Haley Swims, Chelsea Taylor, Rashad Terry, Ciara Turner, Caitlin Urton, Taylor Vick, Alicia Vickers. Gunner Vowell, Angel Weeks, Terry Weiser, Jakeyia Wells, NiKevia Wells, RiKevia Wells, Jada Williams, Jasmine Williams, Laketa Williams, Sarah Young

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2009-10 Caledonia High School Varsity Cheerleaders
Haley Benson, Jessica Comer, Chelsey Eliott, Haley Ellis Carlee Gurley, Robbin Hamilton, Kailey Lavender, Mara Lovick, Savannah McGhee, Jaime Moore, Kaleigh Reynolds, Ashton Sheppeard, Peyton Stanley Camp: UCA Cheer Camp – Mississippi State University – June 2009 Squad Awards: First place Home Pom Routine and 3rd Place Cheer Champions All-America Cheerleaders: Robbin Hamilton, Jessica Comer, Ashton Sheppeard

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Heritage Academy Junior High Dance Team
First Row: Lexi Bennett, Alli Ridilla, Ashley Allsup, Cara Dixon, Alliemarie Brooks, Margaret LeBrun Second Row, Katherine Maer Kerby, Glenn Brown, Evelyn Ray, Laura Stennett, Kirby Smith, Mixson Bateman, Emily Markham

Heritage Academy Varsity Dance Team
First Row: Leslie Ferguson, Taylor Cabiness, Hannah Higgins, JoAnna West Second Row: Caroline Glenn, Katie Beck, Katie Ferguson, Laurel McCoy, Mary Dade Ford, Anna Gaines Gaskin, Alex Kloor

Heritage Academy Dance Team Honors
I Junior High and Varsity received

I Junior High received third place at Delta Blues Competition. I Junior High and Varsity competed first place in Home Routine at University in the National Dance Team of Alabama “UDA” summer camp. Championship in Orlando, Fla. I Varsity received second place at I All-Stars and participated in the MAIS State Competition.

Thanksgiving Day Parade in Disney World: Cara Dixon (Junior High); Mary Dade Ford and Alex Kloor (Varsity) I Hannah Higgins and JoAnna West participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

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Heritage Academy Cheerleaders
First Row: Elaine Curtis, Montgomery Atkins, Katie Hopper, Lillia Flora; Second Row: Jessie Householder, Stephanie Cruise, Kimberly Sansing, Caroline Borland, Morgan Lott, Christie Beth Nelson, Chandler Jones; Third Row: Lauren Brown, Claire Wiygul, Bailey Rader, McKenzie Jones, Ashley Rhett The cheerleaders won second place in the Home Pom Routine Competition and received the Leadership Award, which was voted on by all camp participants at Mississippi State University.




Heritage Academy Band students, from left, Noah Lind, Timmy Lind, Jenna Petrel, Amanda Wei, and Diana Park all earned superior ratings at the Starkville Academy Solo and Ensemble Festival recently.

Heritage Academy Band
The Heritage Academy Patriot Band participated in the MAIS Spring Band Festival April 1 at Jackson Academy’s new performing arts center. These students performed a concert before three judges and earned superior ratings from each judge. The Patriot Band then performed a sight-reading exercise in which they also made a superior rating. The Patriot Band includes, front row, from left, Ryan Walford, Noah Lind, Mary Grace Crenshaw, Katy Whitman, Alex Kloor, and Dawnice Mullins; back row, from left, Timmy Lind, Amanda Wei, Jenna Petrel, Diana Park, Ann Marie Chilcutt, and Goodloe Chilcutt. Not pictured is Julie Cunningham.

These Heritage Academy students took part in MSU band day and performed on the field at halftime. The students are, from left, Goodloe Chilcutt, Noah Lind, Timmy Lind, Ann Marie Chilcutt and Jenna Petrel.


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Victory Christian Academy Varsity Cheerleaders Immanuel cheerleaders
Front row, from left, Nyki Baudoin, Shelly Westmoreland, Amber Shoffner, Tia Baudoin; back row, from left, Tori Fitzgerald, Katy Whitten Davidson Front row, from left, Shelly Coleman, Asia Taylor, Maggie Gardner, Heather Sullivan, Katelin Byrd, Mary Kate Lemmons, Alyka Hamm, Mikayla Gore, Brittany Jones; back row, from left, Leah Potter, Macy Tilley, Kate McDill, Julianna Gorman, Sarah McDaniel, Leah Taylor, Rachel Johnson This year the cheerleaders competed at CCA summer camp and won numerous spirit and technique awards. They also won first place at state competition for ACEAA.

Starkville Academy Varsity Cheerleaders
At the Universal Cheerleading Association Beach Club in Gulf Shores, Ala., the Starkville Academy cheerleaders received first place in Extreme Routine, second place in Home Pom, second place in Camp Cheer and also received the Banana (spirit award). The UCA All-Americans were Lindsey Norman, Kylie Lockhart, Neely Cook and Shelby Carpenter. Starkville Academy Varsity Cheerleaders won the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools State Championship for 2009. The squad was coached by Sandra Gladney and Lisa Atwell. Cheerleaders, left to right, front to back) seniors Anne Howard Steinwinder and Brooke Bryan, co-captains, Lindsey Norman and Rachel Fuller; Maggie Gladney, and Kylie Lockhart; juniors Shelby Carpenter, Lauren Morgan, Neely Cook, Anna-Marie Foster and Kali Burney; sophomores Erin Lindley, Anna Prestridge, Kat Garrard, Elizabeth Crissey, Lauren Atwell and Caitlin Russell.

Columbus High School Cheerleaders
Columbus High School cheerleaders are, front row, from left, Lena Jackson, Khadijah Lee, Sharell Harris, Tierney Sanders; back row, from left, Sarah Weatherby, Marissa Hackler and Megan Kesler.




“That pretty much fits her to a T,” said Aberdeen High volleyball coach Marquis Burnett when describing Jameika Hoskins, The Commercial Dispatch’s Volleyball Player of the Year. “She would never think about bragging on herself or anything she has accomplished.” If Hoskins has a fault as an athlete, it would be she shies away from taking a more active role as a vocal leader. “She’s not as vocal as I would like her to be, but she leads by example,” Burnett said. “Her play on the court makes up for her lack of vocal leadership.” Burnett, who is just as soft-spoken as his star, said Hoskins is one of the best players he has coached. “Jameika is what I would call a ‘student of the game’, and she is the best hitter to play at Aberdeen hands down,” said Burnett, who credits good vertical leaping ability and long arms as the keys to the power behind Hoskins’ kills and her blocking. “She constantly drew double teams when we set her because no one could block her one-on-one,” Burnett said. “What makes her even more dangerous is she knows when to use her power and when to tip. Anything around the net, she wins that point.” Hoskins’ setting skills also drew praise from Burnett. “Jameika is also an excellent setter with good court vision,” Burnett said. “When she first started as a freshman, that’s what she did best. But since she has turned into a hitter, she has become all that much better.” Burnett, who just completed his fifth year at the helm of the Aberdeen High volleyball program, will be the first to admit Aberdeen isn’t considered a volleyball hotbed. “Our girls don’t play year-round and they don’t attend any camps,” Burnett said. “We get together two weeks before school starts, we go over some things, and then we go out and play.” Burnett said that’s what makes Hoskins such a special player. “There’s no telling how good she could be if she played year-round,” Burnett said. “The sky is the limit as far as her potential is concerned.” Hoskins led the state in blocks with an average of 1.5 per game (68 total, 65 solo). She also had 118 kills in 189 attempts for a 62 percent kill percentage and an average of 2.7 per game (10th in the state) and was credited with 32 serving aces (34th). I

Aberdeen High’s Hoskins dominates competition with a humble attitude
story and photo by DON ROWE


ADLY, CHEST-POUNDING, TRASH-TALKING ATHLETES WHO UTILIZE FLAMBOYANT GESTURES while playing the “look-at-me” game to the hilt are all-to-often the norm today.
her opponents at the net can, at the same time, be a reticent, humble, and somewhat shy individual who is uncomfortable when thrust into the limelight.

Today, it’s almost inconceivable someone who has been described by friend and foe alike as a “powerful, explosive player” who has the ability to demolish




Haynes reflects on successful senior year
story and photo by ADAM MINICHINO



The Starkville Academy pitcher admits she has reflected on her senior season and thought about what could have been after the Lady Volunteers finished third at the North Half State tournament. A change in the playoff format this season meant that showing wasn’t good enough by one place to push Starkville Academy into the overall Mississippi Association of Independent Schools AAA state tournament. But while missing the state tournament stung a little bit, Haynes has focused more on the team’s success. The Lady Volunteers’ 23-8 finish was their best in recent memory, and Haynes had a lot to do with it. Whether it was in the circle or at the plate, Haynes had a knack for delivering in the clutch. For her accomplishments this season, Haynes is The Commercial Dispatch Fastpitch Player of the Year. Haynes finished the season with a 1.56 ERA and a batting average of .407. Starkville Academy coach Randy Haynes, who is Lyndsey’s father, credits coach Kyle Morgan for helping to get all of the Lady Volunteers in shape in the offseason and preseason. He said the work the players did helped Lyndsey, who was coming back after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, return with stronger legs, which benefited her in the circle. In August, Haynes earned four victories to help the Lady Volunteers win the Starkville Invitational Tournament at the Mississippi State intramural fields. She earned victories against Winston Academy, Central Academy, and two against Pillow Academy to help her team win its first tournament title since 2004. Haynes’ effort was even more impres52

sive considering she pitched against Oak Hill Academy, Central Academy, Kemper Academy, and Leake Academy in four of the five days leading up to the event. The work didn’t seem to faze Haynes, who faced 107 batters in 22 innings. She walked seven, struck out 26, and allowed 27 hits in the tournament. “Coach Morgan helped explain to her and get across to her that this was her senior season,” coach Haynes said. “He talked to her about leadership and how all of the young players looked up to her and that they were going to follow her lead.” Haynes also credited catcher Bailey Wofford, who has caught Lyndsey for the past three seasons. The duo had a unique system in which they didn’t use conventional signs to indicate what pitch Haynes


was going to throw. The tell-tale sign for a fastball might have been a flip of the hair, but coach Haynes said he trusted his catcher and pitcher so much he left calling pitches up to them. Haynes had success because she threw in the upper 50s and low 60s and mixed a tantalizing changeup. She had a lot of success with the pitch at the North Half State tournament and in the MAIS All-Star game, where she was named the MVP for the North Half. She had six RBIs in two games. “It became such a weapon,” Haynes said of his daughter’s changeup. “There wasn’t anybody until we got to the All-Star game, where there were a couple of kids with enough talent to deal with it. Her changeup became really, really good.” I



GOALS Atkins, Tutor slug their teams to state titles


Both players agreed that their ability to settle into new or changed roles from the previous seasons was another piece to the puzzle that helped their teams win championships. “One of my team goals was for us to win state and for me to end up batting over .500, and we accomplished both of those goals,” Atkins said. “I think I played better than I expected myself to, and that at the end I really stepped up.” Atkins said relaxation was the key. She said she believed more in herself and didn’t get caught up in a power-hitting struggle on a team that featured two players — Hannah Howell and Chauncia Willis — with six home runs and another — Katie Beth Dahlem — with four. “She just loves the game,” Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said. “She put in the time, worked hard for it, and it paid off for her.” Earnest said Atkins started the season as pitcher and moved to the outfield because her sister, Alison, was able to throw strikes and to hit enough to contribute. Alison Atkins’ effectiveness helped improve the Lions’ defense because Caitlyn’s athleticism was an added bonus in the outfield. Atkins paced Hamilton (19-9) with 43 runs scored, 51 hits, 10 doubles, and a .567 batting average. She also was fourth on the team in RBIs (24), second on the team in on-base per- Hamilton High School coach Lewis Earnest, left, and New Hope High coach Tabitha centage (.596), and Beard guided their teams to slow-pitch state fourth in slugging perchampionships in 2009. centage (.733). “We were worried moving her in the lineup might mess her up a little bit,” Earnest said. “It didn’t. She just picked right up and kept on going.” New Hope High coach Tabitha Beard said Tutor worked well at the top of the lineup with Lauren Holifield. She said Tutor’s speed was an integral ingredient to the Lady Trojans’ march to a third consecutive slow-pitch state title, and 12th overall. “She is just the type of player that when the game is on the line and you need something to happen you want her to be there,” Beard said. “She makes you smile, she makes you laugh, and she is the type of player you wish you had 10 of her. It would make your job a lot easier. She just has a way to calm the rest of the team down and pick the rest of the team up.” story and photos by ADAM MINICHINO Beard said Tutor and the Lady Trojans struggled at the start of the season. But things slowly came around for New Hope (22EITHER ONE CAN TRULY BE LABELED A 7), which weathered the offensive doldrums, personnel changes, “POWER HITTER.” But that term is so limiting and inexperience at several positions. Tutor did her best to pick up the slack for the departure of because Caitlyn Atkins and Haley Tutor can do seniors Victoria Culpepper, Kristen Harvey, and DeShuni so much more for their teams. Sanders. She assumed a larger defensive role in the outfield and The Class 5A and Class 2A Mississippi High School Activities showed she, too, could flash some leather with the best of them. Association state titles New Hope and Hamilton high schools won Tutor hit .527 with 19 RBIs, predominantly from the leadoff this season are the final reward for all of their hard work and spot in the lineup, and had an on-base percentage of .666. everything they contributed to their squads on and off the field. “She is a leader on and off the field,” Beard said. “She has a way For their accomplishments this season, Atkins and Tutor are The of getting the others to follow. When she was at the plate, you felt at Commercial Dispatch Slow-pitch All-Area co-Players of the Year. ease because you knew something good was going to happen.” I






Strong defense core principle for Starkville’s Day
story by DAVID MILLER photo by KERRY SMITH


LREADY PART OF A STRONG SOPHOMORE CLASS, Price Day earned the captain’s arm band and made it his mission to make the Starkville High School boys soccer team the best defensive team in the area.

Athletic prodigy scores Soccer Player of Year


RTIE COSBY KNEW A LONG TIME AGO TIFFANY HUDDLESTON was going to be a standout in sports.
to be able to throw or to catch very well, Huddleston, the team’s first baseman and only girl, had the best glove, bat, and throwing arm.

Cosby coached Huddleston in T-Ball when she was 5 or 6 and saw how advanced she was even at that age. While it’s common for many players not


And after Starkville High started the season with more than 400 minutes of shutout soccer Day, The Commercial Dispatch’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year for 2009-10, knew the Yellow Jackets were in for a special season. With a final record of 9-2-2, Starkville beat Tupelo 1-0 at home for its first victory in the series in 10 years before falling to Northwest Rankin 4-0 in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs. But if there was one glaring difference between Starkville High’s team this year and last year, it was the poise and skill in its back line. In particular, the middle of the Yellow Jackets’ defense — Day and J.R. Tomlinson at center back and Addison Watson in goal — proved to be a fortress. What made the trio’s season more unique is their relationship away from SHS soccer. All three play for the Central Jackson Select team and all three are sophomores. Outside of the five goals he scored this season, Day said he is most proud of his involvement in Starkville’s defensive turnaround. I

Shoemaker: PK stopper
story by DAVID MILLER photo by KERRY SMITH


Soccer Player of the Year is further validated by her work in overtime. Shoemaker saved 8 of 13 overtime penalty kicks this season, and believes it became a strength of her game. “(Penalty kicks) happen all the time,” Shoemaker said. “You have to learn how other players play. You have to look into their eyes because their first glimpse is usually where they’re going. If not, you have to watch the ball. The second you see those hips turn, that’s where you go. I took pride in

The Starkville High junior started all of the Lady Jackets’ games this season and has been a fixture in Anna Albritton’s lineup for several years. It started when she was a seventh-grader and beat out two seniors and a junior to earn the starting job. She gets a thrill knowing she’s the last line of the defense and relishes the rush of penalty kick shootouts. A goalkeeper since she was 11, Shoemaker helped lead the Lady Jackets to a 9-5 record and a berth in the Class 6A playoffs, where they lost to Madison Central. With an 84-percent save rate and 60 percent of her starts resulting in clean sheets, Shoemaker’s selection as The Commercial Dispatch’s Girls

every PK I stopped.” When Shoemaker started playing goalkeeper, she took lessons with Steve Bush, who used to play in Germany. She had every angle of her game analyzed, criticized, and refined to become Starkville’s first-choice goalkeeper. Confident in her skills, Shoemaker was relied on even more this season as the Lady Jackets struggled in front of goal. Plus, the team experienced a heavy turnover. “I felt like there was more pressure, just thinking the ball’s going to be on our half more than usual,” Shoemaker said. “The whole team had to shift, too, and be in a more defensive mode. But I play better when there’s more pressure. A lot of good players play a lot better when they have pressure. You have to ready yourself for that.”

“She was exhibiting some things when she was a little girl that showed back then that she was special,” Cosby said. “It hasn’t surprised me that she has progressed as well as she has.” Huddleston also excelled on the basketball court for the Starkville Academy girls team. But earlier this year the freshman forward/midfielder did her best to shine on the school’s soccer team. Huddleston led the team with 17 goals in another standout season for a player whose skills belie her age. For her accomplishments, Huddleston is The Commercial Dispatch Fall Soccer Player of the Year. “For a ninth-grader, she is very mature,” Cosby said. “She knows the game very well and has a good presence out on the field.” Huddleston hones her soccer skills on a Select team that exposes her to a higher level of competition than she sees in high school. But Cosby said that experience hasn’t affected Huddleston’s ability to work well with some high school teammates whose soccer skills aren’t as advanced. This season, Huddleston played center forward for the Lady Volunteers. Cosby said Huddleston is a great midfielder and that he probably didn’t utilize all of her skills this season. The fact that Huddleston has a powerful shot might be one reason why she saw some much action up top. “The few times I played around in goal I did not want Tiffany shoot at me,” Cosby said. “Even outside of the 18 she is going to pop you really hard when she hits. She has a lot of attributes that you really don’t expect to see in a ninth-grader. She plays like a much older player.” I

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Shoemaker hailed the work and cohesion of her backline, which included sisters Christine and Alex Mazzola at center backs, Ida Knox at right back, and Jen Henderson at left back. Shoemaker said Knox, a senior, provided the extra vocal presence to help keep everyone aligned at the back. Despite her solid season, Shoemaker feels her leaping ability cost her a few goals this season. Being quick to the ground is essential, but Shoemaker wants to be able to get higher off the ground. “Just thinking back to Tupelo, the goal they scored from outside the 18 went just over my hand and all I could think was, ‘Only if,’ ” Shoemaker said. “There’s a couple of times, even horizontally, where I thought that. There was also a goal in the playoff game against Madison Central where the announcer said, ‘Beautiful goal by so and so girl’ and, ‘Valiant dive by Raevonne Shoemaker.’ All I could think about was how I couldn’t get there.” I
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Chris Chambless is The Commercial Dispatch Large Schools Coach of the Year after leading West Point to a state title.

