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.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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 sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


What we’d like to see in ’23

JOURNAL STAFF

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.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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


Contact Jerry at
 sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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.” 

Contact Jerry Byrd at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com 

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 

Rushing 

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.

Passing 

Byrd – Lambert 2-6-1-54. 

Curtis – Bruno 4-7-0-90.

Receiving 

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.”     

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com  

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 

Rushing 

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.

Passing 

ASH – Bordelon 12-21-2-131.

Byrd – Lambert 0-2-0.

Receiving 

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.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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 sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

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 

Rushing 

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.

Passing 

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. 

Receiving 

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 sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


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).

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Falcons fly high, stun Griffins to nab share of 1-4A crown

HAPPY TALK:  Northwood coach Austin Brown talks to his District 1-4A co-champion Falcons. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

It didn’t matter that the District 1-4A title battle between heavyweights North DeSoto and Northwood was moved up to a 5:30 p.m. start to beat bad weather.

Fans in both Stonewall and Keithville got the message as spectators parked cars and trucks on any spot or piece of grass in DeSoto Parish between Griffin Stadium and Highway 171 well before the early kickoff.

The Falcons and Griffins collisions, sport-by-sport, never seem to disappoint, and the 2022 football version was no different as Austin Brown’s Falcons came back from a 13-6 halftime deficit to spoil North DeSoto’s perfect season with a 20-19 win. 

All it did was forge a tie for the district championship between the teams, just as Northwood envisioned way back after its early season loss to Huntington. The Falcons flew to 8-2 overall with the upset, and NDHS fell to 9-1, both with 6-1 league marks, one ahead of the third-place Raiders.

The Northwood approach worked.

“We just thought that nobody had kept swinging on them,” Brown said. “We got down 13, but we knew the game plan was to keep swinging. Jab, jab, jab. We reminded them at halftime, the game plan is still here. We took their best punches, and we’re still in the game, now go make them tap out.”

The one delivering the most blows in the second half was Falcon senior running back Quintavion White, who accounted for all three Northwood touchdowns with runs of 6,11, and 8 yards. The latter two came during a momentum-changing third quarter.

Northwood’s third-quarter swing started with plays on both special teams and defense. The Northwood punt team downed a punt on the North DeSoto 1. On the Griffins’ first play, Falcon defensive lineman Taderius Collins tackled North DeSoto’s John Lewis in the endzone for a safety to close the Griffin lead to 13-8. 

Northwood received the ball from the Griffins and went 47 yards on five plays with White getting his second touchdown of the night from 11 yards out. That score gave the Falcons their first lead of the night with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter. 

It was at that point in the game when the much-anticipated rain began to fall, and it was not good timing for the Griffin offense, which was poised to put North DeSoto back on top before a Griffin fumble was scooped up by Northwood’s Camron McCullough. 

That was followed by more ground and pound from the Falcons, except on a fourth-and-4 from the North DeSoto 27 when Northwood quarterback Mason Welch found Desmond Harris on a middle screen for 11 yards. White finished the drive with an 8-yard run with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter to extend Northwood’s lead to 20-13. 

“We had a chip on our shoulders,” Welch said. “We were the underdogs coming into this game. We haven’t played like we should have all year long. We knew that if we just came out and played our game of football and we trust our training in the offseason and we trust the game plan these coaches put on us, be the more physical team and have no quit in us that we would enjoy victory.”

But the Griffins, who finished the season with a 9-1 record, didn’t tap out as Brown had hoped. 

Lake Bates returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding call on the Griffins’ return unit.

Freshman quarterback Luke Delafield connected with wide receiver Cole Cory on passes of 35, 13, and 15 yards to set up North DeSoto’s John Lewis, who disappeared in the mass of offensive and defensive lineman before breaking through for a 12-yard scamper to bring the Griffins within a point of the lead.

The extra point attempt was wide left.

North DeSoto had a final chance on their one meaningful drive of the scoreless fourth quarter. The Griffins reached the Northwood 18 and, on fourth-and-1, they were penalized for a false start. The pass on fourth-and-6 was incomplete, and Northwood took over and held the lead it would keep.

In the first half, North DeSoto running back Brian Banks scored the Griffins’ first touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run with 7:18 to play in the first quarter. A pass on the two-point conversion failed.

The Griffins extended the lead in the second quarter when Delafield found Sam Odom on fourth-and-8 from nine yards out. Landon Falls’ point after kick gave the Griffins a 13-0 lead. 

Northwood would answer with an eight-play 65-yard touchdown drive capped by White’s first score of the night. 

“I love my O-line,” White said. “They were amazing. They block with their heart.” 

White said that his coach told the Falcons to keep fighting at halftime.

