Friday, October 30, 2009

Wranglers pack up for first road trip of the season

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 | 6 a.m.

When some members of the Las Vegas Wranglers think about road trips, they think of bus rides, movies or much-needed sleep.

Not head athletic trainer Scott McLay. He thinks of relief.

"It's a little less strenuous, a little less work on our part," he said.

At the Orleans Arena, McLay said, it's the Wranglers job to set up both benches, do laundry for both teams and, basically, take care of the away team.

On the road, they get a break from the long days they put in at their home arena.

"To be honest, it's a relief," he said. "Here, you're on all-hours-of-the-day kind of thing. You're doing the everyday things to run a hockey team."

Friday morning, the team travels to Ontario, Calif., to face off with the Ontario Reign (2-3) for its first road trip of the regular season.

The Wranglers lost to the Reign, 4-3, in Ontario earlier this month in its second and final preseason game.

"The first trip of the year really helps get some camaraderie, because everyone comes together and you get to know the guys a little better," defenseman Chris Frank said. "Instead of going back home to your apartments and doing your own thing, everyone's together doing things, eating, hanging out on off-days, and it brings the team together."

Sitting at 2-2 early in the season, the trip could come at just the right time to give the young team a spark.

"It's something to be excited about, especially with this group," head coach Ryan Mougenel said. "It gives us a chance to get away and room with different guys in the group, see different personalities and, most importantly, play hard on the road."

And it can also help build the identity of a team. Last year, the Wranglers went 12-19-6 on the road.

"I want to be a great road team and I talk about it a lot with the guys," Mougenel said. "There's a psychological edge to go in other people's buildings and play hard. We have a lot of young pros on our team and if they want to be successful, they're going to have to learn to play hard on the road."

The Wranglers will be taking the four-hour trip southwest to the Los Angeles suburb to take on their Pacific division rivals for a game at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Forward Adam Miller said the travel should be a breeze thanks to the team bus.

"We have the nicest bus in the league, so it's not hard at all," Miller said. "Nobody's complaining about going on the road. You bond more with your team on the road by being together all the time, especially by playing in different rinks with hostile crowds."

For the television lovers on the team, there are big-screen sets with DirecTV on them. But for Matt Watkins, a chair is good enough.

"Other guys play cards, read or watch movies," Watkins said. "I'm more of a nap guy. I like to get my pregame sleep in usually."

And while he likes playing in other buildings, the right-winger said he prefers being at home.

"I'd definitely rather be at home," Watkins said. "Gives me more time to get my pregame nap in."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Silverado beats Foothill 40-15 in Victory Bell game

By Anthony Fenech

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 | 11:14 p.m.

Trenton Tipton saw it coming.

He stood on the Silverado sidelines, joked with teammates, slapped some helmets and even danced a little. But he never took his eyes off the prize.

As the fourth quarter dwindled down with the Skyhawks holding a comfortable lead over their rivals from Foothill, the Victory Bell was escorted from the home sideline to behind the visiting Silverado bench.

“It wasn’t going to get out of my sight,” the senior said afterward. “And I was the first one to ring it.”

On a cold and windy night, with their backs against the playoff wall, Silverado defeated Foothill 40-15.

“It felt great getting the bell back,” Tipton said. “Now we need to get our playoff spot back.”

The senior utility man seems willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, starting at wide receiver for the first time this season after spending the first eight games at quarterback.

Taking his spot under center was fellow senior Kyle Simmons, and the pair made it look like anything but their first game together, connecting for two long touchdown passes in the first quarter of 40 and 29 yards.

“Kyle did a great job throwing the ball and Trenton did a great job catching those balls,” Silverado coach Andy Ostolaza said.

“He really helps us by lining up out there, being a deep threat and pulling people out of the box to help us run better,” Ostolaza said.

Thanks to a workhorse performance by senior Terran Madu-Jules, who carried the ball 31 times for 163 yards and four touchdowns, the run game and pass game were able to feed off each other.

“We wanted this more. That’s why we won,” Madu-Jules said. “I’m glad we finally found our life back. Everybody thought we were going downhill, but we woke back up tonight.”

After losing three straight, the Skyhawks still linger on the outside of the playoff race looking in, needing help from other teams in their division to get in.

“There’s a lot of ifs, ands or buts,” Ostolaza said. “We put ourselves in a bind having to rely on other teams, but our goal is to finish 7-3. If we do that, hopefully, the other pieces will fall in place.”

Ostolaza said that while Simmons was named the starter at quarterback in part because of a minor hand injury to Tipton, he has no plans to change the lineup for next week’s regular season finale.

“It shows a lot about the kid,” he said of Simmons. “Being a backup then having to play in a pinch when our team needs a win, I can’t say enough about him.”

The victory was Silverado’s second in the 11 years the Victory Bell has been awarded to the winner of the annual matchup and tightens the race in the Sunrise Southeast Division.

Next week, Silverado (6-3) hosts Green Valley, while Foothill (5-4 ) travels to Basic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ouzas stands strong in violent game

By Anthony Fenech

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.

Take one run at Wranglers goaltender Michael Ouzas and he'll brush it off as playing hard.

Take a second run at him and his teammates will take care of the business.

But take a third run at him, as the Alaska Aces did late in Saturday night's 6-3 loss at Orleans Arena, and he'll take matters into his own hands, both literally and figuratively.

"Obviously the third time they hit me I was going to do something about it," Ouzas said after the game as he pedaled on a stationary bike. "It's part of the game. I'm a competitive guy and I'm not going to back down to anybody."

With just under three minutes left in the game and the Wranglers ahead by two goals, Alaska captain Scott Bert came charging in with the puck.

Bearing down on Ouzas, a Wranglers defender poked the puck from Burt before the left-winger went airborne and full-speed into the goalie, creating a pile-up in front of the Wranglers net.

At the bottom of that pile was Ouzas, sprawled on his back and not-so-kindly introducing Burt to his blocker with a flurry of punches.

"He took a free shot at me and I was doing anything to send a message," Ouzas said. "Hopefully I got some in on him."

While Bert was slapped with a game misconduct for his actions, the second straight game the Aces captain has been ejected, Ouzas was awarded a game misconduct of his own, a matching penalty described as a "deliberate intent to injure."

Ouzas' ejection, which drew much of the 4,321 in attendance from their seats in an ovation that the goalie acknowledged with a fist pump while exiting the rink, drew the ire of Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel, both during and after the game.

"I think sometimes going hard to the net simplifies the game and let's face it, part of the game," Mougenel said. "But unnecessary runs at the goalie? That's a little bit old school. I loved how we responded. They seemed frustrated, they were going to the net hard and I don't think there was much malice or intent, but more importantly, our guys did the right thing. (Alaska's) got to look themselves in the mirror. If they were running our goalie intentionally, then that's something they chose to do and I'm just glad we got the two points."

The incident was the third of the goalie-interference variety in the game, the previous two proving costly for the Wranglers in the form of an Aces goal and busted lip for Ouzas.

The first such occurrence came early in the second period, when Ouzas was interfered with by Aces forward Matt Stefanishion, only to see his teammate, Adam Miller, ushered to the penalty box.

Moments later, Stefanishion trickled in a power-play goal to knot the score at 1-1

Midway through the third period, right after the Wranglers had connected on three goals in 2:37 seconds to take a commanding 4-1 lead, Alaska's B.J. Crum bowled over Ouzas, drawing blood from the goalie's lip.

Crum was ejected with a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.

"I can understand Michael Ouzas' frustration," Mougenel said. "He got run blatantly three times, it was frustrating for him and it was frustrating for our team."

After Alaska pulled to within one goal following Crum's ejection, the Wranglers tacked on two late goals to seal the early-season series victory against their rivals.

"We came out and worked as a team," Ouzas said. "And as tough as it was, we got our two points tonight."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Basic overcomes Silverado in game down to the wire

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 | 12:07 a.m.

There were three minutes left to play in Friday night’s divisional showdown between Basic and Silverado when the Skyhawks took the field at their own 15-yard-line trailing by a touchdown.

For the Silverado offense, it was three minutes from salvaging the season.

For the Basic defense, it was three minutes from validating the season.

Fifteen plays and 81 yards later, after five completions, four penalties, three timeouts and two interceptions, Basic’s players rushed the field to celebrate a 7-0 victory.

The defining play in a series of defining plays proved to be Basic senior Marty Christensen coming around the corner and sacking Silverado quarterback Kyle Simmons with about 10 seconds left to play.

With no timeouts left for Silverado, Christensen’s sack forced the Skyhawks offense to line up and spike the football, which they were unable to do in time to force one more play.

“I knew I had to beat my man off of the ball because I was way faster than him,” Christensen said about the sack. “I used one of my moves, got around him and it was an open shot from there.”

What the first 45 minutes of the game — a low-scoring field-position battle — lacked in excitement, was made up for during the last three-minute drive.

“We had our backs against the wall that last drive and they had their backs against the wall the entire game,” Basic coach Jeff Cahill said. “It was tough, but we can count on our defense for that kind of stuff.”

After clawing out of the shadow of their own end zone, Silverado running back Terran Madu-Jules converted on a fourth-and-one close to midfield.

A play later, Simmons threw an ill-advised pass into the hands of Basic’s Devin James, causing an uproar on the Basic sidelines before the play was called back for pass interference.

Simmons followed by connecting on four straight completions, navigating the Skyhawks to the 14-yard-line.

On first down, he dropped back and threw a pass into traffic in the end zone, where it was deflected, intercepted, and once again, called back for pass interference.

“We knew we had to step up at the end, and those calls fired us up,” Christensen said. “They were bogus calls, just terrible.”

The game’s lone score came with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, when Wolves quarterback Tyler Dobbins found a wide-open Seth Campbell streaking down the sidelines for a 24-yard touchdown.

It was the second shutout of the year posted by the Basic defense.

“Our defense played great tonight,” Cahill said. “They took the offensive and came in here fired up.”

With the win, Basic (7-1) keeps hold of the inside track for the No. 2 playoff position in the Sunrise Southeast Division by winning three straight. Silverado (5-3) now needs help down the stretch, as their three-game losing streak came at the most inopportune of times.

