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Archives 12-14-2005

Sports

LA defeats Lipscomb 28-13 in BlueCross Bowl
Sportswriter applauds efforts of Championship Wildcats


LA defeats Lipscomb 28-13 in BlueCross Bowl

Leah Thomas/OCN Sports
Livingston's Chase Dunn goes up for 2 of his 11 points scored against Cannon County in Friday's home win.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
With championship football fever still running strong at Livingston Academy, it might just have been hard to get into basketball action, but with two wins each last week for the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats, perhaps it just "caught on".

Just three days after the football team captured the State 3A Championship, the two hardwood teams took to the floor against arch rival York and both teams played perhaps the best games of the young season thus far.

"We were still in the football mode," Wildcats Coach Richard Melton said, "but we had to carry on. We are so proud of the football team.

"I was a little worried before Tuesday's game with York. When it was over, I felt like we had played our best all around game of the year.

"We needed a good game out of the kids, and they came through."

Originally, Tuesday's games were scheduled for Jamestown, but incomplete work on the gym floor forced the game to be moved to Livingston. The LA girls brought a 4-1 overall and 1-0 district record into the contest while the boys were 2-4 and 1-0.

Both teams started slowly, then midway through the first quarter, Justin Monday caught fire, both offensively and on the boards. Before the first quarter was over, Monday had hit for 8 points, dominated the rebounding, and the Wildcats were on top 16-14.

Second quarter action proved to be the downfall of the Dragons. LA freshman Chase Dunn hit for 10 points, Monday added 6 more, and when the horn sounded at intermission, the Wildcats had outscored the Dragons 22-6 and raced from a 2-point lead at the end of the first period to an 18-point advantage at the half.

Senior floor leader Brandon Matthews later pointed out, "The second period was one of our best of the year. Chase and Justin really turned it up, and I think the rest of us caught on and played harder."

Dunn and Tyler Smith quickly set the pace early in the third frame with two straight buckets, Matthews followed with four, and midway through the period Livingston Academy was up by 20 at 44-24.

In the 77-46 victory, Monday was the leading scorer for the Wildcats with 20 points, while Dunn followed with 18 and Matthews had 17.

Before the boys got on the floor to do their work, the Lady Cats had to overcome Brandi Brown, the region's most dominating player and a 7-0 Lady Dragons record.

LA's Ashley Matthews said after the game, "Brandi is just a super player. If you want to have any chance to beat York, you have to at least try to minimize her as best you can."

As she hit for 23 points, Brown was not stopped by the Lady Wildcats, but Matthews neutralized her by hitting for 23 of her own points in the 53-46 LA victory.

Lady Wildcats Coach Lesley Smith said, "It was an important win for us. You can do only so much to stop Brandi, but our kids responded well. Brandi got her points, but our defense kept the others from hurting us by playing good defense.

"We got balanced scoring from the rest of our players. Ashley's 23 points were obviously very big."

While Matthews led the LA scoring, it was the balanced scoring from Jada Ledbetter, 8 points, Haley Mullins, 6, Megan Brown and Mallie Stephens, 4 each, and Alison West and Rebekah Jackson, 3 each, that spelled the difference.

With the defeat, York fell to 7-1 on the season and 1-1 in the district, while Livingston moved to 5-1 and 2-0 overall.

On Friday night, Dec. 9, Cannon County came to Livingston for the third straight district matchup of the young season. The Lady Lions were 4-5 overall and 0-1 in district play prior to the game.

After the game, Stephens said, "For some reason we just weren't into it early, but that third period really showed we wanted to play, and probably it took us that long to adjust to their style of play.

"Once we figured it out, we went on a roll."

Cannon took a 14-10 lead in the first quarter and led by 5 at 27-22 at the half. But in the third period, Livingston poured in 21 points while allowing the visitors only 7.

Brittany McCoin opened the final frame with a layup in the lane, Stephens then hit two 3-pointers, and the Lady Cats were on their way to a 64-49 victory.

Matthews said, "Not only did we find the shooting range in the third period, but we played good defense.

"We have got to continue to improve on defense and rebounding, and we're working on that very hard. We'll get better and better as the season goes on."

Mullins led Livingston with 22 points, the most for her this season, while Matthews added 17 and Stephens dropped in 17.

The win moved LA to 3-0 in the district and 6-1 overall.

In the boys game, it was hard to decide if Cannon felt it would lose but not by a lot, or it was simply a practice drill of passing the ball around, but not taking many shots. Whatever the reason for the slow play, it didn't stop the Wildcats from coming away with a 53-30 victory, their fourth win of the year against four losses and their third straight district win.

Lance Ruble later said, "I really don't know what they were thinking about, but I guess the biggest thing they did was hold the score down. We never really got into a rhythm, but when we needed the points we got them."

Livingston jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the first period, then held the Lions to 5 points in two of the final three quarters. Only in the third, when they hit three 3-pointers, did the visitors score in double figures, with 15.

In the meantime, Livingston Academy hit for 13 in the second period to lead 28-10 at half time, and hit 11 and 12 in the final two periods.

Coach Melton said, "They passed the ball around a lot, but in doing so, they didn't get many shots. And although the low scoring didn't make us look all that good on the floor, we got some good performances out of our guards, Dunn and Todd Smith. They took charge on the floor, and I was glad to see that."

Ruble led the LA attack with 13 points while Dunn added 11 to be the only Wildcats in double figures.

Before the game, Matthews said he felt like his team would score well, but when it was over, he had a better view of the outcome.

"They just threw it around, and it probably kept us from scoring a lot tonight," Matthews explained. "It didn't keep us from winning, and that's the big picture. We didn't rebound as good as we would have liked, but again, we won, and that was what was important."

After hosting Cookeville on Monday, Dec. 12, the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats will travel to Smithville on Friday, Dec. 16 to take on DeKalb County for a final district matchup before hitting the Christmas tournament trail, with the first stop at Cookeville for the MidSouth Classic on December 19-22.

Two days after Christmas, the Lady Wildcats will travel to Greeneville for the Greene County Tournament, and the Wildcats will journey to Nashville's East Literature Magnet School on December 28 for the East Literature Tournament.

When the Christmas break is over, the two Wildcats teams will be on the road for three straight contests, not returning home until January 17 for a big district game with Upperman.

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Sportswriter applauds efforts of Championship Wildcats

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Sitting around on cold winter nights gives a person a lot of time to think about things, and I'm no exception. When the sun goes down at 4:30 in the afternoon and it's still three and a half hours until I can use my cell phone free, I tend to get into the habit of watching the news.

The only thing wrong with watching the news around here is what you hear at 4:30 you get repeated at 5, and what they tell you at 5, you hear again at 6, and the "teasers" they hang you with that may really be something you want to see will be on at 10. Well, with total darkness at 4:30, I'm certainly sound asleep at 10.

So, while you watch the weather 10 times in less than an hour, take a short nap and wake up only to be still watching the weather, there's plenty of time to let your mind wander off to something else.

First off, there's still a couple things that need to be said about this year's Livingston Academy State 3A Championship team. Since there are five classes in Tennessee, and Livingston won at the 3 level, why are they ranked 8th in the final poll? Beats me. My guess is they should be, that's right, 3rd.

But then again, I didn't get a vote. But if I had, then whoever won the 5A title would be number 1; the 4A title number 2, and so forth and so on. After all, when all the dust had settled, they were the winners, and losers don't count.

And another thing. This "Cinderella" thing has rubbed me wrong for a long time. Livingston wasn't a Cinderella team at all. They were good from the very get-go. The Wildcats were 11-2 last season, and returned 15 seniors. If they had to have a “tag” then it would have been "slow starters". Once they got it rolling, nothing could stop them.

I'd be willing to bet that David Lipscomb felt more like they were beheaded by Attila the Hun than run over by a pumpkin.

And how about LA star Wilson Cates not even being nominated for "Mr. Football"? If there's a better all-around player in Tennessee high school football, I'd like to see him.

No disrespect to the 3A player who won the award, but sorry, he ain't it. The young man played for White House and rushed for over 1,700 yards this past season, a remarkable feat to say the least, but let's just take a serious look how Cates matched up.

On the season, Wilson rushed for 1,516 yards. Now that's not 1,700, but it's darn close. In addition to that, Cates threw for another 942 that included 9 touchdowns. Now 1,516 and 942 come to 2,458 total offensive yards - a lot more than 1,700.

But we're not through. No sir. In addition to his playing time on the field as quarterback for the Wildcats, he also played in the LA defensive secondary and is credited with 138 solo tackles. So out of 48 minutes of a regular football game, Cates is on the field 48 minutes.

Oh yeah, Wilson also punted for a 38-yard average. He averaged 21 yards per carry on kickoff returns and 20 yards per carry on punt returns. By the way, he scored 118 points, too.

So who's Mr. Football in 3A high school football this year? Some young man from White House got the trophy, but the main reason was, he lived close enough to Nashville to get the needed press coverage. In my book, it wasn't even close.

And there's another thing that needs to be addressed: Coach of the Year.

With Cates not being named Player of the Year and Livingston finishing 8th in the final poll, it looks as if Livingston Academy Head Coach Matt Eldridge hasn't got a prayer. Hopefully somebody, somewhere will finally realize that Livingston Academy was a super team in 2005 with outstanding players and a coaching staff that didn't just drive the bus to the games.

Some would say that with the players on this year's team, it was easy to be a good coach. After all, Eldridge and his staff had just about every player back from a team that went 11-2 last year and to the third round of the playoffs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For sure the players were there, but the one thing that has to be realized was that suddenly, Livingston, a small community stuck way back on the Cumberland Plateau, was thrown into a new region this fall with the likes of some of the best teams historically in the state.

No longer did the Wildcats get to play Cannon County, Jackson County, etc. Now they had to face all the powerhouse schools around Knoxville such as Catholic, Fulton, and Austin East. It was still 3A football, but at a much higher level.

"This year our players had to go into every game with the knowledge that they could no longer expect to make even a single mistake, and win," Eldridge said early in the year. "Our kids have to play every play knowing that the opposition is bigger and quicker than anything they have faced before."

In order for that to happen, Eldridge and his staff of Danny McCoin, David Clouse, Bruce Lamb, Grant Swallows, and Bobby Gore, had to make some changes just to be respectable.

"We knew we had the talent, but we also knew that each week we all had to work a little harder than we had before," the coach pointed out later in the year. "If you stay the same in this region, you get whipped."

So changes were made. Despite an up and down regular season, the Wildcats won the games they had to win, when they had to win them, and every player on the team was quick to point out that there were changes.

Cates pointed out late in the season that the coaches had made some big changes in the way the option was run and also how the defense had to react. When it came to "crunch time", the changes led to victories and victories led to the state title.

"I would have to say we (the coaching staff) probably had to work harder this year than we did last year, simply because our opponents were much better," Eldridge pointed out. "We could no longer expect to jump out to a 40-0 lead at half time and then let the players rest. Not this year."

And although it was basically the same three offensive plays - up the middle and the option around either end, it took timing and execution to make it happen.

It took coaching, and Eldridge was the man that made the changes happen. He recognized what needed to be done and saw to it that it got done - the job of a head coach.

Cates didn't get the top honor and the team didn't finish high enough in the final poll. If the old saying of "two wrongs don't make a right" has any credibility, then hopefully the right thing will be done this time around and Matt Eldridge will be named 3A Coach of the Year.

And finally, there's a group of young men that need to have their efforts recognized.

While Cates, Vaughn, Ford, Coffee and all the others were getting their names in the papers and on the radio, there was another group that worked just as hard, just as long, but spent most Friday nights watching from the sidelines: the rest of the team.

I know what it's like to be a "tackling dummy". Way back in my high school days, I went out for the football team, but just wasn't big enough to play much. I went to a big high school, and our team won a lot of games, but I spent most of my practice time holding the big bags while the first and second team linemen "knocked me down".

Maybe my time would have come, but I didn't stick around to find out.

So to all of you who spent every afternoon being run over by the first team and who cheered every Friday night from the sidelines, here's a hats off to you. The state championship is just as much yours as anybody's.

To Jonathan Sullivan, Clint Cooper, Josh Simpson, Joe Reynolds, Cody Waddey, Dustin Looper, Jonathan Brown, Josh Huitt, Colton Hummel, Kevin Scott, Jordan Bailey, Gary Massengille, Josh Coffee, Kiefer Smith, Sam Nelson, Jeremiah Jackson, Terrance Melton, David Petry, Blake Moon, Levi Cobble, Colby Loftis, Brad Pendergraft, Jesse Cole, Josh Looper, Bobby Perdue, Ethan Livingston, John Willeford, Justin Gore, and Jacob Collins, here's a special "thank you".

Now the job will be passed on to you. Next year your time will come, and we'll be looking to you on Friday nights to get the job done. You were lucky enough to get to play with the best, now it will be your turn to carry on the tradition. You may have thought you weren't all that important, but you were.

Be ready next fall.

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