Coach of Year Chambless helps Green Wave recapture championship magic
story and photo by ADAM MINICHINO


ENNIS ALLEN HAD A DREAM TO SELL. Problem was, not many people, even friends, were willing to come to West Point High School to help transform a football program that had fallen on hard times.
So Allen thought back to a golf outing in Ackerman when he met Chris Chambless. At the time, Chambless was in his first season at Caledonia High, and was known for his prowess as a defensive coach. Allen approached Chambless after West Point played Caledonia in the spring and asked if he would be interested in joining his staff as defensive coordinator. He had to push hard to make the sell. “He almost didn’t come,” Allen said of his first hire. “He was one of the few I could talk into coming to West Point.” Years later, Allen can smile and look back on what he called a “good hire.” Chambless, too, can be proud he has helped to build on what Allen, who helped lead West Point to a state title in 2005, brought back to Clay County. Buoyed by a dominating


ground game and a hard-charging defense, Chambless’ Green Wave rebounded from a season-opening loss at Shannon to win their final 14 games. A 35-14 victory against Wayne County in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title game in Jackson capped a 14-1 season and helped the Green Wave capture their sixth football state title. For his efforts this season, Chambless is The Commercial Dispatch Large Schools Coach of the Year. Allen, who is the athletic director at West Point, knew Chambless was the man to replace him after he stepped down following the 2005 season. “Chris hasn’t expected any less from our kids than I did,” Allen said. “There was no bump in the road. It was just step on, here we go, we’re going to keep building and working and eventually, at a school like West Point, especially with a good administration and the support we have, we’re going to get to a state championship game because we do have talent here.” Chambless spent one year at former Sturgis High School as an assistant coach and one year at Caledonia High as head coach in 1998 before joining Allen’s staff in 1999. He said he knew Allen was a good leader and that he had had success as an assistant coach at Starkville High and that West Point had a solid administration. All of those factors, plus the fact he knew the kind of players West Point had, led him accept Allen’s offer. Head coach and defensive coordinator had plenty of “good times” competing against each other at practice. But their battles had a serious side: Their goal was to rebuild a program that had won four state titles under Bubba Davis. Chambless said Allen set the tone and that he learned a lot from the man he replaced. Through the ups and downs of the 2009 season, Chambless remained stoic on the sidelines, trying to show his players the focus they needed. In practice, Chambless was the same fiery leader he was as an assistant, but his game face epitomized the Green Wave’s business-like approach. “A wise man told me a long time ago, ‘You are what you see, and you become what you follow,’ ” Chambless said. “I want to be the type of leader who never panics and who does things the right way and doesn’t go crazy. I try not to go nuts. I have gone nuts behind closed doors, and I try not to do it in

Carr, Sanders displayed skills as playmakers


LAYMAKERS SHARE SO MANY THINGS. Whether its speed, strength, endurance, or a burning desire to be the best, their ability to change a game with one touch of the football makes them special.
Carr caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Justin Cox in the first quarter. He added a 78-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half. The second score was the first of 21 unanswered points in the second half that helped push the Green Wave to their first state title since 2005, and the program’s sixth overall. Sanders suffered a fractured jaw in Noxubee County’s season-opening victory against Starkville on Aug. 21. He missed five games and didn’t return until the Tigers’ game Oct. 2 at Kosciusko. Still, Sanders had more than 40 catches for more than 600 yards (more than 1,700 total yards). On defense, he had two interceptions at free safety. His presence on the field typiSanders cally caused teams to throw away from him, or not to throw at all. Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller said Sanders handled his injury well. He said the Tigers played well without their senior leader, but he said there is no telling what kind of season the team could have had if it would have had Sanders healthy all year. “The time he was out there he had a good year,” Miller said. “On offense he was our game-breaker. We knew as long as we had Vincent healthy we could score at any time. When you have a game-breaker at any time you tend not to worry. He also was a game-stopper because teams were not going to throw anything deep on us. He was just a key player all around for us and on special teams and on kickoffs.” I

Michael Carr and Vincent Sanders share all of those traits and more. The West Point and Noxubee County high school seniors also bring a confidence to the field that allows them to deliver game-changing plays on offense or defense. For Carr, the majority of his difference-making efforts came on offense as part of West Point’s run to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title. For Sanders, an injury in the season opener against Starkville only delayed his ability to impact offenses and defenses for the Tigers, who advanced to the Class 4A North Half semifinals. For their accomplishments this season, Carr and Sanders are The Carr Commercial Dispatch Large Schools Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. “Michael without being cocky and being humble has more confidence than anybody I have ever coached,” West Point High football coach Chris Chambless said. “You know if you put it in his hands he has the confidence to make it happen.” Carr was the primary receiving threat on a Green Wave team that dominated opponents with a rushing attack that piled up 4,037 yards in 15 games. He led the team with 38 catches for 834 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had four rushing scores and three more by return. The Mississippi State commitment showcased his versatility in West Point’s 35-14 victory against Wayne County in the state title game on Dec. 5 in Jackson.


public, and especially not in front of the kids.” Chambless said he learned that mindset from Allen, his bosses at West Point High, and his father, a businessman, who always has been like that. “You can’t blow up and go crazy and expect you kids to perform,” Chambless said. “There are a lot better ways to motivate than blowing up. I would head butt that wall if it would help them play harder, but I don’t think it does.” Grisham has seen Chambless work that way since he arrived in West Point in 2000. Hired as the offensive line coach, Grisham moved to offensive coordinator and has been devising bruising running schemes with Chambless’ blessing ever since. “He does a good job of staying even keel most of the time,” Grisham said. “He cares about the kids. He always has their interest out there. He tries to make everybody happy. He is looking out for the players and his assistants, and it just trickles down from there.” Grisham said he has seen just about every side of Chambless in their time together. He said Chambless is so effective as a head coach because he allows his assistant coaches to do their jobs and doesn’t second-guess them. He said Chambless really hasn’t changed any since he took over for Allen. “It is just like when Dennis let him coach the defense,” Grisham said. “He lets me do the offense. He doesn’t bother me like Dennis bothered him. He trusts you, so it puts pressure on you to drive yourself and to get it right.” Grisham was poking fun at Allen, but his sentiment is true. Chambless said all of the West Point coaches push themselves because they understand the program has a high bar to meet every season. He said his job is to do what he can to keep everything together and to support the coaches and the players every way possible. Allen sees the same Chambless today he saw in 1999. He said Chambless never shied away from doing anything that helped free him up to do other things. He said Chambless’ hard-working nature sets the tone for the Green Wave. “I think he does it sort of like all good coaches try to do it. It is like a family atmosphere,” Allen said. “We go off and do things together. We hang out together. He will have the kids over his house to create that family atmosphere and get them to bond together. It helps if you’re more like a family than an individual and you treat it like a job and you’re going to work.” I

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Carr, West Point DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Vincent Sanders, Noxubee County COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Chambless, West Point West Point; Chadz Taylor, Noxubee County Utility — Matthew Lewis, West Point; Corey Williams, Noxubee County P — Zak Thrasher, New Hope

Offense QB — Jaquez Johnson, Starkville RB — Xavier Hogan, West Point; Earnest Harmon, Noxubee County WR — Terrance Baron, Noxubee County; Johnny Beamon, New Hope OL — Seth White, West Point; Lamont Randle, West Point; Ladarius Taylor, West Point; Rocky Knox, Columbus; Jarrod Atterberry, Starkville TE — Martavious Foster, Starkville Utility — Ryan Idom, Louisville; C.J. Bates, Louisville K — Cody Berryhill, Starkville Defense DL — Ladarius Hunt, Noxubee County; Chris Wolf, Columbus; Tommy Keys, West Point; Damon Triplett, Louisville LB — Jamie Sanders, Louisville; Kris Douglas, New Hope; Toddrick Tate, Noxubee County DB — Byerson Cockrell, Columbus, Blake Cunningham, Louisville; Billy Shed, Starkville; Jaquille White, West Point Utility — Raymond Walters, New Hope; Justin Rogers, Starkville P — Wesley Montgomery, Starkville

Offense QB — Justin Cox, West Point RB — Lakenderic Thomas, West Point, Terrance Dentry, New Hope WR — Markese Triplett, Louisville; Chuck Tillery, Starkville OL — Ryan Hollivay, New Hope; Lee Crowley, West Point; Tate Rogers, Louisville; Gussie Lane, Noxubee County; Desmond Boyd, West Point TE — Michael Bush, West Point Utility — Patreon Hopkins, Noxubee County; Damian Baker, Columbus K — Tanner Ryals, New Hope Defense DL — Curtis Virges, West Point; Nelson Bolden, Noxubee County; Seth Stillman, New Hope; Vontarrius Dora, West Point; Richard Christopher, Heritage Academy LB — Chris Jackson, Columbus, Jontae Skinner, Noxubee County; Craig Armstead, Starkville DB — Franklin Richardson Jr., New Hope; Jeremy Wells, New Hope; Gary Hughes,

Amory — Channing French, Nathan Kendrick, Forest Williams Caledonia — Brandon Bell, Cole Carter, Tyler Knight, Jonathan Thinizee Columbus — Tim Hudgins, Cedric Jackson, Drew Jordan, Ryan McDonald, Martin Sherrod, Zach Thomas, Ian Williams Heritage Academy — Hunter Brown, Matt Dickey, Stance Henderson, Chris Uhl Louisville — Rod Clark, Cottrell Miller New Hope — Lawrence Brown, Marquise Coleman, Anthony Nelson, Jo Jo Reeves, Curtis Shirley, Ahmad Williams Noxubee County — Tony Glenn, Jacoby Harris, Keshun Smith, Fredeas Tate Starkville — Bennie Henderson, Bryce Henderson, Tevin Hodges, Blake Johnson, D.J. Jordan, Adonnis Scales, Dennis Thompson Starkville Academy — Kyle Henson, Jake Reed West Point — Justin Bobo, Jeremy Cannon, Jacoby Lee, Deismon Robinson, Kwame Williams

Stan Beall

Michael Carr (8) breaks up a pass




Aberdeen head coach’s balancing act pays off
story by DANNY P. SMITH photos by KELLY TIPPETT


study for his radio show or Sunday service. Duncan calls managing it all “a good experience.” He relies on his faith to keep him going. “The Lord will give you strength to do what you need to do,” Duncan said. Time spent with coaching and ministry has taken away from his family. He values family, but stresses it doesn’t always mean blood relatives. “I do think over the past several years I’ve been doing so much that I’ve missed some family time, which is important to me, but the football players and everything connected with it is part of my family also,” Duncan said. “This is a group of seniors (at Aberdeen) that have grown real close over the past three years and been through a lot together. I’d like to think they’ve helped me and I’ve also helped them.” Duncan has been at Aberdeen High four years and has coached football the past three. Before Duncan became coach, the Bulldogs had only won once in two years (1-9 in 2005, 0-10 in 2006). In Duncan’s first season in 2007, Aberdeen finished 9-4, improved to 11-3 the next season and 13-3 this season to

Splitting time as a coach and minister, Duncan would leave home in Calhoun County as early as 4:30 or 5 a.m. to deliver a tape of his radio show to the station, before going to Aberdeen High School. His day didn’t end when school was out because he had to coach the Bulldogs in a football game that night. If that didn’t already make for a long weekend, Duncan, the pastor at Reedy’s Chapel Baptist Church in Derma near Calhoun City, had to prepare for Sunday services. Duncan showed he could balance all of those responsibilities and put a good product on the field this season as Aberdeen High finished 13-3 and won the Class 3A North State championship. For the Bulldogs’ accomplishments this season, Duncan is The Commercial Dispatch Small Schools Coach of Year. Duncan said handling his “to-do list” was a matter of “prioritizing the things that are the most important, try to do those, then try to squeeze other things in if you have time.” There were many late hours for Duncan. He often would come home after a long day of football practice and

Aberdeen High school football coach Chris Duncan


Congratulations to all our area athletes for doing their best this year!

1501 Main Street • 662-244-3523

reach the Class 3A state championship game. “Each year, we’ve been able to take one more step,” Duncan said. “It’s very hard to get to Jackson in football. It’s not like basketball where you have eight to 10 teams down there (for the state tournament). “I think the bar has been raised in Aberdeen from being the laughing stock in football to being a contender every year. Usually, we’ve been setting goals the last several years, but I don’t think I’ll have to set them anymore because I think anything less than getting to Jackson now would be a disappointment to the players. It shows how far this program has come in three years.” Coaching means more to Duncan than just winning games. He likes seeing his players, like Jamerson Love, rewarded for hard work. That’s the main reason Duncan hated to see Aberdeen fall in the state title game to Tylertown 34-20. “I can handle losing games pretty good, but to see my kids hurt was the worst part about it,” Duncan said. Love could sense how much Duncan cared for him and said he wouldn’t have been able to stay on the right path if it hadn’t been for his guidance. “Coach Duncan really helped me stay out of trouble in some ways,” Love said. “When he first came, I know he meant business. If you didn’t abide by his rules, you wouldn’t be playing football.” Despite losing the final game, Duncan was proud of the players’ effort. He called being able to endure 22 weeks of football and make it all of the way to the state championship game “a testament” to the players. “The season is very long and very grueling,” Duncan said. “We had about nine weeks of rain and mud this year, so we had to practice in rain and mud. For all the coaches and players, it was a very trying year with the conditions outside. I think I ruined about three or four pairs of shoes. It was overall a good year and one they should remember the rest of their life. I played 10 years of football and four years of college ball and never got to play in the championship game. I feel very fortunate to make it there.” Duncan still can’t help to feel there’s some unfinished business and, as any minister would, used a passage of scripture to keep things in perspective. “We don’t feel like we completed our task, but you can find in Romans 8:28 where it says everything happens for a reason,” Duncan said. “You just have to take that, go on, and try it another year.” I

Poe persevered After rocky start to become top Love thrived in defensive player Aberdeen offense


OSH POE HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE at West Oktibbeha High School.



At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Poe knew he wasn’t going to have anything given to him and was going to have to earn his spot as linebacker. West Oktibbeha High coach Adam Lowrey was reluctant at first to give Poe the chance, but once he saw him in action, the reservations vanished. “Once I knew he could maneuver with all the big linemen coming at him, I wasn’t worried about it,” Lowrey said. “My defensive linemen were a necessity. Then we started taking guys who had enough grit and heart about them (and put them at linebacker). Once we got the defensive line right, it made (Poe’s) and the other linebackers’ job a lot easier.” Poe thrived in his junior season with the Timberwolves, finishing with 106 tackles (73 solo), six sacks, and 11 forced fumbles. For his accomplishments, Poe is The Commercial Dispatch Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year. Poe knew playing football was going to be part of his future. In the eighth grade, he recalled

After getting off to a difficult start at Aberdeen High School three years ago, Love found the right way to go and went from occasional troublemaker to a go-to player for coach Chris Duncan and the Bulldogs. For his accomplishments this season, Love, who helped Aberdeen to the Class 3A North State championship, is The Commercial Dispatch Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year. He thanked God for the opportunity to be player of the year and said improving his leg strength enabled him to play offense and defense. Before he could improve on the field, Love knew he had to make a mental transition. “I just found a way to straighten out and look at me now,” Love said. “I’m on the right track.” Duncan said he was fortunate to watch Love mature. “Jamerson is one of those kids who grew over the three years and got better,” Duncan said. “He was already

stories by DANNY P. SMITH


Poe continued
intercepting his first pass and scoring his first touchdown. Each year, his play improved, which helped him make more tackles. Poe was determined to show Lowrey he could be a good linebacker. “It was the first game of the season and he saw the hitting I did and that I was able to run from sideline to sideline if I have to,” Poe said. “When I showed him, I guess he was shocked I did it.” The forced fumbles were enough to let Lowrey know he’d made a good decision on where to play Poe. Lowrey calls Poe “a boy with heart,” and said even as a junior, he had a presence on the field. Poe is modest when it comes to compliments and being chosen defensive player of the year. He questioned his traits as a leader, but as the season progressed, Lowrey said his team had a hard time staying focused without Poe the field. “He was talking whether he thought he was a leader or not, but he would always do his job,” Lowrey said. “I never have to tell him twice because he’s going to do it.” I

Coach of the Year: Chris Duncan, Aberdeen Offensive Player of the Year: Jamerson Love, Aberdeen Defensive Player of the Year: Josh Poe, West Oktibbeha

Brandon Hill, West Lowndes J.D. Edwards, Hebron Christian Tight End Justin James, Immanuel Christian

OFFENSE First Team
Quarterback Aaron Andrews, Aberdeen Running Back Jamerson Love, Aberdeen Daylan Hairson, Victory Christian Wide Receiver Erik Buchanan, Aberdeen Rashad Pargo, Aberdeen Utility Marlon Fair, East Oktibbeha Victor Hodges, Aberdeen Tight End L.J. Jefferson, East Oktibbeha Offensive Lineman John Austin Buckner, East Webster David Matusiak, Oak Hill Academy Mark Vaughan, Hebron Christian Lee Roberts, East Oktibbeha Matt Arnett, Winston Academy Kicker Reid Posey, Oak Hill Academy Second Team Quarterback Parker Eaves, Victory Christian Running Back Doss Miller, Oak Hill Academy Demetrius O'Briant, East Webster Wide Receiver Dwight Quinn, West Oktibbeha Kevin McCartney, Hamilton Utility Marques Robinson, Hebron Christian Terrance Rice, East Oktibbeha Tight End Will Lummus, Oak Hill Academy Offensive Lineman Eddie Tucker, West Lowndes Jalen Peterson, East Oktibbeha Jeremy Davidson, Immanuel Christian Reid Posey, Oak Hill Academy Jeremy Brown, West Oktibbeha Kicker Tamarkis Bell, East Webster Honorable Mention Quarterback Von Smith, West Oktibbeha Davis Clay, Oak Hill Academy Running Back Michael Tate, Immanuel Christian Lexie Edwards, East Oktibbeha Running Back Latedrick Troupe, Hamilton Trent Jefferson, East Oktibbeha Wide Receiver Sam Rice, Oak Hill Academy Aaron Brownlee, West Oktibbeha Utility

DEFENSE First Team
Cornerback Jamerson Love, Aberdeen Miquel Graham, East Webster Safety J.D. Edwards, Hebron Christian Arthur Gillespie, East Oktibbeha Utility Jake Orman, Oak Hill Academy Drake Powell, West Oktibbeha Linebacker Josh Poe, West Oktibbeha Brandon Hill, West Lowndes David Pryor, Oak Hill Academy Defensive Lineman Freddie Williams, East Oktibbeha Channing Ward, Aberdeen Fred Ward, Aberdeen Will Lummus, Oak Hill Academy Punter Dustin White, Immanuel Christian Second Team Cornerback James Finley, East Oktibbeha Dwight Quinn, West Oktibbeha Safety Terrance Rice, East Oktibbeha Jake Flanigan, Oak Hill Academy Utility Bracey Johnson, East Oktibbeha Michael Tate, Immanuel Christian Linebacker Sedric Quinn, Aberdeen Daylan Hairston, Victory Christian Xavier Moye, East Webster Defensive Lineman Lilton Vance, East Webster Monte Horsley, East Oktibbeha Anthony White, West Oktibbeha Tiberias Lampkin, West Oktibbeha Punter Chris Hunter, East Oktibbeha Honorable Mention Linebacker Ledrick Patterson, East Webster Cole Johnson, Hamilton Cameron Ellis, Oak Hill Academy Quadaris Thompson, West Oktibbeha Jeremy Brown, West Oktibbeha Darico Dancer, East Oktibbeha Defensive Lineman J.R. Wilbourne, Oak Hill Academy Barry White, Oak Hill Academy James Wriley, Immanuel Christian

