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Archives 11-14-2007

Sports

Future positive for Wildcats football
Thompson shot puts FHU past Harris-Stowe


Future positive for Wildcats football

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports file
The goal looms large as Coach Grant Swallows walks the field before a game this past season.

By MAC McLEOD,
OCN Sports

With two back-to-back 1-9 seasons behind them, it would be easy for the Livingston Academy Wildcats to toss in the towel claiming the toughest schedule in the state and little or no possibilities of getting much better. But with his first season as head coach behind him, Grant Swallows is already looking ahead to next fall.

“When the season started I really felt we had a chance to win two or three of our games, depending on how we developed,” the freshman coach explained, “but in our third game we were pounded by Kingston (54-14), then had a week off and faced the number one team in the state, and things just didn’t work out.

“We lost our confidence early in the season and never had a real good chance of getting it back.”

With a state championship in their hip pocket following the 2005 season, the Wildcats graduated 17 starters, leaving a mere skeleton of the previous team. In 2006 things went from bad to worse, and the 1-9 record was a good indication of how freshmen and sophomores stack up against juniors and seniors.

“Danny (McCoin) really had a tough job following the championship team,” Swallows went on. “He had a team with very, very little playing experience.

“In winning the championship, the first team players played most of every game simply because they had to to keep it rolling. Young players simply didn’t get any playing time until the next year, and suddenly they were on the field against quicker and stronger players than they had ever faced.

“Last year we had a lot of the same situation, and eventually, losing becomes a mental thing. You lose enough and you start thinking ‘losing’ and we have to overcome that and some other things to turn things back to the way they were before.

Swallows is well aware of what it takes to play competitively in Region 2-3A, and although the season has been over one week, players are already working out to get in better shape and develop more speed.

“To play at this level, it takes speed and strength. Our kids have found that out the hard way. Speed is something you can’t really coach, but strength is something we can definitely work on and we are.

“Already we have met with every player returning next year and evaluated what they did or didn’t do last year and what they need to do to correct that. Right now they are over in the weight room working out. Football isn’t something you do in the fall and forget it, its something you work on all year long,” the coach continued.

“Upper body strength is essential , especially in the line, if you expect to have a half a chance,” Swallows pointed out. “In practice, our sophomores look pretty good, but that’s because they are practicing against sophomores. On Friday night, they face juniors and seniors and it’s totally different, as they quickly found out.”

Despite the 1-9 record, Swallows points to numerous bright spots and firmly believes the Wildcats will be a much improved team next fall.
“First off, I was proud of the leadership our seniors showed,” the coach said. “Cody Atkins, Johnathon Sullivan, Steven Morgan, Gary Massengille, John Willeford, they all gave 100 percent all of the time, and Willeford and Massengille were named the team’s captains.

“Now it will be up to the juniors and sophomores coming back, and they know what they have to do to be competitive,” Swallows continued. Our offensive line looks good with (Josh) Beaty, (Seth) Kilgore, (Josh) Looper, Justin Hill, those are four starters that played a lot, and Ethan Livingston came in and played some, and I believe those guys have the making of a very good offensive line.”

“On the defensive side of the ball, I was impressed with Terrence Melton. He will undergo surgery during the off-season that will slow him somewhat, but I expect him back by summer. Jake Beu and Talon Sircy look good at defensive tackle. Seth (Kilgore) and Kiefer Smith played a lot at defensive end and all of these players will be counted on heavily next season. They will just have to work hard during the off-season to get faster and stronger,” the coach went on.

“In the defensive backfield, Cody (Stafford) played just about everywhere and did a good job everywhere we played him. And Brannon (McCoin) at times was the best defensive player on the field. He’s got speed and he made several key tackles that saved touchdowns. He has good instincts. And on the offensive side of the ball, he grew up a lot,“ Swallows continued.

“I spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks, and when you realize what Brannon has been through over the past two season, its easy to see why he may question himself at times. We just have to work with him to get his confidence back. He’s got the ability.”

Swallows went on to point out that Blake Moon “really came on strong as a receiver, and Stenson Smith, although he never really played a lot before last year, did a good job catching the ball. Colton Hummel was another player that really came on strong. At the start of the year you would have never convinced me he would end up our starting fullback. His desire and determination carries him a long way.”

“Ethan McDonald was hampered with injuries and we are expecting a lot from him next year as well as Kiefer Smith. Kiefer can make a difference for us. He really had a good job against York and we expect him to get better and better,” Swallows continued.

Looking back and looking ahead, Swallows is realistic.

“We’ve gone though a very tough rebuilding experience,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t think it would be this tough, but in the real world, it is. We play the toughest schedule in the state, and that coupled with a very young team has been tough on us these past two seasons.

“But things are looking up. We have got to work on our speed, both offensively and defensively. Several times this season we just weren’t fast enough to close a hole or to get through one.

“And we have to change our mentality. We have got to think we are as good as the teams we’re playing, and success can do that. If you look back at the championship team, it was all a matter of those guys going on the field knowing they could win. There was no doubt in their minds and they did it, and that’s what we need to do now.

“We want our kids to feel like ‘we don’t care who you are, we are going to go after you’. When you do that, then a big part of the battle is won.

“And one last thing,” Swallows concluded. “I felt like our fans stayed with us through thick and thin. I really felt like they saw our kids weren’t giving up and they stayed with us. That’s very important. Young people are sensitive to that kind of thing and I felt like our fans really stayed with us all season, and we appreciated that.”

Two disappointing seasons are now just a memory and things move on. When the Wildcats take the field next season, it should be a more mature group with more experience and a better understanding of just what it takes to compete at the level they are trying to compete at.

Easy? No, it won’t be easy at all, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
“There are some good things on the horizon for us and I just tell people to hang in there with us. We are going to work hard to make sure good things happen, and we have the players to make it happen. Rebuilding is a tough job, especially from where we had to start, but its coming. We can’t wait ‘til next season to see our efforts fall in place,” Swallows concluded.


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Thompson shot puts FHU past Harris-Stowe

Sophomore Jana Cross poured in 33 points, and it was just enough as the number 8 ranked Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions basketball team slid past Harris-Stowe 67-63 in Saturday’s homecoming matchup.

The Lady Lions looked to be in control from the top, taking a 4-0 lead after a Harris-Stowe technical foul. Despite a Lady Hornet run to close the gap to 3, FHU responded as Whitney Johnson converted on two free throws to take a double-digit advantage with just over 8 minutes to play.

The quick and athletic Lady Hornets, who received votes in the NAIA pre-season poll, scored 11 first half points off of turnovers to pull within 4 with 30 seconds to go. But senior Meredith McLemore sunk two free throws in the last 10 seconds to head into halftime with the Harris-Stowe down by 6.

FHU scored two quick baskets to open up the second half and extend the lead to 9. Shooting 52% from the field, the Lady Lions would hold that advantage for much of the half until HSSU got a put-back to pull within a point and then connected on three consecutive shots from 3-point land to take a 6-point lead.

Facing a 7-point deficit with less than 3 minutes remaining in the contest, All-American post Jana Cross pulled the Lady Lions within 4 on a traditional 3-point play. After forcing the Lady Hornets into two crucial turnovers, McLemore scored 3 of her 11 points and the lead was cut to a single point.

With another crucial defensive stop, Freed-Hardeman regained possession of the ball, and with 1:19 to play, senior guard Megan Thompson delivered the biggest shot of the night, sinking a 3-pointer to go up 65-63. A Cross basket with 46 seconds left sealed the game and gave the Lady Lions a 67-63 victory.

Thompson, a former Livingston Academy standout, finished the game with 9 points from three 3-pointers. She made 8 assists, pulled down 3 rebounds, and had 4 steals in the game.

Freed-Hardeman University improved to 3-0 on the 2007-2008 season. The Lady Lions will face perhaps their biggest test of the season this weekend as they travel to Union University to compete in the annual Rotary classic Tournament.

 

 


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Obituaries
01-03-2007
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01-17-2007
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02-14-2007
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02-28-2007
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08-29-2007
09-05-2007
09-12-2007
09-19-2007
09-26-2007
10-03-2007
10-10-2007
10-17-2007
10-24-2007
10-31-2007
11-07-2007
11-14-2007




Sports
01-03-2007
01-10-2007
01-17-2007
01-24-2007
01-31-2007
02-07-2007
02-14-2007
02-21-2007
02-28-2007
03-07-2007
03-14-2007
03-21-2007
03-28-2007
04-04-2007
04-11-2007
04-18-2007
04-25-2007
05-02-2007
05-09-2007
05-16-2007
05-23-2007
05-30-2007
06-06-2007
06-13-2007
06-20-2007
06-27-2007
07-04-2007
07-11-2007
07-18-2007
07-25-2007
08-01-2007
08-08-2007
08-15-2007
08-22-2007
08-29-2007
09-05-2007
09-12-2007
09-19-2007
09-26-2007
10-03-2007
10-10-2007
10-17-2007
10-24-2007
10-31-2007
11-07-2007
11-14-2007


   
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