Selasa, 30 Agustus 2016

Know Your Enemy: Cypress Park Tigers

Cypress Woods Wildcats @ Cypress Park Tigers
Thursday, September 1, 2016; Freshman Gold at 5:00, Freshman Cardinal at 7:00
Cypress Park High School

The JV and varsity teams have this week off, but the freshmen will be taking part in history on Thursday, as they will serve as the opponents for the first games in the history of the Cy Park football program.

If you're missing Wildcat football, don't fret... Thursday will provide an opportunity for you to catch the future stars of the Cy Woods Wildcats.

2¢ on Cy Park

Well... there's not really much information to go on with regards to players to watch for on the other side; after all, this is their first game. Park is opening with just freshmen that would have been attending Lakes or Springs.

Greg Rogers, who was the offensive coordinator at Cy Falls, is the first head coach in Cy Park's history. Coach Rogers was the architect of the Eagles' wing-T attack and the change proved to be devastatingly effective; Desmond Hite and Shannon Vaughns both had 1,000-yard seasons, both of them averaged over 9 yards per carry, they combined to score 34 touchdowns (Hite 19, Vaughns 15), and Cy Falls was the last Cy-Fair ISD team standing in the playoffs. I would imagine that the havoc that Hite and Vaughns wreaked in 2015 is what Coach Rogers is envisioning for his Tigers...

Location of Cypress Park High School

Senin, 29 Agustus 2016

Challenge 327 ~ Always Anything Goes

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Minggu, 28 Agustus 2016

Klein Collins 42, Cy Woods 14: Shackled.

2016 Record: 0-1

Photo credit: Billy Schuerman, The Crimson Connection

For a third straight season, the Cypress Woods Wildcats lost their season opener to the Klein Collins Tigers in a game that was not particularly close. The Tigers seized control in this game in the 2nd quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 21-0 on their way to a 42-14 victory on Opening Night.

I was not at this game; in fact, I will not be attending any Cy Woods games this season because I am keeping track of stats for games at Rhodes Stadium in Katy on behalf of the Houston Chronicle. On the other hand, Varsity Wires has been gracious enough to lend me their stats to use, so the days of me keeping track of Cy Woods stats with a notebook are over.

Well.... it was the same script from the last two seasons. The Tigers ran the ball at will and imposed their will on the Wildcats, who were powerless to stop them. While this game goes down in the record as a loss, it doesn't have any playoff implications. It is, however, extremely clear that the Wildcats have a lot of work to do. There is plenty of talent on this football team, but much of it is unproven, and these kids are going to have to grow up in a hurry if they want to contend for a playoff spot.

Wildcats, don't let the loss damper your excitement for a new season, and in the grand scheme of things.... this is just one football game that Cy Woods happened to lose. Nothing more, nothing less. Can we not declare the season over after one non-district game, please?

Klein Collins played an excellent game, Cy Woods... not so much. Games like these happen... just hope that it doesn't occur on a regular basis. Woods managed just 120 yards of offense, which I believe is the second-lowest total that they have amassed in a game. Katy held them to 44 in that playoff massacre in 2013.

So, What Happened Was....

The Tigers showed why they are one of the top teams in the city, and probably the state.

Following a Wildcat turnover, D'Anthony Doyle put Collins on the board first with a 13-yard touchdown run. The first points of the 2016 season belong to Jacob Kainer, who responded with a 2-yard run on their third offensive series.

The offense suffered a significant blow when C.J. Jones was carted off with an injury in the first quarter. He is the veteran of the unit and was expected to carry a significant load in the early going, but a lot of new faces will have to step up in his absence.

End 1st: Cy Woods 7, Klein Collins 7

Unfortunately, the Wildcats came undone in the 2nd quarter. Old friend Bryson Powers scored twice on a 1-yard run and a 4-yard run; Doyle struck again with an 8-yard run.

Halftime: Klein Collins 28, Cy Woods 7

Jack Barrientez opened the second half scoring with a 37-yard touchdown run. However, Bryson responded with an 18-yard touchdown run of his own.


Jack Barrientez's 37-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the Wildcats' longest play from scrimmage on Saturday. Jack mainly lined up as a receiver last season, but he played running back as a freshman, and the Wildcats value versatility among their offensive skill players.