Love continued
good physically, but mentally and character-wise he grew and became, not just a good football player, but a good young man.” Duncan admitted there were some discipline problems when he arrived at Aberdeen and that Love had a hard time adjusting coming out of the ninth grade. He watched as Love overcame that adversity and grew into a team leader. “He came out on the other side, took the high road, and now you see the results,” Duncan said. “He’s going to Mississippi State.” Love committed to MSU as a defensive back, but proved he was just as valuable to Aberdeen High on offense. He had 208 carries for 1,923 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior running back. Duncan said Love will be able to help MSU on either side of the football. “When he touched the ball for us, we knew something good could happen anytime,” Duncan said. “We liked to get the ball to him any way we could. He was fortunate to be on a team with a lot of good players so (opponents) couldn’t just key on him.” I





Deion Curry, left, Scott Marchant, and Michael Bradford head The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama team.

Lamar, Pickens recognized for season of achievement


County (12-2) only lost to Gordo and Reeltown. For their accomplishments this season, Adams and Marchant are The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama co-Coaches of the Year. Adams Adams said the Bulldogs couldn’t have enjoyed the season they had without assistant coaches Tim Bobbitt, Steve Brock, David Easley, Justin Lann, Heath Pennington, John

Both teams made runs for a state title and came up a game shy of playing each other in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A state championship game. Lamar County tied a school record for most wins in a season in Ken Adams’ third season as coach. Pickens County made the state semifinals in Scott Marchant’s first year as a head coach. Lamar County (13-1) was undefeated until losing to Clay County, while Pickens



Curry thrives on defense for Pickens


OING INTO THIS PAST HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SEASON, Pickens County coach Scott Marchant asked junior Deion Curry to play a demanding position on defense.

Marchant wanted to use Curry at linebacker and safety so he could exploit Curry’s quickness and nose for the football. Curry responded and contributed to a stingy defense that helped Pickens County (12-2) make it to the semifinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A playoffs. “He played a position that demands a lot coverage wise and also demands a lot run support wise,” Marchant said. “Basically he was a safety and linebacker at the same time. It’s a demanding position. Not everybody can do it and he did a fine job with it this year.” The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Curry contributed to a defense that allowed only 170 points in 14 games. He led the Tornadoes with 136 tackles and he intercepted three passes. He returned one interception for a touchdown. For his role in helping Pickens County make it to the state semifinals, Curry is The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama Defensive Player of the Year. “He just made big plays,” Marchant said. “He had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “He was always around the football. He’s not the biggest guy in the world and he’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he’s got a real good nose for the football.” Curry wanted to do his part in keeping the opposition out of the end zone. The Tornadoes shut out Aliceville 13-0 and American Christian Academy 26-0, and allowed a touchdown or less in four other games. I

David Rogers, and Don Thornton. “No. 1, it’s a great honor,” Adams said of earning coach of the year honors. “But coach of the year should be coaches because of the effort all the coaches put in to get these kids to play each week. It’s a great honor to win it from the standpoint that it means your program has come full circle. We’ve all been together for three years. The coaches know what to expect and the players know what to expect. It’s continuity in a program.” Marchant feels as strongly about Pickens County assistant coaches Barry Ambrose, Eddie Lee Doss, Jerome Giles, Malcolm Giles, Tavoris Lacey, Chris McCrary, Lee Smith, John Stepp, and the others who aided the Tornadoes in their bid for a state championship. “We had a great year and I feel really blessed,” Marchant said. “We had a bunch of good kids and good football players to coach. I was blessed with a lot of good coaches who helped me. I had a lot of good people here at the school who helped me. We have a good administration.” Under Adams’ guidance, Lamar County beat South Lamar 61-20, Cold Springs 4712, Cleveland 48-30, Sulligent 21-20, R.C. Hatch 46-12, Falkville 43-0, Addison 21-14, Oakman 58-13, Winston County 21-0, and Isabella 48-0 during the regular season, and Red Bay 42-0, Tanner 28-27 in overtime, and Ider 35-13 in the playoffs. The Bulldogs were strong on both sides of the ball, averaging 37.8 points and allowing 14.2 points per game. Adams would prefer to pass the credit on to the assistant coaches, but Lamar County quarterback Michael Bradford said Adams deserves a lot of the credit. “He did a great job,” Bradford said. “He’s been with us for three years and each year he comes in he works harder and coaches harder and gets everybody ready to play. “He kept us focused. He made sure we played with the same intensity every Friday night when we stepped on the field, and he always made sure we practiced hard every day.” Lamar County tied the school record for wins in a season established in 1984 and equaled in 1992. Through Adams’ effort, Lamar County enjoyed its most successful season since Kenneth McKinney was the head coach. McKinney coached the Bulldogs to a state championship in 1984 and runner-up finish in 1992. “A lot of people can think back to the ’80s and coach McKinney,” Adams said. “If they look at it, we’re running the same stuff he ran. We didn’t re-invent anything.”

Adams played football at Itawamba AHS in Fulton and was aware of McKinney’s success at Lamar County. There was part of Adams that wanted to return Lamar County to its glory days under McKinney when he took over the program in 2007. “I got to meet him since and he’s always been supportive of us” Adams said of McKinney. “I know he helps (his son) David (McKinney) at Gordo, but every time I’ve seen coach McKinney he’s been nothing but helpful and the things he’s said to me and about the community have been nothing but positive.” Pickens County was in contention for an undefeated season until it lost to Gordo in its regular-season finale. The Tornadoes began the season by beating Greensboro 48-24, Shades Mountain Christian 67-7, Thorsby 33-14, Hale County 34-6, Aliceville 13-0, Isabella 52-6, American Christian 26-0, Vincent 34-6, and Fultondale 14-9. In the playoffs rolled, the Tornadoes beat Keith 57-24, Goshen 48-14, and threetime defending state champion Leroy 19-12 before losing to Reeltown. “He got a lot out of us,” Pickens County junior quarterback and safety Deion Curry said. “We didn’t make it to our goal (of winning a state championship), but we accomplished a lot this year.” Pickens County was strong on both sides of the ball, averaging 37.2 points and allowing 12.1 points per game. Marchant didn’t know what to expect his first season as a head coach, but he was confident the Tornadoes had the talent to have a successful season. “I’m a little disappointed we didn’t make the championship game,” Marchant said. “I’m disappointed for our kids and our community, but overall I just feel very blessed. I know there are a lot of coaches that have been coaching for a long time and haven’t gotten to the semifinal round of the playoffs, so I just feel real blessed to be part of a great football team and a bunch of great kids and a good community that supports football the way folks in Reform do.” Marchant was the defensive coordinator for seven years at Pickens County before taking over for Patrick Plott this season. Under Marchant’s direction, Pickens County advanced to the fourth round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2001 when John Montgomery was the head coach. “No doubt he’s a great coach,” Curry said. “He’s good enough to coach a state championship team, and we’re going to try to make that happen next year.” I


Bradford was leader for Bulldogs
Michael Bradford’s goal was to be a leader on the offensive side of the ball for the Lamar County High School football team. The senior quarterback emerged as that leader and led Lamar County to a season to remember. With Bradford leading the way, Lamar County equalled a school record for the most wins in a season with 13 and made it to the semifinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A playoffs. “We had a great year,” Bradford said. “Everybody played hard and practiced hard week in and week out. We all just wanted to go out and play our best every week.” For leading Lamar County to within a game of playing for a state championship, Bradford is The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama Offensive Player of the Year. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Bradford directed a high-powered offense that scored 529 points in 14 games for an average of 37.8 points per game. He completed 47 of 91 passes for 626 yards and 11 touchdowns on a run-oriented team and was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 1,014 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was intercepted just three times and two of the picks were in one game. Bradford was a dangerous threat running and throwing the ball, but his ability to run the offense is what made the Bulldogs click. “The thing Michael understood was he allowed the offense to run through him,” Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. “He wasn’t the offense. He was able to see things and wasn’t just someone who got back there and tried to do it all himself. He allowed the offense to run through him. “He was able to carry out fakes, put

Co-coaches of the Year: Ken Adams, Lamar County; Scott Marchant, Pickens County Offensive Player of Year: Michael Bradford, Lamar County Defensive Player of Year: Deion Curry, Pickens County
Kicker First Team –– Brandon Merchant, Lamar County

Defensive Lineman First Team –– Mark Sterling, Pickens County Second Team –– Erik Wilder, Aliceville Honorable Mention –– Cole Bradford, Lamar County Defensive Lineman First Team –– Carson Chiquitto, Lamar County Second Team –– Judson Smith, Pickens Academy Honorable Mention –– Matt Hankins, Sulligent Defensive Lineman First Team –– Derrick Billups, Aliceville Second Team –– Tony Easterwood, Pickens County Defensive Lineman First Team –– Brandon Merchant, Lamar County Second Team –– Ahmad Walker, Sulligent Linebacker First Team –– Lance Bobbitt, Lamar County Second Team –– Wesley Parson, Sulligent Honorable Mention –– Justin Sanford, South Lamar Linebacker First Team –– Matt Cruse, Sulligent Second Team –– Lemetrius Williams, Lamar County Linebacker First Team –– Jimmy Lann, Lamar County Second Team –– Chase Davidson, Pickens Academy Linebacker First Team –– Lawrence Scott, Aliceville Second Team –– Justin Perkins, Lamar County Defensive Back First Team –– Eric Hudson, Lamar County Second Team –– Cody Smith, Sulligent Honorable Mention –– Jamal Giles, Pickens County Defensive Back First Team –– Robert White, Sulligent Second Team –– Jarvis Jones, Aliceville Honorable Mention –– Marquis Colvin, Aliceville Defensive Back First Team –– Will Franks, Lamar County Second Team –– Casey Jones, Pickens Academy Honorable Mention –– John Morgan Owens, Pickens Academy Utility First Team –– Quinton Sturdivant, Pickens County Second Team –– Malcolm Willingham, South Lamar Utility First Team –– Terry Mayhew, Aliceville Second Team –– Maurice Gary, Pickens County Punter First Team –– Marquis Plant, Pickens County Second Team –– Brad McCool, South Lamar

Quarterback First Team –– Jacob Acker, Pickens Academy Second Team –– Deion Curry, Pickens County Running Back First Team –– Steven Stewart. Sulligent Second Team –– Kenneth Hill, Lamar County Honorable Mention –– James Adams, Pickens County Running Back First Team –– Ken Mitchell, South Lamar Second Team –– Marquis Mayhew, Aliceville Wide Receiver First Team –– Dominique Jones, Pickens County Second Team –– Demetrius Wilder, Aliceville Honorable Mention –– Josh Elliott, South Lamar Wide Receiver First Team –– Logan Helms, Sulligent Second Team –– Tyler Vails, Pickens Academy Honorable Mention –– Demetrius Wilder, Aliceville Tight End First Team –– Michael Potts, Pickens Academy Second Team –– Dakota Carruth, Sulligent Utility First Team –– Keith Hall, Pickens County Second Team –– DeShawn Davis, South Lamar Utility First Team –– Kirk Lewis, Pickens Academy Second Team –– Taavius Parker, Aliceville Offensive Lineman First Team –– Reed Eaves, Lamar County Second Team –– Brad Lowery, Pickens Academy Honorable Mention –– Demarcus Hall, Aliceville Offensive Lineman First Team –– Grey Hankins, Pickens Academy Second Team –– Durand Prince, Aliceville Honorable Mention –– Andrew House, Pickens Academy Offensive Lineman First Team –– Tony Johnson, Sulligent Second Team –– Ishmael Riggins, Sulligent Honorable Mention –– Dustan Reeves, Sulligent Offensive Lineman First Team –– Cory Jones, South Lamar Second Team –– Jesse Turner, Pickens County Honorable Mention –– Tyler Sprouse, Lamar County Offensive Lineman First Team –– Greg Jones, Pickens County Second Team –– Tremaine Willingham, South Lamar Honorable Mention –– Brett Trull, Pickens Academy


“The thing Michael understood was he allowed the offense to run through him. He wasn’t the offense. He was able to see things and wasn’t just someone who got back there and tried to do it all himself. ”
Lamar County coach Ken Adams

kids into motion, get our offense lined up and get the ball snapped. He did a great job of that.” Bradford threw three touchdown passes against Red Bay in the playoffs and two touchdown passes against South Lamar in the season opener and Addison in the seventh game. The most yards he passed for in a game was 104 against South Lamar. He was more effective running the ball, rushing for 110 yards and three touchdowns against Cleveland, 109 yards and a touchdown against Addison, 147 yards and two touchdowns against Winston County, 127 yards and two touchdowns against

Isabella and a 159 yards and three touchdowns against Tanner. He led an offense that scored 61 points against South Lamar, 47 against Cold Springs, 48 against Cleveland, 46 against R.C. Hatch, 43 against Falkville, 58 against Oakman, 48 against Isabella and 42 against Red Bay. “I wanted to give the guys everything that I had,” Bradford said. “I wanted to play hard and get them to play hard, and keep everybody up by being a leader.” Bradford proved to be a dependable starter after replacing Brad Barnes, who was a four-year starter for the

Bulldogs. He was the starting quarterback for two years and guided the team to 23 wins and three losses during that time. He was Barnes’ backup as a sophomore on a 2-8 team and then took over to lead a resurgence at Lamar County. “Mike is one of those guys that is there every day,” Adams said. “He learned a lot my first year (at Lamar County in 2007) because he was watching Brad Barnes by being behind him.” Bradford took what he learned from Barnes and helped Lamar County become a state championship contender.I

Congratulations On A Great Year!

P.O. Box 8300 Columbus, MS 39705 (662) 434-6052 FAX (662) 434-8406

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Starkville High School basketball team celebrates after winning the Class 6A state title.



F THERE WAS A MORE DOMINANT, EXCITING, AND PIVOTAL PLAYER than Starkville High’s Rashad Perkins in The Commercial Dispatch coverage area, it might be his alley-oop launcher Edward Townsel.
the team’s explosive point guard, provided a canvas to paint a memorable state title performance piece. Still, as a 23-point, 15-rebound per game player this season, Perkins powered the Yellow Jackets and earned him The Dispatch’s Large Schools Boys Player of the Year honors. Perkins’ athletic ability has never been questioned, as the 6-foot-5 leaper eliminated taller players’ advantages by living above the rim. Rebounds, putbacks, and alleyoops belonged to Perkins and often left opposing teams with the only hope of Perkins getting into foul trouble or having an off game. Perkins scored 20 points or more in 27 of 33 games this season, capping a career that started with dunks and a freshman season of ineligibility with a state championship, recognition as the state’s Mr. Basketball, and numerous All-Area and AllState honors. The ride has been spectacular, Perkins said, but as easy as it has looked to fans Perkins had to discipline himself on the court. “I’ve got ability and potential and I’m a

What put Perkins over the top in The Dispatch’s voting process was his performance in the Class 6A state semifinals and final, where he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds. He set the tone with a Herculean effort of 25 points, 14 rebounds, 13 blocked shots, and five steals against Biloxi. The future Southern Miss Eagle didn’t suffer any lag against Rodney Hood and Meridian. Perkins rebuffed questions of carrying the torch after snapping Starkville’s 49-year title drought, insisting the chemistry, depth, and leadership between him and Townsel,



good athlete,” Perkins said. “A lot came easy, but a lot came hard. I could always do stuff, but I wasn’t always a complete player. I still think I’ve got a lot to improve to become that player in college. “The key for me was realizing my team needed me to work hard like it wasn’t coming easy. I knew they expect me to play at a certain level, and I am going to work hard and keep that level of expectation.” Coming off a junior campaign where he put his name in the hat to be the state’s top player by the end of his high school career, Perkins was fueled by the disappointment of losing to Greenville-Weston in the North Half State qualifier. This season, Greenville-Weston caught the wrath of a loaded Starkville High squad in the North Half State title game. As if there wasn’t enough motivation to steamroll through the Beehive-hosted North Half gauntlet, Vicksburg’s Mychal Ammons — a friend of Perkins — and his teammates sent trash-talking texts to Perkins the night before their North Half State semifinal tie. “They were talking a lot of noise,” Perkins said. “From there, it was on and we treated it like a rivalry. We had our motivation.” In that game, however, Starkville leaned on someone other than Perkins, who sat the majority of the first half with foul trouble. But sophomores Mike Brand, Calvin Young, and Tory Rice and juniors Jaquez Johnson and Shaquille Hill picked up the slack. Perkins knew he would play without pressure through the rest of the playoffs. “It was a worry when we lost Jacolby (Mobley) because he was scoring and handling the ball for us,” Perkins said. “He was key in our season early on, but when other guys started to step up you just knew everything was going to be right. “We won everything we said we would. When does it ever happen like that? I can’t ask for much more as a senior.” Despite the disappointment of playoff heartbreak as a sophomore and falling well short as a junior, Perkins said a positive memory from his junior season stuck more and provided more actuation than the knock-out game loss. Leaving a champion and with handfuls of individual awards sets the table for Perkins’ career at Southern Miss, where he easily is Larry Eustachy’s highest-profile signing entering the 2010-11 season. “I can’t wait to get there in June,” Perkins said. “I look forward to giving Southern fans the same kind of excitement our Starkville fans got. And you know I’ll try to make it back and see Starkville repeat.”I

Taking state helps Carter earn honor


REG CARTER THOUGHT BEING THE ONLY TEAM IN THE STATE to end the season with a win would feel different after years of playoff disappointment.
game. Others will spring from the successful ninth-grade program. None of them will hear a word about a state title. “For me to talk about a state championship with next year’s team, they have to win one,” said Carter, The Commercial Dispatch’s Large Schools Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. Wiping the slate and starting anew is another way to push out what has happened and to prepare for what will be everyone’s best shot. But Starkville High’s consistency has helped solidify it as one of the state’s top programs, so it should be used to getting an opponent’s best shot in 2010-11. This season, the depth Starkville High anticipated having dwindled as upperclassmen Antonio Hamilton and James Sharp either weren’t there for the start of the season or were gone by the middle of the season. Sophomore starting guard Jacolby Mobley took his 10 points a game to the bench once the new year started. But juniors Jaquez Johnson and Shaquille Hill and sophomores Mike Brand, Calvin Young, and Tory Rice used the extra minutes to become champions in their first varsity season. The fact that the team didn’t miss a beat as its makeup changed made the title run unique, Carter said. “It’d start out one way and we’d get good, then have to shift gears to another direction,” Carter said. “The chemistry, I was always worried about it. But in the first week of February, things started to fall in line and we started to play well. It carried us all through the state tournament and the Grand Slam.” I

