Urchins grind out win in opener

Zane Wilkinson hauls in a touchdown pass from Lane Plunk in the second quarter. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Zane Wilkinson hauls in a touchdown pass from Lane Plunk in the second quarter. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
OKOLONA – East Union used their running game to grind out a 21-12 win over Houlka in their 2014 season opener on Thursday. East Union rushed for 200 yards and distributed the work between four runners including quarterback Lane Plunk.
“Defensively, I thought we looked pretty good, East Union coach Scott Duley said. “One touchdown scored at the end of the half was my fault, not our players fault. Offensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do, we did not execute well, we fumbled the ball, we had penalties.”
East Union jumped out to a quick lead and then had to rely on their defense to hold Houlka scoreless in the second half despite the fact that Houlka ran nearly twice as many plays as the Urchins did during the final two periods.
East Union got on the scoreboard in the first quarter with 1:52 left as Cage West scored from the three to put the Urchins up 6-0. Lane Plunk added the PAT and East Union led 7-0. The Urchins had a short field to work with and drove 35 yards in seven plays.
The Urchins scored again on their next possession, driving 40 yards in four plays. The touchdown came on a three yard pass from Plunk to Zane Wilkinson with 10:04 left in the second quarter. Plunk’s PAT made the score 14-0.
Houlka wasted little time in getting in the end zone as they took only three plays to march 49 yards. The touchdown was scored on a Tyreque Reed 39 yard run at 8:28 in the second quarter. The run attempt failed.
East Union failed to run out the clock before the half ended and Houlka took possession with two seconds left. Reed hit a wide open Frankie Young with a 32 yard strike to narrow the score to 14-12, but again East Union stuffed the run attempt for two and the teams went to half with that score.
East Union took possession first in the second half but gave it away on a fumble at the 50 yard line. The Urchin defense rose to the challenge and forced a punt after Houlka had moved the ball as far as the Urchin 37. The punt was blocked and East Union recovered to end the threat.
East Union would score the game’s final touchdown with 11:19 left in the game as West scored his second touchdown of the night, this time from eight yards out. Plunk connected on the PAT and the Urchins led by the final winning margin of 21-12.
Chase Hall led all rushers with 66 yards and Cage West had 61 yards and two touchdowns. Jamie McCullough added 45 yards, all in the first half.
Plunk was 4-9 passing for 50 yards and one touchdown. Wilkinson had the reception for the touchdown.
“It was amazing, my first quarterback start I’ve had,” East Union quarterback Lane Plunk said. “I got those butterflies on the way down here, but once I stepped on the field, it just went away. We had those mix-ups, but we just pushed through and kept going, we held them to zero in the second half.”
Duley mentioned the play of linebacker Jessie Keller as being key for the Urchins. East Union had several players that saw the field for the first time on Thursday.
“I was very proud of our defensive line, I thought they did a good job,” Duley said. “I was pleased with our defensive effort. We got tired and when your kids get tired, you’re just happy to get the W and move on.”

Lady Urchins down Falkner in softball

Rebecca Sheffield is safe at second during the game against Falkner on Tuesday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Rebecca Sheffield is safe at second during the game against Falkner on Tuesday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ELLISTOWN – East Union jumped out to an early lead and took a 9-4 win at home on Tuesday. The Lady Urchins scored all their runs in the first three innings.
“I thought we came out very hot,” East Union coach Josh Blythe said. “I thought we came out and hit the ball pretty hard. I thought we hit exceptionally well, that’s one thing we talk about all the time is hitting the ball well. I’m proud of the kids and I tip my hat to Falkner, they’re a much improved ball club.”
East Union did hit the ball well as they had a total of 14 hits on the day. East Union had 10 hits by the end of the third inning as they held a 9-0 lead.
East Union was paced at the plate by Rebecca Sheffield’s three hits. Sheffield had three RBIs, scored two runs and had a double.
Callie Frazier also had three RBIs and two hits.
East Union took a 3-0 lead after one after sending seven batters to the plate. Frazier drove in Sheffield and Castillo with her double. Claudia Hill had a RBI single that later scored Frazier.
In the East Union second, the Lady Urchins sent nine batters to the plate and scored three more runs to go up 6-0. Sheffield had a two RBI single and Frazier added a RBI single in the inning.
East Union scored their final three runs of the game in the third inning as Jaley White drove in two runs with her single and Sheffield struck again with her RBI single.
Sallie Pannell was the winning pitcher, holding Falkner scoreless in all but one inning. Falkner used four hits and an error to score their runs during the top of the fourth.
Castillo had a busy day for East Union in the outfield as she recorded five putouts in the last two innings and got an assist on the other out, throwing out a Falkner runner at third on a routine hit.
“We’re starting to get stronger now and it’s beginning to pay dividends,” Blythe said.” To me that’s what the most fun part of this is, watching those kids that started playing in the seventh grade and now they have become real good ballplayers. You just hope that you can encourage them along the way. I got to give a shout-out to fans too, there’s folks everywhere, it’s like a playoff game. It’s always fun to get a win.”
Jaley White rounds second and heads for third during Monday's game at home. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Jaley White rounds second and heads for third with a triple during Tuesday’s game. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Three area schools play in West Union tournament

Gracen Conlee of West Union retires the sliding Ashton Hogue of Myrtle at second and fires the ball over to first in an attempted double play. Marley Long looks on after her defensive effort began the play. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Gracen Conlee of West Union retires the sliding Ashton Hogue of Myrtle at second and fires the ball over to first in an attempted double play. Marley Long looks on after her defensive effort began the play. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ENTERPRISE – West Union hosted their preseason tournament with fellow Union County teams Ingomar and Myrtle participating in the six game event along with Falkner, Oxford and Hickory Flat. Each team played two games with a one hour time limit or seven innings.
Ingomar 16, Oxford 5
Ingomar turned a one run deficit after one inning into a 16-5 win. Ingomar sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning to regain the lead at 9-5. Kelly Fooshee’s double drove in two of the Ingomar runs.
Ingomar scored seven runs in the top of the third to seal the win. Morgan Gooch’s single drove in three runs in the inning. Carson Grisham was the winning pitcher for the Lady Falcons.
Falkner 5, Ingomar 4
Ingomar jumped out to the early 3-0 lead after an inning, but Falkner broke a 4-4 tie with a run in the top of the fourth to take the win. Ingomar stranded two runners in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Lauren Thompson had three RBIs for Ingomar and Kasey Carson drove in the other Ingomar run. Gara Beth Self, Maggie Smithey and Erin Wall had multiple hits for the Lady Falcons.
West Union 18, Hickory Flat 1
West Union introduced a new era in softball as Hugh Yates began his high school coaching career against Hickory Flat. The Lady Rebels struck for a run in the top of the first. West Union scored 18 unanswered runs to earn the win.
Chase Coffey had five RBIs on two hits to pace the Lady Eagles. West Union got production from three young players as Jenny Thompson, Hailey Steen and Mattie Pilcher had two hits apiece.
Myrtle 15, Hickory Flat 0
Kristen Young made her first appearance as Myrtle’s pitcher and tossed the shutout. Young also helped her own cause going 3-3 with 2 RBIs.
Myrtle scored eight runs in the first as they sent 13 batters to the plate and eight different players picked up RBIs.
Myrtle plated seven runs in the second as Megan Lowery and Amber Cook had two RBI singles to lead the Lady Hawks.
Myrtle 2, West Union 2
Myrtle and West Union battled to a 2-2 draw in seven innings of softball action as defense was steady and hits were hard to come by.
Myrtle scored first as Callie Denton drove in a run with her sacrifice fly in the top of the first.
West Union tied the game in the bottom of the inning as Jesslyn Brewer doubled and later scored on Marley Long’s single.
West Union took a 2-1 lead in the second as Jenny Thompson singled and took second on a fielding error. Chase Coffey’s sacrifice fly moved Thompson to third and she scored on Hailey Steen’s single.
Myrtle tied the game in the fifth when Heather Smith singled and drove in a run.
Post game quotes
“We spent three weeks working hard and I think it paid off today,” Myrtle coach Marty Cook said. “We scored 15 runs in the first game and hit the ball really hard. We still hit the ball very hard against West Union, but just hit it right at them.”
“I was very impressed with our defense, Kristen Young, my ninth grader came in and pitched, never had pitched a game in her life and I was very proud of her,” Cook said. “She did a great job.”
“I think our youth showed especially in our at bats by not being selective on pitches and not using the field,” West Union coach Hugh Yates said. “We’ve got to work on moving the ball and using the whole field.”
“Defensively, I couldn’t ask for us to play any better, we looked great on that,” Yates said. “We’ve got some work to do and we’ve got to be the hardest working team in Union County, in north Mississippi and the entire state”
Kristen Young had a big day on Saturday for Myrtle. Young won the opening game in her first start appearance on the mound and went 5-7 batting with two RBIs on the day. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Kristen Young had a big day on Saturday for Myrtle. Young won the opening game in her first start appearance on the mound and went 5-7 batting with two RBIs on the day. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Lauren Thompson of Ingomar singles and drives a run against Oxford on Saturday. Thompson went 3-5 with two doubles and six RBIs in two games. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Lauren Thompson of Ingomar singles and drives a run against Oxford on Saturday. Thompson went 3-5 with two doubles and six RBIs in two games. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Urchins open football season on the road