“He (Brown) told us that we’re not down,” White said. “Keep our heads up. We were only down six points. Normally, they have a running clock by halftime. They’ve had seven running clocks all season. We were like, we’re going to come play with our hearts, and we’re never going to give up.” 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

Northwood 20, North DeSoto 19 

Score by quarters

Northwood  | 0 | 6 | 14 | 0 | – 20

North DeSoto | 6 | 7 | 6 | 0 | – 19

Scoring summary

ND – Brian Banks 2 run (Pass failed) 

ND – Sam Odom 9 pass from Luke Delafield (Landon Falls kick)

NW – Quintavion White 6 run (kick failed)

NW – Safety

NW – Quintavion White 11 run (kick failed)

NW – Quintavion White 8 run (pass failed)

ND – John Lewis 12 run (kick failed)


You’re missing the magic of Friday night lights

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it make a sound? Better yet, if a high school football game is played at Independence Stadium and nobody shows up to watch it, does it even matter? 

I thought about this question a couple of weeks ago while watching Woodlawn and Bossier play. Woodlawn won the game, 34-14, but there weren’t many around to share in the postgame celebration with the Knights.

At kickoff, there were 48 people in the stands on the Woodlawn side. On the Bossier side, 18 was the warm body count. Combined, barely enough to pay the refs. 

Pathetic.

As I stood on the sidelines, I seemed to be the only one turning around to see if there was a late-arriving crowd. Maybe the fans had been tailgating in the parking lot. 

Nope.

Sadly, it didn’t seem to bother the players or coaches, who have grown accustomed to playing in almost-empty stadiums.

That’s not right. And it’s not fair to the kids. 

I have only about 300 words left in this column. Instead of asking rhetorical questions, I would rather use my space to tell you a little bit about Woodlawn quarterback Isaiah Kennedy and head coach Thedrick Harris.

Kennedy is the best quarterback in Caddo-Bossier that you’ve probably never heard of. I feel lucky to have shared a sideline with him at Independence Stadium in the Knights’ loss to Huntington and in their victory over Bossier. 

He was great in the win — threw a couple of touchdown passes — but he won me over with the way he battled in the 50-28 loss to Huntington. 

He is a competitor. A leader. And he is an incredible athlete. A cross between the Energizer Bunny and Houdini — able to escape the most impossible situations, and able to take a licking and keep on ticking.

If you love high school football, he is one of those athletes you want your friends to see in action, but Father Time waits for no man – or high school quarterback.  He will play in his final regular-season high school game this Friday when Woodlawn hosts Minden.

But’s it not all about Kennedy and his teammates. There is a very talented band. And a hard-working cheer squad. They work as hard and are equally deserving of the kind of atmosphere you find at a Byrd vs. Shreve Backyard Brawl. 

Harris is the second-year head coach at Woodlawn. He has been sowing seeds into the lives of young men for over 20 years, after he graduated from Louisiana Tech, where he starred for the Bulldogs as a defensive lineman.

You need someone to talk to you about overcoming adversity? Coach Harris is your guy.

Coming into this season, Harris lost his father. How did he cope with the heartbreaking loss? By continuing to teach his players the same life lessons his father taught him.

What’s it going to take for people to show up under the Friday night lights and support these student athletes and coaches? Will it have to be a winning record?

It’s true. Everybody loves a winner.

The legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, “When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he marks, not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

There are many high school athletes and coaches in Caddo and Bossier who are holding up their end of the bargain. There just aren’t enough people in the stands to support their efforts. 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Calvary, Loyola home as LHSAA volleyball postseason begins today

HAPPY TO HOST:  Loyola’s Lady Flyers are ready to open the LHSAA volleyball playoffs at home this afternoon. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The LHSAA State Volleyball Playoffs begin today with two local schools hosting first-round matches.

In the top half of the Division IV bracket, Loyola, the No. 9 seed, will host No. 24 Delcambre at 5:30 p.m. in the school’s gym.  

In the bottom half of the same bracket, Calvary, the No. 4 seed, is set to host the International High School of New Orleans at 5 p.m.

Hosting a home playoff game is a feather in the cap for Loyola head coach Laura Woolbert and her team.

“It’s always great to have a home playoff game,” Woolbert said. “You get to play in your own gym. Kind of in your comfort zone. You get your home crowd. Our home crowds have been pretty enthusiastic and a lot of fun to play in front of. Hopefully we can put it all together on the floor.”

If the Lady Flyers are to survive and advance in the playoffs, they will need returning first-team all-district players Abbie Anderson and Taylor Nash to continue what they have been doing all year.

But Anderson and Nash aren’t the only weapons at Woolbert’s disposal. 

“This year, Emma Sipes has stepped up and done a real good job,” Woolbert said.

The Lady Flyers may get a little help from Makayla Horton, who Woolbert said should return after missing the last month with a knee injury. 

Don’t let the Lady Flyers’ 15-18 record fool you. LCP has recorded big road wins over Class 5A schools like Captain Shreve, Benton, and Parkway.

“We’ve had a great season overall,” Woolbert said. “We’ve played a lot of high-quality teams, and I think that has really prepared us well for where we are right now.” 

