Oxford baseball player Joe McGuire and Saks softball pitcher Taylor West are soon-to-be Gamecocks, choosing Jacksonville State for similar reasons.
“It was where my heart ended up being,” West said. “I knew the people up there, I love their coaches, I had a really good opportunity to play softball up there, so I just really felt it was right.”
West also mentioned that her family and friends could make the short drive to see her play in 2014, which was something McGuire agreed on.
“Mainly, I think JSU is the place for me because I want to be close to home,” he said. “I like how they play the Alabamas and the Auburns and give me a chance to showcase my abilities. I like how coach (Jim) Case wants the best out of you all the time and I can give that to him.”
The pressures of being 17 or 18 years old and making such an important decision, like where to not only go to college, but to also participate athletically, is one that wears on a lot of seniors. It was no different for West and McGuire, who both said they liked that they could sign early and focus on their final seasons in the spring.
“I really liked how I was going to sign because I didn’t want the pressure until not signing until after the season,” McGuire said. “I’d feel like I’d have to do good or no one is going to sign me or offer me. I just feel like a whole lot of pressure is taken off my back.”
Now with their futures known, or at least the first step, both players will have a chance to earn another state championship ring before heading to college.
“I want to end this year with another state championship and I’m willing to work for all that,” West said.
SHOCKING LOSS: Even on Monday there was still a little buzz around the office — at least in the sports department, that is. Seriously, how did Piedmont lose?
The extended shock came with justification as Friday night’s 28-6 loss to Deshler made the Bulldogs the first and only top-ranked team in the state to have its season ended.
Looking further back, the loss marked the first time since 2006 that a Steve Smith-led Piedmont team did not make it to at least the third round. That year being Smith’s first, the Bulldogs had made the third round three times, fourth round once and won the state championship in 2009 since. Well, until now.
To throw some coincidences into the mix, Smith’s 2006 team lost to Woodland — who was led by coach Larry Strain — 39-15. The Bobcats are the only team in the area left in the playoffs as of this week. Even more, Woodland defeated Piedmont in the first game of the 2006 season and also eliminated the Bulldogs from the playoffs, which is the same thing Beauregard did to Handley this season.
Shut Out: It wasn’t a big deal on top-ranked Tanner’s end to shut out Wellborn on Friday night. I mean, the Rattlers have done it four times now this season, including in both their playoff games.
However, for the Panthers, the 48-0 defeat weighs a little more.
Along with its hopes of being state champions being shot down, Wellborn had not been shut out since 2009, when it lost to Alexandria and Glencoe, 21-0, back-to-back weeks. Although that team went 4-6 in the regular season, the Panther did make the playoffs but fell in the first round.
To give things more perspective toward how effective — I guess you could say — coach Jeff Smith’s Wing-T offense has been, quarterback Judd Smith was the only member of the Phenomenal Four — as I’m going to call them — who was in high school in 2009. Fullback Landon Machristie and tailback Kevin Mixon were in seventh grade and running back Chantz Goodman was in eighth grade, respectively.
Unkind history: In the playoffs, Woodland beat a familiar foe, rival Randolph County, 22-21, in the first round and Red Bay, who it faced for the second time in school history on Friday night, 18-15, to get where it is now.
In the third round, the Bobcats have another familiar opponent, Reeltown, which is unfortunate considering the teams’ recent history.
The ninth-ranked Bobcats have dropped four contests to the Rebels in three years, and they’ve lost five consecutive games to Reeltown dating back to 1976.
“Our kids, every time we’ve played them, have not won one of the games, but they’ve always been knock-down, drag-out games,” Woodland coach Larry Strain said. “Our kids know what to expect, especially when you have to travel to Reeltown.”
Adding in the Bobcats do have to travel to No. 3 Reeltown won’t help Strain’s team get over the hump. Coach Jackie O’Neal has created a mini dynasty in east Alabama that’s won four region titles in the last five years, having at least 12 wins in those four years, including winning the 2009 state championship and playing in the title game in 2010.
“They’re used to being there,” Strain said. “They have all their scores and records from each season posted down at the end of the stadium. It shows the success that they have and how tough they are.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.