Raiders have risen through the ranks to constant contenders

KAM CAN: Accomplished senior Kamron Evans will be looking for another outstanding year as Huntington quarterback.


Three straight playoff appearances. Two trips to the second round and with home playoff games. Sure, a lot of schools can make that claim. It’s a reasonable goal.

But for Huntington, it’s a little bit more than that.

“It’s taken us a while to build towards that,” said head coach Stephen Dennis. “When we look back and see where we have come from and where we are going, it’s something we are really proud of. That produces expectations.”

For the Raiders, these are expectations that they have set, even with the loss of a large group of starters from a year ago.

Dennis, in his sixth year as head coach of the Raiders, took over a program in 2017 that was 3-17 in the previous two seasons. He believes that part of the growth of the program has been the ability to learn on the job.

“One thing I learned pretty quick is that we had to do what it took to make Huntington successful,” he said. “We had to make the blueprint fit what Huntington needed. You couldn’t necessarily use the blueprint that worked at another school. That’s why we are able to meet the needs of our student-athletes as best we can and that is one of the major reasons for our success.”

It’s also nice to have a blueprint that has Kamron Evans in it. The senior quarterback is coming off a season in which he threw for 3,630 yards with 44 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Evans will attract a lot of attention during the season – both the high school season and recruiting season.

“Last year, he was the new kid who was waiting in the wings and now he’s the one who everybody is looking at,” Dennis said. “We are replacing a ton of skill players and we have some good ones coming up, so we are going to really lean on his experience and leadership to get those guys through playing their first varsity football games.”

Dennis expects to use a number of running backs, featuring senior Jamarion Mims, junior John Solomon (5-9, 171) and sophomore Nyles Hullaby. Mims moves back to offense from defensive back. Solomon started the playoff games last year as an injury replacement. Hullaby will be used as a power back.

At receiver, Huntington will need to replace three three-year starters, but Dennis is counting on a “very talented group of sophomores” to take their place. The group is led by Jarvis Davis “who is going to take a lot of people by surprise,” Dennis says. Senior Demarion Carter (5-6, 145) also brings some experience to the position.

On defense, Dennis is looking for the team speed to be a difference maker. “The speed on that side of the ball is very impressive,” he says.

Defensive end Nehemiah Barrett (6-2, 225) has moved over from offense and Dennis said, “I’m telling you he’s going to be an issue (for offenses) because he has the speed and the size.”

Senior nose tackle Brian Rodriguez (5-11, 268), who started as a freshman, and Jalen Butler will also anchor the defensive line.

Dylan Holmes headlines the linebacker corps and in the defensive backfield, Kamar Lewis (5-11, 158) plays a hybrid role at safety.  “He has the ability to play in the box and also cover the field; that’s hard to find in high school,” Dennis said.

Also in the backfield is sophomore Tyler Welch (6-2, 185), who is returning as a cornerback and had two interceptions in the playoffs.

The Raiders will open against Mansfield in the Battle on the Border and will play Byrd in Week 2, Class 4A semifinalist Neville in Week 3, before beginning the District 1-4A season against pre-season favorite Northwood.

“We will be successful if we take care of the little things,” Dennis said. “Every day. One week at a time. I really believe in that.”

Contact J.J. at

A day that (still) lives in infamy

By the time you read this, I will already have received at least two or three texts.

How do I know? Because this is August 12. I always receive texts from a certain group of people on August 12.

We share the same memories of this day, which is inexorably etched in our minds (and, all these years later, perhaps still in our bodies).

The texts will begin with “Remember when …” or “I still …” or “It’s hard to believe …” and will go from there.

We all know August 12 because we can’t forget August 12.

Way back when, August 12 was the day that high school football practice started. And not just one practice – it was the start of two-a-days.

Our group of former team members will text each other on special days during the year – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter … and August 12. And while the old “war stories” are fun, the bigger part is the bond that still exists all these decades later. It’s not just the former players; a couple of our coaches also join in. (Thankfully none of them are yelling at us to “do it again until we get it right!”)

To be honest, what we went through at the start of summer practice really didn’t resemble football. There was a lot of rolling around in the dew-filled grass, jumping jacks, sprints, getting hit by hand-held padded dummies and more sprints. Every once in a while, an actual football would appear.

Then we’d come back and do it again in the afternoon. Fun times!

You can’t do two-a-days anymore because school has started by now. But even if you could, the authorities would probably be slapping the cuffs on high school coaches for mistreatment of minors.

It was around August 11 when we all realized that maybe we should have gotten in better shape in the previous three months instead of hanging out at the lake or working on our suntan.

Every year on the morning of August 12 in my high school football years, I would walk into the locker room with the same thought college basketball teams have during March Madness — survive and advance. Get through this practice and get one step closer to the finish line.

You could forget about any kind of break from the weather. I actually looked it up — between August 12 and the 29th in my senior year, it rained exactly .04 inches — total.

It was always a tough call whether morning or afternoon practice was more miserable. Morning was sticky and humid; afternoon was Equator Hot. I would stand on the practice field and calculate how long it would take the sun to get behind the nearby nine-story United Gas building. That might drop the temperature from 100 degrees all the way down to 97, huh?

Even worse, if possible, was the smell of mesh practice shirts with dried sweat on them in the locker room. That is an odor I can still smell to this day.

Unless you lived through it, you can’t possibly imagine the dread of waking up on the morning of August 12. There are a lot of things I have feared going through in my lifetime and I can promise you that August 12 is still at the top of the list.

But the dread was only temporary. We didn’t realize it at the time, but those two weeks of hell did so much more than just get us in condition for the upcoming high school football season.

I know that, because I just got another text.

Contact J.J. at

Falcons started preparing right away to fly high again

Note – This is the first in a series previewing all local high school football teams.


One day after a crushing 2021 quarterfinal loss to eventual Class 4A state champion Westgate, Northwood football coach Austin Brown called a meeting of the coaching staff to let them know one thing.

The 2022 season had just begun.

“I told the staff that we had a lot of guys returning with speed and strength,” Brown says. “We’ve got to focus on the mental aspect and the team aspect. Make sure egos stay checked and that personal expectations don’t outweigh the team goals.”

Nine months later, that message was brought home once again as Brown put the Falcons through a 72-hour “lock-in” at the school before the start of pre-season workouts. Throwing, catching and tackling will come soon enough, but Brown wanted there to be a bigger message with the lock-in.

“The focus is on team building,” he says. “When you go through something like this together, you tend to get a little bit closer to each other. Getting up at 6 o’clock, going at it all day long. Those things aren’t fun. But there is a lot of bonding, even with freshmen and seniors.”

Other than the slight issue of having security lights in the gym that wouldn’t go out at night – “they toughed it out,” Brown says – the coach says it got the Falcons where they need to be as they begin preparations for the ’22 season.

And make no mistake about it – there are high expectations for Northwood football this year.

This is a team that was the No. 4 seed, lost by two points to the eventual state champion and returns plenty of experience, including some of the top recruits in the area.

“It may be cliché, but it’s still the same thing for us,” Brown says. “Play good, hard, efficient football and play good defense. That’s the way it’s been for us the last few years. But with the players and coaching staff we’ve got, the expectations are high for our community.”

The 2018 team was undefeated in the regular season and 13-1 overall, so success is nothing new. But Brown believes there are intangibles at work for this year.

“You want your best players to be hard workers, but our best players also love Northwood football,” he says. “That’s shown through to our younger classes and it’s a team-wide thing. They all love Northwood football.”

Mar’Javious Moss will get plenty of attention from the opposition and Brown says using him in the right circumstances will be the key.

“We kind of outsmarted ourselves last year,” Brown says. “He was primarily on offense last year and defense when we needed him. Then we realized that we needed him on full-time defense and special packages on offense. He’s going to touch the ball 5-10 times on offense.”

Moss could line up anywhere – he’s played quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and safety – and scored six different ways last year. He also had five interceptions in a game.

“The most impressive thing about him is his football intelligence,” Brown says. “He understands what the (opposing) offense is trying to do or what the defense is trying to do.”

Senior defensive end TaDerius Collins, who showed up as a freshman at 6-1, 190 and is now 6-4, 250, “is just a freak. If you draw up what you want a Division I defensive end to look like, that’s him.”

Junior quarterback Mason Welch (6-3, 225) will be running the offense again. “We have to kick him out of the office sometimes,” Brown says. “The coaches are ready to go home and see their families and he’s wanting to watch more video. He’s a student of the game.”

Brown expects two-time All-District running back Quintavion White to get 20-25 carries per game. Slot receiver Marc Denison “will be our go-to guy on offense,” Brown says.

Offensive tackle Ja’marion Kennedy (6-3, 305) will be anchoring the offensive line and will be seeing time both ways.

