Archive for August, 2011

Game Week: Youngstown State at Michigan State

IMG_2409

Camp is over, school is in session, and football is in the air.  Youngstown State will start the 2011 season on the road at East Lansing to face off against the #17 ranked Michigan State Spartans.  The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff and will be televised on the Big-10 Network.  Friday’s contest will mark the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Michigan State knows what it is like to be on National Television with this game extending that streak to 103 consecutive games dating back to 2002.  Youngstown State, on the other hand got some exposure in recent years with games against Penn State, Pitt, and Ohio State.  The Spartans are 5-4 at home in prime-time TV appearances.

“We will not just be satisfied if we score a touchdown”, exclaimed YSU Coach Eric Wolford.  ”We cleared that hurdle last season and I am very confident in this football team.  This is a new season, last year does not matter anymore.  Today was the first day of classes and usually that means a bad practice takes place.  I was happy to say that this was a very good practice and we are very focused on what we need to do for the Michigan State game.”

“It’s okay to be excited, but we are keeping our focus on what we have to do Friday”, remarked YSU Senior Captain, John Sasson.  ”Our goal is to win this game, our goal is to win every game and we have to do that one week at a time.  It is a very long season and games will be focused on one at a time.”

IMG_2191

For Youngstown State to have any shot at an upset, they have to control the clock, move the sticks and keep the ball away from the Spartans.  Sophomore QB Kurt Hess and RB Jamaine Cook, both recently named co-captains, lead a very experienced and talented Youngstown State backfield.  The Penguins averaged over 400 yards per game on offense in 2010 and have the backfield returning.

Hess (above) doesn’t look toward the Michigan State game feeling any pressure as a newly named captain, the first sophomore in YSU history to be donned with such an honorable title.  ”I am trying to have fun.  I don’t see this as pressure as much as I do responsibility.  The responsibility is every day and you can’t take plays off at practice, being a leader means you are accountable.”

Still in question is the passing game.  With the loss of Dominique Barnes and a slew of new faces in camp, the air game is the biggest question mark for the Penguins going into 2011.  Michigan State is not a team that will be easy to tear apart in third-and-long situations with Senior FS Trenton Robinson, a 2010 All-Conference Pick,  roaming the middle, and a solid pass rush featuring DT Jerel Worthy.

“I think we are going to play a good game and stayed focused.  We want to stay grounded and fight until it is over and we are ready to play this game.  We have a lot of bad taste in our mouth from last season and I know we are hungry”, added Hess.

Offensively, the Spartans feature one of the best quarterbacks in the Big-10, Kirk Cousins.  Cousins is like a right-handed Steve Young who has good mobility and arm strength and makes very precise decisions.  Edwin Baker will receive the majority of the carries for Michigan State and earned post-season Big-10 honors last year.  The Penguins, who will look much better on defense this season will have their hands full with a well-balanced offense.

On a sad note, prayers are with Spartan Coach Mark Dantonio whose father passed away Sunday.  Dantonio, from Zanesville, Ohio, will hold his press conference on Tuesday and leave to attend the services.  He is expected to be back for the opener on Friday.

With a nation of football-starved fanatics, the Penguins have vowed to give it their best shot on Friday.  Michigan State has a lofty goal of winning the Big-10 Championship outright this season.  Let the games begin!

Scrappers Bodyslam Jammers, 9-2

IMG_2274

On what has become an annual gathering at Eastwood Field, Baseball Brawl, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers rose to the challenge and body slammed the Jamestown Jammers.  The opportunistic Scrappers racked up nine hits and outscored the Jammers 9-2 in front of a great Sunday crowd of 3,550.

Jamestown got on the scoreboard in their first at-bat.  Elvis Araujo (below) made his first start for Mahoning Valley.  Araujo was 9-1 at Arizona before being promoted by the Scrappers.  Eddie Rodriguez drove home a pair of runners with a two-out single.

