Archive for December, 2014

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Canyon Springs-graduate Isiah Carter (42) lost his mother, April, to cancer on Sept. 16, 2013. He’s dedicated every game he’s played in to her since then, and Friday will be playing for the NAIA National Championship with Southern Oregon. PHOTO: Southern Oregon Sports Information

By W.G. Ramirez

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in the sports world, you tend to see teams accentuating uniforms with pink accessories.

So it made sense when former Canyon Springs standout Isiah Carter asked Southern Oregon coach Craig Howard if the Raiders were going to be donning pink anywhere.

Then Howard learned why he was approached by his freshman linebacker.

“He had tears in his eyes when he told me about his mom,” Howard said this past week during a phone interview from Daytona Beach, Fla., where the eighth-ranked Raiders will take on seventh-ranked Marian University (Ind.) for the NAIA Football Championship on Friday.

Last year, on Sept. 16, when Carter was a senior playing for Canyon Springs, he lost his mother, April, to cancer.

He’s been playing for her ever since.

“I said my final good bye to my mother and told her that she had nothing to worry about and I was going to make her proud,” Carter said, holding back emotions during a phone interview. “After losing her, it’s turned into every game being dedicated to her. After every game I realize that she’s been through so much more pain than me. I know she is looking down at me, and I want to do everything I can to make her proud of me.”

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Isiah Carter started his first game the same week he approached Southern Oregon coach Craig Howard about wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Carter lost his mother to cancer while he was still a senior at Canyon Springs High School.

Carter’s done a good job of making her proud this season, as he started his first game the same week he approached Howard about wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and hasn’t relinquished his role since. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound who graduated from Canyon Springs with a 3.7 grade point average and is majoring in business at SOU, finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles, after playing in 11 of the team’s 14 games. He recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranked third on the team, and his 52 yards-for-loss ranked second-most on the team.

“It was like a light switch going on when we saw Isiah at the linebacker spot, he was so fast and so good at his position, and I’m just so pleased with this young man,” Howard said. “Some guys are homesick, or find it tough to adapt to college. This guy lost his mom, and he’s always stayed dedicated. It keeps me highly motivated to be a better coach for these young man.”

Carter’s high school coach, Hunkie Cooper, had identical thoughts of Howard, saying he was one of the finest players and young men he’s ever coached.

“I’ve been at every level, and now I coach high school football, this is a young man you can put in any circumstance and he will be successful and he will bring positivity all around him,” Cooper said. “This is a kid who is physical, he’s fast; he has a football IQ out of this world. He will play in the NFL on Sundays. He is a purpose-driven kid. He is a big, violent kid on the field. His ability and will to prepare and to be successful is unmatched, no matter what obstacles are in his way. His work ethic, his approach for the game and the way he carries himself off the field – this is an honorable man.”

Cooper said he’s always told his players to remember the game is not always about them, and to find a way to play football for someone. It’s exactly what he told Carter after his mom passed, and to remind himself when he felt he couldn’t go any more, to think of someone who is on a respirator or isn’t going to make it and do it for them.

For Carter, that’s been one person ever since. That’s why after having his wrists taped for each game, he has his mother’s birthdate and the date she passed written on the tape, along with “R.I.P Mom.”

“Isiah is a strong individual. He is one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever seen,” said former Centennial standout and Southern Oregon running back Lantz Worthington. “Any man who can go through that, in losing his mom and still playing the sport he loves. I respect and look up to him as a brother. I’ve learned that he is a hard worker and he never gives up. He is an athlete you can learn from and he will be an awesome role model for me all four years.”

Said Howard: “Here we have a freshman linebacker from Las Vegas, being able to dedicate a national championship game to his mom, that’s just something. I’m going to be a better coach because of players like Isiah. He is so dedicated he is so loyal, he is such an incredible young man.”

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Seven Las Vegas-based football players are on Southern Oregon’s football team, including Lantz Worthington (third from left). The Raiders play for the NAIA National Championship on Friday. PHOTO: Courtesy of Sports Information.

 

By W.G. Ramirez

If UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez (it’s okay to say that now, right?) needs proof it’s okay to recruit locally, and build a nucleus around Las Vegas talent, he should direct his attention to Ashland, Oregon – population 20,000. That’s an approximate number.

A more precise number is seven. How apropos, as Vegas’ winningest number on The Strip is the same number of Southern Nevada football players who attend Southern Oregon.

Why does this all matter? Because Friday at Noon pacific, the eighth-ranked Raiders will take on seventh-ranked Marian University (Ind.) for the NAIA Football Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Yep, while the Rebels are licking their wounds after another two-win season, seven Las Vegas products may be donning national championship rings at the collegiate level. Southern Oregon, which was No. 22 in the preseason poll, knocked off third-ranked Saint Xavier, 62-37, two weeks ago to get to the final game. And history is on the Raiders’ side, as the lower seed has won the last four championships and seven of the last eight.

