Lang’s Locks: Nice momentum entering PGA Championship

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Another week, another profit. We’re on a nice roll (plus-8 units over the past month), and man we are so close to hitting a big win ticket (Hideki Matsuyama almost got us home last week).

As usual, we’re Top 20 heavy at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, but we also hit the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Major League Baseball. 

Good luck!

Notes

All bets are measured in units. For instance, if your normal bet on a game is $100, that is one unit. If the bet is listed as .2 units, it’s a $20 bet.

Best line (as of Tuesday) is listed in parenthesis. Find the best price, one key to being a successful sports bettor! Shop around!

Sportsbook legend

CAE: Caesar’s

FD: Fan Duel

MGM: Bet MGM

DK: DraftKings

BS: Barstool

LANG’S LOCKS

Last week recap: Plus-.55 units

THIS WEEK’S SELECTIONS

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Win bets

Sebastien Munoz, .1 unit, +15000 (MGM)

Maverick McNealy, .1 unit, +16000 (FD)

Top 20 Bets

Lanto Griffin, .7 units, +900 (DK)

Si Woo Kim, .5 units +550, (DK)

Aaron Wise, .4 units +550 (DK)

Mito Pereira, .4 units, +470 (FD)

Dean Burmester, .3 units, +1400, (DK)

Cameron Davis, .3 units, +900 (DK)

Kramer Hickok, .3 units, +2000 (DK)

Carlos Ortiz, .3 units +1400 (DK)

Thomas Pieters, .3 units, +700 (FD)

Tom Hoge, .3 units, +500 (DK)

Brian Harman, .3 units, +550 (DK)

Rikuya Hoshino, .3 units, +1400 (DK)

Laurie Canter, .2 units, +2000 (DK)

Major League Baseball

Wednesday’s games

Cardinals-Mets, 1 unit, under 7 runs

NHL

Wednesday’s Games

Rangers, 1 unit, +145 (DK)

Oilers, 1 unit, +140 (DK)


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Killer Bs highlight Saints, Cowboys home schedules

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

 Tom Brady, Joe Burrow and the reigning Super Bowl champions will face both the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys this fall.

The full NFL schedules were released Thursday night. Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals, and Tampa Bay’s Brady, will visit both the Caesar’s Superdome and AT&T Stadium early in the season.

In Week 2, the Cowboys will host Cincinnati for Sept. 18 affair. Burrow makes his return to the Superdome, site of his National Championship victory with LSU in 2020, in Week 6 – Oct. 16 at noon.

The season-openers are doozies for both squads. For the second year in a row, the Cowboys kick off the season in primetime against Brady and the Buccaneers. This time it’s on a Sunday night (Sept. 11) in the Metroplex.

The Saints open with Atlanta. Enough said. 

The Falcons will host the noon affair on Sept. 11.

New Orleans travels to Tampa Bay in Week 2 and will host Brady and the Buccaneers on Monday night in Week 13 (Dec. 5). The Saints host one other Monday Night Football matchup – Week 9 (Nov. 7) against Baltimore.

The Saints play just one other primetime game, Week 7 at Arizona, but will travel to London to play Minnesota in Week 4 (Oct. 2). The defending champion Los Angeles Rams visit the Big Easy on Nov. 20.

New Orleans’ longest homestand is three games (Weeks 4-6). The Saints will spend Christmas Eve in Cleveland in Week 16 and finish in the Dome against Carolina on Jan. 8.

The Cowboys play five primetime games, including three Sunday night games. Dallas plays five home games before its Week 9 bye. One of the early road games is a trip to SoFi Stadium to play the Rams in Week 5 (Oct. 9).

Dallas travels to Lambeau Field (Nov. 13) following its bye week. It will be Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy’s first trip to Green Bay since he left as the Packers head coach. 

The annual Thanksgiving game features an NFC East showdown with the New York Giants.

The Cowboys’ only Monday night affair comes in Week 3 (Sept. 26) at the Giants.

New Orleans Saints 2022 schedule

 Sept. 11, at Atlanta (noon, FOX)

Sept. 18, Tampa Bay (noon, FOX)

Sept. 25, at Carolina (noon, FOX)

Oct. 2, Minnesota (at London, 8:30 a.m., NFL Network)

Oct. 9, Seattle (noon, FOX)

Oct. 16, Cincinnati (noon, CBS)

Oct. 20, at Arizona (7:15 p.m., Prime Video)

Oct. 30, Las Vegas (noon, CBS)

Nov. 7, Baltimore (7:15 PM)

Nov. 13, at Pittsburgh (noon, FOX)

Nov. 20, Los Angeles Rams (noon, FOX)

Nov. 27, at San Francisco (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Dec. 5, at Tampa Bay (7:15 p.m.)

BYE, Week 14

Dec. 18, Atlanta (TBD)

Dec. 24, at Cleveland (noon, CBS)

Jan 1, at Philadelphia (noon, FOX)

Jan. 8, Carolina (TBD)

Dallas Cowboys 2022 schedule

Sept. 11, Tampa Bay (7:20 p.m., NBC)

Sept. 18, Cincinnati (3:25 p.m., CBS)

Sept. 26, at New York Giants (7:15 p.m.)

Oct. 2, Washington (noon, FOX)

Oct. 9, at Los Angeles Rams (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Oct. 16, at Philadelphia (7:20 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 23, Detroit (noon, CBS)

Oct. 30, Chicago (noon, FOX)

BYE, Week 9

Nov. 13, at Green Bay (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Nov. 20, at Minnesota (3:25 p.m., CBS)

Nov. 24, New York Giants (3:30, FOX)

Dec. 4, Indianapolis (7:20, NBC)

Dec. 11, Houston (noon, FOX)

Dec. 18, at Jacksonville (noon, FOX)

Dec. 24, Philadelphia (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Dec. 29, at Tennessee (7:15 p.m., Prime Video)

Jan. 8, at Washington (TBD)

Photo courtesy National Football League


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

‘Eye candy’ helps local 17-year-old make hockey history

SPECIAL K:  Kason Muscutt, 17, became the first area hockey player, and likely the first born in Louisiana, to earn a spot in the USA Hockey U-17 camp.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

One year after one of the biggest disappointments of his young hockey career, Kason Muscutt used a little ‘eye candy’ to make history.

Tuesday, Muscutt learned he was selected to participate in the 2022 USA Hockey Boys Select 17 Camp, where the best 60 players in the country will showcase their talents to the top junior hockey organizations and college programs.

Muscutt, 17, is believed to be the first Louisiana-born player to make the camp. He’s certainly the first from Northwest Louisiana, where there is just a single sheet of ice (George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum) — and it’s not available 12 months a year.

“It’s cool to probably be the first from Louisiana, but I want to be looked at as more than just a kid from Louisiana. I want to be known as a legitimate hockey player,” Muscutt told The Journal.

The Select 17 camp is set for June 22-27 at the Northtown Center & Daemen University in Amherst, N.Y. A group of those players will be selected to remain in Amherst for a camp (June 27-29) that will determine the final U.S. roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, a U-18 international hockey tournament in Edmonton this summer.

“This is a really big opportunity for him and he’s worked hard to get it,” said Kason’s father, Scott Muscutt, the general manager for the Shreveport Mudbugs. “Everybody hopes to have this for their kid. He’s getting to skate with the best in the nation.”

Kason Muscutt thought he did enough to make the national camp last year, but the Bossier City forward was gutted when the final roster didn’t include his name.

“It hurt quite a bit last year, I really expected to make it,” he said.

Instead of sulking, Muscutt got better. He believes his work with Matt Merry and D1 Training in Shreveport made a big difference entering this year’s tryout.

“I came into this year way more prepared,” the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Muscutt said. “My body is in the best shape it’s ever been. I believe my speed, strength and power set me apart. I had more eye candy this year.”

Muscutt has had many opportunities to practice with the Mudbugs over the years. Things were different on the ice this season.

“Last year I could keep up, but all I could do is keep up,” he said. “Now I feel like I fit in. I had a little swagger and felt comfortable in my skates.”

The USHL – a Tier-I junior league – is the top goal for the 2022-23 season. However, the NAHL – a Tier-II league – could be an option. 

Would Kason Muscutt consider playing in Shreveport?

“One hundred percent – a million percent,” he said. “I feel like stepping in front of the crowd I’ve been watching from for a very long time, and to give a bunch of kids high-fives, that would be the coolest thing in the world.”

Scott Muscutt was the first player signed by the franchise for its inaugural season. After playing three years, Muscutt became the team’s head coach and won a 2011 President’s Cup championship. He has been Shreveport’s general manager since the Mudbugs were reborn as a junior hockey franchise in 2016.

However, don’t expect dad to try and twist his son’s arm.

“This summer is full of growth, maturation and commitment. He needs to keep putting on weight, keep getting stronger and faster. Could he play here? Absolutely. He could also play in the USHL,” Scott Muscutt said. “Kason has been making his own decisions about hockey since he was 11 years old. He’s decided where he was going to go and who he was going to play for.”

Submitted photo


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Lang’s Locks: After nice profit on the links, we dabble on the diamond

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Thanks to a couple of nice Top-20 hits at the Wells Fargo, James Hahn at 12-1 and J.T. Poston at 7-1, we collected a profit of more than 4 units last week. We’ve definitely hit our stride on the golf course, and this week the PGA Tour heads to Dallas. Naturally, we have some Euro action, too.

We also make our Major League Baseball debut this week, with four total plays on Wednesday’s games.

Good luck!

Notes

All bets are measured in units. For instance, if your normal bet on a game is $100, that is one unit. If the bet is listed as .2 units, it’s a $20 bet.

Best line (as of Tuesday) is listed in parenthesis. Find the best price, one key to being a successful sports bettor! Shop around!

Sportsbook legend

CAE: Caesar’s

FD: Fan Duel

MGM: Bet MGM

DK: DraftKings

BS: Barstool

LANG’S LOCKS

Last week recap: profit, 4.4 units

THIS WEEK’S SELECTIONS

PGA Tour

Byron Nelson

Win bets

Hideki Matsuyama, .1 unit, +3025 (CAE)

Seamus Power, .1 unit, +5455 (MGM)

Top 20 bets

Seamus Power, .5 units, +250 (FD)

Kramer Hickok, .4 units, +1200 (DK)

Mark Hubbard, .3 units, +600 (DK)

Adam Schenk, .3 units, +1200 (DK)

Tom Hoge, .3 units, +350 (DK)

European Tour

Soudal Open

Win bet

Lukas Nemecz, .1 unit, +9900 (MGM)

Top 20 bets

Julien Guerrier, .4 units, +500 (CAE)

Clement Sordet, .4 units, +480 (FD)

Sean Crocker, .3 units, +750 (FD)

Santiago Tarrio Ben, .3 units, +550 (FD)

Zander Lombard, .3 units, +700 (FD)

Niall Kearney, .3 units, +600 (CAE)

Benjamin Hebert, .3 units, +600 (FD)

Major League Baseball

Wednesday’s games

Blue Jays-Yankees, 1 unit, under 7.5 runs

Rockies-Giants, 1 unit, under 7.5 runs

Rays-Angels, 1 unit, under 7 runs

Astros-Twins, 1 unit, under 8 runs


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Lang’s Locks: PGA Tour takes detour from Charlotte

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Somehow, we cashed our three largest bets of the week and still had a very small loss. That’s not good wagering on my part. We are definitely humming on the links though and I think a massive week is drawing near. Could it be this week?

This week’s PGA Tour stop, the Wells Fargo Championship, will not take place at its normal home in Charlotte, N.C., and Quail Hollow. For one year it moves to TPC Avenel, which used to host the Kemper Open.

As usual, we have action all over the globe. Good luck!

Notes

All bets are measured in units. For instance, if your normal bet on a game is $100, that is one unit. If the bet is listed as .2 units, it’s a $20 bet.

Best line (as of Tuesday) is listed in parenthesis. Find the best price, one key to being a successful sports bettor! Shop around!

Sportsbook legend

CAE: Caesar’s

FD: Fan Duel

MGM: Bet MGM

DK: DraftKings

BS: Barstool

LANG’S LOCKS

Last week recap: minus-.62 units

THIS WEEK’S SELECTIONS

PGA TOUR

Wells Fargo Championship

Win bets

Russell Henley, .1 unit, +3350 (MGM)

Si Woo Kim, .1 unit, +4900 (FD)

Russell Knox, .1 unit, +12400 (DK)

Top 20 bets

Michael Thompson, .5 units, +900 (DK)

James Hahn, .4 units, +1200, (DK)

J.T. Poston, .3 units, +700 (FD)

K.H. Lee, .3 units, +550 (FD)

Ryan Armour, .3 units, +600, (DK)

Hayden Buckley, .3 units, +900 (DK)

EUROPEAN TOUR

British Masters

Top 20 bets

Dean Burmester, .3 units, +280 (FD)

David Horsey, .3 units, +550 (CAE)

KORN FERRY TOUR

Simmons Bank Open

Win bets

Davis Thompson, .1 unit, +6500 (FD)

Tano Goya, .1 unit, +11000 (FD)


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Bitter end, beautiful memories for Bugs

Lukas Sedlacek knows good pizza. Well, for a New Yorker anyway. While the Staten Island product didn’t fall in love with any local pies during a two-year stint with the Shreveport Mudbugs, he admits a piece of his heart will stay.

“This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had,” Sedlacek told The Journal.

Sunday, nearly 24 hours after Sedlacek’s junior hockey career – and time in Shreveport – came to a sudden end, tears still poured from the 20-year-old as he tried to reconcile the situation.

“That game (Saturday) night showed our character, all the hard work,” Sedlacek said. “We were last in the division and no one believed in us except our coaching staff.”

Sedlacek was just feet from the puck when Lone Star captain Nicholas Niemo put the finishing touch on a hat trick in overtime and ended the 2021-22 campaign for Shreveport, the defending North American Hockey League champions. As Sedlacek took a knee and watched the Brahmas celebration in disbelief, a virtual slide show lathered in two years of emotions commenced.

“It was a flash of memories of everything I have in Shreveport and all the amazing experiences I had – especially winning a Robertson Cup last year,” said Sedlacek, who simply didn’t want to leave the ice Saturday. “Not being able to do it this year is a hard pill to swallow.”

Sedlacek surprised when asked to pick his favorite Mudbugs memory – other than raising the Cup. He’s authored several obvious choices, including 14 goals during the regular season — a game-winner at Odessa to clinch a playoff berth – and a tally in Game 2 against Lone Star.

“Coming to the rink at 5:45 in the morning before a road trip and working the hardest we could,” Sedlacek said. “It shows the brotherhood and the commitment of the entire organization.”

That’s what it means to be a Mudbug.

Sedlacek wasn’t the only player stunned by Saturday’s ending. And he’s not the only player who will miss putting on a teal and purple sweater. At least 12 players from this playoff roster – just counting players who will be too old in 2022-23 – will not be back.

Shreveport head coach Jason Campbell witnesses this torment every year as players cycle out, but he’s not numb to the intense pain players experience when they realize more than just the season is over.

“It definitely gets to me,” Campbell said. “I know how they feel. I’ve been on both sides of that. It’s not a great feeling. You get very attached to this place – it’s not like any place in this league. From the fans to the billets to the staff, the players and the media – this place is like no other.”

Sedlacek took to what he believes is the community’s love for blue-collared people.

“Shreveport is about how hard you can work, it’s about character and your urgency to play the game at the highest level possible,” he said. “There was never a quit in the Mudbugs. We had that opportunity to do something special, but it didn’t happen.”

Said Campbell: “It’s very easy to fall in love with Shreveport. It makes you proud that it means that much to them.”

Before long, Sedlacek will turn his attention to his next venture – playing Division Il hockey at Aurora (Illinois) University.

“Now, I’ll look every weekend to see how the Bugs are doing and how the next group of kids coming in can make the organization better. It’s the best culture.”

PHOTO: by CHRISTI LANG


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Mudbugs’ wild season ends with overtime loss

TOO HOT TO HANDLE: Nicholas Niemo (28) celebrates after he scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of Saturday’s Game 4 of a NAHL South Division semifinal against the Shreveport Mudbugs. The goal was Niemo’s third of the game.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

In some circles, a broken pane of glass leads to seven years of bad luck.

Saturday, the Lone Star Brahmas needed just 20 seconds to alter the direction of the Shreveport Mudbugs’ season.

Just when it seemed the death-defying Mudbugs would author yet another storybook chapter to the wacky 2021-22 campaign, a window sheet shattered in the Shreveport zone at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.

The Mudbugs’ staff worked quickly to replace the glass behind the net with less than 4 minutes remaining in Game 4 of an NAHL South Division semifinal, but the break served as a much-needed timeout for the visitors, who trailed and appeared to be on their heels in the wake of Shreveport’s third-period rally.

Play had barely resumed when the Brahmas tied the game to force overtime.

“Things were rolling,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell told The Journal. “Sure, (the break) may have come at a bad time, but we have to overcome that.”

Twenty seconds into overtime, Shreveport captain Garrett Steele chopped the stick out of an opponent’s hands and was whistled for slashing. Less than a minute into the extra session, Lone Star delivered the coup de grace on the Mudbugs’ roller-coaster season.

“If we give the ref something to call, we have no control of what he does from there,” Campbell said. “It’s not like our guy needed to do that. The referee called it and our penalty kill needed to come through. No matter what, you have to deal with it,” Campbell said.

The top-seeded Brahmas’ 4-3 victory put a stamp on a 3-1 South Division semifinal series win, their first against Shreveport in three NAHL postseason meetings. Shreveport’s season ended in the first round for the first time since their inaugural NAHL postseason appearance (2017).

The Mudbugs fell in a 2-0 series hole, but dominated Friday’s Game 3 (winning 4-1) and Saturday twice rallied from deficits to take the lead on a goal from Hayden Nichol midway through the third period. However, Shreveport was battling the best team in the league and history.

Since the NAHL’s South Division was instituted in 2003, no top seed has lost a first-round series. The Brahmas pushed the streak of division series (semi or final) wins by the South’s No. 1 seed to 13-0.

Lone Star, coached by former Mudbugs star Dan Wildfong, will face the winner of Monday’s Game 5 between Wichita Falls and New Mexico.   

‘Koko’ recovering from nasty hit

The Mudbugs lost a key player midway through the second period as Tim Khokhlachev was the victim of a nasty hit along the wall. Lone Star’s Artur Turansky earned a 5-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct. Shreveport took advantage of the extended power play to tie the game at 1 with a tally from Burke Simpson.

“Koko” stayed on the ice for several moments and never returned to the game after the hit. Although the 6-foot-4 forward was later seen in a neck brace, Campbell said he likely avoided serious injury.

“I think he’s doing OK,” Campbell said. “He definitely showed signs of a concussion.”

It was an unfortunate way for the Russian’s career with the Mudbugs to end. Despite missing an entire season due to the COVID pandemic, the American International College commit leaves as the all-time franchise leader in regular-season game-winning goals (nine) during Shreveport’s time in the NAHL.

Photo by CHRISTI LANG


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Mudbugs hope to stay alive vs. pesky Brahmas

BUGS TOUGH TO KILL: The Shreveport Mudbugs are perfect at home (4-0) while facing elimination during their time in the North American Hockey League.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

The challenge appears Mt. Everest-esque for Shreveport’s Mudbugs.

For starters, the Mudbugs trail the Lone Star Brahmas 2-0 in their best-of-five first-round playoff series entering tonight’s Game 3.

Add in the fact a No. 1 seed in the North American Hockey League’s South Division is 20-0 in first-round playoff series since the division was formed in 2003. The South’s regular-season champion is on a 12-0 run in any South playoff series since Amarillo lost in the 2014 South Final.

Not only are the Brahmas’ the South’s top seed, they are the top overall seed in the NAHL postseason.

However, don’t expect Shreveport to roll over when the teams take the ice on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum for the 7:11 p.m. faceoff.

“This is old news for us,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “We did this all during the regular season. We said we were playing for our season and we still had games to play. Now, our literal season is on the line and we need to respond like we did in the regular season.”

The first half of the Mudbugs’ season featured an eight-game losing streak during a stretch where they lost 11 of 12 games. Shreveport rallied from last place in the South to nab the No. 4 seed in the divisional round.

“We dug ourselves out (of that situation), so now the boys are still confident,” Mudbugs defenseman John Hallard said.

As was the case during the regular season, scoring opportunities were limited against Lone Star as Shreveport dropped a pair of one-goal games (1-0 in Game 1, 3-2 in Game 2) last weekend in North Richland Hills, Texas.

“(The Brahmas) work hard in the D-zone. They are well-connected and that’s hard to poke holes in,” Campbell said. “You just can’t give the puck away once you possess it. You can’t throw it away blind. You have to battle. You have to work extremely hard.”

The Mudbugs have faced an 0-2 deficit just once in their NAHL tenure — they lost Game 3 and were swept by Corpus Christi in their first NAHL playoff appearance (2017).

This season marks the fifth time Shreveport has qualified for the playoffs. So far, the Mudbugs have won a Robertson Cup title half the time (2018, 2021).

The Mudbugs have been stellar when they’ve faced elimination during their time in the NAHL. Shreveport is 7-2 with its season on the line, including a perfect 4-0 mark at The George.

“It’s about work ethic and not panicking — trusting in what you’re doing,” Campbell said. “You have to chip away at this — baby steps. You can’t think of the end result, because then you’re just hoping to win. You have to execute.”

Players like Lukas Sedlacek, who know this is their last season in Shreveport due to the league’s age limitations, have extra motivation entering tonight.

“This might be the last time I play in Shreveport, but at the same time I don’t want it to be the last time I play in Shreveport,” Sedlacek said.

What do they know about pressure?

The Shreveport Mudbugs’ record when facing elimination during their time in the NAHL:

(7-2 overall, 4-0 at home)

2017, down 0-2 in South semi, lost 2-1 at Corpus Christi

2018, tied 2-2 in South semi, won 2-1 vs. Corpus Christi

2018, tied 2-2 in South Final, won 3-2 vs. Lone Star

2018, Robertson Cup Final, won 2-1 vs. Minot in Blaine, Minn.

2019, down 2-1 in South semis, won 3-2 vs. Lone Star

2019, tied 2-2 in South semis, won 3-2 (3 OT) at Lone Star

2019, down 2-1 in South Final, won 2-0 vs. Amarillo

2019, down 2-0 in South Final, lost 6-0 at Amarillo

2021, Robertson Cup Final, won 4-2 vs. Aberdeen in Blaine, Minn.

Bugs vs. Brahmas

Friday, 7:11 p.m., George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum

Game 3 of NAHL South semifinal (Lone Star leads best-of-5 series, 2-0)

Game 1, April, 22: Lone Star, 1-0

Game 2, April 23: Lone Star, 3-2

*Game 4, Saturday at George’s Pond

*Game 5, Monday at NYTEX Sports Centre

*if necessary 

Photo by CHRISTI LANG


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Lang’s Locks: Momentum builds pending travel across the border, pond

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

We’re heating up on the links. Last week, we claimed a profit on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. This week, the PGA Tour travels to Mexico for a first-time event. We also have more Euro action.

Notes

All bets are measured in units. For instance, if your normal bet on a game is $100, that is one unit. If the bet is listed as .2 units, it’s a $20 bet.

Best line (as of Tuesday) is listed in parenthesis. Find the best price, one key to being a successful sports bettor! Shop around!

Sportsbook legend

CAE: Caesar’s

FD: Fan Duel

MGM: Bet MGM

DK: DraftKings

BS: Barstool

LANG’S LOCKS

Last week recap: +3.75 units

THIS WEEK’S SELECTIONS

PGA Tour

Mexico Open

Top 20 bets

Aaron Wise, +175, .5 units (DK)

Joseph Bramlett, +500, .5 units (DK)

Kramer Hickok, +450, .4 units (DK)

Bill Haas, +900, .3 units (DK)

Tyler Duncan, +450, .3 units (DK)

Scott Gutschewski, +850, .3 units (FD)

James Hahn, +600, .2 units (DK)

Roger Sloan, +600, .2 units (CAE)

Trey Mullinax, +652, .2 units (CAE)

European Tour

Catalunya Championship

Win bet

Fabrizio Zanotti, +7600, .1 unit (FD)

Top 20 bets

Jordan Smith, +230, .7 units (FD)

Edoardo Molinari, +500, .5 units (FD)

Wade Ormsby, +430, .5 units (FD)

Marcel Siem, +600. .4 units (FD)

Julien Guerrier, +550, .4 units (FD)

Richie Ramsay, +450, .3 units (FD)

Santiago Tarrio Ben, +550 .3 units (FD)

Ashley Chesters, +700, .3 units (FD)

Oliver Farr, +1100, .3 units (CAE)

James Morrison, +900, .3 units (FD)

David Horsey, +450, .3 units (FD)


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

April 25 links coaches’ families through tragedy, triumph

To most, April 25 is probably just another day. That’s simply not the case in the world of Northwest Louisiana high school sports. It’s a day that rocked the community in consecutive years with incredibly different outcomes.

In 2014, Rodney Guin, then Haughton High School’s head football coach, suffered a heart attack on April 25. Doctors dubbed his eventual survival as a miracle. One year later, Richard Lary – Captain Shreve’s head coach – suffered a heart attack at a Gators baseball game. He did not survive.

On April 25, 2016, Mike Greene, now Loyola’s head football coach, said many in his business pondered going to a doctor in case something happened.

Although the outcomes were completely different, this didn’t simply become a story of one family’s tragedy and another’s gift. These men and their families are not only linked in tragedy, but inspiration, fortitude and heartwarming tales.

Guin left Haughton and eventually became the head coach at Calvary Baptist Academy. Since his heart attack, he and wife, Tracy, have acquired a pair of son-in-laws, four grandchildren for daughters Mallory and Maggie and a 2020 state championship.

“That is the one thing I think about: What if I hadn’t survived that?” Guin told The Journal. “What about all of the great things that have happened to my family since?”

Lary left behind wife, Becky, and two daughters, Ally and Camryn.

Ally, the oldest, is set to graduate from the University of Alabama. When the Larys and Bootys (Becky’s side of the family) gather in Tuscaloosa for the May 7 ceremony, it will mark Richard’s birthday on the first trip to T-Town for Richard’s mother, Joann.

Ally’s graduation isn’t the only reason for Richard to smile from above. The coach’s daughter will stay at Alabama to continue her education after accepting a position as a Recruiting Operations Intern in the Crimson Tide athletic department.

“She’s not a coach, but she’s in the sports industry,” Becky Lary said. “(Richard) would love it. She’s following in his footsteps in a little different way.”

As a 15-year-old, Ally showed incredible resilience following the unthinkable tragedy.

“She was our spokesperson,” Becky said. “She was a rock, but not just for me and Camryn — she went to school with all the (Captain Shreve) teachers and the football team – they were all devastated. Those were kids and coaches who used to come to our house. She told them all everything was going to be OK.”

Camryn joined her sister in Tuscaloosa and is nearing the end of her freshman year. She’s following in both parents’ footsteps as she pursues a career in education.

“Ally has Richard’s dynamic personality – she’s never met a stranger,” Becky said. “Camryn is like me, a little more quiet. She’s not shy, but she has Richard’s sense of humor and wit.”

Said Greene: “They are stubborn just like he was, so they’re going to be successful. They have the same drive as their dad.”

Bryant Sepulvado, who accepted the arduous task of replacing Lary, his best friend, at Captain Shreve, is amazed at how the family has progressed.

“I know he’s smiling,” Sepulvado said. “Ally is in the football business, Cam is on a great path and Becky holding everything together — she’s gotta be a saint.”

One of the Larys’ favorite things to do was travel.

“We would always do sports,” said Becky, who liked the Braves while Richard rooted for the Astros. “A typical vacation would be to Wrigley Field, but then the American Girl store and the mall. He was a good girl dad.”

Becky hasn’t stopped. There have been plenty of trips to see the girls and with the girls. And now she’s found some fellow empty nesters, too.”

“Richard and I made a bucket list – some of the places were just crazy,” Becky said. “I can still mark some of them off.”

Captain Shreve’s football program struggled to find its feet in the wake of the devastating loss, but now it’s thriving.

“I did fear the challenge (of following in Lary’s footsteps), but honestly I had just lost my best friend so a lot of that went out the window,” Sepulvado said. “At my first meeting with the team, I told them, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but we’re going to do it together.’”

Sepulvado has led the Gators to a couple of District 1-5A crowns. In 2021, Captain Shreve posted its first season with double-digit wins (10) since 1983.

“(Richard) would be the first one jumping up and down,” Sepulvado said. “He was my best friend. He’s on Cloud 9. He was one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

Greene still feels the urge to call or talk to Richard Lary on a daily basis, and he recently had a difficult time parting ways with a reminder of his late friend.

“I had a truck with an RL sticker (made in Shreve colors to honor Lary following his death) on the back of it. It was so beat up I had to sell it — Richard probably tore it up back in the years,” Greene said. “I didn’t care about the truck, but that sticker. I tried to peel it off, but it crumbled. That hurt.”

Neither family has formal plans to do anything today, but reflection is certainly in order.

“We’ll pull out some pictures or some home videos and give ourselves that time,” Becky said. “It’s not really a tradition because we talk about him all the time. We don’t save those moments (for April 25).”

It’s like the Larys in Alabama and Louisiana will be able to press play on One Republic’s song “I Lived,” something impossible in the aftermath of Richard’s death.

At Lary’s funeral, the song accompanied a powerful slideshow of mostly family pictures.

“Now we can hear it and be happy about it,” Becky said. “My girls just think about how lucky they were to have Richard for the time they did.”

Rodney Guin continues to change the lives of young people and serve as an inspiration for others. Richard Lary isn’t much different. The darkest days in the lives of their families may have prevented others from the same fate.

“I know it’s true,” Sepulvado said. “When I took over (at Shreve), my wife said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to get checked out.’ The stress was one of her fears.

“Now I have a cardiology appointment every year before we start football season. After Richard died, I went to an appointment and I saw Mike Greene and four other coaches there.”


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Hockey, Chipotle provide respite for Mudbugs’ Russian star

FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE: After a tumultuous couple of years, Shreveport Mudbugs forward Timofei Khokhlachev (22), a Moscow, Russia product, hopes to end his junior career with a Robertson Cup championship.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Instead of throwing his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame around the ice and creating havoc for opponents, 10 months ago, Timofei Khokhlachev was forced to watch the Shreveport Mudbugs capture the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup on a computer screen.

In Moscow, Russia.

At 3 a.m.

Amid an uncertain and unsettling time in the world.

It was a bittersweet moment for the 20-year-old who sacrificed blood, sweat and tears alongside many of the players who lifted the Cup in Blaine, Minnesota.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t sleep,” Khokhlachev, who played with the Mudbugs for two years before the pandemic derailed the 2019-20 season, told The Journal. “I missed hockey and I missed everything back home.”

“Home,” as in Shreveport.

The Moscow product, whose requests for a visa — required to join the fight with his teammates — were repeatedly denied at the American embassy, didn’t just miss playing the game he loved, he missed Northwest Louisiana.

“I missed the boys and going to the rink and battling for one another,” Khokhlachev said. “I missed the team. I missed the Shreveport weather.”

And Chipotle.

Twenty-five months after a pandemic sent him to isolation in Siberia, Khokhlachev gets his final opportunity to lead the Mudbugs to the promised land. Tonight, Shreveport begins a best-of-5 first-round playoff series against rival Lone Star in North Richland Hills, Texas.

“It’s important to finish my career in Shreveport strong,” said Khokhlachev, whose first stop after his return to the states was to eat at Chipotle. “Seeing the guys win was unbelievable, but of course I want to do it myself. I want to be a part of it.”

However, the obstacles in the life of “Koko” didn’t end with his return to America. Midway through this season, things at home turned upside down with the start of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.

“Sometimes we don’t know what’s going on in these kids’ personal lives,” Mudbugs head coach Jason Campbell said. “We all know what’s going on over there.”

Khokhlachev’s morning routine is even more important these days: Wake up, eat breakfast, practice, call his family.

“I talk to them as soon as I get off the ice,” he said.

Hockey is no longer just the fuel to the fire that burns inside Khokhlachev.

“It’s an escape,” he said. “I love showing up to the rink every day and getting my mind off a few things and focusing on putting the puck in the net. It’s huge for me.”

Khokhlachev can certainly put the puck in the net. He tied for third on the team with 15 goals in the regular season and is the franchise’s all-time NAHL leader in game-winning goals, despite the lost year.

“He knows what it’s all about here. He’s a great player,” teammate Austin Brimmer said. “It’s really rare for a guy that size to move as well as he does. He has skill, experience and size. In the (locker) room, he’s an unbelievable guy to have.”

Other locker rooms may have proven to be a challenge for Khokhlachev, especially in today’s political climate marked by tasteless hot takes.

But even when Shreveport boasted a professional team, coaches demanded recruits parlay talent and character in order to be considered for a Mudbugs sweater. Things haven’t changed under Campbell.

“We don’t worry about it at all,” Campbell said. “If something is said that hits a nerve, then somebody can respectfully step up and guys won’t get their feelings hurt. That’s where character comes in.”

Brimmer understands that sometimes Khokhlachev might just need an arm around his shoulders or a pat on the back.

“He knows we’re here for him,” Brimmer said. “He’s one of my best friends.”

Khokhlachev provides an unmistakable presence on the ice, and Campbell has seen no sign of No. 22 being distracted.

“The best thing is his work ethic,” Campbell said. “There is no off switch for him. He never stops. He works so hard and wants to improve all the time. He’s a pleasure to have around and he can lead by example.”

His high energy level actually worked against the powerful forward after a year away from the game.

“He plays so hard he puts himself out of position,” Campbell said. “He’s so full of energy that we were trying to calm him down.”

Khokhlachev had ice in Moscow, but he was limited to pick-up games with his brother, Alexander (a former NHL player), and other countrymen – some professionals, but most waiting for clearance to return to leagues around the world.

“The first couple of weeks (back with the Mudbugs) were tough,” Koko said. “I had to adjust to the speed. Some of the muscles weren’t working yet.”

He’s firing on all cylinders now.

Said Campbell: “He played a big role in the last playoffs we had him for (2019). It will be interesting to see. We’re going to lean on him.”

Khokhlachev turns 21 in June and is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at American International College in Springfield, Mass. No matter how long the Mudbugs’ run toward a repeat lasts, he will always remember the chaotic end to his junior hockey career and how valuable Shreveport and its hockey franchise proved to be.

“It’s been really important,” he said. “There are multiple things going on in life. The boys have done an unbelievable job — not just taking care of me, but the rookies, the young guys — whatever they’re going through. You can go to anyone in the locker room and talk and they will be there for you. It’s priceless, amazing.”

Photo by CHRISTI LANG


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Haughton tops Parkway to make program history

LANDMARK WIN:  The Haughton Buccaneers collected a share of the District 1-5A baseball title Wednesday. It marks the first district crown since the school climbed from Class 4A.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Game of inches? Baseball proved to be just that Wednesday night at Ronnie Coker Field. It also proved it’s a game that rewards fortitude. Both lifted Haughton to program history in a Bossier Parish throwdown packed with emotion.

The visiting Buccaneers used a three-run home run – that landed on top of the left-center field fence — by senior Parker Lowrie, the No. 9 hitter, to defeat Parkway, 6-2, and steal a share of the District 1-5A title.

Not only did the Panthers miss an opportunity to earn the district outright, Benton can join the tie at the top with a victory at home against Natchitoches Central in today’s district finale. 

Lowrie, a Centenary commit, was in a platoon situation during the first half of the season and endured his fair share of struggles at the plate not that long ago.

“He’s a good bunter,” Haughton head coach Glenn Maynor said. “I was actually thinking about bunting in that situation, but he’s been swinging the bat a lot better. The fact he got a hit didn’t surprise me; the fact it went out – big surprise. That was just a bonus.”

The Buccaneers scored in the top of the first and never trailed Wednesday. Ace Austin Anderson was lifted with the lead in the fifth inning after 93 pitches, but another unlikely hero emerged.

Gary Rondeau needed just 34 pitches to close out the final 2 2/3 innings – two days after he also earned a save against Parkway over the final 2 2/3 innings.

Rondeau, a sophomore, struggled as a starter early in the season and was forced to do most of his work at the junior varsity level.

Recently, Maynor had a “gut feeling” to promote Rondeau and he’s since excelled in high-leverage situations.

“A sophomore who struggled a month ago comes in and finishes the game again, that’s pretty cool,” Maynor said.

The Bucs’ duo on the mound held Parkway to four hits. LSU commit Trenton Lape, the Panthers’ second baseman, was 0-3 on Wednesday.  

Maynor hopes the Buccaneers can parlay a strong finish to the season into a top-eight seed in the Class 5A playoffs, which will guarantee being at home in the second round.

After nine district championships in Class 4A, Wednesday provided the Buccaneers’ their first share of a title in the state’s highest classification. 

“It helps with the belief these guys can win,” Maynor said. “It’s definitely a monkey off our shoulders.”

A couple of weeks ago, Maynor told his team they could stop worrying about making history.

“After we got swept by Captain Shreve, it was such a longshot,” Maynor said. “I told the guys to just go play and that were was no pressure about winning a district championship. I think it took a little pressure off them.”

Photo by VALLETTE WEAVER


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Lang’s Locks: Time to hit the PGA Tour team event in New Orleans

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Sure, we had a small profit last week, but a bogey on the final hole by Aaron Wise proved to be a 4-unit swing (in the wrong direction). Been really close to that huge week, but sports betting is about treading water outside of the big hits, so let’s get right back to the links this week!

I have to be honest, when they first changed the Zurich Classic in New Orleans to a team event, I was very skeptical. However, the unique event has been terrific. They get terrific fields and there is walk-up music – sign me up!

Notes

All bets are measured in units. For instance, if your normal bet on a game is $100, that is one unit. If the bet is listed as .2 units, it’s a $20 bet.

Best line (as of Tuesday) is listed in parenthesis. Find the best price, one key to being a successful sports bettor! Shop around!

Sportsbook legend

CAE: Caesar’s

FD: Fan Duel

MGM: Bet MGM

DK: DraftKings

BS: Barstool

LANG’S LOCKS

Last week recap: +.07 units

THIS WEEK’S SELECTIONS

PGA Tour

Zurich Classic

Win bets

Byeong Hun An-Sungjae Im, +4100, .1 unit (DK)

Joseph Bramlett-Maverick McNealy, +7600, .1 (DK)

Top 20 bets

Lee Hodges-Vince Whaley, +550, .9 units (CAE)

Ryan Brehm-Mark Hubbard, +550, .7 units (CAE)

Joseph Bramlett-Maverick McNealy, +175, .6 units (CAE)

Curtis Thompson-Nick Hardy, +550, .2 units (CAE)

European Tour

ISPS Handa Championship in Spain

Top 20 Bets

Niklas Lemke, +550, .4 units (FD)

Garrick Porteous, +600, .2 units (FD)

Grant Forrest, +450, .2 units (FD)

Daniel Gavins, +370, .2 units (FD)

Wade Ormsby, +410, .2 units (FD)

Jack Senior, +600, .2 units (FD)

Ricardo Santos, +1100, .2 units (FD)

Ondrej Lieser, +1100, .2 units (FD)

Andrew Wilson, +1200, .2 units (FD)

Jens Dantorp, +1000, .1 units (DK)

Joel Sjoholm, +1700, .1 units (DK)


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Much-traveled Shea Patterson remains loyal to Shreveport

A lot of folks distance themselves from Shreveport at the drop of a hat.

Not Shea Patterson.

Sunday, the kid – he’s still just 25 years old – re-emerged on the football scene as the quarterback of the Michigan Panthers in the United States Football League. A nightmarish start against Houston led to Patterson getting benched in his American professional debut, but like he’s always seemed to do, Patterson resurrected himself and nearly authored a miraculous comeback.

Why should we care? Why should we claim him? He still claims us.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, the former Calvary Baptist Academy quarterback isn’t from here and he spent just two high school years (2013, 2014) in town. After his time with the Cavaliers, Patterson, who played his freshman year on the Mexican border in Hidalgo, Texas, made a controversial exit to play his senior prep season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

The top-ranked high school quarterback in the nation then shipped to Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. After two years and just 10 appearances with the Rebels, the former five-star recruit transferred to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan in 2018.

He won 19 games with the Wolverines, but didn’t beat hated rival Ohio State – all that matters to many backing Big Blue.

Sunday, Patterson honored the memory of his late Buckeye counterpart, Dwayne Haskins — recently killed on a Florida interstate — by writing the quarterback’s nickname and number, “Simba 7,” on his wrist tape.

Patterson was not selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was then waived by the Kansas City Chiefs not long after he signed as a free agent. Two Canadian Football League (Vancouver and Montreal) stints later, Patterson finds himself in the rebirth of the USFL.

Despite a circuitous route that’s included several stops, Patterson has stayed true to Shreveport.

Media guide at Ole Miss: Shea Patterson, from Shreveport.

Media guide at Michigan: Hometown, Shreveport.

Michigan Panthers: Shea Patterson, hometown, Shreveport.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder was the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s USFL draft, but two early fumbles – one returned for a touchdown after the Panthers had reached Houston’s 4 – led head coach Jeff Fisher to turn to backup, and former NFL signal-caller, Paxton Lynch.

Lynch wasn’t the answer and quickly gave way to Patterson again.

Trailing 17-0, Patterson tossed his first touchdown pass as a professional – a 8-yard strike to Lance Lenoir Jr.

With the Panthers down five points in the waning moments, Patterson drove Michigan down the field. Facing fourth-and-26 at the Gamblers’ 30, Patterson found a receiver in the corner of the end zone with 1 second remaining, but La’Michael Pettway momentarily bobbled the ball and couldn’t retain possession before his momentum carried him out of the back of the end zone.

Patterson finished 17-of-25 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He added 31 yards on the ground.

“In the game of football, you don’t turn the football over like we did and win very many (games),” Fisher told the media following the game. “Both of (the quarterbacks) are gonna play. We just have to minimize some of these mistakes.

“The quarterbacks will bounce back, they’ll compete this week in practice and we’ll see what happens,” Fisher said. “I like this team. They’ll bounce back.”

Wherever this latest venture takes Patterson, it’s clear part of Patterson remains in Shreveport.


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Bugs Beat: Shreveport tops in NAHL attendance

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Shreveport, even from within, has taken its fair share of criticism about its ability to be a “sports town.” The area has seen multiple levels of professional baseball and football franchises either fold or leave town and soccer has failed. Pro hoops was run out of town — and since returned — despite winning championships, and the cost of professional hockey caused that sport to go dark for a few years.

Fan support hasn’t been an issue for the Shreveport Mudbugs, even in the days before their break following a 2011 Central Hockey League Presidents Cup championship.

The franchise – and its rabid fans – picked up where it left off after joining the North American Hockey League in 2016.

Saturday, 3,189 fans watched the Mudbugs cap the 2021-22 regular season on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum with a 5-0 victory. Shreveport finished the season with an average attendance of 2,275 and led the NAHL for the fourth-straight season.

Pack the Pond

Season, average attendance (NAHL rank)

2021-22, 2,275 (Leader)

2020-21, 1,580 (Leader)

2019-20, 2,575 (Leader)

2018-19, 2,830 (Leader)

2017-18, 2,925 (2nd)

2016-17, 2,850 (2nd)

Shreveport kept its perfect NAHL postseason participation alive. For the fifth time (the 2020 playoffs were cancelled due to COVID), the Mudbugs are an NAHL playoff team. The team will travel to Texas to face rival Lone Star on Friday to begin a best-of-5 first-round series.

But first, we will highlight a wild 2021-22 campaign with some notable statistics.

Brimmer hits trifecta

Austin Brimmer became the only Mudbug to reach the 20-goal plateau this season with a remarkable tally in the first period in Saturday’s regular-season finale. Brimmer is the first NAHL Mudbug to lead his team outright in goals, assists (34) and points (54).

“It means the world because Shreveport is such a historic organization,” Brimmer told The Journal. “There are guys who played and are still involved, like (head coach Jason Campbell) Soupy and (general manager Scott Muscutt) Musky — it’s truly a pleasure to have that record. This organization has been so good to me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

During Shreveport’s professional era, only three players cashed an identical trifecta — Toby Burkitt (30 goals, 50 assists, 1999-2000), Dan Wildfong (32G, 37A, 2004-05) and Joe Blaznek (24G, 39A, 2008-09).

Bobak bullies way to wins record

Shreveport netminder Devon Bobak shattered the NAHL franchise record for victories in a season between the pipes. Bobak’s 27 wins easily beat the prior mark set by Cole Hudson (20, 2020-21). Bobak also entered a three-way tie for the most shutouts in a single season.

Bobak, Maiszon Balboa (2019-20) and James Durham (2017-18) all earned five shutouts in their respective campaigns.

“Koko” proves he’s a (game-) winner

Shreveport forward Timofei Khokhlachev finished his regular-season Mudbugs career with an NAHL-franchise best nine game-winning goals. The Russian missed last season (he was stuck in his homeland) but still tops the list. He’s one ahead of current teammate Connor Gatto and former teammate Gueorgui Feduolov.

Journal’s 3 Stars

  1. Simon Bucheler, made 26 saves to collect his second shutout of the season Saturday
  2. Austin Brimmer, reached 20-goal mark on the season Saturday
  3. Connor Gatto, goal and an assist in Saturday’s victory 

NAHL South Division, final standings

xy-Lone Star (38-12-10), 86 points

*New Mexico (38-17-5), 81

*Wichita Falls (35-17-8), 78

*Shreveport (34-21-5), 73

Odessa (29-26-5), 63

Amarillo (27-29-4), 58

Corpus Christi (25-32-3), 53

El Paso (15-41-4), 34

x-clinched division

y-clinched overall NAHL regular-season title

*in playoffs

Final 2021-22 Mudbugs leaders

Goals: Austin Brimmer, 20

Assists: Brimmer, 34

Points: Brimmer, 54

Penalty Minutes: Davis Goukler, 133

Plus-minus: Lukas Sedlacek, plus-20 

Game-winning goals: Connor Gatto, Sedlacek, Gunner Moore, 4

Goals-against average: Devon Bobak, 2.09

Save percentage: Bobak, .921

Up next

Shreveport begins a best-of-5 first-round playoff series with Lone Star in North Richland Hills, Texas on Friday and Saturday.

Photo courtesy Shreveport Mudbugs


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Not time for Tiger to walk (limp) away

For more than a decade, Tiger Woods seemed invincible. For a couple of decades, the presence of Woods on a leaderboard made most of his fellow competitors wilt. This week, they were in awe at the fact he could simply tee it up at Augusta National Golf Club.

My, how things have changed.

There was a time when a broken leg and a torn ACL didn’t stop Woods — not just from playing, but winning.

In 2008, Woods limped his way to an incredible victory at the U.S. Open. After a spectacular birdie on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, Woods was forced to play another 18 holes on two stress fractures and a torn ACL, but he still managed to top Rocco Mediate.

The 2022 Masters was a different story.

Thursday, Woods made his first start since a serious car accident nearly 14 months ago. With a first-round 71, he found a spot in the top 10 and set the stage for what would have been the greatest sports story in many of our lifetimes.

But, Woods isn’t invincible anymore. The effects of the litany of injuries in his right leg were just too much to overcome.

Rust began to surface during Friday’s 74. On Saturday, it was obvious his leg wasn’t ready for 72 holes around the extremely undulating Augusta National Golf Club. Sunday was sad and hard to watch. Not Woods’ second straight 78, but how he barely managed to walk up the 18th hole.

The way he shifted his hips to collect enough momentum to get up the final fairway, the gimp … it all made what he accomplished over the first 54 holes even more amazing.

However, one thing remains clear: it doesn’t matter if it’s bulletproof Tiger or vulnerable Tiger, he still moves the needle more than any other current athlete.

Just ask Bubba Watson. Following his final round Sunday, the two-time winner of the Green Jacket was asked about his favorite memory of the event – 10 years removed from his last victory there.

“Truthfully, it’s the inspiration of Tiger. Tiger — forget score. I don’t care,” Watson said. “He might not say that to the media, but forget score, right? It’s pretty inspirational.”

Amazingly, Woods did tell the media, something impossible during his prime.

Woods’ career has been defined by victories. Real victories, as in sitting at the top of the leaderboard. For a champion of 93 PGA Tour events, moral victories didn’t exist. A 47th-place effort at Augusta wouldn’t solicit any emotion but anger.

However, perhaps as shocking as his opening-round performance was an answer he gave in the subsequent news conference.

“Was this the equivalent of a victory to you, just showing up and being able to compete like you did?” Woods was asked.

His simple response: “Yes.”

I loved merciless Tiger, but this softer side ain’t bad, either.

In a career that’s unfortunately featured many long layoffs, Woods’ answer proves this comeback has been the most challenging.

A year-plus of PGA Tour inactivity and his often-battered 46-year-old body may have as much to do with Woods’ fragility at The Masters than the injuries sustained in the car accident. And that’s not a bad thing. It means there’s hope we can see Tiger parlay the vulnerability and the ferociousness again someday – something even greater than the 2019 Masters.

World No. 2 Jon Rahm was paired with Woods on Sunday, but Rahm considered himself just another member of the huge gallery following the 15-time major champion.

“If he can walk and get strength up and stamina in that sense, he will be able to be competitive again,” Rahm said. “This is the hardest walk all year. He will be able to go somewhere where it’s a little easier to walk. It won’t be as long, and I believe he’ll be able to contend.”

I’ll take it. It’s clear I’m not the only one who is just not ready for Tiger to ride off into the sunset.


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Sam Burns’ Masters debut a predictable struggle

NOT PICTURE PERFECT: Sam Burns’ tee shot on the iconic 16th hole at Augusta National found a sand trap Thursday and led to his final bogey in the Shreveport native’s first competitive round at the Masters.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

More than any other tournament in professional golf, outside of a few examples, experience is a prerequisite for success at The Masters. That’s just the way it usually is.

A look at the names on the leaderboard following Thursday’s first round at Augusta National Golf Club prove this once again.

Leader Sungae Im (5 under) finished tied for second in 2020 with Cameron Smith, who sits one stroke behind Im after Thursday. A trio of former champions (Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson, third; Tiger Woods, 10th) reside in the Top 10 after 18 holes.

Shreveport native Sam Burns, one of the hottest players on the planet in the past 10 months, entered Thursday without a competitive round in The Masters. His struggle shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The former Calvary Baptist Academy and LSU star was 1-under through three holes in his competitive debut at Augusta National, but a bogey on No. 4 and a double bogey on No. 5 derailed his afternoon en route to a 3-over 75.

Burns’ home course, Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant has similar characteristics as Augusta — wide fairways, significant elevation changes, sidehill lies all over, and extremely undulating greens, but there’s just no substitute for the real thing.

Hey, Woods’ first trips around the historic venue didn’t exactly paint a picture of what was to come. Woods didn’t break par in any round during his 1995 debut. He missed the cut in 1996 and shot 40 on his opening nine holes in 1997. Of course, he then torched Augusta to the tune of 24-under over his final 63 holes in a mind-boggling rout.

As a teenager, Burns saw Augusta during a practice round, but didn’t get to play until a trip with his father, Todd, a month ago.

“It was really special for us,” Burns, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the past year, said. “We were both blown away by just the property in general. It was definitely a moment for me that I’ll never forget, getting to walk around with my dad for the first time and getting to play.”

Whether it was Tiger’s chip-in on No. 16 in 2005 or Bubba Watson’s 2012 miracle from the trees on No. 10, Burns’ spent his first trips around Augusta reliving those moments and seeing exactly where they were created.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that was really impressive.’ When you see it up close and personal, it kind of changes your perspective on things,” Burns said Tuesday.

Thursday offered him the first opportunity to create such a moment. He birdied three of the par-5s (Nos. 2, 8 and 13), but will look again for a game-changing moment in today’s second round.

“This week it’s about trying to learn the golf course as much as I can,” Burns said. “There’s a lot of nuances to this place, and for me it’s trying to gain information from guys who have been here a bunch, or guys that have played well in the past here — so just trying to take all of that in and kind of process it.”

Today, Burns will get his second shot at the beloved venue as his grouping with Abraham Ancer and Tyrrell Hatton tees off at 9:01 a.m. (CDT).

Courtesy KTBS


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Adversity? Eye injury just an inconvenience for Haughton’s Walker

Brogan Walker attends Haughton High School. Like a true Buccaneer, he’s been known to wear an eye patch with a skull and swords.

On the pitcher’s mound.

He is no mascot, or a side show, but rather an inspirational story worthy of Hollywood.

A year and a couple of weeks ago, Walker was tossing batting practice at a local training facility when he was faced with the comebacker of all comebackers. The ball squared up his right eye and the aftermath included a loss of vision and multiple surgeries on the eye.

One month ago, Walker was legally blind in the eye with 20/400 vision. That didn’t quell the sophomore’s desire to play varsity baseball. Armed with the bravado of a (healthy) veteran and the ability to throw strikes with three different pitches, Walker bullied his way onto the varsity squad nearly one year to the day after the accident.

All Walker did in his first varsity appearance was earn Haughton head coach Glenn Maynor’s 600th career win without throwing a pitch. The next night, Walker earned a save. Thursday, he allowed one unearned run in four innings against Airline and collected another victory.

A 2-0 record with a save seemed unimaginable a year ago.

“I was told by a bunch of doctors my baseball career was over,” Walker explained to The Journal. “I just never stopped. It feels amazing to be where I’m at right now.”

After the accident, Maynor simply hoped he could get Walker back for his junior and senior campaigns. Now, he’s penciled the 16-year-old in as the starter against Captain Shreve Tuesday.

“These aren’t low-leverage situations I’m putting him into,” Maynor said. “He’s not scared. He just goes out there and pitches.”

Walker’s quick jump from sub-varsity to the big squad made his parents, Ryan and Samantha, a bit uneasy.

“They were really scared something might happen again, especially on varsity because there are good hitters on every team,” Brogan Walker said.

Depth perception was an obvious road block after the injury, but Walker says it’s “starting to normalize” thanks to the time he spent working to get back on the diamond.

In a strange twist, the injury has bolstered Walker’s courage on the bump.

“When I started playing summer ball, I realized I was still doing great even though I couldn’t see,” Walker said. “I saw I could still be good at the game and knew as the vision improves, I will only gain confidence.”

His first dose of varsity baseball was incredible.

Walker entered what would be Maynor’s milestone 600th victory with Haughton trailing. Before he delivered a pitch, he executed a pick-off play for the final out of the inning. The Buccaneers then rallied for a walk-off win.

“I don’t even know how to explain what I felt. It was funny,” Walker said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stat line like that. It was great.”

Move over, Moonlight Graham.

Walker says his vision is now around 20/80, but the future is uncertain.

“They don’t know how far it can heal,” he said. “There is no telling from here.”

Although he admits it might intimidate the opposition, Walker has ditched the eye patch on the mound.

“My parents were worried about my safety, and I’m still trying to strengthen my vision,” Walker said.

 

As you would expect with a locker room full of teenage boys, the jokes have been flying around since Walker began his comeback. It’s all in good fun, and Walker has no problem making fun of himself.

“I got the nickname Patchy,” Walker said. “But my teammates do express how proud they are, too.”

 


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Lacrosse offers blueprint for prep hockey’s local growth

This evening, 29 locals will hit the ice at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum with the hopes of earning a spot on the roster for Shreveport’s 2022-23 junior varsity hockey team.

Yes, local high school hockey not only exists, but it’s growing.

Shreveport’s varsity squad just completed its third season. The 2022-23 campaign will be the sophomore season for the JV unit.

“The amount of local kids who want to be hockey players is phenomenal,” Scott Muscutt, general manager of the Shreveport Mudbugs, a member of the North American Hockey League (the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league in the nation), said. “The list of people responsible for that is endless. It’s truly remarkable.”

Shreveport’s high school hockey program, also dubbed the Mudbugs, is the only prep team in the area and includes players from several area schools. The team travels to Dallas every other week to play doubleheaders in the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League.

The growth of this non-traditional sport is impressive, and it’s something Michael Pabst knows all about.

Hockey was first introduced to the area in 1997 with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the Western Professional Hockey League. Around that time, the idea to make lacrosse a local high school sport was born.

Like the problem “youth” hockey faces now, one team was developed back then for those interested in high school lacrosse in the area. And they had to travel to Texas to find games.

“It was all Karl Mitchell,” Pabst said.

Mitchell, an Air Force transplant and former college lacrosse player, started a pickup league by holding practices at Shreveport’s A.C. Steere Park. Eventually, youngsters took notice and asked Mitchell if he’d coach them should they get enough kids for a high school squad.

A church team (St. Paul’s) turned into a team at Loyola College Prep. In the early 2000s, Caddo Magnet had enough players to form its own team, and so did Byrd.

Mitchell, the godfather of Louisiana lacrosse, coached until his untimely death at the age of 48 in 2013. Pabst served as an assistant under Mitchell before taking the Yellow Jackets’ job.

“I hadn’t held a stick in 20 years, but I knew how to yell at teenagers,” said Pabst, a product of Massachusetts who helped organize local youth lacrosse and eventually founded the sport’s premier youth organization in the area, Red River Lacrosse.

Pabst now coaches the Renegades, the home for high school lacrosse athletes who do not attend a school with its own team. The Renegades and other area prep teams are members of the Louisiana High School Lacrosse League. They are no longer forced to travel to Texas to find games.

Pabst says the key for the growth of lacrosse was the recruitment of middle schoolers, something the Mudbugs have done in the past.

Hockey’s growth in the area has endured speedbumps. In fact, it almost never began. With the arrival of professional hockey in the late ’90s, there was an idea to get kids involved in the sport, but there were tempered expectations and naysayers.

“We didn’t even have enough confidence in our ability to put kids on the ice,” said Muscutt, the first player ever signed to play professional hockey in Shreveport. “People said, ‘Roller hockey is as good as it’s going to get.’ We questioned that and said, ‘Why is that as good as it’s going to get?’”

The Junior Mudbugs program eventually hit the ice at the CenturyTel Center (now the Brookshire Grocery Arena) in Bossier City. Today, there are hundreds of members of the Junior Mudbugs.

One Junior Mudbugs graduate, Brayden Cook, has made his way to the NAHL’s Springfield Junior Blues.

Jason Campbell, a former Mudbugs player and assistant coach, now coaches the Mudbugs NAHL squad. He was instrumental in getting high school hockey rolling.

“It does George Cloutier proud,” Campbell said.

Cloutier was a local goaltender whose life ended at age 12. His name graces the playing surface at the Hirsch Coliseum – the only sheet of ice in the area.

“His family and their love for the game had a supreme effect on Musky and myself and our community,” Campbell said.

Even at a young age, Cloutier believed hockey could bring a portion of the community together. He was right.

“I never would have projected the success high school hockey has brought, but it’s been phenomenal,” Muscutt said. “And now these kids are going on to play college hockey. That would never happen without high school hockey.”

While hockey faces limitations that don’t exist in lacrosse — one being limited playing surfaces — one thing local high school hockey can offer is the ability to wear the Mudbugs logo.

Today, those kids will compete for a shot to wear the same logo as the Mudbugs they watch at The George on weekends. The same colors as the players who’ve won two national championships in the past four years.

“I’m glad it opens up their heart and makes me even happier when I see it opens up their eyes and they realize there is a responsibility when you wear the logo,” Muscutt said. “‘What is my sportsmanship like? How to I treat my teammates. How do I walk into the rink? What clothes am I wearing? How do I walk out of the rink? How do I speak to officials?’

“I hope it comes with the culture that it represents for every person who wore it, no matter the level.”


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Dialing for dollars: Burns wins for third time, enters world Top 10

It hadn’t even been a full week since Sam Burns was feeling a bit lost on the golf course. His game wasn’t that far off, but after leading the richest event in PGA Tour history — The Players – after 36 holes, the subsequent 26th place finish, including a final-round 76, got the former Calvary Baptist Academy and LSU star on the phone in a hurry.

“I called (longtime swing coach Brad Pullin) on Monday and I was like, ‘Man, I’m struggling, I’m not really sure.’ And he was like, ‘I can be there tomorrow,’” Burns said.

Pullin, based just east of Ruston at Choudrant’s Squire Creek Country Club (where Burns now lives), hopped in his car and headed toward his star pupil.

“He drove 12 hours on Tuesday or Monday … I don’t even know, and we just got to work,” Burns said. “He is passionate about what he does and he would do anything for me.”

Sunday, Burns used a final-round rally to successfully defend the Valspar Championship – site of his first PGA Tour victory – in Palm Harbor, Florida. Burns, 25, has now won three times in less than 11 months and vaulted to No. 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s the first Shreveporter in 16 years to have a place in the Top 10 (David Toms, June of 2006).

“I just try to put in hard work, just try to improve my game every year, every week, look at stats and see what areas I can get better at and then my team and I try to attack those areas,” Burns said. “And that’s all I can control and so I mean, it’s nice to see that those things are paying off. It gives us motivation that we’re working on the right things.”

Burns has quickly become a nice fit among the prior generation of local stars. He’s on pace with Hal Sutton, who won 14 times, including a PGA Championship.

Like Burns, Sutton won for the first time at 24 years old. His third victory – the PGA Championship – also came at 25 years old, His fourth came at age 27. The Centenary product’s longest reign in the Top 10 was 54 weeks (2000-01) and he peaked at No. 4 (2000).

Toms amassed 13 PGA Tour wins (he also won a PGA Championship), but didn’t find the winner’s circle for the first time until he was 30 years old. However, Toms once spent 131 straight weeks in the Top 10 (2001-04) and peaked at No. 5 in 2002.

Burns has a long way to go to catch his mentors, but the expectations for that and more are warranted. He has established himself as a guy who could win on any given week – no one has won more on the PGA Tour in the past 11 months.

Burns has five top-10 finishes (tied for most on the PGA Tour) in 11 events this season. He’s second in the FedExCup and a lock to play on this year’s United States President’s Cup team.

Even though the flood gates have opened for Burns on the PGA Tour, he’s well aware of how precious success can be.

“You just don’t win a lot out here. I mean the percentages are just not in your favor,” he said. “A lot of times somebody else just beats you, somebody else plays better or somebody else gets a break here or there that you didn’t. And that’s just kind of part of the game.

“You don’t want to be frustrated after you finish third or fourth or second or whatever it is, because you did something really well that week and you have to kind of hang your hat on a lot of the good things you did, because once you start going down that path of the negative stuff, it can be tricky.”

Or, you know when to make a call for help.


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Burns aims to add a chapter of Shreveport’s Monday magic at The Players

Mother Nature wreaked havoc with the first three scheduled days of The Players Championship and Shreveport’s Sam Burns caught a break and took advantage.

The former Calvary Baptist Academy star held the lead after 36 holes, and when darkness fell on Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on Sunday, his 7-under score sat just two strokes off the pace with 27 holes remaining.

Players will finish their third rounds beginning at 7 a.m. (CDT) today and will be regrouped according to score for the final round this afternoon.

Burns was part of a group of 44 golfers to make the cut out of the early-late wave over the first 36 holes. Twenty-seven golfers braved the worst of the elements, especially Saturday’s windstorm, to advance.

“I just felt bad for the guys that had to play,” said Burns, who didn’t hit a shot Saturday and watched the carnage on TV. “You never wish that upon your opponents. Over your career, you have good waves and bad waves, but still it just sucks to see.”

Don’t expect the 25-year-old to issue an apology for his draw. His PGA Tour career began by getting slapped by Mother Nature in San Antonio, Texas, seven years ago. As a high school senior, Burns played in the early-late wave of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. In the opening round, not a single player in the early wave broke par amid 40 mile-per-hour winds.

“I shot a million, but that one was tough,” said Burns, who barely broke 90 in the opening round.

The LSU product has come a long way since the windswept morning in the Hill Country. He capped a record-breaking college career with the Jack Nicklaus Award (best Division I golfer). His professional victory came early, as did his graduation from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour.

After a couple of close calls early in his professional PGA tour career, Burns captured his first PGA Tour title at the Valspar Championship near Tampa Bay in May. Five months later, Burns collected victory No. 2 in Jackson, Mississippi.

Today offers the chance at his biggest day in his career, beginning with the trophy regarded as the most prestigious outside of the major championships. And the record $3.6 million first prize isn’t a bad complement to the gold hardware.

Burns has recently climbed into the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings, so a victory would be far from a Cinderella story. In less than four years on Tour, Burns has proven he belongs with the top names in the game.

Of course, many of those names are also in the hunt.

Anirban Lahiri leads at 9-under, but 31 golfers are within five strokes of the lead entering today’s marathon finish, including Justin Thomas (-4), Patrick Reed (-4) and Sergio Garcia (-4).

It’s unlikely those looking to break through have karma on their side like Burns, who aims to become the second golfer from Shreveport to win The Players. Hal Sutton is a two-time winner of the event. The Centenary product captured the event as a young pro in 1983. Then, 22 years ago, when Burns’ family thought little Sammy may grow up to play football, Sutton took out Tiger Woods on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in an epic finish punctuated by five of the most famous words in the game.

Be.

The.

Right.

Club.

Today.

Incredibly, both of Sutton’s Players victories came via Monday finishes.

No matter what happens over the final 27 holes, in April Burns will make his competitive debut at Augusta National Golf Club, where he recently practiced for the Masters with his father, Todd.

If things go right today, it won’t matter how Mother Nature affected the field or what day the event finished on, the trophy will be just as shiny.

And that check will cash.


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The elusive NCAA Tournament could have saved D-I Centenary athletics

SO CLOSE: Blaine Russell (defending) was a key part of Centenary teams that came one win short of the 1989 and 1990 NCAA Tournament fields.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Tommy Vardeman spent 18 years at Centenary College. For a decade, he was an assistant basketball coach under Tommy Canterbury before getting his shot at the top gig, where he lasted eight yearsSBJ spotlight.

In the mid-1990s, Vardeman fielded a question during a speaking engagement in Shreveport.

“This lady asked, ‘I want to know how a school of 960 people is going to play Oklahoma tomorrow night and they’ve got 40,000?’” Vardeman, who fielded similar queries during his near-two-decades stint at the smallest Division I school in the nation, told The Journal.

“I said, ‘We don’t have to play all 40,000, we just have to play five at a time.’”

“The smallest D-I school” moniker was a source of pride throughout the athletic programs.

“We’d tell them when we went to recruit them: ‘You have more people in your high school than we have in our college.’ But we took that on, and we were proud of it,” Vardeman said.

When it came to resources, the deck was often stacked against Centenary, but success wasn’t scarce.

Despite often traveling by RVs, cars and vans, the Gentleman nearly earned a berth in the NCAA Basketball Tournament on multiple occasions. Back-to-back losses in the Trans America Athletic Conference Tournament championship games in 1989 and 1990 were two of the toughest blows.

The 1990 title-game loss to Arkansas-Little Rock came after the Gents (22-8) had won both regular-season games.

In the end, dwindling enrollment and a lack of money skewered one heck of a David versus Goliath story. Finally, a decade ago, Centenary athletics dropped to Division III.

As the conference tournaments wind down and a new darling will undoubtedly surface during the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, it’s a good time for a “What if?” or two.

What if the Gents could have collected a TAAC tourney title? What if the tiny program from Shreveport had unveiled itself as a Cinderella of March Madness — even just once?

“I think making it to the Big Dance would have truly changed Centenary’s fate,” former Gents great and seven-year NBA veteran Larry Robinson told The Journal. “We would have let the whole world see how competitive we were back then.”

Look no further than Florida Gulf Coast, nationally a relative unknown in Fort Myers, Florida, before a remarkable run in the 2013 NCAA tournament. The group known as “Dunk City” had Division I status for less than two years before it slayed No. 2-seed Georgetown and No. 7-seed San Diego State to become the first 15 seed in the history of the Tournament to reach the Sweet 16.

The effect — on and off the court — in southwest Florida was incredible after the school’s first Tournament appearance.

Out-of-state admission applications spiked 88 percent for 2013-14. Overall, applications jumped 29.9 percent. In less than three years following the tournament appearance, FGCU Athletics expanded its scholarships by 50 percent. A $7 million plan went into motion to improve the home of the basketball team, Alico Arena. The Eagles Club, which helps fund scholarships, recruiting and special projects, nearly tripled in the three years after “Dunk City’s” coming out party.

And Florida Gulf Coast is just one example.

Centenary’s postseason losses to rival UALR cut even deeper if you ponder what could have been.

“Getting the smallest Division I school in the country to play on national TV against one of the top teams in the country — it would make people ask about Centenary. They may know they had a good basketball program and find out they had a great math program,” said Cory Rogers, a former Centenary student and sports information director. “It was a PR dream.”

Vardeman was saddened at the fate of Centenary athletics, but has no “ill feelings” toward the school.

“Because of financial reasons it got so hard to compete, but I spent 18 years there and I had two daughters who cheered there and graduated from there. And they’re still in the area,” Vardeman said. “A tournament appearance could have changed it all. Anything can happen.

“We scrambled around. One time we arrived at the Baylor tournament and we had to use the choir bus. My friend who coached at Auburn joked, ‘Vardeman done brought the choir.’”

Rogers recalled the team driving as far as Charleston, South Carolina, to play.

The Gents were one victory shy of changing history in some years, a couple of wins in others.

“If we could have won one of those conference finals games, it would have changed the course of not only basketball, but everything for Centenary,” Rogers said.

Photo by JOHN ARMISTEAD


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