Just trying to help with some high school football tweaks

This has been one of my favorite high school football seasons ever, mostly due to the advent of the Shreveport-Bossier Journal and getting to cover games and teams I wouldn’t normally get a chance to see.

Of the 19 teams in the SBJ’s coverage area, I saw 12 of them. Kinda hacked I didn’t get to see them all (especially since I missed 66 percent of the Bossier Parish schools).

But I’ve covered 20 games this year – including one that took two days – and each had its own story to tell. I suppose you could get that covering the City Hall beat, but I doubt it.

There’s plenty to love about a high school football season, but there are some things that might want to be looked at in the name of improvement.

And before we go there, let’s go here. The playoff structure in place is the best way to do something that is, by its own nature, imperfect. It will be tweaked and adjusted and re-arranged, but it will never be fixed. So let’s just live with what we’ve got and go from there. (Spoiler alert – the best teams almost always win the state championship, no matter what the system in place.)

REWARDING DISTRICT CHAMPIONS: One of the criticisms about the Power Point system is that it de-incentivizes winning the district. The kids still get a patch on the letter jacket, but that’s about it.

This was once done in basketball and I think it’s a good idea for football: Each district champion gets an extra 1.0 added to their final power point total. A team that finishes at 14.1 would jump to 15.1. It won’t make much difference at the top – you figure those teams would be district winners anyway – but lower-ranked district winners could move up 4-5 spots.

In a few cases, that might even mean a first-round home game or maybe even a bye. Not a bad reward for winning the district and certainly better than a patch.

FLAG THROWING AND CHAIN MOVING: Everybody yells about holding calls. You could bring the best NFL crew to a high school game and you’d still get that complaint. I think the referees do a good job of (1) knowing the rules (2) explaining issues to coaches and (3) keeping control of the game.

But there are two things I see that need to be improved because they can often be game-changers. And it’s nothing new for me because I’ve had this conversation with referee friends of mine for years.

Too often, referees throw flags without regard for where the infraction took place. They just throw them and wherever it lands is the spot. Not a big deal – unless it’s a spot-of-the-foul penalty. If an offensive hold occurs three yards behind the line of scrimmage, but the flag lands eight yards behind, that becomes an 18-yard penalty instead of a 13-yard penalty. That makes a difference.

It’s even worse on kick returns because there are bodies in motion all over the place. Sometimes the flag is being thrown from 20 yards away as the play is continuing in the opposite direction.

But the bigger problem? Ball spotting, especially on fourth down. I guess these referees are watching too much NFL and college where they love showing the side judge hurriedly pointing upfield to signal to move the chains. What’s the hurry?

In the 20 games I’ve seen this year, I’ve seen maybe two measurements. I don’t care how fast the offensive team wants to play. Get. It. Right. Especially in the fourth quarter. Especially in a playoff game. 

AND THE BAND SHOULDN’T PLAY ON: Sorry band people, but there’s a time and a place for everything. Play all you want … during timeouts, between quarters and at halftime. Not during live action.

I applaud the creative band directors who know enough football strategy to play only when the opposing team has the ball, but it should never be allowed. You think referees would allow it if some band wanted to perform a whistle routine during the game?

A team shouldn’t have an advantage just because its band knows how to play “Shake Your Groove Thing” on fourth down in a tie game. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com


More bad birds stories sure to please turkey hunters

A year or so ago, Jim Spencer, my good friend and avid, make that obsessed, turkey hunter, put together a book about his encounters with wild turkey gobblers, birds he described as “bad birds.” In fact, that was the name of his first book — Bad Birds.

Realizing that his book that took readers step by step up mountains, through briar thickets and across creeks to chase bad birds only covered part of his experiences, Spencer has assembled his accounts of more brushes with bad birds. His new book, “Bad Birds 2,” is hot off the presses and is available for the perfect Christmas gift for turkey hunters.

Beneath the title on the cover of his new book, Spencer adds … “Another collection of ‘mostly’ true stories starring the gobblers we all love to hate.”

Just who is this guy, Jim Spencer, anyhow? Here’s what a blurb on the back cover of the book says about this turkey fanatic … “Jim Spencer’s name and reputation are well-known in the turkey hunting subculture. A self-described turkey bum, Spencer has written more than a thousand magazine and newspaper features about turkeys and turkey hunting, and now, a third book on the subject. In more than 40 years of being whipped by turkeys, he has hunted them in three countries and 30 states. He and his wife Jill (also a well-known outdoor writer) live in the north Arkansas Ozarks, near Calico Rock.”

The book is beautifully illustrated in photos taken by Spencer, his wife, and renowned wildlife photographer Tes Jolly. The foreword was written by Tes and her husband, Ron Jolly. Here’s what Ron Jolly wrote in the book’s foreword about the kind of turkey man Spencer is.

In describing a hunt in which Spencer was the shooter and Jolly the cameraman shooting a video for television, they had set up on a gobbler and when the gobbler closed the distance and was within shooting range, Spencer never got the signal to shoot before the gobbler walked away.

“When he was gone, Spencer pulled down his mask and grinned at me over his shoulder. ‘You couldn’t see him, could you?’ I shook my head. ‘You should have killed him anyway,’ I said. ‘Naw,’ he said, ‘that wasn’t the deal. You couldn’t get any footage, so I didn’t want to shoot. It’s just a turkey.’”

Giving it their all for two more days to film Spencer taking a gobbler they never had another chance but Jolly added, “Spencer proved to us to be a turkey man.”

“Bad Birds 2” contains 40 stories of Spencer’s encounters with tough old birds, some he was able to conquer; some where the gobbler got the best of him. He affixed monikers to each of the bad ones he has met, names like Lazy Bones, Gabby, Sir Edmund, Ringo, Blinky and on and on.

As thrilling and frustrating and fun to read as Spencer’s stories are about the bad birds he has encountered, the book ends soberly with his epilogue where he describes in a manner only he can muster of the problems wild turkeys are facing in today’s world. “Something is happening out there in turkey country, and we need to get a handle on it,” he wrote.

This is a book every turkey hunter should read, for enjoyment, for pleasure and for instructions on what not to do. It’s also one that needs reading for his serious message about the plight of wild turkeys today.

To order your copy in time for Christmas giving, send a check for $26, which includes cost of shipping and handling to Treble Hook Unlimited, P.O. Box 758, Calico Rock, AR 72519 or to Paypal at modernmountainman@gmail.com via email.

Contact Glynn at glynnharris37@gmail.com


Tennis comes full circle for Lauren Cotter Wilson

She would hit tennis balls for hours against the green wooden backboard that was attached to the back of the tennis court at Shreveport’s Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club.

As her older brother John sat courtside, a young Lauren Cotter would try to hit 50 in a row above the painted white line that symbolized the net.

“It would take me an hour-and-a-half to get 50 in a row,” she recalls all these years later. “Then we’d go for 100.”

When Lauren got to 100, the goal would be 150 – hours and hours of repetition. And always sitting courtside would be John Cotter.

That’s what Lauren thinks about now as she prepares her acceptance speech for her induction into the Louisiana Tennis Association Hall of Fame. On Dec. 2, The Shoptaugh Family, Harold “Rocky” Andry and Lauren Cotter Wilson will be honored as the 2022 LTA Hall of Fame inductees at a dinner at Baton Rouge’s Bocage Racquet Club.

It’s an honor Lauren knows would not be possible without the influence of her older brother, who passed away over the summer.

“I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say,” she says about her induction speech. “I’m overwhelmed by the honor. The timing of it couldn’t be more perfect.”

The prestigious honor comes just months after the passing of her brother and at a time in her life when tennis has come full circle.

“We’re enjoying the fruits of our labor,” Lauren says of she and husband Grady Wilson, the general manager and director of tennis at Pierremont Oaks.

Their son Cotter — a recent graduate of Ole Miss, where he played tennis — is now working alongside his father as the head of racket sports at Pierremont Oaks. I remember watching a young Cotter — later a Men’s City Singles Champion — hitting balls with his uncle John on those same courts where Lauren put in all that time when she was young.

It was time well spent.

In 1973, Lauren was No. 1 in Louisiana in both Girls’ 12 and 14 singles, ranked No. 1 in the state and the South in Girls’ 14 singles, No. 16 in the nation in Girls’ 14 singles; and No. 1 in the U.S. in Girls’ 14 doubles with Toni Moss of Houston.

At the age of 14, she won the Louisiana State Closed Girls’ 16 and 18 singles titles and the following year was selected to represent the state in the Seventeen Magazine Girls’ Junior Tennis Championships in Washington, D.C., in addition to winning the Girls’ 16 Singles at the Easter Bowl National Championship.

In 1977, Lauren was top-ranked in both the state and South in Girls’ 16 singles and No. 2 in the South in Girls’ 18 singles.

One of her proudest accomplishments, according to the Centenary College and Northwest Louisiana Hall of Fame member, is leading Captain Shreve to the team title at the National High School Tennis Championships in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979. Along with Stephanie Fess and Carol Boston, I was honored to be part of that team.

After playing for SMU from 1979-1981, Lauren returned to Shreveport to close out her college tennis career at Centenary and was the 1983 NAIA Collegiate Singles Champion.

“It’s pretty cool, the timing of all of this,” she says. “Pierremont Oaks, where we all grew up playing tennis, is now at an all-time high with memberships. Tennis is just booming.”

Funny thing, tennis wasn’t Lauren’s first choice. That was her mother’s idea.

“I was a swimmer,” she says. “I swam butterfly and back stroke because no one else wanted to swim those. But my mother thought swimming was making my shoulders too broad. So I started playing tennis.”

That decision turned out to be life-defining for the tennis champion.

“Tennis made us who we are,” Lauren says of all the people who were – and are – still part of her life. “We learned so much from the sport. We just had so much fun. We were all fortunate that our parents were able to provide us with such a great life.”

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

HOLDING COURT: Lauren Cotter Wilson, shown in 1975, will be honored Dec. 2 as a 2022 Louisiana Tennis Association Hall of Fame member.
 


Independence Bowl Ghosts of Christmases Past

In my personal Tedders brain, Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl memories are a wild wintertime blend of a lost cell phone, a bad dude named Zack Valentine, a giant Sharpie, John Wayne, a hypnotist, a wrist watch, snow, and grinning Iowa State fans walking around filled with joy and dressed as giant ears of corn.

Good times.

I-Bowl teams will tee it up for the 46th time — only 10 bowls are older — on Friday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. at cleverly named Independence Stadium. The afternoon (or make it an all-day) experience would be a thoughtful and fun early Christmas gift, which you can make happen by visiting the bowl’s website (Google “Independence Bowl”) or by calling 318.221.0712.

We hope to see you there. But first … let’s review. 

McNeese State 20, Tulsa 16, 1976: This bowl started it all in America’s bicentennial year, thus the name of the “Independence” Bowl. Tedroe missed the game. Was in high school in West Monroe and probably could not have told you where the stadium was or, if I had known, could not have even imagined any way to get to the game. 

Louisiana Tech 24, Louisville 14, 1977: Saw the highlights on the late news and said, “Wait. What? Bowl game? Shreveport?” 

East Carolina 35, Tech 13, 1978: Was on the sidelines and fairly occupied, through a strange turn of events only the Creator could have devised, as the Tech equipment manager. John Wayne was there and Omar Bradley and, unfortunately, the aforementioned Zack Valentine, who hit our QB near our sideline and literally knocked the snot out of him. This was when a cliché actually happened; I witnessed it. Our friend the late Keith Thibodeaux, still the best all-around athlete I’ve ever seen at Tech, was knocked out of the game early on that play and I was sort of glad he didn’t have to endure the rest of it like we did. Tech had just won two Southland Conference titles in a row, but the other team was better, at least on that cold and sunny afternoon. That was the end of an era, the final game for Hall of Fame coach Maxie Lambright. (They gave us watches at the team banquet and we were thrilled; now team gifts are … well, let’s just say, speaking of eras, a new day has dawned in the Bowl Gifting World.) 

Elderly Miss 35, Texas Tech 18, 1998: Sanford writing products was the bowl sponsor and the beautiful mother of maybe my favorite I-Bowl Memory: the giant blow-up Sharpie in the parking lot. A thing of undisputed beauty. Think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. God I miss it still. 

Mississippi State 43, Texas A&M 41, 2000: The glorious, unmatched, never-to- be-forgotten Snow Game/Snow Bowl. Watched it on TV because me and 10-year-olds were playing football in the front yard, in the snow, and they didn’t want to stop. We’d run inside to warm up and watch and go back outside. (Ours is the not-as-memorable Snow Bowl — except to us.)

Elderly Miss 27, Nebraska 25, 2002: At the banquet for both teams, a hypnotist — he was nothing short of spectacular, had guys walking around like chickens and such — brought maybe five players from each team up and sat them in chairs and attempted to hypnotize them. It “took” on most, but not on all. Eli Manning was one who tried, but you could tell it was not working on him; not sure any of the Football Manning Family have a brain that can un-think long enough to be hypnotized. So Eli was one of the guys fired. Fortunately for the Rebels, he didn’t fall asleep at the game, either: 25-of 44 for 313 yards and a touchdown. (Programming note: Eli is one of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 inductees; the star-studded bunch will be inducted in July. LaSportsHall.com for more info; hope to see you there, too.)

Missouri 38, South Carolina 31, 2005: Our friend Patrick Meehan was on an elevator a couple days before the game and dropped his cell phone through the slot where the doors close. You could hear it bumping metal and breaking on the way down. Carolina coach Steve Spurrier looked down the narrow opening and said, to no one, “That’s unfortunate.” He had the best post-game quote too: his team led 28-14 at half and when we asked him about losing the second-half lead, he pointed to a couple of his defensive coaches and said, “Go ask those guys.”

Not a third of the way down my list and … we could go on and on. We will, next year. Good grief we love us some Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.

But now it’s time to look forward, not back. So see you at the game. Wonder what will happen? Come getcha some!

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Eyeing 10-win season, Tigers need to be wary of Aggies

BATON ROUGE – “All they need is one.”

LSU’s Brian Kelly, in the fashion of any college coach discussing his upcoming opponent, heaped mounds of praise on Jimbo Fisher and the floundering Texas A&M football team during his press conference on Monday.

Whether it was warranted or not is a great question that probably won’t spark the most thought-provoking debates among LSU fans. There’s a certain relief in watching a rival suffer through the dysfunction the Tigers and their fan base went through the last two seasons.

But Kelly’s right — the Aggies don’t have the record they want, but all they need is one win against LSU. It’ll cap the season on a high note, maybe help Fisher save face on the recruiting trail, and leave A&M not saddled by an SEC losing streak entering next season.

It’s almost surreal to consider that, in the wake of A&M compiling the country’s highest-ranked  recruiting class last winter, the Aggies are 4-7. Kelly made it a point to mention that the talent Texas A&M has rostered doesn’t match the record. And, lo and behold, Kelly was right again.

The Aggies are going through upheaval. There’s Mushin “Moose” Muhammad II, a star wideout, actively discussing on Twitter an internal conflict between he and Fisher over his choice to wear sleeves during a game (Fisher has a policy against skill position players wearing sleeves). There was the very public conflict between Fisher and Nick Saban this summer ignited by Saban’s accusing A&M of “buying” its recruiting class with NIL money. Never mind the constant carousel of comments by media and fans regarding Fisher’s exorbitant contract that would for sure take a massive buyout — $86 million is the most commonly cited figure — from boosters.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot bubbling underneath the surface of that locker room, and opposing coaches could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they’re facing that circus on Saturday.

Yet, time and time again since arriving in Baton Rouge last winter, Kelly’s proven that he won’t take anything for granted.

There were justifiable fears among fans of a trap game against Arkansas, which was probably LSU’s sloppiest outing since the loss to Florida State – but Kelly made aggressive decisions throughout that wintry day in Fayetteville, not playing it close to the parka. Last Saturday’s visit by UAB was written off as an easy win, and while it was, it was because the offense rebounded to have one of its cleanest performances of the season, and the defense was dominant in the final three quarters.

Kelly hasn’t done things the traditional LSU way, either: Jayden Daniels has constantly rewritten the rushing record books for quarterbacks at LSU, and while Daniels is having a fine season worthy of dark horse discussion for the Heisman Trophy, he didn’t exactly have a high bar in the run game from past LSU quarterbacks: Justin Jefferson’s 450-yard year was enough to rank No. 1 on the single-season all-time rushing yards list for quarterbacks. Daniels eclipsed that in half a season.

Then there’s the running-back-by-committee approach, which has proven wildly effective after the use of a featured back for much of the last decade at LSU. That move’s paid off in dividends: the Tigers have four different running backs that have pitched in major playing time in Josh Williams, John Emery, Jr., Armoni Goodwin, and Noah Cain. Against UAB it was Cain, a Penn State-transfer who had previously seen the least amount of playing time of the four, scoring three touchdowns. With Goodwin gone for the rest of the year due to a knee injury, Cain’s emergence is key.

Kelly hit the lottery in the transfer portal this offseason, and he pointed to Cain and linebacker Greg Brooks as tw of his biggest gets, even saying that his staff “knew what they were getting” when they pulled them out of the transfer portal.

Those moves haven’t just allowed Kelly to survive in his first year – he’s thrived. On the precipice of a 10-win season – LSU’s third since 2013 – his Tigers need to grasp his own piece of wisdom.

“All they need is one.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Cowboys find appropriate formula in mauling of Vikings

Don’t count the Dallas Cowboys out just yet.

Last week’s fourth-quarter debacle at Lambeau Field masked the fact the Cowboys had dominated the Green Bay Packers for most of the game in enemy territory. Sunday, Dallas posted an even better start on the road in Minnesota and made sure there would be no collapse.

“We played a complete game,” Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott said. “We knew we needed to respond after last week. This was big for us.”

The Cowboys eviscerated the Vikings, 40-3, and looked a heck of a lot like the team Prescott led during his 13-3 rookie season – using a ‘keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands with a run-first’ mind-set.

Where Dallas lacks – a bevy of weapons in the passing game – it makes up for with a stout backfield duo and a defense capable of obliterating teams like it did Minnesota.

During an afternoon stocked with superlatives lathered in blue and silver, the defense would be the obvious choice as the No. 1 star. The Cowboys sacked Kirk Cousins seven times, allowed just 183 yards and forced seven punts. 

However, the Dallas offense may have found its identity for 2022. Yes, Prescott can air it out 40 times if needed. He proved that last year when the Cowboys led the NFL in offense behind a career-high 37 touchdown passes from the former Haughton star. He also threw for more than 4,900 yards in 2019.

That does not appear to be the best approach this season. Dallas said goodbye to wide receiver Amari Cooper and didn’t do much to replace him. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to chunk it all over the lot – especially if you don’t have to.

Sunday, Prescott threw the ball 25 times and completed a whopping 88 percent of his attempts. It marked the second-most-efficient performance in No. 4’s career. No. 1 came in 2016 (32-of-36 vs. Tampa Bay). 

You see where I’m going here.

Sunday, Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott each earned 15 carries. Both players scored twice, although Pollard’s came through the air. The Cowboys piled up 151 yards on the ground (Pollard led with 80) and helped the offense hog the ball for a dazzling 37-plus minutes.

“They’re dynamic,” Prescott said of his running backs. “When you have both of them out there, the defense doesn’t know what’s coming at them. Those two guys will do whatever you ask them to do. They have no egos; we’re blessed.”

Considering the strength of the season and the talent on offense, Jerry Jones’ failure to add another skill star on offense doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys can’t make a postseason run. It simply means the identity must be different.

The first loss in the history of the franchise after holding a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter (last week at Lambeau) is officially history and the Cowboys (7-3) have a short week before their annual Thanksgiving Day game. 

This is a big one. The opponent: the 7-3 New York Giants in a battle for second place in the NFC East.

“I missed them the first time,” said Prescott, who was out with a hand injury when Dallas beat the Giants, 23-16, in Week 3, “so I’m ready to get after them this time.”