All statistics for this game were provided by Varsity Wires.

Jack Barrientez: 10 carries, 55 yards, TD
Jacob Kainer: 7 carries, 8 yards, TD; lost fumble
Semaj Trahan: 6 carries, 21 yards
Khari Keaton: 2 carries, 8 yards
Jake Tesch: 1 carry, -1 yard
C.J. Jones: 1 carry, -4 yards


The passing game, which, as I have said countless times in the offseason, will feature a completely new cast of characters, struggled, which was to be expected. Even though Jacob Kainer is a returning letterman, he is a new face in the sense that this is his first season as the #1 quarterback. I don't expect him to have a hard time very often, but should he falter, Semaj Trahan will be waiting in the wings.

Jacob Kainer: 6-15, 52 yards, INT
Semaj Trahan: 1-6, -2 yards
Khari Keaton: 2-2, 0 yards

Jack Barrientez: 3 catches, 0 yards
Jake Tesch: 1 catch, 18 yards
Tanner Sherrill: 1 catch, 14 yards
Brennan Niles: 1 catch, 9 yards
Connor Faulk: 1 catch, 7 yards
Matt Ficalora: 1 catch, 4 yards
Sam Landingham: 1 catch, -2 yards


Once again, the Klein Collins rushing attack imposed its will on the Wildcat defense... the tandem of Bryson and D'Anthony Doyle simply overwhelmed Cy Woods.

Tory Spears, a defensive back who was making his varsity debut, led the team with 7 tackles.


Tory Spears 7
Kason Franklin 6
Sean Despres 6 (1 assisted, 2 for loss)
Elijah Strang 6 (2 assisted)
Myles Wilson 4 (2 assisted)
Micheal Young 3 (1 assisted)
Tyvon Alexander 2 (1 for loss)
Collin Fewox 2
Christian Jones 2
Matt Roberts 2
Cody Eggleston 2 (1 assisted)
Neil Chambers 1 (for loss)
Brock Gunderson 1
Hunter Magallan 1
Ryan Kenny 1 (for loss)
Cameron Howland 1
Ellington Shephard 1
Chris Statom 1 (assisted)

Fumbles forced: Cameron Howland 1
Fumbles recovered: Cameron Howland 1, Ellington Shephard 1 (forced by Howland)

Special Teams

Luis Reyes is probably the district's best kicker, and now he'll be handling punting duties full-time as well. He hit both of his extra point attempts and averaged nearly 45 yards per punt. I hope that he will not have to punt 6 times in a game any more this season.

Luis Reyes: 2-2 XP; 6 punts, 269 yards (44.8 yards per punt), long of 58

The Wildcats had plenty of opportunities in the return game. I imagine that teams will still kick away from C.J., but Semaj and Jake Tesch are home run threats themselves, and they could make some unfortunate team pay.

Jake Tesch: 2 punts returned, 17 yards, long of 12; 1 kick returned, 13 yards
Semaj Trahan: 3 kicks returned, 47 yards, long of 19
C.J. Jones: 1 kick returned, 26 yards
Deon Jones: 1 kick returned, 11 yards; lost fumble on return

Man of the Match

Eh... looks like I'll go with Jack Barrientez, who was the only offensive player to get much of anything going against the Tiger defense.

Looking Ahead

The Wildcats will open District 17-6A play against Cy Springs on Friday, September 9 at Pridgeon Stadium.

The freshmen are not off, however; they'll take on Cy Park on Thursday.

Rabu, 24 Agustus 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Midnight Star (Young Elites #3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I am waiting for the release of The Midnight Star, the third and final book in the Young Elites series.

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
Publish date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (subdivision of Penguin Random House)

 For some reason Marie Lu's Legend series didn't click for me, but her Young Elites series surprised me and won me over. In the Young Elites series, we are going on a journey of an anti-heroine. This series is dark, gripping, and full of twists and turns. You can read my review for The Young Elites and The Rose Society

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

Winner & Top 3 325

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23.  Marjeta

152. Rutscht

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Selasa, 23 Agustus 2016

Know Your Enemy: Klein Collins Tigers

Week 1: Cy Woods Wildcats @ Klein Collins Tigers
Saturday, August 27, 2016, 6:00 PM
Klein Memorial Stadium

Cue the music... Cy Woods football has returned!

