Choctaw Fall athletics preview

Leslie Fallon, Sports Editor

Fall is in the air, which undeniably means pumpkin spice lattes, flannels, and Choctaw game day! Fall sports are in full force and the Choctaws are better than ever. Our male and female athletes will be pushed to their fullest potential this year, competing in a higher level bracket now that we’re Division 2.

With MC’s athletic department expanding, Coaches Michael Shumaker, Randal Pharr, and Matt Frederick make up our newest strength and conditioning program. Each athletic team will be in the weight room weekly to enhance their performance, targeting muscles and techniques geared specifically to their sport in preparation for the upcoming season.

“I WILL” is the Choctaw football team’s motto, signifying each individual player’s commitment and dedication to the team and themselves. Head coach John Bland put up a poster in the football locker room and field house reminding the team what “I WILL” stands for.

“1. I will – give great effort in the classroom. 2. I will – promote a positive image. 3. I will – prepare to win.”

Bland will be entering into his first year coaching at MC this season, with high praises and expectations for his team. “We have a good group of hard workers with positive attitude,” said Bland, “It makes it enjoyable as a coach.”

Returning quarterback Jonathan Redd is expected to have a good senior year, coming back stronger than before and holding great leadership skills. With lots of new players on the offensive line, MC football faces the lack of depth that they need if injuries occur. But Bland believes the team will “continue to grow all season and be the best we can be.”

The Choctaw’s first home football game will be held this Saturday, September 13 at 7 pm against North Alabama.

Though uncertain how his team’s season will play out, head coach Kevin Johns of the men’s soccer team is confident that he has solid players.

“We knew what to expect in previous years, but now it’s a whole new year with whole new opponents,” admits Johns, “The season is a question mark for the staff, players, and program.”

Bringing in more than 40 new players with the change to Division II, the men’s soccer team’s goal is to be competitive in the Gulf South Conference and make it to the NCAA nationals just as they did last season. In previous seasons, the Choctaws were regular season champions and conference champions last year.

With such a new team, Kevin Johns, Carl Sheard, Allen Hannon, and Emerson Negrete, the men’s soccer coaching staff, look forward to the challenge. Their next home game will be September 16, following the Lady Choctaw women’s soccer game, starting at 2 p.m.

Coach Daryl Longabaugh is entering into his 18th year coaching the Lady Choctaws but his first year as a Division 2 coach. Simply put, when asked about the goal of this team’s season, Longabaugh said, “to win.” The Lady Choctaws will be working toward making it to post season in NCAA, and hopefully to nationals.

There is a majority of upperclassmen on the team, and new records could be set this season by senior outside forward, Macey Lee and senior midfielder, Melanie Benner. Lee is nine goals away from breaking Jennifer Benson’s school record for most goals in a career, while Benner is just five assists away from the all-time record.

This season the Lady Choctaws have acquired three international soccer players which Longabaugh has high hopes for, “These girls can play good soccer,” said Longabaugh regarding Sayit Mejia Bello, Eri Unai, and Caitlin Hayes.

The biggest addition to the soccer program, in Longabaugh’s opinion, is the strength and conditioning. “Weight training is making the girls stronger,” said Longabaugh, “and the stronger we are the better we’ll be.”

The men’s and women’s track and cross country coach, Butch Ard, unlike the other sports, knows what to expect this season. “Every meet the Choctaws and Lady Choctaws run against Division 1, Division 2, or NAIA so our schedule and the runners we run against won’t change,” explained Ard, “The only difference is now we’ll be more talented and have five or six that will be able to score well.”

With 11 freshmen on the team of 13 female runners, the expectations for this season are unknown. Despite the newness of the Lady Choctaw team, senior runners Meredith Johnson and Mallory Montgomery show great leadership and example, and both went to nationals last year. “Meredith is running very, very well right now,” said Ard, “She’s a great leader on the team.” Complimentary of Mallory, Ard said, “She is running better this year than ever since she’s been here. She’s also helping a lot with the freshmen.”

Coach Ard is not the least bit concerned about the male Choctaw runners. They finished twentieth in the nation last year with mostly freshmen, and this year five runners return from that nationally ranked team. They’ve also added three “really good freshmen guys,” said Ard, “So our guys’ team is really good.” The cross-country team’s next home meet is October 3, at 4:30 pm at the Choctaw Trails.

“The make-up of this team will be better than previous years. Bringing in a scholar athlete will be fun to watch,” excitedly said Lady Choctaw volleyball head coach Peter Cosmiano. With an equal number of returning players and new comers, Cosmiano is also excited to have some height on the team, as well as experience. The Lady Choctaws volleyball team will be setting their team’s objective this week, but Cosmiano has personal goals that each member works with the team and is competitive. The Lady Choctaws will be hosting West Alabama this Tuesday in the Coliseum at 7 p.m.

Don’t forget to come out and support your school and show ‘em how to “DO IT LIKE A CHOCTAW!”

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