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Thursday, March 27, 2008

District races heat up

There is no spring break for district baseball and softball races.

While Caddo and Bossier parish schools are out this week, the teams play on.

It was a busy Thursday night for prep sports with some notable accomplishments.

Evangel scored a 12-2 baseball win over Arkansas High, ranked 18th in the country. Elsewhere in District 1-2A, a pair of Lakeside pitchers combined to no-hit North Caddo.

On the softball side, the blustery wind certainly accounted for several runs in Captain Shreve's 10-9 District 1-5A softball victory over Airline. After all, the box score called in for that game resembled something from a Sunday SEC baseball game -- all offense, little pitching.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shreveport well-represented on 5A squads

So none of our boys basketball teams in Shreveport-Bossier City won a state title. One player came home with a bigger personal award.

Huntington's imposing junior center, Kendrick Washington, The Times' All-City Player of the Year, was named the Class 5A Player of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

Washington's numbers were impressive, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. But it's the stats that don't show up in the box score that are even more important.

Washington -- along with teammate Eddie Bolden -- were Huntington's defensive erasers this year. They could fluster a team's inside game without blocking a shot. The number of shots they changed spoke for itself.

Another Shreveport representative -- Southwood coach Steve McDowell -- took home girls Coach of the Year honors. McDowell won the acclaim after leading the Lady Cowboys to their 10th state title -- all under his watch.

Unlike Washington, McDowell wasn't our Coach of the Year on the All-City team. That speaks to how high a bar he has set for himself.

It also speaks to the supremely consistent winning program he has built out on Walker Road although you'd never hear those words coming from his mouth.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kudos to Dukes

Parkway's Brittney Dukes was honored today as the area's lone representative on the girls Class 4A All-State team.

We at The Times know how good she is -- we named her our city Player of the Year.

Dukes is only a junior and figures to be even better next year.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

1-4A looks competitive

Popped out to Parkway on the way into the office Saturday afternoon and caught the final inning-and-a-half of the Panthers' game against Minden.

Sure Minden lost 4-1 despite giving up two hits. I'm not sure if Josh Minter, Minden's touted starter pitched, but there was a left-hander on the mound when I arrived and he looked outstanding.

Mixing in a hard fastball with a loopy breaking curve, he kept the Parkway hitters off-balance. I don't think I saw Minter on Saturday and, if indeed I did not, than Minden has a pretty good chance to make some noise in District 1-4A.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Benton's Flattmann is flat-out fast

When I wrote a story previewing the high school track and field season a few weeks ago, one of the questions I proposed was this:

Would Benton freshman Kaitlyn Flattmann be as fast on the track as she was in winning the state cross country title last fall?

Not surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes.

Flattmann finally got to run her first 3,200 of the outdoor season in the Gator Relays last Thursday at Lee Hedges Stadium after the event was cancelled in the first two meets at Airline because of poor weather conditions.

All Flattmann did was run an 11:23.11.

Consider this. The winning time in Class 4A state meet in Baton Rouge was 11:47.98.

Flattmann’s time was better than all but two times in the entire seven-class state meet. Two girls in Class 2A ran 11:16.08 and 11:18.53, respectively.

And Flattmann’s time is not all that far behind the all-time state meet record of 10:59.66 run by Ruston’s Jakia Williams in 2005.

It will be very interesting to watch Flattman the rest of the season. If she stays healthy, there’s not telling what she might accomplish.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Becoming apparent

If it wasn't apparent before today, then it should be now - Byrd has the best softball team in the city.

Byd beat Shreve, 9-3, today. That gives the Jackets win over both Airline and Shreve, the two teams thought to contend with Byrd this year in District 1-5A.

The greater question may be how will Byrd do in the playoffs next month?

That seems to be the bigger issue at the moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Early blows

It's way, way early in prep baseball. I mean district play just started. But Evangel and Benton struck some early blows tonight.