“Hopefully the right teams beat the right teams and if we win the next two we can sneak in,” Silverado head coach Andy Ostolaza said. “But if not, this group of kids will keep competing.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Aces forward continues Las Vegas dominance

By Anthony Fenech

Oct. 23, 2009 |

Thousands of miles from Anchorage, Colin Hemingway and the Alaska Aces have made themselves at home in Las Vegas.

That much is evident after Thursday night's 5-2 win over the Wranglers, in a game that saw both Hemingway and the Aces continue their past dominance at the Orleans Arena.

"Anytime we come to Vegas, I'm just jolting with energy," Hemingway said. "I don't know if it's the poker room or the blackjack tables, but I just love coming here."

The right-winger struck for two goals in the opener of a three-game set, helping the Aces build an early three-goal lead that would prove to be insurmountable for the Wranglers.

Both goals came of the special teams variety.

He first scored while the Aces were shorthanded in the first period when John Lammers found Hemingway bearing down on goaltender Joel Gistedt. Lammers fed Hemingway the puck between the circles and Hemingway beat Gistedt glove side for the score.

He scored his second midway through the second period with the Aces on a power play when his wrist shot from the point found its way through traffic and into the back of the net.

"Anytime you come in off of a travel day, it's nice to get out there and get an early lead and that's what we did," Hemingway said.

The two goals have added to an impressive run at Orleans Arena in which he's connected on nine points in his past six games.

His play on the ice, however, has suggested he's jolted with energy any time he faces off with the Wranglers, regardless of venue, totaling 19 points in the past 14 games against the Wranglers.

"It's nice to get out of Alaska for a while and come here. It's kind of like a mini-vacation," he said.

The last time he set foot in Orleans Arena was on May 14 in Game 4 of the ECHL National Conference Finals, when his two points in a 5-1 victory helped signal an early summer vacation for the Wranglers.

Hemingway's two points Thursday night helped lift Alaska to a franchise record tying best start of 4-0.

"I get up for any game, but especially for Vegas," said Hemingway.

The 27-year-old Regina, Saskatchewan native now has six points in four games to open the season and is drawing the praise of first-year Aces head coach Brent Thompson.

"I can't rave about him enough," Thompson said. "He's been an unbelievable player for us since the start of training camp. He's a true leader, he hits, skates and shoots and now he's getting rewarded."

Hemingway plays alongside his brother, Brett, who assisted on the Aces first goal of the game, and loves every minute of it.

"I really enjoyed it," he said. "We come to the rink, have a great time and we read off each other on the ice."

For Hemingway and the Aces, it's one game down and two to go in Las Vegas, a place that based on their success, they might not want to leave anytime soon.

Oliver McCall back, ready to defend title

By Anthony Fenech

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 | 9:30 p.m.

Fifteen years ago, Oliver McCall and Michael Moorer were champions.

When both in their late 20s, they were among the most prominent of heavyweight boxers, at one point holding all three major heavyweight belts.

McCall was fresh off a victory over Lennox Lewis, claiming stake to the World Boxing Council Heavyweight title. Meanwhile, Moorer had just defeated Evander Holyfield to gain possession of both the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association Heavyweight titles.

In the years since, McCall has won some and lost some, retired and unretired, but now the 44-year-old is back as a champion with Moorer at his side. This Friday, he looks to defend his International Boxing Association Heavyweight title at the Orleans Arena.

“I’ve got my strength, got my health, I’ve been running good and I’m ready to go,” McCall said Wednesday at The Orleans Hotel & Casino Piano Bar.

“This is just the start of me and Michael Moorer coming together — two former champions, getting the title back here.”

McCall will be squaring off with current IBA Heavyweight champion Lance “Mount” Williams, a fighter six years his junior and not nearly as decorated. The event is sponsored by boxing analyst Al Bernstein and Crown Boxing.

Once regarded as one of the up-and-coming heavyweight boxers, Lance Whitaker dropped a number of matches in blowout form, falling out of favor in boxing circles and sliding down the sport’s totem pole.

Wednesday, Whitaker’s trainer Vernon Fletcher, did most of his talking, as he equally entertained and baffled the crowd with a scripted pep-like talk that had some in attendance shaking their heads.

“This is Lance’s coming out party,” Fletcher said. “Oliver McCall has been carefully selected, and what you will see Friday night is the systematic destruction of a legend.”

“The ‘Atomic Bull’ has never been knocked out,” he continued, above sarcastic laughter from the crowd. “And we couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to reintroduce ‘Mount’ Whitaker to boxing. What you will see Friday night will amaze you.”

After Whitaker stepped up to the podium and said a few thank-yous, it was the McCall-Moorer team’s turn to try their hand at comedy.

“Unfortunately,” Moorer said, alluding to Fletcher’s comments, “I don’t have a script to read.”

When it was McCall’s turn to talk, he looked down to his left at the gray-bearded Fletcher, shook his head and said, “Man.”

During McCall’s address, Williams, seated directly to the left of the podium, answered his challenges but was shot down when McCall quipped, “I’m surprised you said something. I’d let you say it up here but you sent your script man.”

The event includes the WBC Cruiser Weight Championship between defending WBC champion Victor Barragan and King Arthur Williams of Oxnard, Calif.