On defense, there’s addition by subtraction. Disruptive nose tackle Ted Jamison moved over from offense. “I have to pull him out of practice sometimes because we can’t get anything done with him destroying everything,” Brown says.

Biggest question mark? “If our young offensive line can protect our quarterback and lead the run game,” Brown says.

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Northwood enters season on a roll

Northwood has quite the DL duo with Jamison, Collins

Northwood’s Dennison draws comparison to Trent Taylor

Northwood DB to sparkle this fall for Falcons

Our favorite Corner this summer

Quite often when I go to a local restaurant I will see Larry Toms, a long-since retired basketball coach at Bossier High and a man who knows how to tell a good story. It was early summer and I had been thinking about upcoming stories for the Shreveport- Bossier Journal when I realized there was a potential feature two tables over.

So I sat down, turned on my voice recorder and told Larry “go.”

That’s how the summer series called “Coaches Corner” began. I knew there were plenty more out there like Larry Toms who had great memories of their coaching days.

As anybody can tell you who ever played a sport, you don’t forget your coach. So I knew this would be a fun weekly adventure and that readers would enjoying hearing from people who had influenced their lives.

There was no well-organized roadmap – the only loosely defined requirement was that they were all at least 70 years old – and in some way or another, I had a relationship with them.

Almost all I had covered in my first incarnation as a sportswriter. One had been my high school football coach. Another I would see at a local fitness facility. I’ve played golf with a couple of others.

In typically unplanned fashion, I just went from one to the next. Almost all were easy to track down – if I didn’t, I figured somebody knew how to get in touch with them – and after Toms, it was Clay Bohanan, Anthony Catanese, Alden Reeves, Doug Robinson, Gerald Kimble, Billy Don McHalffey, Will Marston and Ron Worthen.

This was among the easiest and most satisfying series of stories I’ve ever done. Easy, because it wasn’t like I had to come up with a long list of questions. These were just conversations that we had. All I had to do was throw in some adjectives and verbs when it was over and piece it all together.

Satisfying, because the reaction these stories got was far more than I expected.

Most of them were football coaches, but they had a wide range of backgrounds. Some stayed at one school, others moved around. Some were head coaches in multiple sports.

Amazingly, four of them are still working (though none as a coach).

It wasn’t a surprise to hear some universal answers. “The relationship with the kids” was the basic automatic response I got whenever I’d ask about the best part of coaching.

But the best part was how excited they would get when I’d get them into “coach” mode, as if they were still on the sideline or in the dugout and trying to find a way to win one more game. There were games from 40 years that they still haven’t forgotten. Not coincidentally, most of those were losses that still sting.

Some missed coaching, some didn’t, but I got the feeling that all of them would relish a crack at winning one more game.

But not all of the nostalgia was pleasant. The final story in the series was with Worthen, who was a long-time coach at Southwood. When I asked him what he remembered about coaching, he didn’t waste any time.

“I remember how horrible the conditions were as far as the practice area and facilities were,” he said. “We had to go out every day and pick up rocks and broken glass off the field. We’d go out with buckets and walk down and pick up everything that had come up from the ground.”

When Southwood was built in 1970, the topsoil that made the school grounds was sold, so when the Cowboys’ practice field was subsequently built “they brought stuff in but it wasn’t good soil. It was rubbish,” he said.

And then he paused for a moment before bringing up a subject that I knew about but, shame on me, never actually thought about.

There were three linebackers in succession at Southwood in the 1970s — Ken Serpas, Danny Huffstickler and David Adams — who were all outstanding players.

Adams died in 2007.

Huffstickler died in 2013.

Serpas died in 2015.

All three had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

There are many suspected causes of ALS. One of them is environmental toxin exposure.

So yes, these coaches still have great stories to tell. But some of those stories have a lot more impact than just who won or lost.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Once a Cowboy, Worthen was always a Cowboy


Last in a series

If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that when they opened the doors of Southwood High School in 1970, Ron Worthen fell in.

Not exactly, but close.

He has a 36-year career as a coach and teacher at the school. It wasn’t unusual then (as well as now) for coaches to change schools during their careers, but not Worthen. He was head football coach at Southwood for 12 years (1983-94) as well as coaching the offensive line as an assistant.

His career could have taken a different turn before he ended up on Walker Road. After a career at Arkansas State, he was chosen as a center by Super Bowl champion Green Bay in the 1968 NFL Draft.  But a herniated disk put him on what was known as the “taxi squad” for the Packers and after a playing for a season in minor league football, he took a job with Liberty Mutual Insurance in Shreveport.

“I spent a lot of time on death cases and putting a value on that,” Worthen says. “That didn’t appeal to me too much.”

Because he had a teaching certificate, he decided to try a new career and took a job at Southwood. (Strangely enough, the school started before the building was ready, so some Southwood students actually took classes at Woodlawn for a few months.)

The new school quickly grew in population and the Cowboys didn’t waste any time becoming one of the top football programs in the city. The battles with neighboring Woodlawn routinely drew crowds of 15,000 or more.

When Ken Ivy left after the 1982 season, Worthen was one of five finalists to become head coach. This was a time in which Southwood had what was described in a newspaper story as “the largest – and most – active group of followers among Shreveport schools.”

During the spring of 1983, that became evident in the hiring process (as well as being an example of how times have changed). A screening committee recommended another candidate, but Southwood boosters made their voices heard and the School Board overruled the committee and named Worthen.

If there were any lingering problems, Worthen put them quickly to rest. The Cowboys were 8-2 and co-district champions during his first year but – get this – didn’t make the playoffs due to the tie-breaker system at the time. (See how times have changed?)

From 1986 to 1988, Worthen led the Cowboys to a 13-2 district record and won or shared the district title all three years. His ’87 team made it to the quarterfinals.

He would have another quarterfinal team in 1991 (going 10-3 overall) before stepping down as head coach after the 1994 season. He is still the winningest coach in Southwood history with a record of 81-53-1 (.604).

“I got out when I felt like it was time to go,” the 77-year-old Worthen says. “It was the right move at the right time.”

Among the list of teams that knocked his Southwood teams out of the playoffs are familiar stumbling blocks for local schools during the 1980s and ’90s – the Cowboys fell to Ruston, Ouachita and three times to Neville.

But playing Neville wasn’t anything new for Worthen’s teams.

“The great thing about coaching is the relationship you develop with the kids,” he says. “That’s the reason I stayed in it for 36 years. The bad thing is that in Louisiana, the boards of education really don’t support athletic programs as far as funding or anything else. I had to go get games against big-name schools.”

In each of Worthen’s 12 years, the Cowboys’ opening game was with either Texarkana (Ark.), Marshall (Texas), Neville or Barbe. Southwood only won two of those. “But you had to play them to get better,” he says.

When he retired from Southwood, Worthen took a job with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and worked there until 2015. “That kind of took my mind off of coaching,” he says. “I really didn’t miss it.”

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Don’t be so sure about a sure thing

It’s late summer and the vast wasteland of nothingness is upon the sports world. Unless you are geeked up for next Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, one of the best exercises at this time of year is to project how many games your team will win.

And, if you are given toward that sort of thing, make a wager on it.

Let’s get something out of the way first: Betting over/under on the win totals of NFL teams is an exercise in futility. Try playing one of those knockout pools (where all you have to do is pick one winner every week) and see how long you last.

Jacksonville can beat Buffalo. It can happen. Oh wait … the Jaguars actually did make that happen last year. For that matter, they beat Indianapolis last year in the final game of the season when they weren’t even trying to win.

So give up on the NFL. Stick to college. But before you do, you might want to take off those team color-and-other-team-color glasses you have on.

I’m so stupid that I actually thought that I had sniffed out a sure thing last year. The number on Louisiana Tech last year was “only” 4.5 wins. Are you kidding me? I’ll have that check cashed by Homecoming!

Had Tech not blown a three-touchdown lead against Mississippi State and been able to defend a Hail Mary pass against SMU, I would have been one win away from glory by the end of September. The Bulldogs were 2-2 and could have easily been 4-0. So that hurt.

A one-possession loss to North Carolina State didn’t feel great, but UTEP was next, so that figured to be a W. Except Tech forgot to bring the offense and poured in a field goal. One. That’s it.

Next, former Tech coach Skip Holtz thought it might be a good idea to go for it on fourth down and long from near midfield in a tie game rather than just play for overtime and, of course, lost in regulation to Old Dominion.

Still stuck at two wins as we headed into November.

Even with all that, the math was still on my side. Three games left and none of the opponents were against teams with winning records. As Jim Carrey said to Lauren Holley in Dumb and Dumber — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?!”

The Bulldogs did me a solid and beat Charlotte – hey, it’s a winning streak! – and the last two games were against conference bottom-feeders Southern Miss and Rice.