Even though they are going on the road, the No. 21-seed North Caddo Titans add even more northwest Louisiana flavor to the Division IV bracket. The Lady Titans will travel south to No. 12 Patterson, where they will play at 4 p.m.

C.E. Byrd, the No. 30 seed in Division I, will travel to Dutchtown, the No. 3 seed, for a 5:30 p.m. match.

Caddo Magnet, the No. 20 seed in the Division II bracket, will travel to George Washington Carver; the match is at 5 p.m.

Evangel is the No. 21 seed in the Division V bracket. The Lady Eagles will travel to play No. 12-seed Crescent City at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Byrd likes how it stands after lopsided win

FOURTH SCORE:  Sophomore Desmond Simmons didn’t start for Byrd Friday night, but he finished in the end zone four times on eight carries, including this 64-yarder in a dominant win over Southwood. (Photo by APRIL JOHNSON, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

When C.E. Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew gathered his Yellow Jackets Friday night at Independence Stadium after a 58-0 thrashing of the Southwood Cowboys, he didn’t talk much about what had transpired over the previous two hours.

He did talk about where the Jackets are, and where they are headed.

“We’re right where we want to be,” Ballew said to his team. “We are 6-3 with a chance to be 7-3. We play Natchitoches Central next week, and I don’t need to remind you about what happened last year. We need a great week of practice this week.” 

Since taking over as Byrd’s starting quarterback Week 1 of his sophomore season, senior Lake Lambert has only lost three District 1-5A games. Two of those have come this season. The first was Byrd’s 23-10 homecoming loss to the Natchitoches Central Chiefs a year ago. 

“Yeah, motivation is not going to be a problem this week,” Lambert said, after rushing for 88 yards on six carries – all in the first half — against Southwood. 

Sixty of Lambert’s yards came on Byrd’s second possession of the night. For good measure, Lambert added a four-yard touchdown run with one minute left in the half to give the Yellow Jackets a 37-0 halftime advantage.

Sandwiched between Lambert’s touchdown runs, the Yellow Jackets found ways to score on offense, defense, and special teams. 

Dixon Poirier had an 8-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Fellow fullback Desmond Simmons added a 3-yard run midway through the second quarter. The Byrd defense recorded a safety by taking advantage of an errant Southwood snap. And senior defensive back Christian Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards for a score. 

Byrd’s junior kicker Abram Murray had a busy night, connecting on all eight point after attempts. 

In the second half, it was the Desmond Simmons Show for the Jackets as the sophomore added three more touchdown runs (1, 7 and 64 yards). Simmons ended the night with a game-high 106 yards on eight carries – half for TDs.

“It was really just the team coming together,” Simmons said. “We’ve been working hard at practice, really. I’m just thankful for my teammates, and I’m thankful for God, too.”

Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the offensive line opening holes for him.

“I love them,” Simmons said. “They are awesome. Every night!”

Byrd senior offensive guard Kyle Sprague was just one of the Jackets opening up holes for Lambert and Simmons. 

“It was a good game,” Sprague said. “We went out there and fought hard. We hit them in the mouth every single play and tried to get as many yards as we could, and in the end we came out on top.”

Simmons wasn’t the only non-starter to stand out for the Jackets Friday night. Senior Hunter Thrasher had two interceptions, including one late in the fourth quarter which preserved the shutout. He also caused a fumble recovered by teammate James Logan. 

Southwood, 0-9, will travel to Airline next Friday night with the Vikings trying to secure an outright district crown. The Jackets will head south on I-49, looking to avenge last year’s homecoming loss to the Chiefs.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

C.E. Byrd 58, Southwood 0 

Score by quarters

Byrd | 14 | 23 | 14 | 7 | – 58

Southwood | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | – 0

Scoring summary

B – Lake Lambert 60 run (Abram Murray kick) 

B – Dixon Poirier 8 run (Murray kick) 

B – Desmond Simmons 3 run (Murray kick) 

B – Safety

B – Christian Jones 61 kickoff return (Murray kick)

B – Lambert 14 run (Murray kick)

B – Simmons 1 run (Murray kick)

B – Simmons 7 run (Murray kick)

B – Simmons 64 run (Murray kick)

Individual Leaders 

Rushing 

Byrd (39-378) – D. Simmons 8-106, Lambert 6-88, Poirier 5- 67, Devon Strickland 6-54. 

Southwood (21-6) – D. Williams 10- 34, C. Ross-Hall 1-4, C. Walters 4-(-5), C. Martin 4-(-8).

Passing 

Byrd – Lambert 1-1-0, 15 yards. 

Southwood – C. Martin 7-14-1, 65 yards, C. Walters 1-7-1, 10yards. 

Receiving

Byrd – Jackson Dufrene 1-15.

Southwood – Detonion Arkansas 3-18, D. Williams 2-30, J. Cawthorn 2-13, C. Ross-Hall 1-14.


What’s it like on the short side of a high-scoring game?