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com


Put up or shut up

Today I’m writing this article based on my personal experience as a tournament angler. Over the years, I’ve come across a lot of anglers who have always talked about how they should be fishing tournaments because they “ALWAYS” catch fish every time they go fishing.

All I have to say to these anglers? ”You’re a liar!”

These same people will try and tell me how good they are as a bass fisherman and that if they fished tournaments, they would probably be standing in the winner’s circle at the end of the day. To these same anglers I say, “Put your money where your mouth is!” 

I came across one such angler one day on Toledo Bend, a guy who in his mind was the best angler on the lake or maybe even the greatest angler of all time! During one of my practice sessions on the Bend, this guy came up to me at the boat ramp while I was loading my boat.

He eased over and proceeded to talk about how many fish he caught that day and that he quit counting at 100. I’m not sure why, but for some reason some anglers feel the need to exaggerate how they caught 100 fish in a day. In reality, they probably really caught about 30 to 35 – but not 100.

If you think about how many casts you make in a day, to catch 100 bass in a day is about one bass every four casts. That would be an awesome day by anyone’s standards and a day all anglers dream about.

He asked me if I was getting ready for a tournament. My answer was yes, and he said that he would probably win it if he decided to fish it. My response to him, with a sense of sarcasm of course, was that if he was on that many fish, he’d be crazy not to fish the tournament. And I added that I might as well just give him my entry fee. This is what we call baiting someone!

Well, lo and behold he showed up Saturday morning and put up his money (donated). I was a little surprised he showed because most of these “great” anglers never show up. He actually pulled up beside my boat before takeoff that morning and began to tell me how many fish he had caught the last two days and put in the freezer.

It was at this point, I knew he was in trouble. After a tough day of fishing, as the fish did not bite very well at all, I pulled up beside him at the dock and asked how he did? Let me go ahead and state the obvious: he was not a happy camper (angler), apparent by the expression on his face.

I was the last guy he wanted to talk to since he had talked so much trash on how he “always” catches fish every time he goes fishing. He finally answered me by saying how he just couldn’t understand what had just happened. He’d never gone fishing in his life and not caught fish! He was very confused and had that bewildered look (so many anglers have had before) as to what just happened.

It was at this time with a smirk on my face and a wink, I said, “Welcome to tournament fishing!”

This episode just proves that no matter how good an angler you are or think you are, there will be days that you just don’t figure them out. Oh, and with a slight chuckle, I reminded him that the fish he caught the last two days and put in the freezer won’t bite on tournament day after they’re frozen. That’s why tournament anglers practice catch and release.

I never saw this guy at a tournament ever again! Guess you could say he got humbled; tournament fishing will do that to an angler.

‘Til next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen. Take it from me, Melanoma does not discriminate!

Contact Steve at sgraf26@yahoo.com


What’s over’s a new start for Vikings

After going 1-9 last season, Airline went 7-4 this fall and made a clean 7-0 sweep of District 1-5A, a success by any measuring stick, but especially by measuring one win against seven — an improvement of 700 percent.

Or maybe 600 percent. You do the math. (Seriously, you do it because I don’t know how and am not going to. I know 7 > 1, though, and in Airline’s case, a whole lot greater.)

After last season’s disaster and a 3-4 record during the football-forgettable COVID Autumn of 2020, the Vikings were basically grounded, spear-less and sword-less and plunder poor.

“Football’s always been fun,” said Viking senior linebacker Tyler Bullard, who started playing organized football around kindergarten on a team called the Dragons when, he said, his pads were bigger than he was. “Since I can remember, it’s been fun. Well, maybe it wasn’t last year. Or the year before, everything going on those two years.  Plus, I was out with an MCL all last year. On my freshman team our offense wasn’t very good so … it was fun, but let’s just say we weren’t the best.”

This year, in the regular season, the Vikings were. Started 0-3, then ran the demanding 1-5A table.

“100 percent fun and we all knew, even at the first, it was a big improvement over last year,” said Bullard, who might well be the “H” and the “S” in High School football. Good grades, good high school player, leader on the field. Not going to be a college player, but was going to be every bit of a high school player.

“We were in all the games,” he said. “Even in the first game (a 46-21 loss to North DeSoto), we scored 21 points with eight turnovers. We knew we could win; we just had to finish. Then after the Byrd game (a 48-28 win that pushed Airline’s district record to 5-0), things got real. ‘Wow,’ we thought, ‘we can do something here.”’

They did. Airline averaged nearly 50 points a game in district, never scored less than 41 and scored 75 against Benton. The Vikings were back in the plundering business.

Then another kind of pirate, the Haughton Bucs, ended it all with a 36-26 win at Airline in the first round of the playoffs last week; Airline won the regular season game, 55-42, the closest 1-5A game Airline played. But then there was the rain last Friday and the wind, and there was also the hurricane called Haughton, a tough team that plays in Round 2 this Friday.

“I told the team it was my fault that it ended,” said Airline first-year head coach Justin Scogin, who orchestrated the turnaround since his arrival in April. “All year long, some problem would happen and we’d fix it. I didn’t get that (factoring in the weather) fixed in time. But the team, they didn’t do anything wrong. What a good group. These seniors laid the foundation for what we’re trying to do, and what they accomplished is important and impressive.”

“That playoff loss put a bad taste in the mouths of the kids we have coming back,” said defensive coordinator Zack Pourciau who, like Scogin, came to the school in the spring. “They want to be better next year, to take the next step.  We’re pleased with where we went, but these seniors, after coming off a 1-9 season to winning district, to being district champs, they’ve told the team that now we know that next year, they can take it to the next level. Again, that’s the seniors talking; that’s the vibe of the locker room.

“Even though they’ve turned it around, the kids coming back have something to prove,” he said. “They’re itching and ready to go. We’ve hit the ground running with off-season.”

Bullard is one of those seniors who’ll be watching next year. And remembering. He’s played his last game, except in his memory, except in how he’ll “play” through what his teammates do next season.

“Being in the off-season competing every day and working out,” he said of what he’ll likely most remember. “Calling a guy slow when you beat him outside in a rep. Max Day and seeing who could out-squat or out-power clean the other guy. Just the competition and the fun …

“Playing with the boys, having fun with them, having a great senior year with them, seeing some of the crazy things we did on offense, things I’ve always wanted to see … Just having fun. Just watching all these guys succeed, and being a part of it.” 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Younger hunters must take extra care to avoid costly, even catastrophic miscues

He’s a 22-year-old stud muffin, invincible, with testosterone raging and a nothing-bad-can-happen-to-me attitude. He has the world by the tail with only good stuff lying ahead.

One year later, he’s a 23-year-old paraplegic, destined to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. 

What happened to cause such a life-altering change? He made a critical error in judgment while climbing into his deer stand. He hadn’t bothered to check the condition of the wooden steps he’d nailed to the tree a couple of years ago. He’d scooted up these steps to reach his deer stand dozens of times without mishap. Did he use a safety harness? Nah … he didn’t need that.       

This time, though, was different. He reached for a step not taking the time to see that it had rotted during the off-season. It pulled free and he hit the ground a dozen feet below with a thud, his lower back landing on a root that protruded from the ground. A vertebrae was shattered and long story short, he’d never walk again.

Dr. Bobby Dale, a lifelong hunter, is also an emergency room physician who practices medicine in his hometown of Tupelo, Miss. Visiting with Dr. Dale at a writer’s conference, we had occasion to talk about what is more likely to injure hunters while hunting. Dale noted that contrary to what many believe, it’s not the older and more fragile hunter who is more apt to be injured; it’s the strong, virile, younger guy.

“From what I’ve observed from patients I have seen in the ER where I practice, it’s the younger one more prone to suffer serious injuries while hunting. This is particularly true concerning falls from elevated deer stands. In fact,” Dale said, “I recently read a report that revealed the majority of bow hunters who fall from tree stands are in their 20s and 30s. Also, about 10 percent of these injuries are alcohol-related.

“While it is true that guys in their 50s and 60s and older have bones that are more easily broken, I don’t see nearly as many injuries from falling from a stand from this older group. It’s just a fact that the older guy is more cautious,” he added.

Dr. Dale noted that a fall, even one from just a few feet, can result in serious injury. Obviously, the further you fall, the more serious injuries become, he said.

“I’ve seen victims who fell from stands come to the ER with everything from closed head injuries, bleeding on the brain, spinal fractures with paralysis, broken arms, legs and ribs, collapsed lungs, ruptured spleens in addition to profuse external bleeding,” Dale said. 

While mishaps using homemade deer stands are more likely to result in serious injuries, manufactured stands can also cause falls if not used properly.

“Manufactured stands have to meet a safety code and the vast majority of these stands are safe when properly used. However, they still have to be secured to the tree in the proper manner to be completely safe. Climbing stands are quite safe but when care is not taken in using them, they can result in twisting or slipping when not correctly secured to the tree. The result can be disastrous,” he added.

I’ve deer hunted from elevated stands for years fortunately without incident and I want to keep it that way. Therefore, I have developed a personal rule-of-thumb in my deer hunting.

The older I git, the closer to the ground I sit.

Contact Glynn at glynnharris37@gmail.com


Brain freeze, brain freed, or brain fried? Chasing clarity in the cold

As we all prepare for the first fierce Nordic blast of splinter (we don’t really have winter, it’s a blend of spring and summer and what most of America knows as “late fall”), my thermostat is set at 64.

Cool temperatures are said to be good for using the ole noggin.

Or, for consuming eggnog from Maggio’s drive-thru as my hometown prepares to officially flip on the Christmas lights Saturday night.

Which is happening at this moment? You decide if you read further.

TOPIC:  Louisiana Tech’s football team is winless, 0-6, on the road this year, a sense of much frustration for first-year coach Sonny Cumbie and the Bulldogs’ faithful. 

REAX: Tech goes to Charlotte for Saturday’s game. The 49ers have an interim head coach and are 0-5 at home. Somebody’s walking off happy, for a change. The Bulldogs ought to be barking at the end of this one. 

TOPIC:  Northwestern State is again playing for at least a share of the Southland Conference championship Saturday, this time at home, but against Top 10-ranked Incarnate Word, an overwhelming favorite.

