The 2014 high school football season is just five weeks away, but for those who can’t wait for the action to begin, you don’t have to.
SPRING GARDEN – Being a part of the Spring Garden football program isn’t something new for Kaitlyn Rogers.
Jacksonville State was picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference in the Preseason Football Media Poll, which was released on Friday. A total 14 voters from around the league cast a ballot on who they thought would be the 2014 football favorites and preseason players of the year.
IRVING, Texas (AP) — A rising gold football-shaped trophy will be the prize for the national champion in the new College Football Playoff.
It’s a rare thing when the notes I compile throughout a week all have something in common.
CENTRE – Longtime Cherokee County Country Club member Sid Garrett said this year’s Dub Ellis Golf Invitational in Centre won’t be the same. That’s because this year’s tournament, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, will be the first without Ellis. He died in late February at the age of 87.
The Cedar Bluff Tigers fell just short of playing for a state baseball championship in Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium last season.
LILLE, France (AP) — Marcel Kittel won the fourth stage of the Tour de France — his third of the race — in a sprint as the tour returned home from England on Tuesday.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — FIFA will not take action against the Colombia player who injured Neymar and ended the Brazil star's World Cup.
FIFA said its disciplinary panel "cannot consider this matter" under the rules because the match referee saw the challenge by Camilo Zuniga and judged it at the time.
"In this specific case, no retrospective action can be taken," FIFA said in a statement on Monday, because the incident "did not escape the match officials' attention."
In a separate decision, the panel also refused to consider a Confederation of Brazilian Football appeal against captain Thiago Silva's yellow card in the 2-1 win quarterfinals over Colombia on Friday in Fortaleza.
Thiago Silva's second caution of the tournament triggered a one-match ban which he will serve in the semifinals. Brazil will therefore be without its best player and its captain against Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
Neymar will be sidelined for about 45 days after sustaining a fractured third vertebra.
The panel studied video of Zuniga's 86th-minute challenge, where he kneed Neymar in the back when jumping into him at speed. Zuniga apologized on Saturday.
Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did not show Zuniga a yellow card, and FIFA's disciplinary panel considered the incident judged on the spot.
The seriousness of an injury could not be weighed in a disciplinary decision, nor was mistaken identity a factor in the case, FIFA added.
"First and foremost, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee (Claudio Sulser) wishes to state that he deeply regrets the incident and the serious consequences on Neymar's health," the statement said.
The Luis Suarez biting case earlier in the World Cup raised expectations that Sulser's panel would also punish Zuniga.
However, Suarez's bite of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder was missed by match officials. That allowed Sulser to use video evidence to ban the Uruguay forward for nine international matches and four months.
The Mexican referee in that case, Marco Rodriguez, will handle the Brazil-Germany semifinal in his first match duty since Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 on June 24.
Thiago Silva was booked against Colombia for impeding goalkeeper David Ospina who tried to kick the ball downfield.
The FIFA disciplinary code states that cautions can be canceled only in "exceptional circumstances."
The panel "cannot consider the matter given the fact that there is no legal basis entitling it to grant such request," FIFA said.
Jacksonville State's DaMarcus James has been named to the Walter Payton Award Preseason Watch List, which was released today by The Sports Network.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The World Cup's best dribblers — Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben — face off when Argentina and Netherlands meet in the semifinals.
In Brazil, Robben has been quick, Messi has been quicksilver.
On Wednesday in Sao Paulo, either one could turn the semifinal with a dazzling turn of pace or a weaving run to propel his team to the final.
"We have to cut the supply line to Messi," Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi told Dutch website Nu.nl.
The Barcelona star led Argentina through the group stage with four goals. He has also made 180 passes in his five matches so far.
The Dutch have shared the goal-scoring duties more evenly — Robben and Robin van Persie each have three, Memphis Depay has two of the team's total of 12 — but the Bayern Munich winger's scintillating sprints with the ball have often been the highlights of Oranje matches.
"We know that we will play against one of the best teams when it comes to counterattacks because of the speed of their men up front," Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "So we have to take precautions to not give them the possibility to counterattack, to always be well positioned, to not lose balls unnecessarily in areas where there's a lot of risk."
After scoring 10 times in group play, the Netherlands has managed only two in its two knock-out matches and the Dutch will be hoping captain Van Persie regains his touch in front of goal. He looked off the pace and missed an easy chance near the end of regulation time in the quarterfinal against Costa Rica.
The Netherlands will again be without their powerful midfield controller Nigel de Jong, who has a torn groin muscle. A possible replacement, Leroy Fer, is recovering from a hamstring injury and it is not clear if he will be fit for Wednesday's semifinal at the Itaquerao Stadium.
Argentina will be without Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria, who limped off in the first half of his country's quarterfinal win over Belgium with a right thigh injury, but striker Sergio Aguero has been declared fit after recovering from a similar problem.
Di Maria scored the extra-time winner against Switzerland in the second round and set up Gonzalo Higuain's winning goal in the first half against Belgium on Saturday.
"He's a good player, but we look at the whole team, not one player," Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen said. "We're going to watch ... how Argentina plays. We're going to make our plan to beat Argentina."
Whether that plan again could involve Cillessen being substituted a minute before a penalty shootout and replaced with the more physically imposing Tim Krul — as happened against Costa Rica — remains to be seen.
The move by tactical mastermind Louis van Gaal was the World Cup's most surprising substitution and one of its most effective as Krul stopped two penalties.
"We are ready for everything," Krul said. "Hopefully, we don't need it against Argentina and we can do the job in 90 minutes."
The two sides have a long World Cup history, including one of the Netherlands' most heart-breaking losses, in the 1978 final when Rob Rensenbrink's shot hit the post shortly before full time with the scores level at 1-1. Argentina went on to win 3-1 in extra time.
In 1998, the Dutch led by Guus Hiddink got a measure of revenge when Dennis Bergkamp's memorable goal knocked Argentina out in the quarterfinals in France.
Cillessen said beating Argentina in Sao Paulo would only be a step on the way to making amends for the 1978 final — one of three the Netherlands has lost, earning the Dutch the title of the best team never to win the World Cup.
"It would be revenge if we win the World Cup," Cillessen said. "But we have to wait for that. It's not a final. It's a semi."
LONDON (AP) — Germany's Marcel Kittel showed he may be the sprinter to beat at the Tour de France, speeding to his second stage win this year in Stage 3 on Monday as cycling's big event entered London before leaving England for France.
With high school football season just eight weeks away, WEIS radio in Centre (100.5 FM, 990 AM) is planning to broadcast games live over the airwaves once again this year.
There’s something about Clemson University that appeals to Cherokee County High School boys basketball coach Neal Wester.
Football is something former Cedar Bluff and Troy University quarterback Jamie Hampton was pretty good at.
PHILADELPHIA – Jacksonville State football players Max Holcombe, DaMarcus James and LaMichael Fanning have all three been named Preseason All-Americans by The Sports Network, the organization announced on Tuesday.
MONTGOMERY – The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) has selected Birmingham-based Knight Eady Sports Group to provide event management and marketing services for the next three years. The agreement begins July 1, 2014 and runs through June 30, 2017.
Here at The Herald, I’m beginning to lay out the blueprints for the upcoming fall sports season.
CENTRE – Since taking over the Centre Otter swim team this year, head coach Betsy Rainer hasn’t seen a drop off in talent.
SAO PAULO (AP) — The last time the U.S. played in a World Cup in Brazil, just one American reporter was on hand, using vacation time and paying his own way.
Sixty-four years later, about 100 credentialed U.S. media members are covering the tournament — and that doesn't even include staffers from the networks broadcasting the games.
Back home, millions of people are watching on giant screens or office computers, at bars and public gatherings. In their protected Brazilian bubble, U.S. players find out about it via email, text, tweet, Facebook, cable television and all sorts of other inventions that didn't exist in 1950.
"All the bars and the pubs and restaurants are packed, and it's all over social media and people are taking off work," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "That says a lot. They do that for the Super Bowl. So the fact that they're doing it for the World Cup is special."
The Americans traveled Sunday to Salvador for Tuesday's second-round game against Belgium. Sunday also marked the anniversary of the famous 1-0 victory over England at Belo Horizonte, still considered by many the biggest upset in World Cup history.
Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the only American reporter there in 1950. Now every game is televised live back home, drawing audiences that would make every U.S. league other than the NFL jealous.
Stars in other sports are taking notice. San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum pulled on a U.S. road jersey after throwing a no-hitter last week.
This kind of attention and hype would have been unimaginable not just in 1990, when the U.S. returned to the World Cup after a 40-year absence, but even as recently as 2010.
"Obviously when we were in Korea, when we were in Germany, South Africa, the support has always been there, but it's just a lot bigger," said defender DaMarcus Beasley, the first American to play in four World Cups. "We get a lot more mainstream people that never really watched soccer or been a fan of soccer. And obviously people are going to say, 'Ah, people only come out during the World Cup. They don't support every game.' But we see it differently. We see what's going on behind the scenes, and we know our support is growing in the right direction, and us getting out of our group is a way to help improve our growth from a soccer standpoint."
Players have cited the large crowds at home and the thousands of U.S. fans in Brazilian stadiums as forces that motivated them during difficult moments.
"It is the reason we exist," said Korey Donahoo, president of the American Outlaws supporters group, "to inspire a difference in the team and to help spur the players on to greater things."
The three U.S. group stage games averaged more than 18 million viewers between English-language ESPN and Spanish-language Univision. The 2-2 Sunday evening draw with Portugal was the most-watched soccer game in American history with 24.7 million TV viewers.
The finale against Germany started at noon EDT when much of the country was at work — or at least supposed to be. A record audience of 1.05 million streamed that match on WatchESPN.
"Four years ago it was impressive, and the fact that it seems even bigger now is a testament to our country," Howard said. "I don't know if we can get that type of electricity every weekend. I don't think that's where we're at as a country in terms of the soccer fanaticism."
By comparison, Boston's six-game World Series win over St. Louis last October averaged 14.9 million viewers on Fox, San Antonio's five-game victory over Miami in this month's NBA Finals averaged 15.5 million on ABC, and Los Angeles' five-game win over the New York Rangers in the NHL's Stanley Cup finals averaged 5 million on NBC and NBCSN.
But "American football" is still the king in the U.S. The opening weekend of the NFL playoffs this past season averaged 34.7 million viewers for four games.
"This is a very special time for us back home in America and with the growth of soccer," defender Omar Gonzalez said. "With us getting out of the group, it definitely helps a lot. The viewership on different channels has been great, and we want to keep it going."
A win over Belgium would advance the U.S. to a quarterfinal against Argentina or Switzerland on Saturday at noon EDT, another potential record-setter.
"We're on a positive trendline in this sport. I don't think there's any denying that," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "What this does is, it jumps up to a much higher trendline."
LONDON (AP) — Eugenie Bouchard won the last four games to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win Monday over Alize Cornet.
Cornet, who upset Serena Williams in the third round, led 5-3 in the second set but lost her next two service games and the match.
Bouchard, who is the only woman this year to have advanced to the semifinals of both Grand Slam tournaments, will next face either 2004 champion Maria Sharapova or Angelique Kerber.
The 20-year-old Bouchard, a former junior champion at Wimbledon, is making her second appearance at the All England Club after reaching the third round in 2013.