By Mac McLeod,
Any time someone takes a look ahead, it only takes a few seconds to take one last glance back. Such is the case for most coaches. They understand looking back is only a memory and looking ahead is the task at hand.
So before we take that look ahead, let’s take a quick look back at the 2018-19 edition of the Livingston Academy Wildcats. This look is, for the most part, a good one. The Cats had only three seniors on the roster, but with a strong supporting role, the Cats managed to post a fine 23-10 overall record, won the regular season District 8, 2A crown and reached the semifinals of the region before ending the year.
To say the least, it was successful, but it’s time to move on, take that look ahead and get ready for a season that’s certain to be exciting.
“Right now, I’m looking for a permanent place to play, and for Bruce (LA head football coach Bruce Lamb) to give me back my players,” Livingston Academy head coach Jimmy Miller said with a slight grin. “As just about everybody knows, the gym floor here has had a lot of damage, for whatever the reason, and after replacing part of it, we found out we needed to redo the entire floor. When that was determined, it was too late to get the job done, so we’re going with a false floor on top of the one that’s there.
“ I’m not sure how that will work,” the coach continued, “but we will have to make it work, so we’re just getting ready with what we have for what we are facing. We lost Cody Ray, Mitchell Ayers, and Kyle Allen to graduation, and Cayden Jones has moved to Algood, so we will be looking to replace some good players, and I guess you could say we will be kinda rebuilding.”
And as the start of the season nears, Miller is still waiting for Will McDonald, Aubrey Hollars, Nate Carwile, and Ayden Coffee, who are currently working hard to advance the LA football team in the state playoffs. McDonald, Hollars, and Carwile will be critical factors in any success the team has this season.
“And as it has always been, it takes a month for football players to get in basketball shape,” the coach added.
So just where do the Wildcats stand?
For sure there’s going to be junior Matthew Sells, one of the top players around and who is certain to again leave a big mark on the 2019-2020 season. Sells will enter the season with a career total of 1,209 points, crossing the magical 1,000-point mark last year in Baxter.
“We know how important Matthew will be to our success, but so does every other team in the district; so he can expect to be subjected to a lot of pressure,” Miller pointed out, “but it will not be anything new to him. He was very good when he came here and has been double-teamed ever since. He will carry a big load, but he’s gotten bigger, better, and tougher since last year.”
The Wildcats will have to replace Ray and Ayers, who were critical to last year’s success, and that task will fall on McDonald, Hollars, and Carwile, along with improved play from Parker Coleman and Hunter Coffman, but juniors.
“That group will have to step up and help Matthew, that’s all there is to it,” Miller continued. “There’s talent there and they will have to really work hard for us to be successful. As a matter of fact, every player on this team can earn a starting spot, but they are going to have to earn it. Spots will be there for those who really want to play.”
Battling for those spots will include sophomores Blaine Melton, Nick Choate, Ayden Coffee, Brookston Campbell, Dawson Simmons, and Hayden Ledbetter. A starter could easily come from this group as most saw action last season.
Freshmen Easton Goodpasture, Eli Melton, and Isaac Story round out the roster, and there is some strong talent in this group.
“Normally, you lose players every season who you really hate to see go,” Miller continued, “but that’s high school basketball, so you have to be ready to replace them with the talent you have available. Here at LA we’ve managed to keep a good flow of talent coming up from the grade schools where we have an outstanding program, enthused kids, and outstanding coaches. We may take our lumps from time to time, but overall, things are looking good here.”
So who looks good in the district, where last year Livingston took the regular season title, Upperman won the tournament, and both lost in the regional tournament to Watertown and York?
“All those will be strong again this season,” the coach pointed out. “Bobby (McWilliams at Upperman) looks loaded again this year. I don’t think Watertown lost a player, and York did lose a couple but will be tough. It’s a very strong district and has been year in and year out with our teams going all the way to the state tournament on a regular basis.
“Our kids love the challenge, and we’ll be right there in it, “ Miller concluded.
Miller is starting his 10th season as LA’s head coach and brings an impressive 208-90 record to the season opener.
Nate Kennard will again join Miller as the assistant coach, a position Miller will quickly point out is “as important as the head coach, and Nate fills the spot well.”
Livingston Academy opens its season Thursday, Nov. 21 in the Hall of Fame tournament, playing at Jackson County. December 12 will be the first home game for the Wildcats, against the always strong Bobcats of Pickett County.