Tag: Jacksonville State

Don’t pit Zerrick and Zion against each other

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Scroll through the Twitter feed. Rewind those highlight tapes. Talk to them after practice.

You’ll see the praise. You’ll see that Zerrick Cooper and Zion Webb are good at a lot of things.

Cooper was in Death Valley last Saturday for Clemson’s Spring Game and was honored alongside the seniors during halftime.

Stop and think about that.

Cooper, now a sophomore, spent two years at Clemson — including his redshirt season — and did things the right way so well that he was honored despite transferring to Jacksonville State in January. Look at the replies on Twitter to ClemsonTigerNet, who tweeted Cooper was in Clemson last weekend, and you’ll see nothing but positivity.

Webb, who is a redshirt freshman out of Central-Phenix City, has been in the system for over a year now and came to Jacksonville as a highly-touted recruit. Many consider Webb a steal after most schools backed off the 6-foot, 200-pound quarterback after suffering a season-ending injury during his junior year of high school.

According to Jacksonville State head coach John Grass, both Cooper and Webb “bring something different and similar to the table” in terms of helping the Gamecock offense.

“Both of them throw the pass accurately and both have good arms and both of them can run the football,” Grass said after JSU’s non-traditional J-Day Spring Game last Thursday night. “But both have different kinds of styles running. However, both of them are being leaders and commanding the offense really well.”

Webb signed with JSU after hundreds of thousands watched former All-American Eli Jenkins set numerous records over the last four years. Having the same skill set as Jenkins, fans and alumni automatically assumed Webb would be the guy, which is no knock on All-OVC performer Bryant Horn, for years to come.

Then Cooper announced his intentions to transfer and many took to social media to express their interest and desire in the 6-foo-2, 220-pound quarterback.

But here’s the thing — don’t pit the two in a competition because they’re different guys trying to achieve the same goal, which is helping Jacksonville State back to the FCS National Championship Game.

“They both do their own thing because they each have their own thing they’re good at,” said JSU quarterback coach Cody Wells. “I think both are doing a great job of leading the offense when it’s their opportunity. I think, at times, we still have places to grow and things to get better at, but they’re moving along in the right direction.”

Just give everything time and don’t be upset if Grass and company roll out the two-quarterback system to start next season because these are two guys who can play.

Leadership helps guide JSU student-athletes to give back

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Don’t be alarmed if you see a 7-foot male wielding a chainsaw around Jacksonville, it’s just Norbertas Giga. If you spend more time looking around, you might even see several Jacksonville State volleyball players attempting to roll a fallen tree trunk to a more convenient spot.

Before asking why you may see these sights, maybe the first question should (jokingly) be towards JSU strength and conditioning coach Gavin Hallford and if helping move trees counts as their workout for the day.

The reason that should be the first question is simple — because asking why JSU student-athletes are helping is pointless.

Why? Just continue to look around.

There’s JSU head football coach John Grass with a chainsaw. JSU softball assistant coaches Mark Wisner and Julie Boland working on a patch of land. JSU head volleyball coach Terry Gamble, his son Kyle and daughter-in-law Reagan were all helping. JSU associate athletic director for media relations Josh Underwood is there, too.

Are you beginning to see the picture here?

The reason there are so many JSU student-athletes helping around campus is because the desire to help starts at the top; it starts with those with great influence.

There’s a reason Malcolm Drumwright and Mohamed Abuarisha came straight home from last week’s College Basketball Invitational semifinal game and immediately went to work. There’s a reason Jamie McGuire, Cadi Oliver, Stephanie Lewis and Sallie Beth Burch dropped what they were doing elsewhere around the state to come back home to help.

Because it’s what they were taught to do. Helping those in need has become a staple of what Jacksonville State University is all about.

For years now, the communities surrounding Jacksonville State have traveled to support these student-athletes during sporting events, so it should come as no surprise that these same players … humans … are working around the city to help give back, to help rebuild but most importantly to help show they care.