Coach Craig Howard has a wealth of talent he can brag about, but said he has been pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with how well his Las Vegas contingent has worked out for his team during its championship run.

“It really was an untapped recruiting area,” Howard said from Daytona Beach, during a phone interview on Tuesday. “These guys have been a joy to coach. And we’re going to continue to recruit Las Vegas, no matter what, as it’s been a huge benefit for us.”

Linebacker Isiah Carter (Canyon Springs), running back Lantz Worthington (Centennial) and defensive back A.J. Cooper (Canyon Springs) made the trip with the Raiders, while defensive back Ray Robinson (Las Vegas), defensive back RaeQuan Bascombe (Canyon Springs), offensive lineman Terry Dodd (Cheyenne) and running back Malik Davis(Desert Pines) have been an integral part of getting the team prepared throughout the season, during practices.

“These kids played together for many years and they stayed together to build a pipeline from Las Vegas,” Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper said. “We have a pretty good group of kids there.”

Cooper, who starred at UNLV and went on to become one of the biggest stars in the history of the Arena Football League, said he’s confident Sanchez will begin his recruiting process in Southern Nevada, as he knows the coaches and players, and respects what many of his now-former high school colleagues do at their respective schools.

The trio who made the trip to Daytona Beach agreed wholeheartedly.

“I think that a lot of Las Vegas talent is overlooked by a lot of schools because we’re small, speedy guys,” Carter said. “Nobody is willing to look into it and recruit from it because most schools are looking for prototypical football players, size wise.”

(TOMORROW: Read Isiah Carter’s touching story on who he’s dedicated the season to)

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Former Canyon Springs standout Isiah Carter, who played in 11 of 14 games for Southern Oregon, finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles. PHOTO: Sports Information

Carter finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles, after playing in 11 of the team’s 14 games. He recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranked third on the team, and his 52 yards-for-loss ranked second-most on the team.

“I think that having guys from Vegas, it would make the transition to college much better if they went to UNLV,” said Carter, who also recorded four sacks this season. “I know our Vegas guys up here now have made this team more dynamic and more diverse on offense and defense.”

Worthington, who was one of the best running backs out of the Sunset Region last year, said former UNLV coach Bobby Hauck sat down with him and told him he could walk-on and make the team, but that he would not be offered a scholarship, mainly because they had been used up for out-of-town recruits and there simply was no more money left.

“Honestly, I think it’ll help the program if he brings in locals,” said Worthington, who has seen limited time, but is the fastest player on the Raiders, according to Howard. “It’s the way Sanchez runs his program, I mean, Gorman was phenomenal and I feel college athletes need that kind of leader and role model as a coach. He’s the type of coach that college athletes would love to play for, and I feel it will make a big difference if he can keep kids home.

“Kids will feel more appreciative being recruited by UNLV, knowing they can stay home. UNLV’s recruiting should always start with Las Vegas football players.”

In six games, Worthington rushed for just 31 yards on five carries. Nevertheless, Howard wasn’t afraid to say he’s shocked to this day he has Worthington, given how talented he is, and that he’s looking forward to him playing a lead role next season.

“Lantz hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time, but he’s the fastest player on the team,” Howard said. “He will definitely be a full-time starter next year. I don’t know why he is at Southern Oregon, because he is a Division I player. But hey, he’s an impact player for us, so everyone else’s loss is our gain.”

A.J. Cooper said it’s come up often, as the season has progressed, whether or not the Vegas boys will be staying in Ashland, or if they’d like to return home to play for the Rebels and Sanchez, or elsewhere for that matter.

“We’ve decided we started here and we want to build here,” said Cooper, who is Hunkie’s son. “Even though I’m a redshirt, I came for the trip so I can experience the feeling of playing for a national championship and that means something to me, so I’m going to stay loyal to my team and my coaches. But, there are guys who would feel good playing for their hometown (in Las Vegas). There’s a sense of motivation to play in front of friends and family. It would feel good to play for your hometown.”

Howard said it’s been his first move, to recruit locally, as it’s created a solid fan base, including sponsorship money from business owners who support the local team. But after recruiting from Ashland and surrounding areas, he said he knows where one of his first moves will always be after this seeing the results from this season.

“I don’t know if we lucked out, but character-wise, these guys from Las Vegas have been great,” Howard said. “They’re just great examples for our program. The character of those kids and the work ethic of those kids makes me want to go out and recruit that area annually.”