Mahoning Valley took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning.  Francisco Lindor, the #1 Draft Pick of the Cleveland Indians, made his professional debut Sunday.  The 17-year old prospect got his first hit, an infield bleeder that was good for a single.  Jake Lowery then doubled and Jordan Smith walked to load the bases.  Todd Hankins doubled home Linder and Lowery to tie the game.  Alex Lavisky grounded out to third but got an RBI when Smith trotted home for a 3-2 Scrappers lead.

IMG_2266

Mahoning Valley added two runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-2 lead.  Lavisky singled and would score from first on a Jerrud Sabourin triple.  John Barr knocked in Sabourin from third with a clean single to give the Scrappers the three-run lead.

Will Krasne picked up the win in relief of Araujo, who threw four complete innings before exiting.  Krasne was relieved by Drew Rucinski and Ramon Cespedes. Thomas Peale took the loss for the Jammers, giving up  5 runs in five innings.

The Scrappers added two more runs in the seventh to take a 7-2 lead.  Bryson Myles walked and Tony Wolters singled.  Lowery plated Myles with a single and Hankins hit a sac fly to bring in the hustling Wolters from third.

IMG_2307

Lindor (above) went 1-3 in his pro debut.  The highly-touted youngster played confidently and may have been trying to do too much, but was focused during his five innings.

The Scrappers added insurance in the bottom of the eighth. Cody Elliott was hit by a pitch and Sabourin walked.  John Barr doubled home Elliott on a bloop double that found a home just inside the right field line.  Then the wild pitching exhibit took place when Jamestown reliever, Blake Brewer, walked a couple and hit another to give the Scrappers a 9-2 lead

Youngstown State Football Names Captains

IMG_7831

Youngstown State Head Football Coach Eric Wolford announced to the Penguins on Saturday morning that senior linebacker John Sasson (Pittsburgh, Pa.), senior defensive tackle Andrew Johnson (Detroit, Mich.), junior tailback Jamaine Cook (Cleveland, Ohio) and sophomore quarterback Kurt Hess (Dayton, Ohio) have been selected as team captains for the 2011 season.

Hess is believed to be the first sophomore in school history to be named captain. He is the first quarterback to be tabbed a captain since Tom Zetts in 2007. Last year as a redshirt freshman Hess started all 11 games at quarterback.

Cook, who is on the preseason Watch List for the Walter Payton Award, rushed for 1,276 yards as a sophomore and was named second-team All-Missouri Valley Football Confernece last year.

Sasson is coming off a career-high 89 tackles from the 2010 campaign. Entering last year he had a total of 90 career tackles before doubling his career output last season.

Johnson, who transfered from Bowling Green prior to last season, had a strong camp and should be ready for a breakout season on the defensive line. He started last year on a good note before being slowed by an ankle injury the remainder of the season.

YSU is set to practice on Sunday morning at Stambaugh Stadium. Monday brings the first day of classes and the first evening practice of the season. The Guins are scheduled to practice beginning at 7 p.m. that night.

YSU opens the season on Friday, Sept. 2 at Michigan State. The contest will be televised on the Big Ten Network and carried on 570 WKBN AM.

Season and Individual Game Tickets for the 2011 season are now on sale through the YSU Athletic Ticket Office. For ticket information contact the YSU Athletic Ticket Office at (330) 941-1978.

Phantoms Roll Out Preseason Schedule

IMG_3768

The Youngstown Phantoms have scheduled five preseason games as they prepare for Youngstown’s third season in the United States Hockey League. The Phantoms will visit Team USA and Muskegon before heading out to Sioux City, Iowa for the 2011 USHL Fall Classic.

The Phantoms first two exhibition games will take place the weekend before the Fall Classic. The Phantoms first tune-up is against Team USA on Friday, September 16, at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. The rivalry between the Phantoms and the Muskegon Lumberjacks will be renewed in the pre-season on Saturday, September 17, when the Phantoms make their first trip of the year to L.C. Walker Arena. Both games will start at 7:05 p.m.

