Local College Hoop Scoop: Pilots’ Brooks continuing to set the pace in RRAC

SIMPLY THE BEST:  Woodlawn product Jalen Brooks has dominated Red River Athletic Conference play through 12 weeks. (Photo courtesy LSUS Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

There’s no guarantee Jalen Brooks will be the Red River Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year when awards are announced in March, but he’s certainly the odds-on favorite.

The LSUS senior guard is the RRAC Player of the Week for the sixth time this season. That’s half of the POTW awards that have been issued by the league office.

Brooks, a Woodlawn product, leads the conference with a 23.3 scoring average and snags 11.2 rebounds per game.

In the past week, while the Pilots went 2-1, he averaged 25 points while sinking 23 of 43 shots, and grabbed 7.0 rebounds per contest. 


LSUS:  The Pilots (15-5, 7-3 RRAC) are tied for first in the RRAC standings with Texas A&M-Texarkana after posting a 94-89 win at Huston-Tillotson last Saturday.

Next games: Thursday at Louisiana Christian (3-8 in RRAC) at 7:30, home Saturday at The Dock hosting Xavier (7-4 in RRAC) at 4 o’clock. 

CENTENARY:  The Gentlemen (12-6, 6-4 SCAC) suffered double-digit road losses last weekend at Trinity (80-59 on Friday) and Schreiner (68-54 on Saturday) after hard-fought homecourt wins over both teams in early December. The Friday loss at Trinity pitted the second- and third-place teams in the league standings, with Trinity stretching its winning streak to nine as the Tigers shot 60 percent from the floor and outscored the Gents 40-26 in the paint. That was an even more blaring shortfall for Centenary Saturday, as Schreiner outscored the visitors 44-14 in the paint, and outrebounded the Gents 40-23. The lost weekend cost Centenary only one slot in the standings.

Next games:  Centenary comes into a home weekend fourth in the nine-team Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, hosting seventh-place Southwestern Friday night at 7:30 and fifth-place Texas Lutheran Saturday at 2 in the Gold Dome.

BOSSIER PARISH CC:  The Cavaliers (11-8, 3-6 in Region IV) notched a 64-59 road win Saturday at Paris Junior College as Kendrick Delahoussaye and D’Marcus Hall set the pace offensively with 11 points each. BPCC is 6-4 over the last 10 games.

Next game:  The Cavaliers are home Wednesday at 7 hosting Trinity Valley CC. The Cardinals are 4-16 overall but 4-6 in Region IV East Zone competition, standing in a fourth-place tie, while BPCC is 7th.


LSUS: The Lady Pilots (17-4, 11-2) have won eight straight and are second in the RRAC race behind undefeated (12-0) Texas A&M-Texarkana. LSUS dumped Huston-Tillotson 70-64 on Saturday.

Next games: LSUS goes to Louisiana Christian Thursday at 5:30, then hosts Xavier Saturday at 2. Both foes are 6-5 in conference play. 

CENTENARY:  The Ladies (1-18, 1-9) were drubbed at Trinity (96-46) and Scheiner (92-58), expanding their skid to four. Trinity is 10-0 in the SCAC and Schreiner is third at 8-2. Centenary, which has 10 freshmen on its 16-woman roster, is getting outscored by 22 points a game.

Next games: Centenary is home Friday against fifth-place Southwestern at 5:30, then faces fourth-place Texas Lutheran Saturday at noon.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Area College Hoop Scoop: Demons hoping Sharp is on point

SPECIAL K:  Keaston Willis is red-hot from beyond the 3-point arc heading into tonight’s home contest in Ruston against Western Kentucky. (Photo by DARRELL JAMES, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

It’s bounce-back time for the men’s basketball teams at Grambling, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State, trying to rebound from losses, but only the Bulldogs will benefit from homecourt advantage.

Tech is home Thursday night, while NSU and Grambling each have two-game road assignments ahead.

New NSU coach Corey Gipson is maintaining a big-picture focus despite the Demons (10-8, 2-3) dropping six of their last eight games on the heels of a seven-game pre-Christmas win streak.

“We haven’t lost a game this year,” he said in an NSUDemons.com video interview. “The only time you lose is when you don’t learn. The only time I’ve been concerned about this team is when we were on a seven-game winning streak. Sometimes when you have a perceived win by the layperson, it’s hard to articulate to personnel and get them to understand some things they need to change and work on.

“After a perceived loss – not a loss by us – sometimes it’s easier to get a person to understand what they need to do.”


NORTHWESTERN STATE:  Gipson’s Demons aren’t asking point guard DeMarcus Sharp to be more productive, just more aggressive. Sharp leads Northwestern in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (77) while sharing the team lead in steals (30) and blocks (10). He ranks in the top 10 in the Southland Conference in assists (3rd), free-throw percentage (82.6, 4th), scoring (6th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5, 6th), blocks per game (0.6, T-7th), steals (30, T-9th) and rebounding (5.5, 10th).

“I don’t mind saying this publicly, because the opponent also knows this in regards to how we play – when DeMarcus Sharp is the aggressor in the game, we’re a different team,” Gipson said. “Sometimes, people can try to dissect the game and think something may need to be tweaked when maybe all that needs to happen is DeMarcus becomes the aggressor.

“If we’re in a game and DeMarcus Sharp has one or two attempts in the first half – it’s not because the defense did it – it’s because he decided to not take shots. What I’ll tell you is if DeMarcus Sharp has eight or 10 attempts in the first half, everything is going to be different.”

Next game: Tonight, 7:30 in Hammond against Southland Conference co-leader Southeastern Louisiana (9-8, 4-1).

LOUISIANA TECH:  The Bulldogs (10-8, 3-4) suffered their first home loss this season when UAB notched an 81-74 win at the Thomas Assembly Center on Saturday. Tech is getting hot shooting from distance by Keaston Willis, 14 of his last 23 from behind the arc while averaging 16 points in the last four games. Cobi Williams continues to set the tone for the Bulldogs with his 19-point average. Williams (27 points) and Willis (23) had season scoring highs against UAB, with freshman Isaiah Crawford scoring a career-best 25 at North Texas. That trio is averaging 47 points in Conference USA contests.

Next game:  Tonight at 8 in the TAC vs. Western Kentucky (11-7, 3-4) on CBS Sports Network.

GRAMBLING: The Tigers (10-7, 3-2) lost an 81-73 battle at Southern on Saturday to snap a three-game SWAC winning streak. The outcome overshadowed two brilliant individual performances. Shawndarius Cowart posted a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, several going to 25-point scorer Cam Christon.

Next game: Grambling goes to Mississippi Valley (2-18, 1-5) Saturday at 6.


LOUISIANA TECH: Two wins last week lifted the Techsters (11-6, 4-3) into fourth in Conference USA. Senior Keiunna Walker was named CUSA Player of the Week after averaging 24.5 points, including a 13-for-16 performance at the free throw line in a season-best 26-point outing at UAB. Walker is 10th nationally in made free throws (94) and 12th in trips to the line (120), and has posted four straight 20-point performances. Tech leads CUSA by shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and is 9-0 when it holds opponents under 60 points.

Next game:  Saturday at Western Kentucky (8-8, 5-2) in a 6:30 CT contest.

NORTHWESTERN STATE:  The Lady Demons (7-8, 3-2) completed a series sweep of Nicholls to move over .500 in league play and have won three straight. They got a boost Saturday in Thibodaux when former Grambling guard Candace Parramore returned from an ankle injury and poured in 18 points.

Next game:  Thursday, 5:30 at Southeastern Louisiana (8-7, 3-2).

GRAMBLING:  The more they score, the better their chances. Seems simple. For the Lady Tigers (4-12, 3-2) five of their last six defeats, including both in SWAC play, have come when they’ve been held under 50 points.

Next game:  Saturday at 4 at Mississippi Valley (2-15, 0-6).

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Local College Hoop Scoop: BPCC home tonight, LSUS on Thursday

 LOCAL STAR AT LSUS:  Woodlawn product Jalen Brooks continues to put up big numbers for the LSU Shreveport Pilots, who are at home Thursday. (Photo courtesy LSUS Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

There’s homecourt action tonight and Thursday on the local college basketball scene with Bossier Parish Community College likely to pick up its first win on the new-look court at Billy Montgomery Gym this evening, and LSUS hosting a high-stakes doubleheader Thursday at The Dock.

The Lady Pilots have only two Red River Athletic Conference losses. Thursday night, they’ll try to avenge one when Our Lady of the Lake visits.


BPCC:  The Cavaliers (10-7, 2-6 in Region XIV) stumbled in their initial outing on the flashy new floor last Saturday, falling 69-57 to Panola. But tonight’s contest bodes well for the home team. Coach J.A. Anglin’s team hosts Baton Rouge CC, who was dumped 74-60 on its homecourt by the Cavs on Dec. 13. Last week, BPCC notched an 84-73 victory over Lamar-Port Arthur by closing the game on a 15-4 run in the final five minutes to push away from a tie. 

Next game: Tonight at Billy Montgomery Gym at BPCC, 7 p.m. against Baton Rouge CC. 

LSUS:  The Pilots (15-4, 9-2) sit second in the Red River Athletic Conference race despite getting knocked off last Saturday at Jarvis Christian 93-86, despite a 43-point, 15-rebound performance from Woodlawn product Jalen Brooks. LSUS bounced back Monday night with a tough 76-70 road win at Xavier behind 22 points each from Brooks and Jordan DeCuir for the Pilots’ fifth win in six games. A DeCuir follow shot at the buzzer last week made the difference in an 81-79 victory over Texas College. 

Next game: Thursday at the Dock, 7:30 vs. Our Lady of the Lake. The Pilots won the first meeting 86-73 on the road Dec. 1. 

CENTENARY:  The Gents (12-4, 6-2) are riding the hot hand of Seth Thomas, who is averaging 22.7 points in the last four games. Centenary rebounded from dropping last Wednesday’s battle for the league lead by holding off Colorado College 63-58 Friday night at the Gold Dome behind 26 from Thomas.

Next games:  The Gentlemen are on the road this weekend, visiting Trinity on Friday and hooping at Scheiner Saturday. Centenary beat both in close games last month at the Gold Dome.


LSUS:  The Lady Pilots (15-4, 9-2) are rolling with seven straight wins. Thursday night’s showdown with Our Lady of the Lake pits second-place LSUS against No. 3 OLOL. In the first meeting on Dec. 1, LSU fell 67-63 on the road. In the Lady Pilots’ recent action, they won tough games, 66-58 over Texas College, 71-65 in overtime at Jarvis Christian and 71-63 at Xavier. The OT win was their second this season.

Next game:  Thursday, 5:30 at The Dock vs. Our Lady of the Lake.

CENTENARY: The Ladies (1-16, 1-7) have played better lately, picking up their only win so far two games ago, but last Friday’s 85-51 stumble at home to Colorado College wasn’t a good outing. The immediate future is challenging, to say the least. They lost by a combined 75 points to their next two opponents last month.