Benton went on the road and won at Minden. Evangel won easily over Lakeside.

Both of those games were between teams that are considered to be contenders in those respective districts.

So at this point, Evangel and Benton look like they might be able to separate themselves.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Talking baseball

So I'm up at Benton today and talking to Greg Bryant the Tigers' baseball coach. We talked about his team for a few minutes and when the interview is winding down, I ask him about the lack of dominant baseball teams in the area.

Bryant's theory is this: Several teams have really good No. 1 pitchers, but lack the real good No. 2 pitcher.

Think about it. In Class 1A last year, Calvary won the state title with Gip Hendrix and Randy Zeigler doing the bulk of the pitching. Captain Shreve reached the 4A title game, but the Gators had Austin Ross, Austin Tolliver and Brandon Charrier. Benton may have been the the exception. The Tigers made the 3A final with Jamie Gilley handling a lot of the mound duties.

It's a pretty good theory and one that makes sense. The hope for area teams is for some No. 2 pitchers to develop between now and May so a deep playoff run can be possible.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On the track

Homer High School's track program was already going to be in transition after three-time state champion Demonte Willis graduated and moved on to run at Louisiana Tech.

The Pelicans were dealt another blow when all-everything Richie Casey had surgery for an ACL injury.

This is a young team that figures to get better as the season goes along.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

All-Area boys were a challenge

Putting together an All-City or All-Area team seems easy, right?

Call a few coaches, get the numbers, crunch said number and, voila, the pieces fit and you have nicely delineated teams.

Sometimes it happens like that. This year, not so much.

Take our All-Area boys basketball team.

When we put names up on the dry erase board that hangs in our department, we had 20-plus names from the area. I'm not kidding, 20-plus.

And, of those 20-plus names, it's a same assumption that no fewer than 11 or 12 merited serious consideration for the FIRST TEAM.

The problem? They were all too good. There were district MVPs. All-State players. All-State Players of the Year.

Somehow, we put together a five-man first team, a five-man second team and an honorable mention list that was longer than we actually had room for.

You can see the finished product in Sunday's Times.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tough one for Byrd

Byrd had a chance to pull off a statement win Friday night in New Orleans.

Instead, the baseball Yellow Jackets were left heartbroken.

Rummel, long a Class 5A power, pulled off an eight-run seventh inning to erase a seven-run deficit and beat the Jackets 8-7 in the Westbank Optimist Classic.

Still it was a good learning experience for Byrd and another strong outing for Chris Cotton. Cotton, who is having a great start to the season, struck out seven and allowed one hit in six shutout innings.

Unfortunately for him, his bullpen could not hold it.

Hopefully for Byrd, this is a game in May they can look back on and say they learned from it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On the road again

The Minden Press-Herald is reporting that former Minden coach David Feaster won't be back as Sabine (Texas) High School football coach next season.

Feaster took over a team that was 0-10 and finished 1-9.

You'd like to think a coach would get more than one year. And hey, it was progress over the previous season.

Here's hoping Feaster finds a place to land.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Big week in track

If you're a fan of high school track, this is shaping up as a pretty good week.

At Airline on Thursday, several Bossier Parish and area teams will be running in the Viking Relays.

Also on Thursday, the field events will be held at Lee Hedges Stadium for the Caddo Relays with the running events set for Friday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Emerging trends

We're starting to see some trends emerging in the spring sports.

In softball, it appears Byrd has the best team in the city. The Jackets are 20-1-1 and swept through their bracket at the Sulphur tournament. There's still a month to go, but this looks like a state tournament team.

In lacrosse, Loyola looks particularly strong. The Flyers dispatched Byrd tonight.

But what about baseball? Which team is the best in the city? Last year at this time, Captain Shreve and Calvary had separated themselves. Not so much this year. At the time, there is plenty of debate over the best prep team in the city.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rainy days

It's been hard getting any rhythm to the spring sports this season because of weather.

