New sports year brings forth plenty of questions

Published 1:25 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2005

By Staff
While Monday marked the opening day of official football practice at both T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal, it also marked the opening day of volleyball practice at those schools as well as Jefferson Davis Community College.
While the dawn of each season brings forth hope and promise, it also brings forth questions that have to be answered.
Here are some items to keep an eye on.
1. When will T.R. Miller football head coach Jamie Riggs' 200th career victory come?
Riggs enters the 2005 season with 198 victories, which means the earliest it can come is the September 2 home game against Straughn. Brewton Municipal Stadium would be an appropriate place for Riggs to reach the milestone since nearly half of his career victories have come at that field.
If the Tigers would happen to get knocked off in either of the first two weeks by Escambia County or Straughn, Riggs' next chance to reach 200 would be on the road September 9 at Dale County.
2. How will new W.S. Neal football coach Blaine Hathcock and Lady Blue Eagles football coach Chuck Riddle fare?
There is always a mystery as to what impact a new head coach will have on a program. There are some similar situations for both Hathcock and Riddle. Each has never been a head coach in their respective sport (Riddle was interim head softball coach at W.S. Neal last spring). Both will be the third head coach in four years for their respective programs. Both programs are coming off disappointing seasons, football at 4-6 and volleyball at 3-18.
Only time will answer this question.
3. Will T.R. Miller volleyball be able to continue to advance forward?
Seldom will a program set a school record for wins in a season and post its farthest advancement in postseason consider the year a disappointment, but that was probably the case last year with the Lady Tigers. T.R. Miller went into last season with hopes of its first winning season, yet finished 8-17. Those eight wins came against three teams (W.S. Neal, Escambia County and Leroy) and seven of the wins came against two teams (W.S. Neal and Escambia County).
4. How much will a roster absent of seniors hurt W.S.
See BITS Page 8A
Neal volleyball?
Teams usually bank on seniors for leadership, but sometimes experience is more valuable than age. Despite their youth, the Lady Blue Eagles return five players (Maggie Crutchfield, Katelin Hulley, Erica Cardwell, Jamica Thomas and Jessica Fountain) who all saw significant varsity time last season.
5. How much will a lack of experience hurt JDCC volleyball?
For various reasons, six of last year's seven freshmen on the Lady Warhawks roster did not return. The lone exception was outside hitter Tiffany Andersen. JDCC does return middle hitter Lashundra Clausell, who played two years ago but redshirted last year.
Age isn't that big a deal in junior college athletics. Most of the time there is only about a year difference in the ages of players. However, volleyball is a sport of timing and familiarity with where your teammates will be on the floor. That is where the lack of experience could hurt the Lady Warhawks.
6. What is the best new item on the fall sports calendar?
Try the inaugural Escambia County Volleyball Tournament, which will be played at T.R. Miller October 15. Volleyball joins boys and girls basketball as well as baseball as sports that now have the county tournament that features T.R. Miller, Flomaton, Escambia County and Flomaton.
The tournament will be
played the Saturday before the Area Tournament, which should be a good postseason tuneup.
7. Which Big 5-0 will come first, T.R. Miller's football record or head coach Jamie Riggs' 50th birthday?
If T.R. Miller can take care of its business against Escambia County, Straughn, Dale County, Abbeville and Andalusia, it will be record on September 23. If not, Riggs will turn 50 on October 7.
8. What will be the biggest "trap games" for T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal football?
For T.R. Miller, that could be the Tigers' regular season home finale against Jay (Fla.) on October 28.
T.R. Miller plays what figures to be its two biggest regular season games the preceding two weeks, October 14 against Pike County and October 21 at W.S. Neal.
After two such emotional and important battles, how much gas will T.R. Miller have left in the tank for Jay?
For W.S. Neal, it could be September 30 at Dale County.
The Dale County game caps off a three-week road swing that follows trips to Headland and Montgomery Trinity Presbyterian. Those three trips are about a combined 700 miles in round trips plus Dale County was a team W.S. Neal struggled to defeat at home last year.
9. What is the biggest item to key an eye on for later in the fall at W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller?
It could be realignment and reclassification. Both schools figure to be sitting on the bubble between Class 3A and 4A. The AHSAA is expected to make that announcement as well as the new region alignment sometime in December.
10. Which will draw more fans, one T.R. Miller or W.S. Neal football game or the entire season volleyball attendance for T.R. Miller, W.S. Neal and JDCC combined?
Anybody in this area knows the answer is football. Unfortunately the volleyball teams don't get the community fan support they deserve.

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