Airline’s win is Taylor-made (even without a scoreboard)

BOMBS AWAY: Airline’s Ben Taylor lets loose with a touchdown on the opening play of the game. (Journal photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL)


One way or another, Thursday was going to be a rough day for the scoreboard at Airline Stadium.

As it turned out, it’s probably a good idea that the scoreboard took the night off rather than deal with the assault the Vikings were putting up in the first half.

A power surge near the stadium around noon actually put the game in jeopardy for a few hours and the game was played with just enough lighting to get by, sans scoreboard, game clock and play clock.

Not that any of those really mattered.

But there was enough electricity supplied from the Vikings’ offense to make this pretty clear: The Airline offense is a handful. That is, unless you aren’t impressed by 54 points.

In the first half.

The Vikings scored early and often in opening the District 1-5A season with a 60-35 win over Benton that was even more one-sided than the score might appear.

Here was the night for Airline quarterback Ben Taylor: Complete 17 of 23 passes in the first half, throw for 455 yards, have seven touchdown passes, play one series in the second half and do nothing but handoff and then take the rest of the night off.

Is that any good?

“There’s not many more things you can say about him,” said Airline coach Justin Scogin. “Last year, he really didn’t know all the ins and outs of the offense. He made up his mind this year to learn everything that’s going on and that’s a huge reason he’s having the success he’s having.”

The highest passer rating an NFL quarterback can possibly have in a game is 158.3. Taylor’s was 155.3 – in one half.

It would almost be boring to go through the progression of scores that the Vikings put on the board, but there were two moments of particular note that told the story of the night for the junior quarterback and the Airline offense.

On the first play of the game, Taylor found Jarvis Davis on a perfectly executed fade route down the near sideline that resulted in a 63-yard touchdown. It was a play that should be used as a tutorial on how to throw the pass and run the route. The Benton defender had it played well, yet had no chance. Zero.

It wasn’t as if the Airline staff had planned on opening with that play all week.

“They came out in a look we weren’t expecting,” Taylor said. “There was no high safety, so we called the fade.”

“We throw the fade at least 100 times a day,” Scogin said. “And I’m not kidding. We start practice throwing the fade, we throw it during practice and we throw it in group. When you take it serious in practice, you get really good at throwing it. He (Taylor) knows exactly how to throw it and where to put it.”

The other play of significance had far less fanfare; in fact, it was hardly even noticeable. Late in the second quarter, Taylor threw a pass to tight end Bob Patterson that was, well, flat out dropped.

Patterson was pretty dejected after the ball hit the ground but even though it was 20 yards downfield, Taylor ran all the way to Patterson to pat him on the helmet and then jogged with him back to the line of scrimmage.

The Vikings scored anyway on that series (like they did every series in the first half) and when they went back to the sideline, Taylor made it a point to find Patterson.

“I just told him to keep his head up,” Taylor said. “I told him I was going to throw him a touchdown when we back out. I had no idea we’d actually do it, but we did.”

With 1:42 to go in the half, Airline got the ball again and on the fifth play, guess who caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Taylor for his only reception of the game: Bob Patterson.

With a 54-21 lead at halftime, the Vikings did not throw a pass during the entire second half.

Taylor had three receivers with 100-yard nights: Bryson Broom (155), Davis (138) and Tre Jackson (124).

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B             7              14           0              14           — 35

A             27           27           6              0              — 60

A – Jarvis Davis 63 pass from Ben Taylor (Preston Doerner kick)

A – Bryson Broom 60 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)

B – Jeff King 27 run (Will Petro kick)

A – Tre Jackson 13 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)

A – Broom 22 pass from Taylor (kick failed)

A – Jackson 59 pass from Taylor (Doener kick)

B – Trey Smith 28 pass from King (Petro kick)

A – Broom 47 pass from Taylor (kick failed)

B – King 1 run (Petro kick)

A – Jackson 4 run (Doerner kick)

A – Bob Patterson 38 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)

A – Brandon Cooper 9 run (kick failed)

B – Caden Lee (Petro kick)

 B – Jordan Johnson 4 pass from Malachi Zeigler (Petro kick) 

RUSHING: Benton (40-315), Manning 22-110, 14-114, Conner Jeter 10-49, Lee 6-42, Zeigler 2-0. Airline (19-159), Cooper 7-125, Jackson 4-30, Derrian Milligan 3-13, Broom 1-11, Christian Moore 1-8, Austin Smith 1-minus-2, Team 1-minus-18. 

PASSING: Benton (15-25-1-146-1), King 14-24-1-142-0, Zeigler 1-1-0-4-1. Airline (17-23-0-455-6), Taylor 17-23-0-455-7. 

RECEIVING: Benton, Manning 6-66, Smith 4-48, Jones 2-13, Chandler 2-23, Johnson 1-4. Airline, Broom 6-155, Davis 5-138, Jackson 5-124, Bob Patterson 1-38.

Having a little something extra to play for

Whether you are a player, coach or fan, it’s the game you look for with red pen in hand when you scan the upcoming high school football schedule.

There are usually 10 games listed, but one jumps out like it is printed in neon. THAT game.

Here in the middle of September, the rivalry stars have aligned for local high school football, proving that big games aren’t necessarily played at the end of the year.

The Soul Bowl was last week.

Byrd vs. Captain Shreve was last night. So was Airline vs. Benton.

The Brotherton Bowl is tonight.

Depending on who you talk to, these are “just another game” or a season-maker. You certainly got the impression that it was a season-maker for Booker T. Washington last week when the Lions came away with a 12-6 win over Green Oaks in the Soul Bowl.

More than any of the others, that’s a game you have to see to fully appreciate. If everything goes right for BTW this year and they were to clinch a district championship, it is very possible that the celebration would not match the one they had at Leonard C. Barnes Stadium.

“This is our Bayou Classic,” said BTW coach Gary Cooper in referencing the Grambling-Southern game played every year in the Superdome.

Byrd and Shreve students have been known to perform various shenanigans in the days leading up to their game. Even though Shreve coach Adam Kirby tries to downplay the significance with the ol’ “it’s big because it’s a district game,” that seems to fall on deaf eyes.

It’s a nice try, but that doesn’t change overnight.

Once upon a time, there was a definitive separation between Airline and Benton. Now, not so much. The line between north Bossier and Benton has just about disappeared. Benton was once a little Class 2A school in the country. Now they are both in Class 5A and it has become neighbor vs. neighbor.

Not quite brother vs. brother. Oh wait, that is happening with the Brotherton Bowl. Jason’s Haughton Buccaneers will travel to Parkway to meet little brother Coy’s team. The teams are a combined 5-1; there’s no telling what the Jason-vs.-Coy-in-the-backyard-as-kids record is.

Are too much made of these games, as Shreve’s Kirby has suggested? From the outside looking in, maybe so. But there is nothing wrong with having a little something extra to play for.

All games are not created equal and with the neutering of district games by the ever-changing LHSAA formats, having something that gets the blood boiling does make you want to make sure you leave those three hours open on your personal schedule.

You also have to learn to appreciate them while you can because a redistricting is always right around the corner. Coaches these days are always conscious of accumulating power points when constructing a schedule. They’d much rather try to improve their potential playoff chances than worry about trying to keep a rivalry game going in a non-district schedule.

The exception, of course, is BTW and Green Oaks. Even though the Lions are 4A and the Giants are 2A, they are going to play. (The rest of these are District 1-5A games, so it’s just a matter of where those dates fall in the district rotation.)

How important are these games? Probably just depends on whether you have the bigger number on the scoreboard when it’s over.

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Ready or not, District 1-5A opens tonight

ACTION JACKSON: Airline running back Tre Jackson leads the Vikings into the district opener. (Journal photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL)


Airline coach Justin Scogin has a theory about the flow of the prep football season.

“When you start the season, you know you aren’t going to play your best football in Weeks 1 and 2,” Scogin said. “You just try to maintain until you can hit on both sides. Last week we finally played a full game on both sides of the ball.”

His team will be among the four playing tonight and his theory has seemed to apply to each.

The Vikings will take on Benton (1-2) at 7 o’clock at M.D. Ray Stadium and Tigers coach Reynolds Moore said before and after last week’s game against Newman that he is still looking for his team to put it all together.

At Independence Stadium, Captain Shreve (2-1) will take on Byrd and the Gators have been another perfect example – sluggish in the opening game, overwhelmed in the second game and then seemed to put it all together last week in a 34-20 win over Union Parish.

“At some point you’re going to have some adversity, and you have to handle it, you have to conquer it,” Shreve coach Adam Kirby said. “That’s a life lesson our kids are taking to heart and that makes me very proud of them.”

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets (0-3) have been all over the place, with a slow start at Pleasant Grove in the opener, scoring 43 in the second game and still losing to Huntington before falling behind by two touchdowns before the offense even had the ball last week against Calvary.

The Vikings have been able to survive the early season ups-and-downs to maintain a perfect record through three games.

“We were able to play well in spurts on both sides of the ball in the first two games,” Scogin said. “But we weren’t really able to play a full game. Now, part of that was who we played. (North DeSoto and Union Parish) are two of the best teams in their class in the state.”

The Vikings have put 149 points on the board so far in three games, but they’ll be up against a Benton team that seemed to start figuring things out last week in a 37-27 loss to Newman. One of the things the Tigers have known for a long time is to get the ball in the hands of running back Greg Manning, who had 224 yards rushing and three touchdowns last week.

“I’m always scared when Number 1 (Manning) has the ball in his hands,” Scogin said. “And the quarterback (Jeff King) is good too, so they have some pieces. When they get it going, they are going to be tough to stop.”

As the District 1-5A season opens, the Vikings find themselves in a different position from a year ago, when they surprised everyone on the way to a perfect district record after a 0-3 start.

Scogin is aware that they won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. “I think we learned to play like we were the hunted last year,” he said. “We talked about all off-season about how it’s going to be different and that teams would be coming after us. I think the kids have responded well and they are ready for everyone’s best shot.”

Shreve and Byrd are well accustomed to take each other’s best shot in this intense rivalry. It’s an important, high-profile game, to be sure, but Kirby thinks the matchup is important for different reasons.

“We’ve got to change our way of thinking over here on Kings Highway, that if we beat Byrd, it’s a successful season,” he said. “That’s not an attitude we need, where beating any one team is successful. I don’t mean to be negative. I don’t mean to be ugly. It’s a big ball game because it’s 1-5A.” 

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CAPTAIN SHREVE (2-1) vs. BYRD (0-3), Independence Stadium 

Series: Byrd 29-16 

Last year: Byrd 25-20 

Last week: Captain Shreve beat Union Parish 34-20; Byrd lost to Calvary 42-21  

Rankings: CS is No. 4 in SBJ Top 10 poll  

Power rankings: CS No. 13 in Select Div. I; Byrd No. 19 in Select Div. I 

Radio: CS (KLKL.FM, 95.7 FM); Byrd (The Tiger, 1130AM, 103.3 FM) 

Notable: Byrd has won 26 of the last 28 games in the series …. Malachi Johnson leads Byrd in rushing with 265 yards, averages eight yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns … The Jackets average 233.7 yards a game on the ground … Last week, Captain Shreve quarterback Brodie Savage made his first start in 2023 and his second in his two years at Shreve and tied his career high of 247 yards he passed for last year against Southwood …  both schools fell in previous weeks to Class 2A No. 1 Calvary.

BENTON (1-2) at AIRLINE (3-0), M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium 

Series: Airline 3-1 

Last year: Airline 75-59 

Last week: Airline beat Northwood 48-14; Benton lost to Newman 37-27 

Rankings: Airline is tied at No. 1 in SBJ Top 10 poll, received votes in LSWA 5A poll; Benton is No. 8 in SBJ poll 

Power rankings: Benton No. 24 in Non-Select Div. I; Airline No. 8 in Non-Select Div. I 

Radio: none 

Notable: Airline QB Ben Taylor has passed for 995 yards, good enough for second in the state’s stat leaders compiled by … Jarvis Davis leads local receivers with 25 receptions and has 345 yards and two touchdowns … Benton has dropped two straight to ranked teams …. Tigers’ RB Greg Manning is second among local rushers with 433 yards on 78 carries and has scored seven touchdowns … QB Jeff King passed for 210 yards on 17-of-29 passes in last week’s loss to Newman.  

Gladney uses dad’s tragic death for motivation


Antonio “Tony” Gladney is a kid who would make any father proud. Walked into Parkway last year as a freshman and put a 4.0 GPA on the board. The definition of polite. Voted as “Most Popular” in the freshman class.

“Love that kid,” said Parkway coach Coy Brotherton.

And Gladney is not exactly lacking on the football field either. In his first game as a starting running back, he rushed for 266 yards and four touchdowns. After three games, he has rushed for 331 yards to spark the Panthers to a 3-0 start.

Tony’s father, Antonio, was also an outstanding football player, too, during his days at Haughton 20 years ago, so you know that there would be a little extra pride involved.

Reality, however, is a different story.

On June 19, 2009, Antonio was shot and killed down at a gas station on Hearne Avenue. There had been an altercation earlier in another location and escalated again. Gladney was shot three times. He died eight days later. (There was an arrest, but the charges against the defendant were dropped two years later in 2011 due to conflicting witness testimony.)

Antonio Gladney left behind a 20-month-old son, named after his father.

“I use it as motivation to keep going,” Tony says. “I know he was a good player and I just want to continue the legacy.”

There have been Gladneys playing at Haughton for almost as long as people can remember and Antonio was the latest in a long line. His name is still on the Record Wall at the Haughton field house for career interceptions.

“People have told me he was a very good player, always got his work done at school and just a great man,” Tony says. “He played both sides of the ball.”

Tony is down Sligo Road from Haughton and playing at Parkway, but the connections between the two schools are deep. The current coaches are brothers. Their father, Bob Brotherton, was Antonio Gladney’s position coach at Haughton.

Even though he was four years ahead of Gladney at Haughton, Coy Brotherton remembers what a dynamic player Tony’s dad was, so he is especially proud of the 15-year-old sophomore.

“It’s kind of amazing to see a kid like that, who lost his dad at such a young age, be successful not only in sports but also in school,” Coy Brotherton says. “He’s very well respected among his peers and his teachers and everybody else.”

He doesn’t say it, but you can tell Brotherton takes a little bit of pride in having a star running back who shares the same Haughton connection, even though they are at Parkway. That gives their relationship a little extra meaning, especially when they talk about Antonio Gladney.

Me being from Haughton and knowing the Gladney family, we’ve talked about it some,” says Brotherton. “It’s a personal thing for him, but Tony has a great mom and a great household.”

And what team does Parkway play this week to open the District 1-5A season? Of course, it’s Haughton.

Gladney started five games last year as a wide receiver, but Brotherton knew what he had even before then.

“We knew when he was in middle school (at Elm Grove) he was going to be good,” Brotherton says. “He was a man among boys then. Last year, we had a freshmen team that went undefeated, so we knew the talent that all of them have, but especially Tony.”

“I worked hard during the summer and the hard work has paid off,” Gladney says. “The coaches here keep pushing and I do what I go to do. We just need to keep it going.”

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Robinson made widespread impact in various roles


(Editor’s note – Local legend Doug Robinson, a coach at several local high schools and also a key figure for sports at LSUS, passed away in his sleep Friday night at age 79. A couple of months ago, he was a pallbearer for his longtime friend Lee Hedges. Robinson was the subject of this June 28, 2022 ‘Coaches Corner’ SBJ feature. He’s still the right answer.)

If you ever need to win a bet on local sports trivia, put this one in your back pocket: Who was the last Shreveport-Bossier baseball team to win a state championship in the highest classification?

Most likely, you’ll get plenty of wrong guesses, because the last high school to win a state title in the highest class isn’t even a high school any more. It’s the 1970 Fair Park Indians, coached by a man who always considered himself as a football guy, even though he has played a significant role on more than one occasion in local baseball.

Doug Robinson, 78, has fond memories of coaching the Indians to that state title. But that’s no surprise because it seems like Robinson has nothing on fond memories of every coaching stop he has made.

“There were some great, great moments in just about everywhere I went,” he says. “I don’t know how these coaches win all these state championships because it’s so hard just to win one. I was young and probably didn’t understand. I guess I thought it was easy.”

He was only 26 when he led the Indians to the state championship, just a few years removed from his first coaching job at Bunkie. But he was a Fair Park graduate and he wanted to get back to his alma mater as soon as he could. That opportunity came soon.

“I had actually gone down to the coaching clinic with Woodlawn,” he remembers, “and came back with Fair Park.”

After winning the state championship in Class AAA (at the time, the highest class) with a 7-5 victory over Jesuit (New Orleans), Doug Robinson would only coach one more year of high school baseball in his lengthy career. And not at Fair Park.

Following the 1970 season, Robinson found himself in what almost all coaches at that time now call “the changeover” as schools were desegregated. He was assigned to Green Oaks – finding out just a few days before the school year started — and he spent the next few decades going from one opportunity to the next.

He left to become at graduate assistant at Northwestern State but legendary coach James Farrar, who had been at Fair Park in the 1960s, brought him back to help start a baseball program at Southfield, a Class A school that, like Fair Park, no longer exists as a high school.

Robinson coached football and only one season of baseball at Southfield before moving to Woodlawn, first as an assistant for some deep playoff runs by the Knights and then as head football coach from 1981-83. But his sons were at Captain Shreve “and I didn’t want to coach against them,” so he became an assistant for the Gators.

But that’s not all he did during that time.

While serving as an assistant for the Gators, Robinson also started the baseball program at LSUS and coached the Pilots from 1990-95. That fall, he returned to being a head football coach, this time at Southwood, where he would stay for five seasons.

When LSUS wanted to expand its athletic program, Robinson got the call. He instituted basketball and soccer teams for both men and women. He stayed as the school’s AD for 10 years and was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2021.

Still, he says it wasn’t easy to stop being a coach. “It was horrible, but I realized I had the opportunity to make something big at LSUS,” he says. “I always thought that was a gold mine sitting out there. There are so many players in the area that get overlooked. It was a struggle at first; there wasn’t much money.”

What he remembers the most are the players and coaches that he worked with. And just like a life-long coach, he can still rattle off specific plays and scores from game after game, from decades long gone by.

Also just like a veteran coach, he is quick to offer advice for any coach.

“The number one thing is to work as hard as you can and be fair to those kids,” he says. “I was always going to play the best players I got. But the bottom line is you got to work because there’s someone out there looking to take your place.” 

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Encouraging second-half rally isn’t enough for Benton

SEEING GREEN(IE): Benton running back Greg Manning piled up 224 yards rushing with three touchdowns against Newman.  (Journal photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL)


Benton head coach Reynolds Moore talked during the week about how Thursday’s game against Newman was going to go a long way toward determining how the rest of the season was going to shape up for his Tigers.

After a 37-21 loss to the Greenies at Tiger Stadium, the results are in: Moore still doesn’t know.

“I think we found our identity on offense,” Moore said. “I thought we had a better second half, but still not what we want. We got to have 11 guys on both sides of the ball selling out.”

The offensive identity didn’t show until things were getting desperate for the Tigers – Newman led 23-0 midway through the second quarter – but after that, it was pretty impressive.

Running back Greg Manning rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Jeff King threw for 211 yards and ran for 52 more.

“Between (numbers) 1 (Manning) and 6 (King), the team is going to go as they go,” Moore said. “When they make plays like they did tonight, the team rallies around that.”

Meanwhile, Newman was rallying around junior quarterback Eli Friend. He may not make Newman fans forget about Arch Manning, last year’s No. 1 national recruit, but Benton fans would sure like to forget about Friend.

He threw for 302 yards (completing 24 of 33) and ran for 97 more. He either threw or ran for all five Newman touchdowns.

“For good reason, you heard so much about Arch last year, but we really felt good about Eli this year,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said. “This was probably his best night of throwing the football, plus his ability to extend plays with his legs.”

Friend led an impressive display in the first half, taking the Class 2A third-ranked Greenies down the field in seven plays on their first possession. Newman never had a third down on the drive and Friend, who completed passes of 24 and 17 yards, ran it in from 21 yards for the first score.

While the Tigers were trying to find their offense, Newman had another impressive drive going 65 yards in 10 plays. Benton had a chance to get off the field, but the Greenies came up with a 41-yard completion to Peter Loop. Friend scored seven plays later from a yard out.

A blocked punt resulted in a safety in the second quarter and Newman followed that with another touchdown as Friend found Anthony Jones open in the end zone for a 17-yard score.

“Their offense is as fast as you are going to see in Louisiana,” Stewart said of the Tigers. “We thought was really important to jump on them early.”

The Tigers ditched their normal offense and went to the Wildcat formation, snapping the ball directly to Manning. In the third play of the new offense formation, Manning looked to be  stopped on a run up the middle, but bounced out to the left and outraced the Greenie defenders for a 58-yard score to make it 23-7.

Though it seemed as though Newman was in control throughout, when the fourth quarter began Benton was within two scoring possessions of tying the game.

But the Tigers turned the ball over on downs on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter. They did get a late touchdown on a 10-yard pass from King to Jackson Jones, but only 16 seconds remained and Benton failed on the two-point conversion.

“I’m proud of our guys for fighting back,” Moore said.

“Once the game settled down, we had to get into a game management situation,” Stewart said. “Those kids (the Tigers) didn’t quit. This is a big for us and we knew it was going to be a fight for us to get out of here with a win.”