Given his success with Southern Nevada preps, something tells me Sanchez will be doing the same.

(Friday’s NAIA National Championship will be televised on ESPNU)

 

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Clark High senior Bobbi Floyd (center) was joined by her parents, Jodie and Gregory Sr., and nephew, Kash, during a letter-of-intent ceremony Tuesday. PHOTO: W.G. Ramirez

By W.G. Ramirez

Clark girls basketball star Bobbi Floyd was looking forward to a big week.

Not only was she planning on embarking on her senior season, she had a press conference scheduled to ‘officially’ announce she would be attending Delaware State on a basketball scholarship while her nephew, Kash, turns 2 years old on Dec. 11. She couldn’t have been any happier Sunday night, after a celebration for Kash’s birthday.

That came to an abrupt halt Monday around 3 a.m., when there was a knock at the door at the Floyd household. Kash’s mother, Monique Gittens – Floyd’s sister – died of heart failure.

“I wanted to come to school to get my mind off of it, but it was just overwhelming cause I was thinking ‘I just saw her yesterday,'” Floyd said Tuesday morning at the school. “And just like that, she was just gone.”

Nevertheless, since hearing the news that her sister passed, she’s been to school, practiced with her team and is preparing for Wednesday’s season-opener against Pahrump Valley. Tuesday morning she held a ‘mock signing’ to commemorate the letter-of-intent that is already on file at Delaware State.

Floyd didn’t have a chance to hold an official ceremony last month, and scheduled it for the day before the season, allowing her teammates, coaches, friends, Clark’s administration and all of her family to attend.

All, except Gittens.

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Bobbi Floyd was overcome with emotion when during her letter-of-intent signing, as she spoke of her sister, who passed away early Monday morning. PHOTO: W.G. Ramirez

Floyd spoke briefly to everyone, thanking them, and then she paid homage to the one relative she considered to be her best friend.

“I would like to thank my sister, Monique, even though she’s not here,” Floyd said to the gathering. “I know she’s watching over me.”

The emotional scene got to most everyone there, but Floyd said she’s using her loss as motivation for the upcoming season. Clark was ousted from the Division I-A semifinals last season, when Boulder City outscored Clark 35-7 in the second half, including a dominating 22-2 fourth quarter, en route to a 58-33 victory.

Behind a cast of blue-collar players, and fifth-year coach Mike Moulchin, Floyd is determined to get her Chargers back into the postseason, and into the state tournament.

“She’s out there leading the team this year, she’s actually helped put the (defensive) press in this year,” Moulchin said. “So she’s done a lot of things, like a player-coach, and that’s some great maturity.”

Moulchin has had Floyd on varsity since her freshman season, and said he’s seen plenty of maturity since her first season donning black and gold.

“When we first got Bobbi she crossed over from cheerleading the year before,” Moulchin said. “I saw something in her from the first day, I mean she was like any other (player), some days she was there, others she was not. We had this tall girl that was gangly, (but) we saw she had a shot; she had a lot of upside. From then to now, the big transformation for me was from junior to senior year.”

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Clark’s Bobbi Floyd signed a letter-of-intent last month, to play basketball at Delaware State. Friends, teammates, coaches and family gathered for a ‘mock signing’ to commemorate her signing. PHOTO: W.G. Ramirez

Floyd went from scoring more than 300 points her freshman year, to averaging 19.8 points and 15.6 rebounds per game last season. Add in her near 5 blocks per game, and Floyd is arguably one of the fiercest post players in Division I-A basketball, and quite possibly in the state, all around.

Moulchin said he talked with his star player over summer, explaining about her needing mental toughness for college, since she’ll be roughly 2,500 miles away from home. He explained to her that when she arrives in Dover, it’ll be an entirely different brand of hoops, with at least a handful of players better than her and another seven just as good.

What he didn’t think was she would need a boost of mental toughness to start her senior campaign, due to personal loss.

“I really didn’t expect her at practice (that first night), or for the opener against Pahrump,” he said. “But she said she made a commitment to the team. She’s committed to her family, and she’s going to be there for them too, but she’s become a leader and she’s been very big for help turning the team around.”

Said Floyd: “Now I have more meaning to this season. It’s not just playing this season just to play and ‘oh yeah I got a scholarship.’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to play these first couple of games, but then my older sister asked me ‘do you think Monique would want you to not play?’ This season is for my sister.”

So when she takes the court Wednesday night in Pahrump, she’ll have her sister’s initials on one shoe, and the date she passed on the other shoe.

“When I walk on the court, she’ll be watching me.”

(Tip time is 5 p.m. You can follow’s Floyd’s opening-game progress with the final box score on NevadaPreps.com.)