The USHL Fall Classic will run from Wednesday, September 21, through Saturday, September 24. The Phantoms will take on the Lincoln Stars and the Sioux Falls Stampede but their toughest challenge may be their Fall Classic opener against the defending Eastern Conference Champions, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

“The preseason will be the time when we set our identity,” said Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen. “We are going to develop this identity from day one. This will also be a time where we can identify which players will fit our program. Obviously some of the guys that start the preseason with us may not be there at the end of it. For me and the other coaches, all of the players, whether they are rookies or our veterans, will all be starting with the same footing. Our players need to do what is expected of them or they will not be here for opening night. We will not be concerned with the scores in the preseason, this will be our time to solidify our systems and the process that we take to win games. I know our process will work but it will take time to determine which players are willing to do what our organization wants both on and off the ice.”

Preseason Games

Friday, September 16, 2011 – Youngstown Phantoms at Team USA @ 7:05 p.m.

Saturday, September 17, 2011 – Youngstown Phantoms at Muskegon Lumberjacks @ 7:05 p.m.

USHL Fall Classic Schedule

Thursday, September 22, 2011 – Youngstown Phantoms vs Cedar Rapids RoughRiders @ 4:00 p.m.

Friday, September 23, 2011 – Youngstown Phantoms vs Sioux Falls Stampede @ 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 24, 2011 – Youngstown Phantoms vs Lincoln Stars @ 1:00 p.m.

The Phantoms kick off the 2011-12 regular season on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. against Team USA at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.  The Phantoms will open the Covelli Centre with two games against the Des Moines Buccaneers on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, both games starting at 7:15 p.m.

Dannie Williams Succeeds In Making A Splash

IMG_1256

On Friday, August 12, Dannie Williams put his name on a bigger map, a national map.  Williams defeated Antonio Cervantes on ESPN Friday Night Fights with an impressive four-round performance ending with a resounding TKO.  The momentum and attention are both a little stronger after the victory, Williams’ seventh straight.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better week for Dannie”, said Williams’ trainer Jack Loew.  ”Everything we did went well.  He had a very good press conference and gave impressive answers, he showed a lot of respect when he needed to, and most importantly, he fought one of his best fights ever, in front of a national television audience.”

Williams (19-1) is on the cusp of bigger things, very soon.  With his career taking shape in St. Louis, he formed an alliance with Steve Smith and Lights Out Productions to manage his business.  Smith is a good guy who I have met a couple of times and is really looking out for Williams.  Unfortunately, in this business, for Williams to take the next big step, change may be coming because of Smith’s lack of national prominence.

“Dannie is negotiating with [Lou] DiBella. Steve [Smith] has done great things for Dannie, but in order to move ahead, he needs to sign on with a major name and DiBella has shown interest”, said Loew.  ”Steve [Smith] will remain involved in some capacity, we are just not sure to what extent right now.”

Williams plans on staying active in pursuit of a championship, he will probably fight again in November, but no deal has been signed as of this writing.

Being Donald Jones: Buffalo Bills Training Camp

tn

Former Youngstown State star Donald Jones is settling in nicely with the Buffalo Bills.  Jones is scorching up the depth charts and will see ample playing time in Buffalo this season.  I will be featuring Jones every week during the NFL season to recap what went right in the games, and what may have caused problems for Jones and the Bills.

With Lee Evans gone, a huge void in the Bills offense is up for grabs.  Bills Coach, Chan Gailey, has already made his feelings known by praising Jones.  The biggest compliment a coach can give a player at that level is playing time.  Jones is currently listed as the #2 receiver for the Bills behind Stevie Johnson.  The other players for the Bills with some game experience, David Nelson and Roscoe Parrish are inside slot-type receivers, opening the door for Jones to replace Evans to be a deep threat and game breaker in 2011.

“I am having the best training camp I have ever had at any level”, commented Jones.  ”There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the offense and I am going to bust my butt to take advantage of my chances here.”

We briefly discussed his relative unknown status in fantasy football leagues too.  ”Hopefully a lot of people draft me and I can get them some points. But right now I don’t really think about being a starter. I’m just out here getting ready for the season, learning my playbook, and working hard at getting better.  The rest of it is out of my hands, it’s up to the coaches, and if they decide to start me, I will give them all I can.”

I asked Jones if there were any wrinkles in the new playbook designed for him.  ”We can’t really discuss that (laughs), but there are a couple of neat things that the people will like to see.”

Southside Boxing Club Golf Outing A Success

IMG_2230

The first-ever Southside Boxing Club golf outing was held August 14th at Bedford Trails.  Jack Loew (above) was pleased with the outing and said that next year it will be even bigger and better than it was this time.

“It was a great day”, commented Loew.  ”All of the golfers had a really good time, the food was outstanding, and I think when the word gets out about what a great time everyone had that spots will be much harder to get next year.”

There were continuous refreshment carts cruising around the fairways, yes I said carts, plural.  Usually at a bigger outing there is one cart and you dehydrate before you hit the turn.  Not this one.  The food table looked like an Italian wedding.

kelly

Kelly ‘The Ghost’ Pavlik was on one of the four-man teams and was having a good time.  Approaching Pavlik on the tenth hole, I was offered a chance to hit a ball with the champ’s driver.  He playfully joked with me because I passed on the opportunity and then proceeded to hit the first tree on the left with his drive.  Ultimately, I got blamed for being a jinx.  It was a fun moment.  I declined because if I break his $350 driver, I wished not to learn how hard he can really punch.

Many fun moments were had by all and if you missed it, you missed out.  Congratulations Jack for an outing that was really a first-class venture and a memorable day!

* Pavlik Photo courtesy of Trent Wazcop.

YSU Men’s Basketball Schedule For 2011-2012

IMG_8835

Youngstown State’s seventh-year men’s basketball Head Coach Jerry Slocum announced his team’s 29-game 2011-12 schedule which features 13 home games, match ups against three NCAA Tournament participants, a Big Ten opponent and two contests against the two-time national runners-up.

“This is a very competitive schedule for our program this year,” Slocum said. “With the Horizon League continually getting better and better, we know our players have to be ready to play night in and night out. We feel this schedule will prepare our team for league play.”

The Guins open the 2011-12 campaign on the road at Samford (Nov. 12) before hosting two straight home games – Notre Dame College (Nov. 15) in the home opener and UC-Riverside (Nov. 18) in a return game from the 2010 BracketBuster.

Seven of the Guins’ next eight games are on the road, including four consecutive away contests – at Big Ten-member Penn State (Nov. 23), at Saint Francis (Pa.) (Nov. 26), at Detroit (Dec. 1) and at Wright State (Dec. 3). It also marks the third straight season and the sixth time in the last seven years the Guins will open Horizon League play on the road.

After hosting Fredonia State (Dec. 6), the Guins visit three teams from the Mid-American – at Buffalo (Dec. 10), at Toledo (Dec. 17) and at Akron (Dec. 19) – then host Robert Morris (Dec. 22) just before Christmas.

The Guins return to action and begin the Horizon League portion of the slate with a New Year’s Eve tilt at Cleveland State (Dec. 31). They then start 2012 with two home games against Loyola (Jan. 5) and UIC (Jan. 7).

A swing through the Hoosier state to visit Valparaiso (Jan. 12) and two-time national runner-up Butler (Jan. 14) precedes the Guins’ longest homestand of the season. The Guins host Milwaukee (Jan. 19) and Green Bay (Jan. 21) before starting the second half of league play with a home contest against Cleveland State (Jan. 28).

The Guins second road swing of at least three games starts at Milwaukee (Jan. 31) and continues in Chicago with a pair of games at UIC (Feb. 2) and at Loyola (Feb. 4).

The rest of the month of February includes home games against Butler (Feb. 9), Valparaiso (Feb. 11) and Wright State (Feb. 23) and Detroit (Feb. 25) in the final weekend of the regular season.

The Guins also visit Green Bay (Feb. 14) and a yet to be named opponent in the BracketBuster game on Feb. 18.

First-round games of the Horizon League Championship begin on Feb. 28 while the second round is March 2. The league semifinals are March 3 while the championship game is March 6.

Sat 12 at Samford 7:00 PM
Tue 15 NOTRE DAME (OHIO) 7:05 PM
Fri 18 UC RIVERSIDE 7:05 PM
Wed 23 at Penn State TBA
Sat 26 at Saint Francis (Pa.) 7:00 PM
December
Thu 1 at Detroit * TBA
Sat 3 at Wright State * TBA
Tue 6 FREDONIA ST. 7:45 PM
Sat 10 at Buffalo TBA
Sat 17 at Toledo TBA
Mon 19 at Akron TBA
Thu 22 ROBERT MORRIS 7:05 PM
Sat 31 at Cleveland State * TBA
January
Thu 5 LOYOLA * 7:05 PM
Sat 7 UIC * 7:05 PM
Thu 12 at Valparaiso * TBA
Sat 14 at Butler * 2:00 PM
Thu 19 MILWAUKEE * 7:05 PM
Sat 21 GREEN BAY * 7:05 PM
Sat 28 CLEVELAND STATE * 7:05 PM
Tue 31 at Milwaukee * TBA
February
Thu 2 at UIC * TBA
Sat 4 at Loyola * TBA
Thu 9 BUTLER * 7:05 PM
Sat 11 VALPARAISO * 7:05 PM
Tue 14 at Green Bay * TBA
Thu 23 WRIGHT STATE * 7:05 PM
Sat 25 DETROIT * 2:05 PM
Home games in bold.

* Horizon League Game

YSU Women’s Soccer Ready To Roll

Unknown

The Youngstown State women’s soccer team opens its 16th season with a pair of games at the UMKC Tournament beginning with a match up against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Friday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. The Guins will face host UMKC, Sunday, Aug. 21, at 12:05 p.m.

About the Guins
The Guins return 17 letterwinners and 10 starters from last season’s 3-13-1 team led by defender and three-year senior captain Kelsey Kempton and sophomore Allison Ludwig. Kempton, who scored two goals with an assist last season, was a 2010 CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-District IV selection.

Ludwig, who recorded a hat trick in her collegiate debut last season, was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team after scoring eight goals and ranking in the top five in several offensive categories. She also tied the YSU freshman record with eight goals scored.

Next week, the Guins visit the Virginia Military Institute, Friday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. before hosting Robert Morris, Sunday, Aug. 28, at Noon at Stambaugh Stadium.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers Personnel: Jordan Taylor

IMG_2068

Jordan Taylor is in his first season as the General Manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.  The very quiet and reserved Taylor is someone I have gotten to know better over the past three years.  If intelligence counts for anything, he is winning big.  Probably one of the smartest minds I have met in the world of sports, Taylor has done a great job in his rookie season at the helm.  I recently spoke with him about everything from his love of professional wrestling to trusting those working around him.

Paneech: Year one, first shot at being the head honcho, how are things going so far?

Taylor: It has been going real well so far.  The team is playing well and things have been falling into place in my first year.

Paneech: You worked under Dave Smith for a few years, and those are big shoes to fill.  What kind of experience did you get as Assistant General Manager?

Taylor: Dave was here when I got hired a little over ten years ago.  I learned under him for ten seasons as I worked my way up the ranks.  It was great to learn from someone who is a real professional in this industry.  He was very good in letting me in on the runnings of the business over the last few years.  That kind of activity really prepared me for where I am now.

Paneech: What has been the biggest challenge in managing people?

Taylor: It is about being able to manage such a diverse group of people.  We currently have nine full-time people on staff, and then we bring in 30 interns and over 100 game day employees.  It is a challenge managing all of the different personalities that are brought in.  I am pretty even-tempered, so I can tolerate and handle many of the situations that arise.  It has been pretty smooth so far.

IMG_2067

Paneech: It seems like you and the other nine full-time employees are a very close-knit group.  Describe how cohesively you all function as a unit.

Taylor: I think we have the best staff in the New York-Penn League. In terms of years of experience from the top down, most of the front office personnel have been here for a long time.  Everybody likes each other, and that is important, because this is not a normal work environment.  Over the Summers, we have spent more time with each other than we have with our families.  This becomes your family for the Summer and you get very close and care about each other.

Paneech: The season ends in September and starts back up in June, what do you do in the time in between seasons?

Taylor: It is busier in the off-season for some than it is during the season.  In September, we get the stadium ready to be shut down.  After that is done we start focusing on the next season.  We start selling season tickets, mini-plans, groups, promotions, and really getting everything moving.  It is not the same hours as we put in during the season, but we are working hard to make sure when the season eventually starts, that we are ready for everything.  People take time off in October and September.

Paneech: How has the support been from the Cleveland Indians?

Taylor:  Our relationship with the Indians has been very strong and I feel very comfortable working with them. Working with this coaching staff has also been great this season.  I couldn’t ask for a better manager than David Wallace and his coaching staff.  They make things easier for me and have been very accommodating.

Paneech: Like myself, you enjoy professional wrestling.  How do you set that kind of promotion up?

Taylor: The system is kind of two-tiered.  When we bring a wrestler in for just an autograph signing, we will go through a promoter who specializes in minor league sports and used to work for the WWE.  He recommends a group of four or five wrestlers that would be accessible to us and we pick who we think will generate the most interest.  The second phase is the actual post-game wrestling card.  It is more involved.  We work with a promotion that does events all over the country based out of Ohio.  He [promoter] has a lot of contacts of current and former stars.  He will give us a list and we offer suggestions.  In this case, Mick Foley coming this year is a real step up.  The last show had Scott Steiner, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine.  This year we were not only able to get Foley, but also Jimmy Hart and Al Snow.

Paneech: Who is your all-time favorite wrestler?

Taylor: I have two.  Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels are my all-time favorites.  Both of them are really good with cutting promos and have good matches in the ring.  I also like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.

Paneech: What would you be doing if not this?

Taylor: The sports industry is something I wanted to get into at a very young age.  I would still be involved with sports at some capacity.  I could see myself teaching and coaching baseball or basketball.  If I wasn’t doing this, that would have been the way I would have gone.

Paneech: How tricky is it to balance family entertainment from kid-related promotions?  You go from dollar beers and Lisa Neeld to Boy Scout Night.

Taylor: We try to offer something for everybody.  The Thursday dollar beer night promotion has a younger adult demographic.  That’s great, but those who drink hang out in the picnic area and that kind of leaves the rest of the stadium for everyone else.   It keeps the crowd a little compartmentalized.  You have to remember, there are dollar tickets, pop, and hot dogs, so we can draw families to the same game.  We also have mascot nights and giveaway nights, but our biggest demo is geared toward families, parents and kids, or grandparents and grandchildren.  It is a great family atmosphere.

IMG_2069

One Word Answers

Favorite Movie: Bull Durham.

Favorite Non-Sports Movie: Animal House.

Best Subject In College: American History.

Fast Food Order: Chipotle – Burrito with chicken rice and all of the salsas.

Favorite Meal: Dinner because even when I am here, my wife is nice enough to cook for me.

Favorite TV Show: The Office.

Favorite Music: Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

Favorite Cartoon Character: Bart Simpson.

Player You Got Closest To: Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Biggest Phobia: Flying.

Worst Habit:  (laughs)  I can sleep a lot.

Who Is Next If You Go? Honestly?  I would be confident with about six people that are on staff right now.  I’m not ducking the question, but any number of people can take over.

“My hope is that we can continue the level of success that has been laid out here.  We want to always continue the tradition of providing the area great entertainment on and off of the field.  I am fortunate because I get to come to a baseball field to work.” –  Jordan Taylor