East Union has been working hard in preparation for Thursday's game with Houlka. Here the first team offense goes through a running play in Friday's practice. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

East Union has been working hard in preparation for Thursday’s game with Houlka. Here the first team offense goes through a running play in Friday’s practice. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
East Union will open the 2014 football season on the road with a Thursday night game against Houlka. The teams will meet at Okolona since Houlka does not have a football field.
I’m happy with where we are, we’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like we’ve had a good two weeks of practice,” East Union coach Scott Duley said. “I feel like our offense is where I wanted it to be at this point and we made an adjustment of defense this week that I think is really going to help us.”
East Union enters the contest healthy and the Urchins hope to remain healthy through the season due to depth issues.
Duley expects Houlka to run a 4-3 defense and probably some spread on offense. Houlka will occasionally run a heavy package out of the I formation.
Some players mentioned in the Daily Journal’s Houlka preview to watch include Tyreque Reed at quarterback, Quintavin Beaty and Wyatt Easterly at running back. Houlka returns six players on offense and defense from 2013.
“They had some really good-looking athletes last year and I know they will again this year,” Duley said. “They have a new coach and you’d expect that they are going to come out and play really hard. We don’t have any film on them, but we know as much as we can.”
Duley said they Urchins will really begin to focus on the Wildcats in practice this week. The practices up until now have been more about the Urchins and what they will do in game situations.
East Union will have a new face at quarterback as Lane Plunk will make his first start at the position on Thursday. Plunk played receiver last year.
“He’s coming and this is going to be the only year he will play the position, so he’s learning,” Duley said. “He progressed very quickly in what we hoped for and expected. Now the little things are what we are going to have to work on: clean hand-offs, setting your feet and squaring your shoulders. Those things are going to take a little longer to perfect.”
Keys to victory on Thursday night will be turnovers and defense according to Duley.
“That’s the way I feel about every game that we go into,” Duley said. “If you are on the plus side on turnovers and your defense plays well, then you’re going to always have a chance to win the game. If either one of those goes badly or both go badly, you’re in trouble.”
Coach Scott Duley will turn to senior Lane Plunk to handle the quarterback duties this season at East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Coach Scott Duley will turn to senior Lane Plunk to handle the quarterback duties this season at East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Lady Bulldogs open season with jamboree win

Emma Wilson drives home the spike for New Albany as teammates Meadow Golden, Kaitlyn Cavender and Mary  Day look on. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Emma Wilson drive home the spike for New Albany as teammates Meadow Golden, Kaitlyn Cavender and Mary Day look on. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
NEW ALBANY – New Albany opened their 2014 volleyball season with their Bulldog Brawl Jamboree at Memorial Gym on Saturday. New Albany won their opening match 2-0 over Water Valley and lost a close one 2-1 to New Hope in the nightcap.
The Lady Bulldogs used two key services to propel them to the win in the opening set 25-21. During Kaitlyn Cavender’s serve, the Lady Bulldogs rallied from a 0-2 deficit to score six points and take a 6-2 lead before her service was broken. Emma Wilson’s service resulted in seven straight points and broke an 8-8 tie, putting New Albany in the lead at 15-7. Water Valley was never able to get any closer than three points the rest of the set.
Wilson had another huge service streak in the second set as the Lady Bulldogs were again able to reel off seven straight points to take an 11-3 lead and break open the set after holding a narrow 4-3 lead.
“We had first game jitters, but they are out of the way,” New Albany coach Shay Ashford said. “After they got comfortable with it, they fell into their grove and they did really good. I felt good about today’s performance against Water Valley.”
New Albany had several new faces on the court after graduating six players from 2013 with Wilson being the veteran as far as playing time from last season. New Albany started the match with Wilson, Cavender, Beth Teague, Eira Luna, Mary Day and Meadow Golden. Reese Neely and Lenzi Sanderson came in during rotation and were contributors as well.
“Emma needed that to boost her confidence for the season and she came out with a bang,” Ashford said. “Kaitlyn is one to watch. She’s a firecracker and we just need to get her timing together, it’s so much nerves today. I’m hoping she will calm down and show everybody what she’s been showing me in practice.”
New Albany fell to New Hope 2-1 in the final match of the jamboree. New Albany won the first set 27-25, but New Hope came back to win the second set 25-18. New Hope won the deciding set of the match in a narrow 15-13 victory.
Mary Day sets for Emma Wilson during New Albany's jamboree win over Water Valley on Saturday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Mary Day sets for Emma Wilson during New Albany’s jamboree win over Water Valley on Saturday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

