Trip of a lifetime with my old team

It’s been 28 years since I have traveled with the Louisiana Tech football team. In November of 1995, I went to Nashville, Tennessee with the Bulldogs as their right tackle. We had a forgettable date, 29-6, with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Last Friday, as the sideline reporter for the LA Tech Football Radio Network, I traveled with the team to Lincoln as the Bulldogs faced Nebraska on Saturday.

In some ways it seems like a hundred years ago since I’d traveled with the team. In other ways it seems like it was yesterday.

Something about packing in the old Tech charter bus with my brothers and heading east on I-20 to the airport in Monroe. Going to battle!

In my day, the bus would pull up on the tarmac – about 40 yards from the plane – and “the race” would be on.

The race was between the taller offensive linemen who coveted those seats on the wing with the extra leg room. The defensive linemen were not in play. They didn’t have a chance. They were on Bus No. 2.

Back then, the last people to get on the plane would be the administrators, coaches and wives, and supporters.

The late Dr. Guthrie Jarrell was always with us on those trips. Always. He sat in first class where – being a tall man himself – I’m sure he appreciated the extra leg room, too.

“It must be nice.” If I didn’t say it back then, I thought it. It must be nice to be able to take in a college football game and root, root, root, for ol’ red and blue. It must be nice to not have to worry about your blocking assignments and taking the proper first step before trying to knock the block off a guy who is a 6-3, 245-pound, five-star SEC defensive end who runs like a deer.

Don’t get me wrong.

There is nothing like the rush of trotting out on the field in some of the sport’s biggest and best venues in front of thousands of people and playing the greatest game God ever created. Williams-Bryce. Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Been there. In the trenches. Hand-to-shoulder pad combat. Hat on a hat. At the bottom of the pile. There is nothing like it.

Even back then, I said I always wanted to take a trip with the team and experience it…without the pressure. Thanks to Learfield and the Tech administration, I was able to do that last Friday.

The trips are a little different now. There were no security checks back then. Now, you get your snacks before getting on the plane. Assigned seats. A little thank you note from Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie.

It was nice…even with knees jammed into the back of an airplane seat and praying to God a sixth grader sitting in front of me doesn’t want to see how far his seat back can go.

The University of Nebraska is known for storied tradition, 100-year old Memorial Stadium, the fumblerooski, and their loyal fan base. Among other things. 391 consecutive sellouts! Are you kidding me, Cornhuskers? Wow.

When the Louisiana Tech entourage arrived in Lincoln, everyone went straight to the stadium and walked out on Tom Osborne Field. Red signs reading “There is no place like Nebraska” were lit up all over the stadium.

Back in the day, we would get in our shorts and T-shirts and have a walk-through practice after arriving Friday. The walk-through for the Bulldogs on this trip happened in the parking lot of the Marriott in Omaha, Nebraska early Saturday morning.

Impressive was the adjective for when Memorial Stadium was empty. Incredible would be the word for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when Big Red took the field against my Bulldogs with 85,000 Cornhusker fans in the stands.

When the announcer says “and that will bring up THIRRRRRDDD DOOOOWWWNNNNN!!!,” most in the sea of red stand on their feet and scream their heads off. On third down, I’ve never heard a louder stadium…ever.

The score was 7-7 at halftime and I could not have been more proud of how the Bulldogs competed.

Things got away from Tech as the second half started. The big offensive line from Nebraska, with the smallest lineman being 6-3, 315, leaned on the Tech defense. Pulling the left guard and running off tackle to the right side all the way down the field.

Penalties. Personal fouls. And one flag – a pass interference call – which was thrown and then picked up, hurt the Bulldogs. A good fight, but 28-14 was the final.

While the outcome was not what Louisiana Tech wanted, it was a memorable time – at least for this old Dawg, able to take the trip of a lifetime with the Louisiana Tech football team.

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Taylor’s progression evident as Vikings dominate Falcons

ANOTHER LEVEL:  Airline quarterback Ben Taylor, who now has 15 TD passes in three games, is expanding his skill set, says Vikings coach Justin Scogin. (Journal photo by GAVEN HAMMOND,

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The education of Airline quarterback Ben Taylor graduated to a Master level course Friday night at M.D. Ray Field as the junior quarterback led the Vikings to a dominating 48-14 over Northwood. 

The No. 1 team in the Shreveport-Bossier Journal’s Top 10 poll continued stacking up scores with an offense that’s been in gear since Taylor and his receivers began to synch up about this time last season. The Vikings (3-0) soared into a commanding lead by halftime.

At one point in that stretch, Airline head coach Justin Scogin called a play and as soon as he called it, realized it was not what he wanted. Taylor instinctively realized his mentor’s mistake and was able to get the Vikings into a good play.

“It’s always nice when the quarterback starts making you right,” Scogin said. “For the last year and three games, I’ve been trying to call plays to get him in good situations and make him feel comfortable. Tonight, there was a point where I called a play and thought, ‘this is a bad call.’ He waited. He was patient and threw it to the next guy.

“It’s a process because you work so hard with these guys to take the next step. I think that’s 15 touchdowns in three games, so I think it’s safe to say he has taken the next step.”

Taylor was perfect on his first 11 passes of the night. His first incomplete pass of the game came with 9:00 to go in the first half, and wasn’t a bad throw. Taylor rolled right looking for a wide receiver in the end zone. After not finding an open receiver, he threw the ball away.

On the next play, with the ball at the Northwood six, Taylor completed his fourth touchdown pass of the first half,  locating Tre’ Jackson.

Taylor’s first TD throw was to Bryson Broom from 17 yards out on a post route.

Northwood answered with an 11-play, 81-yard drive which ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hutson Hearon to Tucker McCabe. 

There was some strange connection between Taylor and Broom. The pair combined for a touchdown on every odd numbered drive in the first half as Airline built an overwhelming 41-7 lead.

On the third series, Taylor found Broom all alone in the south end zone on a second and goal from the Northwood 13. 

Airline’s fifth drive of the night ended with a Taylor-Broom touchdown pass for 13 yards which capped a 15- play, 99-yard drive. 

Taylor finished the night with 20 completions on 23 attempts for 259 yards — including five touchdowns. 

“It’s the same thing,” Taylor said. “Last year, they came out and beat us. This year, we are more advanced with our offense. We know what we are doing. We are able to execute what we do on offense. The defense played a great game too.”

“We lost one of our good players and he is out, so we have to move some guys around, (playing) positions they aren’t comfortable with, and the kids step up,” Scogin said. “Jarvis Davis did a great job. Bryson Broom did a great job. Tre’ as always. Bob Patterson. Peyton Cooper. Evan Wendrock. They all did a great job.”

Airline’s only score in the second half came on a 29-yard pick six by corner Jeremiah Boudreaux. 

“I was just watching,” Boudreaux said. “I knew they were going to test us. They hadn’t really done too much over the course of the game. Our coach said be ready for anything. As soon as I saw he threw my way, I knew it.”

It was Airline’s second pick six. On the first play of the second quarter, Braylon Jackson swiped a Northwood pass and took it in 30 yards for a touchdown. 

Airline kicker Preston Doerner was good on six of seven extra points. 

The Vikings will host Benton in a District 1-5A opener next Thursday night, as Airline begins defense of its 2022 league title.

Northwood, 0-3, will visit Independence Stadium facing Huntington to begin District 1-4A play on Friday night.

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Cumbie upbeat about second season in charge of Bulldog football program

BULLDOG BUZZ:  Louisiana Tech football coach Sonny Cumbie (right) was interviewed by Malcolm Butler and fielded questions from fans Tuesday night at the Bulldog Blitz gathering in Shreveport. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Louisiana Tech head football coach Sonny Cumbie has come up with plenty of answers against defensive blitz packages while earning a reputation as an offensive mastermind.

Tuesday evening, he also produced plenty of answers against a more friendly Blitz.

Cumbie was joined by Tech Athletic Director Dr. Eric Woods and other head coaches visited with supporters Tuesday evening at Shreveport’s Cantina Laredo for the athletic department’s local Bulldog Blitz event, a series that will stretch around the state and into Texas this month.

Cumbie, who looks to improve on Tech’s 3-9 overall mark and 2-6 record in Conference USA in his first season at the helm, was one of several head coaches to speak to Tech supporters. Many of the fans questioned Cumbie about Boise State transfer quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who is fresh off of his first 15-day spring practice with the Bulldogs. 

“Hank is very accurate with the football,” Cumbie said. “Hank gets the ball out quickly. He puts it where it needs to be. He is very, very smart with the ball. That’s what I saw this spring. I think he can throw the ball on the vertical route really well. He gets it out of his hand quickly.”

Cumbie has been just as impressed with the way Bachmeier has handled himself off the field.

“I think it was impressive – a kid who started 29 games – he has a very humble spirit and demeanor about him,” Cumbie said.

“He wants to learn,” Cumbie said. “He is eager to learn. He is coachable. He is very coachable, so from that standpoint when you’ve got an older player –sometimes guys are set in their ways a little bit. He has come in with a very open mind to our offense and to our coaching. He has done a really good job from that standpoint. He has been a lot of fun to coach.”

Bachmeier is one of 19 new additions on the roster, 12 of those on the defensive side of the ball. Cumbie and his coaching staff identified one on the first day of spring practice that his coaches fell in love with, a player they believe the Tech faithful will enjoy as well when the season starts Aug. 26 against FIU at Joe Aillet Stadium.

“Demarcus Griffin-Taylor, No. 8 for us, when you look at him, he is a little short guy. He is fiery. He is feisty. He is all over the field. From the day we had our first practice in spring, he was a great communicator. He is a player that we as a coaching staff love and believe our fans will as well.” 

