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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Here's a stab at local basketball rankings

It doesn't look there's one dominant boys basketball team in Caddo and Bossier parishes this season, but Fair Park certainly should be at the top of the heap now with its victory in the "Doc" Edwards tournament.

If Fair Park wins the Bossier Invitational next week, there will be no doubt.

Here's how I would rank the teams going into the tournament (and these are kind of shaky).

1. Fair Park; 2. Huntington; 3, Evangel; 4, Booker T. Washington; 5, Bossier.

In girls basketball, forget about the results in the "Doc" Edwards. Southwood and Parkway both lost.
But I would still rank those two teams 1-2 followed by Bossier, Airline and Benton.

Of coure, I could be very wrong. If you disagree, let me know.

Bossier girls basketball on the upswing

Bossier's boys high school basketball program has greatly overshadowed the girls program over the last few years.

That could be about to change. Bossier's title in the "Doc" Edwards tournament says a lot.

The Lady Kats beat the two teams that played for the Class 5A state championship last year, Southwood and Airline. They had lost to Southwood twice this year, including once by 22 points.

And they won it without their head coach, T.J. McCall. McCall was apparently suspended by the school for three games for a run-in with a game official. Assistant Faith Jones deserves credit for taking Bossier to the title.

McCall, of course, deserves credit, too, for getting the team to the point where it could compete for a championship in a tournament with as strong a field as the "Doc" Edwards.

Bossier tournament coming up

You've got to like a tournament that has been around as long as the Bossier Invitational.

I mean, tournaments come and go. This one is the longest running one in the area.

And it's back again next week.

I like this tournament for a couple of reasons. No. 1, it's just boys. That's not being sexist, I like the Winter Standard Tournament because it's just girls. It's just that a tournament with boys and girls gets too spread out. The Bossier Tournament is nice and neat.

The second thing I like is there is only one game for losers - the third-place game.

I know players and coaches like double elimination. But again, it can be too cumbersome with a double elimination.

Maybe that makes me old school. Certainly the Bossier Tournament is just that.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Former Green Oaks coach Gerald Kimble looking good

It was good to see former Green Oaks High School head coach Gerald Kimble at Bossier High on Wednesday at the Doc Edwards tournament.

I doubt there's a bigger sports fan in the area. "If they're bouncing a basketball, I'm there," Kimble said.

And at 66, Kimble looks like he could step on a football field right now and resume coaching.

For those who don't remember, Kimble turned perennial doormat into a power in the late 70s and 80s. He also coached at Southern University for three years.

Kimble's teams and Captain Shreve had some epic battles back in the day. And Kimble was one of the most entertaining coaches to watch. He was very demonstrative, roaming the sideline in his floppy hat.

It was great to see Kimble get a state championship a few years back at Southern Lab in Baton Rouge before he called it quits.

Kimble related an amusing story as we were watching the Southwood-Northwood girls game.

He said when he coached at Southern U, he and then LSU coach Mike Archer used to meet the media at Baton Rouge establishment. One day as they were about to meet the media and a reporter walked in and said to Archer, 'Hey, coach, did you know you were fired?'

Kimble said that's how Archer find out he got the ax.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Southwood girls get wakeup call

If the Southwood girls needed a wakeup call, they got one against Bossier on Thursday in the second round of the Doc Edwards tournament.

Bossier became one of the few local schools in the last dozen years to beat the Lady Cowboys, 44-41. Southwood was without Ricosha Kindels, who may have aggravated a knee injury in Southwood's blowout victory over Northwood on Wednesday.

Still, don't worry too much about Southwood. Coach Steve McDowell is always preaching to his team how they need to improve to get ready for the meat of the district season and the playoffs. If his players didn't believe, now they surely will.

And McDowell will likely use the game as a teaching tool. He is a master of getting his team ready for big games. Don't look for the Lady Cowboys to lose many more games this season.