East Union construction work moves forward

The East Union field house work continues as the first home game date of August 29 draws nearer. Plans are for the concession area and restrooms to be ready by then. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

The East Union field house work continues as the first home game date of August 29 draws nearer. Plans are for the concession area and restrooms to be ready by then. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ELLISTOWN – Construction work at East Union has experienced a few bumps along the way, but school officials remain hopeful that the major project at the new football stadium will reach a point that the field, concession area and restrooms will be ready for the first home game.
“As far as the football field is concerned, the stands are complete and the press box is complete except for putting the power to it,” assistant principal Chris Basil said. “The field had an army worm problem last week that basically destroyed the field for a few days. It is now coming back, there is green everywhere.”
Basil said they cannot water the grass much because they are waiting on the base for the scoreboard to be installed on Thursday. The underground bases for the goal posts were poured on Tuesday night.
“The lighting company is coming Thursday night, so the field needs to stay as dry as possible at this point,” Basil said. “We will start back with fertilizing the field Thursday afternoon and start back with the water program after that point.”
Basil said that the field house facility was behind schedule due to the weather, but that he was hoping to have the concession area and public restrooms available for the August 29 home opener.
The field house will also house a weight room, coaches offices, training room, storage area, laundry area with washer and dryer as well as a locker room for the Urchins and visitors dressing room.
“We are hoping to have the building (field house) complete before the end of the season,” Basil said. “The guys (construction workers) are working hard, working six days a week sometimes trying to get this done. It just takes a lot of time and it goes back to the weather earlier in the year putting everybody back.”
“We are just so proud and so thankful that the school board gave us the opportunity to have a football team and also this beautiful facility that everyone in the county will be proud of,” Basil said. “Our band will get to play on Friday nights and we are excited about the band having this opportunity to play in front of that many folks.”
Another project at East Union that is ongoing is the multipurpose building beside the baseball field that will be used for physical education classes as well as being an indoor practice facility for football, baseball and softball. Basil said the building still lacks electricity and installation of artificial turf should take place early next week.

Urchins create team dynamic during summer workouts

BY DENNIS CLAYTON
East Union’s summer workouts are a high priority to Coach Scott Duley and his Urchin football team. Coach Duley uses the summer program as a tool to build on the team concept as well as using it for a strength and conditioning regimen.
“Summertime is probably the most critical time for our football program because not only do you get hopefully bigger, faster and stronger, but you create a good team dynamic,” Duley said. “They start to work together, I try to put upper class men in one group and lower class men in another group.”
“If I know we are going to have certain offensive linemen, then we will put all of them together so they get used to working together,” Duley said.
Duley stated that a big thing for East Union’s summer program is not only strength, but conditioning and acclimation. Duley tries to get players used to the heat.
“We go three days a week, we have an 8:00 a.m. group and a 6:00 p.m. group for those young men that are working,” said Duley. ” We’ve had really good participation this year with our football team. We have also had good participation with our women’s athletics as well.”
Duley summarized the workout routines saying “We don’t just do three sets of three, we don’t just do an hour to do 10 reps in the weight room. In the summertime, we try not to have a powerlifting-type program, but we have more of a crossfit program where we are doing everything as quickly as we can in order to help them learn how to generate power, not just strength.”
Duley pointed to the Urchins’ summer workouts as the reason for the football team’s early season success last year. “We want to continue that and we’ve tweaked it a little bit.”
“As the summer goes on we will spend a greater portion of our time outside, Duley said. “Early in the summer we spend a greater portion of our time inside, but we always want to be pushing the envelope from the time we start up to the time that we are done. We try to spend around an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes, but we’re not taking big breaks, we give plenty of time for water, but other than that, we’re moving from station to station.”
Duley said that the workouts are just as much about mental toughness as it is a out teaching the athletes about power.
“We won the Union County Challenge (Barnyard Challenge at Union County Fair) and that was big, Duley said. “I think that the reason we won that was because of our summer program. As a group, we are unwilling to compete unless it’s at a high level, not that we have better athletes. Our kids have been taught to expect to win and how to perform.”