This was about to be the greatest ‘oh-by-the-way’ cover in betting history. Southern Miss literally didn’t have a quarterback and Rice hadn’t won a game in a month. After all of this misery — Tech could have easily been 7-3 at this point — all would be forgiven because the Bulldogs were getting two layups to close the season and cover the 4.5-win total.

Or so I thought.

The Mississippi State loss was troubling. The SMU game was unlucky. Maybe UTEP can be written off as one of those things. Old Dominion was a poor decision in the heat of the moment.

But losing to a Southern Miss team that was hapless even before it literally used its leading rusher to play quarterback against Tech was simply inexcusable.

It would have been even worse if Tech had actually beaten Rice in the final week and I would have finished one win away. Instead, the Bulldogs did me a favor and sank to the occasion to finish with three wins.

In Week 1, I was watching Tech build up a 20-point lead on my iPhone while at a wedding ceremony (thankfully, not mine) and thinking I was the smartest bettor ever. How’d that turn out?

As a wise man once told me, that’s why they call it gambling. Not sure-thinging.

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Lots of miles, little stress for local travel ball players

ON THE MOVE:  Airline’s Tyler Ferguson (left) and Byrd’s Kevin Robinson have stayed busy this summer with travel baseball.


They play on a variety of teams in a variety of places, but there is one thing that most local travel ball participants can agree on when it comes to comparing it to their high school season.

“Travel ball is more relaxed,” says Byrd’s Kevin Robinson. “You are working on yourself more than anything else. In high school you are trying to get a win for your team.”

“In travel baseball, it’s just a lot of fun,” says Airline’s Mason Morgan. “You’re playing free with no emotions and you’re with your friends playing the game you love. There’s nothing better. High school baseball is so much more focused and much more competitive because there is so much pride for your school.”

“Travel ball is a lot looser and brings back the fun,” says Airline teammate Tyler Ferguson. “High school ball is more important. If you don’t win a summer ball game, you just go to the next weekend. In high school, you only have one season. It’s not as much of a grind as school ball, but I love it.”

Ferguson is part of Team Louisiana and plays for Chad Abernathy. Even though he had played for Abernathy in the past, he still had to try out for the team that consists of players from all over the state.

Ferguson has played in a tournament almost every weekend since school ended in locations all around the South, including a tournament in Atlanta that featured about 400 teams.

“I just want to be seen by as many (college) coaches as I can and get offers to play at the next level,” he says. “I think I get better during the high school season because I’m practicing every day. Summer is when I use what I have learned in practice all year to show what I can do.”

He plays both outfield and pitcher and has been playing travel ball since he was in middle school. “Whenever I was little, it was more of a game to have fun,” Ferguson says. “But going into my senior season, I need to be as ready as I can be.”

Playing baseball weekend after weekend can get tough, but Morgan says it’s worth it. It may be more relaxed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive.

“It is a huge grind because if you want to be great you have to work,” he says. “Everyone is getting better and if you aren’t then they will pass you up and you will be behind. As long as you grind and work hard you will succeed.”

Adding to that grind is the travel and if you don’t believe it, ask Robinson. He was with his Byrd teammates for a tournament in Omaha, then flew to Colorado Springs for a mission trip, then flew to Dallas to play on his travel ball team.

“That was tough,” he says. “I was gone for two weeks.”

Robinson is one of those who has played for both his school team as well as travel ball during the summer. When it’s all done, he estimates he will have played in about 60 games before school resumes. But it’s not like he didn’t expect it to be this way – he’s been playing travel ball since he was 9.

“The time aspect of travel is the toughest part of it,” he says. “Getting to meet new people and traveling to new places is the best part. Getting to play in big stadiums is great.”

“I like meeting new people from around the state and the nation and making bonds with them,” Ferguson says.

“The best thing about travel baseball is probably going to all the different cities and colleges around the country,” Morgan says. “And just having a great time with all of your friends.”

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COACHES’ CORNER: The Buc starts here, at Will Marston


Eighth in a series

One of the great pleasures in Will Marston’s life these days is sitting along the back row in the stands at Haughton football games. His son, Michael, is a coach on the Bucs’ staff. His grandson, Maddox, is about to be a sophomore at Haughton.

Not only is there pride in what he sees with his family on the Bucs’ sideline, there is also the pride in having former players routinely stop by during the game, if only for a moment.

“We sit up in the stands and talk about old times,” Marston says. “It feels great to still be included and involved.”

Yep, there’s a lot of pride in the Haughton community and Will Marston, 76, is a big part of that. It’s been 53 years since he first arrived and his fingerprints are all over the school’s athletic programs.

When Marston began, Haughton was a Class A school with a football program nobody really noticed and a baseball program that didn’t exist.

Today, it is a Class 5A school that routinely produces championship teams in multiple sports. Marston’s had more than a little bit to do with that.

A Coushatta native, he graduated from Northwestern State and came to Haughton in 1969 and began coaching football (and just about anything else) under Bobby Ray McHalffey.

Marston was defensive coordinator when the Bucs won the Class AAA state championship in 1977 and reached the state finals the next year. He became head football coach during mid-season in 1984 when McHalffey stepped down to become assistant principal.

Marston coached the Bucs through 1999, won 101 games (including four district championships) and reached the state semifinals and quarterfinals in back-to-back years (1989-90).

“It was a lot of fun, but there was a lot of wear and tear, too,” Marston says. “We had some good years and had a lot of the same coaches. We had a lot of good players.”

But before that, he started the Bucs’ baseball program from scratch in 1973 and reached the state championship game in 1981 before losing 10-5 to Minden. Ever the coach, Marston remembers how close the Bucs came.

“We were supposed to play the (championship) game on a Saturday, but it got rained out,” he says. “We couldn’t play on Sunday and so we had to play it on Monday, and that gave Minden’s ace a couple of more days of rest and he did the job on us.”

When you look at what the Haughton baseball program and facility are today, you quickly realize how far it has come.

“We had a backstop and six red benches and that was it,” Marston says of the first season in 1973. “If you look at it now, you can see how it progressed. But we had players who had been in the summer leagues and we had some pretty good athletes in that group.”

Asked if he considered himself a football coach or a baseball coach, Marston says “I just consider myself a coach. I’ve done just about all of them. When I started, I did football, basketball and track. And that was before we even started baseball.”

Here’s how much of a “coach” Marston was: When he stepped away from being a head coach in 1999, he still coached two more years as an assistant to his replacement, Rodney Guin.

“It was still fun, but it got to where someone younger needed to take it,” Marston says of the decision to move away from being a head coach. “With all the changes and sports being added, I figured it was time to step down.”

There is no shortage of legendary figures in the Haughton athletic program. It is the only school in Caddo-Bossier with three football coaches who have won 100 games or more.

Will Marston is one of them.

In 50 years of Haughton baseball, there have only been three coaches.

Will Marston is one of them.

“I got to coach a lot of great players and then coach their sons,” he says. “We have had a lot of quality athletes that went on to become coaches or are still in the community. They just don’t leave, and that helps keep that continuity. Once you are in Haughton, you never leave.”

Will Marston never has.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Taking fatherly advice never a problem for McHalffey

Smith’s ’87 All-Star journey home is something to remember

There are plenty of indicators of how baseball’s All-Star Game has changed – bad uniforms, mic’d up players, an actual game that nobody seems to care about winning – but for me, there is no better example of where we are vs. where we were than 35 years ago in, of all places, Jamestown, Louisiana.

Seventeen hours after he was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game in Oakland that had gone 13 innings (there’s another indicator!), Lee Arthur Smith of the Chicago Cubs found himself in a truck with two local sportswriters from the long-since defunct Shreveport Journal.

Teddy Allen was one. I was the other.

We rode from his home in Jamestown into Castor to help bring back some childhood memories for a story we were doing on him. We all sat in the front seat of Teddy’s truck – a young sportswriter couldn’t afford anything with two rows of seating – and Lee Arthur wasn’t about to sit between us.

But we rolled the windows down as we drove around and Smith waved at the people in town who instantly recognized him. A kid selling cantaloupes. Two men working on a truck. A woman about to grill some chicken and ribs.

OK, let’s stop for moment and let all of this sink in. One of the best players in baseball (he would go on to set the record for career saves) pitches in an All-Star Game that lasts past midnight, flies from Oakland to be back home for only a day and hangs out with two sportswriters who barely knew how to conjugate a verb?

And here is the truly incredible part – do you know where the Cubs played their next game after the All-Star Break? San Francisco. So Lee Arthur Smith traveled 4,000 miles roundtrip just to go 20 miles.

Even with an extra day now built into the All-Star Break, how many players are doing that these days. (Not to mention the part about hanging with the local yokel sportswriters.)

Like many things 35 years ago, there are some details I don’t remember and some I remember vividly. But what I remember the most was how incredible the whole experience was.

Nationally known writers would have given their right shift key to be where we were, especially because Lee Arthur was (1) a future Hall of Famer and (2) not exactly the friendliest when it came to media relations in Chicago and other places.

But with us, he was nothing but an A+. We kept thinking at some point this was all going to blow up in our face and instead, it kept getting better and better.

Little boys from down the street dropped by Lee Arthur’s house to talk about the strikeout of Mark McGwire in the 10th inning. We talked about how he had to actually bat in the top of the 13th inning (another indicator!) because the National League was out of position players, then got pulled for Mets lefty Sid Fernandez.

There was discussion about basketball being his first love, hunting, fishing and Ebenezer Baptist Church. He talked about getting the phone call that he had been drafted and then getting back on the truck and hauling more pulpwood because that was his job.

On the day we were with him — July 15, 1987 — we were the two luckiest sportswriters on Earth.

When it came time to write the story (which was published two days later), all we had to do was put our fingers on the keyboard and let it write itself. As it turned out, the story won Best Feature in the national Associated Press Sports Editors contest.

That was really nice and quite humbling. But the story wasn’t the story. Instead, the true story was the experience.

And as the years go by, the experience just seems to get better.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Taking fatherly advice never a problem for McHalffey


Seventh in a series

It was the day after Bossier had defeated Springhill 13-7 in the second round of the 1993 Class 3A football playoffs and Billy Don McHalffey’s coaching staff gathered to prepare for the next game. The playoff win was a little closer than maybe it should have been, due in great part to Bossier having three punts blocked.

As the staff gathered to talk about the quarterfinal matchup, in walked McHalffey’s father, Bobby Ray, with a three-page report on how to completely change the punting team. “We went to a whole different setup,” the younger McHalffey says now. “Not one of the coaches said a word.”

Which was probably a good idea, seeing as how Bobby Ray had won more than 100 games – including a state championship – during a 13-year head coaching career at Haughton.

Listening to his father for coaching advice came naturally for Billy Don, who figured being a coach was part of his birthright.

“That was a given from as long as I can remember,” he says. “With Dad being a coach, I went everywhere with him when I was young.”

But by not following fatherly advice, Billy Don McHalffey became the winningest coach in Bossier football history.

“He told me not to go into coaching, so my first year in college I went into forestry,” he says. “That lasted about one semester. After that, I just knew I was going to coach. That was just part of it.”

He coached his entire career at Bossier High and became head coach in 1991, staying put for 16 years. His 108 wins are 40 more than any other coach in Bearkat history.

“I was lucky,” he says. “I had a great coaching staff and we had some really great players come through Bossier while I was there.”

Enough to put the Bearkats in the playoffs in all 16 seasons of McHalffey’s years as head coach. He took two teams that didn’t have a winning record in the regular season (1993 and 2004) to the quarterfinals, and he earned a quarterfinal berth with the No. 4 seed in the 2001 playoffs.

From 1999-2001, Bossier went 29-6 overall. The 1999 team was 10-0 in the regular season – one of three district championship teams under McHalffey.

“It was just fun,” McHalffey says. “It was a good time and I really enjoyed it. We were lucky enough to make the playoffs every year, so that meant we got to travel. A lot of our kids had never been out of Bossier City, so it was neat to watch them and meet people from around the state.”

McHalffey’s teams ran the wing-T that had been installed at Bossier by Dick Concilio. “We just went with it and built off it,” he says. “We didn’t change a whole lot other than maybe a few formations. It was really fun to watch. When the wing-T starts working and you start confusing a defense, they don’t know where the ball is going. Our offensive linemen were small but we usually had a team that could run. All 11 of them.”

Now 70, McHalffey retired after the 2006 season to take a job with the Bossier Parish Truancy Office. “I just knew it was time,” he says. “I didn’t have but two more years left before I was going to retire anyway, but it felt like the right time and the right job came along.”

He says he had no withdrawal pains from coaching after he gave it up. “That first year out was fun,” McHalffey says. “I realized I hadn’t had a fall in 31 years and there are things you can do in those months. My wife and I had a great time that fall. We were all over the place.”

He finished with a record of 108-76 – seven more wins than his father at Haughton – and is one of only 14 coaches to win 100 games in Caddo-Bossier.

“I miss the kids,” McHalffey says. “That’s the fun part about it. What I don’t miss is all the extra stuff like mowing the field and taking care of all the equipment around there. But that just came with the job.”

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As LSU enjoys recruiting rebound, slippery slope approaches

It’s been a great week for LSU football recruiting. With each passing day, it seemed as though another recruit was signing up to be a future Tiger. (Figuratively, not literally.)

It was topped off by the news that five-star wide receiver Jalen Brown had let the world know he wanted to play in Baton Rouge.

A few weeks ago, LSU stood at No. 37 in the always-exact recruiting rankings; after the slew of Instagram announcements – hey, at least they aren’t playing the shell game with caps anymore – the Tigers moved up to No. 8.

Or No. 9.

Or is it No. 10? Depends on who’s doing the rankings.

If nobody was worried about the Tigers’ recruiting ranking because “it’s only July,” then doesn’t it stand to reason that they shouldn’t be excited because “it’s only July?”

If the Jalen Brown news has you thinking about him catching touchdown passes, then are you just as excited about Alex Adams doing the same?


That’s another wide receiver who LSU landed a few years ago. He caught all of two passes and is now waiting for his turn at Akron. Yes, the Zips.

Brown may work out just fine for the Tigers. Or maybe he won’t. Look at any recruiting class and you’ll find that about a third of them are total non-factors. But there is no doubt that the process has been sped up considerably, which means it’s become even dicier to project.

Coaches love to tell you that recruiting is “the lifeblood of a football program,” but the true lesson for everybody else is that it is the ultimate in things that you can take as seriously as you want or pay no attention to at all.

The more you follow it, the easier it is to keep following it. Or you can just ignore it and you won’t miss it one bit.

It might interest you to know that of the three most highly sought-after national recruits from a year ago, exactly zero of them had the school they eventually ended up at as one of the those they had narrowed it down to last summer. Can you say N-I-L?

That is sure to evolve into something we may not recognize in a few years, which is what the whole sped-up college recruiting concept has done.

Look at what has happened already. For years, signing day was held on the first Wednesday in February. It was cemented on that day like Christmas or the Fourth of July.

Then came early signing day on December, which everyone thought would bring in a trickle of activity. Instead, it brought a tidal wave. By the time February comes along, many of those who used to be making decisions were already in a college classroom.

Here’s where things can get tricky. If all of these future college athletes are making announcements in the summer, then how long until the early signing gets pushed into July?

Longshot? Perhaps. But think about the effect it would have on high school football. Because if they have already signed up for college, what incentive would they have to actually play their senior seasons?

If you think college players skipping out of bowl games to get ready for the NFL Draft is a problem, then sit back and watch this.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Kimble kept at it, built Green Oaks powerhouse


Let’s start with the hat, perhaps the least important part of the Gerald Kimble legacy.

He was always easy to spot on the Green Oaks sideline when he was coaching because he always wore a white floppy hat.

“I just got to wearing it one day out at practice and it just became a part of my wardrobe and that was it,” he says. “So I just wore it for 38 years.”

Unless you saw it for yourself, you can’t possibly understand what Kimble did to change the Green Oaks football program. Go ahead and make a list of great program turnarounds in Louisiana history and make sure you have Kimble on that list.

In the 1970s, any high school coach knew there was no way he’d have the worst program in the area because Green Oaks had the title cinched every year. In 1976, the Giants only scored five touchdowns all season and had a four-game stretch of being outscored 121-0.

In 1977, eight of the nine losses were by at least 13 points.

Then Kimble arrived.

When he tried to assemble a team for his first spring training, only 11 players showed up. So Kimble asked Green Oaks principal Tom James if he could have an assembly of the boys who would be coming back to school in the fall. He asked them one question: Do you want to play football?

Sixty said yes.

“Now, I was kind of flashy at the time,” Kimble says. “I drove a Jaguar and had a lot of jewelry, so maybe they were impressed with that. And I knew all 60 wouldn’t really come out (for football). But about 40 showed up.”

One of them was a kid named Willie Rogers. “I had some of the coaches who had been there tell me, ‘You don’t want that Rogers boy. He’s always in trouble,’ but I said ‘We are going to give him a chance,’” Kimble says. “Turns out he was one of the best kids I ever had because we gave him a chance.”

You want the formula for what happened? That’s it right there. Gerald Kimble built a community around a football team. Once he got parents and siblings involved, that excitement built all the momentum he needed to turn it around.

The Giants didn’t win a game in ’79, but four of the first five losses were by a touchdown or less.

After beating Green Oaks 10-7 in 1978 in the third game of Kimble’s career, Jesuit (now Loyola) coach Anthony Catanese was asked by another local coach, “How did you beat Green Oaks by only three points?”