Previously on Cy Woods Football...

The Wildcats closed out the 2015 season with a 49-39 victory over Cy Springs. However, the win was not enough to propel them into the playoffs; Cy-Fair's victory over Jersey Village in their final game ensured that Cy Woods would miss the playoffs for the second time in school history.

The Enemy: Klein Collins Tigers

2015 Record: 9-2, 6-1 in District 15-6A
Lost 32-27 to Atascocita in 6A Division I Bi-district round

All-Time Series

Klein Collins leads 3-1.

Previous Meetings

August 29, 2015: Klein Collins 62, Cy Woods 21
August 29, 2014: Klein Collins 42, Cy Woods 14
August 29, 2013: Cy Woods 21, Klein Collins 0
September 1, 2012: Klein Collins 35, Cy Woods 14

Players to Watch

QB Bryson Powers, WR Quinton Newton, RB Zach Skrehot, RB Luis Barba, OL Dante Bivens, OL Charlie Steinhauer, LB Jonathon Bucio, LB Donavan Mutin, DL Grayson Strawn, DB Aaron Buckley

2¢ on Klein Collins

The Tigers come in as one of the top programs in Region II. They came out as pretty big winners in realignment; the Spring Branch schools have replaced Montgomery and the Spring ISD schools in District 15-6A.

Collins will have to replace their outstanding running back, Justin Pratt, but they'll have a solid stable of running backs to call upon, including Barba and Skrehot. Their starting quarterback is a familiar face: Bryson Powers transferred to Collins after spending two years at Cy Woods, and he's an ideal fit for that smash-mouth offense. They'll really benefit from his toughness. Newton and Owens will give Bryson a couple of threats out wide.

The defense will be led by Bucio, a sparkplug at linebacker. He'll be joined by an emerging talent in Mutin. Grayson Strawn will hold down the fort in the trenches. They'll have to replace some key pieces in the secondary; Aaron Buckley will be counted on to provide leadership.

Last Time These Two Teams Met

The Wildcats and Tigers kicked off the 2015 season at Reliant Stadium, and it was an absolute bloodbath. Klein Collins had their way all day and cruised to a 62-21 victory. Tre' Hart was one of the few bright spots on the day for Cy Woods; he caught 5 passes for 128 yards and had a 56-yard touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter.

Sub-varsity Game Information

Most sub-varsity games, as always, will be played on Thursday. The freshmen will play at Klein Collins, while the JV plays at Cy Woods.

Freshmen Gold plays at 4:30, and the Cardinal plays at 6:30.

The JV Gold will play at 5, and the Cardinal squad plays at 7:00.

Location of Klein Memorial Stadium

This is the first time that the Wildcats will travel for a regular season road game since 2010; the Wildcats opened up that season in College Station against A&M Consolidated.

Most of you are probably familiar with the area around the stadium and know how awful it can get. As always, it's probably best to leave early.

For Freshmen Games: Location of Klein Collins High School

The Memory of Light

  I'm thrilled that there are more and more books being published about mental health. This is a topic that we need to destigmatize and talk freely about, especially when it concerns seeking help, building empathy, and understanding.

Description: Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had. Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Review: After a failed attempt to commit suicide in her bedroom, Vicky Cruz wakes up in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. Exhausted and nearly catatonic, Vicky goes through the motions asked of her by the quiet but firm Dr. Desai. Vicky knows that if she just stays at the hospital for the mandatory time, she will try again to harm herself so she agrees to stay as long as needed for her own safety and joins a group therapy with other three young people on the ward. All of the teens in the group therapy have some form of mental illness which Vicky learns as we progress through the book.
   Unlike many books that feature teens and suicide, Memory of Light is solely about the recovery process. Vicky takes her time in understanding depression. She has always felt sad though it was exasperated by the loss of her mother. Through her interactions with a supporting doctor and her group therapy which features teens in similar situations and from all walks of life, Vicky evolves from someone who lacks emotions and has a bleak worldview to someone who is warm, strong, and able to fight for her needs. I loved the interactions between Vicky and her domineering father. Vicky's father has very high expectations and adds stress to Vicky's life. Though he means well, he has a very hard time understanding that depression is not an excuse for 'misbehaving' or 'being lazy', but an actual, legitimate disease that needs to be addressed.
  While the book excels on many levels, there are two incidents where HIPPA Privacy laws were violated that took me completely out of the story. I do understand that the reason to break the rules was made as a plot device, however, it is not realistic. Despite this flaw, Memory of Light is an important read because Stork's depiction of depression is not preachy nor romantic, but accurate, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, allusions to sex, and underage drug use. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Breath by Jackie Kessler, It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Senin, 22 Agustus 2016

2016 Season Preview

In February, I posted a look ahead to the 2016 season, from a Cy Woods perspective: who would be returning for the Wildcats, who are some new faces that could contribute, and what issues they would be facing. With the new season just around the corner, I wanted to compose another preview post, this time with a look at the rest of the district.

The talent in Cy-Fair ISD seems to get better and better every year. The great thing about this is that the talent seems to be spread all across the district, and no school consistently overpowers all the others. CFISD has sent football players to Division I schools in the past, but never at a rate like this. Although players like Toneil Carter, Brock Wright, R.J. Sneed, Trelon Smith et al. are not Wildcats, these four are all major Division I prospects, and they all play in Cy-Fair ISD, District 17-6A. Sure, there are many more heralded players all around Texas, but if you put all 32 6A districts in the state together, I would say that 17-6A would be in the top tier in terms of overall talent. Players like Carter, Sneed, Wright, Smith, and C.J. Jones are why every game in this district is a must-see.

There are very few districts in Texas, Class 6A or otherwise, that has as much parity as District 17-6A. Very few districts can match the competition level that CFISD provides week in and week out, and this parity makes for some truly compelling storylines, because district play is essentially the season here. The margin for error is razor-thin, and one mistake will definitely open the door for another team to sneak in.

District 17-6A at a glance

District 17-6A, which comprises the high schools of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, has existed in its current configuration since 2010, when Cy Ranch and Cy Lakes played their inaugural varsity seasons. This will be the final realignment cycle where CFISD will be a 10-team district; in 2018, Cy Park and Bridgeland will join the fray in time for the next realignment. Per UIL regulations, this will require the district to be split, as the maximum amount of teams in a UIL district is 10.

Most playoff appearances: Cy-Fair, 17 entering 2016 season
Fewest playoff appearances: Cy Lakes, has never made playoffs

Best playoff run by a CFISD school: State runner-up (two times), Cy Ranch (2014) and Cy Falls (2006)
Best playoff run by a CFISD school in 2015: Cy Falls, Division I regional semifinalists, lost 28-21 to North Shore

Longest active playoff appearance streak: Cy-Fair, 6 (streak began in 2010)
Longest active playoff drought: Cy Springs, 12 seasons (last appeared in 2003)

Longest active winning streak in district games: Cy Ranch, 19 (last loss: September 20, 2014 vs. Langham Creek)
Longest active losing streak in district games: Cy Lakes, 20 (last win: October 26, 2013 vs. Cy Creek)

I've seen the preseason rankings from Varsity Wires, Dave Campbell's Texas Football, Friday Night Football (from The Old Coach), and Adam Coleman from the Houston Chronicle. Power rankings sure have a way of eliciting strong reactions from people (Really, Adam? 8th?), so I wanted to try something a little different. Instead of ranking the teams 1-10, I will separate them into tiers. Yes, that's a little lazy, but I am doing this to take into account the chaotic nature of this district, which makes putting a solid ranking on these teams next to impossible. For all I know, Woods could win the district and finish the regular season unbeaten. They could finish 3-7, too.

Also, I'm sorry if any of this information is not accurate. This is strictly based off of what information I have gathered.

Teams to Beat

I'd say that Cy-Fair and Cy Ranch will be the top two teams in District 17-6A in 2016. These two teams will meet in late September, and the winner of this game will likely have the inside track to win the district.

Ranch and Fair are basically mirror images of each other; they will come in to each and every game looking to establish their supremacy in the trenches. Both have a stable of running backs at their disposal, both possess smashmouth defenses.... and both are in search of a starting quarterback.

Cy Ranch

No doubt, Cy Ranch has been the class of the district over the past two seasons. I could be bitter, but I never played against them. The Mustangs have transformed from an also-ran into one of the top programs in the city. Can they keep that momentum going?

On offense, they'll have to replace their talisman, Collin Rock, who is now at SMU. Austin Goffney, an old friend, has been their #1 during 7-on-7 season, and he should be the favorite to start heading into the actual season. The tandem of R.J. Sneed and Keric Wheatfall will give opposing secondaries nightmares. Sneed is one of the top recruits in the country, but Wheatfall is a fine player in his own right. E.J. Thompson and Holden Gourley is a solid duo at running back; Thompson is probably one of the most underrated players in the district. Cole Blanton, Alex Dulevitz, and Samir Martula headline what is probably the district's best offensive line.

Ranch's defense has a little rebuilding to do, but Harrison Loveless, Lawson Pyles, and Amaud Willis-Dalton give them three cornerstones to build around. Willis-Dalton is not just one of the top defensive players in the district; he is a legitimate all-around talent. Alex O'Connor emerged as a key contributor as a sophomore as the Mustangs continue to churn out quality talent at the linebacker spot. Demari Lewis and Noah Routh return to the Mustang secondary, and they'll be counted on to provide leadership to what may be a young unit.


With a playoff spot at stake, the Bobcats had to find a passing game quickly, and it turns out they're not too shabby when they have to throw the ball. But, their identity has, and always will be, a run-first team. Cam Arnold started the final two regular season games and their playoff game and performed rather well, so he'll be counted on to provide a little balance to that run-first tendency.

Trent Kennedy is the next in a long line of outstanding Cy-Fair running backs, and he should build upon a breakout 2015. B.J. Chambers may be a wide receiver playing in a run-oriented offense, but he's shown that he isn't just on the field to keep opposing defenses honest; he is a legtimate big-play threat for the Bobcats.

And then, there's Brock Wright. He is the #1 rated tight end in the country, and for good reason; he's probably one of the most complete players in the country. Brock has already drawn Rob Gronkowski comparisons (definitely not for the off-field antics) in the passing game. In the running game, he is essentially a sixth lineman for the Bobcats, and his athleticism gives him the advantage over opposing defensive linemen and linebackers. Speaking of linemen, the Bobcats feature one of the best in the country; Austin Deculus will be heading to LSU, and he'll enter his third season as the leader of the Bobcats' offensive line.

The Bobcats struggled to score points last season; only Cy Lakes scored fewer points in 2015. However, their defense remained true to form, even with significantly less star power than in previous years. This is a unit that, as a whole, is greater than the sum of its parts. The underclassmen who played key roles on the Cy-Fair defense are primed to make star turns in 2016. The two underclassmen of note... Jace Bobo and Erick Hallett. Both featured prominently on defense as sophomores, and Bobo wound up sharing the district's Defensive Newcomer of the Year award with Cy Ridge's D'Juan Matthews. Hallett will join forces with Kyle Cervenka and Dylan Higgins to form a solid secondary.

Cy Ranch and Cy-Fair may employ similar styles of play, but I feel that the Mustangs' athletes will give them the edge.

Two playoff spots left. Who wants 'em?

The battle for the final two playoff spots in District 17-6A should be the most compelling storyline in 2016. It's really a shame that only four teams can advance, because all of the schools in this tier are good enough to make the playoffs if they were in the other Houston-area districts.

Cy Ridge

The Rams have not gotten much love from the likes of Dave Campbell's Texas Football or Friday Night Football (from The Old Coach); both of those publications have them finishing 7th and 8th in the district, respectively. That's a rather large slight to a team that returns significant experience on both sides of the ball.

In 2014, Trelon Smith, Kevin LeDee, TyRae Thornton, and D'Juan Matthews were sophomores who played prominent roles in a season that turned out to be a youth movement for the Rams, and they experienced more than their fair share of growing pains as they sputtered to a 2-8 record, the worst in Cy Ridge's history.

Two years later, these seniors are primed for one final run. Smith is the district's reigning offensive MVP, Matthews is a reigning Defensive Newcomer of the Year and the anchor of Ridge's defensive line, Thornton has evolved into a shutdown cornerback, and LeDee, coming off a season where he was a 1st-team All-District selection at wide receiver, has established himself as the #1 option in the Rams' passing game. There's no doubt that the time is now for the Cypress Ridge Rams.