Griffin-Taylor came to Tech via the transfer portal from Houston, where the 5-9, 175-pound defensive back played in all 13 games last season for the Cougars, totaling 16 tackles – 12 of which were solo stops.

What are Cumbie’s thoughts on the portal?

“The portal giveth and portal taketh away,” Cumbie said. 

While not mentioning names, Cumbie was referring to former Tech linebacker Tyler Grubbs, who transferred to Tulane University in late December.

“I think we will see it this fall, we’ve improved our defense tremendously in terms of volume,” Cumbie said. “Obviously, we lost a couple of difference-makers. It’s disappointing they left, but at the same time the next player (is up, and) we’ve got to get them ready and develop and we’re excited about the players on the team at Louisiana Tech.”

With the Week Zero game, the first 10 days of summer have been a blur for the players and coaches. 

“A lot of the kids did a great job in the classroom so really they’re just able to focus on football right now,” Cumbie said. “Some of them are in classes, but we are working out every day. There are multiple things going on in terms of meetings. Player-ran practices and player-ran meetings. It’s a great time of summer. It goes by really fast. In the mix of working out with our players, we have camps. We also have events like this that it’s great to be at. So, it’s going to be a fast summer.” 

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Huntington girls score dominant LHSAA track & field triumph

STATE CHAMPS: Huntington’s Lady Raiders ran away with the state Class 4A track and field championship Saturday night at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium, winning by 35 points. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — For the first time in 30 years, an LHSAA Track & Field championship trophy will be sitting in the foyer at 6801 Rasberry Lane.

“We are tremendously proud of the young ladies,” Huntington head coach Joan Catanese said. “They worked tremendously hard. And we’re excited for our school.”

Huntington scored 87 points, 35 points more than runner-up West Feliciana, to claim the Class 4A girls’ crown on a stormy Saturday at LSU.  

Three Lady Raiders – junior Demetria Harris and seniors Serenity Palmer and Rondisia Williams – led Huntington, scoring 18 points each by winning one event and finishing as a runner-up in the other. 

As crazy as it sounds, Huntington’s outdoor championship started indoors at the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse where Palmer won the triple jump with a personal best of 36-3 and finished second in the high jump (5-1.75).

Those field events were held indoors because of rain and lightning, which caused a four-hour delay. Running in the classes 5A and 4A divisions didn’t start until shortly after 6 o’clock at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium and competition finally concluded at 11:15 Saturday night.

Before racing began, Huntington also picked up eight points in the girls’ long jump from Demetria Harris, who finished second in an effort of 17-9. West Feliciana’s Tristen Harris, who ended up winning the MVP Award, won the long jump with a jump of 18-0.25.

It didn’t take the Lady Raiders long to get things started on the track as Huntington’s Harris, Williams, Aniyah Jackson, and T’La Dewitt won the 4x200m by breaking their own school record with a 1:38.66. The Lady Raiders were in a tight battle with Ben Franklin up until the final exchange when Dewitt, the anchor leg, separated from the rest of the field. 

Huntington also captured the 4×100 relay (47.45).

From there, points came in bunches for the Lady Raiders, who scored 18 points in the 100m hurdles with a 1-2 finish by Harris (14.47) and senior Catina Davenport (15.00). Williams, who finished third in the 100m last year in Class 5A, came from behind in the 100m to edge out Tristen Harris with a time of 11.92. Class 4A’s best sprinters reversed the roles in the 200m as Williams finished as the runner-up with a 24.78 time.

Caddo-Bossier was represented well in throwing events on Saturday. Parkway sophomore Devon Oliver claimed the 5A boys’ discus championship on his last throw (162-3). 

In the 4A girls’ shot put, Woodlawn sophomore Shelunda Brooks won with a throw of 36-6.25. 

In the 5A boys’ javelin, Benton’s Jeffery King finished second with a throw of 173-10. In the 5A girls’ javelin, Parkway junior Chloe Larry finished as the runner-up (130-11). 

Other local athletes making the podium included Airline junior Jeremiah Boudreaux’s second place in the 5A boys’ high jump (6-7.5), Benton’s Jamie Willis, second in the 5A girls’ 100m hurdles (14.84), Airline’s Elena Heng, third in the 5A girls 800 (a school record 2:20.05), Captain Shreve’s Evan Johnson, third in the 5A boys’ 3200m (9:28.98), and Northwood’s Maurea Hudson, third in the 4A boys’ long jump (21-11).

Calvary’s Jackson Burney left Bernie Moore Stadium on Friday after the LHSAA Class 2A State Championships with three gold medals and the meet’s MVP trophy. He edged Loyola’s Tripp Roemer in an epic 1600m race with both runners coming through the line in 4:22. Burney also won the 800m (1:59.37) and ran a leg on Calvary’s winning 4x400m (3:26.27). Other members of the championship relay team were John Simon, Landon Sylivie and Kolby Thomas. 

Roemer bounced back to win his first state championship in the 3200m (9:57.96). 

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a PR (personal record),” Roemer said. “It was hot out there. Although I didn’t win the mile, I felt really good about it. That 4:22, I didn’t think that was in the books. I just wanted the win in the two mile. Being a state champion…I never thought I would be able to say that about myself.”

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Huntington poised to push for 4A  girls’ state title at LHSAA track & field meet

AIMING FOR THE TITLE:  Versatile Huntington competitor Catina Davenport will be a key contributor in the Lady Raiders’ push Saturday for a state championship. (File photo courtesy MileSplitLa)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — Last year, it was the Mansfield Wolverines who made history by winning the school’s first state track and field championship in 35 years. This year, it’s the Huntington Lady Raiders who have some unfinished business as they make their way to LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium on Saturday for the LHSAA Class 4A State Championships.

“Have your shirt already made.”

That was the message last month when Huntington track and field legend Teresa Foster, who was on Huntington’s state championship teams in 1987 and 1988, was asked if she had any advice for this year’s Lady Raiders.

And while Huntington coaches Joan Catanese and LeRonn Burris hope their team carries that type of swagger into the state outdoor meet, they will hold off on placing the T-shirt order. However, they are expecting their Lady Raiders to put the icing on the cake on what has already been a prolific season on Rasberry Lane.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to compete at such a high level versus so many talented Louisiana teams,” Catanese said. “Throughout the year, our team has been concentrated on the work at hand and our staff has reiterated to them to be confident yet remain humble.”

Huntington is favored in five events. Those No. 1 seeds include Rondisia Williams in the 100m (12.00), Serenity Palmer in the triple jump (36-0.5), Demetria Harris in the 100m hurdles (14.67), and the Lady Raiders relay foursomes in the 4×100 (47.63), and 4×200 (1:39.97).

In two other events – the girls’ long jump and 100m hurdles – Huntington has the No. 2 seed.

Harris, who won the LHSAA Outdoor Meet’s MVP Award a year ago, is seeded No. 2 in the 4A long jump (18-3.5). Senior Catina Davenport (15.32) is seeded No. 2 behind Harris in the girls’ 100m hurdles.

The only other Caddo-Bossier athlete who is favored to win Saturday at the LHSAA Class 5A is Devon Oliver of Parkway, who is the top seed with his winning regional mark of 164-5.

Today, Caddo Parish has two distance runners who look to make some noise in the LHSAA Class 2A Meet. Calvary sophomore Jackson Burney, who won his first state championship last year in the 800m at the LHSAA Class 1A Meet, is the No. 1 seed in both the 1600m (4:32.66) and 800m (1:57.14).

Burney will be very familiar with one of his main competitors in the 1600m. It will be Loyola junior Franklin Roemer, who is seeded No. 3 with a 4:38. Sullivan Hanna from Rosepine is the No. 2 seed with a 4:33.

Roemer, who is looking for his first state title, has the No. 1 seed in the 3200m with a 10:10.46.

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Huntington girls run away to third straight Region 1-4A crown

ON TOP AGAIN:  Huntington’s first-place 4×100 meter relay team was part of the Lady Raiders’ podium parade, topped by nine wins, during Thursday’s Region 1-4A championships at Lee Hedges Stadium. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Something special is brewing in the girls’ track and field program on Rasberry Lane as evidenced by Huntington’s third straight Region 1-4A Meet championship at Lee Hedges Stadium on Thursday.

The Lady Raiders scored 150 ½  points, almost 50 more than runner–up Leesville.

Huntington was led by the dynamic duo of junior Demetria Harris and senior Rondisia Williams. Both left the meet with four gold medals.

Harris won 100m hurdles (14.67) and long jump (18-3.50) and ran legs on Huntington’s winning 4×200 (1:39.97) and 4×100 (47.63).

While Harris is the LHSAA Class 4A defending champion in the hurdles, lately it is the long jump which Harris is enjoying the most.

“I’m having fun with it,” Harris said. 

Williams won both the 100m (12.00) and 200m (25.14) as well as joining Harris on the winning sprint relays. 

Earlier this week, Williams, affectionately known as “Minnie” to her friends, signed with Colorado State.

Last year, Williams was competing for Southwood and finished third in the Class 5A 100m. Next Saturday, she will be looking to earn her first state championship in her final high school meet. 

Other Huntington regional winners were Serenity Palmer in the high jump (5-2) and triple jump (36-0.5), and Aniyah Jackson in the 400m (1:00.62). 

Jackson battled Leesville’s Shyann McCummings and edged her out by .02 of a second. 

“I was just thinking I didn’t make it this far for no reason,” Jackson said. “I just had to keep pushing, pump my arms and get my knees up and it was worth it.”

Jackson feels like she has a fairly good idea of why the Lady Raiders have been so successful. 

“We have a relationship on and off the track,” Jackson said. “I’ve never had that in my seven years of running track. They are so encouraging. They push you all the time.” 

One of those encouraging teammates is Williams. The senior gave the younger Jackson a pep talk before her win in the 400m. 

