Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Shakeup on Kirby Drive continues

By James Sakaris
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (January 20, 2020) The shakeup on Kirby continues, as over the weekend the Houston Texans front office and coaching staff continued to see changes. Stemming from a flat organizational structure, in which Bill O’Brien is overseeing not only the head coaching duties, but also de facto general manager, the franchise dismissed long time contract/cap negotiator Chris Olsen, Senior VP of Football Administration. While this bodes as a move garnering O’Brien with more power over players and their respective contracts, others speculate it was  simply “making room” for a potential partnering with Nick Caserio, whom the Texans pursued for the GM position post Brian Gaine.

The coaching staff was not without their share of personnel exits/restructuring, as it was announced on the evening of January 19 that long time defensive coordinator and assistant coach Romeo Crennel would not be returning as the defensive coordinator. Filling his void will be defensive line coach, Anthony Weaver, who has been with the Texans as both a player (2006 – 2008) and a positional coach since 2013. While promoting from within is always preferred, one wonders why outside sources weren’t at least interviewed for the vacancy. Wade Phillips, a fan favorite in Houston, is available and when he held the post under Gary Kubiak, he coordinated some of the best defensive seasons the Texans ever had.

Whatever the reasons for the two dismissals Sunday night, one thing is clear, the Texans are not happy with their current structure. Will the changes in front office and coordinating be enough to propel the Texans further into the post season in 2020, or will the fans endure another heartbreaking meltdown in the playoffs like we have in recent seasons? This is the question that will loom until January 2021, when the Texans will hopefully have another chance to solidify their legacy in the NFL Playoffs.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Houston Dynamo hold first training session of 2020

Story and photo by Lou Roesch
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (January 20, 2020) The Houston Dynamo opened the 2020 campaign with a spirited first training session under head coach Tab Ramos. Ramos, a decorated American soccer player and the highest profile coach the organization has had since Dominic Kinnear. Ramos, a soccer Hall of Famer and the only coach to a USA national team to a title has been tabbed with job of returning Houston soccer to the promised land.

Ramos made it clear following practice that there is really for all intent and purposes only one goal; win a championship. He little doubt also as ot what he expects from his players.

“I am a very determined coach. I am one that accepts nothing but the best from the players on the field and maybe that is a culture I have brought from having with the (U.S.) youth national teams, that type of winning culture.”

The Dynamo showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm on day and going forward, the Dynamo coach said they will look to bottle it.

“The players have been off for a long time, so I know they are excited about that. They are excited about starting with a new coach and starting a new season, so we have to sort of bottle all of that excitement the first couple of days to make sure that physically we are getting exactly what we need.”

The Houston Dynamo have a plethora of experience and now youth on their side something General Manager Matt Jordan wanted to achieve during the offseason.

“We feel we have a team and a roster that could compete with anyone in Major League Soccer. A big offseason objective of ours was to get younger. And we feel we accomplished that, getting younger in each of our lines throughout the team.”

Houston opens the season against newly signed “Chixharito and the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday, February 29, 2020.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Records fall at 2020 Houston Marathon

Story and photos by Lou Roesch
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

HOUSTON, TEXAS (January 19, 2020)  Records are made to be broken and that’s what happened on Sunday at the 48th annual Chevron Houston Marathon. With runners from across all 50 states and representing 57 countries battling 25 mile an hour wind gusts, two national records, a world record and a Guiness World Record were set on Sunday.

Hitomi Niya of Japan got things started in the Aramco half marathon smashing both her personal best and the Japanese national record to win in the third fastest time in Aramco Houston Half Marathon history, 1:06:38. She led from start to finish and no competitor in sight as she crossed the finish line.

The men’s half marathon was a whole different story. Fourteen runners raced through the first 5K setting a pace that would put the course record (59:22) in danger. Five runners would remain to battle over the final mile last year’s runner-up, Jemal Yimer (ETH), won in 59:25. It was the second fastest time ever run in Houston and North America. Bernard Ngeno (KEN) finished second at 59:26, and Shardrack Korir (KEN) with a personal best of 59:27 took third.

Ethiopia’s Aksale Merachi in her Houston debut took the women’s marathon title in 2:23:29 thwarting defending champion Biruktayit Degefa (ETH) quest for her fourth victory (a historic feat in Houston’s race history). Degefa did take second with a time of 2:24:47. The win by Merachi was the 14th consecutive win by an Ethiopian woman in Houston. Canadian Mandi Elinore was third setting a Canadian national record finishing in 2:24:50.

