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Chattanooga planning whiteout for JSU game on Saturday

The Chattanooga Mocs have declared a WHITEOUT for the 2014 football home opener against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Finley Stadium. White-on-white uniforms, plenty of giveaways and WHITEOUT T-shirts are sure to enhance an exciting showdown against the sixth-ranked Gamecocks.

  • icon Updated: August 31

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Friday 08/29/2014
NGAC Softball: Gordon Lee survives challenge from Saddle Ridge
Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:12 pm

The Saddle Ridge Lady Mustangs led the Gordon Lee Lady Trojans, 4-3, going into the sixth inning on Thursday, looking to pull the upset. But the Navy-and-White pushed home a pair of runs in the top half of the inning and held on for the 6-4 NGAC victory.

Middle School Volleyball: Oakwood loses two at home
Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:13 pm

The Oakwood Christian Middle School volleyball team fell to 0-4 on the season with a pair of home losses to Chattanooga Christian (25-18, 25-15) and OLPH (25-8, 25-22).

NGAC Softball: Rossville doubled up by Ringgold
Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:10 am

The Rossville Middle School Lady Bulldogs managed 10 hits on Thursday, but also stranded 10 runners on base as their season-opening three-game winning streak was snapped with a 6-3 home loss to Ringgold.

NGAC Volleyball: Gordon Lee off to 2-0 start
Posted: August 29, 2014

The Gordon Lee Middle School volleyball team is out to a 2-0 start to the season after wins over Ringgold and Rossville this week.

NGAC Softball: LaFayette rallies past Chattanooga Valley
Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:02 am

The LaFayette Middle School Lady Ramblers found themselves in another softball shootout on Tuesday afternoon, this time on the road against Chattanooga Valley.

Thursday 08/28/2014
Alabama's Saban faces boyhood team, West Virginia
Posted: August 28, 2014

Growing up in West Virginia, Nick Saban would peek through the rails at the old WVU Fieldhouse as Jerry West played basketball far below.

Watching West Virginia play football, meanwhile, "was like the highlight of my year," Saban said.

When Saban leads No. 2 Alabama against the Mountaineers in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, his priority as always on fall Saturdays will be to win a football game — even against his home state program.

He seemed to enjoy waxing nostalgic this week about his favorite boyhood team in memories that include the heartache of listening to his transistor radio when West and the Mountaineers fell 71-70 — yes, Saban remembers the score — to California in the 1959 national championship game.

"You don't forget stuff like that," Saban said, "but now I'm Alabama's coach. I'm an Alabama fan. We don't really have to be concerned about any of that. We want to do what's best for our team and the relationships that we have here.

"But we also respect their traditions and the relationships that we've developed through the years in West Virginia."

Those ties will be evidenced by friends and family traveling to Atlanta for the game, people who say they saw Saban's potential way back when.

That group includes U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a former West Virginia governor, who grew up less than 10 miles away from the Sabans and still calls him "one of my best friends in the whole world."

Manchin played on youth sports teams coached by Saban's father, Nick Sr., who also operated a service station while running an ice cream shop/restaurant with his wife in front of their modest home just outside Monongah. Nick Sr., Manchin said, "was a builder of men" and his son was always there soaking it in when he wasn't helping out by washing cars or pumping gas.

"He had all the genes for it and he had the tutelage of his father, who was very rigid and stoic about how he did things," Manchin recalled. "You just saw the success come. He saw it by hard work, sacrificing, planning. He knew what it took to succeed, and Nick took it to the next level.

"I always thought he would be the greatest football coach, I believe, in the country today and will go down in history as one of the greatest. And it's all because of that coal-mining town."

Nick Sr. died of a heart attack in 1973 when the undersized Saban, spurned by the Mountaineers, was playing baseball and football at Kent State.

Both Manchin and Saban played quarterback in high school. Manchin graduated from Farmington High in 1965, Saban from Monongah High in 1969.

"The biggest mistake WVU ever made was not offering young Nick Saban a scholarship," said Manchin, whose West Virginia career was ended early by a knee injury. "He was one of the best athletes to ever come out of the area. His size gave them pause to ever offer him a scholarship."

Sharing childhood memories weren't the only time Saban showed a lighter side leading up to this game. He also challenged Manchin and others, including Florida coach Will Muschamp, to participate in the ice bucket challenge that's gone viral in efforts to raise funds to fight Lou Gehrig's disease.

