Monthly Archives: June 2008

Link of the Day

A nice read in USA Today about sons of former NBA stars. Michael Curry Jr. and Shawn Kemp Jr. are both rising seniors and pretty good college prospects. I’m always fascinated by how the children of pro athletes do in their athletic endeavors.

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Stratton Commits to State

Tupelo pitcher Chris Stratton made a verbal commitment Sunday to play baseball for Mississippi State.

The 2008 Daily Journal Player of the Year posted a 10-1 record with a 1.95 ERA in leading Tupelo to the Class 5A state finals. The rising senior struck out 98 batters in 75.1 innings, and he hit .367 at the plate.

MSU has always been on Stratton’s radar, but the recent coaching change sealed the deal. After a successful tenure at Kentucky, Bulldog alum John Cohen replaced the retired Ron Polk.

“I’m just real excited about the new staff and what they’re all about, and the new era of State,” Stratton said. “Coach Cohen, he’s unreal. Coach (Butch) Thompson, the new pitching coach, is real good. He’s real intense, and I’m real excited about getting close to him.”

Stratton, who’s 16-1 over two seasons, throws a mid-to-upper-80s fastball with a good curveball, and he’s working on a changeup. His biggest strength is his pinpoint accuracy.

“He has the ability to throw any of his pitches for strikes at any time in the count,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said.

Read more about this story in Tuesday’s Daily Journal.

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2008 Football Schedules

I’ve gathered up most of the area teams’ football schedules, with the exceptions of Holly Springs and Starkville. Here’s a PDF version (along with some college schedules). Hope you can read that; if not, you can find them in Sunday’s Journal.

So after combing through the schedules, I came up with 29 games to watch, games that kind of stood out at first glance. Enjoy.

Aug. 28 (Thursday)
• Booneville at Baldwyn: Features two of the area’s top backs, Booneville’s Bo Brown and Baldwyn’s Xzadrian Shelley.
• Calhoun City at Vardaman: A traditional clash between two Division 1-1A frontrunners. Let’s see what new Vardaman QB Gene Ruth can do against an always-tough defense.
Aug. 29
• Madison Central at Lafayette Co.: Bobby Hall’s boys, who made great strides during 2007, offer a stiff opening opponent for one of the area’s top 4A squads.
• Ripley at New Albany: Always a good game. New Albany’s first-time head coach, Ron Price, matches wits against proven winner Mac McCurry.
• Shannon at West Point: Man, what an opening weekend. This has turned into a fine rivalry in recent years.
Sept. 4 (Thursday)
• Vardaman at Bruce: Calhoun county foes tangle, and Bruce seeks revenge for last year’s upset loss.
Sept. 5
• Lafayette Co. at Shannon: Another tough one for the visiting Commodores, who seek revenge for a 21-14 first-round playoff loss last season.
Sept. 12
• New Albany at Baldwyn: These teams about broke the scoreboard last season in Baldwyn’s 54-44 win.
• Tishomingo Co. at Corinth: Highway 72 rivals get a good early litmus test. Both should be good this year (especially Corinth).
• Pontotoc at Ripley: This is Charlie Dampeer’s second year at Pontotoc, which means the Warriors should be a contender in Division 1-4A. Ripley offers a stout 3A challenge.
• Starkville at West Point: Always a dog fight, and it’s even more fun when played in the mud.
Sept. 19
• Winona at Aberdeen: I don’t know (yet) what Winona’s got back this year, but the winner should be considered Louisville’s top challenger in 2-3A.
• Baldwyn at Bruce: This was a classic triple-overtime thriller last year, with Bruce winning in a non-division 2A game.
• Corinth at Booneville: The 1-3A opener for both teams, and it could be the de facto division title game (Ripley will have a say, of course).
• Lafayette Co. at Oxford: Too bad they couldn’t play it on the final weekend, but that won’t diminish the Crosstown Classic’s luster.
Sept. 26
• Calhoun City at East Webster: Two 1-1A favorites square off. East Webster easily won the division last year en route to the North championship game.
• Ripley at Corinth: This too could be the de facto 1-3A title game. It’s again up for grabs this year.
Oct. 3
• East Webster at Vardaman: Another big 1-1A showdown. Look out for the Rams this year, even with a new coach (Justin Hollis).
• Tupelo at Starkville: For some reason, Starkville is a mystery to me every year. We know Tupelo is supposed to be good, and this is a good time to show how good.
Oct. 10
• Clarksdale at Lafayette Co.: I’m pretty high on Lafayette this year, and Clarksdale is always good. But the Wildcats lost some really good players.
• West Point at Kosciusko: West Point won a 17-14 decision in the 2007 regular season, but Kosy got payback in the 4A playoffs (42-28).
Oct. 17
• Aberdeen at Louisville: I thought the Bulldogs could give Louisville a run last year – they didn’t (41-7).
• South Panola at Tupelo: Is this the year Tupelo – somebody – finally gets over the hump against South Panola (75 and counting). I’ll believe it when I see it.
Oct. 24
• Bruce at Eupora: This game should decide the 2-2A race. It did last year, when Eupora won 16-7.
• Shannon at Itawamba AHS: I wonder how polished the team’s respective quarterbacks will be in this 1-4A matchup. Maikhail Miller, a sophomore, has no varsity experience for IAHS. Alex Thornton, who will probably win the Shannon job, proved a capable backup the past two years.
Oct. 31
• Amory at Aberdeen: The A-Game could have playoff seed implications. It always has pride implications.
• Booneville at Ripley: And this could be the de facto 1-3A title game.
• Itawamba AHS at Pontotoc: Pontotoc will probably have a chance to A) knock IAHS out of the top spot and B) improve its own seeding.
Nov. 7
• Tupelo at Olive Branch: This game could be especially huge if one of these teams has beaten South Panola.
• Playoffs: They begin for Classes 2A, 3A and 4A, as well as academies.

