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IHSA Softens their Policy on 2-Game Weekly Limit; Announce Earlier Start to Summer

The IHSA Board updated its Return To Activities guidelines by waiving the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring, and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week. The winter, spring, and summer seasons will now revert to their normal season game limitations as dictated by IHSA by-laws. Tournaments are also no longer limited to three teams, however, current state gathering limitations would not allow for a multi-team tournament unless multiple venues were used.

“We have preached that this school year will be fluid, and the changes made by the Board today are a good example of that,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “When the IHSA’s initial Return To Activities guidelines were established, the limitation of two contests per week felt like a constraint that would help limit exposure. However, given how well our state is handling the pandemic, and the lack of setbacks in the fall sports we have conducted so far, there was a consensus that we could move forward with allowing schools to schedule winter, spring, and summer sports without further restrictions.”

Additionally, the IHSA’s summer season will begin two weeks earlier than initially announced. With Monday’s modification, summer sports (baseball, softball, track & field, girls soccer, lacrosse, boys tennis) can now begin practices on April 19 and games on May 3.

Rend Lake College Tab Bullington as Head New Baseball Coach

After a lengthy search, Rend Lake College has made a selection for a new Baseball Coach to lead the Warriors program on the diamond.

Walker Bullington, a native of Russellville, Tenn., will take over for the Warriors in the 2020-21 season becoming the 11th head coach in the history of RLC’s baseball program. Bullington said he has always had a passion for coaching, but Rend Lake College is the first opportunity he has received to run his own collegiate program.

“I would like to thank (Athletic Director) Mr. Tim Wills, (Associate VP of Academic and Student Services) Mr. Buster Leeck and (RLC President) Terry Wilkerson for putting their faith in me and trusting me in this process,” Bullington said. “This is the opportunity to run my own program — to take responsibility — and they put their trust in me and decided I was the right fit and will do things the right way.”  RLC had about 30 candidates apply for the position and conducted interviews via phone and video conferencing.
 
“After completing the interviews, it became very clear that Walker Bullington was the best person to lead our baseball program into its next phase,” Wills said. “Walker has experience coaching at various levels of baseball and I believe is ready to become a head coach that will continue and expand the success that our program has enjoyed over the years. He is a personable young man who will be a great addition to our college and our surrounding communities. We feel very fortunate to have hired such an outstanding person to lead our baseball program and I know that he is equally excited to be a part of Rend Lake College.”

The IOWA High School Athletic Association Completed a Full Baseball Season

The normal 2019-2020 Spring Iowa High School baseball season ended a few weeks ago(the only state where HS sports have taken place in Spring/Summer since the pandemic)

It wasn’t exactly perfect smooth sailing with Covid but:

- 94% of teams were unaffected
- 96% finished season
- all infections reportedly mild
- fans were allowed all season
-State Champions were crowned in each of the 4 Classes. See team photos below.

     
      Class 1A                  Class 2A                  Class 3A                 Class 4A

 

Max Puckett Recruited to Join Olney Central College Blue Knights

Local right-handed baseball pitcher, Max Puckett, of the Fairfield Mules has verbally committed to attend college and play baseball at Olney Central College for legendary coach, Dennis Conley next year.  He recently reached this decision ahead of the November signing period.  “I am really impressed with Coach Conley and his staff,” said Puckett.  “OCC’s record and reputation speaks for itself, and I am extremely excited to have this opportunity.”

 

Puckett will be a Senior at Fairfield this year and has been routinely clocked on the radar gun in the mid to upper 80’s.  At 6’4” and 245 lbs., Max has the frame to be a rugged and dominant figure on the mound for the Blue Knights.  Coach Conley has a track record of developing young arms and helping them advance to a four-year school.  This will be the 39th season for Coach Conley at OCC, where he has seen 302 Blue Knight players go on to sign scholarships at four-year colleges during his long and successful tenure.  Olney Central College has had 35 consecutive winning seasons under Coach Conley, including thirty-one years of 30+ wins in a season.

 

Despite missing this high school season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Puckett has continued to work out regularly, and improve his pitching skills.   He has enjoyed success with the Kentucky Diamond Kings travel team.  His coach of the travel team, Jim Grief, was happy to learn about Puckett’s verbal commitment to OCC.  “Max is a talented hard-working young man who will be an asset to both the baseball team and the college.  Olney Coach, Dennis Conley, will develop Max to his potential and move him on to a four-year school,” said Grief.  Max is hoping that he will be able to play some high school baseball for the Mules as he enters his Senior year.  He is the son of Fred and Marcia Puckett of Fairfield. 

 

Woodlawn High School Selects Verhines as New Boys Head Coach

The new head boys basketball coach at Woodlawn High School will be Dawson Verhines. Following a stellar HS career with the Cardinals from 2008 to 2011, Dawson played at Rend Lake and at SIU-Carbondale, where he was able to play alongside his big brother, Bronson, at the D-1 level in the Missouri Valley Conference. Dawson and Bronson also played at Rend Lake College on the 2013 National Championship team (#24 in team photo). Dawson brings a strong work ethic and winning experience as he takes the reins of the Woodlawn HS program.

Dawson was part of an incredible run by the Woodlawn Cardinals under coach Shane Witzel, during which they were 86-12 during his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Those seasons saw them bring home a 2nd Place and a 3rd Place trophy from the Class 1A State Tourney. (They would later win a State Title in 2012).

Verhines takes over the program from Brian Gamber, who resigned to take the head coaching position at Rend Lake College.

 

 

Flora School Board Votes to Join the Black Diamond Conference

The Flora High School Board of Education voted unanimously July 9th to accept an invitation to join the Black Diamond Conference. The Wolves are expected to compete on the East side of the BDC in basketball, and will replace Chester in the conference football schedule. The move will take effect in 2021, as Flora departs from the Little Illini Conference. The opening in the BDC was made possible with Chester announcing that they were leaving to join the expanding Cahokia Conference.

 

 

Basketball Legend Max Hooper Passes Away at 88

Sad to report that southern Illinois has lost an amazing basketball icon. Max Hooper, formerly of Mt Vernon, passed away in Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 88. Max enriched the lives of everyone he encountered. Although he lived in Alabama after his high school and college career, Max was a tremendous ambassador for Southern Illinois, the City of Mt. Vernon, MVTHS, the athletic department, and Rams Basketball. A member of the inaugural MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame, Max was the main cog (#47) on the Mt Vernon back-to-back State Championships in 1949-1950. He went on to have a stellar career for the Fighting Illini at Illinois, where he played on the 1952 National Final Four team that placed Third, and the 1954 Big Ten Championship team.

Max and his wonderful wife, Janie, returned often to Mt Vernon and southern Illinois. They attended several Hall of Fame Banquets, Ram games, class reunions, and other community events. He was great at encouraging current and former athletes,and took great interest in their development. Max played for legendary coach, Stanley Changnon. He was at the forefront of passing the Changnon name from the original gym to the new gym, by attending multiple  school board meetings to express his opinion and passion for what Coach Changnon gave Mt Vernon as a coach and educator. That mission was accomplished. The gym at the new school is also known as Changnon Gym. 

A strong man of Faith, Max used his communication talent to develop a radio devotion known as "A Moment in God's Word" which aired for about 5 years on local Christian Radio WVYN 90.9 The Vine. He also authored a devotional book of the same name. All of our lives have been enriched by knowing and spending time with Max Hooper. He will be missed.

 

 

Gamber Recruits Brandon Anthony to Play for the Warriors

 

Congratulations to Brandon Anthony, versatile guard #5 of Herrin, for committing to play college hoops at Rend Lake College for new coach Brian Gamber. He will be a great addition to the Warriors program. As point guard, Anthony was a 1,000 point scorer for the Tigers, selected IBCA All-South in 3A two straight years, River-to-River All Conference three straight years, finished HS career as Top-5 at Herrin in scoring, steals, and assists. He has shown the ability to make things happen on the court to put his team in a position to win. 