The men’s marathon was won by Woldeargay Kekile Gezahegn in what started as a potential course record and then became a two man race. The Ethiopians win gave the African nation three of the four Houston titles. Bronsa Dida was left behind by countryman who won in 2:08:36 more then two minutes faster.

Michael Roeger (AUS), a T46 Paralympian, crushed his own world record (2:22:51) finishing in 2:19:33 keeping his pre-race promise to “put his competitors on notice” heading into the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Friday, January 10, 2020

James Madison and North Dakota State face off for FCS national title in Frisco

Photo by
Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photogrjaphy
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved 
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

FRISCO, TEXAS (January 10, 2020) For the second time in three years, the No. 1 North Dakota State Bison and the No. 2 James Madison Dukes will take to the field inside Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas in the NCAA Division I Football Championship game. The Bison (15-0, 8-0 MVFC) go into the game with a 36-game winning streak and are looking for their eighth FCS crown.

The Dukes (14-1, 8-0 CAA) are making their fourth appearance in the national championship game, seeking their third title. They defeated Montana 31-21 in the 2004 championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee and won its second crown in 2016 with a 28-14 triumph against Youngstown State in Frisco.

James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti talked with the press on Friday, stating;

"This is a great football team, with a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, a lot of really good players, exceptional players at their position. Good personalities. Good leadership. There's a great culture at JMU with the tradition and the success of the past.

It's been talked about, they got off track maybe just a little bit last year with their focus. They realize that. I think I was lucky and fortunate really to be able to coach this team. But we had a plan and we knew what we wanted and improved the team without question.

But this team kind of got it after a while, kind of what I was looking for, which are those crisp, short practices, focused in, locked in, this play is over, tear off the rear view mirror, never too high, never too low.

Practice is kind of like a game, really fast (snapping fingers). You got to have six seconds a play. The play is going to have a history of its own. Focused in on the right things. Played consistently throughout the season. Practiced that way also. Handled business that way also.

We had no off-the-field problems at all with this team. These guys have played a lot of ball together. So here we are ready to go."

North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz also spoke with the press.

"I think the first thing we always talk about, we always address early in the season, is we treat every year as a different year. There is no carryover. I'm going to go back to a couple years ago. I had a young man by the name of MJ Stumpf, he had won a national championship as a backup. We asked him, MJ, you won a national championship. His comment was, Coach, I haven't won one yet. You only win them when you're a starter at NDSU.

That's part of the desire of every kid wants to live up to the expectations that our tradition has shown. We treat every year differently. This is the last game that the 2019 football team is ever going to play. We're going to look different next year. We look different than we did a year ago. Each team has their own nuances, characteristics.

This is a pretty good football team we have right now. I think that's part of the way we avoid complacency, is we continue to challenge them who they are, to be the best they can be in that moment right then."

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CST with the game being televised on ABC and ESPN3.

Monday, January 06, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Houston Dash trade Kealia Ohai to Chcago Red Stars

HOUSTON, TEXAS (January 6, 2020)  The Houston Dash acquired defender Katie Naughton and the 18th overall selection in the 2020 NWSL College Draft through a trade with Chicago Red Stars, the club announced today. The Dash traded forward Kealia Ohai to Chicago in return.  

Naughton joins Houston after being a key part of Chicago’s backline throughout their stellar 2019 NWSL season run. The center back was part of Chicago’s 1-0 shutout win over Portland in the semifinals and put in a full 90-minute performance in the NWSL Championship against North Carolina.  

“We are delighted to add Katie to the squad. She brings a lot of quality and playoff experience,” said Head Coach James Clarkson. “She will strengthen the team and help us continue to improve.” 

The Red Stars posted a 15-9-2 record in the 2019 season and reached their first-ever NWSL final finishing as runners-up. Naughton played a role in 13 of Chicago’s 15 wins and five of the Red Stars’ eight clean sheets. The Illinois native appeared in 22 of 24 regular-season games, starting 19.  

Naughton came into NWSL as the 19th overall selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft after a stellar four-year career at Notre Dame. She captained the Fighting Irish as a sophomore, junior and senior, becoming the first player in school history to serve as a three-year team captain. She was a three-time all-conference selection and was a member of Notre Dame's Student-Athlete Advisory Council. 

The defender also represented the United States in international competition at the Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels during her youth career, including at the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2014 Concacaf U-20 Championships. 

Ohai leaves Houston after six seasons with the Dash in which she made 114 appearances and started 108 times. She owns the club record for goals scored, with 28, and has recorded 16 career assists. 

“I just want to thank Kealia for her commitment to the Dash and wish her all the best for the future on and off the field,” Clarkson said. 

