He’s back! Middleton returns to Creek

Photo by Darrell James

By Malcolm Butler

He’s back!

The 2021 Lincoln Parish Journal Coach of the Year Matt Middleton has returned to Cedar Creek in the same role he left in January.

One day after a joint announcement that the school and Steven Ensminger, Jr., had mutually decided to part ways, Cedar Creek announced that Middleton was returning.

“Cedar Creek School is excited to announce that it has partnered with Coach Matt Middleton to serve in the capacity as athletic director and head football coach,” said the release from the school. “Coach Middleton has a long history of molding young student athletes into well-rounded individuals. The school and Coach Middleton have made a multi-year commitment to each other and look forward to many years of success, both on the field and inside the classroom.”

Middleton was introduced as the Cougars head coach in April of 2021 and guided the Cougars to a 6-5 record, which including a historic win over Oak Grove, a near-miss against OCS and a berth in the Division IV playoffs.

Following the season he resigned from Cedar Creek in mid-January to accept the offensive coordinator position at Southern Arkansas University. His new contract with Cedar Creek is a multi-year deal.

“I am extremely excited,” said Middleton. “I didn’t foresee this happening but I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be back with those kids. And with a great school. It’s even more exciting for me because my entire family will be there too. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m ready to get rolling.

“Their commitment to me and to the program is huge. And my commitment back benefits both parties and puts us in a situation to be in a longstanding relationship for years to come. That’s what I want.

“A lot of people might think this is just about (my son Caden’s senior year), but this is so much more than that. I have a 5-year old starting kindergarten, and I hope and pray we will be here (for him to finish at Cedar Creek). I am excited about the long-term part of it. I have bounced around some in my career, but I want to plant some roots and look forward to a bright future.”

Middleton told the Lincoln Parish Journal in January that the decision to leave Creek and return to college coaching wasn’t an easy one.

“Probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had,” said Middleton in January. “I am leaving what I consider a loaded team. I think they could possibly play for a Division IV championship next year. I still think they have a great opportunity.”

Now it will be the veteran, highly-emotional Middleton who will be guiding the veteran group into action this fall.

A team meeting is set for Thursday morning as Middleton will address his Cougar players for the first time since last January when he informed them he was departing. Creek’s decision to lure Middleton back has drawn early rave reviews.

“What Matt did in his six months with the program when he came to Creek was really revolutionary for the school,” said Scott Hill, Creek alum and father of Cougar multi-sport star Carter Hill. “From upgrading facilities to consistency and structure and to very high expectations, the kids bought into the program.

“Matt has fun, but when it’s time to work he expects high level commitment. He drives them hard, but he celebrates the victories with them. He is right there with them through thick and thin. He returns an (enjoyable) style of football (on both sides of the ball). They know he is a winner. The kids are familiar with him and had bought into his coaching style.”

The West Monroe native began is coaching career as a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech in 2002 before serving as the wide receivers coach at Grand Valley State in Michigan in 2004. He was the offensive coordinator for two different stints at Arkansas-Monticello in 2007-08 and again in 2011 through 2013.

Middleton was also the offensive coordinator for former Tech assistant coach Clint Conque at Central Arkansas in 2009 and 2010.

On the prep level he served as assistant head and JV coach at Evangel Christian Academy (2003-04), head coach and athletics director at Caldwell Parish High School (2005-06), head coach and AD at CENLA Christian School (2007), and as head coach at Prairie View (2014-16.)

His first head coaching opportunity came in 2015, when he was hired by Prairie View Academy, before taking the West Ouachita head coaching job in 2017 where he spent four years before coming to Cedar Creek.

Middleton was named the District 2-1A Coach of the Year and the Lincoln Parish Journal All-Parish Team Coach of the Year in 2021 after guiding the Cougars to a successful season. He won Coach of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016 at Prairie View Academy.


Creek leaders charged with challenging task  

Photo by Darrell James

By Malcolm Butler 

With yesterday’s joint announcement by Cedar Creek School and Steven Ensminger about the mutual parting of ways, the administration, athletics council, and Board for the school are faced with a tough task. 

With the start of fall practice looming just over a month away, Cedar Creek Head of School Cindy Hampton and Board President Lomax Napper and those charged with finding the next Cougar head coach are on the clock.  

Simply put, it is a big hire for a multitude of reasons. 

First and foremost, the school is replacing not only its head football coach, but it is replacing its athletics director as well. Two hats; the two biggest hats within the school’s athletics department.  

And at a school the size of Cedar Creek, the AD has a plethora of responsibilities that go beyond just coaching football and handling the athletics budget. Fundraising. Facility improvements. LHSAA legislation (which currently is a full-time job with all the ever-changing landscape). And much, much more. 

It is a big hire.  

But with the Cougars returning most of their roster from last year’s 6-5 team that recorded a historic win over Oak Grove, came within two minutes of beating OCS, and advanced to the Division IV playoffs, the stage is set for what could be one of the best teams in recent Creek history.  

It is a big hire.  

When the hire of Ensminger was made back in February, there was plenty of talk around the watercooler about names like Gene Johnson and Dan Childress. But for various reasons both candidates “withdrew” their names from consideration.   

And Ensminger’s name emerged.  

Meanwhile, the same group of Creek leaders who are now once again focused on the football/AD hire are also still in the hunt for a boys’ basketball coach after Robert Mitcham’s contract was not renewed. So, there is still a lot of work to do to solidify two important coaching positions on the Creek campus.  

It is a big hire. And one that needs to happen quickly while not sacrificing the quality of the chosen candidate.  

So much for summer vacation.  


Man attacks roommate

Lincoln Parish deputies responded to a Garr Road address about 3:30 Saturday morning regarding a fight in progress.

An investigation led to the arrest of Japhus Briggs, 65, of Grambling for simple battery after he allegedly attacked his roommate in his sleep. 

Briggs apparently awoke to find his wallet on his bed instead of in his pants pocket. He hit the victim while he was sleeping and accused him of stealing his money. A fight ensued that carried on into the front yard.

Deputies observed Briggs showed signs of intoxication. He was arrested and transported to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center.

This information has been provided by a law enforcement agency as public information. Persons named or shown in photographs or video as suspects in a criminal investigation, or arrested and charged with a crime, have not been convicted of any criminal offense and are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 


Terry receives new contract extension

Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications

For the fourth straight week, Louisiana Tech has announced a coaching contract extension.

This time its head golf coach Matt Terry who has signed a two-year extension according to Tech VP and Director of Athletics Eric Wood.

The extension runs through the 2023-24 season.

Terry just completed his fifth season at the helm of Bulldog Golf, a year that saw the squad have four top-five finishes and set a program record for posting nine rounds at par or better.  It was also a season that had an individual selected for the NCAA men’s golf championships as Sam Murphy became just the second Bulldog ever to earn an at-large bid to a regional.

“Matt has recruited and developed some great golfers during his time as head coach,” said Wood.  “The program is on solid ground with their production both on and off the field and I feel strongly that the team is knocking on the door of achieving even greater results.”

The 2021-22 season started out with LA Tech placing fourth at the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate, a home event where the Bulldogs shot a combined 854 (-10), their lowest 54-hole total since 2015 and fourth lowest on record.  It was also an event that saw Sam Murphy take home first-place honors at firing a 203 (-13).

Murphy ended the season for the Bulldogs as well, tying for 23rd at the NCAA Norman Regional (third best finish ever by a LA Tech golfer at a regional). 

“I am excited that our family will be here long term,” said Terry.  “Ruston and Louisiana Tech have been great for my family and me.  I appreciate the confidence that Gerald Jordan, Dr. Wood and Dr. Guice have in me.  I know that as I recruit, players and parents want to know if the coach is going to be there for them.  We are just getting started.”

LA Tech also had its best finish at the Conference USA Championships this past season since 2016, finishing in a tie for fifth and barely missing out on advancing to the match play portion of the tournament.  James Swash was the team’s top finisher, tying for seventh with a one-under-par 215.

Terry, who was voted the 2021 Louisiana Coach of the Year, has had a player in each of the last four seasons be recognized by C-USA with a postseason honor – James Swash (2019 C-USA Freshman of the Year), Mac Murphy (2020 and 2021 All-Conference USA) and Sam Murphy (2022 All-Conference USA).

Academically, the program has had 35 C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll recipients, including a program record 10 during the 2021-22 academic year.  

Terry joins softball coach Josh Taylor, baseball coach Lane Burroughs and women’s basketball coach Brooke Stoehr with contract extensions over the last month.

 


RPD seeks resident on welfare concern

Ruston Police Department is asking for help in locating Kojoe D. Albritton, a Ruston resident.

Albritton, 39, was last seen in Lincoln Parish on June 25.

Anyone with any information regarding Albritton’s whereabouts should contact RPD at 318-255-4141.

No other information is available at this time.


Winning with room to spare 

 Inspired this spring by the Byrd High School girls bowling team knocking off the state’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs and finishing as the surprising, out-of-nowhere state runner-up, I accepted the challenge to captain a team last week in the 2022 “Surfs Up” Bowling Bash at the Four Seasons Bowling Center in Alexandria. 

