E.A. Sports Today

Prep notes: Strain not still

UPDATED — Also included: Saks hoops rematch, Piedmont’s Smith knows finalists

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Some people just don’t know how to slow down.

The high school football season may be over, but White Plains coach Larry Strain remains as busy as ever.

He used to transition right into basketball — just like Anniston’s Eddie Bullock, Weaver’s Daryl Hamby or Saks’ Jonathan Miller does — but he gave up that part when he left Woodland. That doesn’t mean he disconnected from the game.

He tries to keep up with everybody he used to coach and these days spends his free time – and money – doing the parent thing, traveling the country to watch his daughters, Courtney and Leah, play for Jacksonville State.

“I said I was going to go to all the girls’ games no matter where they’re at,” Strain said.

So far he’s been to Texas Tech and just got back from Central Arkansas. Later this month there’s a trip to Wilmington, N.C., and, of course, there’s conference trips to outposts as far away as Charleston, Ill., and Martin, Tenn.

“It’s a little different; I’m more relaxed,” Strain said of the transition from coach to spectator. “I knew I was going to be gone all the time because I said I’d try to watch them every chance I got. It’s been fun. It’s going to be tiresome, too. It’s draining my bank account – I’m going to learn that pretty quick.”

SAME TEAMS, SAME PLACE, DIFFERENT YEAR: All the matchups in next week’s TV 24 Challenge at Pete Mathews Coliseum are intriguing, but one immediately catches your eye – Saks-Geraldine. It’s a rematch of the Wildcats’ 74-49 Northeast Regional semifinal win on the same floor last year.

“It’ll be a good experience for our kids to go up to JSU and play against a quality opponent,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “It’s a team we’re a little bit familiar with … I’m sure they’ll be looking for a little revenge. Hopefully by next Saturday we’ll be straightened out a little bit better and can play a good game up there.”

Miller cautions about banking on the same kind of game between teams with the same names across their jerseys.

“I think it’s two brand-new teams,” he said. “I haven’t looked to see what they lost off last year’s team. I know we lost three seniors who were starters for us so we’re trying to figure things out right now and I’m sure they’re doing the same.”

The other matchups in the one-day showcase are Sacred Heart-Collinsville, White Plains-Fyffe, Alexandria-Plainview, Oxford-Sparkman and Gadsden City-Talladega.

Game times hadn’t been announced as of Wednesday afternoon, but the Gadsden City-Talladega game is said to be the headliner at the end of the night.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” Talladega coach Chuck Miller said after his team beat Munford 61-35 Thursday afternoon. “Very seldom outside of a tournament do you get to play on a neutral court.

“If us or Gadsden City wants to go far in the playoffs we’ve got to play games like this, that’s why that is great and I commend TV-24 for getting it together.”

INTERESTED BYSTANDER: Piedmont football coach Steve Smith will be keeping a sharp eye on the outcome of the state championship games in Auburn. He won’t be pulling for certain teams, instead his rooting interests tend to lie with the coaching colleagues with whom he has relationships.

Still, he knows a little about the teams involved. This year, his Bulldogs played two that will be playing for state championships (Madison Academy and Leeds) and last year they beat – on the road – both teams playing for this year’s 4A title (Leeds and Deshler).

“I think our team is knocking on the door,” Smith said. “We have the same goals all the time: Winning a state championship ourselves. We plan on playing good competition, playing in big games. This year we came up short. When you look back on it, you have two of the four teams who beat you playing for the championship.”

The Bulldogs play the same schedule in 2015 they had this year only flipping the venues. That means they’ll get Leeds on the road and Glencoe and Oneonta on the Field of Champions.

“We don’t play a powder-puff schedule,” Smith said. “We try to play people who get us in position to play for a championship. It’s definitely good for us.”

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