Edwards can turn around Northwood program

Watching Southwood embarrass Northwood 70-13 in the first round of the Doc Edwards Invitational on Wednesday at Bossier, it would be hard to hold out much hope for the Lady Falcons.

But if anyone can turn the program around, it's their young coach, Jennifer Edwards. Edwards was a former player at Northwood, and earned MVP honors on the Times All-City team in 1997. She was a fun player to watch, always hustling, diving for balls, not afraid to drive the lane against much bigger players. As a junior, Northwood lost only one game in the regular season.

If Edwards brings half as much passion to coaching, there's hope for the Lady Falcons. Maybe not this year. It will undoubtedly be a struggle. And not matter how good a coach you are, it takes talent to win. If she can find one player who plays like she played, there could be a bright future for the Northwood girls basketball program.

Kudos for Curtis

USA Today named its All-USA team and its All-USA coach on Wednesday.

The coach is a familiar name in this state - J.T. Curtis of John Curtis High School in River Ridge.

It is quite appropriate that Curtis earned the honor this year. It was a year in which his team played its first full season in the New Orleans area since 2004. Hurricane Katrina shortened the team's 2005 season and scattered players.

The Patriots went undefeated in winning the Class 2A state title this year and knocked off a Hoover (Ala.) team that was ranked No. 1 at the time.

While there are a lot of people who have been critical of the Patriots' program and success in the past, what Curtis has done after Katrina - two more state titles - is certainly worthy of the honor.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Something to do

If you're looking for something to do during this holiday week, then may I suggest the Doc Edwards High School basketball tournament.

The tournament has a pair of reigning state champions playing - the Class 3A Fair Park boys and the Class 5A Southwood girls.

The tournament begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Games will be played at four gyms - Bossier High, Airline High, Cope Middle School and Benton High School.

It's about as good as it gets for high school basketball fans around the area.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mr. Football

If you've seen John Curtis running back Joe McKnight play football in the last two years, then you likely weren't surprised to see he was named Mr. Football in Louisiana today by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

McKnight's numbers are just out of this world - 16.4 yards per rush and 36.7 yards per catch. He is considered to be one of the top two-way players in the nation.

That McKnight would be Mr. Football this year was pretty much a given before the season started. When it had ended he was such an overwhelming favorite there wasn't even a vote for the award.

The question is what kind of career McKnight will have from here?

Since 1995, the LSWA has honored its Mr. Football. Two of those Mr. Footballs - Travis Minor and Bradie James - are playing on Sundays. But Adam McConathy never quite lived up to the Chris Spielman comparisions. And Byron Robertson appears to be a head scratcher now.

Here's betting McKnight makes it as a former Mr. Football on higher levels.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Must-see hoops

If you're a girls basketball fan, then this weekend's Winter Standard Tournament is a must see.

Jackson (Miss.) Murrah and Wayne County are the top two teams in Mississippi. Glen Oaks from Baton Rouge is also a championship contender in Louisiana.

Then there are the local teams - Benton, Mansfield and Lakeside.

While the tournament is really a round robin, it will give you a chance to see some good girls basketball.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

All-city, all-area

The teams have been selected and the photos are being lined up. On Sunday, you should be able to open your copy of The Times and find our all-city and all-area football teams. We'll also run the all-district teams we've received, which, this year, is all of them.
We have four of northwest Louisiana's top high school football players from this season -- all but one happen to be seniors this year -- coming to the paper this week to pose for a group shot that will adorn Sunday's paper.
Thanks for following prep football through The Times and prepsbeat.com this season.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Big numbers

Many may not be the favorite in girls Class 2A basketball this year, but its star player is again one of the best around. Tarkeisha Wysinger scored 49 points recently in a victory over 4A Bossier in the championship game of Many's own tournament.
That was over 50 percent of the team's scoring in the game, and it's all good news for Lady Techsters fans. She'll be a freshman at Louisiana Tech next year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson

Congratulations to BTW's Jeremy Jefferson. He earned Class 3A All-State honors on Sunday. And that was no easy feat.