Next games: Friday at Trinity, who slaughtered Centenary 100-42 last month, and then Saturday at Schreiner, who handled the Ladies by 17 at the Gold Dome.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

There’s a week left to make a difference for a super senior

We spend the fall cheering on Friday nights, soaring or sinking with the fortunes of our favorite high school football team. Whether it’s your alma mater, where you work, where your kid goes to school, or if your son, grandson, nephew, neighbor kid is pulling on a jersey or a manager’s or trainer’s shirt for the Friday Night Lights, it really means more.

These are young people you truly know, or know about, on a personal basis. They are almost always the best kind of social influencers – the big kids who personally connect with the little kids around them, and in some situations, are even the defacto parental figures in their own households.

In the first year of the Shreveport-Bossier Journal, we’ve spotlighted some of those boys becoming men.

They’re learning how to contribute to something bigger than themselves. It’s not just the star players, it’s the role players, it’s the scout teamers, it’s the student trainers tending to their banged-up classmates, the managers doing all they can to assure equipment and uniforms and footballs and blocking dummies are in good shape and in the right places.

None of these roles are particularly unique to football. But what is unique to football, not only locally but nationally, is the scholarship program provided by the National Football Foundation for remarkable senior scholar-athletes. The NFF’s S.M. McNaughton Chapter, which encompasses all of the 318 area code, is based in Shreveport-Bossier, and has existed for over 40 years with one primary purpose – to celebrate excellence among area prep football seniors.

The last two seasons, the North Louisiana NFF Chapter has promoted a Watch List launched in preseason and expanded during the season, providing recognition for those young men.

Now it’s time to collect nominations from the cream of the crop of the high school football Class of 2023, and reward nine of them with college scholarship money.

You’ve seen some possible nominees spotlighted during 14 weeks of prep football by our partners, KTBS-TV, and Johnny’s Pizza. The late Bob Griffin, the iconic local TV personality, was on the NFF board for years until he passed two years ago, the day after the Super Bowl, at age 85. He had covered a playoff semifinal two months earlier at Many High School. That made the KTBS partnership logical, and added a scholarship award to the eight issued annually by the NFF.

The 2023 recipients will be celebrated Thursday, March 2, with the traditional Scholarship Awards Dinner at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport.

Deadline is in a week: the nominees must be submitted by Tuesday, Jan. 24, by the school’s head football coach.

Yes, next Tuesday night (really, until when the Wednesday Journal publishes and lands in your email box, free as always, at 6:55 a.m.).

The criteria: a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 by a senior who has won at least all-district honors and participated in some extracurricular activity.

There is an application form, available by emailing sbjdoug@gmail.com, or texting me at 318-471-2086. It’s not complicated – takes maybe five minutes to fill out, counting the coach’s call to the guidance counselor to get the exact GPA and standardized text scores. An academic transcript is required (we’ll be flexible for a few days past the deadline to receive that piece), and we’d love to get a letter or letters of recommendation to strongly enhance the nominee’s case.

At some schools, there’s no doubt who should be nominated. Sometimes there is a tough choice to be made.

It’s an opportunity that should not be wasted. If you’re a coach, a teacher, an administrator, a parent, or a fan, reach out to your head football coach to see if he’s nominating a deserving candidate. There are very few schools who just don’t have some senior who doesn’t fit the criteria.

There’s not a college-bound senior who can’t use some extra scholarship money, or who will ever forget that very special, classy evening in March when family, friends, college coaches, and fine folks from all around gather to celebrate the very best of the best.

Let’s celebrate the best kind of local social influencers. Help get a young man from your favorite high school football team nominated to receive a North Louisiana NFF Scholar-Athlete award. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Three prep football posts open after Johnson’s shift from Bossier to Shreve staff

CROSSTOWN MOVE:   After two seasons as head football coach at Bossier High School, DeAumante Johnson (at right, talking with sophomore quarterback Quintarian Scott in August) is rejoining the coaching staff at Captain Shreve. (Photo by JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

There are now three local high school head football coaching vacancies, at Bossier, Booker T. Washington and North Caddo, following the resignation of Bearkats coach DeAumante Johnson announced Tuesday.

The Bossier Parish School Board announced Johnson’s departure to take an assistant coaching post at Captain Shreve under second-year head coach Adam Kirby.

Johnson, a former standout player at Plain Dealing who became an All-America defensive back at Grambling under former coach Broderick Fobbs, spent two seasons in charge at Bossier High. After a solid first season, finishing with a significantly improved 6-5 record and a state Class 3A playoff appearance, the Bearkats moved up to Class 4A and were winless with a very young squad last fall.

“We appreciate Coach Johnson’s service and dedication to the Bearkats and wish him nothing but the best,” said new Bossier principal Michele Tugwell. “Bossier High is dedicated to finding the best person to mentor our student-athletes, move the Bearkat football program forward and lead them at a competitive level.”

Today is Johnson’s last day at Bossier. He said despite leaving the school, he was proud of the strong bonds developed between him and his students and players, and he remains committed to supporting them.

Johnson formerly was an assistant at Shreve under former coach Bryant Sepulvado, who moved into administration at the school last June.

BTW coach Tony Reliford resigned last week. North Caddo coach Johnny Kavanaugh departed last month to take a south Louisiana head coaching position at Fountainebleau High in Mandeville. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Don’t dog the Frogs, appreciate them Dawgs

Now suddenly, we’re shocked that what we thought going into the College Football Playoff semis was right?

Admit it. The percentage of people who two weeks ago thought TCU was the third-best team in America, and had a real shot to play for the Natty, was only a slight bit higher than the number of Horned Frog mascots in sports.

But outside of Alabama holdouts and SEC loyalists who believed a two-loss Tide team somehow deserved a spot, most folks weren’t terribly upset the almost-unbeaten school of Slingin’ Sammy Baugh got invited to the dance, and a No. 3 seeding.

Couldn’t very well have a Big Ten rematch of the Buckeyes and Wolverines in the semis. Besides, earning the right to play in a conference championship game, and losing for the first time in 2022 by failing to give your best player (Mad Max) the ball two straight downs at the goalline in overtime, shouldn’t DQ TCU.

New Year’s Eve, we all agreed, greatest semifinal round ever. TCU stunned Michigan 51-45, Georgia rallied past Ohio State 42-41. The Yankee teams were vanquished, and that plays especially well in these parts.

Upstart TCU was getting its shot. A 13-point underdog had 52 percent of fans in an ESPN poll picking the Hypnotoads. Explain that logic – the fan poll, or the Hypnotoads.

Then the extremes weren’t considered and the extremes erupted Monday night.

Extreme 1: TCU outlasted Michigan – but the Horned Frogs snagged not one, but TWO pick-sixes, which happens about as often as Congressional concurrence.

Extreme 2: You saw it. Well, some of it. No need to watch much. It was all but over before a closing two-TD rush vaulted Georgia up 38-7 at halftime. Kirby Smart’s biggest challenge afterward was deciding when to pull Stetson Bennett for a curtain call. Dawgs 65, Frogs 7.

There’s been what old Texans call a frog strangler going on out on the Left Coast for the last several days. There was definitely a Frog strangler that played out – fast –  at SoFi Stadium Monday night.

And that angered people?  Why, I do not understand. TCU was heroic in its semifinal win, and the Frogs were freaky. Again, TWO pick-sixes. Offensively, scoring 37 on the nation’s No. 3 defense. Those teams could play 10 times and Michigan probably takes eight. Might allow 30 points, once or twice.

So TCU earned its way to LA. Despite “all the doubters” – puhleeze, defending national champion and unbeaten Bulldogs, nobody was surprised Georgia was back for another crown – and despite the late-game drama in the semis, Georgia was clearly deserving of its trip west.

Then Smart dawg-cussed at his boys in the locker room before kickoff, urged them to play “aggressive,” and they peaked at the right time. Bennett said it was “brutal perfection” how well they played.

The Horny Toads were overwhelmed. Simple things were not simple. They looked better suited for the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl, not the ultimate game.

It happens. Not many championship games are classics. We just want them to be.

Not many championship games are blowouts. But some are.

I grew up an avid NFL fan. Somehow before I was 10 I knew all about the 1958 NFL Championship Game, with Shreveport’s living legend, Leo Sanford, Louisiana Tech’s finest, snapping the ball despite a busted-up knee so the Baltimore Colts could kick a field goal to force overtime in their battle in Yankee Stadium against the New York Giants. Still considered by many the most significant game, and even the greatest game, in NFL history, because by going into overtime, the Colts prevailed before a big Sunday evening national audience.

I also knew all about the 1940 NFL Championship game. Bears 73, Redskins 0. Look it up.

I lived through the 1977 LHSAA Class 2A championship game, the last game staged in decaying Tulane Stadium. John Curtis 45, Jonesboro-Hodge 0. Completely unexpected by both teams. (8-0 two minutes before the half, BTW. A sad story for a cloudy day).

All these years later, I still think if we played 10 times, my Tigers would win five.

I think the Frogs might win one in 10 against them Dawgs. But they earned the chance. They don’t deserve to be dissed, even now.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Local college hoop scoop: Centenary aims for another home sweep tonight

NEW LOOK:  The court at Bossier Parish Community College’s Billy Montgomery Gym is getting a new design. The Cavaliers play a home game Wednesday at LSUS while the Pilots are on the road. (Photo courtesy of BPCC Athletics).

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

For the first time this season, both Centenary basketball teams are coming off a win as St. Thomas visits the Gold Dome for a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader tonight (5:30 women, 7:30 men).

The Gents (11-3, 5-1) have taken  their last two since that bitter 68-67 loss Dec. 17 at Texas Lutheran, which halted an eight-game win streak. But for the Ladies, their last outing, a 68-62 homecourt victory over Austin College on Dec. 31, was their first W of the year. Now they’re 1-14 overall, 1-5 in the league, and have a real shot at starting a winning streak. St. Thomas is 2-11.

It’s the first competition in 11 days for the Centenary teams.


LSUS:  The Pilots notched a milestone Jan. 3 when they nipped Louisiana Christian 81-78 at The Doc. It was career win No. 240 for coach Kyle Blankenship at LSUS, topping the school mark of 239 by Chad McDowell. The Pilots (12-3, 6-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference) got 23 points from Tyler Washington, who sank 10 of 12 from the field including a trio of treys, and Jalen Brooks added 22. 

Next game:  The Pilots start a three-game road string at Texas College Wednesday night. 

BOSSIER PARISH CC:  The Cavaliers are still playing away from home while the new design on the playing court at Billy Montgomery Gym is completed.  In their latest outing, five scored in double digits, led by Elijah Beard with 17 points and six assists in a 95-90 victory at Victoria College in a Region XIV contest. Taking its fourth in the last five outings, BPCC (9-6) got another double-double from Christian Caldwell, whose 12 points and 13 rebounds was the fourth tandem stat outing for him this season.

Next game:  Wednesday, “at home” at LSUS’ The Dock, at 5:30 vs. Lamar State College-Port Arthur (7-9). 

CENTENARY:  Seth Thomas won SCAC Player of the Week honors after the latest two victories by the Gents (90-70 over Dallas, 82-71 past Austin College). The Gents have won 31 of their last 38 in the Gold Dome, going 8-1 at home this season.

Next games:  It’s a home week for Centenary. After tonight’s outing against St. Thomas, the Gents host Colorado College Friday evening at the Gold Dome.


CENTENARY:  Woodlawn sophomore forward Alana Jones won conference player of the week honors after averaging 9.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the Ladies’ last two outings. She is second in the SCAC in rebounding. In their breakthrough 68-62 victory over visiting Austin College, the Ladies forced 21 turnovers and made only seven, topped the Lady Kangaroos 24-4 in bench points, and outscored the visitors 20-13 in the fourth quarter. 

Next games:  This evening at 5:30 against St. Thomas in the Gold Dome, then the same tip time Friday night at home against Colorado College. 

LSUS:  The Lady Pilots (11-4, 5-2) also have a reigning player of the week winner. Destanee Roblow had a pair of double-double outings in the last two wins for LSUS, including an 89-80 overtime victory over Southwest. She had 29 rebounds combined in the two contests, starting with a 67-60 decision over Louisiana Christian. 

Next game: A three-game stretch away from home starts Wednesday at Texas College. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

NCHS landing Many’s Curtis as football coach creates statewide buzz

CHIEFS’ CURTIS:  Natchitoches Central High School’s hiring of highly-successful Many football coach Jess Curtis on Thursday drew statewide attention. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Journal Sports)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES — Early Thursday morning, Natchitoches mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. was checking his social media when a Shreveport-Bossier Journal headline on Facebook jumped out at him.

“Many’s Curtis is new Natchitoches Central football coach.”

The mayor, a proud 2004 NCHS graduate and an avid sports fan, knew all about Jess Curtis but had no clue about the hiring. He devoured the story and immediately fired off a one-word text to Natchitoches Parish schools superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi.

“My word was simply ‘HUGE’ in all caps. It’s a huge move to get somebody like Coach Curtis,” said Williams, a junior high teacher and coach before getting elected mayor two summers ago. “It’s going to change our program hopefully for a very long time. I’m very pleased.

“He’s going to create a winning culture. It’s a major move for us as a high school, as a community, for our kids, and I know he’s going to bring a level of expectation and a level of discipline that will set a great tone,” said Williams.

A mid-afternoon announcement on social media officially confirmed the news – that Curtis, the architect of one of Louisiana’s most dominant high school football programs in the past decade, had accepted the task of elevating a long-struggling football team into a consistent winner and championship contender.

In his 13 seasons leading his alma mater’s program, Curtis went 142-32 (.816) with state championships in 2014, 2020 and 2022, three more state runner-up finishes (2013, 2019, 2021) and another three state semifinal berths (2016-18). The Class 2A Tigers have won 50 of their last 53 games while making four straight state championship games, and are 6-0 in that stretch over Class 4A or 5A opponents.

Moving 25 miles east to NCHS, Curtis takes over a Class 5A program with only two winning seasons in that span. The Chiefs have not had consistent success since the mid-and-late 1990s, highlighted by a state semifinal appearance in 1996.

It was a stunning hire that captured statewide attention Thursday. Nearly 46,000 Twitter users clicked on the @s_bjournal account to read the story. The Facebook post was shared 93 times. Numerous other state and regional media outlets made their own social media posts about Curtis’ move.

“I’ve never been more surprised by coaching news than I was today,” said KTBS-TV sports anchor Alex Anderson.

Veteran NCHS radio play-by-play announcer Steve Graf, who played professionally in the USFL in the mid-1980s, praised the move.

“So excited to see Natchitoches Central hire a high-quality football coach in Jess Curtis. He has more than proven himself as a quality coach but more importantly as a developer of talent. He knows how to build a program,” said Graf.

“I hope and encourage officials at Natchitoches Central to give him their total support in order for the Chiefs to return to prominence as a 5A football program,” he added.

The reaction in Sabine Parish was mixed, with some Many fans disappointed and even upset about their coach’s departure. But plenty of support was expressed on social media or in texts expressing gratitude for Curtis and sending him best wishes at Natchitoches Central.

Former Sabine Parish school board president Buddy Wood has a longstanding friendship with the new NCHS coach, and has been the public address announcer for Many home games for years.

“Jess and I coached Little League baseball together for seven years back in the mid-to late ‘90s and it was evident then he had a remarkable love for kids and young men. He wanted to help them succeed. He has a passion for winning but a greater passion for doing it the right way,” said Wood.

“But his greatest passion is teaching respect and having young men represent themselves and their families, their coaches and teammates with class. It’s spurred a remarkable winning formula at Many High School and created community support on a remarkable level. I expect the same result will come at NCHS and in the Natchitoches community.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Jess   Curtis at Many
Year All Dist. Playoffs
2010 4-7 2-3 0-1
2011 7-4 3-2 0-1
2012 8-5 2-2 2-1
2013 13-2 4-1 4-1
2014 15-0 5-0 5-0
2015 10-2 5-0 1-1
2016 13-1 5-0 3-1
2017 11-3 3-0 3-1
2018 12-2 6-0 3-1
2019 11-4 6-0 4-1
2020 12-0 5-0 5-0
2021 13-2 6-0 4-1
2022 13-0 5-0 4-0
Totals 142-32 57-8 38-10

What we’d like to see in ’23


After sharing what we expect to see in ’23 in Wednesday’s edition, your Shreveport-Bossier Journal team is back today with what we’d like to see this year. Before Christmas, ideally. 

LOCALLY, ladies tees at Querbes, please. It would be easy – just get the red balls out of the equipment shack and put them back out on the golf course. Just think, the ladies’ leagues may start playing there again.

In PREP sportsNO high school football games affected by bad weather (as in delayed, postponed or cancelled). Oh, and I’d love to see them start at 6:30.

In COLLEGE sports, a full stadium at the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl. The staff does such an amazing job putting on a great event year-in and year-out that the stands should be full (and I’d like to see more stadiums full during all college bowl games).

In the PROS, see the NFL change its overtime rules (it’s ridiculous that a team can win the game in OT without the other team having a possession) and NO games end in a tie (this is football, not futbol).

  • Harriet Prothro Penrod

In HIGH SCHOOLSfootball players wearing regular pants not cut off above the knee.

In COLLEGES, Bossier Parish Community College’s softball team make it to the NJCAA national tournament and win.

In the PROS, MLB batters that don’t step out of the box after EVERY pitch.

  • Lee Hiller

In PREPS, the football hydration rule during games adjusted to go by temperature, not time. If it’s a rare cool September night, keep playing; no break.

In COLLEGE, baseball teams stop using walk-up music. Please please please make it stop. Think about what homeboy is about to throw you and not about whether or not fans like your song. Walk-up music is embarrassing for everybody. Hit a home run? Drive in a run? Stand-up triple? Take an extra base? OK — NOW you can have music. But not just for making it from the dugout to the plate.

In PROS, every team in the NFL to finish the regular season 8-8-1. Yay for parity! So awesome. (Yawn … )

  • Teddy Allen

In COLLEGES, Northwestern State football returning to its winning ways — which hasn’t happened since 2008. Good, hard-working people who deserve success.

LOCALLY, Shreveport hosting more mainstream sporting events to enhance our quality of life. Cornhole and dart-throwing tournaments don’t do it for me.

In the PROS, Louisiana Downs promote more horse racing and less bounce houses and outdoor concerts in 100-degree heat.

  • Tony Taglavore

In PREPS, an All-District team that actually has some merit to it.

In COLLEGE, coaches to stop putting up the stupid screens on the sidelines so they can act like the second coming of Bear Bryant who, by the way, never put up a screen and hardly ever wore a headset.

LOCALLY, something actually comes from the bizarre minor league baseball stadium announcement that was made in October. Just throw us a bone.

In the PROS, the Saints hire Sean Payton back and bring Tom Brady with him.

  • John James Marshall

I covered many wishes in my Tuesday Journal column, but let’s get greedy and ask for more.

In PREPS, recognizing the big-time calls for a big box. Northwood provides one of the best game-day atmospheres in the area and the Falcons are dang good, too – they had one of the best post-season runs of any team. The press box screams Class 1A, and it’s not the school’s fault. It’s time for Caddo Parish to give the school and that program a press box it deserves.

In PROS, “Musky” to get Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame love. Scott Muscutt was the first player the Shreveport Mudbugs signed 25 years ago. He’s since won multiple championships as a player, a coach and a general manager. He’s a major reason why hockey has thrived in Northwest Louisiana — the Mudbugs perennially lead their league in attendance — and no job is too small. You are as likely to see a unicorn as to spot “Musky” somewhere other than George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.

He cuts the ice, replaces glass, cleans the aisles – and does whatever it takes to make this community a better place. He’s also helped establish healthy youth hockey and high school hockey programs.

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame honors the best of the best. It’s time to bring this man into the discussion for future, but hopefully not way-down-the-road enshrinement. Hockey in Louisiana’s Hall may sound strange, but this is a no-brainer.

  • Roy Lang III 

In PREPS, more high school coaches organizing clinics on their own — like Green Oaks’ Chad Lewis, with the help of his friend, North DeSoto’s Christopher Wilson, did over the holidays. It started with a post on Facebook and ended up with a full-fledged clinic at the Hamilton Branch of the Shreve Memorial Library. Kudos to Lewis and Wilson for spearheading that effort.

I’d like to see our school districts in Northwest Louisiana catch up to school systems in Northeast Louisiana. Strength and conditioning coaches working at every school, tasked with the athletic development of all teams. It’s overdue to see certified athletic trainers on each campus, who teach in the classroom and look for young people who want to go into that vital field.

I’d like to see us identify high school athletes who demonstrate an ambition of going into the coaching profession. Lewis and Wilson were once student-athletes at Byrd High School. Why can’t we “grow our own” next generation of outstanding coaches in this area? Let’s give them a head start by mentoring them right now.

  • Jerry Byrd Jr.

In PREPS, at the coin flip before kickoff, along with the team captains, bring out a couple seniors from the band, cheerleaders, dance line, and National Honor Society, and a teacher. Efficiently and sufficiently recognize all of them on the PA system, not as an afterthought at halftime, but when the energy level in the stadium is peaking. Celebrate their efforts and realize they are representative of their peers.

In COLLEGES, home-and-home competition in every sport between our four nearby Division I schools. I’ll grant that Tech and ULM aren’t playing football at Grambling or NSU, or against them at the I-Bowl. It’s absurd the Bulldogs and Warhawks don’t square off annually, and also host the Tigers or Demons. Common sense. Uncommon gate receipts.

LOCALLY, more neighborhood pick-up games. Less travel ball. Didn’t we find ways to play, no charge, instead of adults organizing everything – and then soiling too much of it with egos and selfishness? The best homefield is at home, somebody’s home, in a yard or driveway or even the street. Somebody’s mom will make lemonade after the game.

  • Doug Ireland

Many’s Curtis is new Natchitoches Central football coach

BIG WINNER:  After posting an 82 percent winning rate in 13 seasons with six state championship game appearances and three titles, Many High’s Jess Curtis is leaving his hometown and alma mater to take the Natchitoches Central football coaching post. (Photo courtesy Sabine Parish Journal).

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – The District 1-5A football landscape will take on a different look today.

Natchitoches Central High School will announce this afternoon that Jess Curtis, who has led Many High School to three small school state championships in the last nine seasons and three more state runner-up finishes, is the Chiefs’ football coach.

Natchitoches Parish school board superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi and other administrators declined official comment, but sources in Natchitoches and around the Many program confirmed the move. The announcement by NCHS will follow a Many High football team meeting early this afternoon.

Curtis has built one of the state’s powerhouse programs at any level. His unbeaten Division III Non-Select state champions this fall dominated one of NCHS’s District 1-5A colleagues, Haughton, 35-3, in September, and in recent years the program has thrashed bigger schools such as North DeSoto and DeRidder.

The Tigers have won 10 straight district championships and are unbeaten in district play during that time, reaching the state playoffs every year and advancing at least to the state semifinals in all but one season.

Since taking over at his alma mater in 2010, after serving as defensive coordinator there, Curtis posted a 142-32 (.816) record in 13 years and made the playoffs every season.

Many reached the Class AA state finals for the first time under Curtis in 2013, then won its first state championship the following season. The Tigers reached the playoff semifinals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, then lost in the 2019 state finals. They came back to win the 2020 2A championship, fell in the 2021 finals and beat Class 3A Union Parish last month to capture the Division III state crown.

The Tigers are known for their physical style of play, aggressive defense and powerful running game. Curtis is a proponent of an immersive offseason strength and conditioning program, and has a large roster approaching 100 players, highly unusual at a Class 2A school. The Many powerlifting program has produced state champion lifters.

Also regarded as an exceptional history teacher, Curtis is the son of retired Sabine Parish businessman John T. Curtis. The coach’s nephew, Tackett Curtis, has been one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2023 and recently signed with USC.

He is the latest in a string of Many players who have earned college scholarships.

The new NCHS coach is a Many native and played for the Tigers’ 1988 state finalist team.

He was offered an assistant coaching post when Brad Laird took over the Northwestern State program in 2018. Curtis reportedly could not reach agreement with the prior NCHS administration and then-school board leaders to take the NCHS job in 2019. Eloi and NCHS principal Micah Coleman were not in place then.

The school has just finished building a new athletic fieldhouse adjacent to the current football practice field, and has erected a grandstand and press box. There are plans to develop the facility into a home field, in lieu of playing home games at NSU’s Turpin Stadium, as has been done for decades.

Curtis takes over a program previously steered by former Byrd High School assistant James Wilkerson, who was released last month following a 3-7 season. Wilkerson guided the Chiefs to their best year this century in 2021, a 7-4 playoff run, including a 7-0 start until quarterback Brian Young was injured.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

What we expect to see in ’23

Your Shreveport-Bossier Journal crew humbly offers our predictions for the 2023 sports year. Ladies first.

In PREPS, the Calvary Lady Cavs softball team goes BACK2BACK2BACK (winning a third straight Division IV state championship).

In COLLEGES, the Louisiana Tech baseball team makes the College World Series.

In the PROS, Sam Burns wins his first major (after his 2022 season, this is bound to happen sooner than later).

  • Harriet Prothro Penrod

In PREPS, improvements to continue at Lee Hedges Stadium with the construction of new locker rooms and training rooms along with a new press box.

In COLLEGESanother successful year for LSU and Tulane in football.

In the PROS, new rules making a difference in how we watch MLB games. 

  • Lee Hiller

In PREPS, a student-athlete makes more than his working parents off an NIL deal.

In COLLEGE, I’ll be keeping up with Centenary Football and caring about recruiting news for the first and only time in my feeble life. In the autumn of 2024, Centenary takes the football field for the first time since 1941. Ninety years ago this past fall, Centenary was 8-0-1. 1932. You could look it up. Nationally, the Gents were in the top 25 in per-game scoring average at 20 a game and had the fifth-stingiest defense in ’Murica; Centenary gave up just 26 points all season. Centenary was 8-0-4 in 1933, when playing for the tie must have been an “in” thing. In 1934, which will be 90 years removed from Centenary’s 2024 re-boot, Centenary was a salty 10-2.

In the PROS, Jake from State Farm will be on every commercial of every NFL, NBA, and MLB game. (Thankfully, I like Jake from State Farm.)

  • Teddy Allen

In COLLEGES, LSU once again will contend for the SEC Championship — and will knock on the door of the College Football Playoff. They will do so without QB Garrett Nussmeier, who surely will transfer.

In the PROS, the Saints and Cowboys replace their head coaches. Dennis Allen is in over his head, and Mike McCarthy has the talent to get to the NFC Championship Game — but won’t.

LOCALLY, Louisiana Downs will continue to promote less horse racing and more bounce houses and outdoor concerts in 100-degree heat.

  • Tony Taglavore

In PREPS, sadly, the quality of high school athletics continues to drop. Football coaches almost have to beg kids to play and if you watch any other sport, you quickly realize that the talent level simply isn’t as good as it was 5 or 10 years ago.

In COLLEGES, we’ll see a slight move toward normalcy in NIL. It’s not going away, but it’s also a two-way street. Somebody has to finance that and these people aren’t in it to watch Jimmy SuperStud (a.) think about transferring, because he can (b.) complain that his deal isn’t as good as the guy playing next to him (c.) start mailing it in around if he’s not getting the ball enough.

In PROS/LOCAL, what’s left of Fair Grounds Field will still be standing. The Independence Bowl will be played on a sunny, 55-degree day. The laws of probability HAVE to even out at some point.

  • John James Marshall 

In PREPS, some local high school football offenses will “struggle” early. The 2022 season offered ridiculous offensive numbers, or bad defense depending on your view. Expect the defenses to fight back – at least early — in the 2023 campaign.

No fewer than five 1-5A teams will have new quarterbacks, not to mention the expected changes at other local schools. In theory this would lead to gray hair on the top of some OC’s heads, at least while the new signal-callers get their feet wet.

Also in PREPS, here’s a “stat nerd” alert. A change could be coming to one of the dumbest rules in high school football. Unlike the NFL and college football, a holding penalty behind the line of scrimmage in high school is marked from the spot of the foul. Currently a first-and-10 could turn into first-and-28 simply with a holding call.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has surveyed coaches regarding a change to move in line with the next levels of football. Bravo.

  • Roy Lang III

In PREPSI expect to see more high-scoring games. The passing offenses were ahead of the passing defenses in 2022, and it wasn’t even close. Northwest Louisiana has had a good run of defensive backs who have made their way to the league. See Tre’Davious White, Morris Claiborne, “Greedy” Williams, and Israel Mukuamu. But there were simply too many great quarterbacks … and too few defensive backs.

While 2022 seemed to be the year of the quarterback, I expect to see 2023 to be the year of the kicker with Byrd’s Abram Murray, who committed last summer to the University of Miami, and Parkway’s Aeron Burrell being two of the best locals to ever put toe to leather.

In COLLEGE, unfortunately, I see local colleges and universities continuing to struggle in the transfer portal/NIL era. I think Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Cumbie and Grambling’s Hue Jackson are the men for the job and great coaches, I just think it’s the most difficult time in history to be a college football coach. There is one exception to this. I expect to see Centenary College — under the direction of former Evangel and LSU standout defensive lineman Byron Dawson — thrive locally, with home-grown talent familiar to local football fans.

In the PROS, in light of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football, I expect to see all professional contact sports double down on player safety. For all of those attracted to the violence and entertainment football provides, I expect them to be in for a rude awakening.

  • Jerry Byrd Jr.

In PREPS, scheduling tough intersectional games pays off for the Parkway Lady Panthers, who leave no doubt as they win the girls basketball state championship. Mikaylah Williams IMMEDIATELY joins the LSU roster for March Madness and starts for Kim Mulkey.

In COLLEGES, the men’s basketball rules committee shifts from playing 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters, mirroring the women and the pros. Mostly, providing more TV commercial breaks for Teddy’s pal Jake, that guy from State Farm.

LOCALLY, Shreveport’s Tim Brando adds another sport to his vast broadcast resume when he becomes the lead announcer for USA Pickleball on FOX.

  • Doug Ireland

Coming Thursday: What we’d LIKE to see in ’23.

Upstart Demons begin Southland season at home

SENIOR LEADERSHIP: Ja’Monta Black (4) has been a key figure in Northwestern State’s surprisingly strong start under new coach Corey Gipson (background, standing in tie). (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State).

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – There’s really no debate. Heading into the Southland Conference basketball season, Northwestern State has the best resume’ – and the best record among the league’s 10 men’s teams.

Not bad for a squad with a new coach and nearly all new players, a team picked for sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll in October.

Two months later, the Demons own the best record in the league (8-5) and the Southland’s signature non-conference win (64-63 at 15th-ranked TCU on Nov. 14) as they open the 18-game league race at home in Prather Coliseum Saturday at 2:30 against the overwhelming preseason favorite, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (7-6).

The Lady Demons (4-5) begin their Southland season today at home, also facing a TAMCC squad (5-6) picked to win the league, tipping at 1 in Prather.

Saturday’s men’s game will be the focal matchup in the first round of Southland competition. The visiting Islanders return all five starters, and their five top scorers, from last year’s NCAA Tournament entry that won the Southland Tournament and finished 23-11.

But Demons’ coach Corey Gipson isn’t immersing his team in a deep scouting report. 

“What we always say is, the No. 1 opponent is Northwestern State,” he said after Thursday morning’s practice. “We really have not dived into Corpus Christi. We focus on improvements, tightening the screws in our own program.”

NSU rode a seven-game win streak to an 8-2 mark before road losses at Rice, No. 12 Baylor and Texas A&M, getting blown out by the Owls but playing competitively in the last two outings.

“We felt like we have underachieved (at 8-5),” said Ja’Monta Black, one of three co-captains, all who followed Gipson as transfers from Missouri State, where he was associate head coach last year for an NIT entry.

But Black (14.4 points per game) and the other captains (DeMarcus Sharp, 16.2 ppg; Isaac Haney, 12.7 ppg) understand the prior 13 games are preparation for what’s about to unfold. While seeing many “bracketology” analysts projecting NSU as the Southland’s NCAA Tournament representative is a nice upgrade from middle-of-the-pack projections by the league coaches, the Demons are not indulging in visions of March Madness.

“It feels good, but we’ve got to show them why we are going to be that team,” said Black. “It’s going to be a hard run, but we’re ready. We’re very excited to get to conference play. It’s my dream, it’s all of our dreams, to win a ring at this level. It’s time to go ring-chasing. Each day we go to practice, we’re thinking about the end goal, a conference championship, and our expectations are through the roof.

“We tell the guys, it’s conference time. We don’t worry about outside noise. We worry about getting better each day. We prepare for our opponents, but we focus on ourselves. We can only control ourselves, and as long as we play our game, we can win any time we play.”

