The Southern Mississippi football program already has made an impression on Rickey Knox. Wednesday afternoon was an opportunity for Knox and more than 70 other football players from the region to get to know the Golden Eagles’ coaches and program even better. Coach Larry Fedora and members of his coaching staff worked out players from Lowndes County, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee for more than two hours Wednesday at Columbus High School.
Tyler Aldridge is on the road back to 100 percent. Even though arm problems prevented the Caledonia High School baseball standout from having an ideal senior season, Aldridge still was recognized as one of the area’s top players. On Saturday, Aldridge will take the field one more time as a high schooler when he and six other area players participate in the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s Crossroads Diamond Club All-Star games at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
DeShuni Sanders is old school. But the New Hope High School senior standout showed this season that even old schoolers can succeed in a faster environment. Sanders and Hamilton High senior standout Kelle West added honors to their resumes earlier this week when they were chosen second-team All-State by The Clarion Ledger in Jackson. Sanders didn’t learn of the honor until Wednesday when her father, Donnie, told her.
Chris Herring and Kenny Tice never imagined they would have to be spokespeople. But the former New Hope High School baseball player and NHHS parent believe it is time to speak out. After remaining quiet throughout the season and watching momentum build against New Hope High baseball coach Stacy Hester, Herring and Tice said Saturday they believe people in the community are on a “personal vendetta” and “crusade” to remove Hester as the school’s coach.
Billy Ray Lee knows there is a fine line in coaching. In more than 30 years as a coach, Lee has learned some players respond to one style of coaching while others need to be motivated another way. Lee has seen that dynamic play out in his two years with the New Hope High School baseball program. In that time, Lee has seen New Hope High coach Stacy Hester is a lot like him.
New Hope High School will have a new girls basketball coach for the 2009-10 school year. Tim Vaughan resigned for personal reasons Tuesday as coach at his alma mater to be an assistant girls basketball coach for Yvonne Hairston at Columbus High School. Vaughan, who led the Lady Trojans to a 31-18 record the past two seasons, said Saturday he hasn’t signed a contract to make the move official, but that he expects to be a full-time social studies teacher in the fall at Columbus High.
The West Point High School football team lost one of its offensive lineman of the future Thursday when Tyler Wallace passed away in his sleep. An autopsy report has yet to reveal the cause of death of the 15-year old Wallace, who would have been a sophomore on West Point’s football team this fall. “Everybody is doing as well as can be expected,” said West Point coach Chris Chambless. “We were shocked. The response from the community as far as helping and praying has been greatly appreciated.”
Cloyd Garth said he hasn’t officially submitted his application, but that he would like to remain the Aberdeen High School girls basketball coach. Aberdeen High School Athletic Director Hansel Gunn said earlier this week that the opening for the girls basketball job hasn’t been posted. He said he expects it to be listed in the next few weeks. Still, word of the opening has been circulating on the Internet and through the high school coaching ranks.
Two more New Hope High School baseball players will have opportunities to play that sport in college. Third baseman T.J. Upton and left fielder Josh Ferguson performed well enough Tuesday at a tryout at East Mississippi Community College that coach Tony Montgomery has invited them to join the program Ferguson, who already has signed a football scholarship to attend EMCC, will try to work with the team at least twice a week in the fall to keep his baseball skills sharp.
Johnathan McKenzie received more than a diploma Friday when he graduated from Starkville Academy. In a special presentation at graduation, McKenzie was honored with the Don Souder Award for being the outstanding male student-athlete in the Mississippi Private School Association.
Progress won’t be measured for real until at least three months — and for some teams it will be even longer than that. But Chris Duncan, Bubba Davis, and M.C. Miller all came away impressed Saturday with the performances of their football teams in their spring finales.
Chuck Box and Brad Mitchell might not have won state championships as high school baseball players, but they have made up for it as coaches. Box, a graduate of former Caldwell High School in Columbus, won his third consecutive Mississippi Private School Association Class AAA state title at Jackson Prep on Saturday, while Mitchell, from Starkville, led Ackerman High to its first Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state championship on Monday. Winning championships is nothing new to Box, who earned a state crown at Itawamba Community College in 1999 and a conference title at Freed-Hardeman University in 1997.
Tom Kelsey knows how to find players that fit his system. When you like to play a 94-foot game like the Belhaven men’s basketball team, a coach needs versatile players who can play multiple roles. Kelsey believes Woodie Howard fits that description. Listed at 6-foot-2, the former Starkville High School product isn’t the tallest player on the court. He’s not the best scorer on the floor, and he won’t dazzle fans with eye-popping dunks. But Howard can do everything a coach asks well, which is why Kelsey wanted Howard to join his program.
Missed opportunities aren’t any less frustrating in the spring. The only solace for New Hope coach Michael Bradley, Starkville coach Bill Lee, and Amory coach Pat Byrd is that their results in the New Hope High School Jamboree won’t count against them in the 2009 season. New Hope, Starkville and Amory completed its spring seasons Friday in action that also featured Pontotoc and Shannon. Starkville defeated Amory 21-7 and lost 10-7 to Pontotoc. Pontotoc defeated Amory 7-0. Those results were two-quarter games.
Junior Noel continues to mine the Golden Triangle for its top soccer talent. The East Mississippi Community College men’s soccer coach landed two more standouts Friday when he signed Caledonia High School’s Tyler Pounders and Columbus High’s Mike Hayward to national letters of intent.
Richard Martin had the Columbus High School boys soccer program on the verge of making the Class 5A playoffs this season. In his three seasons as coach, the Falcons improved from three, to nine to 11 victories. Now someone else will have to take the team to the next level. Martin recently announced he was stepping down as boys soccer coach at Columbus High to spend more time with his family.
MABEN — East Webster High School is losing three coaches and gaining a principal in one man. Bill Brand, who coached girls basketball and slow- and fast-pitch softball at the school this year, recently accepted a job offer to return to work as East Webster High School’s principal. Brand will take over for Phil Ferguson effective July 1.
MABEN — Wanda McPhail admitted Friday morning she was the lucky one. It was easy to see why McPhail used that word after listening to her read the resumes of Kaley Allen and Jessica Halterman. After reading an impressive set of accomplishments, McPhail watched as the East Webster High School academic and athletic standouts signed national letters of intent to play tennis at Meridian Community College.
WEST POINT — Big plays usually are few and far between in spring football games. Like many sports, defenses typically get the better of offenses in preseason or games early in the season. That wasn’t the case Thursday night at McCallister Field at Hamblin Stadium. Tajh Ford had three touchdowns, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a score, to help Louisville High School defeat West Point 32-24 in the spring finale for both teams.
MACON — Vincent Sanders and Gussie Lane already can hear the haters. They likely are some of the same people who said the Noxubee County football team got lucky in 2007 when it advanced to the Class 4A state title game. Those doubters rejoiced when Laurel edged Noxubee County 19-16 to win the 2007 championship. The chatter kicked up again last year as the Tigers set out on a mission to finish the drill and win a Class 4A state title. Their hard work and team unity silenced the critics and D’Iberville in a 12-10 victory that gave the Tigers their elusive crown.
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