Like the bulbs on the scoreboard at Harold Harlan Stadium Friday night, the Shreveport Bossier Journal staff group chat was blowing up during the last half of the epic District 1-5A battle between host Haughton and Benton, which saw the  teams combine for 149 points.

The halftime score, 35-28, was on the high side, but nothing that would tip you off that the Bucs and the Tigers were headed for an epic 78-71 finish, capped by Benton’s Greg Manning rushing for 39 yards for his eighth touchdown of the game with 0:43 left to give Reynolds Moore’s Benton team the win.

When the final score hit the group chat, I stood there on the sidelines of Independence Stadium – between possessions of the Woodlawn and Bossier game – taking in the ramifications.

My first thought: “I’m off the hook!” And then a bit of a smile broke across my face. 

“Do we know if anybody has ever scored that many points and lost?” an SBJ scribe asked in the group chat. Little did he know that the last head coach to do it was in the chat. 

I’m your huckleberry.

Understand, this isn’t Susan Lucci trying to break through and win a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress after 20 years, or Phil Mickelson trying to discard the title “best golfer in the world without a major championship.”

When you’re the coach who has scored the most points, and still lost – nobody knows who you are, not even the sportswriters you work with. 

While my last official duty as the head coach of the North Caddo Rebels was a scrimmage against Lincoln Prep in Eddie G. Robinson Stadium in August of 2014, my last game was November 1, 2013, against Joey Pesses and his Lakeside Warriors. 

The Rebels scored 68 points that night, which is great – and a record in my eight years as a head football coach. If we could have only stopped the Lakeside offense. 

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…

Over the years, the facts get skewed. I’ve been telling people Lakeside scored 72 points. As if 70 wasn’t enough. Thankfully, SBJ’s stat guru, Lee Hiller, corrected me. 

I thought we could go in at halftime and come up with a plan to at least slow down the Lakeside offense. They had two running backs who were very good. One of them – Chris Lewis – went to Hinds Community College as a sprinter before moving on to LSU.

What I found out that night is you go through different stages during the football coach’s traumatic stress syndrome.

The first stage is “we’ve got to do something.” That’s when you do a little hollering and hope your guys wake up and “get right.” You don’t scrap the game plan, just yet. That’s the next stage.

When the yelling doesn’t wake them, you have to resort to different measures. For example, widen the alignment of the defensive ends so they can do a better job of containment. But you have to be subtle about it. You move the defensive ends too far, and the other team starts kicking them out and running off tackle.

And that’s exactly what happened. 

That’s when you move into the “Well, I guess we’re just going to have to score every time we get the ball” mode.

In the final stage, you go into full-blown Conspiracy Theory Mode. It’s like our players made a phone call to Sibley and the conversation went something like this:

“We’ve watched you on film. You don’t play any defense. Guess what? We don’t either. Instead of pretending like we care, why don’t we just see how many points we can score?”

Leaving Sanders-Prudhomme Stadium that night, I noticed there was still one person in the stadium. He was leaning on the rail and looking over the field. Was it the ghost of Johnny Prudhomme looking for a can of paint to cover his name on the side of the stadium?

 As I got closer, I realized it was my quarterback.

“Are you OK?” I asked him, thinking he might be looking for a sharp object to fall on.

“Yeah, coach,” he said. “I am just thankful I got to be a part of this game. They will be talking about this game in this town for years to come.”

With over two decades in the coaching fraternity, I have developed relationships with fellow coaches. Most will give you a day or two after a tough loss before calling you and talking about it. Not former Loyola coach Steven Geter. He doesn’t understand the concept of “too soon.”

He called me on my drive home from Vivian.

“How do you score 68 points…AND LOSE?” 

With friends like Geter, who needs enemies? If they can contain AND squeeze on a down block, I do. Or at least I did on November 1, 2013.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Byrd girls, Parkway boys defend 1-5A cross country titles

CHAMPIONSHIP RUN:  Captain Shreve’s Evan Johnson finishes as the District 1-5A boys cross country individual champion, barely outpacing Benton’s Gabe Falting (rear). (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

Captain Shreve’s Evan Johnson ran a couple of 100-yard strides to warm up for the District 1-5A Cross Country Championships at South Bossier Park on Tuesday afternoon. On the final stride, he gave his father, who was making his way to the starting line, the “OK” sign.

Johnson, who has been “banged up” with a couple of leg injuries since running a personal record 15:43 to win the C.E. Byrd October Invitational on Oct. 8, was better than OK as he ran a new personal best 15:41.1 to barely beat his friend and summer training partner, Parkway’s Gabe Falting, who was less than a half second behind Johnson. 

“Obviously, it’s awful when you get injured, but you have to work with what you can do at the end of the season, I guess,” Johnson said. “I just dropped the mileage and did what I could. I was actually fresh today because I haven’t been running much; I guess that probably played a factor.”

Falting didn’t mind the company.

“Me and him linked up for the majority of the race, taking turns at different points of leading,” Falting said. “We were neck and neck the entire time, and at the end he just pulled ahead. It was really fun.”

In the girls’ race, Benton freshman Claire Allen won with a time of 19:16.7, more than 30 seconds faster than her teammate, senior Isabelle Russell, who was the runner-up with a season-best time of 19:48. 

“It feels really good,” Allen said. “Last year, I had no idea what to expect for my first high school cross country season. To see the outcome thus far, it’s really cool.”

While Allen is certainly happy to be the District 1-5A champion as a freshman, she is looking to get down in the mid-18:00s before the season is over. The next opportunity to reach her goal time will be the Division I Region I Meet in Ruston next Thursday, and then the LHSAA State Cross Country Meet in Natchitoches on Monday, Nov. 14.

C.E. Byrd made it a three-peat by winning its third straight District 1-5A title. It wasn’t that the Lady Jackets won, but how they won — with the absence of 2021 LHSAA Class 5A runner-up Jenna Key and fellow junior Hudson Roberts, who has missed the entire season due to an injury. 

Leading the Lady Jackets was junior Laila Wells, who finished fourth with a time of 20:07. Byrd won with 43 points, holding off Benton with 49.

“We did have some adversity, but I tell them all the time, it’s just like life – you have to adapt and move forward,” Byrd coach Juan Plaza said. “We have some committed kids who really put it out there today, and I knew, despite missing one or two, this team is deep enough to do some great things. Heck yeah, I’m proud of them winning today against some really good teams out here, like Benton and Parkway.”

Other Lady Jackets finishing in the top 10 included Spencer Frierson (No. 7, 20:37), Elizabeth Payne (No. 8, 21:14), and Mallory Swint (No. 9, 21:19).

Like the Lady Jackets, the Parkway boys were able to successfully defend their District 1-5A title from a year ago. They posted a convincing 28-52 margin over runner-up Benton.

“We were pretty excited today,” Parkway head coach Kent Falting said. “We had six or seven in the top 10. The goal was to come back and continue what we started last year. I’m glad nobody got hurt.

“We wore these pink shirts today because we wanted to represent those who are suffering from breast cancer, or know someone who is suffering from breast cancer,” he said. “We wanted to run for somebody else today, and I am very proud of what they did today in honor of those people.”

Other Parkway boys in the top 10 include Jesus Cordova (No. 5, 16:29), Alex Gomez (No. 6, 16:37), Noah Fox (No. 7, 16:39), Andrew Kent (No. 8, 16:44), and Charles Ernest (No. 10, 17:00).

Benton finished second in both the girls’ and boys’ divisions. Benton girls finishing in the top 10 included Allen, Russell, and Dominique Coore (No. 10, 21:40). Benton boys finishing in the top 10 included Brody Hutchison (No. 3, 16:21) and Dominic Helverson (No. 4, 16:25).

Other runners making the top 10 included Natchitoches Central’s Joe Duirden (No. 9, 16:55) in the boys’ division, and Airline’s Elena Heng (No. 3, 19:58), and Parkway’s Cheyenne Olson (No. 5, 20:13) and Ember Pierce (No. 6, 20:23) in the girls’ division. 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Most important races of high school XC season start Tuesday

PANTHERS PACESETTER:  Gabriel Falting is Parkway’s best runner and is a strong contender for the District 1-5A boys title at Tuesday’s district meet.

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

It’s the “championship season” in Louisiana high school cross country, and it all begins with the District 1-5A Championships at South Bossier Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Training sessions will begin to ramp up with more speed work as teams look to put the finishing touches on their preparations before the LHSAA State Cross Country Championships at Northwestern State in Natchitoches on Monday, Nov. 14.

Going into Tuesday’s District 1-5A race, C.E. Byrd will look to extend its winning streak on the girls’ side. The Lady Jackets, led by 2021 LHSAA Class 5A state runner up Jenna Key, have won back-to-back District 1-5A titles.

On the boys’ side, Parkway hopes to begin a streak of its own as the Panthers won last year’s title, and this fall have proven to be not only one of the best teams in the area, but the entire state.

Byrd’s Juan Plaza has not had the luxury this season of having his team at full strength. Key missed the first few weeks of the season with a nagging injury, and the Byrd girls have missed fellow junior Hudson Roberts, who has spent most of her junior cross country season on crutches with a stress fracture.

Still, the Lady Jackets have enough depth to continue the streak.

“Winning another district team title is certainly a goal for our athletes, especially in a competitive district like 1-5A,” Plaza said. “But in the end, it’s just a prep meet for the state meet where we have bigger goals.”

If anyone is able to knock off the Lady Jackets, look for Benton to answer the call. The Lady Tigers have one of the best freshmen in the state in Clair Allen, and also have experienced runners – and leadership — from senior Isabelle Russell. 

Parkway’s Cheyenne Olson has been a regular in the Top 5 during her first two years of high school. Look for Olson to lead the Lady Panthers. 

Parkway junior Gabriel Falting and Captain Shreve senior Evan Johnson have been friends since they began running competitively in middle school. This summer, Johnson even trained with the Parkway team to gear up for the season. 

Falting and Johnson will battle it out for the District 1-5A individual title. Falting has a best time of 15:43. Johnson also has a best time of 15:43. 

But Falting isn’t the only weapon the Panthers have. Sophomore Andrew Kent (16:10), freshmen Ben Rulifson (16:25) and Charles Ernest (16:43) and sophomore Jesus Cordova (16:35) have all impressed this season. 

“Our boys are very excited for the district meet,” Parkway head coach Kent Falting said. “Winning it last year after not winning for four years was a huge relief. Now, they’re hungry for more. There are some great runners in our district but we hope to come out on top and injury-free so we can continue to chase our goal of being top five in this year’s state meet.”

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Balanced Woodlawn too much for Bossier

WINNING STRATEGY:  Woodlawn running back Quintin Wilson and Knights’ offensive coordinator Mike Green cooked up a potent plan Friday night. (Photo by JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports)

BY JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports 

Woodlawn’s Quintin Wilson is a Knight to remember, and it was a night to remember for No. 14. The sparkplug of a running back turned heads in the first half of Woodlawn’s 34-14 district win over Bossier Friday night by rushing for 119 yards on five carries. 

Wilson finished with 162 yards on 24 carries.  

“We talk about yards after contact with him,” Woodlawn head coach Thedrick Harris said. “He did a good job of keeping his legs running and keep fighting for yards. That was a big improvement from what we have seen the last few weeks.” 

Bossier (0-8, 0-5 District 1-4A) didn’t make it easy for the Knights (3-5, 2-3) at Independence Stadium. The Bearkats drove down the field on the game’s opening possession and scored a touchdown — a 9-yard Christian Johnson run for a 6-0 lead. 

Woodlawn tied the game on the first play of the second quarter as Anthony Bryant scored from seven yards out. His touchdown was set up by runs of 13 and 37 yards by Woodlawn quarterback Isaiah Kennedy.  

With just under five minutes remaining in the half, the Knights got defensive. Defensive lineman Peter Johns had a big sack on third down from the Bossier 10. On fourth down, the Bearkat punter was under duress and threw the ball the away, which led to an intentional grounding.  

The penalty – from inside the end zone – resulted in a safety credited to the Woodlawn defense and gave the Knights an 8-6 lead with 4:49 remaining in the half. 

Enter Mr. Wilson — and a 44-yard run — setting up a 12-yard touchdown run by Kennedy. 

Woodlawn led 14-6 at halftime. 

Woodlawn leaned on the Bearkats with their running game in the second half. The Knights plodded down the field by gaining chunks of rushing yards, including a 14-yard reverse by D.J. Bates.  

After eight straight run plays, Woodlawn offensive coordinator Mike Green dialed up a pass play for Kennedy, finding Antonio Reynolds for a 33-yard touchdown to extend their lead to 20-6.  

On the very next drive, the Knights found the endzone again – another Kennedy touchdown pass. Joshua Kennon did the heavy lifting on the 36-yard screen pass as Woodlawn scored 28 straight points and led 28-6. 

Kennon impressed his head coach. 

“He was as disciplined running the football as I’ve seen,” Harris said. “He did a tremendous job, and our offensive line did a good job.”  

But Bossier head coach DeAumante Johnson’s Bearkats didn’t go down without a fight.  

Woodlawn was plagued with penalties in the second half, the most costly a pass interference call on third down at midfield. It gave the Bearkats the ball at the Woodlawn 35, and Bossier quarterback Latravio Christor found San’tavion Ball for a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. 

With 8:21 remaining in the game, Woodlawn added one more score as Kennedy connected with Brandon Henderson on a fourth down from the Bossier 12.  

“The offensive line was blocking, and we were executing,” Wilson said in his first-ever interview. “I’m blessed. We knew they wanted to win bad, but we wanted it more. We are going to keep pushing forward.” 

Forward for Wilson and his Knights, who improve to 3-5, will be the Northwood Falcons. 

Bossier, who remains winless on the season, will host an undefeated North DeSoto. 

Woodlawn 34, Bossier 14

Scoring by quarter

Woodlawn | 0 | 14 |14 | 6 | 34 

Bossier    | 6 | 0 | 8 | 0 | 14 

Scoring summary

B- Christian Johnson 9-yard run (run failed) 

W- Anthony Bryant 7-yard run (run failed)  

W – Woodlawn defensive safety  

W- Isaiah Kennedy 12-yard run (run failed)  

W – Kennedy 33-yard pass to Antonio Reynolds (pass fail)  

W – Kennedy 36-yard pass to Joshua Kennon (Kennedy pass good)  

B – Latravion Christor 35-pass to San’tavion Ball (Lebrandon Davis run)  

W- Kennedy 12-yard pass Brandon Henderson (pass fail)  


LFCA I-20 Bowl West roster features many local stars

ALL-STAR QB:  Benton’s prolific passer, Gray Walters, is among a big group of local senior high school football players selected for a postseason all-star game. (Photo by APRIL JOHNSON, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

The Louisiana Football Coaches Association I-20 Bowl set for Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at Ruston High School has plenty of local players, and coaches, involved.

Parkway’s Coy Brotherton will be the head coach for the West team.

Brotherton’s roster will include some of the best players in northwest Louisiana, including five of his Parkway Panthers. Quarterback Ashton Martin, offensive lineman Chandler Davis, linebacker Barrett Newman, defensive end Ray Mayweather, and kicker Nolan Dean were all selected to the 35-man roster.       

Other Bossier Parish players making the team: Benton’s quarterback Gray Walters, wide receiver Pearce Russell, linebacker Zach Halbert, and cornerback Landon Duggan; Haughton offensive lineman Peyton Polk and linebacker Connor Blank; Airline offensive lineman Reid Hawsey, defensive back Chris Montgomery, and Viking standout wide receiver Daxton Chavez.        

C.E. Byrd leads Caddo schools with three players selected to the West roster. The Jackets’ All-City linebacker Brooks Brossette, safety Christian Jones, and defensive end Isaiah Ford were all selected to represent northwest Louisiana.        

Northwood, Huntington, and North Caddo had two players each.      

Falcons defensive lineman Ted Jamison and running back Quintavion White will play in the all-star game as will Huntington running back Tre Carter and Jabaria Scott. North Caddo will be represented on the team by running back K.J. Black and defensive back Rodney Thomas.         

Other players making the team from Caddo Parish include Calvary offensive lineman Jordan Byrd, Captain Shreve’s Chris Allen, and Southwood athlete Corinthian Walters.         

Three North Desoto Griffins will represent DeSoto Parish on the West team: running back Brian Banks, defensive back Hunter Addison, and defensive lineman Marques “Gator” Hampton. Other DeSoto Parish products making the team include Mansfield’s Dakeldrick Thomas and Logansport’s Jayven Claybrook. 

Other area players making the West team include Natchitoches Central’s defensive lineman Tredarius Brown, Minden’s offensive and defensive lineman Maki Reed, and two from reigning Class A champ Homer: running back Eljay Curry, and lineman Walteze Champ.           

The offensive coordinator for the West will be Calvary’s Marvin Williams. The defensive coordinator will be Benton’s Scott Reeder. Other assistant coaches include Captain Shreve head coach Adam Kirby (offensive line), Huntington’s Jeremy Wilburn (wide receivers), Natchitoches Central’s Matt Anding (secondary), Bossier head coach DeAumante Johnson (secondary), Parkway’s Jacob James (wide receivers), and Northwood’s Jarrett Taylor (defensive line).

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Calvary setting pace among local volleyball teams as postseason nears

STOUT STATEWIDE:  Calvary Baptist again has the top LHSAA power ranking locally as state volleyball playoffs loom.

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

When the high school volleyball season started, Calvary head coach John Casey expected his young Lady Cavaliers to experience some growing pains this season. However, Calvary remains at the top of the Division IV power ratings heading into the final match of the regular season. 

This year’s team is at 21-6, with all six losses coming to teams ranked in the top four of their respective divisions.

Currently, Calvary is the No. 4 seed in Division IV. Casey believes that is where the Lady Cavaliers will finish. 

Last year, the Lady Cavaliers finished 34-6,  ranked No. 3 in the power ratings and made it to the quarterfinals of the LHSAA Division V State Playoffs.      

“My coaches and I talked and decided to back off on the number of games this year,” Casey said. “It’s a fine line. You want to push them, but you don’t want to push them too hard.”       

The plan, so far, has worked as Calvary – despite its youth – has had the best season of any Caddo-Bossier team.

Casey will only lose one senior off his 2022 team. That’s a far cry from last year’s team which had six seniors to replace this season.  

Just because the Lady Cavaliers are young, doesn’t necessarily mean they are inexperienced.        

Brooklynn Morris, Allie Hutchings, Alexandra Campanella, and Kiya Casey are just a few of the Lady Cavaliers who have been exposed to club and travel volleyball, which have included participation in national tournaments.        

Campanella and Casey, a three-time USA Olympic National Development Team member, are sophomores. Morris and Hutchings are freshmen.

C.E. Byrd coach Breanne Saulsbury, who is in her second year as head coach of the Lady Jackets, knows what it is like to have a veteran team. She has nine seniors on the 2022 roster. 

“All of the seniors have really worked hard to be cohesive,” Saulsbury said. “but also to make the adjustments from game-to-game. Where normally we would just go in and play our game, we’re making adjustments based on teams, based off film, and just going week-to-week, and making those adjustments and that has helped our game a lot this year.”

Some of those adjustments are being made this week as Saulsbury prepares her team to travel to north Bossier on Friday evening to face Airline.

The two teams met late last month, and it came down to host Byrd edging out the Lady Vikings 18-16 in the fifth set. 

Saulsbury is a little concerned about the game falling on the day after a football game – versus Airline, especially since one of her most improved seniors, outside hitter Janiyah Vanderpool, doubles as the Byrd mascot, Jack the Jacket.

“She has come leaps and bounds from last year, where we had her on the right side where she was doing what she needed to do,” Saulsbury said. “Now, we have her on the outside and being a power hitter and just a great server, who is making crucial points.”

Vanderpool is not worried about having enough energy after a Thursday night football game.

“I’ll drink an energy drink,” she laughed. “I’ll be fine.”

What she is worried about is accomplishing something the Lady Jackets have never done – winning a district championship.

“We’ve talked about it all year,” Vanderpool said. “When we went to camps this summer, they would always ask us what our goals are, and it’s always to win the district. We keep that in the back of our mind. Our end goal is district.”

A road game at Airline, and a Senior Night game against Benton next week are all that stand in the way of making history. 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


The fine line of maintaining control and, when it breaks down, finding fairness

The world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, a Homer native, was in town last Thursday speaking to coaches and parents at the BHP Billiton YMCA. 

His services would have come in handy in the officials’ dressing room at Independence Stadium, checking on the rotator cuffs of the officiating crew, which threw 22 flags in the first half of the Huntington-Woodlawn game.  

I’m telling you, it’s not just the arms of 10-year old pitchers we need to worry about.    

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember any egregious fouls called. There was no shortage of sloppy play — on both sides. But it made it incredibly difficult to watch.  

Late in the game, things went from bad to worse. 

With 6:19 to play, and Huntington holding a lopsided 50-28 advantage, a brawl broke out along the Huntington sideline.  

If you’ve watched football for any length of time, you have seen this scenario play out before. Late hit on the sidelines. Penalty flag thrown in the air. A Huntington player lets his emotions get the best of him and pops an unsuspecting Woodlawn Knight. Then, all hell breaks loose for a few moments.  

Several Knights had a thought to sprint to the other sideline and come to the aid of their teammates, many of whom were involved in the fisticuffs. 

But they were stopped by a fast-acting Woodlawn coaching staff, several of whom were smart enough to turn their back to the fight and warn the Knights to stay put. The players listened. 

As a former head coach, I was impressed to see the quick control of the situation because the natural instinct is to run to the action and watch what’s going on.  

Had it not been for their actions, Woodlawn probably would not have enough players to field a team for this week’s game against Bossier, as all of the players who left the sideline would have to face a one-game suspension for fighting – whether they threw a punch or not.  

When the black rubber pellets at Independence Stadium settled back into the artificial grass, and the head coaches and principals of both schools met to discuss the situation, two players on each team were ejected.  

Barring an unlikely appeal and an overturn by the LHSAA, all four players will be suspended for one game. 

 That penalty – from what I saw Thursday night – passed the eye test and is warranted.  

While I didn’t agree with the decision to continue the game, it resumed without incident. And kudos to both coaching staffs and officials for settling the teams down in order to finish.  

In the Byrd-Parkway game there were two more ejections. That’s six for Week 7 if you’re counting at home. Full moon? They say Mother Nature is undefeated.  

A Parkway player gets mad because Parkway does not convert a fourth down. He throws the football and hits a Byrd player in the head. In the second half, the same player engages in what can be described as extracurricular behavior while he is on top of the pile. 

The Yellow Jacket defensive lineman gives the Parkway offensive lineman, who is holding his head down until the whistle blows, a quick punch as he is getting up off the turf. 

Not excusing the Byrd player for what he did. He was wrong. 

The Parkway player will have to take a sportsmanship class and be available Friday night when Parkway plays Natchitoches Central. The Byrd player, because it was “fighting,” will have to sit out Thursday night’s game against Airline, unless there is an appeal and it’s overturned. 

The punishment for the Byrd player does not fit the crime. Penalty? Yes. One-game suspension? No.  

It’s a fine line we ask these teenagers and their under-developed frontal lobes to walk under the Friday night lights. 

“Go knock his ass in the dirt … play through the whistle … but stop when you don’t hear it.”  

“Don’t take anything from anybody … but don’t get a penalty.”  

It’s physical, hand-to-hand combat, and it’s hard to turn the switch off and on an average of 75 times a game – or 150 if the player goes both ways. 

The standard we are trying to hold high school football players to is much higher than the standard we see when we watch our favorite college teams on Saturday, or our favorite NFL teams on Sunday.  

Remember the NFL’s Week No. 2, Saints vs. Bucs? Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans? Yes, he was suspended – and rightfully so. But what about the role Marcus Lattimore and Leonard Fournette played in the melee? Both threw punches as other players and referees were trying to break it up. Both played the following week. 

No sportsmanship class. No one-game suspension. 

Now there is talk about the National Federation of High Schools making a push penalized the same as a hit. 

But, it’s not the same.  

Not only that, it’s hard to legislate aggressive behaviors out of a game that is inherently violent.  

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com