What’s the secret? The influx of talent from the basketball-rich Missouri Valley Conference is the obvious cornerstone, but it’s all about bonding, said Black. 

“We’ve gotten better so fast, we’ve jelled together so well. When coach tries to teach us something, I know the guys are doing everything they can to get better at it. That’s what has helped us. We love to get better, seeing ourselves as individuals improve and seeing the team improve.”

The Lady Demons have shown flashes in portions of games so far – except a complete-game sparkler in a dominant 79-52 homecourt rout of ULM on Dec. 10. But today, they’ll face a Corpus Christi team with 10 players back from a squad that went 11-3 in Southland games last season.

“It will be important to come out quick and be the aggressor,” third-year coach Anna Nimz said about the first five minutes of the game against Corpus. “We need to set the tone early.” 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Tech tips off homecourt CUSA campaign tonight

HOMETOWN HERO:  Jordan Crawford (20), the first Ruston resident since 2008 to play for Louisiana Tech, is the reigning conference USA Freshman of the Week. (Photo by DARRELL JAMES, Louisiana Tech)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

RUSTON – No better place than the Thomas Assembly Center for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs basketball team to avert an 0-2 start in the 2022-23 Conference USA season.

Tech has won 90.5 percent of its home games since Feb. 2012 at the TAC, including 69 of 80 in CUSA play, 30 of the last 36. This evening at 6, the Bulldogs (7-5) entertain UTSA (6-6) in a matchup of teams that dropped their league openers on the road before Christmas.

Tip time is 6 o’clock with broadcast coverage on ESPN-Plus with Lyn Rollins and Chris Mycoskie on the call.

The game showcases two noteworthy freshmen, Tech’s Jordan Crawford and D.J. Richards of UTSA.

Crawford, who led Simsboro High School to four straight state championships, is the first Ruston resident since 2008 to play for the Bulldogs. Just before Christmas, he had a double-double (13 points, 12 assists) in a 55-point rout of Jarvis Christian, earning him CUSA Freshman of the Week honors. Richards has already claimed that award twice in pre-conference action.

Cobe Williams leads Tech with averages of 17.9 points and 4.2 assists. 

LADY TECHSTERS AT UTSA:  In San Antonio, the Tech women are also trying to square their CUSA slate after a surprising homecourt loss to UTEP before Christmas. Tech (7-4) hasn’t lost (7-0) when holding opponents under 60 points and is 6-0 when outrebounding the opposition. UTEP won the rebounding battle decisively to offset 50 percent shooting aim by the Techsters.

Keiunna Walker (14.7 points per game) and Anna Larr Roberson (13.2) top the Tech offense, which is getting 24.3 points off the bench.

UTSA is 2-7 and making its league debut in the 7 p.m. contest inside the Convocation Center on campus. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Local College Hoop Scoop: Long holiday breaks nearing their end

PUTTING IT TOGETHER:  Although their eight-game win streak was snapped before the holiday break, the Centenary Gents are off to a very strong start. (Photo courtesy Centenary Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports 

A long holiday break sounds good but for the Centenary Gentlemen, it’s been bittersweet. All the much better, then, that their basketball season resumes at home on Friday. 

The Ladies and Gents get going again on Friday at home against Dallas, and are home again Saturday against the Kangaroos of Austin College. Bossier Parish Community College tips off Saturday afternoon at home. The LSUS teams don’t play again until next Tuesday. 


CENTENARY:  Why was the break bittersweet for the Gents? Centenary was stunned in the final seconds Dec. 18 at Texas Lutheran University, 68-67, as the Bulldogs snapped the Gents’ eight-game winning streak in a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference contest in Seguin, Texas. The Gents (9-3, 3-1 SCAC) lost for the first time in over a month, dropping a game for the first time since a 63-51 home defeat to Louisiana Christian University on Nov. 16. 

Centenary, which extended its season-best winning streak to eight a night earlier with a gritty 58-49 win at Southwestern, was aiming for its longest unbeaten streak since winning 10 in a row during its 2019-20 conference championship season. 

Next game: Friday at home vs. Dallas, 6 p.m., Gold Dome. 

LSUS: The Pilots also had a dramatic contest on the road going into the break, but held off Wayland Baptist 92-90 Dec. 19 in Fort Worth. For the 18th-ranked visitors (9-3, 4-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference), Jalen Brooks posted 30 points and 14 rebounds to lead the win over the No. 22 hosts (8-4). 

Next game:  Next Tuesday at home vs. Louisiana Christian, 7:30 p.m. at The Dock. LC’s coach and athletics director is former Captain Shreve standout Reni Mason. 

BOSSIER PARISH CC:  The Cavaliers (7-5) have won two in a row but will momentum carry through an 18-day break? The upcoming schedule favors BPCC, with five home games in the next six outings. The Cavaliers are averaging 85 points per game in a balanced attack with five players scoring at least 10 points per game, topped by the 13.5 average by Christian Caldwell. 

Next game: Saturday afternoon at 2 at Billy Montgomery Gym when the Baton Rouge Capitols visit. 


LSUS: The Lady Pilots (9-4, 3-2 in the Red River Athletic Conference) blasted visiting Paul Quinn 80-46 on Dec. 17 behind 21 points from Angel Reese and a double-double by Chelsey White (12 points, 11 rebounds). 

Next game: At home Saturday at 4 against Louisiana Christian, formerly known as Louisiana College. 

CENTENARY: Freshman forward Kyra Stokes, a hometown product, scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed a season-best 12 rebounds in the Ladies’ 64-50 loss at Texas Lutheran Dec. 18 as she earned her first-career double-double in just her fifth game of the season. 

Stokes, who scored eight points an evening earlier against Southwestern in her first action in over a month, played 34 minutes and was 7-12 from the floor with two steals, an assist, and a blocked shot. The Ladies are 0-13 overall, 0-4 in conference play. 

Next game: Friday at home vs. Dallas, 4 p.m., Gold Dome. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

SBJ College Hoop Scoop: Local D-1 teams chasing Christmas cheer

BALL HAWK:  Junior Cobe Williams has made five steals in each of the last two games for Louisiana Tech, which plays at home today at noon against Jarvis Christian. (Photo by KANE MCGUIRE, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

’Twas the game before Christmas, which as Baylor coach Scott Drew puts it, makes the difference between a holiday break or a merry Christmas.

For the area’s Division I basketball programs, most of those contests are in the books. However, the Louisiana Tech men will be expected to head home happy after today’s noon game at the Thomas Assembly Center against underdog Jarvis Christian. The Bulldogs are likely to be the exception, not the rule, as the other teams at Tech, Grambling and Northwestern State will need to find good tidings at home and not in their last outings before Saint Nick makes his rounds.


Louisiana Tech:  The Bulldogs (6-5, 0-1 in Conference USA) should roll at home today and get untracked offensively after a miserable outing in their CUSA debut Saturday night at UTEP. In that 60-55 loss, Tech committed 20 turnovers and made just 4-of-25 from behind the 3-point arc. The 55 points was a season low, along with the 16 field goals made. Bright spot: junior guard Cobe Williams made five steals for the second straight game.

Next game:  Today at home, noon against Jarvis Christian. 

Grambling State:  The Tigers (6-5) have dropped their last two on a northern swing that wraps up, weather permitting, Friday night at No. 17 Wisconsin. Grambling fell 74-48 Saturday at No. 24 Virginia Tech, then was dumped 75-56 Monday down the road in Lynchburg by Liberty. 

Next game: Friday at No. 17 Wisconsin. 

Northwestern State: The Demons (8-4) were flying high heading into Saturday’s visit to Rice. Then the Owls shot 67 percent and flew past NSU 110-73. Monday night, Northwestern played much more competitively but missed its first 10 3-pointers after halftime, fell behind by 16 and got no closer than eight in a 58-48 loss at No. 12 Baylor.

Next game:  Dec. 27 at Texas A&M


Louisiana Tech: The Lady Techsters (7-4, 0-1) suffered a surprising league-opening homecourt loss to UTEP, 62-54, despite shooting 51 percent from the floor to 36 percent for the visitors. But the Miners combined offensive rebounding with Tech turnovers to get off 25 more shots and held on for a CUSA road win that will fester for the Techsters, who have an 11-day break between that one and the next one.

Next game:  Dec. 29 at UTSA.

Grambling:  The Lady Tigers are done with their brutal non-conference schedule after dropping a competitive 56-45 decision at TCU. It’s all Southwestern Athletic Conference competition from here.

Next game: Jan. 2 at Prairie View.

Northwestern State: The Lady Demons (4-6) are also finished with out-of-conference play after a 96-64 drubbing at Tulsa on Monday night. They’ll open the Southland season against preseason favorite Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Next game:  Dec. 30 at home against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Come chill at the Independence Bowl Friday

Ironic that while I was thinking about Friday’s Independence Bowl being played in below-freezing temperatures, I was watching 81,000 people sit in 19-degree weather at a fairly insignificant NFL game.

It was Monday Night Football, in Green Bay. Standard conditions for this time of year. Locals who weren’t at the game, or watching it, might have spent Monday evening shopping or walking around singing Christmas carols.

The Cheeseheads are used to this wintry stuff. Cougars and Ragin’ Cajuns are not. Neither are the vast majority of Shreveport-Bossier residents.

So that’s why a pal suggested Monday afternoon that I won’t have any traffic trouble Friday going to Independence Stadium for the 2 p.m. contest between Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. When early risers Friday wake up to single-digit wind chills, that will curtail any thoughts of attending the 46th Annual Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl, he said.

I get it. At least there’s an afternoon kickoff. Warmest part of any day. Even a sub-freezing day.

Let’s speak truth. People who might ordinarily attend the game in moderate weather are likely to stay home and watch on TV, or go do something else. Not calling anybody chicken, not scolding anybody for making that choice – unless you’re going hunting instead.

I’m not criticizing hunters in general, just anyone who goes hunting after ruling out attending the I-Bowl because it will be cold sitting in the stands. It’s going to be cold sitting in your DEER STAND.

It’s ironic cold weather is expected to be a deterrent because the greatest Independence Bowl of all, the one remembered around the country, was the Snow Bowl of New Year’s Eve, 2000. All of the 37,000 who arrived at the stadium that afternoon knew it was gonna be cold – not as nordic as it will be Friday, but the Texas A&M and Mississippi State fans and us locals were ready for freezing temperatures. Nobody was ready for a snowstorm, but it happened, and created a spectacle that is fondly recalled two decades later.

That was NOT the coldest I-Bowl. Try 1982, Wisconsin-Kansas State. The day’s high might have been mid-40s, but by the evening kick, it was 32 with freezing drizzle. Add a 23-mph wind and the “feels like” temp was estimated at 10-below. The announced attendance was 49,523 – half that many, at best, made it to the stadium, and at least half of those checked out by halftime.

The historic footnote: first college football game ever televised live by ESPN. I was one of the ESPN stat guys, in the booth with the iconic duo of Jim Simpson (one of the nicest humans ever) and Coach Bud Wilkinson (who wore one of the thickest fur coats ever; its companion was wrapped around his companion, his 33-years-younger bride).

The “booth” was actually a temporary wood box on the south side of the press box, on scaffolding, because Miz-Lou Network had the primary TV rights and the nice, warm, inside TV booth on the 50-yard line. I will never forget that night because of 1) the wicked cold wind cutting through the “booth;” 2) the kindness of Jim Simpson, then and in future meetings; and 3) Mrs. Wilkinson, and those coats.

People hung in the stands despite the terrible conditions because the Independence Bowl was still young and insecure and it was Shreveport-Bossier clawing for a foothold, if only for a night, on the national TV landscape, and in the world of college football. Now 40 years later, on the strength of a never-ebbing stream of volunteers, along with some bold leadership striking sponsorship deals that sustained the game while maintaining a foothold with conferences and ESPN, the Independence Bowl has survived. That should not be taken lightly.

I have a couple guarantees for you. The I-Bowl’s gonna survive a subpar turnout in the stands Friday. And if you decide to double-layer, then pull on the winter gear and the gloves, and come out to the game, you’ll have fun.

Besides, traffic into the stadium might be light. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Local college hoop scoop: Streaking Demons riding big scoring

SEE RED:  When Louisiana Tech hosts Stephen F. Austin at 6 tonight in a game televised on ESPNU, Bulldogs fans are asked to join the team’s uniform choice and wear red. (Photo by KANE MCGUIRE, Louisiana Tech)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

The spectacular breakthrough Saturday by Northwestern State’s one-armed freshman Hansel Enmanuel is a feel-good story deservedly grabbing attention locally and all over. The Demons’ impressive 8-2 start is the beneficiary.

First-year coach Corey Gipson’s team is off to the program’s best mark in 10 games since Harry Truman was preparing to yield the White House to Dwight Eisenhower 70 years ago. Relatively few had noticed until Enmanuel scored his first collegiate points Saturday in a five-point, eight-minute outing capped by a tomahawk dunk off his missed free throw.


Northwestern State:  Guard Ja’Monta Black’s career-high, 31-point performance Saturday against ULM landed him his first Southland Conference Player of the Week award. Black followed teammate DeMarcus Sharp as the SLC Player of the Week.

Sharp and Black have given the Demons a 30-point scorer in three consecutive games. Sharp scored 34 and 32 points in wins at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 1 and against Southern Miss on Dec. 4. NSU has averaged 92.3 points in its last four victories.

Northwestern’s seven-game win streak is its longest since a nine-game run in Southland Conference action from Jan. 19 – Feb. 19, 2013 – the last time the Demons reached the NCAA Tournament, 10 years ago, in a 23-9 season sparked by local products “Big Game” James Hulbin (BTW), Shamir Davis (Huntington) and Jalan West (Bossier).

Junior forward Majok Kuath, a San Jose State transfer, made his Demon debut against ULM and grabbed 10 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass. Kuath helped the Demons collect 25 offensive rebounds – the most for the program against a Division I team since snaring 26 at Central Arkansas on Feb. 14, 2009.

Next game: The Demons, 18th this week in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll of 31 head coaches, play again Saturday at Rice. 

Grambling:  As foreshadowed in last week’s notebook, the Tigers did notch an SEC road win last Friday, holding off a frantic rally by Vanderbilt and upsetting the Commodores 64-62 in Nashville. After their second Power 5 win – Grambling dumped Colorado last month — the Tigers (6-3, and winners of their last three) climbed into the “Low Madness” Small Conference Top 25 rankings at No. 19 (Northwestern State is seventh).

Next game: Dec. 17 at Virginia Tech.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs (6-2) host Stephen F. Austin (5-4) tonight at 6 in a contest carried by ESPNU on “Red Out Night” from the Thomas Assembly Center. Tech has won five of its last six, but was blasted 92-65 last Saturday night at Wyoming.

Next game: After hosting SFA, the Bulldogs tip off the Conference USA season at UTEP Saturday night. 

Bossier Parish CC: A 74-60 win Tuesday afternoon at Baton Rouge Community College made it two straight for BPCC, which won 70-63 Saturday at Delgado. The Cavaliers’ 7-foot Englishman, Hugo Clarkin, had 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in yesterday’s victory.

Next game: The Cavs (7-5) don’t play again until Dec. 31, hosting the Baton Rouge Capitols. 

LSUS: You read this a week ago – Jalen Brooks is the Red River Athletic Conference Player of the Week. After scoring 21 and snatching 14 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots to power the Pilots over LSUA last Thursday night, Brooks was a repeat winner of the RRAC award Monday.  The Shreveport senior, a Woodlawn High product, is averaging 21 points and 11.6 rebounds.

Next game: After Tuesday night’s 90-79 loss at Texas A&M-Texarkana, the Pilots (7-3, 3-1) host Paul Quinn Saturday at 4 at the Dock. 

Centenary:  When the Gents blasted Belhaven 75-52 Dec. 9 at the Gold Dome, scoring their seventh straight win, it was sixth-year coach Chris Dorsey’s 75th career win at Centenary. He’s 75-53.

Next game: Centenary comes off a long break Friday at Southwestern and visits Texas Lutheran on Saturday. 


Louisiana Tech: The Lady Techsters (7-3) nearly knocked off Vandy but fell 75-70 in overtime last Thursday in the TAC, despite a season-high 23 points from Anna Larr Roberson and 18 points from Keiunna Walker in a game that featured nine lead changes and six ties. They rebounded impressively, smacking South Alabama 73-50 in Ruston on Sunday. Tech’s defense held the visitors to 1-of-19 shooting in the final 12 minutes before halftime for a 36-14 advantage.

Next game: Sunday at home, the Techsters start the CUSA schedule against UTEP. 

NSU: The Lady Demons (4-4) played by far their most complete game of the season at home Saturday, hitting over 50 percent overall and on 3-pointers in a 79-52 rout of ULM.

Next game: Tonight at Tarleton State, then Monday at Tulsa. 

Grambling: The Lady Tigers (1-8, but against a challenging slate) come out of an 11-day break for final exams when they visit Arkansas State Thursday night. The Red Wolves (4-5) have two Top 25 losses, the last a 77-63 defeat at No. 21 Arkansas on Sunday, and also played a good Louisiana Tech team to a 59-56 season-opening loss in Ruston.

Next game: After visiting ASU, Grambling wraps up its non-conference schedule Sunday at TCU. 

LSUS: The Lady Pilots (8-4, 2-2) dropped a 71-68 RRAC contest Tuesday at Texas A&M-Texarkana despite 19 points and 11 rebounds by Destanee Roblow.

Next game: LSUS hosts Paul Quinn Saturday at 2 at the Dock. 

Centenary: The 0-11 Ladies are coming off a 12-day break for finals.

Next game: Friday at Southwestern, Saturday at Texas Lutheran.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Enmanuel’s first college points go global

ATTENTION GRABBER:  Northwestern’s Hansel Enmanuel drew widespread attention Saturday when the Demons’ freshman, who has no left arm, scored his first collegiate points, including a free throw and a dunk after a miss at the line. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Journal Sports)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – It had nothing to do with the outcome of a dominant win Saturday that gave Northwestern State’s upstart basketball team its best start in 70 seasons. That was already settled by the time Hansel Enmanuel changed the narrative, and broadened it exponentially.

When it happened, the Demons were putting the finishing touches on their seventh straight victory, a steady 91-73 drubbing of visiting ULM that raised NSU’s record to 8-2 under first-year coach Corey Gipson.

The tone of the game presented the first extended opportunity to contribute for Enmanuel, the remarkable true freshman who has no left arm, the result of an accident when he was six years old in his native Dominican Republic. Enmanuel moved to Florida a couple of years ago and emerged as a small school prep standout who became an internet sensation in summer basketball competition with video clips showcasing his athleticism and flair for the spectacular, especially considering his handicap.

Enmanuel made a brief appearance Saturday, his fifth of the season, late in the first half, a typical stint early in his first year of college ball. In the first four outings he spent only 13 total minutes on the court, missing two shots, three free throws, most notably, unable to record his first collegiate points.

That changed with 2:28 left to play Saturday, delighting the Prather Coliseum crowd of 1,652, including Enmanuel’s father. After he missed a couple of opportunities, Enmanuel took a pass on the right side in front of the Demon bench, dribbled as he drove from the wing, split two defenders and hit a layup off glass to draw a rousing cheer and standing ovation while raising NSU’s lead to 86-66.

Then just over a minute later, he rocked the house. After he missed a free throw, the ball bounded back to him just behind the line. He dribbled through the lane and past two defenders, then soared to deliver a fierce tomahawk dunk that had teammates leaping for joy and sent the fans into a frenzy.

His final stat line: 8 minutes played, 2-for-3 shooting, 1-of-5 at the free throw line with two rebounds, and five points. Nothing of note, except … at least in modern-day Division I college basketball history, nobody had seen anything like that done by a one-armed player, and certainly not captured on an ESPN Plus telecast.

“I had to keep going after the layup – that was my first bucket,” Enmanuel told NSU sports information director Jason Pugh. “I know my family was proud. I had to keep working.”

The cascade of media coverage began almost immediately as Pugh and NSU marketing director Lauren Krupica posted clips of the plays on the @NSUDemonsMBB Twitter account and the NSUDemonsMBB Instagram account.

It quickly spread across ESPN social media platforms and finished the night at No. 6 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day. Clips sailed across mainstream sports media outlets and began spilling outside to news organizations, including The Drudge Report and Apple News. There was international coverage, including the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail and other news services, and a separate story distributed globally by the Associated Press.

“I didn’t know the kind of reach that Hansel had,” said Shreveport’s Patrick Netherton, the NSU announcer who handled the ESPN Plus call. “You see him in the Gatorade commercial that ran during the NBA Finals, then on the ESPYs, and I’d heard (national talk show host and former NBA star) Jalen Rose talking about doing their show from Natchitoches, but when he finally did something as a college player, it basically went not only across the country, but around the world.”

Enmanuel’s is a story of perseverance, a kid overcoming a handicap to live out his dream. It was a landmark event, scoring his first college points, then making such a spectacular play, creating a huge media splash Saturday night into Sunday.

“I was flabbergasted by the reach this had,” Netherton said. “Every mainstream sports media entity has a story about it, and it has spread outside the sports world. You look on the Facebook post ESPN did, and it’s got 3,000 shares and 2,000 comments. The fact that AP did a separate story about it speaks volumes. This won’t happen every time he scores, but it does tell us about the eyeballs all over that are following him, and it illustrates why he has some brand-name NIL deals.”

Enmanuel signed with Gatorade last summer. Recently, he became affiliated with T-Mobile and adidas sports gear. He is 10th on the NIL valuation Top 100 rankings compiled by On3.com in a group headed by Bronny James, son of NBA great LeBron James, and including Arch Manning (No. 3), 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young (4), and 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams (6). He is the only college basketball player in the Top 10, with an NIL valuation of $1.5 million and a reported 4.2 million social media followers.