Think back to JSU softball’s annual Fan Day. Head coach Jana McGinnis rarely does much talking at the event, but when she does, there’s always a ringing statement that’s forever imprinted on minds:

“I hope you (the fans) will consider us as your favorite team because this is home and we are always here for you.”

It may take several months — maybe a year even — before the restorations on Pete Mathews Coliseum, University Field and Rudy Abbott Field are completed, so when the football players are lined up to kick off the 2018 season, just remember to be sure to be at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium to cheer on those guys who came to help when you needed it most.

Golden-Hearted Families: Leas and Strains return to Jacksonville to help those in need

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Justin Lea, Courtney Strain and Leah Strain all were born and grew up hours away from Jacksonville. But major life milestones over the years have made Jacksonville State home for the trio.

For Courtney, it was meeting current fiancé Dalton Screws, who was a teammate of Lea under Bill Clark and John Grass, on top of countless basketball games played inside Pete Mathews Coliseum. For Leah, it was the friendships and memories created, joining the nursing program and, like her older sister, the time spent on the now ruined hardwood of Pete Mathews Coliseum. For Justin, JSU gave him an opportunity to continue playing the sport — football — he loves; a sport he hopes will continue giving in the future with a professional opportunity.

So, it’s easy to understand why they took the initiative to come and lend a hand … more specifically 100 hands.

Courtney, now a science teacher and coach at Handley High School, and her dad, Larry, brought 41 student-athletes from Roanoke, a city an hour and 18 minutes from JSU’s campus, to assist Lea and his brother, Jay, cutting and clearing trees from the yard of Jamie “Red” Etheredge, who has been a strong supporter of JSU student programs, and the area surrounding the Alumni house.

“I just know Red does a lot for JSU athletes … He’s one of the biggest supporters we have,” said Lea. “My hometown was hit in 2011 and we saw a lot of people come from out of town to help us, so I just wanted to find a way to come out and help.

“I give credit to my parents and grandparents and those who raised me when I think about the man I am today and to think about yourself last and if someone needs help, go help them.”

For Larry, who is the head coach at Handley, it was a no-brainer to bring some of his athletes to Jacksonville and help.

“There is no better team-building exercise than helping others,” Larry said. “It was actually about 10:30 Wednesday night when I decided we needed to do it. We got to school yesterday and the first people I called were my principal and superintendent and they were more than supportive about the idea. The kids knew nothing about it yesterday, so when I asked this morning, all their hands went up.

“I knew it was the right thing to do. As a team, we need to learn to help other people when they need help.”


Thursday morning, both Courtney and Leah reached out to get in touch with JSU athletic director Greg Seitz, who pointed Larry in another direction before he was able to connect the EMA and get the OK to help.

According to Larry, his initial intentions were to help clean up JSU’s softball field, tennis courts and the rest of the spring sports venues. However, with the school’s campus closed to all non-essentially personnel until April 2nd, the near 50-person clean-up crew spend most of Friday morning in Red’s backyard moving parts of trees.

“It was a great two-in-one scenario,” Courtney said. “You’re helping a community that’s very near our families but also bonding as a team. I told someone this earlier, but these kids need to realize life isn’t always about them and their wants and their needs. They may not realize it right now, but one day they’re going to look back and realize you’re supposed to do things for other people because one day you may be in the same situation.”

Brown: Gamecocks’ win over Bruins biggest of Harper’s tenure

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

In two quick years, Ray Harper has helped take the Jacksonville State men’s basketball program to heights unseen in over 20 years. So, it’s not crazy to say last Thursday’s 78-67 win over Belmont was the biggest of his short tenure, right?

Yes, the trio of wins against Southeast Missouri, Belmont and UT Martin in the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference tournament were remarkable, especially beating the Bruins and Skyhawks — the tournament’s top two seeds — on back-to-back nights, but people didn’t really expect the Gamecocks to win those games.

But back to last week’s victory. Think about all the extra storylines surrounding the game: dedicating the court to Bill Jones (who won the school’s only basketball national championship in 1985), celebrating a trio of seniors (Des Curry, Norbertas Giga and all-time great Malcolm Drumwright), staying in contention for a first-round bye in this week’s conference tournament and the pressure of playing conference powerhouse Belmont on national television.

With the celebration of Jones’ accomplishments came the attendance of former players under the three-time Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year. Those players may have been entertaining the idea of returning to Pete Mathews Coliseum for some time now but needed something to get them over the hump.

They needed an entertaining and signature win to feel the program was in good hands and trending upward.

They needed to see Giga hyping up the crowd during the second half.

They needed to see Drumwright sinking the dagger 3-point basket late in the game.

They needed to see this game.

Speaking of things people needed, who better to need the win than the players.

It had been 14 days since JSU beat Tennessee Tech 82-65 in Jacksonville. Within the two weeks, the Gamecocks dropped a home game against Tennessee State (47-65), at Murray State (60-68) and at Austin Peay (57-60). The players needed confidence heading into this past weekend’s regular-season finale in Cookeville, Tenn.

Boy, did they get that against the Bruins. Just look at the statistics.

Marlon Hunter, who played under Harper at Western Kentucky, followed his 21-point performance against Belmont with 14 against the Golden Eagles. Christian Cunningham finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds Saturday after having eight and seven Thursday night. Jason Burnell, after having 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Bruins, had 12 and four over the weekend. Oh, and that Drumwright kid, had eight points and four assists against TTU, which came after posting 11 and nine in the final home game of his JSU career.

Combining everyone’s performances resulted in JSU earning the No. 4 seed in the 2018 OVC Tournament with a 66-57 win at Tennessee Tech.

All far as having everyone’s attention, the Gamecocks are 5-4 in games played on ESPN3, ESPNU, SEC Network+, Fox Sports Midwest, CBS Sports Network, Pac-12 Network and NBC Sports Washington. (Those losses to Oregon State, Mississippi State, Buffalo and SIUE were by a combined 17 points.)

Only time will tell how much impact the Belmont and Tennessee Tech wins will factor into JSU’s postseason run this year, but if there are any clues, if the Gamecocks win the conference tournament, again, no one will be surprised.



JSU Baseball wins 2015 season opener against Youngstown State

JSU Sportswire
JSU Sportswire

The Jacksonville Sate Gamecocks defeated the Youngstown State Penguins 13-1 in the season opener on Friday afternoon at Rudy Abbott Field.

Both Paschal Petrongolo and Tyler Gamble led the team’s scoring with three runs a piece. Gavin Golsan scored two runs, while Paul Angel, Ryan Sebra, Clayton Daniel, Chase Silvani, and Daniel Gaither each scored a run a piece. Zachary Fowler threw five scoreless innings that included four strikeouts.

The Gamecocks took an early lead on Friday afternoon, scoring six runs in the first inning thanks to four hits and a throwing error by Youngstown State.

The Penguins committed another error in the second inning when Kevin Yarabinec failed to pick off Petrongolo at second base, which allowed him to advance to third where he was later stranded.

Youngstown State finally made it onto the scoreboard in the top of the sixth when a balk by Ryan Sebra allowed catcher Jonny Miller to advance to home from third. This would be the Penguins only run scored during the contest.

Gamble and Petrongolo would both score in the fourth thanks to a two-out hit by Daniel.

In the bottom of the sixth, another two-out hit by Daniel allowed Gamble to cross home and score his third run of the game.

Another throwing error by Youngstown State allowed Silvani to start the scoring in the bottom of the seventh. A center field blast by Petrongolo lifted the Gamecocks to a 13-1 run lead.

Atop the mound, Fowler gave five very impressive innings that included four strikeouts and only two hits. Sebra took over at the top of the sixth. Sebra was replaced with one out left in the top of the eighth, and bases loaded by Justin Hoyt.

Jacksonville State scored 13 runs, got 15 hits, committed no errors, and stranded five men on base in their first game of the 2015 season. Youngstown State scored one run, got four hits, committed five errors, and stranded seven men on base in their first lost.

The Gamecocks and Penguins will meet again to finish their two-game series on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Rudy Abbott Field.

Timothy Cash
Staff Writer