New Albany wraps up summer soccer at Pontotoc

Joseph Rainey of New Albany passes the ball inside the box during Monday's 7v7 match against Saltillo. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Joseph Rainey of New Albany passes the ball inside the box during Monday’s 7v7 match against Saltillo. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
New Albany wrapped up their summer 7v7 season at Pontotoc as they played in a round robin scrimmage with host Pontotoc, Saltillo and Tupelo. Play included varsity boys and girls as well as JV boys and girls.
“We ended the day 2-1 with the varsity girls, picking up wins against 4A rival Pontotoc and Tupelo, who is the top school in North Mississippi,” New Albany coach Caryl Vogel said. “We have a lot to improve on leading into the season, but these summer tournaments really help us find our weaknesses and strengths.”
The Lady Bulldogs defeated Pontotoc 4-0 and Tupelo 1-0, while falling to Saltillo 3-1.
“We ended the day with a victory against Pontotoc in varsity boys, which is always nice,” Vogel said. “I was pleased with our effort in all the matches, but we have to continue to develop our play. We have an old group, but there is still a lot of soccer to be learned before the season kicks off.”
New Albany defeated Pontotoc 4-2, but lost to Saltillo 2-1 and Tupelo 4-0.
“I’m glad our younger players got the chance to play against the teams’ JV’s,” Vogel said. “We have a lot of seventh graders who have only played in the park system and this gave them great insight into what to expect. It also gave us a great measuring stick of what we need to work on.”
Zach McDonald of New Albany controls the ball in front of the Tupelo goal during Monday's match at Pontotoc. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Zach McDonald of New Albany controls the ball in front of the Tupelo goal during Monday’s match at Pontotoc. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Hall to play on regional all-star team in Orlando

Kelton Hall was named to the USSSA Southeast 14U All-American Regional Team and will compete in Orlanda, FL.

Kelton Hall was named to the USSSA Southeast 14U All-American Regional Team and will compete in Orlanda, FL.


By Dennis Clayton
Kelton Hall of Ingomar was recently been named to the 2014 Southeast 14U USSSA All-American Baseball Team. Hall will play in the USSSA All-American Games during August 1-4 at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World in Orlando, FL.
Hall is one of two Mississippians named to the 15 member team. The Southeast Regional team is made up of players from Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Texas. There will be eight regions competing in round robin pool play with the the pools divided by east and west regions. The winners of each pool will play for the championship.
Hall qualified to make the team by attending a tryout at Southaven, MS. Players were evaluated on hitting, running, throwing, fielding and pitching. Player were evaluated in the same manner that is used for major league prospects.
“I went to a showcase in Southaven and tried out. I’m going to Orlando to play in Disney World,” Hall said. “I played USSSA last year with the Mississippi Rebels, but I didn’t play this year.”
Hall is looking forward to the games and will be accompanied by several members of his family.

Taylor chosen to play in Mississippi Showcase

John Austin Taylor

John Austin Taylor


John Austin Taylor of West Union was recently chosen to play baseball in the Mississippi Showcase sponsored by BSN Sports at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School’s baseball field on July 24. There were 30 players chosen from across the state to participate.
Taylor had a .415 batting average on the 2014 season for Coach Will Hawkins and the Nettleton Tigers. Taylor recorded 44 hits, including 10 doubles and a home run. Taylor’s on-base percentage was over .500. Taylor played the majority of his games at third base.
“I know there will be some college scouts and Major League Baseball scouts coming and this is a great opportunity to get noticed,” Taylor said.
Taylor will play next spring for West Union as his father was recently named the principal at West Union Attendance Center.
“I’m very excited, it’s a new opportunity to meet some new people and have a new family over here. I think that we have a shot at doing some good things here and hopefully we can make it deep into the playoffs and achieve our main goal of winning state,” Taylor said of the move to West Union.
‘I want to say that I’m very honored to be selected and invited to play in the showcase. I just want to give a special thanks to God for giving me this opportunity and blessing me with this talent. My parents have always supported me through it and my coaches from the past have helped me make it to where I am now,” Taylor said.
Taylor is the son of Russell and Karen Taylor.