Boys State Basketball Tournament Returns to Champaign

The IHSA announced a move back to the Assembly Hall (State Farm Center) in Champaign on the campus of the University of Illinois.  The boys state tournament will be held March 11-12-13, 2021 after seeing a steady drop in attendance at Peoria.  This move is welcome news by many fans, and should increase attendance.  Meanwhile, the Girls State Tournament will remain at Redbird Arena in Bloomington-Normal on the campus of Illinois State University.

HOLLOWAY PICKED TO LEAD THE BASKETBALL RAMS

Another former Mount Vernon Ram basketball player will carry the torch as the new Boys Head Basketball Coach. Tim Holloway, a 1994 graduate of MVTHS was selected and approved by a vote of the school board on Wednesday evening. He replaces Doug Creel, who has retired as head basketball coach. Holloway is the fifth All-Time leading scorer in Rams basketball history, amassing 1,355 points, and he was inducted into the Mt Vernon High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, as a result of his athletic prowess in both basketball and baseball.
 

During his basketball career as a Ram, Holloway was an All-State Honorable Mention player, helping to lead the team to three 20-win plus seasons, and an overall record of 86-24 while playing under Coach Lee Emery, and Assistant Coach, Doug Creel. Those Rams teams won the Regional four straight years, also grabbed a Sectional Championship and a berth in the Super-Sectional in 1992 when they finished at 25-5. In addition to All-State honors, Tim was the team MVP, All-Conference First Team selection, and named to the IBCA All-South team.
 

Following his athletic career at Mount Vernon High School , Holloway received an athletic scholarship for both basketball and baseball, and went on to have a successful basketball career at SIU-Edwardsville where he scored 786 career points for the Cougars, while grabbing 294 rebounds with his 6’5” frame. He made 62 treys during his career at SIU-E, connecting on 34% of his shots behind the arc, and made 45% of his shots inside the arc.
 

Holloway is no stranger to Mount Vernon student-athletes, parents, or fans. He has been the Head Baseball Coach of the Rams for the past sixteen years, accumulating 334 baseball wins, the most in school history. His teams have won 7 Regional Championships, 1 Sectional, 1 Super-Sectional, and a 4th Place Trophy at the State Baseball Tournament in 2013. During his 16-year span as the head baseball coach, Holloway has had only 2 losing seasons, and won 20 or more games in ten of those sixteen seasons. (No games were played in 2020 due to the pandemic and school closure).  Holloway also served as an Assistant Basketball Coach for seven years under Creel from 1999 to 2006.
 

The 2013 Rams Baseball team, coached by Holloway, was recently inducted into the Mount Vernon High School Sports Hall of Fame. That team is the only Rams baseball team in school history to bring home a State Tournament trophy. As it stands now, Holloway is expected to continue to be the Rams Head Baseball coach as well. There were two board members who voted no on his selection as the new basketball coach, and one member abstained from voting.
 

The MVTHS Board of Education has not reached a decision on the hiring of a new Athletic Director to replace Creel. That decision is expected to be made and announced sometime later in the year. Creel will still be on staff for roughly 100 days to help in the transition with the new Athletic Director.

Our 30-Minute Interview with the Late Jerry Sloan 

 

Hall of Fame Player & Coach, Jerry Sloan, passed away on May 22.  He was a legend, and a winner at every level of basketball: High School, College, and the NBA.  He was enshrined int he Hall of Fame in 2009.  He amassed over NBA 1,200 coaching victories in his career.  He sat down with us for this 30-minute interview, during which we discussed his entire career, his work ehtic, and we talked about the players of today.  Rest in Peace, Jerry.  You will be missed.

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   Video Archive of "The Sports Couch" featuring Jay Shidler

Enjoy our interview with basketball legend, JAY SHIDLER, last August on "The Sports Couch" show.  WATCH on the Video Screen above.  We took a stroll down memory lane with "The Blond Bomber" discussing the State Tournament runs at Lawrenceville in the 1970's, the National Championship while playing at Kentucky, and the important focus and passion that he has in his life today.  Watch & Enjoy!

   My Interview with Rick Horton in KMOX Studio

This was the interview I had with Cardinal broadcaster, Rick Horton, in the KMOX studios at St Louis which led to my selection as the KMOX Cardinals Spring Training Correspondent. 


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