Abraham returning for Chargers


Oxford QB Jack Abraham and one of three leading receivers, Kyree White, are returning to the Chargers lineup this week.

Abraham, the Journal’s reining offensive player of the year, has missed four games while recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. White has been out since Sept. 19 with a broken collarbone.

The Chargers (8-1, 5-0 Division 1-5A), the Journal’s No. 2 large school, have rolled right along under sophomore Ben Bianco at QB.

While he has thrown for only 149 yards per game, through three games he had completed 63 percent of his 57 passes for six touchdowns and zero interceptions, a QBR of 126.8. He completed 9-of-18 for 105 yards last week in a 17-0 win at Clarksdale, the first time in four games the Chargers had been help below 42 points.

And in three games following Abraham’s injury, Oxford rushed for 371, 271 and 226 yards. The previous high was 148 against East Side.

Coach Johnny Hill plans to use both quarterbacks, making defenses prepare for two styles of offense.

Bianco can run the option and he can throw and with Abraham’s ability to spread it around with 64-percent efficiency, that puts a lot of pressure on defenses. Despite missing so much time, Abraham is still sixth in 5A in passing with 1,603 yards. His 320 yards per is first.

“I think it’s been a really good thing. Other guys have kind of picked up their thing without Jack and Kyree, a little more run oriented. They had to step the run game up and they did,” Hill said. “Jack is real good in practice. His arm is a lot stronger now. He’s rested his arm. It may be the first time he’s rested it since seventh grade.”


Posted in Football, Recruiting

Former Charger Pegues chooses Cyclones

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Xavier Pegues admits what kept him from playing senior college football out of high school, his grades. But after two years at Itawamba CC, Pegues has turned a stumbling block into an even bigger opportunity than he was getting after his senior season at Oxford High.

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive end, a 3-star by 247Sports, committed to Iowa State earlier this month, along with ICC DE teammate Larry Jefferson.

“He’s a really good player. He’s got a lot of raw ability,” Oxford coach Johnny Hill said. “I always thought he would make a heck of a tight end too, really good hands and good speed for his size. You could tell he was one of those (Division I) athletes.”

Pegues and Jefferson visited the Cyclones campus for the Toledo game. Jefferson, originally a West Virginia commit, committed a day before Pegues’ Oct. 13 commitment. Pegues added some 40 pounds after high school and is expected to play defensive tackle.

“They like how I can play inside-outside, motor,” Pegues said earlier this season.

South Alabama was the first to offer. He chose Iowa State over a plethora of offers from the Big 12, Conference USA and Pac-12. His sheet included Arkansas State, California, Georgia State, Southern Miss, Texas-San Antonio, UAB, West Virginia and Middle Tennessee.

Xavier Pegues (Courtesy ICC_

(Photo courtesy ICC)

Posted in Football, Recruiting

Video: Amory falls in 4A slow pitch championship

Amory, for the second straight year, won 4A North, only to face a buzzsaw. Powerhouse Newton County has swept the Lady Panthers the last two seasons, but after the game, Amory coach Chris Pace was nothing short of complimentary of the opponent.

Here is the story from the Monroe Journal’s @melissameador14 and some video with Pace.

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Posted in Sports

Video: Nettleton falls in 3A slow pitch finals


Nettleton lost Games 2 and 3 to fall in the Class 3A state championship series Saturday against Philadelphia. Here is a link to the story from @genephelps, as well as some video with coach Dana Rhea, or as the struggling PA announcer said, “Donna Rayha.”


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Video: East Webster sweeps Hatley in 2A finals


East Webster and Hatley played a rare tight slow pitch softball series Saturday at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland, ending with East Webster’s 1-0 win in Game 2 to win the Lady Wolves’ first slow-pitch title.

Here is the game story from Sunday’s #DJournal, as well as video with EW senior Autumn Frost and Hatley coach Chris George.

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BRANDON SPECK: Upset Nettleton coach right, MHSAA wrong (again)


RIDGELAND – Nettleton and Philadelphia scored 17 runs in the first two innings in Game 3 of Saturday’s Class 3A slow-pitch championship. But when the sun popped its way onto the scene, there were only two more runs scored.

Nettleton lost the championship by losing Game 3 13-6. Ater the game, Nettleton coach Dana Rhea was openly unthrilled with having to play the game with his hitters – and theirs – squinting into the sun at the plate. Rhea said the umpires were even having trouble seeing.

“You play all year long to have an opportunity to win the biggest prize of the year,” Rhea said. “It’s sad that you’ve got to play in that situation, like that.”

Rhea lobbied during the game to move to a different field. Two were open at Freedom Ridge Park. I’ve covered Rhea and Nettleton through their championship dynasty in slow and fast pitch and Rhea isn’t an excuser. He’s a straight shooter. And before you see his comments as excuses or whining, load this into your equation. And he’s right on target.

When teams play with the sun going down all season, the most important game should be at the same time. Why let an outside element play such a big role? Heck, I’m for home-and-away series. Better for the fans.

And should the sun have been a factor anyway? Nettleton won Game 1, and wasn’t scheduled to play Game 2 until 3 p.m. Game 3 wouldn’t have been played until 6 p.m., the same time the teams play all year, no sun, just the game played by the players.

But the Mississippi High School Activities Association, which was so anxious to start the game early, was quick to move the game time up, but unresponsive to changing fields to assure a pure game.

And nevermind if some had left the field to eat lunch and came back only to see their kids in the fourth inning of a game that wasn’t supposed to start until 3. (Though that could be helped if the chicken sandwiches weren’t $5.50 and snow cones $3.50.)

Weather and conditions play a role in sports. But man-made decisions led to a game that was played in conditions it didn’t have to be played in.

Rhea is right. The MHSAA, as usual, is wrong.

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Video: Smithville celebrates 1A slow pitch title


Smithville swept Sebastapol on Saturday at Freedom Ridge Park to claim its third title in four years. The Lady Seminoles won it all in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Smithville, and the other three Monroe County schools in Ridgeland Saturday – Hatley, Nettleton and Amory – play each other in a gauntlet in their own backyards.

Smithville beat Hamilton to win the north.

“It’s a good softball atmosphere around our county,” Smithville coach Jeremy Duke said, “obviously with four teams down here. It’s pretty cool to be around that area of softball and it be so competitive.”

Here is the celebration and video with Duke.

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Scores from Saturday, Oct. 25

MHSAA ChampionshipsAt Freedom Ridge Park, Ridgeland

Class 1A
Smithville 5-12, Sebastopol 1-8
Smithville wins series 2-0

Class 2A
East Webster 7-1, Hatley 3-0
East Webster wins series 2-0

Class 3A
Philadelphia 4-8-13, Nettleton 6-7-6
Philadelphia wins series 2-1

Class 4A
Newton County 10-16, Amory 7-1
Newton County wins series 2-0

MHSAA quarterfinals

Class I
Corinth 3, Lafayette 2
Senatobia 3, Ripley 0

Posted in Sports

Four Downs Week 10: City done run house

Week 10 hath come and gone and for three of the state’s classes, there is one more week in the regular season. Here are four things we learned from Friday.

1. Calhoun City was efficient in a beatdown.

In a 42-7 thrashing of No. 3 Eupora, No. 1  Calhoun City was very efficient. The Wildcats had five possessions in the first half and scored five touchdowns. Brieton Sykes (143) and Chakel Gates (166) combined for 309 yards on the ground and five of the touchdowns. They are relentless and run behind a stout line. Gates scored on a 69-yard run on the Wildcats’ first play and after Sykes ran out of bounds on an otherwise tackle-breaking, highlight-reel touchdown run, he just punched it in from a yard out. Jesse Nabors ran for a touchdown and 66 yards.

And the defense held 1,000-yard Eupora back Lamonte Salley to 42 yards on 14 carries. City was efficient and effective. I haven’t seen Bassfield, but Calhoun City does it all well. Gates only threw three passes, but completed them all. A City vs. Bassfield rematch would be fun, but as quick as we’ve been to crown Calhoun, Baldwyn is sneaking around in the state’s Top 5 as well. The Bearcats are 9-1 and would have been 10-0 if not for a weather-delayed loss at Saltillo. Baldwyn has a good front and rushers with the same firepower City has. Plus Jacob Turner has shown he can effectively lead a passing game. If Baldwyn’s defense, which is as good as any in North 2A, can halt Sykes, then Baldwyn-Calhoun City is the most appealing North title possibility.

2. Thursday Halloween treat.

North Pontotoc and Mooreville are giving us an Oct. 30 pail of goodness. The two are both 4-0 and play Thursday in Ecru. Winner wins division, a division North has claimed stake on, but Mooreville has proved over and over that it belongs in the conversation of. I know North coach Brian Sutton respects the Troopers. He’s told me as much. But not everyone thinks they can win. I know they can. I have no idea who I’ll pick in a game that will be one for the ages. The two are ranked in the Journal’s Top 5 medium schools and North is No. 4 in the AP poll.

3. Armani Linton has “it.”

After Baldwyn beat Walnut by 43 points in a game Walnut badly wanted to win, Wildcats’ Ole Miss-commit Armani Linton talked with Jeff Roberts in a video interview I’ll post later. Linton has just grinded for every hard yard he got in a disappointing loss and no one would have blamed him for not wanting to talk.

But Linton was as gracious after the loss as he is after a win.Kid has it physically and kid has it mentally and personally. He’ll be an impact player at Ole Miss sooner than you think.

4. Thursday granted a Hatley first.

With Mantachie beating East Union and Hatley winning at New Site, Hatley clinched its first-ever playoff berth. Hatley has been playing football since 1963, the last tenured team in Mississippi that hadn’t gone to the postseason since its 1981 inception. That is over. I’ll be talking with coach Patrick Schooler, a Hatley grad, about a win that I promise you has turned Hatley upside down with excitement.

Posted in Football, Recruiting

Gene and Brandon’s Picks Week 10

Gene went 5-9 last week to move to 33-7 and take a commanding lead on Brandon, who went 3-2 to go to 28-12.

This week

Tupelo at DeSoto Central

Gene: Tupelo; Brandon: Tupelo


Calhoun City at Eupora

Gene: Eupora; Brandon: Calhoun City


Kossuth at Mooreville

Gene: Mooreville; Brandon: Mooreville


West Point at Saltillo

Gene: West Point; Brandon: West Point


Walnut at Baldwyn

Gene: Baldwyn; Brandon: Baldwyn

Posted in Football, Sports

Area football scores from Thursday, Oct. 23

Biggersville 34, Houlka 27
Hatley 20, New Site 14
Mantachie 40, East Union 16

Posted in Sports

Hickory Flat coach dies in car accident


Hickory Flat softball coach Cyndal Cleveland died Thursday evening in a car accident. Cleveland was in her second year as a teacher and coach. She was a standout basketball and softball player at Mantachie and in 2010 wrapped up a standout softball career at Itawamba CC.

Itawamba County medical examiner Steven McNeese said Cleveland, who was traveling alone, was pronounced dead at the scene of a three-car accident on Hwy. 371 in Ozark. He said Cleveland’s vehicle went down an embankment and into trees. Two others were injured.

“We are greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Cleveland,” said ICC Athletic Director Carrie Ball-Williamson. “Cyndal was your ideal student-athlete both on the field and in the classroom. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and Hickory Flat High School.”

Photo courtesy Itawamba CC

Photo courtesy Itawamba CC


Posted in Sports

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