REAX:  The Demons have beaten two other ranked UIW teams in the past three seasons, when NSU wasn’t as competitive as it is this season in conference play. This would be the biggest shocker since their 2014 win at Tech if the Demons outscore these Cardinals. It will not be a defensive slugfest.

TOPIC:  Grambling is open this week, with coach Hue Jackson tuning up the Tigers for next weekend’s epic Bayou Classic in New Orleans against Southern. 

REAX:  The halftime show will undoubtedly be the best Grambling performance of the day in the Caesars Superdome, well worth the price of admission. The Jaguars are solid favorites to avenge last year’s upset loss to the G-Men.

TOPIC:  LSU moved up to No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings announced Tuesday night. 

REAX:  If you didn’t realize SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has a stranglehold on the CFP rankings, you should now. LSU’s having a shockingly good season, but the Tigers have overachieved. They escaped a mediocre Arkansas team last week only because true freshman Harold Perkins Jr. showed why he will be a leading Heisman Trophy candidate next season. 

TOPIC: Like far too many college coaches, Tech’s Cumbie does not allow freshmen players to be interviewed, denying us the chance to hear from Calvary product Landry Lyddy, who will start again at quarterback against Charlotte. 

REAX:  They can vote. They can defend our nation in the military. They are considered adults. College freshmen, most 18 if not older, ought to be able to field questions from the media.  Lyddy handled interviews at Calvary like he shredded opposing defenses. No need to muzzle him, or any other freshman. What’s the harm in it? 

TOPIC:  Northwestern State delivered one of the bigger early-season surprises in college basketball Monday night with its 64-63 upset win at No. 15-ranked TCU. 

REAX:  It’s an historic feat, the Demons’ second-ever Top 25 win. But TCU was ranked only on preseason hype and last year’s success, which is why polls at this stage of any season are a farce. The Frogs were missing their top two players, one regarded as the likely Big 12 Player of the Year. A week earlier, TCU was a 33-point favorite at home against UAPB, and trailed by 20 before escaping, 67-66. The Demons will face tougher tests. Winning a guarantee game is impressive, but this was not a Top-25 caliber win, although it says so on paper.

TOPIC:  Kim Mulkey is a brilliant coach and tactician – especially when it comes to building a non-conference schedule.

REAX:  While she fits new pieces together with her second Tigers’ team, and awaits the arrival next season of Parkway’s extraordinary student-athlete Mikaylah Williams, Mulkey’s non-conference schedule is softer than your pillow.  Her team will face tougher tests during fall semester final exams.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com


Rainy days and Mondays are not totally terrible

Monday’s weather was less than ideal except for cross country geeks and basketball fans.

The conditions were challenging, to say the least, for the state’s best high school cross country runners at the annual LHSAA Championships hosted by Northwestern State in Natchitoches. It was cold – worse than chilly – all day, from the first race at 9 a.m. to the 10th and last one that wrapped up in the 4 o’clock hour.

Rain started dripping shortly after 1 o’clock and the faucet popped wide open in time for the final race. For runners, for supporters, for race officials – misery. But for purists of the sport, ecstasy.

Cross country is not a gentle sport. It is postponed for weather less than football games are. The races are held in steamy and stormy weather. Blistering and blustery. The worse the conditions get, the more the degree of difficulty climbs, THAT’S when it’s truly cross country.

It’s more pleasant to enjoy sunny skies, moderate temps, and calm winds, but for a championship race in cross country, Monday’s conditions were optimal. Miserable, but optimal.

Speaking of optimal, let’s flip sports and congratulate (in chronological order) Grambling and Northwestern for basketball triumphs that earned national attention.

The Tigers put down Colorado (not Colorado School of the Mines, but instead, the Pac 12 Buffaloes) in Grambling, under the radar, Friday night.

Credit the Pac 12 (with plenty of sponsorship money, and social awareness, as influences) for sending its teams on the road to visit SWAC venues. The SWAC-Pac 12 Legacy Series was not the west coast win-fest oddsmakers expected.

Grambling led wire-to-wire in its 83-74 victory. OK, Colorado was overrated, you say? Two days later, the Buffs went to Nashville and gave their own remarkable performance, handling No. 11 Tennessee 78-66.

Donte’ Jackson’s G-Men were not alone in delivering noteworthy SWAC attacks. Texas Southern toppled Arizona State 67-66 in OT. Outside the Pac-12, Alcorn handled Wichita State 66-57. Seems like more than just hardcore Grambling fans might want to visit for some quality action at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center this season.

For NSU, the big news Monday was thought to be the second big NIL deal for freshman (true) phenom Hansel Emmanuel.

He is truly phenomenal although he hasn’t scored a point in two appearances during the Demons’ first four games. Emmanuel is, by far, the most prominent NSU recruit ever, defying all odds by getting a Division I college scholarship although he lost his left arm after an accident when he was six, at home in the Dominican Republic.

He became a social media sensation last summer on the AAU circuit for his spectacular dunks, 3-pointers and athleticism. This summer, he signed an NIL deal with Gatorade, which debuted a commercial featuring him during the NBA Finals. Then he signed a scholarship deal with Northwestern and new coach Corey Gipson.

Monday, Emmanuel announced his second major NIL deal, with T-Mobile. According to On3.com’s NIL valuation chart, with 4.2 million social media followers, Emmanuel is No. 9 at an estimated $1.5 million — which might have edged up a bit via the strong connection with T-Mobile.

Arch Manning (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) is No. 3 and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young No. 4, both with $3.4 million valuations. Behind Emmanuel are names like Shadeur Sanders, Coach Prime’s son and quarterback at Jackson State, ranked 12th at $1.3 mill; Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, 19th at $1.1; Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, 24th with a $971,000 valuation; and down home in Baton Rouge, LSU’s Keyshon Boutte is 25th at $969,000.

Yes, a freshman reserve basketball player at Northwestern State is well ahead of LSU’s next first-round NFL Draft pick. Such is the wild world of NIL. Emmanuel’s endorsements do not – as of yet – include any Louisiana law firms.

But that was NOT the biggest news for the Demons Monday. They made SportsCenter and lots of headlines by overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit and toppling (probably over-ranked, considering an earlier one-point escape of UAPB) No. 15 TCU 64-63 on the Horned Frogs’ homecourt.

Gipson’s Demons had been less than impressive in a 24-point loss a week ago at No. 25 Texas Tech, and at home in a comeback win over Division II Ouachita Baptist and a 69-67 stumble to a rebuilding Illinois State team Saturday night.

New week, new look, new entry in the NSU history books. The Demons’ only other Top 25 win was also a 64-63 victory, on a much bigger stage, in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament over No. 15-ranked Iowa, the Big Ten Conference Tournament champions.

Emmanuel was probably making SportsCenter anyway, despite his unproductive two-minute stint in the first half. He’s amazing simply by being there. But on Monday night, so were the rest of the Demons.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com


Cowboys author historic flop; Saints lay another egg

The Dez Bryant-caught-it game is a pill the Dallas Cowboys may never be able to swallow, and it may give fans the shakes at the mention of the Green Bay Packers or Lambeau Field. Although Sunday’s game wasn’t a postseason affair, and it didn’t end the Cowboys season, it may be a while before the effects exit the system.   

Against the previously lifeless Packers, the Cowboys blew a 14-point lead to start the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history (they entered Sunday 195-0 in such games) and dropped an 31-28 overtime affair at Lambeau to put themselves squarely behind the 8-ball in the NFC East. 

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints remain punchless. They traveled to Pittsburgh and fell to the Steelers, 20-10. 

The Saints dropped to 3-7 and need a turnaround of epic proportions — and a lot of help — to get back into the race in the subpar NFC South. 

Instead of a glorious return to Green Bay for former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys head man watched his team author an historic meltdown. 

The Packers entered Sunday with five straight losses. 

“(McCarthy) was disappointed that we didn’t take that step that we’ve talked about — laying another brick and building on what we’ve accomplished to this point,” quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw three touchdowns and two interceptions Sunday, said. “It’s tough. It was a playoff environment. You wanna win. All of them hurt when you don’t win or capitalize or do what you expect to do, but you gotta remember it’s just one game.” 

The Cowboys won the coin flip in overtime, and drove to the Packers’ 35 before they failed on fourth-and-3. Aaron Rodgers helped Green Bay move deep into Cowboys territory to set up Mason Crosby’s chip-shot game-winner. 

Dallas dropped to 6-3 and is mired in third place in the East, behind the 7-2 New York Giants and unblemished Philadelphia. Up next: A trip to play the red-hot Minnesota Vikings (8-1). 

“For us, it’s about sticking together, knowing where we’re going and who we are,” Prescott said. “It was a tough game, a tough environment and we’ve got to learn from this and make sure that we grow.” 

The Saints must do the same. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 174 yards and a score, but was foiled by two interceptions while the Saints committed six separate penalties that gave Pittsburgh a first down. 

“The performance wasn’t good enough really in all phases,” New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen said. “We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t coach well enough. We have to do a better job. We fought ourselves back, got back into the game at halftime, felt like we were in a good position, and we really just didn’t do anything in the second half.” 

Dalton’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson came 19 seconds before halftime and helped New Orleans erase an early 10-point deficit. 

However, that was the only touchdown of the day against the Steelers, who were sparked by the return of T.J. Watt. New Orleans was held scoreless in the second half and running back Alvin Kamara was limited to 26 rushing yards on eight carries. 

“It’s really frustrating,” Dalton said. “We know the potential of what we can be and what we can do. To have games go like this in consecutive weeks, it’s tough.”

 Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com


With the SEC West in hand, the Tigers have made their point

BATON ROUGE – There’s no losing left for LSU this season.

They can beat Georgia in the SEC Championship by four touchdowns. Harold Perkins could top the collegiate single-game sacks record in every game left on the schedule. Jayden Daniels could run for 200 yards a game and throw for 300 more.

They could also get blown out by Georgia. Perkins could show that he’s still a freshman, figuring out college life, let alone all of his defensive assignments. Daniels could throw for another measly 86 yards, as he did Saturday at Arkansas, in every remaining game.