The event was one of many that made up the always-good-times Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Week, which began Thursday with a press conference to meet the Class of 2022 and ended with the induction of that class Saturday at the Natchitoches Events Center. 

In between was tomfoolery, something I know a little something about. 

The Big Weekend rolls around every year at this time, and all are welcome, including at the bowling event. Grab five folks, a few bucks, and you’re in. Go to LASportsHall.com and see pictures and videos of all the events and start thinking about next year. I talked with a couple of dozen first-timers who say they’ll be back. 

And why? Because a good time was had by all. Especially by me. And especially bowling, because we won. 

Not only won, but shattered the events record with a score of 925 for our five-man team in 10 frames of team bowling. (They tell me that’s good. What I know about bowling, you could fit inside a bowling ball’s finger hole.) 

As a nod to the 50th anniversary of Title IX — and an equal nod (OK, a bigger nod) to them being really good — I recruited members of Louisiana Tech’s girls bowling team. They accepted. Even without under-the-table cash or an NIL deal. 

Just solid old-school recruiting. It all comes back to that when you’re trying to build a one-game, winner-take-all team. Surround yourself with quality kegglers. 

It is a plus that, besides finishing their most recent season with 33 wins over top-25 teams, 20 wins over Top-10 teams, 12 wins over Top-5 teams, three wins over No. 2 and two wins over the country’s top-ranked team at the time, these young female student-athletes are a joy to be around. 

And even more fun since they earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament and finished as an Elite 8 team. 

Friday in Alexandria, they finished as an Elite 1. 

Our “five-man team” team is a figure of speech. There was me, bowling-lover-gone-bowling-madman/wizard Coach Matt Nantais, and three willing talents from the team, listed here with some of their 2021-22 accomplishments: 

Averi Brown, a grad student from Columbus, Ohio who qualified for the singles national championships; Patricia Rosales, who made a pair of All-Tournament teams; and, 

Danielle Jedlicki, who bowled two perfect games, was named to a pair of All-Tournament teams and earned a Tournament MVP. 

They had rosin bags. Little pieces of tape on their fingers. A hand fan. Braces for their wrists. Everything but eye black. In it to win it, they were. 

Teddy wept. 

Did you even know Tech had a bowling team? Now you do. And the state does. And next year, hopefully more of the nation will know. The national championships will be in Vegas next year. Maybe I’ll “need” to go cover it. 

So think about going to some or all of the Hall of Fame events next year. And think about going bowling. Start now if you want a chance to beat us. 

Which you will, because I think we’ve been, for future events, disqualified. 

But it sure was fun while it lasted.  

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu 


Dawson, Tetruashvili receive all-state honors

Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications

Louisiana Tech’s Najah Dawson and Ilana Tetruashvili received All-Louisiana honors as the Louisiana Sports Writers Association announced its annual women’s tennis awards on Tuesday.

Both seniors were named Second Team All-Louisiana after helping LA Tech record 18 victories this past spring season, the second most in program history.  The team also set program records for longest winning streak (14) and longest home winning streak (12). 

Dawson, a transfer from St. John’s, was also voted LSWA Newcomer of the Year, becoming the first LA Tech player in program history to receive this award.  She made an immediate impact on the courts, posting a 14-7 dual singles record, the second most wins on the squad. 

The Queens, New York native picked up wins on three different lines, going 1-1 at No. 2, 10-4 at No. 3 and 3-2 at No. 4.  She provided the clinching point in victories over Texas State, Arkansas State and New Orleans.  She also tallied a 13-10 dual doubles mark, playing every match from the No. 2 position.

In her fourth season with the team, Tetruashvili registered a 17-5 dual singles record, which was the fifth most in program history.  She went 2-0 at No. 3, 8-3 at No. 4 and 7-2 at No. 5 while stringing together an eight-match winning streak at one point.

The Holon, Israel native claimed the clinching point versus Tarleton State, Incarnate Word and Nicholls State.  In dual doubles, she recorded a 12-9 record while playing all but one match from the No. 2 spot.

This marked the first time since 2017 that multiple LA Tech players were voted on an All-Louisiana Team.  Tetruashvili earned All-Louisiana Honorable Mention in 2021. 

 


CASA volunteers needed now more than ever

Child abuse and neglect can often go unnoticed and unreported during the summer months.  Children are no longer in the public eye – they are not at schools or daycare, or in other locations where caring individuals would be able to spot signs of abuse.  One group of volunteers is working hard to ensure children in Lincoln Parish are safe.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are community members who volunteer with CASA of Northeast Louisiana.  They work with children in the child welfare system who have already experienced abuse or neglect.  They meet with children in person at least monthly and provide information to judges that helps them make the most informed decisions about each child.  These visits provide an opportunity for CASA volunteers to check in on children’s safety and well-being.  

“Teachers and daycare workers are mandated child abuse reporters.  If children are not in school, they are not able to report.  That is why it is important during the summer months for people to be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect.,” said Leslie Bryan, Community Development Coordinator for CASA of NELA.  “We need volunteers now more than ever and are encouraging all community members to join us by either volunteering their time or by keeping an eye on children in their communities to ensure that they are safe.”    

CASA of NELA will offer a Volunteer Training beginning July 14, 2022, in all the areas we serve.   For more information, contact CASA at volunteer@standforhope.org or http://www.casaofnela.org  

If readers suspect that a child is in immediate danger, they should contact their local law enforcement for call 9-1-1.  They can also call, toll-free, 24 hours a day, the DCFS Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 855-452-5437, to report abuse or neglect.  


Louisiana Tech researchers celebrate anniversary of Higgs boson 

Ten years ago, an international cadre of physicists at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Large Hadron Collider discovered the Higgs boson, sometimes called the “God particle.” The discovery was the result of more than 30 years of construction and planning and tens of thousands of research hours.

Faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and students with the Louisiana Tech University’s Physics program played an active role in the search for and discovery of the particle, collaborating with other researchers at CERN and throughout the world on the ATLAS Experiment.

The 2012 Louisiana Tech team included Physics Professors Dr. Lee Sawyer, Dr. Markus Wobisch, and Dr. Z.D. Greenwood (now retired), as well as postdoctoral researchers Dr. Matthew Tamsett and Dr. Catrin Bernius, graduate students Ram Dhullipudi, Arirvan Sircar, Rajiv Subramaniam, Alex Johnson, Khadeejah Alghadeer, and David Palma, and undergraduate student Andrew Touchet.

The particle, one of the most important discoveries in physics and the most important discovery in particle physics this century, helps answer the question of why matter has mass. The Higgs boson is the particle produced within the Higgs field, which gives mass to building block particles like electrons and quarks, throughout the universe.

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiments created Higgs bosons by colliding protons at the highest energies ever achieved in an accelerator until they discovered the range for the Higgs boson to appear. 

The discovery earned Peter Higgs and Francois Englert the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, as it proved their theories on why elementary particles have mass. The ATLAS and CMS experiments were awarded the special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics that same year.


Stop the invaders!: Non-native plants harm Louisiana ecosystems

By Wesley Harris

Non-native, invasive species are those plants introduced into an area and spread aggressively, displacing native plants essential to wildlife. Invasive species are a problem because they:

–Compete for the same natural resources and life requirements as native species—food, water, space, shelter

–Crowd out native species essential for wildlife survival, degrading local ecologies by disrupting the food chain

–Alter patterns of natural disturbance

–Degrade aquatic habitats and clog waterways

–Decrease biodiversity

–Lead to a host of economic problems. 

Most invasive species come from Asia and were originally imported for landscaping. Naturalists condemn the use of these plants and advocate for their destruction. 

Chinese Tallow (Triadica sebifera) Other names: Popcorn Tree, Chicken Tree

Chinese tallow is a medium-sized tree that will often colonize open fields or neglected fence lines. The tree’s deep red and orange fall color disguises its destructive nature. Chinese tallow can alter soil chemistry due to the high concentration of tannins found in its leaves. Its sap is toxic to animals.

Chinese tallow grows rapidly in both sun and shade, is tolerant of both shallow flooding and periods of drought and has no known diseases or predators in this region. It makes enormous quantities of seeds starting at an early age. Birds spread the seeds, resulting in dense stands that completely out-compete native tree species.

If you have tallow on your property, environmental scientists highly recommend you kill it, take it out, and plant something native. Tallow costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to control on various public and private lands across Louisiana. Native alternatives include titi (leatherwood), (Cyrilla racemiflora), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum), and mayhaw (Crataegus opaca). 

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissi) trees produce thousands of seeds in long pods. The seeds seem to sprout everywhere, resulting in encroachment on native species. It does not tolerate deep shade, so it is mostly found along ditches and open sunny areas like the tallow.

Common Privet (Ligustrum sinense) Other names: Chinese Privet, Chinese Ligustrum, Small-Leaf Privet. Common privet is a multi-stemmed bush that grows as high at 15 feet, often forming very dense hedges along fence lines or in the understory below larger canopy trees. It often colonizes in lawns and invade nearby areas. The bush sprouts from adventitious root suckers and can rapidly cover an area so densely that it becomes impossible to walk through. The Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge was thoroughly invested with privet after Hurricane Gustav took down many large canopy trees. The introduction of more sunlight to the forest floor encouraged the spread of the privet to the detriment of native species. Birds often spread privet seeds after ingesting the dark blue drupes. Although a few birds eat the fruit, this does not make privet an acceptable planting because the non-native crowds out natives essential for more species of birds and other wildlife.

Tree Ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum) Other names: Wax-leaf Privet, Japanese Privet. Ligustrum is a classic plant of the old South, having been used in southern gardens for decades. It colonizes wood edges and disturbed areas within unbroken forest and is spread by birds which eat the drupes. Invasive ligustrum can reach 30-40 feet tall with multiple stems and can persist in shady conditions. Do not cultivate either the waxy- or non-waxy varieties of privet. Both may displace native species where they aggressively spread far beyond your home’s boundaries. 

Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta). Elephant ears possess great ornamental appeal, but they spread in very dense clumps in wetlands and along the edges of swamps and freshwater shorelines which displaces native vegetation.

Because of the devastating impact human development has had on wildlife habitat, use native plants in your yard or landscape. Some non-native species are okay, but research before you plant. Common non-native, non-invasive species suitable for Louisiana include Asian Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), common banana (Musa spp.), and Camellias (Camellia spp.). For more information, visit http://canps.weebly.com/.


Humana offers healthy food card

THIS IS A PAID ADVERTORIAL

The Healthy Foods Card benefit provides an allowance to purchase approved healthy foods and may help you eat healthier.

If you are eligible, Humana plans may be able to help you pay for healthy food to put on the table with the Healthy Foods Card benefit.

It’s included with the Humana Gold Plus SNP-DE H1951-041 (HMO D-SNP).

Healthier grocery purchases … Here’s how it works.

  • Each month, the Healthy Foods Card is automatically loaded with $75 (unspent money does not roll over to the next month)
  • Shop at participating stores for approved grocery items
  • Swipe the Healthy Foods Card at the checkout to pay for purchases

Individuals interested in learning more or signing up can call Cindy Chelette at 318-372-4648 (TTY: 711) Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or email cchelette@humana.com.

_____________________________________________

Humana is a Coordinated Care plan with a Medicare contract and a contract with the Louisiana Medicaid program. Enrollment in this Humana plan depends on contract renewal. Applicable to Humana Gold Plus SNP-DE H1951-041 (HMO D-SNP). At Humana, it is important you are treated fairly. Humana Inc. and its subsidiaries comply with applicable Federal Civil Rights laws and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ancestry, marital status or religion. English: If you do not speak English, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-877-320-1235 (TTY: 711). Espanol (Spanish): ATENCION: Si habla espanol, tiene a su disposicion servicios gratuitos de asistencia linguistica. Llame al 1-877-320-1235 (TTY: 711).


Cedar Creek, Ensminger agree to part ways

Steven Ensminger was named the Cedar Creek football coach on Feb. 25. Today he and the school mutually agreed to part ways.

Ensminger Lands Creek Job (Feb. 25): https://bit.ly/3OQW95l

 

By Malcolm Butler

In the middle of a search for their next boys basketball coach, Cedar Creek High School is now back on the hunt for a football coach and athletics director.

Just four months after hiring Steven Ensminger as its athletics director and head football coach, Cedar Creek and Ensminger have mutually agreed to part ways.

The Lincoln Parish Journal learned of the decision this afternoon.

Cedar Creek and Ensminger released a joint statement.

“After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, Cedar Creek School and Steven Ensminger, Jr., have mutually agreed to move in a different direction. Steven Ensminger, Jr., wishes the best for Cedar Creek School and its players moving forward and has decided to pursue other opportunities. Cedar Creek School is thankful for Coach Ensminger’s time at Cedar Creek and expects great things from him in his career.”

Ensminger was named the Cougar head coach on February 25 after a more than a six-week search process following the departure of Matt Middleton, who left to take the offensive coordinator position at Southern Arkansas University.

It was Ensminger’s first head coaching job of his career, and he led the Cougars through spring workouts and spring game against Red River.

The former college quarterback at Auburn and LA Tech served as the quarterbacks coach at Ruston High last season where he helped the program to the Class 5A state quarterfinals. He also coached at Assumption (2020), Patterson High School (2012), and Convenant Christian (2011-12).

Cedar Creek returns the nucleus of last year’s 6-4 team that earned a spot in the Division IV playoffs. A unnamed spokesman from the Creek camp said the school plans to move quickly on finding a replacement with fall camp just over a month away.