Like Huntington, Tioga’s boys outdistanced the competition on the way to its third consecutive Region 1-4A Meet team title. The Indians scored 128 points. Neville was the boys’ runner-up with 69 points. Evangel, which scored 34 points and finished sixth, had the highest finish of any local team.

Locals won two events in the boys’ division. Northwood’s Maurea Hudson captured the long jump (22-5.5), and Woodlawn’s 4×200 relay won with a 1:29.77. 

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Hard-working Suggs rides into sunset with well-deserved NFF honor

Tomorrow night, at East Ridge Country Club, former Byrd head coach Mike Suggs will make his way to the podium to accept the Outstanding Contributions to Amateur Football Award given annually by the local S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the National Football Foundation. 

I’ll be there.

If I had to guess, Coach will not have a long, drawn-out speech. He will probably shoot straight from the hip while he is at the lectern. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a football coach who put in serious thought when giving Lonesome Dove a slight nod over The Outlaw Josey Wales for greatest country and western movie of all-time. 

When Alan Carter was hired by Lynne Fitzgerald in 1990 to turn around C.E. Byrd football, Carter knew that he needed the best offensive coach available to help a program that had won only three games in the previous two years. Carter had one coach to hire and no room for error. 

He called Northeast Louisiana University’s (now ULM) legendary head coach Pat Collins. Suggs, who had played wide receiver for Collins after starring at Southwood High School, and served as a graduate assistant coach on Collins’ staff in 1987 when the Indians won the FCS (then Division I-AA) national championship, was Collins’ adamant recommendation. 

Collins told Carter, “Do whatever you have to do to get him.”

Some claim that Byrd is haunted. You wouldn’t have a hard time of convincing Carter of that. He heard strange noises as he burned the midnight oil to spruce up the dungeon-like Byrd coaching offices, on the night before Suggs interviewed.

Carter doesn’t know if it was the epoxy paint getting the best of him or the ghost of C.E. Byrd himself making the strange noises in the midnight hour, but when the 4×8 whiteboard crashed to the ground just outside the coaching office, Carter didn’t bother looking around to find out who did it. He was too busy running to his truck. 

The next day, Carter hurried Suggs past the half-empty paint cans and the white boards, still lying on the concrete, and told the young coach that a construction crew was working to fix up the place. 

That was how it started. It ended with Carter and Suggs changing the culture at the school, building the foundation which would propel the entire athletic program into decades of excellence. To this day, a long-time opposing coach in District 1-5A refers to the Yellow Jackets as “the standard.”

The duo’s first win in 1990 came at Northwood at a stadium which would later bear the name of the opposing coach – Jerry Burton. The Yellow Jackets beat the Falcons 27-17. When the bus arrived at 3201 Line Ave., players filed off the bus and started sprinting to the front of the school to raise the victory flag. Carter and Suggs just looked at each other. They didn’t get the memo on this Byrd tradition — raising the victory flag on the school’s front lawn after every win.

I had the pleasure of being one of those players, but, truth be told, I was probably walking, not sprinting. 

When Carter moved into administration in 1998, Suggs took the helm and became the winningest coach in C.E. Byrd history. In 2013, he was named Louisiana’s Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Football Coaches Association. The Louisiana Sports Writers Association honored him twice with its Louisiana Coach of the Year award, in 2002 and 2011. 

Suggs finished with a record of 167-89 after moving into third place on Caddo-Bossier’s all-time wins list in 2018. 

Suggs’ first win as head coach came in his first game in 1998 against the Parkway Panthers, a 36-14 Yellow Jackets victory. 

I don’t remember the details, but as a Byrd assistant coach, I was there.

His last on-field victory came in December of 2020 when the Yellow Jackets knocked off John Curtis in the state semifinals on a cold, rainy night at Lee Hedges Stadium. It was a long ride back to River Ridge for the Patriots and J.T. Curtis, who is the winningest football coach in Louisiana and is closing in on the national all-time wins record. 

I was there on that night, as well, this time as a Byrd assistant principal. After the game, I went to interview him and posted it on the school’s Facebook page. 

To say that I’m proud to have been a player and assistant coach for Mike Suggs would be an understatement.

I’m also proud to be a limb on the coaching tree which includes names like the late Richard Lary, Scott Abernathy, James Wilkerson, Byrd’s current head coach Stacy Ballew, Bryant Sepulvado, Chad Lewis, Brian Taylor, Marvin Harris, and Christopher Wilson. 

For some athletes and coaches, things come easy. It never really came easy for Suggs. As a player, he wasn’t blessed with God-given natural ability. But he loved the game, and he worked hard at it. What he lacked in speed, he made up for with precise routes.

The same could be said about his coaching-style and tenure at Byrd High School. He had some great athletes, but the Arnaz Battles, Chris Beards, Kevin Stevensons, Leon Murrays, and Jonathan Stewarts were few and far between. It took hours and hours of hard work. Perfect practices. Meetings and walk-throughs to get it right for Friday nights.

Like Suggs — and cowboys – know, it takes what it takes when you’re giving it your all. 

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Calvary’s Burney, Shreve’s Stevenson repeat at state indoor track meet

NOT EVEN CLOSE: Calvary sophomore Jackson Burney leaned at the finish line in the 800 meter run while defending his state indoor championship, but it wasn’t necessary. (Photo courtesy MileSplitLa)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The best laid plans of defending state champions often go awry. Such was the case for Calvary sophomore Jackson Burney as he went to the line for the D-II boys’ 1600 meter run at Saturday’s LHSAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge. 

Burney, who was competing in the first of his two races Saturday — the second would be in defense of his state title in the 800m — wanted to stay with the pack and then catch the lead at the end. It would have worked had it not been for fellow sophomore Aiden Monistere from Parkview Baptist, who won his first state championship with a 4:30.13. 

“The game plan was to sit behind the leaders and pass them at the end,” Burney said. “I let Aiden get too far in front of me.”

Monistere spent most of the race behind Burney before passing him with 300 meters to go. On the bell lap, Monistere came through in third place and Burney was in fifth place.

The kick was on – and Monistere had just enough foot speed to hold off the Cavalier, who finished with a 4:30.32. It was a personal record for both runners. Monistere dropped two seconds off his previous best. Burney improved his personal record by five seconds.

Burney had to wisely manage the hour recovery between his 1600m race and his 800m. 

Despite the intense 1600m race, Burney “felt good” as he checked in for his specialty – the 800m, where he won his first state championship last May as a freshman.

The plan was similar to that of his previous race, and it worked to perfection as Burney powered home during the last 100m to win his second consecutive state championship in the event. 

While Burney did come away with the victory, he came up just shy of his goal of breaking 2:00. His winning time was 2:00.12.

Even the post-race meal didn’t go exactly as planned for Burney. His family wanted to try a new seafood place in Baton Rouge, but the wait was 90 minutes so Burney opted for a couple of chicken sandwiches from Chik-Fil-A instead.

While Burney won his second consecutive state championship 800m race, Captain Shreve’s Marquez “Macho” Stevenson won his third consecutive 400m state title (48.80).

It’s the second straight LHSAA Indoor Meet where Stevenson has been the only runner in the state to break 49 seconds in the 400m. Last year, he won with a 48.93.

“It was a good race, a competitive race,” Stevenson said. “In the first meet I ran a 50. I wanted to run a 48.3. I just gave it all I had. I feel like nobody works as hard as me. I know my top end speed is faster.” 

While things went Stevenson’s way in the 400m, that was not the case in the boys’ 60m where he was looking to break the record. Instead it was Warren Easton’s Germain Smith-Mata who took home the state championship with a field house composite record time of 6.76. Stevenson finished fourth with a 6.86. 

Other Caddo-Bossier athletes making podium appearances included Airline junior Jeremiah Boudreaux, who jumped 6-3.5 to take third in the Division I boys’ high jump. Huntington’s Demetria Harris and Catina Davenport both made the podium in the Division I girls’ 60m hurdles. Harris, a junior, finished second with a time of 9.23. Davenport, a senior, clocked a 9:46.

Harris also finished second in the Division I girls’ long jump (18-3.25) and helped the Lady Raiders to a second-place performance in the 4×200. Other members of the team included Rondisia Williams, Aniyah Jackson, and T’La Dewitt. 

Huntington had the highest finish of any Caddo-Bossier team, finishing third in girls’ competition with 35.5 points. Scotlandville (71 points) took home the championship trophy. St. Joseph’s Academy (55 points) was the runner-up. 

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Rocky path to LHSAA indoor track championships for Byrd duo

SETTING THE PACE: Byrd’s Hudson Roberts (far right, leading) competes in the LSU High School Qualifier last month.  (Photo courtesy of MileSplit LA)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

When Byrd juniors Jenna Key and Hudson Roberts step to the line tomorrow evening in the girls’ 3200m at the LHSAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, they probably won’t be thinking about how far they’ve come, or the life lessons learned. And they probably won’t be thinking about the 2022 LSU Last Chance Qualifier, where the teammates put on a show for the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse crowd.

Instead, they will be thinking about the task at hand and implementing the race strategy given to them by Byrd head coach Juan Plaza.

Although she has state championship experience, Key will be competing in her first indoor state championship. She missed it a year ago due to a freak accident at practice when she suffered a severe sprain after her foot landed on an errant lacrosse ball. 

Roberts did run at last year’s LHSAA State Indoor Meet. She finished fifth with a time of 11:44.18, but it wasn’t as fast as she ran two weeks before the state meet, at the LSU Last Chance Meet where she lunged past Key in the last meter of the 3200 meters. She won with a school record time of 11:26.95. 

Key broke Roberts’ record earlier this month, running an 11:23.21. 

