MACON -- Master Sargent Michael Johnson takes his role with the Noxubee County High School football team seriously. Johnson is the pastor of the Tabernacle of Mercy, Ministry of Jesus Christ in Columbus. He meets with the team Wednesday nights for religious counseling, leads the team through a devotion during the pregame meal on game nights, and attends all of the games.
Noxubee County High School football coach Tyrone Shorter had half the story from a recent telephone call. Shorter was informed by this writer he was needed for an interview previewing his sixth Tigers' squad. Noxubee County High will play host to Starkville High in its season opener Aug. 21.
MACON -- Jackee Sherrod spends a lot of Friday nights cheering on her sons Shunnessy and Jataquist as they play on the Noxubee County High School football team. Shunnessy Sherrod, a highly recruited running back, has worked hard to get to his senior year. Jataquist Sherrod is a junior defensive back. Jackee knows the opportunities football has opened for them.
STARKVILLE -- Elena Lovato didn't realize the impact five words could make. Early one morning after reading a devotional, Lovato decided to share her positive vibes with the world, so she typed 27 characters and hit send. The Mississippi State assistant women's basketball coach didn't give her message -- "Blessed to see another day" -- a second thought. It wasn't targeted at anyone. It wasn't designed to attract a following. Lovato merely wanted to get her day off to a good start, and she believed sharing her excitement helped her have a better outlook.
Togetherness is important to Don Whitman.
STARKVILLE - Jay Logan has had two revelations about his career.
STEENS -- Robin Cochran is ready to get the word out.
Now that we are really close to the turning the calendar to August, the prep football season can come into full focus.
STARKVILLE - When former Mississippi State second baseman Brooke O'Hair looks at her husband Tony, she thinks of the MSU softball stadium and field.
STARKVILLE -- In the past three seasons, the Mississippi State men's basketball team found competing in the Southeastern Conference to be an uphill battle. In three seasons at MSU, former coach Rick Ray didn't post a winning record in the SEC. His highest win total (six) came last season. As a result, Ray was fired a week and a half after a season-ending loss to Auburn in the SEC tournament. He has since been hired to lead the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball program.
MACON -- Sammy Lindsey believes it can happen. One year after falling short of its goal to play for a state title, Lindsey feels the Central Academy fast-pitch softball team is positioned for a run at a championship. A strong returning class adds to Lindsey's optimism. The fact that the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools added a fourth classification -- AAAA -- in the offseason in an effort to create a more level playing field based on school enrollment numbers has created a path Lindsey feels his team will be able to navigate, even though it has only one senior, Courtney Gaylord.
A mother, a yeller, and a jester When you're looking for your seniors to play complementary roles, it's always nice for those players to have a variety of strengths that can help the team. Gary Harris has watched seniors Kaitlyn Oswalt, Brooklyn Waldrep, and Macy Walters for the past three years, so he knows how each player has matured as a player for the Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball team. This season, he hopes those players will help set the tone for a program that has advanced to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA State tournament two of the past three years.
STARKVILLE -- Don't mess with Shelby Jordan. Despite the drops of water falling from her face, the intensity in Jordan's eyes speaks to the camera and keeps you glued to the screen for nine seconds. No, she isn't auditioning for the next big horror movie. Instead, Jordan's acting debut in the HailState Productions video is meant to convey a message that a storm -- the Mississippi State women's soccer team -- is coming in August 2015.
STARKVILLE -- Nick Griffin has experienced almost everything a player can on a football field. The running back played four seasons in the Southeastern Conference, arguably the nation's best college football league. This past season, Griffin helped Mississippi State rise to No. 1 for five weeks and earn an invitation to the Orange Bowl last December. Last week, Griffin did something not many football players can say they did: He helped the United States win a gold medal at the International Federation of American Football World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Jimmy Anderson Jr. might be the most consistent race car driver in the Golden Triangle this season. He leads the 602 Late Model points race at Columbus Speedway. He has finished fourth or better in four of the seven races at the track this season. He has done it without a feature win or a runner-up finish.
STARKVILLE -- David McFatrich knew what he was getting into when he became Mississippi State's new volleyball coach. McFatrich realized MSU never has qualified for the NCAA tournament and has won only 86 Southeastern Conference matches in its 40-year history.
STARKVILLE -- Scoring never has been an issue for Craig Sword. Sword has scored in double figures in each of the past three seasons to lead the Mississippi State men's basketball team. Last season, Sword was bothered by a back injury that required surgery weeks before the 2014-15 opener. After missing the first four games of the season, Sword needed additional time to find his rhythm, but the Montgomery, Alabama, native still averaged 11.3 points per game. As a sophomore and freshman he averaged 13.7 and 10.5 ppg., respectively.
Patience. Of all the life lessons sports teaches, rarely does patience make the list. Football fans want to see high-scoring, "no huddle" offenses. Basketball fans want to see "up-tempo", 3-point oriented offensive attacks. Baseball and softball might do a better job teaching patience, but it is still a lesson not often highlighted at those venues. Most student-athletes learn patience on the recruiting trail. Many players verbally commit to a school and may not sign with that school for a year or two. Many players schedule dozens of unofficial visits in addition to the visits that fall under NCAA guidelines
We are a little more than four weeks away from the start of prep football season. Many area schools will play preseason games Aug. 14 or 15 to prepare them for the Mississippi High School Activities Association and Mississippi Association of Independent Schools season openers the following weekend. As we count down the days, here are more questions to ponder as those first heat timeouts of the year draw near.
STARKVILLE -- Ben Wood was in the midst of his best season at Mississippi State in 2014-15. He won two tournaments in the fall and was preparing to carry that momentum to the spring and help the Bulldogs reach the postseason. Then his mother, Robin, lost her battle to bile duct cancer, which attacks the liver, in January.
1. Lovato helping MSU women build brand COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Tigers have plenty of mentors to help them achieve goals HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Shorter, Tigers doing it the right way HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Noxubee County has right plan in place for success on, off field HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS