JOHN WILBERT: Looking at the good and bad from high school sports in 2010

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

As the Northeast Mississippi high school 2010 season winds down, here’s a look back at some newsworthy items, the good and the bad:
The heart of a champion
- Despite having to forgo his football career, Ben Brewer didn’t let a rare form of cancer stop him from using his strength.
Not even a year after being diagnosed with a rare form of salivary gland cancer known as acinic cell carcinoma, the Itawamba AHS athlete lifted 60 pounds more at April’s MHSAA state powerlifting championships than he did the previous state meet to win the 148-pound Class 4A state title.
Coaching changes
- There were plenty of coaches moving around these parts, and Ripley certainly had its fair share.
The Tigers hired a new football coach (Grady McCluskey), boys basketball coach (Grant Gardner) and baseball coach (Joel Gafford).
An interesting internal move: Lafayette hired its football defensive coordinator, Eric Robertson – who hadn’t coached basketball in more than a decade and didn’t think he ever would again – to be the boys head basketball coach, so that the school’s best athletes – yes, the football players – would be more inclined to play hoops.
And Robertson was also hired due to budget concerns.
Changing of the guard
- The state’s winningest coaches in football and baseball both called it quits this year. Former Booneville, Kossuth and Tishomingo football coach Jim Drewry announced his retirement in May after 50 seasons in which he accumulated a career record of 346-157-5.
Longtime assistant Mike Mattox replaced Drewry at Booneville this season.
In baseball, veteran skipper Rex Berryman stepped away from the Mooreville program after winning 1,065 games and eight state championships in 38 seasons. His former player and assistant, Jamie Russell, has taken over the Troopers program.
Age doesn’t matter
- Fresh off his 17th birthday, Tupelo High standout Fletcher Johnson became the youngest golfer in the last 60 years to win the Mississippi State Amateur.
Johnson recorded a hole-in-one during the final round to win by seven strokes.
Warriors in soccer title
- In February, the Corinth boys soccer team became the first Northeast Mississippi school other than Tupelo to win a state soccer title.
Jackets win title
- What had been a house of horrors for the Starkville boys basketball team turned into a place of celebration for the Yellowjackets.
In March, Starkville won its first state championship since 1961 and its first Grand Slam title in school history.
Gridiron perfection
- Earlier this month, Lafayette became the first MHSAA football team to finish a season 16-0.
Meanwhile, Calhoun City was just two points shy of being the first to do so, losing 26-24 to Lumberton in the Class 2A state championship game, held the day before the Commodores’ Class 4A state title game romp over North Pike.
To pitch or not to pitch
- A rule is a rule, even if it isn’t written all that clearly. The Bruce baseball team found out the hard way when one of its pitchers was ruled to have thrown too many innings in a week and it cost them a trip to the MHSAA Class 2A state championship series.
Bowling arrested
- Less than a month after his Sulligent, Ala., football team defeated Smithville, his former school, in the season opener, Dwight Bowling was arrested for and charged with various sex crimes involving minors.
Not to mention…
- It was difficult to select the highlights of 2010 because there was no shortage of state-champion archery, bowling, cheerleading, cross country, golf, powerlifting, softball, swim and tennis teams in our coverage area. We certainly enjoyed covering the dedicated student athletes of Northeast Mississippi.
So, Happy Holidays everyone, and may 2011 be another great sports year.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com