Ohai was the second overall pick in the 2014 NWSL Draft and served as the team’s captain for the past three seasons. 

Ohai stated:  “I want to thank the entire Houston organization and the wonderful fans for my last 6 years as a Dash player. I have created lasting friendships and Houston will always be my home. I’m excited for a new opportunity with Chicago and to become the best player I can be.” 
With this transaction, the Dash now have 19 players on their active roster ahead of the 2020 NWSL season. The Dash expect to kick off their 2020 campaign in mid-April. The 2020 schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. 

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andronovski names national team roster

By Jennifer Edwards
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (January 6, 2020) New head coach Vlatko Andronovski released his roster for the United States National Women’s Soccer team on December 27. There were almost no surprises among the players and die-hard fans. The one surprise came in the call-up of Sophia Smith, a junior at Stanford University. She is in place of Alex Morgan who is currently out due to pregnancy. 

This roster showcases many of the household names from the Women’s World Cup tournament played over the past summer. While this sounds like a solid plan going into the Olympic qualifying happening in the next month, this team is an aging team. They will have to rely on their veteran players such as Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Becky Sauerbrunn. With very few newcomers or younger returners to the team. Margaret Purce, a defender for the NWSL Portland Thorns; Casey Short, both have been in training camp before; Andy Sullivan, a midfielder for the NSWL Washington Spirit; and Lynn Williams, a forward for the NWSL North Carolina Courage have made the trip to Tampa, Florida for training camp. Jane Campbell, a veteran USWNT goalkeeper and keeper for the NWSL Houston Dash was also named to the camp as one of the four goalkeepers. This number can be expected to drop to three before the final roster is named. 

The coaching staff has seen some major changes in addition to the new head coach. Milan Ivanovic was appointed to technical staff as well. Dawn Scott, the High Performance Coach for the USWNT for the past nine years has stepped down and a new replacement has yet to be announced. It remains to be seen how these coaching changes will affect how the US team tackles the game on the world stage. It is expected that the on-field set up will probably change to better suit the new head coach and the players will have to adapt to that. With only a few newcomers, it is expected to change seamlessly. While a new head coach traditionally brings sweeping changes, it seems that Andonovski is keeping his cards close to the vest and playing it safe for the Olympics. 

There is a lot in store for the USWNT. The fans have a lot of amazing soccer to see in the Olympic qualifting happening at BBVA Compass Stadium beginning on January 28, when they take on Haiti and the play against Costa Rica.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Battle for the Bell Rivalry Renews Saturday at Armed Forces Bowl

Duke faced off against Temple
in the 2018 Armed Forces Bowl.
Photo by
Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

By Anthony Andro
for the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (Janaury 3, 2019) How do you know that Southern Miss and Tulane are rivals heading into Saturday’s Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium?
The teams haven’t even played in 10 years and there’s still a little something extra on the line. And that something extra is more than the Battle for the Bell, which is the trophy that’s awarded to the winner of the game between the two schools separated by a little more than 100 miles.
Even though the teams haven’t played since the current rosters were either in junior high or elementary, Saturday’s 17th annual bowl game at TCU will have a little extra meaning.
“I haven’t played in a game like that since I was at Tulane,” said Tulane senior safety P.J. Hall. “There’s no animosity. But I think what kind of defines a rivalry is the history behind the teams. 

It’s not something that just happens once a year. It happens over 10, 20 years. The history makes is a rivalry. We’ve got the history, the bell. We’re taking it as a rivalry game.”
Neither team has played in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl but they’ve met 30 times going into the game. Southern Miss (7-5) has the upper hand with a 23-7 mark. The Golden Eagles will be putting a six-game winning streak against Tulane (6-6) on the line as Tulane hasn’t beaten Southern Miss since 2002.
The ties between the two teams run deep, too. Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Tulane in 1992. Southern Miss junior quarterback Jack Abraham, who became just the third quarterback in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards this year, committed to Tulane when he was in high school. That changed when Tulane made a coaching change and brought in the current regime led by Tulane head coach Willie Fritz.
“For our program it’s a rivalry,” Abraham said. “We’ve played them a good deal in the past. We’ve still got the bell. That’s obviously a big deal and another thing to play for. We’re treating this as a rivalry. We’re trying to approach it as another game. I’ve got connections to Tulane. I’ve had connections to them. The team as a whole is treating this as a rivalry.”
Both teams share another trait. They are looking to the game to end their seasons on high notes. Southern Miss lost back-to-back games to end the regular season while Tulane dropped three straight to end the year.
They’ve each had more than a month off to get ready for Saturday’s game and plan to use it as a springboard for spring football and the 2020 season. The best way to do that is with a win.
“It’s pretty much standard protocol for both programs,” Hopson said. “The last one (to Florida Atlantic) was a tough one to swallow. We were playing for the division championship and the ball didn’t bounce the way we wanted it to. That’s football. We just feel blessed to have an opportunity.”
And it doesn’t hurt that a win is going to come at the expense of a rival.
“I know when I took this job a lot of people said ‘When are you going to play Southern Miss again?’” said Fritz, whose team is renewing its regular-season series against Tulane in 2022. “We’re so close in proximity to each other. It’s a natural rivalry and I’m glad we’re getting a little taste of it here in 2020.”