It doesn’t matter. They’ve done far more than they were expected to accomplish in Brian Kelly’s first year as coach.

Of course, they could actually lose. They’ve clinched the SEC West, and they could just coast to the finish line, though Kelly’s attention to detail and preparation likely won’t allow for it. It’s highly doubtful they lose to either UAB or Texas A&M, but a defeat in the SEC Championship Game to defending national champion and top-ranked Georgia is a very real possibility.

When that visit to Atlanta comes around, though, the final score is a moot point: LSU’s won the season.

There should’ve been a lot more red in the ledger than the two losses they have. There could’ve been talk about personnel changes, both on the field and on the sidelines. There could’ve been the continued questions about LSU’s lack of high-end quarterback play in recent years (other than Joe Burrow, of course). Those narratives were whisked away in October, with the winds of change as Kelly’s influence became apparent.

The biggest testament to the team’s moxie came Saturday.

Arkansas was trailing by three in the first quarter and was faced with a fourth-and-goal from the LSU 3. Instead of taking the chip-shot field goal, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman went for broke and trusted backup quarterback Malik Hornsby to make a touchdown happen.

He couldn’t.

Pittman had his idea of who the better team was, and a conservative game plan wasn’t going to cut it. Even with home field advantage, even with the resounding votes of confidence he heaped on Hornsby all week (never mind the fact that he eventually pulled Hornsby for third-stringer Cade Fortin), the grittiness and mental fortitude that LSU’s developed over the season was enough to worry him. That play call showed that Pittman knew just how easily that game could get away from his team.

In no way is this a condemnation of Pittman’s aggressive playcalling; Kelly did the same thing, going for it on fourth down in his own territory before the play was whistled dead due to a penalty. So Kelly did it again, this time with a fake-punt run by Jay Bramblett, wiped out by another flag.

In past years, that’s a head-scratching move at best, to give the opponent the gift of good field position.

But why not risk it when the defense has been so wildly effective? Perkins was the most impactful player on the field, and it wasn’t close. Why not rely on him and his defensive comrades to keep Arkansas out of the end zone? Kelly called the game to his team’s strengths, something that his predecessors didn’t do often enough.

Pittman’s playcalling was aggressive because he felt it had to be. There was a respect for the team that LSU’s become in Brian Kelly’s first year, a culmination of all the triumphs that the Tigers’ have experienced in the midst of an overhaul.

Kelly said in his postgame press conference that his Tigers haven’t arrived yet.

It sure seems like they have.

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


How pro anglers relax

So, you think you want to be a professional bass fisherman? Today we’ll look at what and how some of the greatest anglers in the world spend their off-season or down time.

After being on the road for weeks and months at a time, away from family, pro anglers are looking to slow down and catch their breath. Because of the everyday grind and dedication it takes to compete at the highest level, anglers need to recharge their batteries. Let’s look at the different ways these guys re-energize themselves and get ready for another long season of fishing. 

Most professional anglers grew up either in the woods or on the water. Most have an extensive past of hunting big game, ducks, squirrels, or hogs. Some might have even been only a few years out of diapers when they shot their first deer. Nothing brings them back down to earth more than spending quality time at their favorite hunting camp.

It’s not about the kill as much as it is about just getting away from the pressure and demands anglers are under during the regular season. It’s going out and sitting in a deer stand where all you can hear is the wind blowing, squirrels barking, and the cracking of the sunflower seeds they’re eating. Yes, it’s true they do fall asleep once in a while when the deer aren’t moving, but that’s OK.

They take no phone calls and are unavailable for interviews. The only calls they take are from their publicist or from one of their many sponsors – oh, maybe their wives or children. Sometimes they won’t even talk to their friends!

It’s the time back at the camp talking to their hunting buddies about the big deer they saw or missed, while enjoying some of the great meals, that make a hunting camp special. It’s the stories they tell year after year about previous hunts, stories they’ve already told time and time again. But no one really cares, because the stories (lies) just get bigger and better with every passing year. 

Among the many professional anglers, some would rather hunt waterfowl and sit in a duck blind for hours — again telling more stories about how many ducks they’ve killed over the years, or discussing why there’s not as many ducks as there used to be.  

One thing that makes a good duck hunt — the biscuits and sausage they cook and share in the blind while waiting on the next group of birds to come into the hole they are sitting on. One common theme for any hunting trip is the food. For some reason, hunting camp or duck blind food is always better than any meal you can get anywhere else on the planet. Not sure why, but it’s true!

I’ve always found strange that another way some of the pros relax is they go fishing! Yes, I said fishing! Who would have thought that since these guys are on the water trying to make a living from January through September, that fishing would be a way for them to relax?

Let me help you understand this. There’s a huge difference between fishing tournaments and fun fishing. Some of the pros use this time to test new lures they’ve been involved with designing for the companies they’re representing like Strike King and Berkley. This is something pro anglers really enjoy, designing baits that will hit the market one day with their name on it.

Fun fishing for some of these guys is a trip into the marsh or saltwater fishing for speckled trout and redfish. This is when they can be with their family or friends and just enjoy a day on the water without cameras or a boat official watching their every move.

The life of a professional bass fisherman can be a hectic one. There’s a lot of pressure to not only perform at a high level but put food on the table for their families. The stress is off the chart for all of these guys because if they’re not successful, they will be eliminated from the pro tour and replaced by another up and coming young angler.

Just because you make it to the highest level of bass fishing, does not guarantee you a spot for life. Anglers still must go out and perform. This is why they need that down time to relax and get away from the everyday grind it takes to be a professional bass fisherman.

‘Til next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. 

Contact Steve at sgraf26@gmail.com


It all starts (or ends) tonight in the playoffs

They can say what they want about beating a big rival or winning a district championship, but the playoff chase is the reason why they play high school football. Would you rather win Homecoming or the state championship?

Child, please.

This year, players from only eight teams will walk away from the LHSAA playoffs having won their final game. (That’s still too many teams, but let’s not get into that today). That means only about 400-500 players will be part of what thousands had hoped for when they were sweating through those grueling summer workouts.

But it will be worth it, no matter what the results are.

There is nothing like the playoffs, which open tonight for most of the 13 teams from Shreveport-Bossier who earned their way into the postseason. Some are happy just to be in it and others might already be making room in the trophy case.

But they all have a shot.

Win or lose, these are the games that are going to be remembered. Maybe it’s a road trip to a place you’ve never heard of. Or being on the field in warmup and sneaking a peek to the other side of the field to see what the other team has. They seemed a lot smaller on video.

I played in four playoff games in 1976 and can remember almost every detail, right down to the hot water not working in the showers at Alexandria’s Bolton Stadium. Or the fog at State Fair (now Independence) Stadium. I remember where we parked the bus at Lutcher. I could probably still come close to guessing the game-time temperature at each location.

A few years ago on an April afternoon, I went to Winnfield’s Stokes-Walker Stadium and stood at the 38 yard-line on the north end of the field.

Just stood there.

Just stood there and let it all come back to me.

Sixty-two yards away from where I stood was the south end zone. I could recount almost all of the 62 yards of the play that resulted in what was for the winning score in the state championship game. I watched my teammate cross the goal line from that spot on the field.

It was like I was still there more than 40 years later.

Which is why I always answer the same way when I’m asked for advice for high school players who are in the playoffs – take in and embrace every single detail. It’s amazing what you’ll remember years later.

It’s just so much indescribable fun that you don’t get in the regular season.

They say that one of the best days in sports is the Saturday before the Final Four starts in college basketball because all four teams think they have a shot at winning the championship. That’s what it’s like today as the hours wind down.

Doesn’t matter about the seeding or the record or the number of college prospects. What I have come to understand – and appreciate – is that players don’t think like parents or fans or even some coaches. They fully believe they can win, even when logic tells them otherwise.

Teams that were 10-0 in the regular season suddenly become 10-1 after four quarters and wonder what happened.

Teams with a losing record find themselves still playing after Thanksgiving and joyfully don’t have time to wonder what’s happening.

There’s plenty of time later for all of that.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com


A loss that pierces

Every note Jerry Pierce wrote me I kept because he was Jerry Pierce and I was just me and I always loved his company, even if it was just through words on a page. It wasn’t like being with him — nothing was quite like being with the man most guys called “Pierce” — but it was like being within his gravitational pull, and that was enough.

An idol of mine, Jerry Pierce became ill last week and passed away Tuesday. That hurts me.

Hurts a lot of people. Our world is less when laughter leaves it.

If you didn’t know him, you’re either not involved with Northwestern State in Natchitoches, where he’s “worked” since 1965 as an administrator and bona fide goodwill ambassador, or you’re not deeply involved in Louisiana sports — and if you’re not that is definitely OK because while there’s a lot of good in athletics there’s some bad too, but the bad is worth putting up with because of guys like Pierce, let me please tell you.

In brief, I was crazy about him. Met him when I was a young sportswriter and loved the guy. He was at heart an old-school newspaper wretch at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans who moved into sports information at NSU and then into administration, all the while a Johnny Appleseed of encouragement and wit, and a guy who, in our sports-rich state, began the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame from scratch 50 years ago, something that’s grown into sort of a big deal, as the museum on Front Street in Natchitoches suggests.

He was supposed to host a 50th Anniversary at the Hall last Thursday night, an informal get-together for whoever wanted to come, a casual history lesson that would have turned into a Q&A and a standup routine, all unrehearsed, Pierce at the wheel. That’s the safe bet, though we’ll never know because instead, on that Thursday evening, he was in the hospital, given no chance at that point to make it much longer, and still he was telling a friend how much fun it had all been.

When we heard he’d been feeling suddenly a little down with flu symptoms and Thursday’s event would have to be delayed until spring, I was disappointed one minute and happy the next because, hey, it was another fun thing to look forward to in the spring. I’ll laugh in the spring.

Then the bad parts came and it was all so sudden and totally unexpected and messed up. Just all messed up, if you ask me.

But … none of us are promised spring. Just like ball, life has rules, and that’s one of them.

Pierce knew that, so he lived in the springtime most every day.

He was the best emcee I’ve ever seen or heard, and no telling how many times — literally hundreds — he was called on for that slippery chore.