Manchin's wife, Gayle, dumped the senator with ice water.

Manchin said this game is one instance where he'll be rooting against Saban.

Not so for Saban's sister, Dianna Thompson, who lives in the Marion County community of Worthington and has had three kids graduate from West Virginia.

"That's a no brainer: Roll Tide," Thompson said. She has to pull for the man she's always called "Brother."

"When West Virginia's playing anybody else, we cheer for West Virginia," she said. "But we can't cheer against Brother."

If Saban had his way as a teenager, Saturday's game wouldn't just be against his old favorite team. He'd be facing his alma mater.

"He really wanted to go to WVU but they wouldn't give him a scholarship," Thompson said. "They told him he could walk on but he got a scholarship to Kent State, so he went to Kent State. He would have gone to WVU if he had been offered a scholarship there."

Clemson-Georgia game highlights SEC's first week
Posted: August 28, 2014

A look at things to watch in the Southeastern Conference during Week 1 of the season:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia. One year ago, these two teams provided one of the best opening-weekend matchups in a game Clemson won 38-35. Georgia has the home-field advantage in Saturday's rematch, which again has as much intrigue as just about any first-week game across the nation. This game could come down to whether Clemson's defense can slow down Georgia running back Todd Gurley and whether Georgia's offensive line can keep Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley away from Bulldogs quarterback Hunter Mason. Georgia is 36-1 in home nonconference games since 2001.

BEST MATCHUP: Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn. The Razorbacks travel to face the Tigers in a game most notable for the chilly relationship between coaches Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn. Bielema is an unapologetic basher of the hurry-up offense, claiming it leads to more injuries — while few push the offensive pace like Malzahn. The Razorbacks are clearly longshots in this matchup, coming off a 0-8 record in the SEC last season, but they would love nothing more than to spoil Auburn's opener after the Tigers played for a national title last season.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Only five of the SEC's 14 members have quarterbacks who started the majority of games for their respective teams last season. Those five teams are Arkansas (Brandon Allen), Auburn (Nick Marshall), Mississippi (Bo Wallace), Mississippi State (Dak Prescott) and Tennessee (Justin Worley). Wallace's 6,340 career passing yards lead active league QBs by a wide margin.

LONG SHOT: Tennessee has more overall talent than six-point underdog Utah State, but the Aggies enter Sunday's season opener with more experience and the better quarterback in Chuckie Keeton, who is making his first appearance since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament midway through last season. "All you have to do is put their film on," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "If you know anything about football, then you say this is a really, really good football team." The youth of Tennessee's roster makes this game hard to predict. If Utah State grabs an early lead, how will all the newcomers on Tennessee's roster respond?

IMPACT PLAYER: LSU running back Leonard Fournette is only a freshman, but expectations for the highly-regarded recruit are through the roof. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from New Orleans is already generating Heisman Trophy talk down in Louisiana. While that may be premature, he has a chance to make a big impression when the No. 13 Tigers host No. 14 Wisconsin on Saturday. Said Miles: "He's going to want the opportunity to do everything that he can do. And certainly he'll play a role in this game."

___

AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi, contributed to this story.

Wednesday 08/27/2014
Many ACC teams set to open with unproven QBs
Posted: August 27, 2014

There's plenty of buzz around the Atlantic Coast Conference with the addition of a new team, the latest Heisman Trophy winner and the reigning national champion.

Top-ranked Florida State's run to the national title and the arrival of fast-rising Louisville have raised the ACC's national profile.

But the strength of the league as a whole this season could depend on the arms of numerous unproven commodities at quarterback — besides Jameis Winston, the Seminoles' Heisman winner, of course.

At least 10 schools will debut new starting QBs this week, including three transfers and a pair of true freshmen.

Those concerns might be unfounded, new Clemson starter Cole Stoudt said.

"According to some of the guys, we're not going to get a first down," said Stoudt, who is replacing three-year starter Tajh Boyd.

"I think people are going to be shocked by what we're going to do," he added. "People are underestimating what we have, looking at all the negatives instead of the positives we have."

The numbers perhaps tell a different story: According to STATS, only nine current ACC quarterbacks have made at least one career start — and three of them made those starts at other schools.

Only one ACC QB — Duke's Anthony Boone — ever started a game for his current school before last season.

And no one in the league has made more career starts than Winston — all 14 of his came during his big redshirt freshman season in 2013.

A major subplot this season will be whether the ACC can produce a serious challenger for the Seminoles — and along with that, whether there's another elite quarterback in the league who can make his team a legitimate threat to Florida State.

Boone says the league "absolutely" needs another quarterback to step up and challenge Winston — and naturally, he hopes he'll be the one to do it.

The Duke quarterback said he hung around with Winston over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy and the Heisman winner told him "I'll see you in Charlotte" for a rematch in the ACC championship game.

"As a competitor, you want to be the best on your team, you want to be the best in your league," Boone said. "If somebody told me that I can challenge (Winston), that's fine with me."

The league's only other returning full-time starter is Terrel Hunt of Syracuse. North Carolina is still deciding between Marquise Williams — who started six games last season due to injuries to regular starter Bryn Renner — and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky.

David Watford started all 12 games of Virginia's 2-10 finish last year. But backup Greyson Lambert, a redshirt sophomore, beat Watford for the starting job with all of 75 college passes on his resume.

"His pass attempts have been more than nine of the likely starters to be named starters" in the ACC, coach Mike London said. "There is an experience that this year, this team, that the quarterbacks do have."

Plenty of other first-time starters also will get their chance this weekend.

Two transfers from Florida — Jacoby Brissett at North Carolina State and Tyler Murphy at Boston College — are pegged to start their new teams' openers along with ex-Texas Tech backup Michael Brewer, who's now at Virginia Tech.

Brissett, who made four total starts for the Gators in 2011 and '12, promised to "just make sure I don't mess up the first snap."

At Miami, true freshman Brad Kaaya beat out another transfer — Jake Heaps, formerly of BYU and Kansas. And John Wolford will become the first true freshman QB since 1974 to start a Wake Forest opener.

"He is our best quarterback, so I can't worry about whether he's a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "In a perfect world, you'd always love to have the guy be in the system for one or two years before he plays. But we're going to put the guys out there that give us the best chance to win. And he clearly won the job."

Now, it's time for all those new quarterbacks to show they can win games.

___

AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina; Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Will Graves in Pittsburgh; and Hank Kurz Jr. in Charlottesville, Virginia, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

NGAC Softball: Cross walk-off gives Rossville a win over CVMS
Updated: August 27, 2014 - 9:43 am

It's been a number of years since Rossville could claim a middle school softball win over neighboring Chattanooga Valley, but the Lady Bulldogs changed all that on Tuesday afternoon.

NGAC Softball: Gordon Lee outlasts LaFayette
Updated: August 27, 2014 - 5:50 pm

LaFayette and Gordon Lee Middle Schools opened up the North Georgia Athletic Conference fastpitch softball season on Tuesday by playing a game that looked like a throwback from the old slowpitch days.

NGAC Softball: Cripps homers, but Lady Mustangs fall at Trion
Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:11 am

Saddle Ridge got a home run from Paytn Cripps on Tuesday night, but it was not enough as the Lady Mustangs dropped a 3-1 NGAC league game to Trion.

NGAC Volleyball: Rossville claims road opener at Chattanooga Valley
Updated: August 27, 2014 - 7:33 pm

Tori Elliott had 10 service points on the night and Katie McDaniel added nine as the Rossville Middle School volleyball team swept rival Chattanooga Valley, 25-12 and 25-16, in the opening North Georgia Athletic Conference match of the season for both teams.

Tuesday 08/26/2014
Swinney: Suspended Clemson players out vs Georgia
Posted: August 26, 2014

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says the three players suspended for the 16th-ranked Tigers' opener at No. 12 Georgia, including returning starters defensive end Corey Crawford and offensive lineman David Beasley, won't get a reprieve from their one-game punishments.

Swinney suspended Crawford, Beasley, backup cornerback Garry Peters and reserve offensive lineman Shaq Anthony in March for undisclosed violation of team rules. Last week, Anthony announced his intentions to transfer.

Swinney says all had worked hard and shown good character since March. But the coach says there are consequences for their actions.

Crawford, a senior, would've started opposite All-American end Vic Beasley. David Beasley started seven games along the offensive line.

Swinney says the three will be allowed to travel with the team to Georgia if they want.

Monday 08/25/2014
Middle School Softball: Saddle Ridge JV falls to Dalton
Updated: August 25, 2014 - 10:21 pm

The Saddle Ridge Middle School junior varsity Mustangs lost a tough 5-3 decision to Dalton on Monday.

Middle School Softball: LaFayette outslugs Calhoun
Updated: August 25, 2014 - 10:17 pm

Ashton Stalling slapped a walk-off, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Erin Hughes and lift the LaFayette Middle School to a 10-9 non-league victory over visiting Calhoun in the Lady Ramblers' season-opening softball game on Monday.

Loran Smith column: Remembering Dan Magill
Posted: August 25, 2014

Our ritual of having a beer a couple of times a week became a challenge because of travel. Sometimes, I just couldn’t keep from being out of town on Monday, the day Dan Magill preferred to enjoy a late afternoon libation at our favorite watering hole in Five Points.

Sunday 08/24/2014
NGAC Softball: Saddle Ridge goes 2-0 in Play Day games
Updated: August 24, 2014 - 8:53 pm

The Saddle Ridge Middle School Lady Mustangs went unbeaten in Saturday’s softball Play Day, opening with a 3-1 win over Trion.

Increased numbers, increased stakes for GNTC Volleyball
Updated: August 27, 2014 - 5:56 pm

It was just three years ago that Carrie Powell took over the Georgia Northwestern volleyball program. The former GNTC player had a memorable first season on the bench, going to battle each night with just a determined group of just six players,

NGAC Softball: LaFayette goes 3-0 during Play Day
Updated: August 24, 2014 - 2:47 pm

The results may not count in the regular season standings, but the LaFayette Middle School Lady Ramblers served notice during Saturday's Play Day games that they intent to have a say in who wins the North Georgia Athletic Conference softball title in 2014.

Friday 08/22/2014
Hester looking for Falcons' rebound against Titans
Posted: August 22, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — From his vantage point in Chicago, Devin Hester saw the Atlanta Falcons as a consistent playoff contender.

As a free agent, Hester, 31, was looking for a new home that could give him a good chance to get back to the postseason. He said that was a big reason he signed with Atlanta — despite the Falcons' 4-12 finish last season.

Now Hester is anxious for the Falcons to play like a winner when Atlanta starters get an extended look in their third preseason game against Tennessee on Saturday night. The Falcons struggled in last week's ugly 32-7 preseason loss at the Texans.

"It's going to be very important," Hester said. "Coming off the game we played last week, we left a lot of plays out there. We know the fourth preseason game is pretty much for the rookies and the younger guys, so we know this is our last opportunity to really showcase what we're capable of."

Hester provided one of Atlanta's few highlights last week with his 12-yard touchdown catch.

Hester is best known as one of the top return specialists in NFL history. The opportunity to contribute on offense was another reason he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with Atlanta in March.

He didn't have a catch last year with the Bears for the first time since his rookie season. He has a chance to be a part of three- and four-receiver formations in Atlanta with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.

"We were all on the same page with the situation on offense," Hester said of his talks with the Falcons. "Looking at it, we kind of discussed what my role would be on the offensive side of the ball, and we saw eye to eye on that. That was one of the main reasons why I chose Atlanta."

The timing could be perfect for Hester. There will be additional opportunities for receivers to help fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez.

"I think those are going to be more distributed to the third and fourth receiver now," Hester said. "They pretty much treated Tony like a No. 1or No. 2 receiver the last couple of years. With Tony gone, it's going to open up more options, I would say, for me and Harry in the slot position when we go three-wide."

Hester set career highs with 56 catches for 757 yards in 2009 with the Bears. Since then, his role on offense declined.

Tennessee's Nate Washington said Titans receiver Marc Mariani is another example of a player who has difficulty shedding the tag of a return specialist.

"It can be difficult because a lot of times you can just get labeled as a return man," Washington said. "A lot of guys like Marc want to be respected as a receiver also. He has the talent so I'm sure Devin is feeling a little bit similar. Going out there making plays on special teams is one thing, but you always want to be a part of that offense and make sure that team knows and the rest of your community and your fans know you're a vital part of that offense."

Hester's credentials as a return man are unquestioned. He shares the NFL record with Falcons Hall of Famer Deion Sanders with 19 return touchdowns, including a record 13 on punt returns.

He made first-team AP All-Pro honors as a return specialist in 2006, 2007 and 2010.

Hester had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown last season. As a free agent, his three finalists were Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Arizona.

Hester said the Falcons are "a team that I knew had a good success in winning games and was always competing in the playoffs."

"The older you get the more you start looking for the team that's got a chance for the playoffs and for winning the Super Bowl," he said.

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