Sports / Outdoors – 1/9/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Panolian: SPORTS – January 9, 2007

  From the 01/09/07 issue of The Panolian   

Strong aids West team in All American Bowl
Attending the U.S. Army All-American game Saturday were (left to right) South Panola head coach Ricky Woods, Brenda Strong and her son, South Panola linebacker Chris Strong.
By Myra Bean

South Panola’s Chris Strong was tired Sunday night after a week spent in San Antonio practicing and playing in the U.S. Army All American Bowl game.

Strong, 6’3", 260-pound senior linebacker, was the only Mississippian of the top 80 players chosen to make the trip.

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Olive Branch quarterback Cannon Smith was originally chosen to play but due to police charges in December his name was withdrawn from the roster.

On hand at the festivities last week was top recruiting analyst Tom Lemmings and representatives of .

"Chris Strong would rank as my No. 1 linebacker in the country and that is no small statement with the amount of talent this year," Lemmings said. "He dominates just about every play, and he outruns just about every back he comes up against. A Dick Butkus type of ILB (inside linebacker), he’s been blessed with long arms which he uses to shed blockers. In addition, he is a fierce competitor and warrior."

The report said Strong, "is extremely athletic and powerful. He also runs well and could develop into a force in the college game as an excellent pass rusher, especially if he improves his lateral quickness."

Strong registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds.

These 80 players got to showcase their talents and atheticism before a national audience of scouts, recruiters and college coaches Saturday afternoon as the West downed the East 24-7.

Strong started and played in the defensive end position for the West team wearing No. 1. The West was quarterbacked by Jimmy Clausen, younger brother of University of Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen.

Strong’s move from linebacker to defensive end was not a hardship for him. The player who was picked to play defensive end got hurt.

"I just had to step up," Strong said. "The team needed a man who knew how to play the position."
Strong said these teams of All-Star players were bigger and faster than teams he has played for and faced the last four years.

Strong’s day started with a 6:30 a.m. wakeup call, followed by breakfast, community service with less fortunate children, two practices a day and meetings until 9 p.m. They had two hours of free time before the 11 p.m. curfew.

Chris’ mother, Brenda, along with South Panola head coach Ricky and Susan Woods and assistant coach Lucian King, were on hand to watch him perform in the game.

Brenda Strong had a good time, according to her son, as she got to walk along the Riverwalk and explore San Antonio. Chris said it was nice in San Antonio and he would like to go back and visit.

Though it was nice, Strong said he has not changed his mind about attending and playing football for Ole Miss.

Strong did not meet any college coaches but he did meet some famous people including former NFL star Deion Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback Byron Leftwich and the real Coach Boone from "Remember the Titans."

Players will sign National Letters of Intent to play collegiate football beginning February 7 in which Strong will make it official he will play football for Ole Miss.

Kids bound for Saturday fun
Upward Bound program combines sports, spiritual training
By John Howell Sr.

Upward Bound basketball got underway in Batesville and throughout the nation Saturday as youngsters from kindergarten through sixth grade gathered to play a game they love in the setting of an evangelistic sports ministry.

There are 235 kids in the program which utilizes courts in the Batesville First Baptist Church sports facility, program director Don Powers said Saturday as he shuffled between games, players and referees.

The church has hosted the Upward Bound program for five years. Founded in South Carolina in 1986, the program has spread internationally and also includes cheerleading, flag football and soccer.

"The whole purpose is to incorporate something these kids like and then we can teach them about Jesus," Powers said.

Saturday began the eight-game season. Practice started in November and continues with weekly practices of one hour, he added. Boys and girls are divided into teams and leagues by age and sex. Parents and volunteers serve as coaches, referees and assist with devotionals interspersed through the Saturday tournaments.

They also tied many shoelaces as the frenzied movement of almost 500 feet shake lose the strings girding their sport shoes.

Prior to each game, players run onto the court as they are introduced with fanfare over the public address system. Coaches, referees and players gather at center court for a brief prayer and to have a color-coded velcro label affixed. Each player has a color that matches the color of a player on the opposing team.

"We use it to teach man-to-man coverage," Powers said. "It helps them keep up with their man."

Players scurrying across the floor were frequently stopped by the referee’s whistle. "They have to learn to dribble," one referee explained, instead of following their instincts to run with the ball.

Possession of the ball frequently changes as little people attempting to dribble have trouble keeping the ball far enough ahead of their feet and unintentionally kick it away.

Upward Bound cheerleaders are introduced between games and lead a short cheer to carry the enthusiasm forward into the new games.

Games began at 8 a.m. Saturday and lasted most of the day. Spectators, occasionally including family members of three generations, came and went all day long. Among them were Bill and Linda Joiner, who arrived for a grandson’s mid-day game. "We’ve already been here once for an eight o’clock game," Bill said.

"We watched it all day long," his wife said later. The Joiners have four grandsons who played that day: Gehrig Griffin, 6; Jacob Griffin, 11; Hunter Durham, 12, and Chase Durham, 9, she said.

The evangelistic sports ministry is specifically designed for kindergarten through sixth grade boys and girls, according to its web site. Its goal is to promote salvation, character, and self-esteem in every child.


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