Once an inductee went long on an acceptance speech at a Hall of Fame Saturday night induction ceremony, so from the lectern he looked at me with a straight face and said, to everyone, “Teddy, it’s a good thing we didn’t give him the Pulitzer or we’d have been here ’til Tuesday.”

The room exploded. Crisis averted. On with the show.

I once sent him a disastrously long email to answer in great detail a question he had and he wrote back, “Many thanks. I have a vacation coming up in July and will try to respond then to your very thorough email.”

He followed that up a week later with, “Haven’t gotten to that information you were kind enough to send but I plan to read it right after I finish my Briggs and Stratton maintenance manual.”

He once left the Louisiana Tech president comp tickets for a Northwestern State basketball game; they were on the top row of Prather Coliseum, as far away from the court as you could get and still be inside.

The most recent note he wrote to me was in August and ended with “Love you.” I knew he did, but he’d never written it. Through the years I got bushels of encouraging notes from him. Funny that he would have closed as he did, the final note from him I’ll ever get.

He was a tremendous writer. One of my favorite columns was about his little granddaughters and the tests he would give them during car rides and bike rides and on school breaks. Almost every visit, one of them would say, “Ask us some questions.”

“What’s the name of the river where Jesus was baptized?” Brief silence. Then Charlee, only 5, says, “The Holy Nightwater.” (“She makes up some of her answers,” Jerry wrote about this girl comedian who is no doubt the granddaughter of the grandfather.)

More from Pierce. “What country is most identified with kangaroos?” One of the girls blurted, “Georgia!”

“Who invented the airplane?” Big sis Allie was excited. “I read about it in school! It’s Chris Walker,” she said.

Granddaddy Jerry had to tell her it was the Wright Brothers. “Right,” she said. “Chris Walker Wright. He was their cousin.”

Must be something in the water this family is drinking …

Here’s another question for you, Allie and Charlee: Who’s a guy who could totally command a room, who could calmly or not-so-calmly defuse the most heated situation, who could encourage you on your worst day, a guy who, right after you saw him, you always felt better than you did before?

Answer: your granddaddy. He was tried and true, and like you, we miss him, desperately, already.

Love you.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


My introduction to deer hunting

When I was growing up out on the rural route, falling leaves, southbound geese calling from the skies overhead, me trading short pants and tee shirts for sweats as weather started cooling down meant one thing for this country boy. It was time to go hunting.

We were limited in the wild game we were after to basically squirrels. Deer? We didn’t have any. I can remember growing up that if someone in the community reported finding a deer track, most of the community would head to the spot where a deer crossed the road and marveled at the thought that an actual deer had made that track.

Eventually I grew up and although deer had responded to trapping in areas where they had deer and released in our part of the state, squirrel hunting remained my passion.

My job transferred me to Claiborne Parish and once squirrel season opened, I had already scoped out the woods around Homer to find where most of the oaks and hickories grew – knowing that acorns and hickory nuts would attract squirrels. I soon developed a friendship with James White, who also loved to squirrel hunt. However, every year as November rolled around, I’d be left alone as my friend would bid me adieu as he headed out to deer hunt.

James started gently working on me — telling me how much fun it was to hunt deer and suggesting that I come with him to give it a try. My excuse was that I didn’t own a rifle, while he countered with the suggestion that the shotgun I used for squirrel hunting would work fine; I’d just need to substitute buck shot for the # 6 shot I used for squirrels.

One thing that started making me think that deer hunting could possibly be fun was the morning I was squirrel hunting alone and I heard the bawling of a hound in the woods near where I hunted. I was somewhat upset at the prospect that my squirrel hunting was about to be messed up when I saw movement out front and a big heavy-antlered buck stepped out, stopping to look my way before bounding away. Admittedly, I felt a little tingle that hearing a squirrel cutting a hickory nut never gave me.

I finally agreed to go on a deer hunt with my friend and on Nov. 24, 1967, James picked me up where I joined him and his three sons to hunt deer with Bill Bailey near Summerfield in northern Claiborne Parish. Once we got there, the five of us spread out along a narrow pipeline where I was instructed to sit tight, enjoy the scenery until I heard Bailey’s hounds headed my way.

I was enjoying the scenery and the chill of a November morning when in the distance, I heard the hounds. Then I realized that the bawling of the hounds was growing closer, so I started scanning the woods out front when suddenly, a buck appeared on the pipeline in front of me. But instead of dashing across like deer usually do, this buck made a turn and headed down the pipeline that would put him directly in front of me at no more than 20 yards.

I raised my shotgun and fired. Just to make sure the deer wouldn’t get away, I fired twice more in rapid succession … BLAM … BLAM … BLAM. The deer collapsed on the spot. I not only killed the buck but shot half his 10-point rack off — which I found and later reattached. This was long before the days of cell phones, so I had to wait for my friend to show up so I could tell my story.

Once James got there, he admired the buck and congratulated me on getting such a fine deer on my first ever deer hunt, but he had a question — why did I shoot him three times? I countered that he was still standing.

James’s comment still makes me chuckle more than 50 years later …“Son, you have to give him time to fall.”

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Plenty of writers wrong about Brian Kelly

Welcome to Bad Takes on First-Year College Football Coaches 101.

With LSU’s 32-31 victory over Alabama Saturday, I think it’s prudent to go ahead and begin our Brian Kelly Unit.

Josh, with SBNation’s “Roll Bama Roll,” will you start us off with your effort on December 1, 2021, titled “Brian Kelly is going to be a disaster at LSU.” The one where you go on about BK being an “odd cultural fit.”

That one certainly didn’t age well, did it, Josh? Happens to the worst of us. 

Class, next we have Zach Ragan with A to Z Sports. He is going to read to us from his “How Brian Kelly further proved this week that he’s a terrible fit at LSU” back in late March. 

It seems Mr. Ragan didn’t appreciate Kelly’s response when a reporter asked him about LSU wide receiver Keyshon Boutte. Kelly answered with “I know his last name” and Zach equated Kelly’s press conference answer to being a bad fit. Right, Zach?

I know those two publications are a bit obscure. Let’s step up in class with a column from USA Today.

Blake Toppmeyer, will you read to us a graph or two from the column you wrote in late November? The one titled “LSU Football hires a big-name coach in Brian Kelly, but Nick Saban shouldn’t worry.”

Who is that laughing in the back? You sir, what’s your name? 

Scott Woodward?

I don’t have you on my roll. Let me see your schedule, Mr. Woodward. You are in the wrong class. You have Big-Time Athletic Directors 202 during this time block. That class is down the hall to your right.

Class, now that Mr. Woodward and his distracting laughter is out of the room, we can discuss what we have learned thus far.

Remember the quote from Abraham Lincoln we talked about last week? “It’s better to have people to think you are a fool, than to blog about a new college football hire and remove all doubt”?

What’s that? Do I think Brian Kelly is a better football coach than Alabama’s Nick Saban? He certainly was Saturday night, but in the grand scheme of things … of course not. 

Kelly had a packed Tiger Stadium, an environment so raucous that even Kirk Herbstreit took to Twitter to thank the LSU faithful, but Saban had a sideline full of five-star football players. Kelly? The best team Gordon McKernan could buy. 

Overall, I’m not here to argue Brian Kelly’s placement in College Football’s Mt. Rushmore; I’m just here passing out the receipts I’ve been holding on to since Mt. Rush to Judgement.  

Les Miles famously said that Tiger Stadium is a place where opponents’ dreams go to die. Alabama’s dream of winning a national title died Saturday night just after 10 p.m. when Mason Taylor went in motion, circled back and then made a diving catch on a pass from Jaylen Daniels just past the front pylon.

Or did it?

That’s a discussion for another class. 

For homework, I want everyone to read Connor O’Gara’s “Hey Brian Kelly haters: Here’s why you need to start giving Brian Kelly the credit he deserves” from Saturday Down South. Good stuff, Connor. 

And remember class, if you’ve learned one thing today – your readers are going to hold receipts on what you write. 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Nobody saw it coming, but there’s a different vibe at NSU this November

The Northwestern State Demons are playing for the Southland Conference championship Saturday.

Not a misprint.

But almost exactly two months ago, it was about as absurd a statement as anyone could imagine – even Demons’ coach Brad Laird.

It was incomprehensible in the immediate aftermath of a mortifying 47-21 loss to Grambling at Independence Stadium in the Sept. 10 “Shreveport Classic” – when the floundering Tigers, beaten 58-3 in their opener a week earlier, scored on six straight first-half series, mostly on big plays, against an inept Demon defense. It was 41-7 at the half.

Meanwhile, NSU’s offense was inefficient at best, after being blanked in its opener at powerful Montana, 47-0, and smothered by a Grambling defense that gave up an average of 43 points in its next four games.

Walking toward an on-field media session, Laird was furious. Spitting fire. “Boy, he’s angry,” said one TV reporter as the Demon coach stomped toward the dressing room.

He had every reason to be. In his interview, he said players quit. Even assistant coaches quit, he said. Let’s just say that behind closed doors, the scene following the interview was intense and ugly.

But, cathartic.  Any signs of encouragement were hardly apparent the next Saturday, after a 64-10 mangling dished out by Southern Miss – and not a good USM team, either. But there were subtle signals, mostly the reaction on the sideline when Laird sent in the starting quarterback from the final four games of 2021, Zachary Clement.

“That’s MY quarterback,” veteran players said. No disrespect to Kansas transfer QB Miles Fallin, but it just hadn’t worked, at all, in his three starts. Players liked and respected him, but there was no denying the spark Clement brought.

It has flashed again and again and again and again since – in each of the Demons’ four conference games.

NSU averted a 17-0 second-quarter hole in their Sept. 24 home and league opener with a goalline stand against Lamar, then built a three-score lead and held off the visitors.

A week later, the Demons were down by 12 as Nicholls kicked off with 3:17 to go. Clement led two scoring drives, sandwiched around a successful onside kick, and NSU was 2-0 in the Southland.

Finally there was no drama in a visit to Houston Christian in a dominating 37-10 triumph. 3-0.

But those were W’s against the weakest teams in the conference. Last Saturday’s trip to Texas A&M-Commerce was a real hurdle – against a program that has been among the best in Division II in the past decade, four seasons removed from a national championship, and a team that made its Southland debut by shocking Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, a week after SLU had handed high-scoring UIW a last-second loss.

All the Demons did was cash in at Commerce. It was an overwhelming, all-three-phases-clicking 41-14 victory. On the road. Against a 5-3 team. At 4-0, Northwestern is all alone in first place and is one win away from a conference championship.

Laird’s mantra, every week this fall, and every week in his five seasons as head coach at his alma mater, has been simple: win the week. What happened last week is done. Do not look ahead past the upcoming game this Saturday. Go 1-0.

It’s not a novel approach. But getting a team to truly buy into that is not often accomplished. None of his previous clubs have. But this bunch turned the page in the days after the Grambling meltdown, managed to keep believing in each other, relying upon each other, and weathered other low points in two other non-conference outings. 

These Demons have earned the right to be champions with one win in the next two games – at SLU Saturday afternoon, and at home against UIW on Nov. 19.

Those are the two most talented teams in the Southland, no doubt. Explosive, talented, with winning cultures in place. They will be heavy favorites against the Demons. SLU, at least, has not slaughtered its Southland foes – but the Lions did slay UIW on a last-play 56-yard TD pass. That unlikely play has opened the door for the Demons to play truly meaningful games in November.

Can they win one? If so, they’re at least co-champions. They already have their best Southland finish in 12 years, and with a win, the first Southland title since 2004. If they win both – and even in their recent struggles, they’ve beaten UIW two of the last three meetings – these Demons go to the FCS playoffs.

Anything is possible. But one thing is already very apparent.

There’s no doubt that the best coaching job in the Southland this fall has been done in Natchitoches.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com


Tre’Davious White shows courage with honesty about mental health struggles

Athletes, especially the superstar variety, don’t have to work hard to get attention and accolades. In fact, in today’s social media-dominated society, the spotlight is often too invasive. 

However, once an athlete calls it quits and his/her career is rendered to just a bunch of numbers, the spotlight dims. That’s where things can go haywire. 

The effects of multiple concussions, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), is no longer hush-hush and some athletes are willing to open up about another silent demon. And they need to. We all need to. 

Retirement doesn’t have a monopoly on sparking mental health issues, as Shreveport’s own Tre’Davious White recently discovered. The Buffalo Bills cornerback is in his prime, but hasn’t played since he injured his knee in the Superdome on Thanksgiving against the New Orleans Saints nearly one year ago. 

The 27-year-old’s life has revolved around sports — and being really good at them — for more than 20 years, but once he wasn’t able to take the football field, the inner demons had a field day. 

The Green Oaks product questioned his purpose in life and hoped he had more to offer than “putting on a helmet” and swatting passes away or corralling interceptions. It was a depressing time. It still can be, despite the fact he’s healed and likely to see game action very soon. 

White admitted he “locked” himself in his basement, only to be forced out by members of the Bills’ organization. 

“I was in a different space,” White said Wednesday in a raw, riveting session with the media. 

For most of his life, White believed football was his purpose. He’s not alone. 

All too often, athletes believe their value directly correlates with their success on the field. It makes sense, because athletes — from an early age — have countless folks telling them how good they are because they score touchdowns or goals, intercept passes or make a lot of birdies or tackles. 

A bad day on the field then leads to a bad day at home.

The truth is, in the end, none of that means a damn thing.

White struggled to differentiate Tre’Davious the athlete and Tre’Davious the person, despite how easy it is for outsiders to see his worth to his beloved communities – here in Shreveport, and in Buffalo. 

“I’m still trying to make it through it, one day at a time,” White said. 

White praised the support he received, especially from his teammates and loved ones, for being the fuel to attack the knee rehab. 

One well-known friend, former NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, sent a book titled The Obstacle is the Way. 

“It’s about mental toughness, getting through adversity,” White said. “I highly recommend it.” 

The past 12 months have been rough, but White isn’t ready to dub the mental and physical wounds caused by the knee injury as the “worst” battle he’s faced. 

“Coming from where I come from – that’s tough,” White said. “Me making it to where I’m at today is the hardest thing I’ve done.” 

One positive from the injury was the extra family time with sons ages 5 and 3. 

“I got to take them to school and do other things I wouldn’t normally be able to do,” White said. “When I finally ditched the crutches, my son said, ‘Your leg is better? You want to play hide and seek?’ Before, they were running from me, now I’m running with them. It was hard for them to see me down, but they got me through it.” 

Tre’Davious is beginning to understand THIS is the stuff that causes personal value to increase exponentially. 

“No matter what I do, I’m still going to be Dad and they are still going to love on me,” White said. 

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com


Did LSU’s win signal the end of an era?

BATON ROUGE – There’s no cheering in a press box.

It’s one of the cardinal rules of sports journalism, an inalienable standard that’s thoroughly enforced from working area to working area. Signs are plastered everywhere, notices relayed over the PA system periodically, because human beings sit there.

When Mason Taylor crossed the goalline on the two-point conversion that ended a dramatic, tension-filled regular-season game that felt more like a national championship bout, no journalist, writer, or reporter cheered.

Instead, there were heavy sighs, like a weight being lifted. There were glances at one another, an acknowledgment that we’d just witnessed the same event. The electricity from a fervent crowd pulsated through the press box. You could feel the tension ease. There was hurried scribbling on notepads and typing on phones, trying to come up with the right question to encapsulate the moment.

After all, what had just transpired was an instant classic. It’s a game that will be remembered for years to come, and the ultimate confirmation of Brian Kelly’s arrival as a savoir at LSU. It was an improbable upset against a rival that’s given LSU fits over the last decade, and Kelly did it with a team of underclassmen and transfers.

There was a lot to digest.

There was a lackluster performance from Tiger traitor/Alabama cornerback Eli Ricks, who had left LSU nearly a year ago just to be exposed by his former teammates on several key plays that kept the Tigers alive — not that they needed any help doing that themselves. There’s still a narrative out there that Ricks could be a first-round pick in next year’s draft, despite not starting for half the season.

There was another good-not-great performance from Bryce Young, who had only played in Death Valley during the COVID years, when Tiger Stadium was a shell of what it was Saturday night.

There weren’t any big-play receivers that could demoralize LSU with one flash, except for one long catch by Jase McClellan on Young’s wild scramble creating busted coverage by Major Burns. The only ’Bama bright spot was Jahmyr Gibbs, who looks like the prototypical three-down back that has taken the NFL by storm the last few years.

There’s no doubt that LSU was the better team Saturday night, just like they were against Ole Miss before that. They’ve cemented their spot in the Top 10 through sheer force of will, and I don’t think they’ll relinquish it over the final quarter of the season. This team has overachieved in almost every way. 

But did this Crimson Tide crew seem like a Nick Saban team to you?

It didn’t to me.

Saban’s 71 now, no spring chicken in the college football scene. The longevity of his dominance has been exceptional, and should be celebrated accordingly. His offensive and defensive schemes are far from antiquated. He does a good job of surrounding himself with the right people to make sure his team isn’t living in the past.

But I couldn’t imagine being 71 years old and having to keep up with upwards of 100 teens and 20-somethings. I couldn’t imagine having to maintain the rigors of an SEC schedule, the 10-, 12-, 14-hour days that keep you away from the other parts of your life.

Then there’s the transfer portal, which, by the way he’s talked in the offseason, has really thrown a wrench in his program. Is that a part of his program’s problem, he can’t keep the depth he used to because those players move on to more significant roles at other programs?

It feels almost blasphemous to say, but is Saban just old?

There aren’t many coaches who have had success over 70. There aren’t even many Power 5 coaches that are still coaching at 70.

Bobby Bowden was one, maybe the most successful coach in terms of his twilight coaching career. He’s the oldest coach to win a national title, when he did so with Florida State at the age of 70 years, 1 month and 27 days in 2000. Bowden coached until he was 80, when he stepped down; the Seminoles failed to reach 10 wins in any of his final six seasons.

There was Joe Paterno with Penn State whose sterling career was marred by the reprehensible Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. Paterno coached until the ripe age of 85. If his wins weren’t stripped due to his indifference to Sandusky’s conduct, Paterno would’ve finished 120-62 over his final 15 seasons. Bill Snyder at Kansas State also had a winning record during his second stint, which lasted 10 seasons.

But none of them coached in the SEC. It’s an arguable point that none of them have put together the dynasty Saban has, either. They certainly didn’t have to deal with a transfer portal, or Name, Image and Likeness deals, or social media platforms that have given players the capability of growing their own brand without having to actually do something on the field of play.

Maybe Saturday night’s game was a sign of things to come for Alabama.

Maybe it’s over.

If so, it’s certainly been an impressive run.

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Part Two: Educating today’s young anglers

Last Sunday we focused on some of the fishing etiquette issues pertaining to today’s up and coming anglers. We looked at “cutting off another angler” and “asking for permission to share a spot.” Today, we’ll continue to spotlight more of the etiquette issues that are taking place on all our lakes and waterways. 

In the world we live in today, there’s a wealth of ways to gain knowledge — reading, the internet, video archives, or someone actually teaching and showing you what you need to know. By going to school, we learn, or at least have the opportunity to learn, and become educated. 

In the bass fishing world, 75 percent of what anglers learn is from someone teaching them or showing them how, why, and when — how to find fish, how to catch fish, how to maintain your boat, what techniques to use and when, along with why bass react the way they do in certain situations. But the one area we have failed as older generation anglers is teaching these young anglers fishing etiquette. 

Today we’ll focus on a couple more of the unwritten rules of bass fishing. Let’s look at how to handle angry dock or landowners. 

Nothing gets my blood boiling quicker than a private dock owner who comes out of his lake house and tells me I can’t fish his dock. Legally, as long as you stay in your boat and never step foot on his dock, you can fish it.  It’s a public body of water and the dock owner does not own the water underneath his dock, despite what he thinks. 

When I face this scenario, I always have to take a deep breath before responding to his aggressive statement. I do much better when the dock owner “asks” me not to fish his dock. If he’s doing maintenance work on his dock or the family is out on the dock enjoying themselves, it is best to pass it up anyway because of all the noise they’re making. While trolling by, it is nice to  always make a point to speak and say hello and wish them a good day. It is better to leave a dock owner with a pleasant experience rather than a negative one. 

But when the owner comes at you with aggression and threats, try to calm him down by saying hello and asking him why he doesn’t want you to fish his dock. Bottom line is this — it’s a good practice that if you see the dock owner, ask him if it’s OK for you to make a couple of casts in and around his dock. With this approach you’ll meet some really nice people who don’t have a problem with you fishing their dock. But there is that 1 percent out there that will be total buttheads and make all kinds of threats, from shooting a hole in your boat to calling the local authorities. 

Either way, it usually ends in a war of words between the angler and the dock owner. Best advice I can give: be nice and move on.  

One thing that’s actually making our lakes and waterways more dangerous is speeding boats! I’ve had a few near misses on the water and 100 percent of all these incidents involved speed. Today’s bass boats are literally high-speed water bullets that young anglers have no experience or the skills to drive. 

Most tournament bass rigs today are 18-to-21-foot boats with motors ranging from 200 to 300 horsepower engines. Most tournament trails today have a motor size limit of 250 HP. But today’s young anglers think they need to run 80 MPH to get to their next fishing spot. 

I get it. When you’re young, you love speed and think it’s cool. But there are two people you need to be conscious of when running across the lake, the partner in your boat and other anglers you’re running by. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. It’s no different than driving a vehicle, you can be distracted and lose control quickly. SLOW DOWN!!! There’s no reason to drive at top-end speed when moving around the lake. Be smart and conscious of other anglers on the water.   

To wrap this up, I hope everyone will take the advice I’ve given, free of charge. The only way we can expect the younger generation to do things the right way is to teach them the right way. Most of the issues we’ve discussed are basically common sense. But as I’ve learned over the years, even common sense must be taught. 

‘Til next time good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to apply your sunscreen. Melanoma does not discriminate. 

Contact Steve at sgraf26@yahoo.com


Numb from the numbing numbers

Would somebody please just let me watch and/or listen to the World Series without being bombarded with these never-ending analytics?

First of all, it’s tough enough being in the middle of the DirecTV-KMSS brouhaha and being forced to get a crash course in YouTube TV. But I can make that happen.

What I can’t make happen is being un-barraged with numbers I simply don’t care about.

During the playoffs, I was listening on the radio and every pitch – every … single … pitch – was accompanied by how hard it was thrown. “There’s a 97-mile-an-hour fastball! Low and outside curveball at 83 in for a strike!”

My mind can visualize what a low and outside pitch looks like. It has no idea the difference between 97 and 92. And doesn’t care.

That would be bad enough, but the end result of all of this is that the information is now available and the commentators feel an obligation to use it. “He ran 47.3 feet to catch that fly ball!” So if he ran 42.9 feet, I would be less impressed?

If it’s a great catch, it’s a great catch.

Did you ever wonder how far Willie Mays ran in the ’54 World Series to make that famous over-the-shoulder catch? Neither did I.

I don’t know a bad launch angle from a good launch angle. An exit velocity of 100 miles per hour sounds good, but just about anything that goes 100 miles per hour seems impressive to me.

I’m reminded of when Hall of Famer Greg Maddux pitched and was making batters look silly throwing at 88 mph. They asked him about that and the difference in throwing 94 and he basically said, “If you get hit by a bus going 88 miles an hour, does it hurt any less than one going 94?”

But just when I thought it couldn’t get any more out of hand, there was this from Game 4 Wednesday night. On the made-for-TV advertising screens behind home plate, we were informed as to the average spin rate of the Phillies’ and Astros’ pitchers in the postseason.

There’s a famous saying that there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.” We need to add one more to that list – worthless statistics. We have a new leader in the clubhouse for that one.

What is not a worthless statistic is pitching a no-hitter, which about half of the city of Houston accounted for Wednesday night to even the series at 2-2. Go ahead and put the “combined no-hitter” up there with things to not like about baseball these days.

I’ve waited my entire life to see a no-hitter pitched in the World Series – I wasn’t even a gleam in my father’s eye in 1956 when Don Larsen pitched the perfect game – and this is what I get?

Had starting pitcher Cristian Javier stayed around to try to join Larsen, I would have been on the edge of my YouTube TV-watching seat. But this is Baseball 2022, where the motto is “We Don’t Care What You Want Because Analytics Rule!” Instead, the no-hitter had all the excitement of folding your socks.

I’m not sure I can even name the other three pitchers involved in the combined no-hitter. For that matter, I’m not sure Cristian Javier can name them.

But you can damn sure find out what their combined spin rate was. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com


Giddy for Lyddy? Tap the brakes

Fair doesn’t figure into life a lot of the time, and you sure can’t figure fair into football.

So when Louisiana Tech’s season began a slow spiral this fall — the Bulldogs were 3-9 last year and 2-6 now, a meager 5-15 in their last 20 games — it stood to reason that the more vocal parts of the fan base figured it was Lyddy Time.

“Free Lyddy!”

Lyddy is Landry Lyddy, a true freshman quarterback for the Bulldogs who won’t be 19 until next Sunday. Last year in more carefree times, the 6-0, almost-190-pounder was named Louisiana Mr. Football and the Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year for what he and his teammates did on an 11-2 state semifinalist Calvary Baptist team.

So a couple weeks ago in Aillet Stadium, it hardly seemed fair that, when the two QBs in front of him left the game with injuries, Lyddy was called on with 43 seconds left and Tech down by 8 on the Rice 19.

Up until that point in his college career, he was exactly two passes old, both completions in a September blowout of SFA.

This was a different ballgame, both in reality and metaphorically. And what did he do? Apparently with no heartbeat, he trotted onto the field, tapping this player and that one on the helmet, then immediately took the snap and threw a touchdown pass. Then he completed a two-point conversion. Both great catches to Cyrus Allen and Tre Harris, but both thrown under pressure and where no one but the receiver had a chance at the ball.

Tie game and overtime.

“Cool as a cucumber,” starting center Joshua Mote said.

So the guy threw another TD in overtime, and when his pass for the winning two-point conversion try was thrown where only Superman could have caught it — could even Superman have gotten a foot down in bounds? — and Rice won 42-41, it didn’t much matter. Tech was 2-5 but a semi-star seemed to have been born.

Last week in Miami, Lyddy pretty much had to start since backup Matthew Downing was lost for the season against Rice and starter Parker McNeil, the LSWA Offensive Player of the Week just two weeks earlier in a four-touchdown-passes 41-31 win over UTEP, was dressed out but nursing sore ribs. A freshman can play in four games and still redshirt so … this was house money for Lyddy and head coach Sonny Cumbie.

Lyddy was 28-of-40 for 256 yards, rushed for a short TD and didn’t throw a touchdown or interception. Tech lost in double OT this time, 42-34. Two of Lyddy’s final two passes, including the game-ender, were high and away. If they were baseball pitches, each would have been easy-call ball fours.

Understandable. It’s a hard position to play. And now, maybe he won’t have to — although he could play one more game and still redshirt. What any clear-thinking football fan would hope for is that he has to serve only as an emergency backup, play a lot in the season’s final game at home against UAB Nov. 26 — unless Tech wins its final four November games to become bowl eligible.

Lyddy was fine against FIU in his first start. Extended some plays, including a big one that led to a completion and a first down in the second overtime. Gave his team a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Didn’t throw an interception although … he started the game 10-of-10 and would have been “11-of-11” had the FIU linebacker between the hashes not dropped what would have been a pick six. After that, Tech didn’t throw to the middle of the field.

He did good. We can’t ask him how he thought he did because Bulldog freshmen can’t speak with the media, but if you watched the game, you were encouraged for him.

But right now, Lyddy is not the answer. He’s going to get the chance to be part of the answer, for sure. But now, he’s not even part of the real question.

The question is whether or not a Bulldog can make a play with the game on the line. When you get in a 5-15 slump, when so many of those 15 losses and 12 straight on the road are down-to-the-last-possession games, one guy can make a difference. On one play.

Tech dropped three should-have-been interceptions in Miami. Made three special team snafus, the biggest being an uncovered pooch kick that led directly to a Panther touchdown.

Lyddy wasn’t on the field for any of that.

And while he’s on the field for running plays, neither he nor any other Tech QB run blocks or is a running back in a run game that has been statistically one of the NCAA’s least productive. Tech ran it much better in Miami, but with two minutes left and FIU with no timeouts, when one more first down would have iced the game in regulation, the Dogs couldn’t grind one out so …

Punt. Drive. Game-typing field goal with :24 left. Overtime. Loss.

“We’ve been losing, and people just want to see us win, so I understand,” said wide receiver Tahj Magee, who threw for 50 touchdowns at Franklinton High, rushed for 37 more and knows how demanding the position is. “People think this guy or that guy should play (QB) and really, it just comes down to everyone doing their job. We can win with anyone, but at the end of the day, Parker’s the starter. But whoever is playing, if the quarterback performs well, it’s because everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do.”

“Landry’s a great option,” said starting right tackle Carson Bruno, himself just two autumns removed from high school football. “But it’s Parker’s senior year and he’s got these few games left and Landry’s got a redshirt year to play with. Whoever’s back there, we’ve (as an offensive line) got to do what we’re supposed to do.”

“The advantage of him redshirting at this point far outweighs him coming in, even if he were to kill it the rest of the year,” Mote said. “He’s gonna be a great player. He came in (against Rice) and didn’t flinch, and last week he put us in a position to win. He’s learning a lot from Parker; that’s what’s gonna be better for his career.

“In ’19, I played a lot but didn’t start,” he said. “I got to learn a lot from Ethan Reed and Drew Kirkpatrick and Kody (Russey) and those guys, got to watch them and have them coach me up instead of me just being thrown out there. In that way, I can relate to what Landry’s going through right now. I learned a ton; it did me so much good to get that experience and learn. Seems like Landry’s going good too and learning a lot. Hey, it’s one block here, one block there, or one play here, one more play there; the reason we’re not winning isn’t because of one position.”

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu