STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School football team sent a message Thursday to the state of Mississippi that it is the team to beat after an easy victory against Class 6A power Brandon.
STARKVILLE -- After going through a season last year when his defense had difficulty stopping anybody, West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless was pleased with how that unit performed in its first audition for the 2014 season.
HAMILTON -- Sophomores aren't supposed to be leaders. But Alison Atkins, Taylor Hyland, Cheyenne Logan, Raimi Bryan, and Jordyn Jackson responded when pressed into service in 2012 for the Hamilton High School fast-pitch softball team. The program was in transition. Coming off a 2011 season in which it failed to advance to the playoffs, Hamilton also had to adjust to a new coach, Bryan Loague, who took over for Jason Cobb.
MACON -- It's a good thing Qendarrion Barnett isn't superstitious.
HAMILTON -- So much for needing blocks to win a state title in the sprints.
New Hope High School has a rare luxury when the Mississippi High School Activities Association's North Mississippi Class 5A baseball playoffs resume tonight.
PEARL -- After a sluggish offensive performance in a playoff win Saturday afternoon, New Hope High School baseball coach Lee Boyd said the time would come when the Trojans won a playoff game based on their offense. Two days later, the coach was proven correct.
PHILADELPHIA -- Leadoff hitters are meant to get things going. Hailey Lunderman took that part of her job description to heart Monday afternoon. Coming off a three-hit effort in a Game 1 victory against New Hope, the junior shortstop set the tone with a ringing triple off D.J. Sanders in the bottom of the first inning. Three batters later, Lunderman scored on a sun-aided double by Kayla Robertson as part of a four-run first that helped propel the Neshoba Central High School fast-pitch softball team to a 9-2 victory against New Hope in Game 2 of the best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State title series.
Brent Harris had a feeling about the 2014 Victory Christian Academy baseball team. In seven years as the squad's coach, Harris has seen plenty of talented players come through the program, but he quickly recognized something was special about this season's group. That's why Harris wanted to be honest with his players in an effort to help bring the best of out of all of them.
For Columbus High School senior baseball player Michael Sturdivant, Saturday night quickly became more about celebration than dismay. "We did something Columbus High School has never done," Sturdivant said. "We were the best team that has ever come through this city. We were a special group of guys who really poured their hearts and souls into making it work. We won 23 games. We did things that had never been done before here and will probably be never done again. Making it to the third round of the playoffs is special. I am not bragging because the glory goes to God."
The New Hope High School baseball team is playing with the confidence of a defending state champion. "It's not a cocky confidence," New Hope senior left fielder Rooke Coleman said. "It's more of a confidence that comes from having been there and done that. Last season, our fans were doubting us and they didn't know if we could go all the way. This year is different. This year everybody expects us to (win a state championship)."
Tabitha Beard knew what to expect from seventh-grader Aspen Wesley. The New Hope High School fast-pitch softball coach compiled enough scouting reports on Neshoba Central's seventh-grade right-handed pitcher to formulate a game plan predicated on her hitters being aggressive early in the count and not swinging at any of Wesley's "junk."
Mercedes Mattix has passed possibly the biggest remaining hurdle in her high school career. For some reason, the New Hope High School senior has had difficulty in her career at North State meets. The latest one, which was Saturday in Oxford, was no different. You only have to ask Mattix about her times and a dissatisfied look covers her face.
The passage of time can go two ways when you are trying to attract attention to land an opportunity to play a sport in college. As college coaches sort through prospects and evaluate players, the process can be tedious, especially after an initial visit or a first tryout. But once coaches determine which players they want and the student-athletes decide if a school is the right fit, the process can pick up steam and be completed in a matter of hours.
An injury can't slow a softball brain. In the case of Taylor Blevins, her brain is itching to tell her legs to go. For the longest time, though, torn ligaments in her left thumb prevented the New Hope High School senior from playing a key role on the school's fast-pitch softball team. After seeing significant minutes in the girls basketball team's run to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state semifinals, Blevins' injury forced her to miss most of her final high school fast-pitch season.
Mackenzie Harvey understands what it is like to be called a "baby." The term is one New Hope High School softball coach Tabitha Beard uses to describe the younger players who have come up through the slow- and fast-pitch programs and have grown into young ladies under her watch. It is a special word because Beard once was one of those "babies" for longtime New Hope softball coach Cary Shepherd.
Columbus High School baseball coach Jeffrey Cook knew this season could be special. With senior pitchers Trace Lee and Hunter Mullis and veteran standouts like Chris McCullough, Gevonta Webb, and Greg Sykes, Cook felt the Falcons would have the potential to make their fourth-straight playoff appearance.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior Alex Ross found one of his true passions in life by accident. Ross joined the Starkville High track and field team his eighth-grade year to stay in shape for soccer. Five years later, he will compete Saturday for the final time for the Yellow Jackets in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A, 4A and 6A state championships at Pearl High.
In most cases, championship puzzles take years to assemble. In addition to needing quality feeder programs to help their programs reload, coaches have to find the right blend of personalities and skills to make their teams click.
Konrad Vernon has harbored dreams of playing golf in college for a long time. But the Columbus High School senior has his priorities in line and understands his academics come first, which is why Mississippi College appeared to be a great fit for him. Not only was the school in Clinton relatively close to home, it also gave him a chance to pursue a career in the medical field, possibly the dental program.
1. Bulldogs land commitment from McLaurin at Collins LOCAL SPORTS