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Newman 37, Benton 27

N             14           9              14           0              – 37

B             0              7              14           6             – 27

N – Eli Friend 21 run (Jacob Dusansky kick)

N – Friend 1 run (Dusansky kick)

N – Safety, punt blocked out of end zone

N – Anthony Jones 17 pass from Friend (Dusansky kick)

B – Greg Manning 58 run (Will Petro kick)

N – Friend 12 run (Dusansky kick)

B – Manning 36 run (Petro kick)

N – Peter Loop 10 pass from Friend (Dusansky kick)

B – Manning 5 run (Petro kick)

B – Jackson Jones 10 pass from Jeff King (pass failed)

RUSHING – Newman (32-166), Friend 15-97, Jake Randle 17-69. Benton (42-276), Manning 27-224, King 14-52.

PASSING – Newman (24-33-0-302-3), Friend 25-32-0-302. Benton (17-28-0-211-1), King 16-28-0-211-1.

RECEIVING – Newman, Peter Loop 6-98, Anthony Jones 6-91, Randle 4-30, Will Loerzel 4-58, George Loop 1-3, Collier Villere 1-12, DJ Thomas 1-14, Griffin Maxwell 1-minus-4. Benton, Jones 8-102, Kam Smith 3-46, Cody Wilhite 2-26, Manning 3-37, Wade Chandler 1-10.

Andy Russo’s ‘charmed life’ took off at a seafood buffet in El Paso

It is often a thin line between where life could take you and where life does take you. One phone call, one decision, one accidental meeting can completely change the course of your life.

Andy Russo was a teacher at Maine East High School and freshman basketball coach in the Chicago area and was living, as he describes it now, “a charmed life.” He had every reason to keep living that life but for some reason, fate stepped in his way.

Why would he leave a dying mother and a job he loved to go to UTEP as a graduate assistant basketball coach for $100 a month? But he did.

Why would he go to Panola Junior College, a place he could have never found on a map, to become a head coach?

Why would he have his eyes on a job at Centenary, only to suddenly find out that he needed to apply for the head basketball coach at Louisiana Tech instead?

All of that by the time he was 30 years old.

Five years later, he was the young basketball coach who every major school with a vacancy was wanting after taking the Bulldogs to the greatest post-season success it has ever had before or since.

And then he was gone.

But even though it’s been four decades since Russo led the Bulldogs to those unprecedented heights, he never really left Ruston.

Yes, he went to the University of Washington for four years, then coached in Italy and returned to coach at two colleges in Florida for 12 years.

Through all of those experiences, hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t think about his time at Louisiana Tech. Tonight, Russo will be inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in a pretty shining example of “what took you so long?”

“Winning is great and all of that, but it’s not necessarily the wins and losses you remember,” Russo says. “It’s the experiences you have in life with the people you get to know, whether it’s players, coaches or community. That’s what I think about.”

Maybe it’s because basketball success hasn’t come easy to Tech lately – the Bulldogs haven’t won a conference title since 1991 and haven’t won a NCAA tournament game since 1989 – but anybody who was around to see what Russo’s teams accomplished in his six years can attest to how special that time was.

After four solid years (67 wins), the Bulldogs burst on the scene in 1983-84 with a 26-7 team that won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in school history, and then went to the Sweet 16 the next year after being ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season.

All because he took a chance.

Ten years before he was at the top, he was a freshman coach and “figured it was going to be a long time before I got a head coaching job.”

Hello, fate.

Russo’s sister married an El Paso native, so he took a trip to visit her. They were at a country club one night when in walked Don Haskins, legendary coach at Texas-El Paso, for the Friday night seafood buffet. The father-in-law of Russo’s sister knew Haskins and introduced him.

“I’d really like to come down and coach,” Russo told Haskins, who offered him the graduate assistant job on the spot.

And a few months later, he made the move, even as his mother was being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “That was very, very sad,” Russo said.

“The thing that really turned it around for me was working with Don Haskins,” he said. “I learned more from him in five minutes than I knew about basketball up until that time.”

Still, it makes you wonder where life would have taken Russo had Haskins not been such a fan of the Friday night seafood buffet.

After a year at UTEP and three more at Panola JC, he set his sights on the Centenary job when a coaching friend asked Russo if he had applied for the Tech opening. “Is that a good job?” Russo asked.

A few more calls from coaching friends who knew somebody who knew somebody and Russo was one of three finalists. The other two candidates? The non-household names of SMU assistant Danny Underwood and Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-L) assistant Dave Farrar.

“You always look back on decisions you make,” Russo says. “Five minutes after I took the Washington job, Arkansas called. Going to Washington wasn’t a mistake, but staying there was. I don’t know … had I not taken the Washington job, I wouldn’t have had the chance to coach in Italy. You make decisions for the right seasons and you do the best you can.”

These days Russo, the youngest-ever-looking 75-year-old ever, runs basketball camps in Boca Raton, Fla., and even does a little refereeing as well. Basketball is still in his blood, so many stops away from once being a freshman coach who wondered if he’d ever be a head coach.

And when he thinks about his time at Louisiana Tech, it’s not about going to a Sweet 16 or being ranked among the nation’s best.

“I get a warm feeling about the relationships I had there,” he says. “I value that, and I probably never knew that until I moved to Italy (to coach for two years). Even with the success we had, life is all about relationships.” 

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After different results, Calvary, Benton prepare for Week 3 

APPROACHING IMPACT:  Landon Sylvie is one of the leaders of Calvary Baptist’s defense. (Journal photo by KEVIN PICKENS)

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports  

Calvary head coach Rodney Guin is preparing his team following a week in which the Cavaliers won big.  

Benton head coach Reynolds Moore is preparing his team following a week in which the Tigers lost big.  

Same highway, different on-ramps.  

Both will be facing familiar opponents from a year ago and both will be hoping for a different result.  

Calvary, coming off a 61-27 win over Captain Shreve, hops back into the Class 5A pool when it takes on Byrd tonight at 7 p.m. at Independence Stadium. The Cavs lost a close one last year to the Yellow Jackets, 14-7.  

Benton had a rough night in Texarkana last week, losing 62-14 to Texas High, and will meet cross-state opponent Isadore Newman (New Orleans) Thursday in Benton. The Tigers made that trip in the opposite direction last year, only to have the Greenies take a 54-52 decision.  

Guin is not worried at all about his team still being in celebration mode. “We have a lot of seniors on this team and they know what we are up against with Byrd,” Guin said. “We enjoyed (the Shreve win) until Monday and then we got back to work. They know every week is going to be hard for us and they know the Byrd game is big.”  

“We went up against a really good team last week and kind of got it handed to us,” Moore said. “I think our guys have got to find our identity. We’ve made some changes and try some other guys in different spots to get the best 11 on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to figure out who we are and who we are going to be for the rest of the season.”  

The Cavaliers look like they have figured out who are with two impressive wins to open the season. But even though they are still in the midst of their non-district schedule, games such as this are no less important.  

“We do remind them how important these 5A games are in the power ratings for us if we win,” Guin said. “Games like this can be the difference for us being a 1 seed or a 5 seed (in the playoffs).”  

Though the Cavaliers have had no trouble scoring points, Guin in mindful of last year’s low-scoring game and how the Yellow Jackets like to control the flow of the game with their ball-control offense.  

“We are doing a lot of things right, especially on offense, but this is a different kind of a game against Byrd than it was against Shreve,” he said. “It’s a whole different dynamic to prepare for.”  

Moore won’t have to prepare for defending the nation’s No. 1 recruit like he did last year in Newman’s Arch Manning (now at the University of Texas), but he knows the Greenies are still potent on offense with junior quarterback Eli Friend, who is known for running as well as passing.  

“They call more runs for him than they did last year, but he is really accurate with his passing,” Moore said. “He’s a really good football player who can hurt you with his legs and his arm. Plus, they have been the most opportunistic team I have seen this year. Their secondary is incredible in making a play on the ball.” 

Moore said the scoreboard won’t necessarily tell the story of what this game means to the Tigers.  

“I don’t think this game is going to make or break our season,” Moore said. “But I do think that how we play will make or break our season.”  

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CALVARY BAPTIST (2-0) vs. BYRD (0-2), Independence Stadium  

Series: Byrd leads 8-2  

Last year: Byrd 14-7  

Last week: Byrd lost to Huntington 44-43; Calvary beat Captain Shreve 61-27  

Rankings: Calvary is No. 1 in LSWA 2A poll, No. 2 in SBJ; Byrd is No. 9 in SBJ poll  

Power rankings: Byrd No. 11 (Select, Div. I); Calvary No. 1 (Select, Div. III)  

Radio: Byrd (The Tiger, 1130 AM, 103.3 FM); CBA (Promise, 90.7 FM)  

Notable: Last year when they met Byrd was 2-0 and Calvary 1-1 … Calvary QB Abram Wardell is second among state leaders in passing yards with 680 … Cavalier receiver Aubrey Hermes is fourth in the state for receiving yards with 295 … Byrd’s run game generates 98 percent of its offense … Malachi Johnson led the Jackets with 211 yards and averages 9.6 yards per carry. He tied a school record in the loss to Huntington with five touchdowns.    

ISADORE NEWMAN (2-0) at BENTON (1-1), Newman Mason Field at Tiger Stadium  

Series: Newman 1-0  

Last year: Newman 54-52  

Last week: Benton lost to Texarkana-Texas High 62-14; Newman beat Riverside 33-7  

Rankings: Newman is No. 3 in LSWA 2A poll; Benton No. 7 in SBJ poll   

Power rankings: Benton No. 20 (Non-Select, Div. I); Newman No. 5 (Select Div. III)  

Radio: Benton (The Benton Tiger Sports Network,  

Notable: Benton’s two scores last week were the first touchdown passes for Jeff King on the season going to Cody Wilhite and Wade Chandler … Running back Greg Manning has 205 yards rushing on the season and 2,694 for his career … The Tiges defensive backfield has the top two tacklers on the team in Austin Cole with 25 and Miller Malley with 21. Linebacker Brayden Jackson has 19 tackles, two for a loss.  

Pratt makes a point, turns Bucs’ win into a bigger deal

GETTING HIS KICKS:  Haughton’s Coleman Pratt, standing in front of some of the Bucs’ linemen, broke into the scoring column last week at LaGrange. (Submitted photo)


Years from now, Haughton coach Jason Brotherton will remember a decision he made in an otherwise-forgettable game against an otherwise-forgettable opponent in another part of the state.

And to be honest, he really doesn’t know why he made it. It just happened.

It might be too strong to say it changed Brotherton’s life or that it changed the life of one of his players.

“But in 30 years, I’m going to remember the day when Coleman Pratt kicked an extra point,” Brotherton says. “Because I know where he has had to overcome to get to where he is.”

Rest assured, Coleman Pratt isn’t going to forget it either. And neither will anybody else who saw it.

* * *

Brotherton has known Pratt’s parents from church, so it wasn’t a total surprise when Coleman came to see Brotherton during his freshman year. “His mom wanted him to be involved in something in high school,” Brotherton says. “So we got him out there kicking.”

By itself, that is not a very unusual story. Until you consider this: Coleman Pratt has a form of dwarfism.

It is a condition that affects about 1 in every 25,000 births and results in the limbs (arms and legs) and trunk which are not the same proportion as average-height individuals.

He could have been a manager or a statistician or videographer, but Pratt wanted to be on the team. His grandfather suggested that he try to be a holder on place kicks.

Nope. “I wanted to kick,” Pratt says.

Even so, kicking was going to be a challenge.

“It was probably three-quarters through his sophomore year before he could even get it high enough to get it over the cross bar,” Brotherton says. “But he shows up every day and he works. He’s gotten better and better every day.”

“One of my goals is to never give up,” Pratt says. “I know that people don’t see me as a kicker. I want to prove to them that I can be a kicker.”

It would be one thing if Pratt stood off to side and kicked during a few practices and just showed up for the game. Given his physical limitations, that would be completely understandable. But that’s not how Pratt goes about his job.

“He doesn’t skip out of any work,” Brotherton says. “He does all the running, all the off-season conditioning, all the stuff everyone on the team does.”

“Running in the off season has been tough,” Pratt says. “Even when they say to go 60 percent, I always go 100 percent so that I can keep up with other people.”

Once Pratt had improved enough, Brotherton figured it was time to step it up a notch. The Bucs end each practice with their kickers making an extra point. When he was a sophomore, Pratt was the third-string kicker, so it was time for him to perform in front of the entire team.

But there was one problem – Pratt refused to do it.

“About Week 7, I told him ‘I think you should give it a try because I think you can make it,’ but he still didn’t want to do it,” Brotherton says. “So the next week, I pretty much made him.”

Pratt didn’t make his end-of-practice kick on his first try. But when he did “you’d have thought we won the Super Bowl,” Brotherton says. “Kids were running all over the field just going crazy.”

“Some days I have bad days and some days I have really good days,” Pratt says. “Kicking is not all about how you kick. It’s also about how you think. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.”

You’d better hang on for this – football isn’t the only sport he plays at Haughton. He is also on the soccer and baseball teams. “This is a kid whose mom and dad probably didn’t think he could be involved in anything, “Brotherton says. “And now he plays more sports than almost any kid up here. And everybody loves him.”

As the Bucs were dominating LaGrange last week on the road in Lake Charles – on a field with impossibly high grass – Brotherton had a decision to make.

Only it really wasn’t much of a decision.

“We were ahead in the game and my man has worked hard to get to this point,” he says. “So we wanted to give him a chance.”

Pratt was more concerned about the thickness of the grass than being nervous and he missed his first attempt in the first half. But he got another shot in the second half and knocked it home.

“I loved it because it was my first varsity point,” Pratt says. “I was pretty excited and after the game I called my grandpa because he has been my biggest supporter. We talked about how he wishes he had been there.”

“There weren’t very many people there in the stands, so it didn’t get that much of a reaction,” Brotherton says. “But if that happens at home, you better look out.”

The kid who just wanted to be a part of a team in high school has done a lot more than just score a varsity point in high school football. He has topped that accomplishment by overcoming obstacles that few would have even attempted.

Coleman Pratt is not a curiosity. Coleman Pratt is a contributing member of the Haughton Bucs football team.

“Looking back on the film and seeing everybody cheering for me,” Pratt says. “That makes me …”

He didn’t finish the sentence.

He didn’t have to.

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High school officials try to be on target for the toughest call

You see it every Saturday during college football season. There’s a big hit, the whistle blows, the crowd reacts and it’s time to move on to the next play.

Except that it isn’t time to move on to the next play.

Stop the game, because there might have been targeting involved. Or maybe targeting was called and there’s the need to go back and check and see if it really was targeting.

And so we all wait and watch. Slow it down on the replay and watch it again. Now watch it from another angle. Then another. Then talk to the retired ref in the TV booth who tells us what the call is going to be but often has all the accuracy of a weatherman.

Just for good measure, let’s watch it a few more times!

Must be nice, say local high school officials.

“If they (college officials) don’t get it right, there’s a problem,” says Daniel Robinson, now in his 23rd year as a football referee and 12th year as a head official. “Without the benefit of replay, mainly what we are looking for is intent. Any time we see a hit to the head, shoulder or neck area, our antennae have to go up.”

There are two levels of a penalty when it comes to hits like this. An illegal hit with the helmet can be a bit of a gray area and subject to a little more interpretation.

Keith Burton, who has been an official for 27 years and a head referee for 14, says it’s pretty easy to define targeting, but that may not be pleasing to the penalized team.

“With targeting,” Burton says, “you know it when you see it.”

Which was pretty much exactly what happened in the opening week of the season, when a North DeSoto defender was called – and ejected – for targeting against Airline in the first half. There seemed to be little doubt that the hit fit well within the definition of targeting. “That was textbook,” Burton said.

“But what you have to think about when you eject a kid is that it’s not like in college where they just bring in another star player,” Burton says. “You lose a stud player (to an ejection) in high school and it could really make a difference.”

The North DeSoto-Airline game was officiated by Burton’s crew and at halftime when the officials gathered, the official who made the initial call said it was the first time in 16 years he had ever made that call.

Both Burton and Robinson say they see it about once a year – Burton says he sees the lesser “illegal hit” penalty about four times a year – and according to Robinson, it does happen less and less every year.

But what if they had the benefit of replay? “I’d bet you’d see it a lot more,” Robinson said.

(There is video replay for semifinal and finals high school playoff games to review targeting as well as other plays.)

Adding to the pressure for high school officials to get it right the first time is that college referees really don’t have to.

“That’s what is so frustrating with what you see on TV (in college games),” Burton says. “They seem to have adopted this philosophy of ‘I’m not going make a courageous call and I’ll just let the review take care of it or make the call for me.’ “

For the fan in the stands, here what Burton says they should look for. “Is he defenseless?” he says. “Could be a runner being held up or a receiver coming down to the ground after a catch. But when you add in a factor like launching at the player, it’s pretty obvious.”

Is the player using their helmet as a weapon? Are they specifically looking to injure a defenseless player? Is it intentional? “That’s the judgment you have to make,” Burton says. “Those are the indicators.”

Burton will admit that targeting is called less in high school for a number of reasons. “High school officials have a bad habit of ball watching and miss plays whereas college officials watch zones and, because of their training, know those keys and what to look for,” he says. “And I think it comes down to high  school officials are just gun-shy about ejecting a kid.”

“An ejectable hit means you were trying to do nothing but trying to injure the other player,” Robinson says, “and you didn’t do anything to try to make a legitimate tackle.”

No matter how cut and dried it may seem, the reality is that high school officials aren’t playing in the same sandbox as the college officials when it comes to making a targeting call.

“In college, even when you have eight officials on the field, you still see them stop the game three or four times just to go back and check,” Robinson says. “We have a split second.”

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The Air(line) Show makes sensational Season 2 debut in comeback win

 CLEAN SWEEP: Airline’s Bryson Broom leaps to make a catch between two North DeSoto defenders Friday night. (Journal photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL)


In the 60-year history of Airline football, there may never have been a quarter of football quite like the third quarter of Friday night’s 53-42 win over North DeSoto at M.D. Ray Field.

And if you really want to get caught up in the hyperbole, it might also be tempting to say there may never have been a better pass play than the one from a running back to a sophomore.

You ready for this?

In the third quarter, Airline did the following:

  • Scored five touchdowns.
  • Came up with two interceptions (both by Jayden Gladney).
  • Recovered its own kickoff 31 yards downfield.
  • Had 12 first downs. (Let that one sink in for a moment).
  • Gained 238 yards in total offense.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Airline coach Justin Scogin said.

Few have.

The Vikings looked like they might get run out of their own stadium in the first half as North DeSoto could do no wrong. Quarterback Luke Delafield was 13 of 18 for 187 yards, highlighted by an 80-yard drive that resulted in a wide-open touchdown pass to Tucker Brewster with four seconds remaining.

There was no reason to think it would be anything other than more than the same in the second half.

Until it wasn’t.

Delafield missed on his first seven passes of the second half (including two interceptions) and North DeSoto let a kickoff bounce freely at the 30-yard line before Airline’s D.J. Allen pounced on it. Suddenly, the Griffins couldn’t get out of their own way, nor could they get in the way of the Airline offense.

“We didn’t make any great adjustments,” Scogin said. “We just went in and challenged the kids to be mentally tough and come out in the second half and play hard. I would say they overexcelled in that.”

But as the onslaught by the Vikings continued, you just knew something special was about to happen. With 3:31 to go in the third quarter, it did.

On a third-and-10 from their own 29, Airline quarterback Ben Taylor threw a swing pass to running back Tre Jackson. It was clearly a backwards pass and the burly running back stopped in his tracks and threw a long pass downfield – a perfect spiral by a running back – to Kenny Darby.

The sophomore receiver reached out and stretched as far as he could to try to reach the pass and somehow made the catch – it looked like he caught the back end of the ball – then kept his feet, broke a tackle and made it into the end zone.

M.D. Ray Field was up for grabs after that play as the Vikings now had a 40-28 lead.

“The only thing better than the pass,” Scogin said, “was the catch.”

“I caught it with my fingertips,” Darby said. “I knew it would be open.”

“We practice it every day,” Jackson said. “And the first time we try it in the game and it was a bomb. I think it was a good catch.”

Yeah, you might say that.

Even after the gut punch by the Vikings, including the last two of three TD runs by Jarvis Davis, North DeSoto got back on its collective feet and got two touchdown passes from Delafield (he had five in the game) in the fourth quarter to close the gap to nine points with 5:12 to go.

But an end zone interception by Jeremiah Epps finally put the game away.

And quite a game it was, with 1,101 yards in total offense in the game, 14 touchdowns and all of one punt.

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ND                        7              21           0              14           –42       

Airline                   0              14           33           6              –53

ND – Landry Wyatt 33 pass from Luke Delafield (Dakota Denny kick)

ND – Trysten Hopper 13 run (Denny kick)

Air – Jarvis Davis 3 run (Preston Doerner kick)

ND – Cole Curry 49 pass from Delafield (Denny kick)

Air – Kenny Darby 23 pass from Ben Taylor (Doerner kick)

ND – Tucker Brewster 25 pass fron Delafield (Denny kick)

Air – Jackson 22 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)

Air – Davis 2 run (Doerner kick)

Air – Bryson Broom 9 pass from Taylor (kick failed)

Air – Darby 71 pass from Jackson (pass failed)

Air – Davis 14 run (Max Tinkis kick)

Air – Broom 7 pass from Taylor (kick blocked)

ND – Eli Procell 53 pass from Delafield (Denny kick)

ND – Procell 24 pass from Delafield (Denny kick)

RUSHING – ND (43-234): Trysten Hopper 27-151, Kenny Thomas 13-77, Luke Delafield 3-6. Air (35-133) – Tre Jackson 16-55, Jarvis Davis 9-32, Bryson Broom 8-44, Ben Taylor 5-9, Bob Patterson 1-4, Eli Dollar 1-minus-2. 