“Let me tell you something,” Catanese told him. “There’s a new sheriff in town. And his name is Gerald Kimble.”

There was a devastating loss to Airline near the end of the ’78 season. The 26th loss in a row came by two points when the Vikings converted a fourth-and-16 in the fourth quarter. (Kimble also remembers an inadvertent whistle costing the Giants a touchdown.)

After the game, no one was more devasted than junior linebacker Paul Pugh, who told his coach “Coach, I’ve never walked off the field a winner.”

The streak was at 29 when the 1979 season opened against Marion (Lake Charles). Pugh blocked a punt that set up a score as Green Oaks won 33-0.

The streak was over. The Giants would lose the next week, then win eight in a row against teams such as Jesuit, West Monroe, Airline and Captain Shreve before losing 12-7 in the Class 4A playoffs.

Yes, Green Oaks – a team that never won more than three games in a season for an entire decade and was 0-10 the previous year – had won a district championship and made the playoffs.

But Kimble didn’t stop there. The Giants finished either first or second in District 2-AAAA in each of the next six years and won nine games every year from 1982 to 1984. The program had three quarterbacks who went on to play in college. Linebacker Roovelroe Swan was one of the top recruits in the country and led the Giants to a 10-win season in 1988.

It was also the last year at Green Oaks for Kimble, who moved on to Southern University. In 11 years as head coach for the Giants, Kimble was 76-40 (.655) overall, but remember, that includes a 0-10 first season.

“I was a strong disciplinarian,” he says. “And I could be rough on them. One kid was not bigger than the team. Being at practice was a big thing to me. But I told them that I was in their corner and I would stand up for them. But you know what? I was also getting help from the (players’) families to make sure they didn’t get out of line.”

He was at Southern as head coach for three years and then coached at Southern Lab, leading the Kittens to the Superdome Classic in 1996, and also coached a year at Booker T. Washington.

He’s still working – “I’m 80-and-a-half years old” – and has been working for the Volunteers for Youth Justice since 2011, still coaching, in an important way.

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You never know what can happen during the summer

Like many people these days, I have multiple jobs, but Numero Uno is the educational field. Those who have seasonal jobs appreciate all that those have to offer, but mainly that it has a beginning and an end. It’s the “in between” that makes it so great.

(Basically) having a summer off is more than just a chance to recharge the battery. It’s the beach or the mountains or wiffle ball in the back yard or summer camp. It’s teeing off first thing in the morning when the dew is still on the ground or spending the evening listening to the cicadas in the trees.

For me, it’s a chance to do the things I would never get an opportunity to do any other time of the year. Try to play golf in as many states as possible. See two major league games in two different time zones within a week. Drop in on an old friend. Be part of a guys’ trip, perhaps with questionable maturity level.

Or just drive. Somewhere. Anywhere.

It’s summer. Life slows down. You pay attention to the baseball standings. You think about how great it would be if the sun went down at 8:45 every night. The NBA won’t go away. You walk outside and that wall of humidity smacks you in the face. There’s nothing like it.

I’ve been calling it the Summer Of John – a take-off from Seinfeld’s Summer Of George – except I didn’t get fired from the Yankees, nor do I want to eat a block of cheese the size of a car battery. But those things listed in a paragraph above? That’s been me for the last 10 years.

The great thing about it is that no matter how much planning you do, the unexpected always seems to creep in (like running into Bruce Willis last year).

Soon, I’ll embark on the longest road trip of my life, but there are a couple of things I’ve already encountered on the road that have left me scratching my head.

One is in hotel rooms. Twice already, I’ve noticed something I’ve never seen before. One was in Mississippi and the other in Alabama. You know those little stickers that have a red circle with a slash through it, indicating “No (fill in the blank)?” Right by the sprinkler system in my room, there has been that sticker with a picture of a coat hanger with the red circle and slash.

Is that really a sticker-worthy issue? Are there legions of traveling salesmen out there who feel the need to hang up their starched white shirt from the sprinkler system? Besides, at $189/night (before taxes and fees) you oughta be able to hang stuff wherever you like.

Next thing: Four of us on a golf trip went into an Alabama restaurant at 7:30 p.m. and were told that the establishment closed at 8 o’clock. (I’ve long had major issues with this concept, so don’t get me started.) But rather than tell us to go away, we were told that they could only seat tables of two so close to closing.

(I’m going to let you allow this to sink in before I continue.)

So, two tables of two was OK, but one table of four was not!? What difference does that make to the kitchen? It’s still four orders, no matter how it’s divided.

And how far do the tables have to be apart for it to be considered a table for four? If we got a pair of two-tops and slid them together, what happens?

This defined the word flummoxed. But rather than try to tell the hostess how ridiculously idiotic her employer’s policy was, we turned tail and declined the seating option.

It’s summer. And you just can’t get too upset about anything.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Reeves left the NFL to become a Captain Shreve Gator


Fifth in a series

There’s a 75-year-old guy who slices meat at a local sandwich shop who thinks – though he’s not entirely sure – he might be able to coach high school football. But there is no doubt that he knows more about Cover 2 than what goes into making a good hoagie.

Alden Reeves spent almost 50 years coaching high school football, so you’ll have to pardon him if he thinks he might still be able to pull it off.

“I don’t know if I can do it any more or not,” he says. “I miss the games and the on-the-field practices. But I don’t miss all the in-between … getting the uniforms ready, washing the clothes. But I don’t have any regrets at all.”

Nor should he, because being a football coach is all he ever wanted to do ever since he was a junior at Jonesboro-Hodge High School. It was there that he met then-head football coach E.J. Lewis.

“Ever since I met him in the 11th grade, he impressed me so much and that’s when I decided what I wanted to do,” Reeves says. “I really looked up to him and he influenced me.”

And as football fate would have it, Lewis would be a part of series of football giants who would be a part of Reeves’ coaching life.

Lewis would go on to coach defensive backs at Louisiana Tech, where Reeves would play after finishing what is still one of the great playing careers at Jonesboro-Hodge.

There, he played for legendary Tech coach Joe Aillet and also met then-assistant coach Lee Hedges.

After college, Reeves was signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins and made the taxi squad when Hedges, who was now head coach at Captain Shreve, gave him a call.

“Have you been cut yet?” Hedges asked.

“I knew I had to decide what I wanted to do,” Reeves says now. “I had just gotten married and I was kind of homesick. Looking back, I probably should have stayed. But I didn’t and started coaching at Shreve. It was great; I Ioved that.”

Once he started coaching at Shreve in 1968, Reeves never knew anything else. And he is thankful he learned about it from these men.

“Coach Hedges was an idol to me, just like E.J. Lewis,” Reeves says. “He had a personality like Coach Aillet. That’s where I learned that you don’t have to do a lot of hollering to coach football. Some coaches do, but I never was around any that did it that way. I just couldn’t get mad at a kid for making a mistake if he was really trying, because that’s all you can do.”

Reeves was part of a run of great football teams at Captain Shreve in the 1970s highlighted by a state championship in 1973.

“I had a feeling we were going to be pretty good that year and it turned out we were,” he says. “We had five All-State players and eight shutouts. I was so happy for Coach Hedges and just to be a part of it.”

There were only two touchdowns scored on the Gators the entire regular season. The defensive coordinator? Alden Reeves … sort of.

“Coach Hedges didn’t do it like most people did,” he said. “I had the (defensive coordinator) title, but he mentored and coached a lot of positions. We just coached everything.”

Shreve made it to the 1983 semifinals, but after the next season, Hedges decided to retire.

“I tried to talk Coach Hedges out of retiring,” Reeves says. “I wanted to be a head coach somewhere down the line. When it came time to apply, I might not have been the most qualified. But I had been there so long.”

In his first season as head coach (1985), Shreve opened 9-0. “I’m thinking I’ve got this coaching thing figured out,” he says. “But Bossier had a different plan.”

Shreve, then ranked No. 3 in the state, fell 14-9 to the Bearkats and then lost the next week in the opening round to West Monroe. “If we ever had a chance to win another state championship, that was it,” he says. “But we let it slip right through our fingers.”

Reeves stayed as head coach at Shreve for 10 years and then left to be an assistant at Southwood. His coaching career continued for almost 15 years in East Texas (Longview, Center, Elysian Fields) but always as an assistant.

He may have retired from coaching but not from working, which is why he will still be happy to make you a thin-sliced roast beef if you get hungry.

“Head coaching was fun, but I’ll be honest with you — it’s not as much fun as being an assistant coach,” he says. “At least for me it wasn’t. That’s because it took about three wins to get over one loss.”

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COACHES’ CORNER: Robinson made widespread impact in various roles

COACHES’ CORNER: Forty years later, coaching still hasn’t left Catanese

COACHES’ CORNER: No longer in dugout, Bohanan remains vital to baseball

COACHES’ CORNER: ‘Uncle Larry’ knew when it was time to go

The toughest assignment I ever had

It was a hot day and I remember being under the wall-unit air conditioner at my father’s house when the phone rang. It was my sports editor, letting me know the horrible news of the drowning of Joe Delaney.

Tough call to get, especially since I had played against Delaney in high school football. In fact, only four months earlier, we had played against each other in a Haughton vs. Media charity basketball game. Delaney was already an NFL star, but I specifically remember how “regular guy” he was that night.

I asked for a few details about Delaney’s drowning before I got these instructions: “We need you to go to his home tomorrow.”

A list of excuses ran through my head as to why I couldn’t go, but I knew that ultimately I was going to have to do it. I was only two years out of college, and I figured it would be a tough assignment.

I had no idea how tough.

I’ve spent more than 40 years in some form of media or journalism or whatever you want to call it, but June 30, 1983, was – and always will be – the toughest day of my professional life. (And this is from a guy who has been fired from four media jobs.)

I was in the driveway of Delaney’s house less than 24 hours after his wife Carolyn got the news that she was a widow. That’s uncomfortable even for a seasoned reporter, so you can imagine how it felt for a 23-year-old who was usually writing about youth tennis tournaments during that time of year.

Good luck.

I have long forgotten so many games and interviews and stories that I have written over the years. But I will never forget being in that driveway, wondering how I was going to pull this off.

Luckily, two angels appeared that day. One was Haughton football coach Bobby Ray McHalffey, who had agreed to meet me at the school and take me over to the Delaney house. If you don’t know Haughton demographics – especially in 1983 – the railroad tracks that run through town served as a cultural divide. But McHalffey was a man who had equal respect on both sides. Having him by my side meant something; otherwise, I would have looked like another news-hungry reporter.

Part of my instructions were to get an interview with Delaney’s widow and McHalffey, who died in 2000, tried to help the process along once we were led into the house. But there was nothing to say. What kind of questions could you possibly ask in that kind of situation? Carolyn Delaney gave a couple of inaudible answers and that was certainly nothing that I could build a story around. I got out of that house as soon as I could.

That’s when the second angel appeared in the form of Delaney’s mother, Eunice Kennon. She stood in the driveway and talked with an amazing combination of pride and sadness. She said the greatest moment of her life was when her son signed a letter-of-intent to go to Northwestern State. Her pride came just as much from Joe being an NFL star with the Kansas City Chiefs as it did from him being an usher at Galilee Baptist Church.

As relatives cried around her in a cloud of profound sadness, Eunice Kennon said “We can’t undo what God has done. We have to accept what is given to us. I understand. Understanding is the best thing.”

To say the least, I was inspired when I returned to write about the scene in the Shreveport Journal. It was a 2,000-word story that included this passage:

Joe Delaney is gone. Haughton is gone. It’ll brush itself off and get back on its feet but it won’t be easy. Not without Joe Delaney.

He’s one of the reasons it stood so proudly in the first place. You just can’t take that away. He is on everyone’s minds. His wife and family are in everyone’s prayers. You always remember where you were when you heard the news. The day Haughton lost Joe Delaney.

That day took me to a new place that I had never been before. Not just in journalism.

In life.

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COACHES’ CORNER: Robinson made widespread impact in various roles


Fourth in a series

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 but 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 2-1 victory over Jesuit (New Orleans), Doug Robinson would coach only 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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SPOTLIGHT: Summer baseball isn’t what it used to be

THE BOYS OF SUMMER: The Northwood summer baseball team celebrates after a win in Omaha. 


The summer baseball season is entering its final week, yet another indication of how things aren’t like they used to be.

Gone are the days of full-scale American Legion and Dixie programs that lasted, in some cases, all the way to August. Nobody is worried about missing a player in the playoffs because they are attending Boys State.

There is a league for summer baseball teams, but nobody is worried about standings. Where once summer baseball was a season unto itself, now it is little more than an extension of the just-completed high school season.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Basically, there’s a different plan for every different high school program this summer. Some may have two teams, some may have four. Some are trying to recreate next year’s starting lineup and some are more focused on developing the players who didn’t get a lot of playing time on the varsity during the 2022 season.

There are games in which two teams from the same school play each other.

Northwood has two teams, one that plays during the week and another that plays on the weekend, which has played in games in Lake Charles, Hattiesburg, Miss., Ruston, and Omaha, for example.

It’s basically his own travel team for Coach Austin Alexander and is comprised of what should be the 2023 Falcons. The sub-varsity plays in the Bossier Dixie league, which plays games on Tuesdays and Thursdays for five weeks. Some teams may play twice a night; other schools have a “5:30 team” and a “7:30 team.”

But it doesn’t mean that the varsity players are sleeping in on Monday through Thursday. “They come in during the week and get their throwing in and so they are ready for the weekend,” Alexander said. “Plus, that’s when they get their lifting in, too.”

However, there’s another factor that Alexander – and almost every other school – has to deal with. “A handful of them play multiple sports, so they are doing football in the morning and may have a 7-on-7 tournament,” he said. “They may play football in the morning, drive back and play baseball that night.”

Haughton has brought a new approach in its summer baseball program. Where once the Bucs would have as many as four teams, this year they are down to two. Coach Glenn Maynor will only have five seniors returning next year, but football and injuries have reduced that number even more.

“Our most valuable teams are the younger teams – the incoming freshmen and the freshmen from last year,” Maynor said. “Guys like (seniors-to-be) Colin Rains and Austin Anderson are already playing on other (weekend) teams. I don’t need to see them play to know what they can do. It’s not a make-or-break thing for them and gives them some time off.”

Obviously, travel ball has become a big factor in summer baseball, and Captain Shreve coach Todd Sharp has embraced that.

“Just about all of our guys play travel ball in some way,” he said. “I coach travel ball with some of those guys, but I’m not going to tell them they have to stay here and play on our teams and deny them the opportunity to go somewhere like Atlanta and play on a high-level team.”

Different methods, but the same basic goal.

“We are just trying to get better for next year,” Alexander said. “In my opinion, you don’t win in the spring, you win in the summer. You implement all the things you want to do. Your summer is everything to see what you’ve got and get excited about what’s next.”

“I want to get our kids on the field,” Sharp said. “Just get them playing together and some repetitions with Shreve players. It’s all about development. If we send a pitcher out there, we put a cap on his pitches and then he’s done. We can learn how to run bases. Our freshmen can do things and learn the systems and the upper-level guys can establish themselves for next year.”

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Photo courtesy of AUSTIN ALEXANDER

What to do when you put(t) yourself in a tough situation on the golf course

So you plan a golf trip for six months, carefully going over every detail. Course maintenance schedules, best routes to take, local hotel availability . . .  no stone unturned.

Then you make the seven-hour drive across three states to get there for the first of five rounds in five days on five different courses in five different cities.

You get all checked in – everything is paid for; golf bags are loaded on the carts – and head to the driving range to hit a small bucket. Little do you know that you will be bathing in your own idiocy in a matter of minutes.

Ten minutes on the driving range to stretch out from the long drive and you are ready to go. The moment you’ve been waiting for since this same trip 51 weeks ago is at hand!

But first, it’s time to roll a few putts on the practice green, just to get the feel in the final minutes before the tee time.

And that’s when you realize just how stupid one human being can be.

There is a club missing from your golf bag.

It might be OK if it were a 5-wood or even one of the wedges. That you could work around fairly easily. But not the most valuable club in anyone’s golf bag – the putter.

You are in Greenville, Ala. Your putter is in Bossier City, La.

At moments like this, you first have to come to the full and complete understanding that there is no one to blame but yourself. You took it out of the bag, you let someone borrow it for a putting contest 24 hours earlier, you are the one responsible for walking off and leaving it.

That was my Saturday. It was also going to be my Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

It’s like sleeping on a bed with only one sheet. Yeah, you can do it, but you’ll never get really comfortable. All you can do is try to make the best of it.

The first set of options for resolution were numerous, starting with: (1) putt with a different club; (2) go buy a putter in the pro shop; (3) borrow a putter from the guys in your group on each green.

(1) I’ve seen it done with a 3 hybrid as well as a sand wedge by really good golfers. Not feasible for my talent level.

(2) That’s a $200 surcharge, plus tax, for being stupid. I did consider it, but now I’d have two putters when I got back.

 (3) Thanks for the offer, guys. And for not just telling me to just go home.

Option #4 proved to be the best: grovel. Every morning when we would check in to a new course, I would give the self-deprecating story about how I’m just a dumb guy from Louisiana and is there any way I could borrow a pitter, even if it’s 20 years old and rescued from the nearby Putt-Putt course?

First day, I think I did get that putter (I was still in shock to ask for anything remotely nice). Next four days, the putters I borrowed looked like they had just been delivered from the factory.

Total cost? $0 (which is significantly less than $200, plus tax).

Plus, I had a ready-made excuse whenever I’d miss a putt. Which is all any golfer really needs.

Contact J.J. at

COACHES’ CORNER: Forty years later, coaching still hasn’t left Catanese

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports                                                                                                 

Third in a series

He’s been selling leotards, school uniforms and cheerleading supplies for 40 years, but make no mistake about it – Anthony Catanese still considers himself a football coach.

“I don’t know that you ever wean yourself from coaching,” he says, “But time makes it easier.”

Catanese hasn’t coached a game since 1981 in the last season of Jesuit football before the school changed its name to Loyola.

But he has a coaching accomplishment that seems even more amazing with the passing of time — Catanese coached a state championship team when he was 27 years old.

And just like a coach, when you ask him if he ever stops to think how remarkable that is, he’s quick to say “Yeah, I think about it … but what I think about more is how many I could have won.”

After four years as an assistant coach, he became the Flyers’ head coach in 1975 and a year later, coached Jesuit to the state championship and a 14-0 record.

At an age in which some are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, Catanese had already reached the top of his profession.

The ’76 state title started a run of even-numbered years in which he believes the Flyers could have added to the trophy case. In 1978, the Flyers got to the semifinals, but had to play without their best running back (Scott Pendleton) and top defensive player (linebacker Drew Dossett, one of the top college recruits in the country).

In 1980, the Flyers were ranked No. 1 in Class AAA at midseason, but lost a game when the kicker slipped on an extra point and then saw the season evaporate with injury after injury. “We were unstoppable on offense that year,” he says.

He coached one more year and knew he had a great team coming back again in 1982. But when his father-in-law suffered a stroke, he made the decision to get out of coaching and take over the family business at Shreveport Gymnastic Supply. “I didn’t really want to leave,” Catanese says. “I had made the decision to get out but I really wanted to coach that team. I thought we had a shot.”

These days, a 33-year-old head football coach is considered young. Anthony Catanese was done at 33.

Or was he?

During his time at Jesuit, Catanese was known as such an outstanding defensive coach (the ’76 team had nine shutouts) that he had been offered three college assistant coaching positions, including Southern Cal. He turned them all down.

But in the late 1980s, Pat Collins was one of two candidates for the Tulane head coaching position. Collins was coming off a Division 1-AA national championship as head coach of Northeast Louisiana (now UL-Monroe).

“I was missing coaching pretty badly,” Catanese remembers. “He called and said, ‘If I get this job, will you come?’ And I said I would. I missed it that much.

“But he didn’t get (the Tulane job) and I thank the Lord to this day,” he adds. “But, yes, I would have gone back in.”

Since that point, he says hasn’t missed coaching, but he does miss being a coach. There’s a difference.

“What you don’t miss – and this was self-inflicted – are the long hours,” he says. “Of course you miss the kids and a camaraderie with them and the coaches. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing that compares to football in terms of friendships and closeness. It’s unparalleled.”

Catanese was part of the staff of “Four Tonys” at Jesuit – head coach Tony Sardisco and assistants Tony Rinaudo, Tony Papa and Catanese – that came to the school in 1971 (all were former players). But Catanese quickly took to the defensive side of the ball.

He had played defensive tackle at Jesuit for coach C.O. Brocato in a scheme that was known as the Salamander Six.

“I picked up a lot of different things along the way, but a lot of it was self-learned,” Catanese says. “It started from what we ran when I was playing. Penn State ran what they called a split-4 so I got ideas from that. (Former Woodlawn and Captain Shreve coach) Lee Hedges did the same thing, but he’d back off his outside linebackers, so I got a little bit from him. And then I just did a lot on my own in terms of numbering systems and stunt packages.”

It was the chess match of coaching that always intrigued Catanese and part of what he misses. And he will admit when the calendar turns to August, he still takes notice.

“August 15, because that’s when we started when I played,” he says. “And August 12, because that’s when we started when we coached. I still get those butterflies (in the stomach) when those dates comes around.”

Contact J.J. at


COACHES’ CORNER: ‘Uncle Larry’ knew when it was time to go

COACHES’ CORNER: No longer in dugout, Bohanan remains vital to baseball

Jay Cicero: the backup third baseman who became a Hall of Famer

I am well aware of his status as one of the Most Influential People in South Louisiana Sports, as one newspaper called him. I have full knowledge of his upcoming induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

All fine. All good.

There are lots of ways to describe Jay Cicero and you can choose to think of him however you like.

I’m just having a hard time getting past thinking of him as the freshman third baseman on the Jesuit Flyer baseball team in 1977.

I was already ensconced – at least I hoped I was – as the returning starter at third base for the Flyers that season. In fact, the whole starting infield returned from the previous year. But when we went out to take infield practice on the first day, I had a quick uh-oh moment.

My “backup” was the coach’s son.

And the rumor was that Frank Cicero was going to be retiring as head coach fairly soon, so it would stand to reason that he might want to hit fungoes to his son rather than me while that was still a possibility.

I waited and waited for Coach Cicero to say, “Hey Marshall, come see me for a minute” and if so, I knew what was probably coming next. “Ever play outfield?” Or, “We really need a backup catcher.”

But that never happened. Jay didn’t even make the team and Coach Cicero did retire after 27 years.

Fast forward almost a decade and I’m now the P.A. guy for the Shreveport Captains as they opened Fair Grounds Field. I was introduced to the new front office employee for the team: Jay Cicero. I waited a few minutes to make sure he didn’t remind me of some cruel Senior Prank I might have pulled on him – I didn’t, by the way – and then I thought of how this was the perfect guy for the Captains to hire.

He knew baseball, he loved baseball, he had a personality that would get him in a lot of doors and he would do whatever needed to be done.

Cicero was part of a group of special people who made Shreveport Captains baseball such a big deal. Everything about it was new and fun and exciting, but he was never able to watch a full game because his walkie-talkie was always blaring of some fire to put out.

When Cicero left after 4 ½ years, there was no doubt that he was on his way to bigger things. It didn’t take long for him to find his path in sports in New Orleans, including becoming the youngest general manager in all of Class AAA minor league baseball at age 29.

As Jay settled into his role as CEO and President of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, his father had already settled into retirement, first as a coach and then as a science instructor in 1995. I’d see Coach Cicero quite often and the pride he showed in how much Jay had accomplished was obvious. “Jay got the Super Bowl,” Coach would tell me. Or “Jay thinks he has a shot at the Final Four.”

Coach passed away at age 92 in 2018 but I can promise you one thing – if you go to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony next Saturday in Natchitoches, you may not see him, but you will know Coach Frank Cicero is there.

Contact J.J. at

Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

Walter Mitty, meet Phil Miller: former Demon walk-on headed to Omaha (again)

STEERING HITTERS: Former Northwestern State infielder and coach Phil Miller (center), going over scouting reports with Texas players, has helped the Longhorns to another College World Series berth.


If you don’t think it’s a long way from being a walk-on to coaching in the College World Series, Phil Miller would like to have a word.

When Texas opens play Friday in the CWS against Notre Dame, the former Northwestern State player and assistant coach will be in the first base coaching box for the Longhorns. It’s his third trip to Omaha with the Longhorns, on the heels of appearances in 2018 and last year.

And don’t think for a second that he doesn’t take a moment to appreciate where he is.

“There’s been a moment like that in almost every place I’ve been,” Miller says. “I remember when I first started coaching and I was making $5,000 a year and thinking, ‘This is unbelievable.’ I was on top of the world. As you move up and get to a better place, you just sort of take it all in. The job is the same, right? Working with players, developing relationships, that sort of thing never changes.

“I’m extremely blessed and fortunate,” Miller adds. “There’s a lot of timing involved. Yeah, I’m lucky to be where I’m at but at the same time, a lot of hard work has gone into it.”

When he finished his playing days at NSU in 2005, Miller wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

“I had some undergraduate hours left and I wasn’t good enough to play at the next level,” he says. “Coach (Mitch Gaspard) allowed me to just stick around and bang some fungoes and throw some batting practice.”

After graduating, Miller did the whole business-world interview thing, but “it never really occurred to me that I was going to have to hang it up,” so he didn’t.

You can’t start any lower than volunteer coach, so that’s what Miller did at Northwestern in 2006, but then things started falling into place.

Three seasons at Sam Houston State, back to Northwestern for two, then a return to Sam Houston from 2012-14, where he worked with rookie head coach David Pierce. Miller went with Pierce to Tulane for the ’15 and ’16 seasons and when Pierce got one of college baseball’s plum head coaching jobs at Texas, Miller was invited along.

Ten years after not knowing what he was going to do after college and Phil Miller was now coaching at one of the most storied programs in all of college baseball.