The euphoria from winning the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A state title gave the Starkville High School boys basketball coach a myriad emotions. The victory lifted a burden from Carter’s shoulders and certified his tenure at the school with a traditionsetting run that finally provided the hardware to prove it. But if returning to the court after failing to accomplish all you set out for is difficult, getting over the jubilation of being the best team in the state has proven just as laborious. It’s like breaking up the band after selling $10 million records and winning a Grammy, or being a military kid and having to move after you’ve found a great group of friends. “You’re putting this last year behind you,” Carter said one month after Starkville High beat Biloxi for the crown. “It’s different when you end with a title, but it’s just as difficult because you’re starting over. It makes it hard when you see guys like Rashad Perkins and Edward Townsel, knowing you’ve got to replace them and what you did is over.” Offseason turnover has produced solid starters in Carter’s eight years at Starkville High, so he isn’t worried about finding players to step in for Perkins, the state’s most exciting player, and Townsel, the quickest guard. There’s a standard at Starkville High and an understanding that winning basketball is the norm. Now, state title expectations will have more weight and the Yellow Jackets’ first title defense in 49 seasons will begin with a new collection of players. Some will return with experience from playing in a title


Holman is honored for district title run


AURA LEE HOLMAN ENTERED HER FIRST YEAR IN CHARGE of the New Hope High School girls basketball team by setting the bar at a milestone that hadn’t been reached in 18 years.
As a former Lady Trojan, she never experienced the joy of lifting a district championship trophy. Many players came before her and finished their New Hope High basketball careers in the same fashion. The goal, in all likelihood, was the same New Hope coaches before Holman had set. Holman’s approach to her new group of players was simple: Push yourself to the limit in October and you’ll in enjoy it in February. The New Hope players bought in, as Holman entered her second year of coaching with solid credentials.

As a starting guard and AllConference player at Troy University of coach Michael Murphy, Holman’s knowledge of the game gave her advanced insight and helped her take her first team, Cottondale High (Fla.), to the Class 2A playoffs. Not surprisingly, she gave her Cottondale team the same preseason talk and set the bar at reaching the playoffs. “I’m a dreamer and don’t believe in setting the bar lower than a championship,” said Holman, The Commercial Dispatch’s Large Schools Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. “The school I was at before this, the first interview I had with the newspaper I told them we were going to state. That was the headline for the story, and we went. “I came into New Hope with the same mentality.” Holman told her players, “You’re going to hate me in October, but you’ll love me in February.” She wasn’t sure if her players understood the amount of work she would put them through, with three-hour practices and rounds of cardiovascular training. Holman also wasn’t sure how the Lady Trojans would fare after they lost the first two games of the season and dropped both of their district games to West Point, or if they would hit their stride and play consistently to make a run at the Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 title. New Hope beat Oxford 48-46 in its district tournament opener, but the true test of how far the team had come came against West Point in the district final. Trailing by eight points at halftime, Kelli Petty and Kia Edmonds combined to score 26 points to propel the Lady Trojans to a 42-40 win. “Those first five minutes in the locker room, just to see that joy on their faces was incredible,” Holman said. “When we got in the locker room, the first thing they said was, ‘Coach, you said we’d be having fun in February.’ That was a special feeling to know they accomplished something that hadn’t been done in 18 years.” The Lady Trojans moved on to the North Half State playoffs, where they lost to Canton 57-52 to finish 16-10. I


Malone rises to leadership challenge


player on the court. One of those times came Feb. 5 against Columbus. Already with a 58-51 victory against the Falcons, Malone (25 points) took over down the stretch. Trailing 48-38 with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, he poured in seven consecutive points, including a 3-pointer, to cut the deficit to 50-47 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. West Lowndes went on to win 61-57 in overtime. “I feel I had more of a killer instinct,” Malone said. “That game against Columbus I was determined not to lose. I didn’t want to lose, and we weren’t going to lose.” Malone thought his willingness to take on a bigger role would allow Peters to have more confidence in the team. He also felt it would improve his and his teammates’ confidence. “I took it on more as a responsibility because I thought I owed it to my guys because I have been here,” Malone said. “I have experienced things and that if they got down I understand and I knew I owed it to them to help get them up.” Peters wasn’t surprised by his senior’s

The West Lowndes High School senior didn’t like the prospect of having to settle for his team’s first loss of the season, especially in a game he thought it should have won. Instead of accepting defeat, Malone went to Herman Peters and told his coach he was going to do something about it. “I told him I was ready to and I was going to pick my teammates up,” Malone said. The 6-foot-1 1/2, 170-pound swingman lived up to his words — and then some — this season. Malone averaged a little more than 22 points per game, 14 rebounds, five assists, forced seven turnovers, and had five steals a game playing all five positions for the Panthers. For his accomplishments, Malone is The Commercial Dispatch’s Small Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year. “He took the role as a senior leader,” Peters said. “He is coachable and manageable. Whatever you asked of him he tried to do it with 100 percent.” Peters said Malone took control of the team several times, either by saying something in a timeout or by being the go-to




Ewings was dynamic weapon


with the varsity, and after startand she has had interest from ing as the two guard, Ewings USM and a film request from was starting point guard by the Vanderbilt. next game. “She has a good shot (at “On the court, she pushes making it to the Division I me,” Ewings said. “She sees the level),” Helms said. “I have seen littlest things, like if I don’t get back on defense or if I let some- a lot of point guards and two body guard me. She’ll get in my guards in Division I that are At 5-foot-5, Ewings is used to “That’s why I’m not afraid of small. I used to worry about her face because she knows I can being one of the shortest playanybody,” Ewings said. “People height being a negative just with take it. I can always talk to her ers on the court. But while tell me, ‘You got to go up against and she’s going to always keep her signing (a scholarship), but height typically is coveted at this person’, or ‘She’s five or six it real with me.” you look at (former Mississippi every position, Ewings’ blend of this.’ I take it like she’ll be a Helms said she pushes State guard) Alexis Rack (5-footspeed, vision, shooting, and grit threat to me, but I’m not afraid Ewings because she’s convinced 7) and she’s not that tall. Kelsei has given West Point coach just because I’m small. I’ve had she can play at the Division I Jemmye Ann Helms a dynamic that experience before from will gain weight naturally when level, despite the misconcepweapon the past three years. being in the yard and playing she goes to college, and in the tions about small guards. Ewings averaged 22 points, with the boys.” weight room here I think we Ewings said she often hears five assists, four rebounds, and Ewings dropped 30 points can put some more pounds on Helms compare her to college five steals a game this season, against Starkville High in the her. It will help her a lot. She and WNBA players. She said leading the Lady Wave to a 17-7 season opener, 31 and 24 in she does it positively and to has range now and she’s not record and a spot in the first games against Noxubee County, very big. Watching the (NCAA) round of the Class 5A North and 24 in a loss to New Hope in motivate her when she isn’t tournament, I think she can play Half State playoffs, where they the district championship game. playing up to her usual level. Ewings will attend junior lost to Yazoo City. Helms believes Ewings with anybody.” ■ camps at Mississippi State, For her accomplishments, should have averaged close to story by DAVID MILLER Southern Miss, and Vanderbilt, Ewings is The Commercial 30 points this season. She is Dispatch’s Large Schools Girls adamant the killer instinct Player of the Year. Ewings shows for most of the Ewings’ brilliance in the open game will make her an even court was a nightmare to more explosive and prolific defend, especially with the player. inside-out combination she “She’s always had the ability formed with forward Kourtney to take over the game, and she Crowley, a member of The needs to be more aggressive,” Dispatch’s All-Area second team. Helms said. “I felt like she could To Ewings, running the fast have had a lot more and-ones break and handling Helms’ than she did. Sometimes she’s offense was just like being at hesitant to take over trying to home. make the extra pass, or just “I would play football and being conscious of how many every other sport (the family’s shots she’s taken or how much boys) would play,” Ewings said. she’s had the ball.” “I didn’t want the boys to beat Ewings appreciates Helms’ me, so I had to run faster to honesty and said it always has catch them. I increased my been there in a relationship speed all my years.” forged when Ewings started on Playing with the boys helped the varsity team as a freshman. Ewings develop toughness Initially, Ewings was tentative because she always was the when she walked in the gym smallest player in every compe- and heard from the other playtition. She didn’t know that ers, “You’re a freshman, you’re would be the case once she not supposed to be here.” We have a showroom of windows, started playing high school basBut Helms, then in her first ketball, but by then she had year at West Point High, saw doors, fireboxes, and much more! realized she had an advantage in Ewings’ potential and realized 1120 Gardner Blvd. • Columbus skill and quickness that negated she needed to get her freshman any limitations her height might more experience. She assured 328-5776 • 866-508-3537 Ewings she wanted to practice impose on her game.

OMETIMES, TOUGHNESS IS INGRAINED IN A PLAYER. Growing up in a large family of boys and as a selfproclaimed “country girl,” West Point High School point guard Kelsei Ewings has turned what usually is a disadvantage into a weapon.

