One team is building toward a repeat. The other is building toward respectability. Even though it is only August, the New Hope and Columbus high school slow-pitch softball teams showed Thursday they have plenty to look forward to this season. D.J. Sanders had four hits, including three doubles, to lead a 17-hit attack in New Hope's 13-5 victory at Lady Trojan Field.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School's cross country team has its sights set on crashing Class 6A's top four with a revamped squad of returnees and transfer talent. The Yellow Jackets had two runners finish in the top 50 at last season's 6A state meet, but with the additions of Starkville Academy transfer Joseph MacGown and transfer Kamau Bostic from Virginia, the team believes it's closer to the top of the mountain. MacGown was runner up at the 2009 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state meet.
ACKERMAN -- The 2010 high school football season in the state of Mississippi nearly opened with a shocker. But Dakota Brasher helped script the ending many expected -- albeit it was much more difficult than expected. Brasher's 6-yard touchdown run and K.J. Woods' conversion run in overtime helped Ackerman High School rally for an 8-6 victory against Starkville Academy on Thursday night.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State fans now know what the consequences will be if they don't "Ring Responsibly" this football season. On Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., Southeastern Conference athletic directors put the finishing touches on the fine structure for artificial noisemakers, which was the final element of the June cowbell compromise between MSU and the other league members.
After missing more than a month of the season, William Beckwith hopes to be back in the lineup today for the Gulf Coast League Braves. Beckwith, a 21st-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves on June 8, hopes to see his name on the lineup card when the GCL Braves host the GCL Tigers in Kissimmee, Fla.
STARKVILLE -- The genesis of Starkville Academy's 2009 football misery, preparing for Ackerman High doesn't feel like déjà vu one year later. It's an interesting approach because for the second year in row players and coaches are positive the team can achieve a favorable result against the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A power.
STARKVILLE -- With nine seniors, it's easy to hang hopes on your most experienced players. But when that one third of your team's key players piloted the ship to a four-win season a year ago, you're pinning even more hope on that group taking a bigger step toward title-winning form.
OXFORD -- Matthew Mott always knew he wanted to be a head coach, especially a head coach in the Southeastern Conference. After seven years of working as an assistant women's soccer coach at Auburn University, Mott took a "risky" move, by his admission, to become an assistant coach at the University of Texas.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's all about an attitude this season for the University of Alabama women's soccer team. After seasons of nine and six wins in his first two years at the school, coach Todd Bramble hopes an infusion of 11 newcomers and the maturation of his underclasswomen helps his program make strides in the Southeastern Conference.
STARKVILLE -- How does a defense maintain its big-play ability while limiting big plays? Mississippi State football coaches are banking on experience and constant attention to creating turnovers to help even out a unit that had its high and low moments a season ago. Bright spots last season included five scores from interceptions and freshmen Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield combining for 10 picks and four scores.
Friday night is showtime for the West Lowndes High School football team. At some point this season, coach Bobby Berry hopes the Panthers' play graduates to capital letter status. For now, though, the veteran coach would like to see his players back up all of their talk on the field. It's not that West Lowndes has been burning the phone lines with fabulous boasts. Berry is just eager to see his players prove to him their confidence -- and potential -- is real.
Leroy Gregg has coached high school football teams that have gone through a season without any injuries. Gregg hopes he has that same good fortune this season. With only 17 players on his roster, the third-year Oak Hill Academy coach knows the 2010 campaign will be challenging. After two solid showings in the preseason, Gregg and the Raiders will make their debut at 7 p.m. Friday when they play host to Heritage Academy.
In a unique twist Thursday night, Dwight Bowling will be a visitor in his hometown. Bowling faces the task of coaching a visiting team in his hometown of Smithville when he leads the Sulligent Blue Devils against the Smithville Seminoles. Bowling embarks on his fifth season as Sulligent's coach and will roam visitor's sideline at Smithville for the first time after being on the other side of the field for 28 years as the coach of the Seminoles.
STARKVILLE -- Julianne Jackson has had a lot of responsibility for the Starkville Academy softball team this season. She's handled the bulk of the pitching duties for the first time in her career and spent numerous hours trying to perfect a swing that hadn't previously utilized her power. Fifteen games into the season, she's the Lady Vols' No. 1 option in the circle and has become an effective pull-hitter and is currently the team's cleanup batter.
Ja'Bria Jones twisted her body to make a play. Playing two steps off the net, the middle blocker reached tentatively with her left hand in an effort to keep the ball alive. Jones did more than that. With a flick of her arm, the Columbus High School freshman sealed the deal with one final kill and helped her team defeat West Lowndes 3-2.
A year ago, South Lamar High School volleyball coach Karen Holsonback felt fortunate that her team didn't lose a match to rival Lamar County. Holsonback's team will attempt to continue its success against its rival Thursday when South Lamar hosts Lamar County in the first match of the season for both teams.