Monday, December 30, 2019

Western Kentucky's Lucky Jackson named SERVPRO First Responder Bowl MVP

Photo by
Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

DALLAS, TEXAS (December 30, 2019) Western Kentucky wide receiver Lucky Jackson (shown right) caught 17 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown as the Hilltoppers downed the Western Michigan Broncos 23-20 at the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.

The red-shirt senior, who hails from Lexington, Kentucky, caught a five-yard pass from quarterback Ty Storey for the last touchdown of the game. As a result of his play, Jackson was named the game's Most Valuable Player. 

The First Responder Bowl was the first bowl game the Hilltoppers had played in Texas. They are now 4-2 in bowl games since joining the FBS ranks in 2009.  Western Kentucky and Western Michigan had played 15 times previously, with the Broncos coming out on top 11 times. All previous games were contested between 1923 and 1947.

The Hilltoppers finish the 2019 season with a 9-5 record

Western Michigan makes retrun to Dallas-area for SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

By Chris Price
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

DALLAS, TEXAS (December 30, 2019) Western Michigan will face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the 2019 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on Monday, December 30, 2019. The game is scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. CT kickoff at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas. 

They are playing in their third consecutive bowl game and 10th in program history. They are 1-8 all-time in bowl season, the lone win coming over Middle Tennessee State in 2015; a 45-31 win. Bronco junior linebacker Treshaun Hayward was named to the Sportine News All-American team,  in addition to receiving the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year with 132 tackles, fifth most in the nation. 

The Broncos (7-5, 5-3 MAC) is playing in the Dallas area for the second time since the 2016 season. They played Wisconsin in the 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl, played in Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, falling by the score of 24-16. 

The offense is paced by 2019 MAC Offensive Player of the Year running back LeVante Bellamy. A Doak Walker Award semifinalist, the senior leads the nation with 23 rushing touchdowns and is tenth in the country with 1,412 yards rushing. 

Senior quarterback Jon Wassink was the recipient of the Wuerffel Trophy, presented by the Chickfil-A Foundation. The award is the premier award for community service is presented annually to the FBS player best combining exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

Western Kentucky makes first bowl trip to Texas for SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

By Chris Price
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

DALLAS, TEXAS (December 30, 2019) The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are headed to Dallas, Texas to face the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2019 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on December 30, 2019 at SMU's Gerald J Ford Stadium.

The Hilltoppers are making their sixth bowl appearance since 2012 after it’s 2012 Little Caesars Bowl appearance ended a drought dating back to 1975, which they lost in the NCAA Division II National Championship Game. WKU is 7-4 all-time in bowl games and 3-2 in the FBS era. 

Tyson Helton, in his first season as a head coach, was named the C-USA Coach of the Year. With a win, Helton would help the program earn its ninth win of the year to equal the total of 2017 and 2018 wins combined. Helton joins his father, Kim Helton, as the only father-son duo to be named Coach of the Year in the C-USA’s 25-year history in any sport. 

Junior defensive end DeAngelo Malone was named the 2019 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Malone racked up 21.0 tackles for loss (11th in the nation) with 11.5 sacks. Malone averages 7.5 total tackles per game. 

Senior quarterback Ty Storey earned the 2019 C-USA Newcomer of the Year honor after tossing 12 touchdowns, 2,209 yards and just five interceptions. Topping his former squad Arkansas in November, he was 22-of-32 on the way to being named the Manning Award National Quarterback of the Week, a first in program history.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Western Kentucky, Western Michigan to meet in SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

DALLAS, TEXAS (December 29, 2019) On Monday, December 30, the final football game of the decade at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium (shown left) will see the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky University. (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) facing off the Broncos of Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC) in the 2019 Servpro Frist Responder Bowl. 

This the first First Responder Bowl to be played at SMU's stadium. The previous nine contests were all contested at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. It is not the first bowl game ever played in Ford Stadium, however. The 2010 and 2011 Armed Forces Bowl games were played at SMU while renovations to TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium were made. The 2018 contest, scheduled between Boston College and Boise State, was cancelled due to weather. It is believed to be the first bowl game cancelled after kickoff.

WKU and Western Michigan are meeting for the first time since 1947. The programs have met 15 times prior, with Western Michigan leading the all-time series 11-3-1.  Neither team has ever played in the city of Dallas prior to the bowl. Western Michigan did play in the 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Broncos were selected as an at-large as the highest ranked College Football Playoff (CFP) Group of Five team. Western Michigan dropped a 24-16 decision to Wisconsin in that contest.

This is the third time that Western Michigan has played a bowl game in the state of Texas. In addition to earning a trip to the 2017 Cotton Bowl, where the team lost 24-16 to Wisconsin, the Broncos also played in the Texas Bowl in Houston in 2008. WMU lost 38-14, to hometown Rice in that contest. In all, Western Michigan is 1-8 all time in bowl games

This marks WKU’s first bowl game played in the state of Texas. The Hilltoppers are 3-2 in its previous five all-time bowl appearances since joining the FBS ranks in 2009.

The WKU Hilltoppers and Western Michigan Broncos have played 15 times previously, and Western Michigan leads the series 11-3-1. The teams have not played in 72 years, however, as all 15 games were played between 1923-47. Ironically, WMU athletic teams were once known as the Hilltoppers, a reference to the school’s location on top of Prospect Hill, but changed their nickname in 1939 to the Broncos to avoid confusion with teams of other schools such as WKU.

This is the latest date that the SERVPRO First Responder game has been played since the 2013 contest was played between North Texas and UNLV on Jan. 1, 2014. All 10 games have been played between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.

Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Louisiana Tech overcomes Miami (Fla) 14-0 for Independence Bowl Title

Photo by
Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Phtotgraphy
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA (December 26, 2019) In a game that saw a record 18 punts, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs shut out the Miami Hurricanes by the score of 14-0 to win the 44th Walk-On's Independence Bowl. The Bulldogs scored midway through the second quarter and late in the fourth. 

The first score came at 9:34 in the second quarter, when quarterback J'Mar Smith (Meridian HS, Meridian, Mississippi) connected with running back Israel Tucker (Archbishop Rummel HS, Metairie, Louisiana) on a 26-yard pass play for the only aerial touchdown of the game. Smith, who threw for 17 touchdowns during the regular season, carried the ball the final eight yards of a 55-yard, five play drive for the second Tech TD. The 6-1, 218-pound red shirt senior completed his final season with four rushing touchdowns. Kicker Bailey Hale (Iowa Park HS, Iowa Park, Texas), shown below, added the two extra points, to push his total to 53 for the season. Red shirt junior running back Justin Henderson (Lake Wales HS, Lake Wales, Florida), shown above, who carried the ball 22 times for 95 yards, was awarded the Offensive Player of the Game.

Photo by
Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Phtotgraphy
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

Defensively, the Bulldogs were paced by inside linebacker Conner Taylor (Davis HS, Kaysville, Utah) and outside linebacker Ezekiel Barnett (Benton HS, Benton, Louisiana). Taylor tallied nine tackles, six of them solo, along with 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for a loss, sharing the stats with defensive end Milton Williams. Barnett added six total tackles (four solo) and one sack and one tackle for a loss. Defensive back Aaron Roberson (Huntington, HS, Shreveport, Louisiana) added five tackles (four solo), two pass breakups, and one game-sealing interception. Taylor, for his performance, was named the Defensive Player of the Game.

For the Hurricanes, quarterback Jarren Williams (Central Gwinnett HS, Lawrenceville, Georgia) was 9-of-20 for 94 yards while freshman Sam Brooks, Jr. (Miami Northwestern HS, Miami Gardens, Florida) posted 12 tackles.

Sapporo, Japan expresses interest to host 2030 Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games

By Chris Price

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

TOKYO, JAPAN (December 26, 2019)  Sapporo, Japan is set to enter the race to host the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games after expressing an interest in hosting the Games a second time. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972. Read more here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Miami to face Louisiana Tech in 2019 Independence Bowl

SHREVEPORT. LOUISIANA (December 25, 2019) On Thursday, December 26, 2019, the 44th annual Walk-On's Independence Bowl will kick off at 3 p.m. CST at Independence Stadium in Shreveport with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will face the Miami Hurricanes (6-6, 4-4 ACC).

Louisiana Tech (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) makes its fifth appearance in Independence Bowl history, tying Ole Miss for the most appearances in Independence Bowl history. The Bulldogs have a 2-1-1 record in their previous four appearances. La Tech’s last trip came in 2008 vs. Northern Illinois (17-10 La Tech). 

They are making their sixth-consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Skip Holtz. Tech enters the 2019 bowl season as one of only two FBS programs with five consecutive bowl wins (Wisconsin). The Bulldogs are playing in their 12th bowl game in program history, with a record of 7-3-1 in their first 11 bowls. 

The Bulldogs played in the lone tie game in Independence Bowl history, tying Maryland 34-34 in the 1990 Independence Bowl. Miami is making its second-ever appearance in the Independence Bowl, with its last trip being in 2014 versus South Carolina, with South Carolina winning 24-21. 

The 2019 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl is Miami’s seventh-consecutive bowl appearance and 43rd bowl appearance in school history (20-22 record). Their last bowl win came in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl over West Virginia, 31-14. 

Miami head coach Manny Diaz was the Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator in 2014 under La Tech head coach Skip Holtz. Miami defensive coordinator Blake Baker took over as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator following Diaz’s departure to Mississippi State. Baker served as La Tech’s DC from 2015-2018. 

This is the fifth-ever matchup between Louisiana Tech and Miami (Miami is 4-0). Their last game against each other came in 2004, and they previously played in Independence Stadium in a regular season tilt in 2003, with Miami winning 48-9. 

The ACC sports a 6-5-1 record in 12 Independence Bowl appearances and have won each of the last four Independence Bowl’s dating back to Virginia Tech in 2015. 

C-USA holds a record of 0-1 in the I-Bowl. Southern Miss fell to FSU 42-13 in 2017.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2019 Independence Bowl: Miamai (Fla) pre-game press conferennce

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA (December 24, 2019) Pre-game press conference with Miami (Fla) head coach Manny Diaz, running back K.J. Osborn and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman for the Walk-On's Independence Bowl. Click here for the video.

2019 Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech pre-game press conferennce

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA (December 24, 2019) Pre-game press conference with Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz, quarterback J'Mar Smith and safety Darryl Lewis for the Walk-On's Independence Bowl. Click here for the video.

Friday, December 20, 2019

North Central Cardinals dominates Wisconsin-Whitewater for NCAA D3 title

Photo by
Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

(SHENANDOAH, TEXAS (Decemebr 20, 2019) It only took the North Central Cardinals two minutes, 33 seconds to put the first points of the game on the scoreboard in route to a 41-14 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks in the 47th Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. With the win, the Warhawks captured their first NCAA Division III Football Championship.

Running back Ethan Greenfield (Lakes HS, Lindenhurst Illinois) (shown right) carried the ball the final five yards of a seven-play, 45-yard driv for the score. The Cardinal possession began when Terrance Hill (Effington HS, Effington, Illinois) returned the Warhark kickoff 49 yards to begin the game.

With thrity-five seconds remaining in the first quarter North Central added to their lead when quarterback Broc Rutter (Neuqua HS, Naperville, Illinois) with wide receiver Blake Williams (Metea Valley HS, Aurora, Illinois) on a 31-yard pass for their second touchdown of the game. Freshman Mangus Meyer (Nesbru, Norway) add the extra point to give the Cardinals a 13-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Warhawks were moving the ball well, until Cardinal cornerback Julian Bell intercepted a Wisconsin pass; returning it to the Cardinals' 46-yard line. Eight plays later, Rutter carried the ball the final  yard to put six more points on the board. Meyer again split the uprights to push the Warhawks' lead to 20-0 wth 10:12 left in the half.

The Cardinals were not done in the first half as they added seven more points to their total with the 1:49 mark of the first half. Greenfield capped a 13-play, 7-yard drive with a two-yard run for score, with Magnus adding the extra point to post a 27-0 lead after 30 minutes of play. In the fourth quarter, they added seven more points 

The second half was a mirror image of the first, with the Cardidals picking up where they left off, scoring halfway into the third quarter. Greenfield again carried the ball 38 yards for his thord TD of the night, with Magnus addign the extra point.

The Warhawks finally found the endzone at the 4;32 mark of the quarter when Max Meylor (Mt. Horeb HS, Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin) connected with Jared Zausch (Ozaukee HS, Saulville, Wisconsin) for six points, with Wojciech Gasienica (Ridgewood HS, Norridge, Illinois) adding the extra point. In the fourth quater they added seven more points on a Alex Peete (Johnstown HS, Ringwood, Illinois) one-yard run and Gasienica's extra point.

The Cardinals added an insurance touchdown and extra point with 1:58 remaining in the game with a Andrew Kamienski (South Elgin HS, Pingree Grove, Illinois) run and Meyer's extra point.

For his efforts, Greenfield was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the game.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Texan Virgina Fuchs wins U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials in 112-pound division

Virginia Fuchs speaks with
ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos
after her victory.
Photo by
Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA (December 15, 2019) After four years of waiting, Texan Virginia Fuchs is one step closer to her Olympic dream in winning the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing. Facing off against Christina Cruz (New York, New York) in the finals, the native of Kemah, Texas took the unanimous decision in the 112-pound weight class. 

Earlier in the week, Fuchs downed Stephanie Chavez (Orange, California) on Monday, December 9 and Heaven Garcia (El Monte, California) on Friday, December 13 in unanimos decisions. Between these two bouts, she squared off against Cruz on Wednesday, December 11, and also took a unanimous decision.

Both Fuchs and Cruz will advance to the final stage of the selection process, which will take place January 2-26, 2020 at the U.S Olympic and Paralymic Training Center (USOPC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado and at the Strandja Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. USA Boxing will annoucement the final 13 boxers that will represent Team USA at the International Qualification Tournaments following the conclusion of these events. The first opportunity for the 13 American boxers to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in April, with the second and final opportunity taking place in Paris, France in May.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Final Boxers Set for Finale of 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved
From USA Boxing Press Release

LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA (December 14, 2019) Stakes were high Saturday as the boxers faced elimination in the last round of the challenger’s bracket. The winners advanced to the finals while the losers will have to try again in the next Olympic trials. Here’s who confirmed their place in the finals.

In the women’s 165 lbs. division, Morelle McCane (Cleveland, Ohio) used a patient approach to get a 4-1 decision win over Alexis Gomez (South San Francisco, Calif.) and advance to the finals. She waited for Gomez to make a mistake and struck when the opportunity was best. With the win, she earns another shot at Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, N.C.). The two were scheduled to fight yesterday but McCane missed the bout because of a scheduling mix-up.

“I fought my fight,” McCane said. “I took control of the ring. I’m fired up and ready to go. Boxing is adding to yourself every day. I’m just building. No let up.”  

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved
Lupe Gutierrez (Sacramento, Calif.) proved to be too much for Isamary Aquino (Universal City, Texas) as she handed her both of her losses in the women’s 125 lbs. division of these trials. Gutierrez won the rematch by 4-1 decision. She advances to the finals for another rematch, this time against Andrea Medina (San Diego, Calif.). Medina beat Gutierrez last night in a close 3-2 decision. Gutierrez will need to beat Medina twice to secure a spot in the Olympics.

“I’m feeling great,” Gutierrez said. “I know I took that loss but I’m ready to get the win back. I’m ready for it."

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved
It’s unusual to have unanimous decisions in high-stakes bouts like these, but that’s exactly how Joseph Hicks (Grand Rapids, Mic.) beat Troy Isley (Alexandra, Va.) to advance to the finals. This sets up a rematch with Javier Martinez (Milwaukee, Wisc.), who beat Hicks by unanimous decision in the second round.

“Today was the best I’ve felt in a long, long time,” Hicks said. “Troy is a really good kid and a really great fighter. As for Javier, I figured some things out about him. He’s another great fighter, but I have some things figured out.”

Jeremiah Milton (Tulsa, Okla.) of the men’s 201+ lbs. division followed the trend Hicks set by defeating Luis Alvarado (Kenosha, Wisc.) by unanimous decision. It was a rematch of the second round, a 4-1 decision win by Milton. Milton will have to take this strong performance into tomorrow’s bout with Antonio Mireles (Des Moines, Iowa), who’s dominated this tournament and won every bout by unanimous decision.

“What I noticed about this tournament is that you have to hit more gears,” Milton said. “Every day you have to bring another gear. It’s Olympic trials. Everyone is trying to get to that spot. You have to make those adjustments on the fly. I knew I’d get here because I dedicated myself.”  

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved
In the women’s 132 lbs. division, Amelia Moore (Alexandria, Va.) avenged a 3-2 second-round loss to Kimberly Carlson (Chicago, Ill.) with a 4-1 decision victory to advance to the finals. There, she’ll have to get past top-seed Rashida Ellis (Lynn, Mass.).

“I had a clear mind,” Moore said. “That’s been pretty much the mantra over the last few days since Wednesday. I listened to my corner with a clear mind and was calm. We made the adjustments we needed to make and came back and got the ‘W’ back. That was really important to me.”