“With all due respect,” Williams said of Barragan, “He’s got his hands full come Friday night.”

The championship matches not included, the event includes six undercard fights, including a Junior Welterweight bout between Las Vegans Juan Heraldez and Juan Alcoalea.

McCall’s last fight was about two months ago, when he defeated Franklin Lawrence in a 10-round fight at the same venue, a fight that McCall admits now he wasn’t adequately conditioned for.

“I wasn’t running or training well,” he said. “Now, I got my eight-pack back.”

Wranglers prepare to host arch-rival Aces

By Anthony Fenech

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 | 10:30 a.m.

It was mid-May when a beaten and battered Las Vegas Wranglers team limped off the Orleans Arena ice, swept at the hands of their fiercest rivals from Anchorage.

Another chapter in the rivalry was complete, with the Alaska Aces finishing a four-game sweep in the ECHL National Conference Finals just a year after the Wranglers ousted Alaska in the ECHL Conference Semifinals before advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals.

This weekend, the Wranglers will have the chance to stake an early claim in this year's edition as the Aces come to town for a three-game set starting today at 7:05 p.m. at the Orleans Arena.

"The past two years when we've played them in the regular season and playoffs, it's always been a heated battle," center Adam Miller said. "They have players there that don't like our players and there's always a lot of hitting. They're just one of those teams that you gear up to beat."

The rivalry reached a boiling point on March 25, when seven players were penalized for an on-ice brawl that began when Wranglers center Chris Ferraro collided with Aces forward Matt Stefanishion.

Ferraro retaliated with a slash before 16 penalties were dispersed amongst the teams, including two game misconducts to Las Vegas' Peter Ferraro (Chris' brother) and Tim Spencer.

In the aftermath of the scrum, Chris Ferraro suffered a season-ending leg injury while Peter received a season-ending suspension from the league.

The hostility soon spread into the stands too as Alaska fans took offense to Wranglers mascot, the Duke, throwing popcorn their way. The visiting Aces fans responded by throwing beer at the Duke as fights broke out in the arena.

"When we go out to Alaska, their fans don't like us coming in there and we don't like them coming in here," Miller said.

Both teams have met in the playoffs each of the past three years, with two of those series going to the Aces, including last year's four-game sweep in which the Wranglers were outscored 14-3.

After dropping their season opener 5-3 to the Utah Grizzlies, the Wranglers know they have to find a way to win this three-game series.

Last season, the Wranglers started 0-2 thanks to an opening road trip to Alaska.

Although the Aces are 3-0 entering into Thursday's contest, first-year head coach Ryan Mougenel thinks his young team is ready for the difficult test.

"It's real important that we rebound from last game," he said. "It will show the type of character that we have in the room by how we respond."

While last Friday's scoreboard showed the Wranglers were outplayed physically by the Utah Grizzlies, Mougenel wasn't as concerned with the physical play as much as he was with the team's mental play.

"It's not that the guys didn't work hard, it's that they didn't work smart," he said. "Our players have addressed it and it won't happen again."

For Mougenel, it will be his first taste of the Las Vegas-Alaska rivalry as he searches for his first victory as an ECHL head coach.

"I try to treat every team with the same sense of rivalry," he said. "But this is different because they win all the time and we win all the time. You get two teams that have competed the way these two have over the past few years and you're going to build a competitive spirit."

The Wranglers were 3-10-1 against the Aces last year and this year's Las Vegas bunch will be younger and less experienced than the teams that battled Alaska in the past.

But that does not scare anyone in the Wranglers locker room.

"They're one of the top teams in the league again," said defenseman Robbie Bina, who joined the Wranglers this year after splitting time last season between the Stockton Thunder and various AHL squads. "It's going to be good to see where we stand early. I've heard some things, I'm sure I'll find out more about it when the games start."

While the early-season showdown with the perennial ECHL power might seem problematic because the Wranglers have only been on the ice together for three games (two exhibition, one regular season), Mougenel isn't concerned.

"It's great," he said. "It's all positive. We need to be challenged and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brothers bring competitive nature to Boulder City football team

By Anthony Fenech

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 | 11 p.m.

Many midsummer days ago, on a neighborhood street in suburban Cleveland, Ross and Jack Lamarca would grab the attention of their entire flock of friends.

It would happen after backyard baseball or a football game in the park, when Jack would get fed up with Ross taking him down or Ross would take objection to a dirty look from Jack.

“They’d call them the Lamarca fights,” Jack Lamarca said. “We’d wrestle and fight and all of our friends would love watching us.”

One is a taller, dark-haired senior and the other is a shorter, redheaded junior.

One is a musically inclined quarterback and catcher and the other is a musically challenged running back and pitcher.

For all of their differences, there are two things that make the Boulder City brothers friends on and off the fields they share together: A love for competition and a love for sports.

“No matter what we’re doing, there’s always a competition,” Jack Lamarca said. “We’re always trying to show each other up and push each other to be better.”

It started in the backyard of their Chardon, Ohio, home, when Ross would play cornerback and Jack would play wide receiver, each trying to outdo the other as their dad whipped footballs through the air.

It continued as they played football and baseball together since age 6, the younger Jack playing up in age groups just to hang tough with the older Ross.

Now, it’s brought them to Boulder City, where their family moved in January to pursue their parents' entertainment aspirations close to Las Vegas.

“When we first moved here, it was tough,” Ross Lamarca said. “We didn’t understand at first that it was just mom and dad trying to follow their dream.”

But they always stuck together.

“We’ve always been here for each other,” Jack Lamarca replied. “If I was an only child and had to move here by myself, I don’t know what I’d do,” Jack Lamarca said.

They’re best friends on the baseball diamond and at the dinner table, best friends on the football field and in class, and even best friends when Ross Lamarca drags Jack Lamarca into the studio to hear his band’s latest rendition.

“The biggest difference between us is he’s a musician and I’m not,” Jack Lamarca said before pausing. “At all.”

I always wanted to do the drums but it’s just not doing it for me.”

So on days when Ross Lamarca’s Friday Nite Jamz band is rocking out, older brother will bring little brother along, just to see what he thinks.

Ross Lamarca earns so-so grades and Jack Lamarca earns good grades.

So on days when Ross Lamarca gets his so-so report card, Jack Lamarca knows exactly why.

“He’s always in class, daydreaming about his songs,” Jack Lamarca said.

“We share the same things, we have the same friends, we know what each other is thinking and laugh about the same stuff,” he said.

On the football field, where the Eagles are 5-3 and eying a deep run through the playoffs, coach Alex Kazel has found the package he received last year with the Lamarca brothers in it to be a very welcoming gift.

“They have both been great assets this year,” Kazel said, noting Ross Lamarca leading the Eagles in a pinch when their starting quarterback goes down and Jack Lamarca’s ability to play running back, wide receiver and linebacker.

“They’re both tough kids and contribute quite a bit on the field. We’re lucky to have them.”

As Ross Lamarca’s last year of high school winds down with his brother Jack at his side, both envision a day when they can play college baseball together, prolonging their competition between each other.

“We both want to play in college, but probably me a little bit more than him because he wants to prolong his music career,” Jack Lamarca said.

“Yeah, but he can’t get rid of me that easy,” Ross Lamarca answered.

From backyard brawls in Ohio to football fields in Nevada and possibly beyond, the Lamarca brothers have stuck together.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canyon Springs knocks out Desert Pines, 45-21

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 | 11:33 p.m.

Eight seconds. That’s how long it took Canyon Springs to hush a homecoming crowd, take control of a pivotal football game and pencil in another chapter of a feel-good turnaround story.

Canyon Springs beat Desert Pines 45-21.

“I told them to go out and set the tempo from the first kick,” Pioneers coach Hunkie Cooper said.

And literally follow Cooper’s words they did.

Pioneers defensive back Chris Slack met Desert Pines kick returner Noel Darden head-on just outside the 15-yard line on the opening kickoff Friday night, the senior’s crushing shoulder-to-shoulder hit dislodging the ball high into the air.

After a perfect Pioneer bounce was gobbled up by Jamaal King, the junior had a straight path to the end zone and one play in, Cooper’s tempo was set and the lead was Canyon Springs’ for good.

As delirious as the Pioneers sideline was after the touchdown, it was equally as deflating on the other side.

“It set the tone,” Desert Pines coach Paul Bennett said. “And, obviously, it wasn’t a good tone for us.”

The Jaguars put the ball on the ground on each of their next two possessions, and after their first possession without turning the ball over, stalled early in the second quarter.

Canyon Springs’ Deangelo Johnson blocked the ensuing punt.

Two plays later, quarterback Tyler Ward pump-faked right and threw left, finding fellow senior Jonathon James in the back of the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown.

“After the special teams did their job, the offense wanted to get out there and put some points on the board,” Ward said.

Ward finished with 166 yards on 12-for-20 passing with two touchdowns.

Junior running back Malik Brown left nothing to doubt when he scored on late first-half touchdown runs of six and 11 yards, increasing the Pioneers’ lead to 31-0 at the half.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Cooper said. “They played physical, they played aggressive and we can run the football and put it in the end zone.”

The win improves Canyon Springs record to 3-1 on the season, looking very much in playoff contention just a year after posting a 1-8 record.

“Our mindset is to get through the regular season, into the playoffs and do our thing,” King said. “It’s totally different from last year.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Live blog: U-M stomps Delaware State

Posted: 11:45 a.m. Oct. 17, 2009
Michigan 63, Delaware State 6 | Final
Live blog: U-M stomps Delaware State


It wasn't even this close. Michigan did whatever it wanted, defeating Delaware State, 63-6, today in Ann Arbor.

Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech is live-blogging today's Michigan-Delaware State game. Feel free to discuss the game with Anthony in the chat below or amongst yourselves in the comments at the bottom of the page.

For those of you following along on our mobile site, we will post periodic game updates below the chat. Enjoy the game, everyone!

Fourth quarter

11:35: Getting picked on by Elko and Wilson, but the Hornets falter and settle for a field goal that's nearly blocked. 11:35 left in the 4th, 49-6 Michigan.

10:15: Freshman Cox streaks off-tackle untouchd for a long touchdown, Michigan ups the score to 56-6. Fifth rushing touchdown of the day for the Wolverines.