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Link of the Day

Found an inspiring story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It’s about the East St. Louis athletics program, which is thriving despite sub-standard facilities. How do they do it? Through coaches “who excel at improvised training methods and, most importantly, refuse to allow their athletes to believe they can’t do something because they lack resources.”

The school is working to improve its facilities, and good facilities are important, but sometimes we place too much emphasis on the exterior. It’s what’s inside those kids and their coaches that brings them success.

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Thrasher Football

Photo by Shelby Daniel

With less than six weeks until August drills begin, Thrasher has little time to get a new football coached hired and settled into place.

James Moore resigned last week after one season to take an assistant’s job in Alabama. Prentiss County superintendent Matt Smith has moved quickly and hopes to have a new hire made by Friday. The biggest challenge on Day 1, Smith said, will be learning names.

That’s a good problem. Moore had only 17 names to learn when he arrived last June. Thrasher’s new coach will have close to 40.

“He got the kids out and was really starting to turn the corner, building confidence in the weight room, and confidence in the community,” Smith said of Moore. “Really making it possibly a move back to the old days.”

The “old days” would be 1990-92, when the Rebels won three straight Division 1-1A titles. They earned the program’s lone playoff victory in ’92, and they haven’t had a winning season since.

Thrasher, 2-9 last year, plays in a tough 11-team division, so progress won’t be immediately measured by playoff appearances, and perhaps not even by wins.

“It’s going to be new for everybody,” Smith said.

And hopefully better.

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Link of the Day

As the San Antonio Express-News reports, the Texas state football championships will rotate to different venues, starting this December. This makes sense in such a large state, but I think it would make sense in Mississippi, too. The MHSAA is going to have to come up with some sort of solution for a venue if Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium is demolished.

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Correction

My bad. Thrasher’s weightlifting program was started not by James Moore, as I wrote in today’s story, but by previous head coach Andy Richey and his assistant at the time, Shane Sanderson. Sanderson took over the head post when Richey went to Wheeler and stayed on two years before going to New Albany last year as an assistant. He’s now athletics director there.

I’ll have more on Sanderson later this week when I preview the Booneville Senior Legion Invitational. He coaches the Booneville team.

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