It’s been a light tournament so far for Anthony Herrera (Los Angeles, Calif.). He won two of his fights by walkover and had his first fight only yesterday. That extra rest might have been the difference in a tight 3-2 decision win over Roscoe Hill (Spring, Texas) to advance to the final. There, he’ll meet Abraham Perez (Albuquerque, N.M.) for a rematch. On Friday, Perez won in a 3-2 decision. Tomorrow should be another close one.

“As compared to yesterday, I think I shook off a little bit of ring rust,” Herrera said. “I had two walkovers, which was a shocker because that doesn’t usually happen in tournaments like these. I’m feeling better today, I’m feeling strong. I stuck to the game plan and tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved
Christina Cruz (Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.) earned herself another shot at the top seed in the women’s 112 lbs. division, Virginia Fuchs (Houston, Texas), with a 4-1 decision victory over Heaven Garcia (Los Angeles, Calif.). Cruz and Fuchs met back in the second round, a unanimous decision in favor of Fuchs. Cruz is looking forward to another shot at a familiar foe.

“Very excited,” Cruz said. “I get to button up what I didn’t do in the last fight so I’m very excited to fix those little things and hopefully get the win.”

Regardless of who won in the men’s 178 lbs. division, there was sure to be a tough road to the championship. Awaiting in the finals is Rahim Gonzales (Las Vegas, Nev.), who had defeated both competitors in Saturday’s bout by unanimous decision. In the end, it was Atif Oberlton (Philadelphia, Pa.) who defeated Orville Crooks (Brooklyn, N.Y.) by a 3-2 decision to confirm the rematch.

“I’m working hard and listening to my corner,” Oberlton said. “I don’t second guess them. When they tell me to do something, I do it. It’s all about staying smart and being myself.”

In the men’s 125 lbs. division, David Navarro (Los Angeles, Calif.) completed his comeback from a surprising first-round loss by defeating Rashiem Jefferson (Philadelphia, Pa.) by a 4-1 decision to advance to the final. Waiting for Navarro is Bruce Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.), the eight-seed that has stormed through the trials.

“My first loss really opened my eyes,” Navarro said. “I just wasn’t ready for it. Now, I’m getting ready and I’m ready for the next round. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I was a kid and it’s happening.”  

Photo by Darla S Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved

Jamar Talley (Camden, N.J.) got himself back into the winner’s bracket with a 3-1 decision win over Brandon Moore (Lakeland, Fla.) in the men’s 201 lbs. division. This sets up a rematch with Darius Fulghum (Rosharon, Texas). Yesterday, Fulghum got the best of Talley in a close 3-2 decision. Talley thinks he know what it will take to get the win tomorrow.

“To get it done, I gotta do what I did yesterday, but a hundred times more because yesterday wasn’t as good as it was supposed to be where I would have won,” Talley said.

The men’s 152 lbs. division top seed Freudis Rojas (Las Vegas, Nev.) took another step in his journey back to the top after a first-round loss with close a 3-2 decision win over Kelvin Davis (Norfolk, Va.). The win sets up a powerhouse matchup with Delante “Tiger” Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio) in the finals. Johnson has dominated the weight class thus far in the tournament but has yet to face the top-seeded Rojas.

“My battle isn’t over,” Rojas said. “I’m here to show that, even though I lost on the first day, I’m still in this tournament. I’m going to make the biggest comeback. I have a game plan, I’ll come out with the win that day.

Briana Che (Madison, Wisc.), the eight seed in the women’s 152 lbs. division, kept her winning streak alive with a 4-1 decision victory over Danyelle Wolf (San Diego, Calif.). The win sets up a rematch with Oshae Jones (Toledo, Ohio). Back in the first round, Jones beat Che by unanimous decision.

“I always say that sometimes you have to get knocked down and fall forward,” Che said. “That’s my motto. I picked myself up and reevaluated. I can only beat myself. My toughest opponent is myself. I just have to make the right decisions.”

In the men’s 138 lbs. division, Ernesto Mercado (Pomona, Calif.) earned a trip to the finals with a 4-1 victory over Charlie Sheehy (Brisbane, Calif.). Mercado is on a four-bout winning streak after losing in the first round. He’ll hope to carry that momentum into a matchup with top seeded Keyshawn Davis (Norfolk, Va.).

“The first day, I fell short,” Mercado said. “I learned from it. We’ve been picking it up day by day. I feel like tomorrow’s going to be a way better day for me.

Tomorrow’s finals will take place at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino at 3 p.m. CST. Sunday isn’t the absolute end of the trials, however. If a boxer experiences their first loss in the finals, there would be a rematch the following day at noon.