Although she missed the entire regular outdoor season last spring as she worked to return from her ankle sprain, Key was able to win the District 1-5A 3200m championship (12:06), and finished as the runner in the Region I-5A meet behind the Gatorade Louisiana Cross Country Player of the Year award winner, Ruston’s Lily Garrett, (11:49). But it was the third-place finish at the LHSAA Outdoor Meet which brought tears of joy and gave Key a bronze medal more meaningful than any gold she has ever received.

Cross country brought more adversity for the Byrd duo to overcome. Roberts was completely out after suffering a stress fracture which caused her to become acquainted with crutches and then a boot for the better part of four months. 

Key limped through the better part of the cross country campaign before ending the season with gutsy performances at both the regionals and then the LHSAA State Cross Country Meet at Natchitoches in November.

“I’m so excited,” Key said. “I’ve enjoyed indoor so much this year. I have a really good mindset going in. I’m going to have fun and see what I can do. It’s my junior year and it’s my first indoor state meet, so I’m excited.”

Her teammate shares in her excitement. 

“It has definitely been a long road of recovery and it’s definitely not over but it’s so good to be back racing – especially being out for so long – it just makes it that much sweeter to be back,” Roberts said.

Roberts has used the indoor season as a means to an end. 

“Indoor season has been about getting back to where I was and training and preparing for outdoor state a lot more,” Roberts said. “So to be able to qualify for state indoor is a gift and I am really excited to race this weekend.” 

Perhaps the only person more excited to watch the two Lady Jackets run is their coach. 

“It has been a journey of regaining confidence as well as physical strength,” said Plaza. “Despite all the adversity, they both find themselves in the state finals. As far as I’m concerned, they have already won at the game of perseverance. I love both ladies like my own daughters. We will continue on this exciting rebuilding journey.  Their story certainly will not end on Saturday in Baton Rouge.”

Key is scheduled to run the 1600m, where she is the No. 4 seed (5:21), and the 3200m, where she is the No. 3 seed. Roberts is seeded No. 10 (12:16) in the 3200m and will run a leg on the Jackets’ 4×800 relay. 

Plaza had one male qualify, triple jumper Xavier Anderson, who is seeded No. 7 with a best jump of 42-4.75.

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Falting puts bad luck — and other runners — behind him

RECORD PACE: Parkway’s Gabe Falting takes the baton from Jesus Cordova in the final exchange of the 4×800. (Photo by TAYLER TABB)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Since November’s LHSAA State Cross Country Meet, Parkway junior Gabe Falting has had a good run of bad luck. If it could possibly go wrong, it has. Everything from sickness to someone picking up his spike bag at last month’s LSU High School Qualifier meet. 

His father, Kent Falting, who doubles as his head coach, thought last Saturday’s LSU Last Chance Qualifier would be different. 

“We thought all of those things were behind him,” Coach Falting said. “And this would be the weekend that he could just run and have fun.”

Then the 1600m happened and Falting took an elbow to the mouth from Catholic’s David Lemann during the race’s waterfall start.

Who says distance running isn’t a contact sport?

Bruised, but not broken, Falting joined the Parkway 4×800 later in the meet. The squad had a new member — freshman Ben Ruliffson, who was running the 800 distance for only the second time in his career.

“He asked me, ‘How do I run this,’” Coach Falting said. “I said, ‘Hey man, just stay with the pack. Don’t think about the pain. Just stay with the pack.’”

Ruliffson followed the coach’s orders. Next on the relay for Parkway were junior Gary Smith and sophomore Jesus Cordova. Their job was just to keep Parkway within striking distance for the anchor — Falting.

As Smith was running, Falting used the wait  time to follow in his father’s coaching footsteps and give his teammate Cordova some motivation. 

“I was telling him to get back up with the main pack,” Falting said. 

Once Falting got the baton (in fifth place) he had one mission — to catch the runners in front of him. While he passed a runner from East Ascension on his first 200 meter lap, Falting was still in fourth place. 

With 100 meters remaining, Falting made his move to pass the anchor leg from Brother Martin. A battle ensued and Falting pulled away with 50 meters remaining, crossing in a school record time of 8:24. 

“It’s not about where you are when you get the baton,” Falting said. “It’s all about where you finish at the end of the race. The timing is important because you’ve got to make sure you can hold them off once you pass them.”

Falting’s split was 1:59.2 — the fastest  split run of any runner in the relay or the open 800m, which was won by Calvary Sophomore Jackson Burney with a 2:00.15.

“It feels great,” Falting said. “We were joking with Ben that we were glad he was on the team which set a school record, but we told him we are going to break it again in two weeks.”

The coach was proud of the team. And the father was proud of the son.

“I’m just so happy for all of those guys,” Falting said. “To put the pain aside and to be able to run a school record time is really special. Listen, the 800 hurts. Those guys put the pain aside and did a really great job.”

And the father?

“For Gabe to put all of those unfortunate things behind him and have the confidence to motivate his teammates, it’s a testament to the positive spirit he brings to the team every day,” Falting said. 

And now Parkway will wait until the LHSAA State Indoor Meet on Saturday, February 18th and go after yet another podium finish and school record.

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Shreve’s Stevenson blasts out of the blocks at LSU

RECORD-BREAKER: In his first meet this season, Captain Shreve’s Marquez Stevenson blew away the competition in the 60 meter dash at LSU. (Photo by GAVEN HAMMOND, MileSplit Louisiana)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Captain Shreve sprinter Marquez Stevenson wasted no time in putting his stamp on his senior track season.

The two-sport star, who signed with Texas Tech last month, opened up with a record-breaking performance at the LSU High School Qualifier last Saturday. His time of 6.85 in the 60m was good enough for the win –- and the meet record.

Edna Karr’s Ra’hji Dennis, who shared the old record of 6.86 with Warren Easton’s Leon Elloie, was in the stands watching Stevenson. Dennis will open his season Feb. 4 at the LSU Last Chance Qualifier. 

Stevenson’s time was the same time Dennis ran at the 2022 LHSAA Division I State Indoor Meet, beating Stevenson, who finished third (6.94).

“It felt good,” Stevenson said of his first record-breaking win of the season. “I’ve been working. I sat out the first couple of meets to get back in shape after football. I feel healthier than ever.”

While Stevenson started his senior track season faster than he ended his junior indoor campaign, he will have work to do over the next few weeks to defend his 400m state indoor title.  On Saturday, Stevenson finished third in the 400m with a time of 50.15. West Feliciana’s Imani Coleman (49.77) won the event.

“I got out hard and then I started relaxing my body,” Stevenson said. “I could have run harder. There’s always next time. I’ll get ‘em.”      

Byrd’s Jenna Key, who opened up her season Jan. 14 at the Arkansas High School Invitational, finished second in the 3200m at the LSU High School Qualifier, running an 11:32.91. Houma Christian’s Emma Bourg, who was named Gatorade’s Cross Country Player of the Year earlier this week, won the event at 11:11.82.     

“There are pros and cons,” Key said of the two SEC venues. “Obviously, Arkansas was a really cool experience, but I love racing here. I know everyone, and it’s good to talk to everyone.”     

It has been a great start for Key, who battled different injuries during both the track and cross country season in 2022.      

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Key said. “I’m glad I’m getting better each race. I’m learning every race.”   

Huntington had two girls make the podium at the High School Qualifier. Senior Serenity Palmer finished second in the high jump (5-3) and Demetria Harris took third in the 60m hurdles (9.29).       

The Lady Raiders ran fourth in the 800m relay with a 1:46.32. Byrd’s 3200m relay finished fifth but ran a school record 10:48.83.        

One of the biggest highlights of the meet was Zachary’s Rhen Langley’s running a 4:13.92 in the 1600m. The time is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation.

Three Caddo Parish distance runners had a front row seat to see Langley break the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse composite record. Calvary sophomore Jackson Burney finished fourth with a 4:35.72, Loyola’s Franklin Roemer was fifth with a 4:35.80, and Captain Shreve’s Evan Adcock took sixth (4:35.85).   

Woodlawn and Southwood will join a group of teams who will open their 2023 seasons this weekend in Lake Charles at the McNeese Indoor No. II Meet. 

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Quick turnaround, long ride can’t ground Airline T&F standout

TIRED BUT TERRIFIC: Airline’s Jeremiah Boudreaux ran second in the 55m hurdles, took another silver in the triple jump and won the high jump Saturday at McNeese. (Photo by KIRK MECHE).

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Getting in a car at 5 a.m. and driving four hours south after playing in a basketball game the night before isn’t an ideal situation to open your track and field season, but it didn’t seem to bother Airline’s Jeremiah Boudreaux, who competed at the McNeese Indoor No. 1 on Saturday.

Boudreaux won the high jump (6-0) and finished second in both the triple jump (42-0) and 55m hurdles (8.47).

“I’m proud of myself coming straight out of basketball and not really having much work in high jump to come out here and do my best,” Boudreaux said. “I have a lot to work on and I’m just ready for the competition.”

His coach was proud, too.

“He had a phenomenal day today,” Airline head coach Schirra Fields said. “Really, this is his first opportunity to get to compete. I told him to go out and do the best he can. We weren’t trying to set records or anything. The tough part for me is deciding what events to put him in. He is a great kid. Great athlete, and I’m super excited for his season.”

It was a great way for Boudreaux to start his season and get the bad taste out of his mouth from the way his sophomore season ended. He finished ninth with a jump of 5-10 at the 2022 LHSAA Class 5A Outdoor Championships just a week after qualifying for the meet with a personal record jump of 6-4 on his way to a win at the Region I-5A Meet in Natchitoches. 

As far as getting up and traveling after a Friday night basketball game, Boudreaux said there are considerations he has to take into account. 

“It’s a little tough,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a lot of fatigue, but you just have to rest and recover a lot and make sure my body is intact.”

One Caddo-Bossier track and field athlete who finished her sophomore season on a high note was Huntington junior Demetria Harris.

Harris was the MVP of the LHSAA Class 4A State Championships after picking up two golds and two bronze medals. She won the 100m (12.11) and the 100m hurdles (14.49) while finishing third in the long jump (16-11.5) and 200m (25.08). 

The Raiders were in Lake Charles opening their 2023 season and Harris had a strong showing in the debut for her junior season. She finished second in the long jump (16-7.50) and third in the 55m hurdles with a time of 9.12 in the finals.

In the prelims, Harris ran a 9.08, a school record.

Harris wasn’t the only Raider making noise in Lake Charles. Fellow junior Preston Summage won the boys’ 400m with a time of 52.86. 

Both 4x200m relay teams performed well for the Raiders. The boys’ team finished second with a 1:35.76 and the girls took third in 1:47.92.

Other Raiders coming away with T-shirts included Oshamar Hall, who finished second to Boudreaux with a 5-10 clearance, and Serenity Palmer, who finished second in the high jump with a 5-2. 

This week, most area teams will be headed to Baton Rouge to compete in the LSU High School Qualifier. Athletes from across the state will be looking to improve their performances, hopeful for a qualifying bid to the LHSAA State Indoor Meet set for Feb. 18 at the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse on the campus of LSU.

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Prep track and field: Locals fare well at LSU High School Classic

Parkway sophomore distance runner Andrew Kent knew what to expect going into the season-opening indoor track meet, the LSU High School Classic. After finishing the 3200m with a time of 10:27.14, Parkway head coach Kent Falting is excited about where Kent will wind up.

“You always want to start off faster than you did the year before,” Falting said. “Drew opened with a 10:54 last year as a freshman and ended at 10:17, so he is in a much better starting point. We are anxious to see him break 10:00.”

Falting had another young distance runner, freshman Raquel Rios, who experienced her first packed-house at the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse on the campus of LSU. There were more than just a few nerves.

“She didn’t know if she wanted to run it,” Falting said. “She was a little intimidated going into her first-ever indoor meet, but we’re excited that she faced her fears and ran really well.”

Rios ran a 14:21.08 and finished No. 13.

Of course, Parkway veteran distance runners Gabe Falting and Cheyenne Olson had solid opening performances as well. Falting, a junior, finished No. 20 in the 1600m with a time of 4:48.65. Olson finished No.18 in the girls’ 1600m with a 5:59.93.

Falting and Olson saw some familiar faces in those races. Jesus Cordova, a sophomore, finished just ahead of Falting at No. 17 with a 4:47.76. Yet another sophomore for Parkway, Lady Panther Ember Pierce finished just behind Olson at No. 20 with a 6:03.57.

The Parkway boys distance crew joined forces and had the best showing of any Caddo-Bossier relay team. The 4x800m relay ran an 8:41.36 and finished No. 6.

Airline’s Elena Heng, a junior, had the highest finish of local athletes in the girls 1600m. She opened her season with a 5:55.87 for No. 15. Heng also finished No. 15 in the 800m with a 2:33.02. 

Airline also fared well in the boys’ 60m where senior Cameron Jefferson and junior Ladarius Epps posted solid performances. Jefferson ran a 7.25 to finish at No. 34, while Epps clocked a 7.36 to finish at No. 56 in a field of 170 runners. 

Both Jefferson and Epps were part of the Viking boys’ 4x200m relay which finished No. 16 with a 1:36.10. 

Airline had a strong showing in the 60m hurdles as well. Sophomore Ian White ran an 8.88 and finished No. 12 while senior Kye Lehr had an 8.91 and finished at No. 14. 

There was a plethora of local talent in the boys’ 800m, led by the defending LHSAA Class 1A state champion Jackson Burney. The Calvary Cavalier ran a 2:01.83 to finish seventh in the event. Burney returned later in the meet to run the 400m. He finished No. 24 with a time of 53.59.

Other noteworthy performances in the 800m included Airline’s Gabe Laval, who finished No. 15 with a time of 2:07.12, and Loyola’s Franklin Roemer, who ran a 2:11.80 to finish at No. 32.

In the field events, Airline senior Jae’lon Shumake finished No. 18 in the shot put with a toss of 41-8.50 and Loyola junior Amari Jackson finished No. 24 in the girls’ shot put with a best of 26-11.50.

While Byrd and Huntington did not open their indoor seasons last Saturday, both will get them underway this Saturday — albeit traveling in different directions. Huntington will head south to the McNeese Indoor No. 1 Meet on the campus of McNeese State University. The Yellow Jackets will travel to Fayetteville, where they will participate in the Arkansas Invitational. 

Contact Jerry at

What we’d like to see in ’23


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

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

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

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

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

  • Harriet Prothro Penrod

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

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

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

  • Lee Hiller

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

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

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

  • Teddy Allen

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

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

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

  • Tony Taglavore

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

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

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

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

  • John James Marshall

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

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

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

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

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

  • Roy Lang III 

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

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

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

  • Jerry Byrd Jr.

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

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

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

  • Doug Ireland

What we expect to see in ’23

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

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

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

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

  • Harriet Prothro Penrod

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

In COLLEGESanother successful year for LSU and Tulane in football.

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

  • Lee Hiller

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

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

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

  • Teddy Allen

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

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

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

  • Tony Taglavore

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

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

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

  • John James Marshall 

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

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

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

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

  • Roy Lang III

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

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

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

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

  • Jerry Byrd Jr.

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

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

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

  • Doug Ireland

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

Annual Independence Bowl FCA Breakfast continues to inspire

COMMON GROUND: Players from Louisiana-Lafayette (in dark sweats) and Houston shared testimonies Wednesday morning at the Independence Bowl’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The University of Louisiana–Lafayette’s Eric Treuil has served as the team chaplain for the Ragin’ Cajun football program for the past 30 years. Through those three decades, Treuil has served six different head coaches. 

“Over the 30-year time frame each coach, honestly, has seen spirituality (as) more and more important,” Treuil said. “Today, it is a cornerstone of our program. Coach Mike (Desormeaux) looks to me –- however, it’s the students and seeing these young men have a hunger for God, grow in their faith, and then influence their teammates. It’s been a great time to see that take place.”

Treuil introduced several Louisiana-Lafayette players to the crowd assembled at the 45th Fellowship of Christian Athletes Independence Bowl Prayer Breakfast at the Shreveport Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

The Cajuns collide with the Houston Cougars in the 46th Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Friday at 2 o’clock at Independence Stadium. 

Among the Ragin’ Cajuns who spoke to the crowd was Johnny Lumpkin, a 6-6 redshirt senior tight end from Atlanta. After making his way to Lafayette via Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Lumpkin became involved with Cajuns for Christ, an on-campus group that meets every week to hold Bible studies and devotionals.

Earlier this month, with temperatures in the high 40s, Lumpkin was one of six players on the team to be baptized in a pool on campus. 

“It was an opportunity for me to lead my teammates in the right direction,” Lumpkin said of the baptism experience.

Where Lumpkin led, his fellow teammate Damani Burrell, who also plays tight end, has followed. 

“I started going every Tuesday because Johnny was going,” Burrell said. “It has made a difference in my life.”

Freshman quarterback Zeon Chriss has shown his Ragin’ Cajun teammates that when it comes to living out your faith, you don’t have to be a senior. Chriss, who led Madison Prep Academy to a state championship in 2021, uses social media to influence others. Using Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, Chriss has over 5,000 followers. 

“The younger generation, they’re all on social media,” Treuil said. “Here comes Zeon. He is on fire for Christ. He is not ashamed of the Gospel in any way, shape or form. On TikTok, Instagram … all these different social media platforms, he’ll do devotionals live and he’ll invite people to send in prayer requests and pray for them. It’s powerful. It’s wonderful to see that. That’s a great influence.”

During his testimony, Chriss talked about growing up “doing church” but it wasn’t until “going through the storms of life” that he started living for Christ.

Treuil encouraged the audience to follow Chriss on social media.

“I’m going to be speaking to you boldly,” Chriss promised the attendees who chose to follow him on social media.

Like the players from both Louisiana–Lafayette and the University of Houston who shared their testimony, the FCA prayer breakfast itself has grown over the years. 

It started during the Independence Bowl’s second year in 1977 when FCA’s Lynn Mitchell spoke to members of the Louisiana Tech football team in the lobby of the old Holiday Inn-Bossier. 

One of the players who listened to the message that morning was Terry Slack, who is now the director for FCA in Louisiana. 

“I don’t know if he went to the hotel where Louisville was staying and had a devotional there or not,” Slack said, “but that is how the Independence Bowl Prayer Breakfast started and we have had it every year since.” 

Before taking a leadership role in FCA, Slack was the head football coach at Airline High School for 12 seasons. Each year, Slack would take members of his team to the FCA Prayer Breakfast. 

For the last 33 years, Slack – along with his FCA staff – have organized the event.

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Minimal drama on Signing Day, but emotions run pure

GUNS UP:  After officially committing Wednesday to Texas Tech, Captain Shreve’s Marquez Stevenson and his parents flashed the Red Raiders’ 51-year-old ‘Guns Up’ hand sign.  (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Three hats made the final table at Wednesday’s signing ceremony for Captain Shreve’s Marquez Stevenson, a wide receiver and standout sprinter for the Gators.

Hats bearing logos from LSU and Oklahoma State got tossed to his friends in the crowd. The red and black Texas Tech cap ended up on the head of Stevenson, who will play football and run track in Lubbock, where he was verbally committed for months.

Just 11 days ago, Texas Tech head football coach Joey McGuire sat in Stevenson’s home and visited with his future Red Raider while watching their favorite NFL team — the Dallas Cowboys.

Stevenson was emotional as he addressed the crowd and spoke about the sacrifices both he and his family have made to get to this point in his career. 