The Demons play at Rice Saturday and visit Baylor and Texas A&M during the holidays before opening Southland Conference competition at home Dec. 31 against Texas A&M-Commerce.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com 

Local college hoop scoop: LSUS, BPCC teams tip tonight at the Dock

PRIMETIME PLAYER: Jalen Brooks is setting the pace, and then some, for the LSUS Pilots heading into their home game tonight against LSUA. (Photo courtesy LSUS)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

The local college basketball scene heats up tonight at the Dock with the Red River battle between the LSUS Pilots and LSUA.

As a prelim, Bossier Parish Community College plays a Region XIV game before the 5:30 LSUS-LSUA women’s matchup. It’s an excellent showcase of three of our Shreveport-Bossier college squads.

Area teams visit Nashville in the next two nights. The Lady Techsters play on the stage at Vandy tonight and the Grambling men are there Friday night, with more than a fair chance at notching road wins over the struggling host teams.


LSUS: Jalen Brooks comes into tonight’s 7:30 game red-hot owning his second Red River Athletic Conference Player of the Week award. Brooks posted 42 points and 37 rebounds in the first two RRAC games of the season, and had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Huston-Tillotson.

Bossier Parish CC: The BPCC Cavaliers are off to a 5-3 start this season, averaging 94 points per game. The Cavs started Region XIV play last week. Returners Kendrick Delahoussaye (Lafayette) and Christian Caldwell (Natchitoches) are leading the team in scoring with 13.4 and 12.5 points per game respectively. BPCC has Region XIV games this week, beginning tonight against Blinn College (at LSUS) and on the road at Angelina College on Saturday.

Centenary: The Gents are off to a 2-0 start in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play after a pair of home wins this past weekend over Trinity (69-65) on Friday and Schreiner (84-79) on Sunday. The Gents (7-2, 2-0 SCAC) are 5-1 at home this season and the Maroon and White have won 29 of their last 36 home games. Centenary topped Millsaps convincingly at home Tuesday. The Gents welcome the Belhaven Blazers (2-3) to town on Friday night at 6 p.m.

Northwestern State: NSU’s Sunday win against Southern Miss made the Demons 7-2, tying the program’s best nine-game mark as a D-I team – also accomplished in 1994-95 and 2005-06 when Mike McConathy’s Demons of Destiny won at Mississippi State in OT and at Oklahoma State. Northwestern last started a season 8-2 in 1952-53 under coach Red Thomas.

Grambling: Donte’ Jackson’s Tigers got a signature win at home over Colorado on the way to a 5-3 start. One loss: 63-61 at UIW. One win, two weeks later: 72-39 at home over UIW last Saturday. Carte’are Gordon is the top stat man for the Tigers, averaging 14 points and 8.4 rebounds.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have won five straight heading into Saturday night’s visit to Wyoming and host Stephen F. Austin next Wednesday. Tech (6-2) is getting 18.3 points per game from Kobe Williams, who tops three double-digit scorers for new head coach Talvin Hester.


Louisiana Tech: This looks like the best Techsters’ team in many years, on the heels of last season’s 21-win finish. Brooke Stoehr’s veteran, talented club is 6-2 heading to Vandy (6-2), who is coached by former NCAA Final Four MVP Shea Ralph, a longtime assistant at her alma mater (UConn) to Geno Auriemma.

Grambling: Most deceiving record around here? The Lady Tigers are 1-8, with their only victory at home over UNO on Nov. 18. But they’ve scheduled up, playing Group of 5 and Power 5 opponents on the road. Two games remain before SWAC action begins Jan. 2 – at Arkansas State on Dec. 15 and at TCU on Dec. 18. Colbi Maples tops GSU with a 12.8 scoring average.

Northwestern State: Newcomer Shelby Rayner and former Grambling guard Candice Parramore were the first NSU duo to each record a double-double in the same game since 2016-17 (Beatrice Attura, Tia Youngblood). Rayner, in her first double-double at NSU, had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Parramore had 12 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday’s win over Champion Christian. It was just the second time in the past 10 years for a duo to accomplish the feat. Rayner was also just four assists shy of the first triple-double for an NSU woman since Joskeen Garner did it in 1996.

LSUS: The Lady Pilots are out to a 7-3 start, 2-1 in RRAC play after splitting on the road.

Centenary: The Ladies (0-11, 0-2 SCAC) are off until returning to action at Southwestern in Georgetown, Texas on Dec. 16 for the first conference road game followed by another SCAC contest at Texas Lutheran on Dec. 17.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Independence Bowl was ideal destination for Cougars

FEELING GOOD:  Houston coach Dana Holgorsen likes coming to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl. (Photo courtesy UH Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

When Houston coach Dana Holgorsen scanned the list of bowl games considering his Cougars, a disappointing 7-5 after a final-week home loss to a bad Tulsa team, one jumped out at him.

It was a bowl game that’s drawn more than its fair share of mockery from pundits who can’t believe visiting Shreveport has merit. But Houston was anything but indifferent about being part of the 46th Annual Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl on Friday, Dec. 23.

The location had appeal for UH, just four hours north. But the pivotal factor was the fit into the recruiting calendar, critical to operations for every college program and especially so for the Cougars, who are moving up from the American Athletic Conference and back into the Big 12.

Holgorsen came to Houston four seasons ago after being head coach for eight years at West Virginia, the last seven with the Mountaineers in the Big 12. Returning to that league for 2023, he knows he must bolster his roster.

“Transitioning from the American to the Big 12, from the Group of 5 to the Power 5, this is going to be a huge challenge,” said Holgorsen. “Once everybody sees that Big 12 schedule, they’ll understand what we’re up against.”

He believes playing in the Independence Bowl is a crucial early step in the right direction. In a media Zoom conference Monday, he was loving that UH’s bowl strategy came together.

“We kind of targeted Shreveport and made it known that this is where we wanted to go,” he said, “because the date to me is perfect. I did not want to play a game on the 17th, because then you lose a recruiting weekend and you lose four days of prep prior to that.

“(Recruiting) goes dead on the 18th, and we can start practicing our tails off for 2-3 days, travel to Shreveport and play, and be home for Christmas Eve, and more importantly, not miss any recruiting whatsoever,” he said.

Holgorsen has taken 10 teams to a bowl, and is making his third straight bowl appearance as Houston’s head coach.

“I know the history of the Independence Bowl,” he said, “have watched it forever, and it has a lot of great tradition, so we’re excited about being part of that.

“This is one I haven’t been to, (but) I’ve spent time driving through Shreveport, and we’ve done a little recruiting in Shreveport. It’s four hours from here, which I think will excite our fan base,” he said.

He also likes lining up against Louisiana-Lafayette, which fits the profile of the programs Houston is scheduling for non-conference contests – nearby Group of 5 schools like Rice, UTSA, North Texas and ULL. Houston and Lafayette share some common ground as hub cities in the Deep South’s oil patch.

The Cougars opened this season ranked in the Top 25, and the Ragin’ Cajuns ended last season there.

The teams played Rice in successive weeks. A then-struggling ULL squad lost 33-21 at Rice on Sept. 17 and Houston won the crosstown game 34-27 a week later at home.

“Bowl games, to survive, they’ve got to create some interesting matchups, and this is an interesting matchup,” Holgorsen said.

The Cougars’ 7-5 finish is not what the UH administration or fans had in mind when Holgorsen was lured away from West Virginia, or when his $4 million contract was extended to 2027.

“We did not meet expectations. I am well aware of that. I am very disappointed in what the final record is. I am very disappointed in the last loss. I am proud of our team’s resiliency, not giving up. I am very proud this team did not throw in the towel (at 2-3 after five games),” Holgorsen said.

“We had what was probably our best game in Week 11 against East Carolina (a 42-3 romp), and we’re feeling pretty good about Senior Day and Game 12, but then we don’t play good (a 37-30 home loss to Tulsa), and it’s disappointing.

“There have been years where I haven’t been excited about a bowl game. I’m pretty excited about this one,” he said, “because we left one out there in our last game. I feel like we owe people a win and we’re going to treat it like that.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

The Heisman comes to Natchitoches for good, beginning Wednesday evening

The Heisman Trophy’s 2022 winner will be crowned Saturday night in New York City, with four quarterbacks announced Monday evening as finalists.

Louisiana’s four Heisman recipients will be celebrated Wednesday evening and forevermore in Natchitoches, at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

In the run-up to Saturday night’s 2022 presentation on ESPN, any Heisman discussion around these parts will take maybe a half-minute before Joe Burrow’s name enters the conversation.

That will lead, naturally, to talk about LSU’s first Heisman winner, Billy Cannon.

Did you know Dr. Cannon was not the first Louisiana star to win the Heisman? Hint – it’s an easier question in this part of the state.

Cannon, born in Mississippi, raised in Baton Rouge and undeniably the most dynamic player in the game as a senior at LSU for Paul Dietzel, captured the 25th Heisman – the only one made of silver, not bronze – in 1959.

Two years earlier, it went to a Louisiana native, a humble country boy from Springhill, John David Crow, a running back from Bear Bryant’s Texas A&M Aggies.

Did you know Burrow is not the most recent Louisiana product to win the Heisman? After LSU’s modern-day golden boy snagged the award in 2019, a year later, it was Amite product DeVonta Smith, a sensational and soft-spoken Alabama receiver who now stars for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not a lot of states can boast four Heisman winners – no others whose population is about 4 million humans.

Beginning Wednesday evening, you can soak in Louisiana’s Heisman heritage in Natchitoches, at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street. That’s when the LSHOF’s Heisman Trophy exhibit officially debuts, and the 6:30 ribbon cutting ceremony will be free of charge and full of excitement – along with representatives of each of the four home state Heisman winners.

In an opening reception hosted by the museum, FLASH (Friends of Louisiana Sports and History) and the LSHOF Foundation, the permanent exhibit will be revealed. The extra special piece – Cannon’s 1959 trophy, will remain until Jan. 4 and then come back every summer for a couple of months before and after the Hall’s annual induction festivities, thanks to Dr. Cannon’s wife, Mrs. Dot, and his daughter, Bunnie.

December is already a fine time to visit the museum, either Wednesday evening or afterwards, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Not only is there a world-class museum with a fascinating new exhibit to enjoy, but you can hang around a little longer to enjoy the fabulous Christmas lights and perhaps some dinner at any of several outstanding eateries, or just the traditional turkey legs and such on the riverbank.

Or come early, build in lunchtime (which puts all of the classic downtown dining favorites, Lasyone’s, Mama’s, Maglieaux’s, Mayeaux’s and Merci Beaucoup, into the menu mix), blend in some bopping and shopping with a museum visit and a look at the lights. You’ll still be home well before bedtime.

The grand opening Wednesday has a VIP champagne toast reception from 5:30-6:30 – to join that mini-party with the Heisman family members and friends, you’ve got to be a FLASH member (rates start at $35, and graduate up; all revenue directly supports the museum, and all levels provide some free admissions, with $100 and up granting free admission to all nine Louisiana State Museums along with accredited museums around the country).