2:15: Cox rushes from three yards out for his second touchdown of the day. 63-6, Michigan, with just under three minutes to go.

Third quarter

9:01: Tipped ball almost intercepted by Michigan.

Second quarter

12:33: Robinson walks in from a few yards out to make it 35-0 Wolverines.

7:19: Robinson connected with Martell Webb for a touchdown, his second passing of the game to go with a rushing score. 42-0 Wolverines.

1:42: Grady shakes one tackle, makes another defender miss and bowls into the end zone for Michigan's 7th touchdown, the 4th in four red zone tries.

:57: Delaware St. salvages the drive with a field goal. They're on the board, 46 points away from a tie.

0:00: End of first half, 49-3 Michigan with the commanding lead.

First quarter

12:50:Forcier completes his second short pass, to Odoms on an easy out route ... His speed is too much for the Hornets secondary, takes it to the 1-yard-line, inches away from a score.

12:06: Michael Shaw 1-yard run up the gut for the first of many Michigan scores. 7-0 Michigan on Shaw's second touchdown of the year.

8:12: Smith takes a Robinson handoff six yards into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown. 14-0 Michigan.

7:07: Brandon Smith rushes up the middle and blocks the Hornets punt, Graham picks it up clean on one bounce and takes it in for the touchdown. 21-0 Michigan.

3:12: First play of the Michigan drive, Robinson drops back a couple steps and hits Kelvin Grady wide open into the end-zone for six. 28-0 Michigan with 3:00 left in the 1st quarter.

Liberty beats rival Silverado second year in a row

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 | 12:52 a.m.

Forgive P.J. Taeao for smiling. He just doesn’t know any better.

The sophomore doesn’t know about losing. He can’t recall the blowouts and wasn’t around when Liberty became Silverado's gridiron doormat in 2003.

But ask the Patriots offensive lineman about beating the Skyhawks — which Liberty did for the second straight year Friday night with a 21-18 victory — and his grin will tell the story.

“Two for two,” said a beaming Taeao. “And I don’t want to lose to them for my whole career. It’s a rivalry and that’s how it goes.”

How the series between the two Henderson area high schools has gone of late can best be summed up by a second-down play late in the fourth quarter, with Liberty on its own 42-yard-line and the Silverado defense reeling.

As the Skyhawks defense crowded the line of scrimmage, desperately needing a stop with the clock passing the 1:30 mark, senior Samson Toalei took the snap and followed his blockers.

What ensued was the dominant Patriots offensive line bulldozing Toalei 20 yards down the field to seal the win.

“Our offensive line was pushing hard all game and that helped us pull out the win,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.

“We knew we matched them physically, but it was just a matter of getting the job done mentally, and we did.”

Thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by junior Teu Tai and a 1-yard score by sophomore Jordan Kapeli, Liberty took a 14-point lead into halftime.

But Silverado did not fade easily.

Silverado seniorTerran Madu-Jules, who limped off the field twice in the game, returned with a bang midway through the third quarter when he exploded for a 55-yard touchdown run, cutting the Liberty lead to three.

Early in the fourth quarter with Silverado driving, Toalei dove in front of a Trenton Tipton pass for an interception to halt the Skyhawks' momentum and balancing the game on the shoulders of Liberty’s offensive line.

“When we needed to eat the clock those last minutes, the guys came through,” Muraco said. “We told the (offensive) line before hand, if they want to win it’s on them.”

It was an especially emotional night for Toalei, who was left watching last year’s defeat of Silverado from the bench after transferring from Desert Pines.

“I remember sitting there last year not being able to be a part of it on the field,” Toalei said. “But first time or second time, it’s always a big win.”

Ty Byrd led the Patriots with 53 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Madu-Jules finished with 142 yards for Silverado.

“We continue to be a team of two halves,” Skyhawks coach Andy Ostolaza said. “But we did show a lot in the second half and that’s something we’ll carry into next week.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Boulder City three-sport star balances a full schedule to lead Eagles

By Anthony Fenech (contact)

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 | 9:30 p.m.

Paxton Fleming is a five-tool student-athlete for Boulder City High.

When she’s not on the softball diamond in the spring and summer, she’s in the gym on the volleyball or basketball courts in the fall and winter. When she’s not serving as the student body president, she’s closing in on a salutatorian finish to her academic high school career.

So goes her life of juggling academics and athletics, a life that the senior admits, catches up with her at times.

“I don’t sleep,” she jokingly said.. “But I like anything competitive. Anything I can compete in is good.”

Competitive. In a word, that explains the near-perfect grade-point average, one of the highest softball batting averages in the state last year and the three-year tenures on each of the Eagles teams she plays for.

It’s why she was nearly driven to tears after last year’s Boulder City softball team fell apart late in the state tournament. The Eagles finished 32-5, but lost twice to Northern Nevada’s Fernley High in state finals.

“It was horrible,” she said. “It was the worst feeling ever.”

Last year, Fleming earned first-team All-State honors for the third consecutive year in softball, batting .647, stealing 26 out of 27 bases and captained the team from her catcher’s position.

“Last season was so much fun until we lost,” she said. “This year will be different.”