“From day one, Coach McGuire has been on me heavy,” Stevenson said of Texas Tech’s recruitment. “He did all he could to get me there. He visited with the family. He checked in on me every day. I mean, the Raider family, it’s just strong. It’s a home away from home. That’s what you want in a program.”

Stevenson was happy to share the moment with family, friends, and coaches.

“It feels good,” Stevenson said. “I know the community is there for me. It was a long day today. There were five other signees. I was there. We just had to support each other and see each other win.”

As the only local two-sport recruit, Stevenson headlined several Division I signees, including his Shreve teammates, on Wednesday. A list follows below.

Stevenson wasn’t the only two-sport star from Louisiana headed to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders flipped John Curtis’ linebacker/hurdler Justin Horne, who had been committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, earlier this week.

In a social media statement, Horne said that he was happy to be joining the “fastest recruiting class in the nation.”

When asked about his new teammate from New Orleans, Stevenson said, “We’re about to turn up.”

With his signing behind him, Stevenson turns his attention to the 2023 indoor track and field season where he will look to defend his LHSAA Division I 400-meter dash title (he has a personal record of 48.93). 

Last season, he was the only athlete in Louisiana to break 49 seconds in the 400 indoors.

This year, he may have some company as Horne’s John Curtis teammate, junior King Taylor, who finished second to Stevenson a year ago at the LHSAA Indoor Meet, opened with a 49.1 at the Galleria Games Indoor Meet in Birmingham last Saturday.

“Don’t wake a sleeping dragon,” Stevenson said with a smile when asked about defending his 400 indoor title. “I’m about to come for it.”

Caddo-Bossier Division I football signees reported Wednesday

DB, Kody Jackson, Evangel – Louisiana-Lafayette 

QB, Kam Evans, Huntington – Texas Southern 

OL, Ja’Marion Kennedy, Northwood – Louisiana Tech 

DB, Mar’Javious Moss, Northwood – Memphis 

DL, Ta’Derius Collins, Northwood – Indiana 

WR, Marquez Stevenson, Captain Shreve – Texas Tech 

OL, Chris Allen, Captain Shreve – Northwestern State 

WR, Will Derrick, Calvary/ULM (grad transfer) – Northwestern State

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Like him or not, watching ‘Coach Prime’ at Colorado will be fascinating

Deion Sanders?

Not a fan.

That’s just me. Too flashy. Too many videographers following him around. Too philosophical in the press conferences. Too many boxes checked when it comes to things I don’t like in a football coach.

And the name. Coach Prime? Too much self-promotion for my taste. Please, just coach ball. Spare the flash and dash. But that’s just me, I guess.

But, I’m not a Coach Prime hater, either.

When it comes to getting athletes to come to Jackson State and the on-field results with those athletes, you cannot argue with the success he has had over the past three years, and the way he has elevated the program. 

Sanders went 26-5 (83.4 percent) in his first three seasons at JSU, besting the beginning three years long ago by legendary Grambling State University coach Eddie Robinson (29-10, 74.3 percent). 

If you think I’m about to tell you Deion Sanders is the next coming of Eddie Robinson, let me assure you – I’m not. 

When Jackson State hired Sanders as head coach, I thought it would be a complete circus…and it has been, to a certain extent, but not in the way I anticipated. You see, I didn’t count on people packing into Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium to watch the Tigers play. 

Prime gets credit for that.

And, I certainly did not expect ESPN’s College GameDay to bring its road show to Jackson, Miss., but they did. 

Again, props to Sanders. 

A rising tide lifts all boats, and the Sanders Sunami at Jackson State has certainly elevated the game for all HBCUs.

So why the angst and gnashing of teeth when he left JSU, where he was making in the neighborhood of $300,000, and landed at Colorado, where he will make upwards of $4,500,000 annually?

Sanders has been called a sellout. 

Was it because he said God told him to go to Jackson State? And that God told him to leave?

Maybe it was the other HBCUs who didn’t like the praise Sanders received for upping the HBCU ante?

Whatever the reason, the “I told you he wasn’t SWAC” crowd, many of whom have been anti-Coach Prime from Day One, couldn’t get their Tweets out fast enough when Sanders announced his departure on Dec. 4. 

It didn’t take the former NFL All-Pro cornerback long to make a splash in Boulder. Sanders became the first coach in college football history to name the starting quarterback – his son – at the opening presser.

“There’s your quarterback,” Sanders said, pointing to his son, Shedur. “He’s going to have to earn it, of course.”

Of course.

You just thought your son’s all-star travel ball coach played “daddy ball?”

Then there was the meeting with the current – kinda – Colorado players. I throw in the word “kinda” because their new head coach invited them to leave. Sanders encouraged them to hit the transfer portal because he was bringing his own “luggage…and it’s Louis.” 

I’m sure that Prime … Sanders … whatever you want to call him, cares about his players, and is a players’ coach. I’m also sure that he could have handled his introductory team meeting with more tact. More respect for the group of young men who have represented the University of Colorado – despite how bad the Buffaloes have been.  

But, that’s Deion. His drummer has a different beat. Now give him his theme music!

On the field, I’m not sure how Sanders is on the X’s and O’s. What I do know is that he has done a helluva job in attracting coaches to his staff. At Jackson State, he somehow convinced a successful former NFL head coach – Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer – to join the staff, and work for free. 

He won’t have any coaches in Boulder working for free as the University of Colorado has reportedly given Sanders a pool of $5,000,000 in which to hire his assistant coaches. Like Sanders’ salary, it’s the most money available for assistant coaches in school history.

In the days since being hired at Colorado, Sanders has shown the ability to bring in a quality staff, starting with Sean Lewis, the former head coach at Kent State, who left his previous employer to be the offensive coordinator in Boulder. 

With his ability to attract coaches and the financial resources he has been given, I think he will be successful. It won’t happen overnight – or will it? Time – and Sanders’ ability to mine the transfer portal – will tell.

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Curtis wins, Byrd hugs the season goodbye

STOPPER:  Senior linebacker Brooks Brossette posted 21 tackles Friday night in the state quarterfinals but John Curtis overwhelmed Byrd. (Photo by APRIL NIX JOHNSON, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

METAIRIE – With just under a minute left in C. E. Byrd’s 35-14 loss to John Curtis in a LHSAA Select Division I quarterfinal playoff game, Yellow Jacket senior linebacker Brooks Brossette read his keys, attacked the line of scrimmage, and made a tackle. 

It was the final play of Brossette’s high school career.

It was a fitting end for Brossette, but not the one he wanted for his team … or for his coaches.

No. 9 trotted to the sideline and hugged the neck of Byrd defensive coordinator Jason Pope, then headed to the bench and found another neck to hug.

“Man, that’s my guy from day one,” an emotional Brossette said of his defensive coordinator. “Since my freshman year, he has been there for me. I look up to him a lot and he expects a lot from me.” 

In his final game, Brossette recorded 21 tackles, 13 unassisted. It gives the linebacker 233 tackles for his career and moves him to No. 2 on the all-time Byrd list behind only Paul Dupee and his 265 tackles.

But football is a team game, and the John Curtis Patriots made plays in all three phases on their way to a 28-7 halftime lead and a dominant win Friday night at Joseph S. Yenni Stadium.

“We had a great week of practice,” Brossette said. “We thought we had a plan to get it done, but it didn’t work out for us tonight.”

On the other sideline, things worked out well for Patriot Marlon Prout, the game’s leading rusher, who scored on the game’s third play – a 42-yard run up the middle of the Jacket defense. 

Prout, who finished with six carries for 120 yards — all in the first half — would add another score with a 39-yard run around left end with 1:27 left in the first half. 

“Prout has done a good job for us all year,” John Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis said. “A couple of those he had some decent blocking. Some of that he did it on his own. He is just that kind of back. When he can perform like that he makes me look good as a play caller – or I should say, Jeff (Curtis, offensive coordinator) as a play caller.”

Byrd could not get a first down on its next possession and the Patriots made the Jackets pay as John Curtis quarterback Dagan Bruno found Michael Turner on a deep post for a 61-yard touchdown pass with :15 remaining in the half.

“Defensively, I told them not to give up the big play,” Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew said when asked about the message to his team at halftime. “Make them drive it. Big plays killed us. You cannot give up big plays, and that’s at any level of ball. Hats off to them. They’re a great team.”

The Jackets’ only score in the first half came on a 4-yard touchdown run by Desmond Simmons, which came on Byrd’s first possession of the second quarter and tied things up, 7-7. The score was set up by Byrd’s biggest play of the night, a 48-yard pass from Lake Lambert to Jackson Dufrene.

But the Patriots’ defense scored on 24-yard scoop-and-score by cornerback Jermall Callio with 6:04 left in the first half, a haunting turnover that began a disastrous stretch for Byrd as a 7-7 tie ballooned into a 28-7 John Curtis halftime lead.

On special teams, the Patriots blocked a 55-yard field goal attempt by Byrd junior Abram Murray. 

The only other time John Curtis and Byrd played was in a 2020 semifinal at Lee Hedges Stadium. On a rainy night, it came down to a missed extra point by the Patriots as the Yellow Jackets won 14-13.

J.T. Curtis did not talk to his team much this week about getting revenge for the loss, but he did talk to them about the importance of special teams. And disappointment. 

“It was a one-point loss (in 2020) and very disappointing,” the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach said. “The emphasis was that we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position where it would come down to a field goal, because they have a good guy (Murray). That blocking the field goal was huge, huge for us. We didn’t want to put it in the hands of a special teamer.”

Curtis also credited the defense for stifling the Byrd offense.

Byrd’s Lambert, who had the most prolific night of any quarterback in school history with his 267 yards against Alexandria Senior High in last week’s 49-10 regional win, was held in check by the Patriot defense. Lambert finished with 65 yards rushing on five carries.