Take Monday's rainy day.

I went out to Parkway High School to talk to Torian Lindsey from the Panthers' track team. Only there was no Torian Lindsey. Rain wiped out the practice session.

He didn't get to run the 200 at his last meet because weather cancelled that portion of the meet.

Then there was the ridiculous cold that baseball teams played in over the weekend.

Hopefully, warmer, dryer weather will allow some of these teams to develop and flourish. As it is, this has been a stop-and-start beginning of the spring sports season.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Big weekend for Ruston

A 7-5 record may not be that impressive to some, but for Ruston High's baseball team, it marks a great improvement.

Coach Toby White really wasn't sure what to expect from his club this year. After all, he lost a pair of pitchers who are seeing significant action at LSU.

It seems the Bearcats are putting it together.

This weekend, Ruston scored big wins over Captain Shreve and Airline. In the Airline victory, Ruston scratched out a 2-0 win over Albert Lafitte, one of Shreveport-Bossier's top pitchers.

There's still plenty of baseball to be played, but it appears White's less-than-experienced Bearcats are heading the right way.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

O-for Top 28

There will be no boys basketball championship banners hanging in northwest Louisiana celebrating state titles this season.

Zwolle lost by two points to Rapides, 69-67; while Athens was crushed by Reserve Christian, 92-48.

It's a disappointing end to what appeared to be a successful season.

But in the end, you're judged by wins and losses. And this will be a year remembered for no teams bringing home the hardware.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Track and field season off to flying start

Two weeks into the track and field season, one performance easily stands out -- Booker T. Washington’s Bobby Mosley’s high jump of 6 feet, 8 inches in the Caddo Magnet Mustang Rally on March 1 at Lee Hedges Stadium.

To put that in perspective, the winning jump in the Class 3A state meet in Baton Rouge last year was 6-6. It will be interesting to see what Mosley does the rest of the year.

Of course, the goal of all track athletes is to be performing at their peak come district, regional and state time in late April and early May. Even so, there have been some other interesting performances early.

At the weather-shortened Benton meet on Friday at Airline, defending Class 4A state champ Giorgio Bryant got off a decent winning jump of 22-9 in the long jump considering it was his first meet this season. He won at state last year with a 24-2.75.

Parkway’s Matt Wolfe also had a good time of 4:41.17 in winning the 1,600. That’s only about six seconds off his fourth-place finish in the state meet last year.

Airline’s Alexis Holt showed why she will be a state title contender in the 100 hurdles. She crushed the field at Airline with a 15.61. Considering it was hand-timed that’s about as fast as her 15.75 fourth-place finish in the state meet last year.

Parkway’s Torian Lindsey (Douglas Collier photo above) won the first of what should be one of many duels with Benton’s Emmett Stephens in the 100. Lindsey ran a 10.85 to Stephens’ 10.91.

Airline sophomore Rebecca Blubaugh and Benton freshman Kaitlin Flattmann also went head-to-head for the first time in the 1,600 with Blubaugh coming out on top by four seconds.
Blubaugh’s time of 5:25.28 was faster than her fourth-place in the Class 5A state meet last year. Flattmann’s time of 5:29.38 would have been good enough for a fourth-place finish in Class 4A last season.

Once again, considering this was Blubaugh’s first meet and Flattmann’s second (she competed in relays in the NSU Relays on March 1), that’s pretty impressive. Judging by her phenomenal cross country success last fall and her success in local runs, Flattmann’s best event will likely be the 3,200. We’ll have to wait and see.

The next meet in Caddo Parish is the Southwood/Northwood meet at Lee Hedges Stadium on Friday, March 14. The next Bossier Parish meet is the Viking Relays hosted by Airline on Thursday, March 13.

The track season is pretty much a sprint this season. District meets are scheduled for the week of April 14-18 with the regional and state meets the following weeks.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Class 5A semifinals blog

Times sports writer Brian Vernellis is blogging live from the Class 5A semifinals between Huntington and H.L. Bourgeois.