All of this for a guy who wasn’t sure he’d even get the opportunity to play in college.

“His high school coach (University’s Burke Broussard) called and said he had a really tough kid who loved to play,” says Gaspard, now associate head coach at Louisiana Tech. “I told him that’s the kind of kid we were looking for. Phil was one of my favorites. He’s the ultimate grinder. Always trying to get better and a great teammate. A great guy to coach.”

Gaspard loves to tell a story about his former player. The Demons were playing Sam Houston State to win the Southland Conference title in 2005, Miller’s senior year. He got hit by a pitch late in the game but Gaspard had basically used up his bench.

Between innings, Miller, the Demons’ second baseman, told Gaspard “Coach, I’m pretty sure I broke my finger. I’m just telling you this just to let you know that if I have to make a throw to first, I’m not sure that I can. But I’ll do my best.’

“Well, there’s nobody else left,” Gaspard told him, “So good luck.”

With one out and a man on first in the ninth inning, naturally there was a ground ball to shortstop. “We’ve got to turn a double play to win the league,” Gaspard says. “It was a changeup, but he figured out a way to get that ball to first base. That shows what he meant to the team and the coaching staff.”

Miller and Gaspard got a chance to reunite when Tech played in the Austin Regional two weeks ago and there was a lot of pride for both.

“He’s one of my mentors,” Miller says of his former coach. “The way he does things, his personality, his relationship with players. Everybody who has played for him knows what a great guy he is. I made sure I got a picture with him when we played (at the Regional).”

“He’s just a worker,” Gaspard said of Miller. “You can give him anything whether it’s baseball-related or not and he is going to put forth a great effort. That’s just who he is as a person.”

Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics

COACHES’ CORNER: No longer in dugout, Bohanan remains vital to baseball


Second in a series

He hasn’t coached a game in 30 years, but Clay Bohanan is still having an effect on high school baseball.

For more than a decade, Bohanan was in charge of one baseball field at Airline High. Now he is in charge of about three dozen as Bossier City’s Director of Parks and Recreation. It’s a job he’s had since 2005, and his legacy in that position can be seen with the improvements that have been made, mostly notable at Tinsley Park, and with the construction of the Field of Dreams playground.

But that’s not the only legacy that Bohanan, 78, will leave when he decides to retire.

What Bohanan accomplished in 13 years as Airline baseball coach is bar-setting stuff. Not only did he win 239 games, but he also played for two state championships in the state’s highest classification.

“Coach Bohanan was the first baseball guy to coach at Airline,” says current Airline coach Toby Todd. “He made baseball relevant.”

And he still does. Bohanan’s teams never had a losing record and perhaps more significantly, the Airline baseball program has only two losing seasons since Bohanan started coaching in 1980.

“Everything has changed obviously, but the part you miss when you get out of coaching is not the every-day grind,” Bohanan said. “But the special games, the big games in the playoffs … now that part you do miss.”

He had plenty of those, particularly in a three-year stretch in 1989 when the Vikings were in position to win a state championship each year, but never did.

In 1989, Airline was 22-9 and reached the state finals – the first Shreveport-Bossier school to do so in 19 years – but lost to Rummel 10-1.

In 1990, with the tournament being played at Fair Grounds Field, Airline lost in the quarterfinals to Acadiana in a game that lasted 14 innings and was played over a three-day span due to weather. The game ended when a steal of third resulted in a ball being thrown into the outfield.

In 1991, Airline reached the state championship game again — this time with a 30-0 record — to play St. Amant, once again at Fair Grounds Field. Airline had rolled over its first two state tournament opponents and St. Amant had squeaked by, winning both games by one run.

“After five batters they had scored five runs,” Bohanan says. “I told our assistant coach to call Barksdale to shoot down those bombs they were hitting.”

It didn’t get any prettier as the Vikings lost 18-4 and finished 31-1.

“I had a feeling that was going to be a special group,” Bohanan says. “They were winning JV tournaments as freshmen. Turned out to be a pretty stout bunch.”

You might say that. Led by Todd Walker, who would go on to be one of the greatest players in LSU baseball history and a 12-year major leaguer, the Vikings won 76 games in three seasons.

Not only did he coach Walker, but he also had B.J. Ryan, a two-time All-Star and an 11-year major leaguer.

But Bohanan has always had a way of being around future major leaguers. In high school at Bossier, he was a catcher for Cecil Upshaw, who had a nine-year major league career.

Part of what Bohanan built at Bossier was more than just successful teams. He also began facilities improvements that can now be found in almost every high school in Caddo-Bossier. But Airline was the first to start the process.

“We had a cyclone fence at Airline,” he says. “Nobody had lights. We had to turn the dirt over just to be able to play. We gradually made improvements to restrooms and concession stands and the press box. I wanted the best facilities we could provide for our kids to play. And I wanted it to be top shelf so that when teams came to play us, they knew we were serious about playing ball.”

He says he still watches games as if he were coaching.

“I was watching the Super Regionals last weekend and I found myself telling my wife what was going to happen,” Bohanan says. “You always think like a coach and how you would do things. I don’t miss the cold weather in the early season freezing my tail off. I do miss developing kids and working with them, and getting them coached up to be the best they can possibly be.”

Contact JJ at


COACHES’ CORNER: ‘Uncle Larry’ knew when it was time to go

Nothing like a big game, no matter where you sit

Throughout my adult life, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to witness sporting events from the press box as well as in the stands.

Last weekend at the Austin Regional of the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, I did both. And because I did, I was able to discover the merits of both (and some of the demerits as well.)

But let’s get the main lesson here – there’s still nothing like being at a big event, no matter where you sit.

Disch-Falk Field on the campus of the University of Texas has a listed capacity of 6,649 and had a crowd of 8,000 for a 1982 NCAA Tournament game. But Saturday night, the listed attendance for the Texas-Louisiana Tech game was 8,502, the most to ever see a college baseball game in the 48-year history of the facility.

Not sure how they counted me, so there might have only been 8,501.

In the press box, things were typically sterile. Windows closed, air conditioner on, food in the back right by the stat sheets. Great view, comfortable chairs and easy access to the bathroom. Which is fine and dandy, but it does have a certain sense of library-ness. You only get a sense of what is actually going on outside below you.

On the other side of the glass, it’s a different world. And I’m really happy I took the time to just take it all in from Section 110, Row 2.

First of all, what kind of odds could you have gotten that Louisiana Tech would be the opponent for the record-breaking game? Were the masses waiting for the opportunity to exact revenge from that 1980 tournament loss?

It was, however, a beautiful night with a meaningful game. It was definitely the place to be.

What is also interesting to me is to see the stadium demographics. You know what to expect in the kind of fans you’ll see in the reserved sections (upper and lower chairback seats) that were sold out way in advance. The Tech faithful were stuck in the upper corner of the first base section.

But walk down the lines where the general admission sections were located and you discovered that territory was basically a party with a baseball game as a sideshow. Lots of inappropriate clothing and haircuts that defied description. If you had asked those in general admission for the score of the game being played in front of them, you got the feeling many would have said, “What game?”

Look, every fan base thinks somebody else’s fan base is full of nut jobs. And it can be no fun sitting in a sea of fans who are pulling for a team you are rapidly growing to dislike.

Which is why I had the overwhelming urge to turn around after a Tech pickoff move to first base and ask the guy behind me one simple question. “Why are you booing? What is so offensive to you about a simple pickoff move that you need to show derision? If it’s because you think it’s a waste of time, then I’ll expect you to also boo when Texas tries to pick off a Tech base runner. BE A BETTER FAN!!!”

That’s what I had the urge to do. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and benefitted from not having a beer “accidentally” fall down the back of my shirt.

Hopefully they weren’t booing pickoff moves in the press box.

Contact J.J. at

SPOTLIGHT: Shreveport’s Jay Cicero worked parking lots; now, his sports events fill them

HEADED TO THE HALL:  Shreveport born-and-raised Jay Cicero has made his name in New Orleans, so well that on June 25 in Natchitoches, he enters the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as the 2022 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner.


He wanted a job in sports, so in the mid-1980s he drove to Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers. He got an interview … with the guy who ran the parking lot. He was told he could make $400 a month. “I had to pass on that,” he says today.

So that didn’t work out.

He wanted a job in sales, so he moved back home and got a job in a clothing store. Until he got a call to come in on his day off. He had to fix a flat tire just to go to the store to find out he had been laid off.

So that didn’t work out.

He was two years out of college and had no idea what he was going to do. “I did a lot of soul searching for the next couple of days,” he says now.

And then, on the advice of his father, Jay Cicero made a phone call that would change his life and start a path that will bring him to Natchitoches June 23-25 as he receives the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and is inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. For participation opportunities, visit or call 318-238-4255.

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