Chuck Box and Brad Mitchell might not have won state championships as high school baseball players, but they have made up for it as coaches. Box, a graduate of former Caldwell High School in Columbus, won his third consecutive Mississippi Private School Association Class AAA state title at Jackson Prep on Saturday, while Mitchell, from Starkville, led Ackerman High to its first Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state championship on Monday. Winning championships is nothing new to Box, who earned a state crown at Itawamba Community College in 1999 and a conference title at Freed-Hardeman University in 1997.
Tom Kelsey knows how to find players that fit his system. When you like to play a 94-foot game like the Belhaven men’s basketball team, a coach needs versatile players who can play multiple roles. Kelsey believes Woodie Howard fits that description. Listed at 6-foot-2, the former Starkville High School product isn’t the tallest player on the court. He’s not the best scorer on the floor, and he won’t dazzle fans with eye-popping dunks. But Howard can do everything a coach asks well, which is why Kelsey wanted Howard to join his program.
Missed opportunities aren’t any less frustrating in the spring. The only solace for New Hope coach Michael Bradley, Starkville coach Bill Lee, and Amory coach Pat Byrd is that their results in the New Hope High School Jamboree won’t count against them in the 2009 season. New Hope, Starkville and Amory completed its spring seasons Friday in action that also featured Pontotoc and Shannon. Starkville defeated Amory 21-7 and lost 10-7 to Pontotoc. Pontotoc defeated Amory 7-0. Those results were two-quarter games.
Junior Noel continues to mine the Golden Triangle for its top soccer talent. The East Mississippi Community College men’s soccer coach landed two more standouts Friday when he signed Caledonia High School’s Tyler Pounders and Columbus High’s Mike Hayward to national letters of intent.
Richard Martin had the Columbus High School boys soccer program on the verge of making the Class 5A playoffs this season. In his three seasons as coach, the Falcons improved from three, to nine to 11 victories. Now someone else will have to take the team to the next level. Martin recently announced he was stepping down as boys soccer coach at Columbus High to spend more time with his family.
MABEN — East Webster High School is losing three coaches and gaining a principal in one man. Bill Brand, who coached girls basketball and slow- and fast-pitch softball at the school this year, recently accepted a job offer to return to work as East Webster High School’s principal. Brand will take over for Phil Ferguson effective July 1.
MABEN — Wanda McPhail admitted Friday morning she was the lucky one. It was easy to see why McPhail used that word after listening to her read the resumes of Kaley Allen and Jessica Halterman. After reading an impressive set of accomplishments, McPhail watched as the East Webster High School academic and athletic standouts signed national letters of intent to play tennis at Meridian Community College.
WEST POINT — Big plays usually are few and far between in spring football games. Like many sports, defenses typically get the better of offenses in preseason or games early in the season. That wasn’t the case Thursday night at McCallister Field at Hamblin Stadium. Tajh Ford had three touchdowns, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a score, to help Louisville High School defeat West Point 32-24 in the spring finale for both teams.
MACON — Vincent Sanders and Gussie Lane already can hear the haters. They likely are some of the same people who said the Noxubee County football team got lucky in 2007 when it advanced to the Class 4A state title game. Those doubters rejoiced when Laurel edged Noxubee County 19-16 to win the 2007 championship. The chatter kicked up again last year as the Tigers set out on a mission to finish the drill and win a Class 4A state title. Their hard work and team unity silenced the critics and D’Iberville in a 12-10 victory that gave the Tigers their elusive crown.
MACON — Reggie Harris couldn’t pass up this opportunity. As much as the former Noxubee County High School football player and coach wanted to remain at his alma mater, he felt he was ready to take a chance on becoming a head coach. It didn’t take long for someone to agree. Sunflower County School Superintendent Peirce McIntosh hired Harris last month to become the new football coach at Ruleville Central High School.
MACON — One loss can change a season. It can also test the resolve of a team that believes it is destined to win a state championship. The Central Academy slow-pitch softball team faced that challenge after it saw a double-digit lead vanish against Russell Christian en route to a 27-24 loss in the regular season. The players called the result “amazing.” Coaches Sammy Lindsey and Pres Dawkins called the defeat “mind boggling” and wondered if it would rattle their players and ruin the title dreams in an otherwise promising start to the season. There was no need to be concerned.
MABEN — West Oktibbeha High School boys basketball coach Joseph Landfair said a strong work ethic turned Deon Bedford into one of the better players in this area. East Mississippi men’s coach Mark White hopes to get more of that from Bedford in the future. Landfair talked about the past, while White looked ahead Thursday as Bedford signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at EMCC.
STARKVILLE — Spring is a time for growth, especially for quarterbacks. Jaquez Johnson showed signs of being a promising quarterback last season as a sophomore at Starkville High School. After securing the starting job early in the schedule, Johnson had his ups and downs. In his first year leading the Yellow Jackets, he threw 15 interceptions and nine touchdowns, but he has committed to improving in the offseason.
STARKVILLE — There was a gasp in the crowd at Pearl High School last Saturday afternoon when Starkville High School senior sprinter Tavaris Tate took the baton for the final leg in the 4x400 relay, rallied from third place and ran away from the pack in the final race of the Class 5A state track meet.
COLLINSVILLE — The New Hope High School baseball team always seemed to have the answer. Whether it was timely hitting, clutch pitching, or sparkling defense, the Trojans put everything together in the past month to sweep their first three playoff series. But one solution eluded them all season: How to solve Dustin McWilliams.
STARKVILLE — It seems improbable that one team would have two runners with a chance to combine to win seven state championship gold medals? But that’s what can happen Saturday for Starkville High School’s Tavaris Tate and Quartez Rogers at the Class 5A State Meet at Pearl High School.
COLLINSVILLE — Dustin McWilliams wiped out all of the New Hope High School baseball team’s momentum Thursday night. Wes Stokes will try to finish the job tonight. McWilliams pitched a complete-game five-hitter and West Lauderdale scored six unearned runs in an 11-4 victory in game one of the best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Class 4A North Half state title series at Jerry Boatner Field. Game two will be at 4 p.m. today in Columbus.
The South Lamar High School softball team established a new standard Tuesday by winning the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A, Area 10 Tournament.
WEST POINT — East Mississippi Community College baseball coach Tony Montgomery first saw Oak Hill Academy’s Lance Portera as someone who could help the Lions as a outfielder. Montgomery likes Portera’s arm so much he chose to recruit him as a pitcher.
The New Hope High School baseball team has found new life in the postseason. Whether it has been solid pitching, timely hitting, or sparkling defense, coach Stacy Hester’s Trojans (24-9) are playing their best baseball of the season entering game one of today’s (6 p.m.) best-of-three series against West Lauderdale for the North Half state title.
1. No. 1 MSU begins preparations for Kentucky COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Alabama shines with looser mind-set COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Ole Miss will rely on defense COLLEGE SPORTS
4. New Hope softball escapes quicksand at Warren Central HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS