E.A. Sports Today

Cruisin’ the county

White Plains’ Randall has busy June, Yarbrough lands at WP, Weaver’s Atchley has high expectations, Parris ready to lead PV, Satcher coaches first game at Donoho

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Chris Randall has been a coach on the go this summer, and it’s good training for what he’s going to face this winter after adding the girls basketball job to the boys head coaching job he’s held for 16 years – and both golf teams – at White Plains.

During this month of offseason play dates he has taken both basketball programs to camp together at Lee University outside Chattanooga, then this week was with the boys Monday and Tuesday for seven games at Oxford, the girls Wednesday and Thursday for six games at Champions Sports Academy in Alexandria, and Friday he’ll be with the boys for a one-day tournament back at Champions.

“It’s definitely been a challenge, but the good part is the good assistants; those guys have been really helping,” Randall said as he left the gym Thursday to catch the final set of boys games at Oxford. “That’s been a big help.

“Camp was the hardest because there were some games I just missed because they were at the same time. Once we got back in town Todd (Ginn, Champions’ director) was really good to work with me on the scheduling, so we made everything work fine.

“It’s been busy. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun. It’s fun watching the girls improve as much as they have and the boys, too. We were really tickled at how the boys played this summer. The boys are further ahead than I expected them to be, so that’s really energized me.”

It’s not something Randall hasn’t done before. He coached both the boys and girls teams for one year, but he took the teams to camp on separate weeks. To maintain his sanity he plans to take a 45-minute break between the two practices.

Brad Yarbrough has joined the White Plains staff in three sports after coaching baseball and basketball at Faith Christian the past two years.

BRAD BACK AT IT: Among the assistants helping keep Randall the basketball coach on schedule is Brad Yarbrough, who for the last two years was the basketball and baseball coach at Faith Christian.

After the purge at Faith at the end of the school year, Yarbrough landed at White Plains where he’ll help coach the football, boys basketball and baseball teams.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to be able to learn and be at a high level and be around good people,” Yarbrough said. “Everybody who is there is good and can help me grow as a person and as a coach. The kids are motivated and they want to work hard, the administration’s good. For me it’s a big step up and for that and my career and where I’m trying to go it’s going to help me a lot.”

Yarbrough will work with Randall’s boys varsity team. He’s working with quarterback Ryan Bannister and the outside linebackers on the football team. And in the baseball program he’ll help wherever needed.

“I like all three, so for me to be able to be around it is great,” he said.

Working with the football team carries on a family legacy. His dad, Owen, was the Wildcats’ head coach from 1995 to 2000. Brad succeeded his dad as the baseball coach at Faith.

While on the subject of landing, Chelsea Robinson, who was elevated to Faith’s girls basketball coach right before the purge, is now the JV coach for girls basketball and volleyball at Westbrook Christian.

Gary Atchley has high expectations for his 2017-18 Weaver girls basketball team.

FUN TO WATCH: Their last game notwithstanding, Weaver girls coach Gary Atchley promised as he left Champions Sports Academy Thursday his team will be entertaining next season.

The Lady Bearcats played a forgettable final game with Sand Rock, but were missing three starters, which is apt to happen during these summer play dates. Come November, though, they’ll take the floor with all but one regular from a team that reached the semifinals of the Calhoun County Tournament last year and made it past the area tournament for the first time since 2004.

When they had their full complement Thursday they lost to White Plains on a 3-pointer at the buzzer and beat Westbrook Christian handily.

“We’re going to be better next year than we were last year,” Atchley said. “There’s a lot of stuff we’re going to be able to do next year and I think the girls are very excited about next season.

“This might be the first time in a long time that Weaver’s girls team is coming into the season with very high expectations, and that’s attributed to them, the way they’ve worked. We’ll be very fun to watch next year.”

The Lady Bearcats wrap up their June workouts Friday at Cleburne County, where they’ll play Woodland and B.B. Comer. And then, for Atchley, it starts all over with softball Monday at Oxford.

IT’S HER TEAM: Mac Parris has been playing varsity basketball for Pleasant Valley since the seventh grade mostly as an increasingly valuable piece of the puzzle. This season it’s her team and she’s embracing the idea of putting it on her shoulders.

Pleasant Valley senior Mac Parris is embracing her role as a team leader.

“I like the role that I know I have to step up and be a leader and I have to coach the girls who don’t really have very much experience and show them where to go and all that,” the senior shooter said. “This is my sixth year on varsity and we’ve had some good leaders but not as good leaders as we need to and I feel this year I need to try to step up and try to be the best leader that we’ve had.”

Coach Brad Hood has already seen a difference, saying Parris has shown more vocal senior leadership this summer – both positive reinforcement and pointed criticism — than anyone the team had last year.

The Lady Raiders had a breakout season in Hood’s first year. They returned with a senior-laden roster last season and Hood tested it against a tougher schedule designed to prepare them for a long postseason run, but the results were just not the same.

“I think last year we had so many seniors that nobody wanted to step up and be the leader,” Hood said. “Like we had so many Alphas nobody wanted to step up, where this year Mac’s the senior.”

But she almost wasn’t, at least not for the basketball team. Hood got the sense during the season 2017 was going to be Parris’ final basketball season so she could concentrate on softball, especially with this expected to be a rebuilding year on the court, but that all changed about three weeks ago.

“She called me and said coach, I know I told you I didn’t want to play anymore, but I really want to play my senior year and be a part of this team,” Hood said. “I’d love to be on the team if you’d have me.

“I said, girl, who wouldn’t want to have you? I said anybody in this county would want to have you if your heart was right.”

You want to know where her heart is? Parris and Emma Hood were the only players on the team who played every minute of all three games the Lady Raiders’ played Thursday morning. It might be understandable with Hood, a distance and cross-country runner, but Parris pushed to win the humid day in a hot gym for games that really carried no meaning.

“A great athlete in her position could say, ‘Oh it’s a rebuilding year, I can do softball, I’ve got a good out,” Hood said. “But she has enough drive she said I want to go out here and help them. I want to be a part of it. That’s powerful.”

EXPECT TO WIN: Jeremy Satcher put the Donoho boys basketball team he’s had for three weeks on the floor against outside competition for the first – and only — time this summer Thursday and was encouraged by the results.

Playing 4A Jacksonville without three starters who’ll be in their rotation come November, the Falcons rallied from 25 down in the second half to cut their final margin to 10 in a 67-57 loss.

“That’s all we can ask for with a short amount of time,” Satcher said. “Even though we had mistakes, they still played through and played tough. From what I’ve seen today and in the three weeks, the atmosphere has changed. We’re going to be mentally more tough, physically tough. We’re going to expect to win.”

The former JCA and Faulkner athlete was announced as the Falcons’ new coach May 31, returning to the school he coached at for six years following a year on Sacred Heart’s third straight state championship basketball staff. He replaces Alex Mastin.

Satcher touched virtually every boys sport at Donoho in his first run between 2010 and 2016. He was the head track coach and assisted in football, baseball, basketball and soccer. Now, in addition to being the head basketball coach, he will be an assistant coach with the football team.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have an opportunity; it’s something you work hard for. I’m just glad to be back and glad to have an opportunity to be a head coach.”

WATCHING THE WEATHER: The Friday games for the State Umpire Camp at Choccolocco Park have been canceled. The umps will meet at Oxford High School. The games scheduled for Saturday are were still on as of Thursday, but a decision on their status will likely take place around noon Friday.

On the cover: New Donoho basketball coach Jeremy Satcher watches his Falcons Thursday against Jacksonville.

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