The ribbon cutting and exhibit opening is free from 6:30-8 p.m., time enough not only to see the new exhibit, but also to make a quick trip through the two-story, 27,000-square foot museum that was named the world’s No. 1 new architectural project of 2013. Second was an addition to the Louvre (In Paris). No other project in North America made the top 10.

How do you get a FLASH membership? They’ll be available at the front door of the museum all day Wednesday leading into the 5:30 VIP reception. For more information, call the museum at 318-357-2492.

After all, it’s your museum. And as Terry Bradshaw says in the welcome video, “Folks, enjoy it! It’s special.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Cajuns, Cougars provide neighborhood matchup for I-Bowl

CAJUN COMBO:  Sophomore quarterback Chandler Fields and freshman running back Dre’lyn Washington helped UL-Lafayette pound Texas State 41-13 to become bowl eligible. (Photo by BEN MASSEY, RaginCajuns.com)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Pairing Louisiana-Lafayette against Houston brings regional appeal to the 46th Annual Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl set for the Friday before Christmas.

Both fan bases have an easy drive into Shreveport. Local fans don’t have to look on a map to see where the teams call home. There’s even a Ragin’ Cajun restaurant in Houston, and plenty of Astros fans in Lafayette. While the Cajuns and Cougars haven’t met in football in 16 seasons, they will stage their 10th collision in the I-Bowl, and in other sports, they often square off.

Lafayette and Houston are cornerstones in the region’s oil patch, with plenty of common business interests.

The only drawback? You’ll have to look closely to ID the school the red-clad fans are supporting.

Kickoff for college football’s 11th oldest bowl game is set for 2 p.m. CST on Friday, Dec. 23 at Independence Stadium. Bowl pairings were announced Sunday afternoon.

Houston (7-5) got hot down the stretch with an explosive offense producing wins in five of its last seven games during its last season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars make their long-desired return to the Big 12 in 2023-24.

UL-Lafayette, led by first-year head coach (and former quarterback) Michael Desormeaux, finished the regular season blowing out Texas State to post a 6-6 (4-4 SBC) record to become eligible for a school-record fifth consecutive season. Desormeaux was offensive coordinator for the other four under Billy Napier, who just wrapped his first season at Florida.

“We are so excited about the opportunity to play in the Independence Bowl,” Desormeaux said. “Our team is truly appreciative of the opportunity to play in such a great game. We are fired up for this team to get one more game together. Playing it in our home state makes this even more special.” 

The Ragin’ Cajuns had four players selected to the All-Sun Belt first team, the second-most in the league, and 11 players overall made the all-conference team. ULL defeated three bowl-bound teams this season. This is the 10th bowl appearance for the Ragin’ Cajuns in school history – all coming since 2011.

Dana Holgorsen is finishing his fourth season at UH, with a contract extension until 2027 on his $4 million annual deal. He played at Iowa Wesleyan as a receiver with head coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach, two major influences on his approach.

The Cougars, led by first-team All-AAC quarterback Clayton Tune, were among the nation’s premier offenses, scoring 30-plus points in 11 of their 12 games. Houston went 5-3 in AAC play. The Cougars are competing in their 15th bowl game in the last 18 seasons – the most in the state of Texas in that span – and 30th in the history of the program.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete one more time as a football team and end this season with a win,” Holgorsen said. “The Independence Bowl has a great tradition going back several decades. This game means a lot. I know our guys will be ready to play and we look forward to the challenge of facing another good football team.”

It is the first appearance in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl for both programs.

Public tickets are on sale and are $30 for end zone bench, $45 for sideline bench and $65 for a limited quantity of sideline chairback seats. There are also a bevy of other ticket packages available – including group tickets, Family 4-Packs, Small Business Fan Packs and the exclusive Chairman’s Club.

For more information on tickets visit RadianceTechnologiesIndependenceBowl.com/tickets or call the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl office at 318.221.0712 or toll-free at 888.414.BOWL.

Independence Bowl Foundation Survey:  The Independence Bowl is conducting a survey about both the Independence Bowl Foundation and Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in order to improve the organization. The bowl asks that fans, both locally and regionally, complete the survey and provide feedback on various aspects of the Foundation and bowl. To complete the brief survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022_Independence_Bowl_Survey                           

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Demons will have an unexpected quarterback competition this spring

MOVING ON:  Sophomore quarterback Zach Clement had a breakthrough season for Northwestern State in his fourth year at NSU, but will play elsewhere next season. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – The narrative in college sports changes quickly. It has this week for the Northwestern State football program.

Although the latest twist seems negative, Demons’ coach Brad Laird refuses to see his starting quarterback’s entrance into the transfer portal in a bad light.

Last Tuesday, fourth-year sophomore Zach Clement was named second-team All-Southland Conference. It was a glorious honor for a guy who rode the pine in the first two games and played in a mop-up role in the third one. But with over 3,700 career passing yards, a 4-4 overall record as a starter in a program that hasn’t seen .500 since 2014, and impressive 2022 production (2,498 passing yards, another 303 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns with19 of those passing) – leading an offense that ranked second in passing and third in total offense in the conference – Clement had cred, and the respect of league coaches.

As it turns out, he also had some wanderlust. Tuesday, Clement announced on social media that he had entered the transfer portal. Within hours, he already had offers from 2022 opponent Eastern Illinois and conference rival McNeese.

Clement, who did not respond to an interview request Wednesday, thanked Laird and said he has “many things to be grateful for during my time at NSU – great teammates, great memories and getting to not only play, but grow in my knowledge of the game. I will forever be grateful.”

Laird is, too. And very understanding.

“Zach made a well-thought-out decision, definitely not a spur of the moment one,” Laird said. “He tore his ACL in his junior year of high school, and although he was able to come back and play his senior year, he didn’t feel like he had the opportunity to experience the full recruitment process. Now that he’s been able to showcase what he can do, he’s at a point where he’s going to take advantage of the opportunity the transfer portal provides, and see what’s out there. He’s a very competitive person, and that competitiveness is drawing him to enter the portal.”

Clement, a product of perennial small school power Lafayette Christian Academy, has a fiancé back home and they’re anticipating marriage before next season. After four years in Natchitoches, he’s ready for a change in scenery.

“We had a very lengthy discussion, and a very positive discussion. I think the world of him,” said Laird. “We’ve had a great relationship, still do, and I can’t wait to see what continues to happen in his career.

“Am I disappointed it won’t be at Northwestern State? Dadgum right I am, but, I’m going to support him like I would support my son. He’s been nothing but great to me, to Northwestern and his teammates, and we should all support him moving forward.”

Portal declarations begin on the Monday after the end of the regular season. In the case of FBS programs, it starts next Monday after conference championship weekend.

As of Wednesday, nearly 50 FCS quarterbacks of all levels of accomplishment were in the portal, and they had plenty of company.

“I looked (Tuesday), and there were 350-400 FCS players who had just entered the portal – not total, just new ones over the weekend. Come Monday, there’ll be a lot more (with FBS players),” said Laird. “It’s the landscape of college sports. As much as I hate losing Zach Clement, we’re going to utilize the portal to bring guys in for this program. We made a lot of positive moves this past season, and we’re expecting to be better in 2023.”

NSU is recruiting junior college players along with scanning the portal but is also actively recruiting high school seniors.

“You don’t want to be overloaded with juniors and seniors compared to freshmen and sophomores. I’ve always wanted a balanced roster,” said Laird. “We’re still going to recruit high school kids to replace our fifth- and sixth-year seniors who are graduated and have used their eligibility. That will not change.”

But when spring ball begins in March, Laird will have an unforeseen quarterback competition to manage.

“Change is constant. It’s how you handle it,” he said. “We plan to improve our football team with every player we add to the roster and we’re excited about the foundation we established this fall.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

What next for struggling Grambling, Tech, NSU football programs?

It’s the silly season, now that regular-season college football games have ended on the field. There are no bowls or playoff contests for the local squads.

However, here and all across the land, the games really get intense now. Instead of young men ranging from 18-24 years old competing on (almost always plastic) grass fields 120 yards long, adults of every age try to influence slightly younger men, 17-18 years old, on their college choices.

It’s even gotten sillier, thanks to NIL and the transfer portal. Players who took the field as Bulldogs, Tigers and Demons this fall might be reconsidering where they’ll play next season. Meanwhile, the coaches in Lincoln Parish and Natchitoches are counting on mining the portal to upgrade their 2023 rosters.  It’s the way of the new world in college sports, not an indictment of any of the coaching staffs at Louisiana Tech, Grambling or Northwestern State.

The Name, Image and Likeness payouts available to our local Division I football colleges are quite modest compared to what their counterparts in the SEC or Big XII consider.  But money has been a determining factor in athletes’ college choices for years. Louisiana Tech has 85 football scholarships. Grambling and NSU give out 63. All three schools have 115-man rosters. The decisions often come down to where it’s more affordable to attend college, with scholarship money, Pell grants, cost of attendance, and perhaps, NIL opportunities.

In a couple of weeks, colleges will begin filling in the gaps on their rosters with the early signing day. Transfer twists and turns continue into the start of 2023, and really never stop until kickoff next fall.

Meanwhile, there are inevitably coaching staff shifts. Tech and Grambling brought in all-new crews, led by Sonny Cumbie in Ruston and Hue Jackson four miles west. Brad Laird remained in Natchitoches but virtually his entire staff was turned over from 2021 to 2022. We won’t see that kind of upheaval in our neighborhood this time around, but there will be some departures. There always are, for better or worse.

What to make of what happened this fall? 

LOUISIANA TECH:  The Bulldogs went 3-9 for the second straight year. Cumbie didn’t bring a magic wand or an influx of talent or depth. It wasn’t a meltdown, but an extended evaluation period. How much roster transition occurs this winter indicates if their first-year coach believes these ’Dogs learned new tricks. 

GRAMBLING:  The Tigers earned back the G on the side of their helmets this fall. Jackson stripped it away for a few games until he saw the overall effort desired. The desired wins didn’t materialize. In a bigger, weaker-toward-the-bottom SWAC, the Tigers underachieved at 3-9. Jackson and Cumbie could meet in Simsboro for coffee and commiserate. 

NORTHWESTERN:  The Demons made the most of their four wins, all in Southland Conference action, and front-loaded. NSU didn’t see the upper echelon of the league until its last two games. Bright side – Laird led his team from a horrible opening three-game stretch all the way to playing for a share of the conference title in each of the last two weeks, and 75 percent of the two-deep returns. Other side – that two-deep wasn’t good enough to mount a serious challenge for the championship.

In all three cases, the conclusion is the same. Players who aren’t on campus now will be the pivotal factors in how next season goes.

Despite dropping its last two, Northwestern at least developed some significant momentum and confidence in the second half of this fall. The culture change is obvious.

It’s still very inconclusive at Grambling and Tech.

But for all three programs, 2023 provides the opportunity for long-awaited breakthroughs, if enough strides are made, if they survive the silly season, and actually prosper from it.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com