Jacket running back Tyler Nichols scored on a 1-yard run with 10:35 left in the game to make it 28-14, but it was too little, too late for the Jackets.

John Curtis had the final score of the game, a 1-yard run by Bruno with 3:42 left.

Curtis finished with 321 yards rushing on 52 carries. Byrd had 199 yards on 36 attempts.

Ballew’s message to his seniors after the game was heartfelt.

“No. 1, we love them to death,” Ballew said. “No. 2, Byrd High School is always their home. This is their team.” 

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Curtis 35, Byrd 14 

Score by quarters

Curtis | 7 | 21 | 0 | 7 | – 35

Byrd | 0 | 7 | 0 | 7 | – 14

Scoring summary

JC – Marlon Prout 42 run (Jaden Alphonso kick)

B – Desmond Simmons 4 run (Murray kick)

JC – Jermall Calllio 24 fumble return (Alphonso kick)

JC – Prout 39 run (Alphonso kick)

JC – Michael Turner 61 pass from Dagan Bruno (Alphonso kick)

B – Tyler Nichols 1 run (Murray kick)

JC – Bruno 1 run (Alphonso kick)

Individual leaders 


Byrd (36-199) – Lambert 13-159, Jackson Dufrene 1 16, Devon Strickland 8-15, Simmons 2-5. 

Curtis (52-321) – Prout 8-120, Kaheam Smith 6-78, Aaron Johnson 13-42, Bruno 12-34.


Byrd – Lambert 2-6-1-54. 

Curtis – Bruno 4-7-0-90.


Byrd – Dufrene 2-54. 

Curtis – Turner 2-68, Tyler Mitchell 2-22.

Byrd puts exclamation point on question mark, smokes ASH

NIGHT AT THE RACES:  Byrd quarterback Lake Lambert found room to run Friday night, and covered plenty of ground. (Photo by APRIL JOHNSON, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The Big Question heading into C.E. Byrd’s regional playoff game against visiting Alexandria Senior High was whether or not the Yellow Jackets would be able to move the football against the Trojans’ big defensive front. 

Byrd quarterback Lake Lambert answered the question in the game’s first three minutes when he raced 97 yards for the second-longest touchdown run in school history, on Byrd’s first possession of the game.      

It was only the beginning for Lambert, who finished with one of the most prolific nights in school history. He finished with 267 yards on eight carries and scored five touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets, 8-3 and seeded sixth in Select Division I, to a 49-10 win over No. 22-seeded ASH, which finished its season 5-7.    

“It was our great offensive line,” Lambert said of his performance running the football. “Great blocking by our wingbacks and receivers. That’s on them. I didn’t get touched on a couple of those because we had great blocking down the field. Great blocking at the second level. I think that was a difference maker in this game.”        

The Lake Show at Lee Hedges Stadium ranks No. 6 all-time in single-game rushing in Byrd football history, the best-ever by a quarterback.       

Lambert wouldn’t entertain any questions about his name in the school record books.

“We can talk about records when the season is over,” Lambert said. “The job is not finished. I’d like a ring on my finger whenever we are talking about records.”       

Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew thinks his quarterback caught the Trojans off guard.     

“I don’t think they knew what he could do, obviously,” Ballew said. “He was running up and down the field. I’m trying to talk to linebackers, then all of the sudden, it’s time for kickoff again. I don’t know what all he did, I didn’t see it all, but he was running up and down the field.”      

As a whole, Byrd’s offense finished with 475 yards rushing. It’s the fourth-highest rushing total in school history.       

The game was not as close as the score indicated.       

Byrd led 35-0 at halftime.    

After his first touchdown run of the night, Lambert added three touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 56, 19, and 34 yards.       

Byrd’s other score in the first half came in the second quarter on Tyler Nichols’ 10-yard touchdown run.      

Alexandria’s first points, a 25-yard field goal by Bodie Van Dyke, came early in the third quarter after Byrd’s only miscue of the night, a fumble on a pitch play from Lambert to Malachi Johnson on the first offensive play of the second half.      

Lambert answered ASH’s field goal with his fifth and final touchdown run of the night, a 50-yarder. 

Byrd fullback Devon Strickland got in the act with a 68-yard run — Byrd’s final score of the night — with 3:37 left in the third quarter. 

Byrd kicker Abram Murray was a perfect 7-for-7 on all of his point-after attempts.      

ASH’s J.T. Lindsey scored the Trojans’ only touchdown on a 42-yard run with 2:49 left in the game.       

“The kids came out and I think they missed not playing last week,” Ballew said. “They want to play. They’re competitors. They were ready to go, and we did everything right tonight. We didn’t get a bunch of penalties. We had one turnover. We got fourth-down stops. Two interceptions. Our kids played their butts off, and our coaches did a good job getting them in position. I’m proud of our kids, they deserve it.”      

Defensively, Byrd was led by All-City linebacker Brooks Brossette, who had eight tackles. Three Purple Swarm defenders – Isaiha Ford, Christian Jones, and Ben Martinson – had seven tackles each. Jones had an interception, as did cornerback LaMichael Taylor.

Taylor returned his interception for a touchdown, but it was called back on an illegal block, which had no influence on the play.   

“Good teams are going to go out there and punch the other team in the mouth and the other team is not going to respond,” Brossette said. “I think that’s what happened tonight. We got them from the get-go and they never wanted to get back in. Every game we play in, we expect to win by a reasonable amount. This game, we just came together. That’s what we can do.”         

What the Jackets will do next is prepare to go on the road for the quarterfinals and play John Curtis in River Ridge on Black Friday. The Patriots defeated Jesuit Friday, 35-7.   

“I’ve said from day one, we want to be practicing during Thanksgiving,” Ballew said. “When you get to practice during Thanksgiving, that’s something special. You’re always going to remember that as a player. As coaches, we love having that week where we do more football than we usually do. It’s always a special week.”     

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Byrd 49, ASH 10 

Score by quarters

Byrd | 14 | 21 | 14 | 0 | – 49

ASH | 0 | 0 | 3 | 7 | – 10

Scoring summary

B – Lake Lambert 97 run (Abram Murray kick)

B – Tyler Nichols 10 run (Murray kick)

B – Lambert 56 run (Murray kick)

B – Lambert 19 run (Murray kick)

B – Lambert 34 run (Murray kick)

A – Brodie Van Dyke 25 FG

B – Lambert 50 run (Murray kick)

B – Devon Strickland 68 run (Murray kick)

A – J.T. Lindsey 42 run (Channing Meche kick)

Individual leaders 


ASH (32-216) – Cunningham 24-149, Lindsey 4-60, Mingo 1-6, Bordelon 1-4. 

Byrd (41-475)– Lambert 8-267, Strickland 4-87, Simmons 5-61, Nichols 4-44.


ASH – Bordelon 12-21-2-131.

Byrd – Lambert 0-2-0.


ASH – Mingo 7-46, Johnson 3-60, Cunningham 2-25.

Victories at LHSAA cross country not limited to first-place finishes

SATISFYING FINISH:  Byrd’s Jenna Key wraps up her race Monday at the LHSAA Cross Country Championships hosted at Northwestern State.  (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES — Ninth place never felt so good. Just ask C.E. Byrd junior Jenna Key.

She has bigger medals from more impressive state meet performances, but the one she swung back and forth around her neck after finishing ninth on Monday at the LHSAA State Cross Country Championships is more special than any other medal she has won in her high school career. 

“It means so much more because I had to work so hard to even race,” Key said.

For the second straight season, Key has had to battle back from injury to compete on the sport’s biggest stage. Last spring it was a sprained ankle from a freak accident at practice which sidelined her for most of the outdoor track season. This fall, sciatica was the culprit, which kept Key from performing at an elite level most of the season. 

“Last year, my season was perfect,” Key said about her 2021 LHSAA Class 5A state cross country runner-up sophomore season. “I got a medal – great, but even finishing third in outdoors (3200-meter run) at state, I was balling my eyes out. I’m about to cry now. I am just so happy I was able to run.”

Key finished No. 9 Monday with a time of 18:44 in cold and muddy conditions. 

St. Joseph’s Academy’s Hannah Vaughan led the Stickers to a seventh-consecutive team championship by winning the individual title with an 18:05. Ruston’s Lily Garrett, who beat Key last year to win the 2021 state championship, finished second in 18:11.

Key’s performance at Northwestern State’s Walter P. Ledet Track Complex on Monday morning was a stark contrast from her effort at the D-I Region I Championship at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston on Nov. 3, where she finished in eighth place with a 19:17. 

“I just had to trust all of the training I did this summer,” Key said. “I don’t know what happened at regionals. I just think physically and mentally – I wasn’t ready. I told myself to just race, and I think I did the best I could.”

C.E. Byrd finished fourth in the team competition with 140 points. It’s the highest finish in school history. The winner, SJA, scored 40 points while runner-up Ruston scored 77. 

Key gave her teammates and coach credit for the program’s historic state meet results. 

“They make practice so much better,” Key said of her teammates. “They make the environment so positive. The whole team, we’re all young. We will all be back next year. We’ll have Hudson (Roberts) next year. I know she is excited about coming back.”

“He (Byrd coach Juan Plaza) is the most positive person ever,” Key said. “He is like having a second dad. I tell him everything. He is always there checking in on us, making sure we are ready, hydrated.”

Key wasn’t the only Byrd runner overcoming adversity during the state championship race.

Fellow junior Spencer Frierson lost her shoe in the first 800 meters of the race. She was spiked on the back of her right heel, causing the shoe to come off. Flesh dangled from the back of Frierson’s right heel as she made her way through the muddy three-mile course on her way to a personal record time of 20:14.