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Hoskins lets her actions speak


ballhandler to a wing player. Bivens also said the position change helped Hoskins become tougher. “Jameika is a wonderful player,” Bivens said. “She listens and wants to get better. All she wanted to know was what she needed to do, and she did it without hesitation.” Bivens said Hoskins improved this season the most on defense. He said he didn’t have to get on to Hoskins to play defense in part because he said she The Aberdeen High School senior recognized she was someone who set guard/forward always has preferred to the tone for the team. let her playing do the talking. In fact, Bivens said he saw Hoskins This season, Hoskins continued to speak up during timeouts and encourbecome more of a vocal presence and a age teammates. He said that leadership leader on the court. Those qualities helped the Lady Bulldogs overcome helped her lead the team in scoring tough stretches. (21.7 points per game) and to a 24-3 “One of her biggest problems was record. she always knew what was wrong but “When you’re a vocal player you’re a she never opened her mouth and said great player,” Hoskins said. “I think it,” Bivens said. “As the year went on that is one of the things I was lacking she was able to say things. The key is over the other years.” For her accomplishments this seaJameika Hoskins goes for a layup while not what you say but how you say it. two Tupelo High defenders watch. When she said things the team listened son, Hoskins is The Commercial and they just followed her.” Dispatch Small Schools Girls Basketball Volleyball Player of the Year. “It started Hoskins originally decided to play Player of the Year. out good with volleyball and making it basketball at Alcorn State in Lorman, Aberdeen reached Jackson last year farther than we did the other seasons. but she reconsidered that choice and and saw its season end to eventual With basketball, we were ready for the last month signed a letter of intent to Class 3A state champion Raymond. But state part. It didn’t end too well.” play at Itawamba Community College. most people at the game, including the Aberdeen’s volleyball team beat St. Raymond coach and players, felt Bivens feels that step will help Andrew’s in the opening round of the Aberdeen had made significant strides Hoskins become the player he knows Class I North Half State tournament from the 2007-08 season, when before nearly beating Center Hill in the she can be. He said Hoskins will be Raymond easily eliminated Aberdeen. able to shine and that her competitivesecond round. That’s why the 2009-10 campaign ness and enthusiasm for the game will In girls basketball, Hoskins felt she was filled with anticipation that maybe come out easier having family and took several steps as a player and as a this season, especially with Raymond friends close by to support her. leader. She said she played through a moving up to Class 4A after the state’s Hoskins said her senior girls basketshoulder injury she suffered two games reclassification, would be the one when prior to the game against Ripley. She ball season was a first step toward Aberdeen could win a Class 3A title. also feels she learned more of what she becoming even more of a vocal presBut Ripley’s 55-51 victory against will have to do as a lead-by-example and ence on the court. She said her ability Aberdeen in the second round of the to lead her teammates gave her confias a vocal contributor. North Half State playoffs shattered dence she can do it even better at the “I can do many things if I put my those dreams. Despite the disappointnext level. mind to it,” Hoskins said. ment, Hoskins took pride in everything “I am shy person. I don’t like to Aberdeen High girls basketball she helped the volleyball, girls baskettalk,” Hoskins said. “Coach always coach Latorrence Bivens said this past ball, and track and field teams achieve. season was the best of Hoskins’ fivepulled me over and told me I need to “My senior year has been great,” become more vocal and be more of a year varsity career. He said her decisaid Hoskins, who was named The leader on the team. I took it and sion-making allowed her to make the Commercial Dispatch’s All-Area became more of a vocal leader.”I transition from her role as a primary

AMEIKA HOSKINS ADMITS SHE DOESN’T TALK MUCH. While other players slap teammates on the back and create a lot of noise on the court, Hoskins takes a stealthier approach.





Pickens County sweeps after winning state title


T THE BEGINNING OF THE BASKETBALL SEASON, Pickens County coach Russ Wallace believed his team was a year away from contending for a state championship.
Wallace experienced a tumultuous offseason when he had to kick two starters and three other players off the team, and he didn’t know how his players would respond. “We had so many problems during the summer,” Wallace said. “We had a lot of situations going on. “My mind-set going into the start of the season was, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get these guys ready because next year we’re going to have a legit shot at winning the state championship.’ I knew I had Deion (Curry) as a junior and I knew I had these sophomores (LaJuan Doss and Nick Stewart).” But much to Wallace’s surprise, the Tornadoes put it together quicker than he anticipated and won the first state

championship in Pickens County history this season. Pickens County capped a 27-2 season by outlasting Houston County 88-86 in triple overtime in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A championship game on Feb. 25 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Ala. Curry was instrumental in leading the Tornadoes to the title by pouring in a game-high 31 points in the championship game. For their roles in leading Pickens County to the championship, Wallace is The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, and Curry is the Player of the Year. Curry, a 5-foot-11 guard, was at his best in the postseason. He scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Lanett in the Class 2A, Central Regional championship game on Feb. 18 and scored 17 points against Sand Rock in the state tournament semifinals on Feb. 23 before leading the way in the title game. He picked up the scoring load for

Malone continued
attitude. In fact, he was looking for it. He was rewarded early in the season when after a loss to Aliceville Malone came to him and told him he was ready to take on the role of senior leader. “Not only did he say it, but he showed it,” Peters said. “He knew from the beginning of the season he had to be the leader. He took it from there and kept going.” Peters said Malone did it all this season. He was a playmaker and a rebounder. Most importantly, he realized he needed to score in clutch situations to help the Panthers be their best. “I think he took it as a challenge at first and then as a responsibility,” Peters said. “Other players started to look to him after that point (early in the season).” West Lowndes beat Columbus twice, West Point, Noxubee County, and won its holiday tournament. Even though the team didn’t get to return to Jackson, Malone said the Panthers, who moved from Class 1A to 2A, had a successful season. He admitted, though, it was disappointing not realizing that goal again. Malone hopes to realize a dream of earning a baseball scholarship to play at Mississippi Valley State University. He said at first he was care free in baseball but grew into it after he started playing the sport when he was 11. Peters knows Malone will excel at either sport, and has encouraged him to give basketball a shot, too, if he feels he has time and will be able to make the transition. “He can go to any junior college and start now if wanted to,” Peters said. “Most of the offers he had for basketball were from out-of-state schools. He has the ability wherever he goes to play more than one sport. He is a Beta Club student, so he is able to go and do whatever. “He has the ability to blossom. When he gets to the next level he will be able to focus on one position, shooting guard, which he is. There is no limit to where he can go.”I

the Tornadoes in the postseason and for the season averaged 13.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per game. Curry was instrumental in all three games despite throwing up at halftime of the Lanett game, colliding with an opposing player in the Sand Rock game, and crashing into press row in the Houston County game. “I think his leadership, not only from a vocal standpoint, but from how he played, kind of carried the team and bonded the team,” Wallace said. “The team kind of all joined in with him. They had that never give up, never say die attitude.” Curry, who earned All-State honors by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, was especially clutch against Houston County, when the Tornadoes scored seven points in the final 8.8 seconds of the third overtime to rally from an 86-81 deficit. He made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 8.8 seconds left to make it 86-84 and then he grabbed a rebound, was fouled, and made two free throws with 5.9 seconds to go to tie the score 8686. Wallace led the Tornadoes to the title even though he believes he had better teams in the past. Pickens County won despite not having the dominating player inside like in the past with 6-6 DeAndre Hersey (who plays basketball at South Alabama) and 6-6 Michael Williams (who plays football at Alabama). He began to believe the Tornadoes could contend for a state title when they played Class 6A No. 1 Tuscaloosa Hillcrest in a Christmas tournament and lost by five points. “That game made me realize it,” Wallace said. “I even told the kids, ‘You know you showed me something right there.’ When they showed me that it made me re-think about this basketball team because I saw something in this team I’ve been trying to get out of my kids at Pickens County for 15 years. “This bunch had the heart and desire to where they didn’t want to lose. That tournament changed my perception of this basketball team.”I



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Pickens Academy reaps top honors for title run


RIOR TO THE OPENING TIP OF THE BASKETBALL SEASON, the Pickens Academy Lady Pirates set a goal to win a state championship.

Pickens Academy coach Wade Goodman and senior forward Callie Minor were confident the Lady Patriots could accomplish the feat after making it to the Elite Eight of the state playoffs the previous two years. “My expectations were very high,” Minor said. “All of us girls had played together for a long time and I knew what we had as a team. I knew what kind of skills we had, so I thought we’d be very good.” Led by Goodman and Minor, the Lady Pirates lived up to the expectations and won the state championship that they had set their sights on at the beginning of the season. Pickens Academy (28-3) capped a memorable season when it defeated Lakeside Christian 53-39 in the Alabama Independent School Association Class AA championship game on Feb. 19 at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. “I honestly think that anybody could have coached them to a state championship this year,” Goodman said. “It’s been nice to watch them mature over the past three years.” The 5-foot-10 Minor had a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds to lead the Lady Pirates to the championship game. For their roles in leading Pickens Academy to the title, Goodman is The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama Girls Basketball Coach of the Year and Minor is the Player of the Year. Minor was one of three seniors that provided leadership for the Lady Pirates. The other seniors were Catherine Johnson and Tate Fuller. Minor led the Lady Pirates in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. “She’s amazing with the things she can do on the court,” Goodman said. “She knows exactly what her role is, which is rebounding and getting those hard inside points that we need.” Minor, who intends to attend Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., also was a pitcher on the school’s softball team. Goodman, 36, coached the Lady Pirates to the championship in his third season at Pickens Academy. He was coaching little league baseball and had never coached girls sports when he was approached about coaching the Lady Pirates. “I just came in off the streets, basically,” Goodman said. “I never dreamed I’d be coaching girls sports. Never. My whole reason for going down there (for an interview) was to get my foot in the door for the baseball job.” For not having experience coaching girls basketball prior to three years ago, Goodman is to be commended for the job he did with the Lady Pirates this season, Minor said. Minor said Goodman demanded excellence and it led to a state championship. “He did a very good job,” Minor said. “He was tough on us acting right and doing the right things. He taught us a lot this year. He was a very good coach and did all the right things.”■



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