Different, not only for the Eagles softball team, but for the volleyball team, too. Fleming described last year as a rebuilding year, but the setter promises her senior year will be different.

That is music to the ears of coach Cherise Roe.

“She’s definitely one of the top setters in the league,” Roe said. “And after last year, we expect to get to states this year and with her being one of the leaders, she’ll be a big part of that.”

During the fall and winter, Fleming doubles her volleyball and basketball duties with playing club softball.

“I’d say basketball is my favorite sport to play because it’s fun,” she said. “And softball is my best, but really, whichever sport is in season is going to be my favorite.”

Her ticket to the next level, however, seems all but punched in softball, a sport where the 5--foot-3 catcher can balance the size she doesn’t have with her speed and leadership skills.

“Her work ethic is unbelievable,” Roe said. “I don’t know how she juggles it, just the fact she can handle all of it, that’s something that will definitely translate to the next level.”

Fleming said a number of smaller schools have contacted her about playing softball. She will be attending camps Boise State and Texas State.

“After doing so much in high school, I just can’t imagine doing nothing in college,” she said. “So I think I need to play softball.”

For a girl that excels at almost everything: Throwing runners out, balancing A’s in school, leading a volleyball team, heading the student council and making jump would seem to be the easy part.

Getting some sleep is another thing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

James Stewart takes U.S. Open of Supercross

By Anthony Fenech (contact)

Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 | 3:33 a.m.

After a back-and-forth battle in the 2009 Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open of Supercross, Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart talked briefly and then exchanged a respect-filled embrace.

It was a fitting end to Saturday night’s main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena that saw Stewart edge out Villopoto for the checkered flag. It was a two-man race from start to finish, not unlike the last time they dueled in the desert.

“It kind of reminded me about Vegas last year, with me and Ryan battling it out,” Stewart said on the victory podium afterward.

The battle broke out on the 10th lap of the 20-lap race, when Stewart, the sport’s highest-profile star, finally caught up with Villopoto, who had led the race up to that point.

The two traded places at the top during the early parts of the lap, Stewart passing Villopoto at one turn, Villapoto returning the favor on the next. The defending Supercross series champion Stewart took the lead seconds later, landing to the right of Villopoto off a jump and accelerating past him for good.

“I wish I could have held strong,” the 21-year-old Villapoto said.

It was the first race for both competitors since meeting at Sam Boyd Stadium in May. Villopoto missed nearly four months after ACL surgery, and Stewart took time off to promote the sport in commercials, photo shoots and a reality show.

For Stewart, it was just another trip to Victory Circle at the U.S. Open, an event he has won in back-to-back years and three times overall, the other win coming in 2006.

“This is awesome,” he said. “I guess it’s a good way to come out of semi-retirement.”

Stewart finished in first place overall with 53 points, posting a repeat of his dominant performance on Friday night with a victory of 9.8 seconds over Villopoto in the main event. He credited the victory in part to his new 2010 Yamaha 4Z450F.

“It’s just an awesome bike and an awesome team,” he said. “All my guys on the Yamaha team work so hard, and I always have fun with these guys.”

Villopoto finished fourth overall, behind Honda’s Davi Millsaps and Dan Reardon, who finished with 44 and 40 points, respectively.

“This is great event,” Stewart said. “I always have fun when I come here. This has been just a great night.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

James Poole dazzles in Cimarron-Memorial victory over Durango

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 | 12:28 a.m.

James Poole runs. He runs fast.

He spins, jumps, jukes, and when things are going well for him and his Cimarron-Memorial teammates, he finds himself standing on the sidelines, just the way he did for most of the second half Friday in the Spartans’ 54-7 homecoming win over Durango.

“I wanted to go back in, but coach didn’t let me,” Poole said afterward.

No, Poole’s work was done for the day when the Spartans walked off the field in the first half with a 34-point lead, just seconds after the senior running back dazzled the Durango defense for his fourth touchdown of the game.

There were 15 seconds to go in the second quarter when Cimarron lined up at its own 45-yard line, seemingly ready to run the clock out on the half, but Poole had other ideas.

He took the handoff, darted through a congested area of defenders with a series of jukes, busted right and went untouched down the sidelines for a score.

“James ran the ball extremely well tonight,” Cimarron coach Rod Vollan said. “He found the holes and made the plays we’ve come to expect from him.”

Poole totaled 259 yards in the game, scoring on runs of 47, 31, 79 and 55 yards.

The most exciting of those was a 79-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

After clearing the first level of Durango defenders by breaking tackles, Poole found himself at midfield with one man to beat, Trailblazers defensive back Keiffer Mancebo, who was closing in on the tackle.

Poole hurdled Mancebo, who watched from his knees, arms raised in frustration, and was home free from there.

“I just wanted to get in the end zone,” said Poole. “I was going to do whatever it took — hurdle, spin, whatever. I saw him go for the tackle and I just jumped.”

Cimarron opened the game in grand fashion when Stephen Nixon returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, exploding up the middle and through a pack of Durango defenders, leaving no doubt the Spartans had forgotten about their heartbreaking overtime loss to Legacy of a week ago.

“That would have broken a lot of teams,” Vollan said. “But we practiced with great focus and intensity this week and it showed up tonight.”