Loyola’s Tripp Roemer, a junior, had the highest finish of any local runner. The Flyer finished second in the Division III boys’ race’ with a time of 16:14. Loyola, which won the Division III Region I Meet, finished eighth with 248 points.

Parkview Baptist, the defending LHSAA Class 3A state champion, won the Division III boys’ team competition with a score of 52 points, 27 points under University Lab, who was led by senior Blayton Bernard, who won the first state championship of his high school career with a time of 16:05.

Mother Nature saved her worst for last at the state meet. The final race of the day was the Division IV Boys’ race. The runners had to battle a muddy course, which was quickly deteriorating after accommodating the previous nine state championship races throughout the day. 

To add insult to injury, She added a bone-chilling downpour for the runners to endure. 

“I cannot feel anything,” said Calvary sophomore Jackson Burney after his race, where he finished sixth with a time of 17:06. “This was by far the worst race I’ve ever run in. There was so much mud and I almost fell a few times. I just had to fight through the conditions, the mud, and the rain.”

Burney thawed out on his return to Shreveport and made it back to Calvary Baptist Academy in time for his 7 p.m. National Honor Society induction ceremony. 

It was indoors.

And dry.

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Mistakes cost outmanned Huntington in first-round loss to Jesuit

FEELING BLUE: Huntington receiver Jarvis Davis can’t get away from a Jesuit Blue Jay defender as Jesuit goes on the road to win 45-9 at Lee Hedges Stadium. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports   

Jesuit-New Orleans head coach Ryan Manale expected his Blue Jays to have to overcome some adversity in the LHSAA playoffs, but he didn’t think it would come before kickoff in his team’s first-round Division I Select playoff game against the Huntington Raiders. 

“We were supposed to come in three buses,” Manale said. “We got here in two. And we were an hour late getting to Shreveport.” 

No matter. The Blue Jays rolled the Raiders 45-9 in front of a handful of spectators on a cold and soggy night at Lee Hedges Stadium, blasting out to a 35-point halftime lead.

On the fourth play of the game, Huntington’s quarterback Jamarion Washington ran the ball up the middle of the Jesuit defense for 63 yards and set up a Dany Cuat 21-yard field goal.  

Jesuit answered with an eight-play drive which ended with a Patrick Berrigan 1-yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. 

After a 30-yard run by John Solomon on Huntington’s next possession, Washington was picked off by Jesuit’s Nick Jacobs. 

The Blue Jays put the ball in the hands of running back Jaron Duplesis and Berrigan. Duplesis carried the ball for 27 yards on three touches before Berrigan took over and added 16 more yards on three carries. Jesuit quarterback Beau Perez then found Hollis McDaniel for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left in the first quarter as Jesuit led 14-3. 

Jesuit kicker Aidan Corbello was good on his second consecutive point after attempt before demonstrating his versatility with a sky kick, which was fumbled by the Huntington return team and recovered by Jesuit’s Tucker Schibler. 

The Blue Jays got as far as the Huntington 6, but the Raider defense stiffened and Jesuit had to settle for a 32-yard Corbello field goal to build a 17-3 edge. 

Special teams miscues continued throughout the remainder of the first half for the Raiders, who struggled to punt the football. Those were unforced errors on Huntington’s part which allowed Jesuit to have short fields.  

Perez found Jace Larsen on a third-down 21-yard touchdown pass with 8:16 to go in the first half to give the Blue Jays a 24-3 lead.  

Jesuit scored two more touchdowns – a two-yard Jasper Parker run and another touchdown pass from Perez to Harry Reinhardt with 12 seconds left in the half. The Blue Jays led 38-3. 

“He did a great job of managing the offense,” Manale said. “Our guys executed and made plays in all three phases of the game early. It’s always good to advance and win playoff games.”   

In the second half, Berrigan scored on 14-yard touchdown run, and the Jesuit coaching staff began mass substitutions. 

Huntington’s only other score came on 32-yard yard John Solomon run with 9:30 left in the game. 

“I told our kids I was proud of the way they came out in the second half and played hard,” Huntington head coach Stephen Dennis said. “I told them at halftime I wanted them to play hard for the next 24 minutes and be able to look themselves in the mirror after it was over. And they did that. I also told them that it is a privilege to be their coach.” 

As for Huntington’s season, which comes to an end at 6-5? 

“I am proud of what we accomplished,” said Dennis, whose Raiders were seeded 14th to the No. 19 seed of Jesuit. “It’s hard to lose one of the best quarterbacks in the state and try to replace that amount of offense.” 

Dennis was referring to Huntington’s Kam Evans, who has been out with a shoulder injury for the last three weeks.    

The Blue Jays advance to face a familiar foe, John Curtis in the second round. Jesuit, 5-6, suffered a Week 4 loss, 28-10, to the Patriots on Sept. 23. 

The outcome may be a little different this time around.  

“You want to be playing your best football at the end of the season,” Manale said. “And I think we are doing that right now.” 

Contact Jerry at

Jesuit 45, Huntington 9

Score by quarters

Jesuit | 14 | 24 | 7 | 0 | – 45

Huntington |3 | 0 | 0 | 6 | – 9 

Scoring summary

H – Danny Cuat 21 FG

J – Joashua Washington 3 run (Aidan Corbello kick)

J – Hollis McDaniel 9 pass from Beau Perez (Corbello kick)

J – Corbello 32 FG

J – Jace Larsen 17 pass from Perez (Corbello kick)

J – Jasper Parker 2 run (Corbello kick)

J – Harry Reinhardt 13 pass from Perez (Corbello kick)

J – Patrick Berrigan 14 run (Joseph Barber kick)

H – John Solomon 32 run (pass failed)

Individual leaders 


Jesuit (35-158) – Jaron Duplesis 12-73, Berrigan 9-69, Parker 6-12. 

Huntington (16-117) – Jamarion Washington 3-63, Solomon 4-43, Lorenzo White 3-17, Jamarion Mims 3-8.


Jesuit – Perez 7-11-0, 83 yards. 

Huntington (9-19-2, 80 yards) – White 7-14-2, 76 yards; Washington 2-5-0, 4 yards. 


Jesuit – Reinhardt 2-33, Jace Larsen 2-24, Jason Thompson 1-11, Hollis McDaniel 1-9, Washington 1-6. 

Huntington – Tre Carter 6-40, Solomon 2-33, Jarvis Davis 1-7.

Plenty of writers wrong about Brian Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Woodward?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or did it?

That’s a discussion for another class. 

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

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

Contact Jerry at

Roemer hoping to end cross country season on a good note

RIGHT ON TRACK: Loyola’s Tripp Roemer trained hard all summer and should be in the mix for a Division III state championship.  (Photo by MileSplit LA)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The goal of every cross country runner in Louisiana is to be healthy and running his or her best at the end of the season – when it counts. That is why Loyola junior Tripp Roemer is all smiles after winning the D-III Region I Meet in Lafayette’s Acadiana Park last week.    

“It felt great,” Roemer said. “I won the race by over a minute. It was a pretty hard course. It wasn’t a day for PRs.”     

Roemer, who has a personal record of 15:53.80 at Byrd’s October Invitational, ran a 16:35.90 for the three-mile course. St. Louis’ Deacon Stantz was second with a 17:31.90.     

But the best part for Roemer wasn’t winning the individual title; it was the fact that he led his Flyers to the team championship. The Flyers scored 35 points. St. Louis was second with 67 points.      

“That was great, honestly,” Roemer said. “They have really brought me up. The best part of my day is going to practice and running with my teammates.”     

He will get one more opportunity to run competitively with his teammates at the LHSAA State Cross Country Meet at Northwestern State University on Monday, Nov. 14th.     

For Roemer, it will be an opportunity for him to see how far he has come in the last 365 days. 

Last year, Roemer finished No. 17 in the LHSAA Class 3A state cross country meet with a time of 18:10.90.    

“I didn’t place well last year,” Roemer said. “I wasn’t in the right mindset and just really starting to learn how to race competitively.” 

The maturation for Roemer hasn’t included any magic tricks or shortcuts — only good, old-fashioned hard work.      

“All this summer I was training really hard,” Roemer said. “It’s the hardest I’ve trained for any sport. It was far beyond the competitiveness I’ve experienced with soccer. I was really focused. That was new for me. I just hoped to be great this year. I’m proud of myself. I just want to end the season on a good note.” 

Roemer should certainly be in the mix for a Division III state championship. With his best time of the season, Roemer is ranked No. 4. The favorite is Episcopal’s Sacha Dernoncourt, who has best of 15:31.52.  

Just behind Roemer at No. 5 is the defending Class 3A state champion John Hall Hays of University Lab. Hays has a best this season of 16:03.24.

In other regional action, Parkway’s Gabe Falting led the Parkway Panthers to a runner-up finish at the Division I Region I Meet at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston last Thursday. 

Falting finished second overall, chasing Ruston’s regional champion Bryar Madden. Falting ran a 15:39, two seconds behind Madden. 

Ruston won the team title with 35 points and Parkway finished as runner-up with 48 points. 

Other Parkway Panthers making the all-region team by finishing in the top 25 include: Andrew Kent, Jesus Cordova, Noah Fox, and Alex Gomez, who finished No. 10-No. 13 respectively.

Freshmen Panthers Ben Ruliffson and Charles Ernest were also named to the all-region team. Ruliffson finished No. 15 with a time of 17:07, and Ernest finished No. 20 with a 17:20.

In the Division I Region I Girls’ division, C.E. Byrd was the runner-up to Ruston for the third straight year.

The Lady Jackets were led by junior Jenna Key, who has been battling with a nagging leg injury since the start of the season. Key finished No. 8 with a time of 19:17. Other Lady Jackets who made the All-Region team include: Laila Wells (No. 12, 20:07), Spencer Frierson (No.16, 20:29), and Mallory Swint (No. 23, 21:17).

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