Huntington falls to Bourgeois 71-59 thanks to a Top 28 Class 5A-record 43 points by Stevie Howard.

Kendrick Washington had 22 points and 16 rebounds to lead Huntington.

Third quarter

Stevie Howard's 3-pointer with 2 seconds to play in the third lifted H.L. Bourgeois to a 46-45 lead after three quarters.

Corey Ellis has 16 points and Kendrick Washington 14 for the Raiders.


H.L. Bourgeois leads 29-25 at the half. The Braves put together a 17-6 run to start the second quarter.

Corey Ellis leads Huntington with nine points at the half. Kendrick Washington has 8.

First quarter

Huntington leads 15-10 after the first despite drawing two technical fouls. Shamir Davis drew one for throwing a forearm and Kyle Jones was assessed a technical for jawing with the referee.

The Raiders opened the game with a 13-4 spurt before H.L. Bourgeois closed the quarter on a 6-2 run.

Huntington's Kendrick Washington leads the Raiders with 5 points in the first quarter.

-- Brian Vernellis

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Zwolle, Athens march on

At the very least, we'll have some area boys basketball teams playing for state championships this weekend.

Zwolle rolled into the Class B finals and Athens made it to the Class C title game.

You can make a case that Bradley McLaren has done a better job coaching this Zwolle team than he did in winning two previous state titles. He had a team with just two players - Eric Cutright and Joevoskie Mitchell - that had played significant roles last season. And he brought this team along to its usual 40-plus win season.

As for Athens, the Trojans will get another shot at Reserve Christian in the finals. Last year, Athens lost by two points (61-59). This year, there should be no shortage of motivation for Athens.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Long wait for Top 28

Huntington may have the longest wait of any team in the Top 28.

For starters, the Raiders play on Thursday -- the final day of semifinals play.

And, to make their wait longer, Huntington coach Mack Jones doesn't plan on taking his team down to Lafayette until Thursday morning.

Jones said his reasoning is to try to keep everything as normal as possible for his players.

That's a good thought. But it won't make any difference if the Raiders don't play well.

Just a week ago, Parkway girls coach Aaron Megee took his team to Hammond a day before the game, but on a yellow school bus. He wanted to keep things as normal as possible for his team.

Parkway didn't play well and lost in the semifinals to Ellender.

So the key for Huntington likely won't be keeping the routine the same, rather it will likely be shooting well and playing good defense.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tough end for Arcadia

Maybe you didn't expect the Arcadia Hornets to win the Class 1A state championship, but it's likely you expected a better performance in the state semifinals.

I'm sure coach Shane Lee did as well.

The bottom line is Arcadia lost by 22, but it should be back next year.

What became apparent Monday is Kortney Roberson needs to develop some killer instinct. Roberson, who is being recruited by such schools as UCLA, was torn apart by a player he dominated in AAU ball.

He'll need to bring that same fire to the court every game next year if Arcadia wants to hoist the Class 1A state championship trophy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Busy times in prep land

Here in prep sports land, we have one more week of the most serious overlapped schedules of the year.

Girls basketball wrapped up, leaving only the boys Top 28 in Lafayette for prep hoopsters. Baseball and softball are still heavy into tournament season while track and field cranked up this past weekend.

Throw in golf and tennis matches throughout the week -- weather permitting of course -- and it makes it a very good, if busy, time to be a prep sports fan.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

St. Michael makes me look smart

And that's not an easy thing to do when it comes to prognostication (witness my MLB, NFL, et al picks).

For once, however, I was right. Thank you St. Michael.

I voted St. Michael No. 1 in the LSWA Girls Top 10 poll throughout the season. For a while, I was the lone first-place vote the Lady Warriors received.

Normally, I don't pat myself on the back for stuff like this, but in this case vindication is sweet.