Senior quarterback Kenneth Banks passed for 160 yards on 5-for-7 passing and connected on two long touchdowns of 68 and 69 yards to A.J. Morrison and Brian Dover, respectively.

Heading into the game, Durango coach Gary Maki knew the task at hand, namely stopping Cimmaron playmakers Poole and Nixon, and the duo didn’t prove Maki wrong.

“We were debating all week how to approach them,” he said. “They were phenomenal, breaking tackles and gaining yardage when we thought we had them.

“It just wasn’t a very strong performance on our part.”

Durango (5-2) hosts Sierra Vista next week, while Cimarron (4-2) hosts Mojave for Senior Night.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Injured racer Ryan Villopoto back for U.S. Open of Supercross

By Anthony Fenech (contact)

Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.

It was just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday when Ryan Villopoto felt the urge to race.

So Villapoto, three days before this weekend’s Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open of Supercross, picked up the phone and confirmed his participation.

A day later, he sat in front of the media in the MGM Grand Garden Arena and explained his decision to compete, just short of four months after an injured ACL operation sidelined him.

“I feel as good if not better than I did last year,” the 21-year-old Monster Energy racer said.

“For me, I thought starting the season after not racing all summer would be a bad move on my part. I’ve been riding every day since I’ve got back onto the bike, so I’m just going to come out and ride.”

The last time Villapoto was on the track came in May, when he closed out the 2009 Supercross series with his second career victory in Las Vegas.

“It’s going to be the same Vegas dirt,” he said of competing in his first U.S. Open. “But I’ve had some time off, and this is definitely a smaller stadium than one I’ve ever raced in, so it’s going to be a little bit of a learning experience.”

Defending Supercross series and U.S. Open champion James Stewart returns to Las Vegas this year, fresh off a summer of Nike and Yamaha promotions, photo shoots and taping a television reality show, all aimed at increasing the visibility of the sport.

“I think it’s going to open a lot of avenues to the sport,” Stewart said. “In the long run, it’s going to make our sport a lot bigger and open it up to a lot of different people.”

Last Supercross season, Stewart clinched the championship at Sam Boyd Stadium with a four-point victory over Chad Reed, by a score of 377-373. He won 11 of last year’s 17 races but didn’t race in the Motocross Nationals, something he said won’t affect his performance.

“Instead of just getting on the bike, doing laps and busting motos, I worked on the stuff I felt like I was weak on last year,” he said. “Just try to make my whole Supercross program better and I think when you focus on one, it’s easier.”

Joining Villapoto and Stewart on the track is Supercross legend Ezra “Yogi” Lusk, who is coming out of his 2004 retirement to compete.

Lusk won 12 AMA Supercross titles and seven AMA Supercross Lites titles in his career.

“I thought it was a joke actually,” Stewart said of Lusk’s return, laughing. “But I’ve always looked up to Yogi. He had a killer riding style and I think it will be cool.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Henderson International golfer is a one-person team

By Anthony Fenech (contact)

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 | 4:14 p.m.

The old adage says there’s no “I” in “Team.”

Henderson International golfer Sarah Thomas humbly disagrees.

She’s only two months into high school, drives 200 yards off the tee, scores in the high 70s and, for all intents and purposes, the freshman is Henderson International’s girls golf team.

Just ask her teammates. That is, if she had any.

“It’s different,” she said. “It’s not too bad right now but I’d like to have some girls out there. But I’ve had a lot of girls come up to me and ask about golf, saying they're interested in it so hopefully next year we’ll have a real team started and it will continue to grow.”

The origin of the Wolverines golf team begins in a backyard in North Carolina, as young Sarah approached her dad, Steven, who was lofting golf balls into a softball field one morning.

“She got really excited about it,” Steven Thomas said. “So we bought her some plastic clubs.”

As Sarah peddled around with the game for the first few years, the plastic clubs eventually became titanium and the casual play led to tournaments around the age of 8.

“We just tried to help any way we could by getting her introduced to coaches and getting her tournament experience,” her father said. “We knew it was a great opportunity for her.”

Years later, after a cross-country move from North Carolina to Nevada, father and daughter walked in to the office of Henderson International Athletic Director Mike Ostrowski with an idea.

“They approached me, said she played a lot of golf and asked if it was something we could do,” Ostrowski said. “For a school of our size (roughly 100 students), these are the kind of sports we’re looking to start and grow.”

Ostrowski then contacted the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association, took the appropriate steps to get started and shortly thereafter, Sarah Thomas became the pioneer of the Henderson International girls golf team.

“She’s the leader,” Ostrowski said. “You can sense the enthusiasm in the school community and it’s triggered some interest in golf.”

Thomas has been competing two classifications higher this season, in the 3A Southern League, where she has more than held her own in her debut season, averaging a hair over 78. Henderson International competes in the state’s 1A classification, but has to play up for girls golf because 1A schools don’t field golf teams.

“It’s nice to have competition,” she said. “Playing with these girls helps me push myself.”

Next year, Ostrowski is confident Thomas won’t be the school’s lone golfer. Her success has created interest in other students to get involved.

“Any time we can get a new program started with a person of Sarah’s talent level as the model, it generates a lot of buzz,” Ostrowski said.