PASSING – ND (24-38-3-361): Delafield 24-38-3-361. Air (31-44-0-373) – Taylor 30-43-0-302, Jackson 1-1-0-71.  

RECEIVING – ND, Cole Cory 8-135, Tucker Brewster 6-46, Landry Wyatt 5-74, Eli Procell 4-96, Chaz Martinez 1-10 Air – Kenny Darby 10-182, Davis 10-53, Broom 6-81, Jackson 4-51, Patterson 1-6.

Most shrink from big challenges, but Cooper, Smith see opportunities

Combined, their teams were 1-19 a year ago. But that didn’t stop Bossier’s Gary Smith and Booker T. Washington’s Gary Cooper from taking on challenges that most coaches would run from.

Smith and Cooper look at it through a different lens than everyone else. All they see is 0-0. A clean slate. A fresh start.

You don’t just turn around a combined 1-19 by walking on the field and blowing the whistle. It takes some varying degrees of talent, luck and coaching.

But none of that matters without the most important ingredient of all — work.

If you don’t think that Smith and Cooper are excited about what lies ahead, you obviously haven’t been around them very much.

It’s not as if Bossier and BTW looked around and couldn’t find anybody else. Cooper and Smith embraced the chance to be a head coach.

Both were assistants at other schools – Cooper was at Huntington and Smith was defensive coordinator at Haughton – so they weren’t exactly next in line on the coaching ladder.

There are no shortcuts for these two programs (Bossier was 0-10 last year and BTW was 1-9 (the only win was against Bossier), so it all starts with the same thing.

“Hard work is what’s going to happen,” Cooper said. “The kids have been working their butts off and I couldn’t be more pleased with the work they’ve put in.”

“We got some kids who are going to work hard to get better,” Smith said. “But it’s going to be a process.”

Something else to understand: Taking over an 0-10 team was nothing to Smith, who was also a head coach at North DeSoto in 2005-06.  “I took over a team that had gone 1-29,” he said.

After seven years at Haughton as defensive coordinator, it wasn’t just the chance to be a head coach that brought Smith to his new job. It was a chance to be Bossier’s head coach.

“I’m a Bossier graduate,” said Smith, Class of 1990. “I just feel like I can go in there and make a difference and make it better.”

No one is making hotel reservations yet for the state finals, but the Bearkats did put up 33 points in the Jamboree last week against Plain Dealing. They’ll be at home against North Caddo Friday night in the season opener.

BTW is looking to solve two problems from last year – turnovers and more turnovers – but will have to start that mission with a rough road trip to Monroe to play Wossman.

“We’ve been on ball security all spring,” Cooper said. “We watched film on those turnovers and how they were caused. There are things we can do to fix those.”

Consistent quarterback play was also a problem for the Lions, but Cooper intends to hand the keys to sophomore Damion O’Neal. “He grew up a lot during the spring in understanding what we are trying to do offensively,” Cooper said. “He’s going to be our guy.”

Having four senior offensive linemen is certainly going to help.

But perhaps the first thing any coach in these situations has to overcome isn’t just X’s and O’s and cutting down on turnovers.

It’s the mentality of waiting for things to go wrong and being focused on negative things instead of positive ones.

“Write it down,” said Huntington coach Stephen Dennis. “He (Cooper) is going to transform that program.”

Something has to change. And Gary Cooper and Gary Smith are hoping they are just the guys to do it.

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Otis’ huge night grounds Flyers after pivotal pickoff

OTIS, MY MAN: Shreve’s Jamarlon Otis ran for a school record 313 yards and three touchdowns. (Journal photo by KEVIN PICKENS)


Finding a game-changing moment in a football game isn’t always the easiest thing to pinpoint. Sometimes there are subtleties that only a coach might notice that can turn the game around.

And then there are games like Captain Shreve’s 37-7 win over Loyola Thursday night at Independence Stadium.

You might not think a 30-point win would have a game-changing moment and in the end, it might not have mattered. But in the span of two plays in the second, the game went from being in doubt to being far less in doubt.

Both teams started slowly, but the Flyers were able to hang close thanks to a blocked field goal, a fumble recovery and an interception.

When freshman quarterback Bryce Restovich was inserted into the game in the second quarter, the Loyola offense began to show signs of life. Trailing 10-0 at half, the Flyers were going to get the ball to start the second half.

But on the first play, Gators’ safety Davy Donatelli perfectly read a pass over the middle and came up with an interception. Two plays later, Jamarlon Otis was in the end zone and it was 17-0.

“That was big,” said Shreve coach Adam Kirby. “I don’t want to say that the game got out of hand, but that was a big blow.”

“I felt like if we came out and scored to start then second half and make it 10-7, they might press,” said Loyola coach Mike Greene.

Instead, the Gators kept going with what they did best – giving the ball to Otis. Shreve had a school rushing record with 441 yards and Otis certainly did his part, picking 313 of them – also a school record.

“I thought Jamarlon made some things happen,” Kirby said. “He broke some tackles and the line did a good job.”

There were no tackles to break in the fourth quarter when Otis went for an 80-yard touchdown to cap off his night and give Shreve its final score of the night.

“Getting the win is nice, but I don’t like the way we came out flat,” Kirby said. “There wasn’t a lot of energy. I would have hoped in the first game that wouldn’t be the case. I’m happy we got the win but I’m not real pleased.”

After Shreve built a 24-0 lead, the Flyers certainly didn’t lay down. Restovich, who had never thrown a varsity pass before Thursday, found sophomore Jake Black, who had never caught a varsity pass, on a slant route and outraced the Shreve secondary to end zone for a 58-yard score.

In the fourth quarter, the Flyers had two deep penetrations into Shreve territory but both ended with end zone interceptions by Shreve’s E.J. McDonald.

Restovich threw for more yards in the game than any Flyer freshman has thrown for in a season, completing 14 of 22 for 192 yards, but did have three interceptions.

“He’s still young so he going to make mistakes, but you’ve got to give him some experience,” Greene said. “He’s an athlete and he can make plays. But it’s tough to get that experience against a really good (Class) 5A school like that.”

Shreve will take on another District 1-2A opponent next week – a veteran-laden one — when they face Calvary Thursday night at Independence Stadium. Loyola will travel to Logansport Friday night. 

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Captain Shreve 37, Loyola 7  

Score by quarters  

Loyola | 0 | 0 | 7 | 0 | — 7  

Captain Shreve | 8 | 2 | 20 | 7 | — 37   

Scoring summary  

CS – Jamarlon Otis 1 run (Keaton Flowers pass from Quortni Beaner)  

CS – Safety  

CS — Otis 16 run (Chance kick)  

CS – Beaner 3 run (Chance kick)  

LCP – Jake Black 58 pass from Bryce Restovich (Evan Lirette kick)  

CS – Beaner 7 run (kick failed)  

CS – Otis 80 run (Chance kick)   

RUSHING – CS (42-441): Otis 21-313, Beaner 9-94. Javen Thomas 7-47, Antonio Thornton 3-7, Brodie Savage 1-3, DJ Waldon 1-minus-1. LCP (33-107) – Reagan Coyle 13-42, Patrick Gosslee 8-26, Colby Hamilton 4-15; Jude Gaitan 1-8, Bryce Restovich 4-5, Rowan Guthikonda 1-5, Casey Wall 1-4, Black 1-2.   

PASSING – CS (6-11-0-22): Beaner 4-9-0-22; Savage 2-2-0-0. LCP – (15-29-3-225): Restovich 14-22-3-192; Colby Hamilton 1-7-0-33.  

RECEIVING – CS, Gage Haley 3-14, Flowers 1-6, JT Hester 1-6, Thomas 1-minus-6. LCP – Coyle 5-61, Black 3-81, Guthikonda 2-31, Jude Gaitan 2-30, Gosslee 1-13, Hamilton 1-11, Carter Doyal 1-7, 

Raiders focused on a new look for 2023 season

RAIDERS’ ROCK:  Three-year starting linebacker Derrick Edwards will lead the Huntington defense. (Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports) 


You don’t have remind Huntington football coach Stephen Dennis that things have changed for the Raiders as the 2023 season approaches.

He is well aware that quarterback Kam Evans is now playing college football.

He is well aware that two of Evans’ top receivers have graduated and another transferred.

He is well aware that his leading rusher from a year ago is also playing college football.

But Dennis is the kind of guy who wants to talk about what he has, not what he doesn’t have. Yes, there will be some comparisons to 2022 early in this season, but he likes what this team has already done to establish its own identity.

“I think a lot of the fruits we have built are getting ready to blossom,” Dennis said. “I think this is one of the better groups I’ve had. The kids have really bought in and are doing everything that a coach could ask them to do. When you get that question answered, the execution and discipline and the things you need to build a winner take care of themselves.”

The Raiders will open the season Friday night against Mansfield at 7 p.m. at Independence Stadium. Huntington won last year’s season opener against the Wolverines 58-18.

Huntington’s season was basically broken into two parts – with and without Evans. With him, they were rolling along with a 5-2 record. But playing without him after he suffered an arm injury … not so much. The Raiders lost three of the last four, including a first-round playoff game.

But it did teach this year’s team about how to play without Evans, something Dennis feels like will be to the Raiders’ advantage this year.

“Our offense was built around Kam and his mental approach as well as his ability, so when you lose a guy like that you have to change gears,” he said.

And it will be Lorenzo “L.J.” White, Jr., changing the gears for the Huntington this year. Without saying it outright, Dennis said there is no reason to feel sorry for the Raiders as White takes over.

“He’s been in our program for two years,” Dennis said. “(White) is an extremely hard worker and comes from a great family. Kam was a pocket passer; LJ is more of a dual threat. I‘m really excited about him coming  in and putting his mark on it. He doesn’t need to be Kam; he needs to be LJ.”

White should get all the help he needs in making his mark. Dennis said he will rotate three running backs – all at least 6-0 and 210 – in addition to star receiver Caleb Tucker.

“He will be the big-guy receiver for us,” Dennis said.

When Evans got hurt last year, Jamarion Washington was one of those who filled in at quarterback. You might see him there this year as well as a Wildcat quarterback. Or at running back. Or kick returner. Or slot back.

“He’s our Swiss Army knife,” Dennis said. “He can do a little bit of everything.”

Derrick Edwards, a three-year starter at linebacker, leads a defense that is loaded with juniors.

Huntington will also play non-district games against Byrd and Neville before starting District 1-4A play.

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Taking a Flyer: Loyola’s Smith snags stunning Long Drive championship

UNLIKELY WINNER:  Seeded eighth, Loyola College Prep alumnus Jack Smith swept through the final three rounds Monday and claimed the World Long Drive golf championship.


When Jack Smith was a sophomore at Loyola, he was voted as “Most Likely to Become President.” Whether he lives up to that remains to be seen, but in the meantime, he’s got another title to handle: World Long Drive Champion.

The 23-year-old, who postponed medical school to go on the World Long Drive Tour, was seeded No. 8 in Monday’s event in Kingsport, Tenn., but took down three challengers in the championship round.

Smith, a rookie on the Long Drive Tour and playing in only his fourth event, had the longest drive of any competitor in all three rounds – 389 in the quarterfinals, 403 in the semifinals and 401 in the finals.

Of the 84 balls that were hit on the final day, only three measured longer that 400 yards.

Smith hit all three.

In the final round, Smith defeated No. 2 seed Kyle Berkshire, who had a drive of 388 yards that Smith had to beat. With three drives remaining, Smith did just that with a 401-yard drive. Berkshire couldn’t match that with his final three drives.

Smith, who earned $30,000 for the victory, said the win was a little surprising since he was coming off a forearm injury.

“I went home last week and did some extra PT (physical therapy) and I tried some new stuff and it was the first time my arm didn’t hurt,” Smith told Golf Channel, which telecast the event. “I got a couple of practice sessions in and usually I’m just trying to figure it out the day of (the event). To me it made all the difference. I was just fortunate enough to pull through in the end.”

Smith, a 2018 graduate of Loyola, was down to his last drive on Sunday to try to make it to the final eight. He had to beat a 373-yard drive and hit one 380 to qualify for Monday’s finals.

The next event on the WLD Tour is in Oceanside, Calif., in late September.

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Doing what was necessary to become a City tennis champion

It’s getting to be late August and people of a certain age all have this “I can’t believe they start school this early” feeling when that happens. For me, not being in school at this time is a reminder of that horrific ritual of football two-a-days – a friend recently reminded me that he can still remember the “smell of cut grass and fear” — but even before that, there was another August event that marked my calendar.

This marks the time when the City Tennis Tournament was played. A great part of my pre-teen summers were spent at Querbes Tennis Center. No lessons or personal instruction; just go out there and play.

I wasn’t any good, but it was something to do. We’d play challenge matches or hit against the backboard or anything we wanted as long as we kept the tomfoolery to a minimum. Upstairs, they had the world’s greatest Slushes for a couple of quarters.

But there at summer’s end, it was always capped off by The City. And you had to play in it, because everybody else did.

I don’t think I have ever been so nervous as the first match I ever had in the 12-and-under boys singles. I was still a few weeks away from turning 10, but I was thrown into the bracket with kids who were about to start shaving.

They stuck me with the top seed – let’s call him “Scott” – and I got dusted. It was Men against Boys, only both of us were boys. Not only did I not win a game, I’d bet I didn’t win a total of 10 points the entire match.

But Scott was The Dude and everybody knew it. It was my first year to play tennis and he was probably born with a racquet in his hand.

The next year, I avoided Scott in the draw and actually won a match in the 12s. Even at age 11, Scott coasted to the title that year.

Which brings us to the next year, when I was in my final year of the 12-and unders. My high hopes were quickly dashed on the opening day of the tournament. Not by Scott, but by another kid (who would also go on to become a sports writer), 6-1, 6-1.

I didn’t enter the doubles, so that was it for me in the tournament. I had looked forward to it all summer and after one day, I’m done.

Until …

Two days later, I get a phone call. It’s Scott, who wants to know if I wanted to be his partner for the 12-and-under doubles. There were only two teams entered and because Scott was ranked so high, we would have a bye to the finals.

I’m pretty sure Scott didn’t know who I was (and still doesn’t), so it was a complete trophy-grab for him. But I was a willing participant.

When our match arrived, there on the other team was the same future sportswriter who had just dominated me in singles a few days earlier. Revenge!

We start playing and I’m acting like I’m John Newcombe or Rod Laver. Going after every shot, serving as hard as I can, working on my spin game. The only problem is that none of it worked. I would have been better off playing left-handed.

We lost 2-6 in the first set. Scott’s trophy was in real jeopardy and I could sense that he knew he could have called anybody else and done better than this.

So let me tell you what happened next. I remember it so vividly that I could take you to the exact spot at Querbes Tennis Center on Court 2 where it happened.

Scott walked over to me and whispered in my right ear these fateful words:

“Just stay out of the way from now on.”

And let me assure you that I did just that. I did the minimum I had to do – no double faults and somehow managed to return any serve that came my way – and after I did that, I might as well have been on the next court over while Scott finished the point.

How did that strategy work out for us? Second set — 6-0. Third set – 6-1 (I’m sure I had something to do with us losing that one game.)

I was – and am – happy to remind people that I was once a City Tennis Champion. Yes, I still have the trophy.

Until today, there were only four people who knew this story. And I can assure you, Scott isn’t one of them. 

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McMillian retires with years of memories

She finished with one more soccer win (715) than Babe Ruth had home runs (714) and in many ways, Shelley McMillian has been every bit the trail blazer that the New York Yankees slugger was.

No one hit home runs before Ruth came along until he ushered in a new era. Before McMillian, high school and club soccer was on the fringe of just being a fringe sport. Now it is part of the athletic landscape 12 months a year.

Simply put, it’s hard to imagine local soccer without Shelley McMillian in it, but we’d better start getting used to it. After four years at Parkway as girls coach – and 33 years coaching both boys and girls at Loyola and Calvary – she’s calling it a career.

“I loved, loved, loved my relationships with my players,” she says. “And I loved competing.”

So many games, so many players, so many memories. That’s why it wasn’t easy to get McMillian to choose her most memorable moments for her career.

But here we go, in her own words:

  1. Being 20 years old, starting the men’s program at Parkway with 13 players going 2-13 the first year and then the next four going 67-13-3. Those guys worked so hard and had a huge hand in jump-starting my career!
  1. In 1996, my first year at Loyola, and the boys won the state championship, although the greater of the memories was us never being ranked and having to face some adversity in the semifinals. Oh, and we were a 2A school who won the 4A state championship, being the first team north of Lafayette to ever win a state championship!
  1. In 1998, the Loyola girls knocked off No. 1 Newman Catholic in the first round of the playoffs and made it to the state finals, losing in sudden death OT. What we learned about believing in each other and ourselves that year was second to none!
  1. The 2009-2010 Calvary season. The girls team had never won a playoff game. We made the playoffs as the final wild card and knocked off the No. 12 team, the No. 3 team and the No. 5 team and lost to the eventual state champions in the semis! We battled so much adversity and did things we should never have been able to do! (We even started three seventh graders.)
  1. In August, 2010. I lost one of my players, Will Mathews, to a brain-eating amoeba. It was one of the most devastating moments of my life, much less my career. The memorable part is that still today Will is impacting so many of us by the way he lived his life and the amazing young man he was!
  1. Getting my 700thwin, not because of the number of wins, but because my family was there and for me there were so many emotions it represented of what this game has done to impact my life!
  1. While at Calvary, my guys were playing an opponent that was less than sportsmanlike! Several of my players had been Injured so at halftime I had some words with the referees and the opposing coach. When walking back to my bench, my guys had formed this arc with their arms crossed, like “try messing with our coach.” As I got close to my bench I heard Chance Hester say to the opposing bench, “my coach can beat up your coach and she’s a girl!” We won the game and after the game I was standing in the parking lot and the police officer that night came up to me and was like “Coach, can you please get in your car, the other coach is scared to walk into the parking lot until you’re gone.”
  1. Coaching against former players and the camaraderie and conversations that happened before the games started and at the midway mark during those games.
  1. Taking over the Parkway girls in the middle of the season in December 2019! They were 2-6-2 and they didn’t believe in anyone to lead them. I had to work my butt off to get them to buy into believing that I was only there to boost moral! They finally bought in and we finished the second half of the season 10-2-2, won the district and lost in the state quarterfinals.
  1. When at Calvary, one night I was sitting on the bench with one of my male players. He was tying his shoes and the opposing coach walks up to us and says, “where is your coach?” And the player sitting next to me stands up to jog out to warmups and turns back and looks at the guy and says, “clearly you haven’t read the sports section in the last 20 years!” (On the guys side, most of the opposing coaches through I was the athletic trainer.)
  1. In 2015, I lost one of my Calvary players, Nick Anderson, to a car accident, and once again realized that not everything is really about winning and losing! Most of the time it’s about getting through adversity!

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Bulldogs nickname has no bite without women’s basketball

Couldn’t quite do it, could you Louisiana Tech? Couldn’t quite hop all the way into the 21st century and decided to take the road of least resistance.

I see what you did there and I applaud it. But I’m only applauding it with one hand, and you know what kind of sound that makes.

Tech has announced that the nickname of its women’s athletic teams will be known as the “Bulldogs” instead of Lady Techsters. Were you trying to be the last school on Earth to make the switch away from that archaic way of doing things or does it just seem that way?

Sounds great, except for one thing – this does not apply to the women’s basketball team, who will remain stuck in the 1970s with the nickname “Lady Techsters.”

Let’s be honest here: Though other women’s sports at Tech have enjoyed plenty of success, there’s only one program that really matters when it comes to this issue. It’s the one with the logo that hasn’t changed since James Naismith hung the peach basket.

Hard to believe in these days of branding and marketing that someone signed off on this. Every college in America is hammering home the importance of having a unique signature. Yet Tech is going to continue to let the women’s basketball team wander off into the wilderness?

Maybe you can make the case that “Lady Techsters” was a good idea at its mid-1970s inception – the argument for it was that they didn’t want to be known as “Lady Bulldogs” because that implies the common name for a female dog – but schools quickly got away from this female-specific nickname.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs didn’t have a problem with it.

LSU came to its senses and changed from the Ben-Gals to Lady Tigers in the mid-1980s.

Far be it from me to be considered anything resembling a feminist, but the whole “Lady” thing should have been tossed out a long time ago. Many schools have moved on from any kind of gender specific nickname unless it is unavoidable. (Take a bow, Centenary.)

The news release from Tech has the predictable buzzwords in keeping the women’s basketball team known as Lady Techsters – “synonymous with the national brand” and “honors and recognizes the tradition” – and then was followed with this kicker: “Excluding this from this transition was a no brainer. Lady Techsters will now only belong to them.”

Did I miss something here? Did they win a bunch of national championships in the last 12 years or have they not even been to the NCAA tournament during that same time?

The number of current players who were alive when Tech last went to a Final Four? Zero.

Without a doubt, it’s a step in the right direction, but it lacks any teeth whatsoever when the women’s basketball program isn’t included.

Schools change nicknames all the time. Like it or not, it’s just how it is. To stubbornly hang on for one sport while the others change seems like quite a mixed message. The Tech softball team has been to three Women’s College World Series and made 12 NCAA Tournaments. They’ve got a nice history of their own as well.

But they’ll be the Bulldogs from now on. Across the street, the women’s basketball team will still be the Lady Techsters.

The message that it actually sends is that the program is desperately clinging to an era that has long since passed. If anything, Tech should have embraced a message that is much more forward thinking than backward looking.

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The heat is on as prep practice begins

As the legend goes, they once asked Greg Maddux about his fastball, which wasn’t exactly Nolan Ryan-esque, wondering about the effect it had when he would hit a batter.

“If you get hit by a bus going 90 miles an hour, does it hurt any more than a bus going 85 miles an hour?” he asked.

Point being: When you get hit by a pitch, it hurts. Period.

Which brings us to the current atmospheric conditions, which seem to be a little on the warm side.

Triple digits are nothing new is these here parts, but it will always be a point of conversation when the thermometer reaches that level.

As someone not named Greg Maddux might say, “If it’s 102 degrees, is it really that much hotter than 98?”

And it might not have as much impact if we had just gone to that Celsius thing a few decades ago. After all, the difference in 36.7C (98F) vs. 38.9C (102F) doesn’t sound all that intimidating.

Point being, hot is hot. If we are going to take precautions, then take them. Don’t wait for some magic number to tell you to do so.

The great impact it is having is with high school football, which has just begun its in-season practicing. The increase in artificial turf fields has made hot even hotter, but thankfully most schools have a natural grass field as a backup.

But it’s not exactly Ice Station Zebra on the sod either.

Coaches are having to make adjustments – and these are a group of people who don’t like making changes on the fly – because they feel the need. Or have been told to. Or both.

Don’t be surprised if you see mandates from people in offices that are set to 72 degrees about altering practice times. (One, in fact, has already done that.)

For example, practice windows might be allowed only if they conclude before 7:30 or 8 a.m. (depending on the start of the school day) or begin after 7 p.m.

It’s not as if nobody will sweat at 8:30 at night, but it’s at least something. Bossier Parish schools start the school year before their Caddo counterparts, so it could be a moving target for a while as everyone tries to adjust.

Hey, at least it’s not two-a-days!

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how tough you were when you went through it without water breaks, having two practices in the same day does seem unimaginable these days.

I was in a text conversation last week with a former coach, who wrote “I don’t regret it as a player or coach, but (I) don’t know about today. Times have changed with all the knowledge that has come out since our days.”

And he’s right on both points. At the time, it was the right thing to do. Precautions were taken, just not at the same level as today. Nobody’s fault; we just didn’t know any better.

Many of us also lived in homes without central air (let’s hear it for the attic fan!). We weren’t conditioned to air conditioning, and we couldn’t just set the thermostat to “Arctic” and take a nap or go play video games.

Along with that, everyone spent more time outdoors, so the heat wasn’t a complete shock to our systems.

But no matter what the generation or the technology or the preventative measures, one thing remains the same.

Hot is hot.

You don’t need a phone app to tell you that.

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Local coaches flummoxed figuring ’24, ’25 prep football scheduling

It’s about this time of year that high school football coaches begin fretting about their upcoming schedule. Is it too difficult? Is travel going to be a logistical problem?

But it’s not this year’s schedule they are worrying about these days. That’s been set in stone for two years.

It’s the 2024 (and 2025) schedule that has them, at least mildly, concerned.

They’ve already got plenty to worry about for this year as August workouts are now just days ahead. But the work has already begun in forming what the schedule will look like beyond this year.

And it’s not easy.

NFL schedules are year to year, but they are based on a formula. About 75 percent of the games are pre-determined with the remaining being filled in by the results of the previous season.

College football schedules are the other way. LSU has a date with Utah on Sept. 11, 2032. There’s a fourth-grader out there somewhere who will probably play in that game.

But high school football is Louisiana is done by two-year cycles (alternating between home and visitor in each of those years). However, the district schedules aren’t known until the re-classification takes place in January. Guess at your own risk on the size of your future district.

“It’s not fun, I can promise you,” said Haughton coach Jason Brotherton. “It’s quite stressful.”

And you definitely don’t want to be in a district with an odd number of teams; that means there will likely be a date to fill in the middle of the district season. That could mean a 200-mile trip to find another team with an open date that same weekend.

Or not.

That’s what Loyola did when a Week 5 opponent reneged on an agreement. Head coach Mike Greene looked around a little bit, but quickly found that the only teams that were available were either (1) too far away, (2) too many steps up the food chain for the Class 2A Flyers, or (3) both.

But because it came in the week before district play began, Greene used it as an opportunity to heal from a brutal non-district schedule. It worked as the Flyers won their next four games after the open date.

It can be even worse for schools who don’t know what classification they are going to be in. Take Northwood, for example. The Falcons could be in Class 4A (where they are now) or get bumped to Class 5A.

As a Class 4A school, head coach Austin Brown has received calls from two of the biggest Class 5A powers in Louisiana. “We are attractive to them because of the power points they would get from playing us,” Brown said. “But if we are 5A and might go 5-5? Not so much.”

The easiest game to fill is the first week and many schools use that to play a non-district, traditional rival. (Northwood has already filled that in the future with Benton.)

“It’s like anything else,” said Huntington coach Stephen Dennis. “You look at the size of a mountain and you think it’s too big to climb. But if you take it one step at a time, you realize you can do it. Everybody looks at it different. There are really several factors with lots of things to look at.”

Haughton coach Jason Brotherton is far less philosophical, but is driving down the same road.

“I go on the assumption that our district is going to be the same size,” he said. “It might not be, but that’s my starting point. Then I took at how many of those district games I think we will be favored in. If I think we can beat most of them, they I’ll play anybody (non-district). But if I think we are going to be middle of the pack, I’ve got to try to go find games I think we can win.”

And if you get stuck with an open date in Week 9? “You’re pretty limited in your options,” Brotherton said. “And if a lot of coaches are calling you, that must mean they don’t think you are very good and they think they can beat you.”

“You try not to be too late because you can get stuck,” Dennis said. “My thought process is to worry about Weeks 1 through 3. Typically you don’t have a district larger than eight teams. But I’m kinda of playing it both ways because I fully expect to be in 5A next year.”

The real scramble comes after the season when the district alignment begins to take shape. “If somebody is slow playing it and want to see what happens and if they can get a better deal, then I’ll go ahead and take the bird in the hand than wait on them,” Dennis said.

But if Northwood and Huntington both move up in 2024 and 2025, that would give the local 5A district 10 schools and would bring about two options: a nine-game district schedule or splitting the district into two 5-team districts.

“I’d rather have a five-team district, but we’d probably play the same people (in non-district),” Brotherton said “I think you could keep some of those games, but give you the liberty to play somebody else. If you are down, you want to be able to call around and find somebody you can be competitive against.”

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Beard’s Hall of Fame career inspires a new mission back home

 SIMPLY THE BEST:  After helping Southwood High win four state championships, Shreveport’s Alana Beard became the player of the year in women’s college basketball at Duke in a career sending her into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics)


For someone who had a career full of highlights, you’d think it would be easy for Alana Beard to choose one.

Think again.

WNBA Champion?

Two Final Four appearances?

Four-time WNBA All-Star?

School scoring record at Duke University?

No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft?

“That’s a tough question,” said Beard, who will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame this weekend in Natchitoches.

“It’s impossible to pinpoint just one highlight because all of those have led to this moment,” Beard said. “But my high school career (at Southwood) was my foundation. The fact that we were capable of winning four state championships in a row during that span, that would be it. That was the beginning of everything else.”

The “everything else” part of it is quite substantial, because even though her playing career is over, a new career has begun. Once her amazing basketball career ended, she has continued to make her mark as founder and president of the 318 Foundation, established to help close the opportunity gap for high school girls in underserved communities.

The program, anchored by the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, has been piloted in Shreveport and is being implemented in other locations.

Beard spent five months in 2019 in Shreveport and took it upon herself to organizing meetings with political, civic and school leaders. “I wanted to see just what was needed in Shreveport,” she said. “I’ve always been adamant about building something in Shreveport for Shreveport and I didn’t want to just let my name to something.”

Beard and Southwood set the standard for high school basketball in this area, but it came from humble beginnings. “Today’s players have so much access to skills trainers and are always evolving,” Beard said. “I was out in my backyard practicing on a dirt court. I was very fortunate to have a coach like Steve McDowell. He laid the foundation for me and gave me the skills and values that go along with being a champion in this sport.”

“She was always the first one there to practice and the last to leave,” McDowell said. “She wanted to be the very best she could be. She had such a will to win.”

Beard did plenty of it. She went on to play at Duke and became the only player in NCAA history to score 2,600 points with 500 assists and 400 steals. In 2004, she won the Wade Trophy, given to the Outstanding Player in women’s college basketball.

She began her pro career with the Washington Mystics but injuries forced her to miss two complete seasons. In 2012, she returned to play for the Los Angeles Sparks and was part of the 2016 team that won the WNBA title.

Beard retired – “probably a year too late,” she said – in 2019.

“People always say that they didn’t envision themselves being what they turned out to be, but I did,” Beard said, “because I know the amount of work I put into it. I knew what my goals were. I trusted myself and the people I put around me. I’m grateful for everything I’ve been able to accomplish, but I also envisioned it from the get-go.

“My professional career was rewarding,” she said. “That’s the pinnacle for women’s sports. But on top of that, I was able to build relationships that I value more than anything.”

Women’s basketball certainly evolved during Beard’s career. “What I notice more than anything these days is that these women are taking ownership of who they are and really see themselves as a business,” she said. “When you do that, you take more stake in everything else that goes in it. The way that you eat. The way that you work out. The way you present yourself on the court. And the way you present yourself off the court.”

That’s why for those in the 318 Foundation, it doesn’t matter if a student has ever shot a basketball. “We have some life-changing experiences for young girls,” Beard said. “We had two young women, who had never been out of Shreveport, in (Washington) D.C. last week at a leadership camp.”

All of the success Alana Beard has had circles back to those days practicing on that backyard dirt court and her career at Southwood.

“Shreveport raised me,” Beard said. “Shreveport is why I am who I am. I think a lot of people who are raised here go out and gain all of those experience in the world and don’t return. I’ve always wanted to be different in that sense. I’ve acquired a lot of experience over the last 20 years. What better way to share that than in the community that raised you?”

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A man, 40 yards, a clock, and a most unusual challenge

It has long been my contention that I am faster than future baseball Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He’s now retired, but in the last couple of years of his career, I’d watch him waddle down to first base – barely even picking his feet up – and think that even though I am 20 years older, I have to be faster than that.

I’m not in the greatest shape, but I do regularly exercise and have been known to pick up the pace at more than just a light jog for someone who is a 60-something. And when I do, I’m usually thinking “there’s no way Albert Pujols can run this fast.”

If only there were a way to prove it …

One day, I noticed the Loyola football team was going through summer drills and had automatic timers set up to determine 40-yard clockings. What if I timed myself and translated that data into the speed from home to first? Baseball analytics are now such that you can find just about any speed you want, so getting Albert’s speed shouldn’t be a problem.

But what about my speed? What was a reasonable expectation about my 40 time? What could I be happy with?

The answer, I figured, had to be between 5.5 and 7.0. Having no idea what Pujols could run it in, I settled on a goal of 6.0 seconds in the 40 and see if that would prove anything.

However, I still had to weigh the risks of running the 40 on hot artificial turf in running shoes — and not just the physical risks. There was an entire football team that was looking for a good laugh.

After almost as much stretching as deliberation, I decided to give it a shot. In 6.0 seconds (hopefully) it would all be over with.

Because it was automatically timed, I wouldn’t have to worry about a slow reaction at the start. When I started, the clock would start. I had on workout clothing, so that wasn’t going to be a hinderance. There was basically no wind.

I gave it one last do-I-really-want-to-do this, got in a stance (no starting blocks) and took off.

This I hadn’t planned on: For each 10 yards of the 40-yard run, I had a different thought. I don’t know what Usain Bolt thinks about, but it’s fair to say that it’s probably not the same things I thought about on my “sprint.”

First 10 yards: I was relieved that I didn’t fall down. As long as I stayed vertical, I could probably keep the laughter to a minimum.

Second 10 yards: I was realizing that the shoes didn’t seem to have much grip. I never felt like I was getting a solid foot on the turf.

Third 10 yards: Isn’t this the part of a sprint where guys pull up and immediately grab their hammy like they’ve been shot in the leg? Man, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Final 10 yards: Finally, a rational runner thought – finish strong and run all the way through. And that these were 10 yards that Albert Pujols never has to run going only 90 feet from home to first base.

I was surprised that I wasn’t winded in the least, but even as I was crossing the line, I was already thinking that I felt like I could have run faster. Had I done better than 6.0? I wasn’t sure.

Thankfully, the clock was hidden from all observers, so I couldn’t just look and get the result. I had to ask.

“Six point one,” the assistant football coach said.

Sure, I wished I had cracked 6.0, but I wasn’t crushed. It was respectable (for someone my age) and I was emboldened when a player said “We’ve got guys on our team that can’t run that fast.”


Now it was time to do the computation, so bear with me. My speed of 6.1 equates to 16.36 miles per hour. But baseball measures speed in feet per second and that translates to 23.99 fps.

At age 42, Albert Pujols was timed at 23.2 fps – about seven inches faster. However, he’s only running 90 feet; I ran 120. It is reasonable to think that I slowed down the last 10 yards of my timed run.

I’d probably feel a whole lot better about the whole thing if it weren’t for that 703 home run advantage he has over me.

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Will youth be served at State Amateur?

IS THE FUTURE NOW?: At 20 years old, Shreveport golfer Burke Alford hopes to benefit from local knowledge in the 104th Louisiana State Amateur golf championship beginning today at Southern Trace Country Club in Shreveport.  (Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports)


On the day Burke Alford was born, Eddie Lyons was already old enough to play on golf’s senior tour.

And yet there they were on Wednesday as they played a practice round together in preparation for this week’s Louisiana State Amateur, which begins today at Southern Trace Country Club.

It’s the perfect example of an event that takes all types.

There is the 70-year-old Lyons, the 1991 State Am champion, first played in this event in 1972 – almost even before Alford’s parents were born. That year it was played at Shreveport Country Club, which doesn’t even exist anymore.

The 20-year-old Alford, who just finished his second year on the UL-Lafayette golf team after graduating from Loyola College Prep, is playing in this event for the second time. Actually, Alford is trying to finish his first State Am after getting DQ’d last year following a mix-up on the back nine in the second round after it looking like he was on his way to making the cut.

But if you think the 50 years difference in their ages for Lyons and Alford would make for an unlikely pairing for a practice round, think again. It’s a learning opportunity for both.

“These kids hit it 40 yards past me … I can hit it 280 (off the tee),” Lyons said. “It’s just a different game now from what I am used to. But I get a look at what I am up against.”

“He’s obviously played in a lot of these events, so I’m just looking to kind of pick his brain on how he plays,” Alford said. “I like to see why he plays certain shots on certain holes and see what his perspective is.”

Alford had better get as much information as he can. “This is it for me,” Lyons said. “I still love to compete and I still get that feeling on the first tee. But I wouldn’t be even be playing (this year) if it wasn’t for it being at Southern Trace.”

“I’ve got a couple of years of amateur golf under my belt and this is a tournament at home so there’s a little bit of an advantage,” Alford said. “The first couple of days I’m just trying to put myself in position and hopefully on the weekend, I can try to be in it.”

This will be the sixth time for Southern Trace to host the event, but the first since a major renovation two years ago. That played a role in the State Am getting back to Shreveport for the first time since 2013, according to Jacob Oaks, the director of championship operations for the Louisiana Golf Association.

“That was a huge deal for us (for selection),” Oaks said. “First of all, they did an amazing job. It’s incredible what they did and it’s in almost perfect condition. If you played it a lot in the past, I don’t think you’d notice too much difference. Except for the greens. They are fair, but they really provide a good test. It’s going to be a treat for the players.”

Lyons, a member at Southern Trace, agrees with that assessment.

“It will be interesting because of the renovations,” said Lyons, who last played in the State Am in 2019 and made the cut at age 67. “The greens are fast and they are hard to read. It takes a while to pick up on what putts are going to do.”

There is a wide variety of participants in the 144-man field – including two former NFL players (Kyle Williams and Billy Joe Tolliver) – but Lyons thinks the winner after four rounds will come from the under-25 age category.

Winners typically haven’t typically come from the host city (though Shreveport’s Eric Ricard won in 2013, the last time it was played at Southern Trace).

If you add heredity into the mix of age and location, Shreveport’s Holden Webb should feel pretty good about his chances. The first-year LSU golfer (and a 2022 graduate of Loyola) is the son of Craig Webb, who finished second at Southern Trace in 1992 and went on to win in 1994 and 1999.

“He doesn’t talk much about it,” Webb said of his father’s success at the State Am.

“Everyone is always there to win,” Webb said. “I think that’s a given. I’m just going to try to stay in the present with each shot and just take it step by step and just try to let the results take care of themselves. But this is my first State Am, so I really don’t know what it’s going to be like.”

And if he drives back home with the 104th State Am crown, his father might well remind him that he’s still one behind in their Webb household.

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One last look at a special place in a special time

They will be putting the shovels in the ground soon to begin the construction of the YMCA’s Youth Baseball and Softball Complex. When they do, they will also shovel away a small part of my heart.

Please don’t get me wrong: I am all in favor of this project. Those who have made it happen are to be applauded and congratulated. It’s a giant step forward for youth sports in this area. Its potential is off the charts.

This didn’t just happen; it’s been in the works for quite some time. Knowing that, I knew I needed to take one last look at what it was before it becomes what it’s going to be.

The new facility will replace the existing Little League facility, which was built a little more than 30 years ago. Much has changed in youth baseball and softball and what Little League was that long ago hardly even resembles what it is now.

I was fortunate to be a part of Shreveport Little League during its heyday of the mid-to-late 1990s and even a few years afterward. On a personal level, I don’t exactly remember those years very fondly – we all have periods in our life when things aren’t exactly rosy – but being a part of what was going on at that facility brought me joy when I needed it most.

So I took one last walk through the Little League Complex while I could still see it for what it was. It was a very personal walk.

I still saw a T-ball game in which I realized it was next to impossible to keep five or six defensive players from all running after the ball at the same time … while the kid closest to the ball just stood there and watched.

I saw the spot where the coach of the opposing five-year-old team and I argued as to whether the final score was 23-21 or 22-21 (even though “we don’t keep score”). It got a little heated.

I saw the parking lot behind the left field fence where my father, who was getting on in years, sat in his lawn chair and watched his grandson play. It would be the last athletic event he would ever witness.

I saw the place on the Coach Pitch field, where the teenaged umpire, who had grown tired of my a-little-too-intense coaching style and was looking to get me in trouble, asked one of my players, “Does your coach ever hit you?” and the seven-year-old answered “Sure. All the time.”

Thankfully, before the arrest warrant was issued, it was realized that my player was innocently talking about how I would hit them with a ball when I was pitching and they couldn’t get out of the way. (You try pitching to a little bitty strike zone.)  Everyone had a good laugh. Me? Not so much.

I saw the right field foul pole on the Minor League field, where a 9-year-old hit what would have been the greatest home run in recorded history had it been two feet to the left of the pole instead of two feet to the right in the league championship game. Over the fence. Waaay over the fence. Definition of a long strike.

I saw the walkway behind the first base dugout, where I was sacking up the bats after we won a 12-year-old State Tournament semifinal playoff game against Alexandria and got cussed out by an opposing mom for having the gall to intentionally walk their team’s best player with two outs and a base open with the game on the line. (It worked, by the way.) “We are driving back tomorrow night and cheer for Lake Charles,” she told me. “I’ll save you a seat,” I told her.

(Spoiler alert: She never showed.)

I saw the coaching box where I stood in the final game of the State Championship game and couldn’t decide whether to run the first-and-third play in the bottom of the sixth inning with a trip to the Regionals in Florida on the line. While trying to figure out what time would be right, and a quick pop up and a ground out led to the heartache of leaving the tying run only 60 feet away from scoring. I’ve always wonder what would have happened if I had pulled the trigger.

And that’s about one percent of the memories I will take with me.

But what I saw most of all is the parking lot behind the center field fence – the Skybox – where we all gathered as 30-somethings to watch our kids play. We’d show up even when our own kids weren’t playing. Every night felt like another World Series game. Almost three decades later, hardly a day goes by when we don’t recall a game or, even better, an incident from those years.

Parents getting white-knuckled mad while grabbing the fence. Shortstops already crying before the ball had stopped rolling after it had gone through their legs. Umpires trying to explain the infield fly rule. Over-the-fence home runs. Left-handed catchers. Seeing a curveball for the first time.

They’ll take the current Little League facility and make it into something truly special. But what I’ll remember is also truly special. Maybe not the facility as much as the people who spent countless hours making countless memories.

I’m not sure who grew up more during that time – the Little Leaguers or me. 

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