Jefferson was the only local on the team.

But Jefferson certainly deserved the honor. Another 2,000-yard rushing season got the job done and even though he was stopped in the playoffs by Redemptorist, his work for the whole season was as good as anyone in Class 3A all season.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Welcome aboard, Cali

For the first time since 1927, they're having state football championships - not sectionals, state, mind you - in California this weekend.

Welcome aboard California.

And from a state bordering "Friday Night Lights'' territory, one question: What took you so long?

Yes, there is some hand-wringing about commercialism and the like. Guess what, that train left the station long ago.

Everyone wants to talk about innocence in prep sports. Those days were gone when ESPN started televising prep sports.

So enjoy. Enjoy seeing teams compete for a true championship. Enjoy seeing the best teams play. Enjoy high school football like the rest of the nation.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Congrats to honorees

CerDerrick Tyson in 1A, now Tripp George in 2A. There are some players who are making names for themselves at young ages in this part of the state, and these are two of them. Both are first-team all-staters.
It wasn't much of a season for Loyola, going 3-7 and missing the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, but George was consistently good, leading his team in tackles -- again. He made 124 stops, which is phenomenal.
The best news for Flyers coach John LeBlanc and Flyers fans? He's only a junior.
As for Tyson? He's a sophomore.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Turning to basketball

As football awards come out, basketball takes center stage here in the sports department at The Times. From what I've seen so far, Fair Park has another solid boys basketball team. We'll take a look next week at what chance the Indians have of repeating or even getting back to the Top 28.
I suspect Evangel and Plain Dealing will also have excellent seasons, and Bossier and Huntington both have strong chances on the boys side to get far in the playoffs.

Football honors

Last night, we had our meeting for beginning the process of The Times All-City and The Times All-Area football teams. It was actually the quickest meeting I can remember for that purpose. Now, we'll consult with coaches and other resources to come up with the final list, which we are thinking will run on Christmas Eve, though that could change. We'll run both teams, along with every all-district team, that day.
The Class 1A all-state team came out in today's paper, and Evangel's CerDerrick Tyson was the offensive MVP. After we voted on Friday, I was wondering what the other writers were thinking as Tyson had a poor first half on Saturday against St. John. His play in last year's state title game went a long way toward earning him this year's award. He stood out in the minds of the voters from that game, and the Evangel name always carries plenty of clout.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wrapping up football

The Superdome Classic completed the 2006 high school football season. The Classic had some surprises and some of the same familiar faces.

Few would have expected West Monroe to be absent from New Orleans back in August. But Sulphur took out West Monroe in the playoffs. Sulphur, though, couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead and Acadiana, last year's runner-up, won the 5A title.

Bastrop won as expected in Class 4A. This year the Rams will get to keep the trophy - we think.

But Bastrop wasn't alone in the dog-bites-man category. John Curtis rolled through Class 2A. And Evangel came back in the second half to win in Class 1A.

Lutcher's championship in Class 3A wrapped up another year of football.

It may not have been the greatest year for high school football in the state, but it wasn't the worst either.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Class 1A championship

NOTE: This entry will be updated throughout the game. To read chronologically, start at the bottom. The entries are separated by spaces, and the most recent is on top.

Ronnie Alexander can relax now. The season is over for Evangel, and it has ended with the Class 1A state championship, 24-7. I'll be back after the interview session. Congratulations to all Evangel football fans.

St. John mounted a final drive that got to the ECA 27 before it stalled. Evangel takes over on downs with 3:55 to play with a 24-7 lead.

It's now 24-7 after a Deleon Moss TD catch. I've just turned in my MVP ballot, and I voted for Jeremy Little. He's had some big catches, including one for Evangel's first touchdown. Little had some key catches on this latest drive. He was the first guy to figure out how to get open against St. John. St. John is now completely out of the game, and my suspicion that the Plaquemine Eagles would not score in the second half is looking about right.

CerDerrick Tyson just scored on a 37-yard pass play to finish off a 94-yard drive for Evangel. ECA leads, 17-7, with two minutes to play in the third, and I'll be very surprised if this game isn't over. St. John had a chance for the upset but two mistakes hurt its chances. There was a fumble at the Evangel 4 after a 50-yard Spenser Williams run, and the St. John coaches gave ECA a short field with an ill-advised short kickoff to open the second half.

The LHSAA awards one MVP award to each team, and my early vote for Evangel is Jeremy Little. He has made some nice catches - doing a good job simply getting open in the first place - and turned a first-down play into a 25-yard touchdown by escaping two tacklers early in the third. The short kickoff by St. John was indeed a mistake. ECA, 10-7, with nine minutes to play in the third.

As the second half begins, I suspect St. John needs to stop the ECA offense early just as it did in the first half. I also think St. John needs to score quickly. Although ECA is trailing, I think St. John needs at least two more touchdowns to win. I think the high and short kickoff to try to recover the second-half kickoff was a St. John mistake. It gives the ECA Eagles the ball right near midfield.

The teams didn't move the ball much in the second, but an interception by Pat Chitman sets up a 30-yard field goal at the end of a 17-yard drive. Evangel trails, 7-3, at halftime.

By my calculations, Evangel finishes the first quarter with 16 yards of total offense and trailing, 7-0. Dez Duron is in at quarterback, and the ECA Eagles are at the St. John 15 after a fumble recovery.

Evangel is not starting well. It has three false starts and did not get a first down on its first drive. St. John starts right at midfield for its second drive. QB Baco Romero is doing a fine job of running the St. John offense. He gains 5 on his third carry. Evangel's best defensive plays have been when St. John runners have fallen down. Until now, when ECA holds on a fourth-and-3. There is 2:45 left in the first.

Touchdown, St. John, 6:21 left in first. Spenser Williams was almost untouched, and the Plaquemine Eagles have to be full of confidence now. St. John, 7-0.

Here are some early impressions: The St. John offense is doing quite well, thank you. It has moved from its own 25, past the 50, and there has been only one lost yardage play. That play was caused by Charles Cloman, who has been fantastic in the postseason for Evangel. I'm starting to think he might be the best player on the ECA defense.

St. John won the toss. Evangel will defend the South goal. Mike Boyer, the principal of Teurlings Catholic, delivered the invocation. Perhaps that's appropriate. He played an important role in keeping the public and private schools together in the most recent threat of a split. It's my opinion that he would have made a fine commissioner, but I doubt the majority of public school principals would have wanted a private school man in charge.

As the coin toss begins, let me amend my statement about St. John's size. They apparently hid some rather large linemen in the dressing room until now. Ha! Jordan Powell and Lydell Smith are the captains at midfield for the Shreveport Eagles. Both teams sent a second line - likely seniors - for the toss. As for the crowd, although the media is seated nearer the Evangel fans (ECA is the home team and is in all red unis), the St. John contingent is much louder.

If my computer clock is correct, we are about 12 minutes from kickoff, and a small crowd is in the seats of the Superdome ready for St. John vs. Evangel for the 1A football championship of Louisiana.
About 21,000 fans attended Friday night's games according to the guy helping the media here. A concessionaire told me the second game - Lutcher vs. Independence - was the better attended as fans filled the lower arena.
At first glance, I have to give Evangel a big advantage. My first thought upon seeing the St. John players on the turf was, "where is the varsity?" Size is not a strength for the Plaquemine Eagles. Couple that with Evangel's speed, and I don't see how St. John has a chance. If ECA were not so well coached, maybe, but the Shreveport Eagles are always prepared.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Same weather as last year

The south Louisiana writers ragged on Shreveport's weather last year when it was in the 20s for the Thursday night Class 3A title game at Independence Stadium.
Guess what? It is supposed to be in the 20s tonight when the first two state championship games are played at the Superdome. Much of New Orleans was stunned to a stop this morning when the temperate dipped and ice froze on I-10. Even our Louisiana Sports Writers Association meeting, scheduled to start at 9, didn't begin until 10:15. In fact, we are finishing up the final Class (which is 5A) right now. It has been a rough year for the Shreveport area in this year's voting. The first-team all-staters are not as plentiful as they have been at times.
A little good news: the temperature is supposed to climb back into the 50s by tomorrow afternoon. Better news: each of the five games is being played inside.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off to New Orleans

The Evangel Eagles are on the practice field (indoor) at LSU right now, about to wrap up a two-hour practice before Bastrop takes over for another two hours. The Eagles have a tradition of going to LSU for a practice on the way to New Orleans for the state championship football weekend, but the Rams messed it up just a tad by reserving the usual ECA time. Evangel also has a tradition of eating at T.J. Rib just off I-10 on the way.
Evangel will practice at the Dome on Friday.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What could have been?

There is no football at Independence Stadium this weekend. That's not all that unusual this late in December.

Actually, last year was the exception when the state football championships were moved here in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The championships have returned to New Orleans, where they belong.

But we almost had football here this weekend at Independence Stadium.


If Texas High had defeated Copperas Cove in the Texas state playoffs last week, then we would have football in Shreveport. We would have had the Texas playoffs here for a second time in three weeks.

Alas, Texas High lost.

The stadium will be empty.

And we'll think about what could have been.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

All-district teams

All-district football teams have started arriving at The Times, and the usual pampering of seniors continues this year. I know there is a player we have raved about in the office this season, but he's second-team all-district because he is a sophomore. A senior on the same team who did not have as good a season is first team.
When we name the all-city and all-area teams, you can be sure there are neither favorites played nor year in school considered.
We just pick the guys who had the best year, as we've always done.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evangel quarterbacks

Sounds like Evangel let Jordan Powell take the quarterback job and hold onto it on Friday at Kentwood. I think that's a good plan. The Eagles need consistency at that position, and the revolving door has not allowed any.
Powell is the senior and has cut down significantly on mistakes since the Lufkin, Texas, game. He has waited his turn and deserves a shot to get the job done, just as he did last December in Shreveport against Opelousas Catholic.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hoops talk

Kudos to BTW for winning the boys and girls North DeSoto tournament championships. Winning one tournament is worthwhile, sweeping the boys and girls makes it special.

Fair Park's Morris Claiborne may be one of the best athletes in the city. On the football field, he is an electrifying player. On the basketball court, he was the MVP of the BTW Holiday Classic.

We'll know more about about our area teams as December - and its multitude of tournaments - plays out.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Back to the Dome

It will be interesting to see how the attendance is at this coming week's Superdome Classic.

In Class 5A, you'll have two teams from the same district in southwest Louisiana - Acadiana and Sulphur playing. The fact that West Monroe and its horde of fans won't be there can't be good for attendance.

In Class 4A Bastrop will face Shaw. You would think Shaw would have some fans and Bastrop should bring a good number.

In Class 3A, there is Lutcher and Independence. Both of those teams are in easy driving distance of the Dome.

The problem is once you get down past 3A, then you start getting into smaller schools and smaller fan bases.

Maybe missing the Dome for a year will mean a good turnout.

But if the Bayou Classic last month is any indication, don't count on it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Evangel saves the day

When Evangel won in overtime tonight at Kentwood, the Eagles kept northwest Louisiana from being shut out of the Superdome Classic.

Just to show you how rare a shutout of northwest Louisiana is, had Evangel lost tonight it would have marked the first time since 1981 that no northwest Louisiana team had played for a state football championship in any class.

Instead, the streak goes on for the area.

Evangel's win wasn't a surprise - the difficulty in which Evangel faced (a 27-20 victory in overtime) was.

Minden's loss wasn't a surprise - the ease in which Bastrop won (60-6) was.

It hasn't been a great year for the area. But it hasn't been a wipeout either.