Cy Creek

Cy Creek ended their playoff drought in 2015. They do have to bring in a new quarterback for 2016; Mateo Renteria is getting the first opportunity to replace Luke Allen, but having the best collection of offensive skill players in the district coming back with reinforcements is definitely going to ease his transition into the starting role.

Miles Battle may already be the most sought-after football player in Cy Creek history. He may get the majority of the attention on offense, but Kaleb O'Bryant, Mason Biggers, and Caleb Horn are all fine players as well; they have the ability to hurt opponents with their elusiveness and versatility. Among the reinforcements, Geonardo Sutton is an intriguing newcomer; he might be a name to remember in the coming years. Jack Hook impressed as a late-season call-up, and he'll look to make an impact in his first full season as a varsity player.

Jacari Tatum and Jowell Aponte, two imposing presences in the trenches, will enter their third years as the leaders of a Cougar defense that brings back some experience in the front seven. As a sophomore, Derek Craft emerged as a top performer at linebacker, and he'll team up with Dakwa Davis and Pryce Pearson once again. LaDarius Anthony will be counted on to play an integral role on a secondary that will be retooling after the departures of Chance Steverson, Trevien Thomas, and Antoine Small, among others.

Cy Falls

The Eagles will have to replace a record-setting quarterback in Casey Rosellini and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Shannon Vaughns and Desmond Hite. They will also have to replace their offensive coordinator, Greg Rogers; Coach Rogers departed to become the first head coach at Cy Park. T.J. Goodwin is regarded as an emerging talent, but there will definitely be an adjustment period for him. Christian Anderson will also play a starring role in the Eagle offense after featuring as a reserve in 2015. There's no shortage of speed on the offensive end for Cy Falls; that's never really been an issue for them.

A smash-mouth defense that returns players like Blake Thompson, Kory Tolliver, Addy Bikacic, Davion Morris, and Cordell Ijoma, will definitely be their strength and should keep them in games, especially early in the season as the new faces on offense get themselves acclimated.

Langham Creek

The Lobos will still feature an outstanding offense, but having to replace the duo of Paul Watson and Quartney Davis will be the top priority. Fortunately for them, Toneil Carter is back for one last run. One of the top recruits in the country, Carter will be the workhorse of the Lobo offense, and he'll have to really carry this team, especially early in the season.

To be perfectly honest, I know almost nothing about what Langham will be bringing back on defense, probably because most of their starters from last year are all gone. Their secondary should be a strength; Jordan Murray is an All-District performer, and he'll be joined by Noah McGee and Nicky Diep, among others, and Chidi Ogbonnaya will be one to watch on the defensive line.

Cy Woods

A playoff berth is not totally out of the realm of possiblity for the Wildcats. At Cy Woods, the cupboard is never bare, and they will always have quality talent.

However, the talent is much more unproven than in seasons past, especially when it comes to the offensive skill players. The Wildcats will have to break in a completely new group of wide receivers, with Jack Barrientez being the lone holdover. Jacob Kainer gained some experience as the backup quarterback last season and has recovered extremely well from a horrific leg injury he suffered last season. Jacob is the Wildcats' top prospect in the class of 2018, and now, it is time for him to put his skills on full display.

The Wildcats have a brand-new cast of characters, and that means that they have kids who are eager to make a name for themselves. Semaj Trahan and Jake Tesch are two highly-touted sophomores on the offensive side of the ball who will be making their debuts this season.

Cy Woods' struggles on defense have been well-documented, and ultimately, how far this team goes is going to depend on whether they make any strides on that side of the ball. Kason Franklin and Myles Wilson are three-year starters, and the onus is on them to provide senior leadership. Collin Fewox is an emerging junior, and he'll step in at safety with Kason. However, the question marks in the secondary lie at the cornerback spots; it has been a revolving door there over the past few seasons. Expect to see some kids like C.J. and Jack spending some time in the secondary this year. On the defensive line, Tobi Orundami has to take the next step in his development; he has massive upside, and he definitely looks the part, but he must become a key player for this defense.

Long shots, but don't sleep on them

Cy Springs

Explosive offense, questionable defense. That sounds familiar. The Panthers, as they are currently constructed on offense, is very reminiscent of Cy Woods during the Colton Huntsman era. Taye Barber is a legitimate star in this district, and he has two dangerous weapons out wide in O'Shae Clark and Jah'marea Sheread. If there's a team in the district that definitely has an undisputed QB1, it's Cy Springs. The question is, will a running back emerge to help ease the burden on Barber?

In addition, no team in the district allowed more points last season than the Panthers, who allowed 30 or more points in 7 of their 10 games. Unsurprisingly, they lost all 7 of those games. Jared Simon will be counted on to help facilitate a turnaround, and Marcus Royal, a standout on the offensive line, could be called upon to play defense as well.

There is no doubt that the culture of the Cy Springs football program has changed for the better. However, two straight 3-7 seasons following two seasons of improving win totals suggest that the momentum has stagnated somewhat. It is time for the Panthers to cash in on their prodigious upside. If they can find a solution to their defensive issues, Barber can propel this team into the playoffs.

Jersey Village

After two straight 5th-place finishes in 2013 and 2014, the Falcons limped to a tie for 8th in 2015. In order to end a playoff drought that began in 2007, they might have to do it with defense. With Deshun Qualls, Rokeem Paul, and Austin Lynch departing, the Falcons are facing a massive rebuild on offense. In addition, they lost their top running back, Anthony Ajao, who transferred. Alec Wechsler will get the first opportunity to assume the controls under center. ATH LaDevin Bledsoe and RB Jireh Thompson have been noted as potential impact skill players, and Chris Paul will serve as the leader of the offensive line.

The Falcon defense also regressed badly in 2015, but they bring back the likes of Emerald Blueitt, Jacob Clarkson, and Greyson Newton. This trio should serve as solid building blocks for a defense that will be counted on to keep them in games.

Should probably look ahead to 2017... and probably beyond

Cy Lakes

Yes, the Spartans should bring up the rear in this district again. But, as I've said countless times before, no opponent, especially in this district, should be taken lightly. Lakes may be at least a couple more years away from mounting a legitimate challenge for a playoff spot, but there just might be a team that is foolish enough to think that the Spartans will be a guaranteed win for them.

They have a few weapons on offense with Ansar Richardson, R.J. Breggs, and Nate Green. Colin King was plagued by injuries last season, but he'll return to the helm of the Spartan offense. Ted Solomon began the year as the starting quarterback, and he's someone who can do a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball. On defense, they return one of the best secondary players in the district in Brenden Lemon.

A competitive Cy Lakes team will be great for this district. I hope those kids continue to work hard and continue to trust the process their coaches have laid out, and continue to trust in each other to do their part in building their program.

And there you have it... my season preview, and my two cents on all ten teams in the district. Good luck to everyone involved: players, coaches, sports medicine staff, administrators, etc. Here's to another outstanding football season in 17-6A.

Lumberjanes Vol 2 + Lumberjanes Vol 3

 Noelle Stevenson's graphic novel series, Lumberjanes, is a fast and fun read that highlights female empowerment and friendship. Each volume is filled with humor, adventure, and a nod to a developing romance. I highly recommend picking up this wonderful series for both younger and older readers alike.

Description: Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are not your average campers and Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types is not your average summer camp. Between the river monsters, magic, and the art of friendship bracelets, this summer is only just beginning. Join the Lumberjanes as they take on raptors and a sibling rivalry that only myths are made of.

Review: Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley, aka. the Lumberjanes, continue their adventures at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types with as much energy, excitement, and wonder as in the first volume of the series. The first volume had bizarre things happening without much explanation, but thankfully this volume clears up those unanswered questions while adding crazed dinosaurs, possessed insects, and competitive Greek deities to the mix. I love how this series manages to blend and balance the fantastical elements to the story with the everyday, slice of life moments of camp where they struggle with first crushes, friendship troubles, and self-doubt. The addition of sibling rivalry between two Greek deities was an added bonus. The Lumberjanes have their own lingo and substitute words for swearing which adds humor and is infectious. The illustrations, like the story and its characters, are also bursting with energy and vivid colors such as the forest greens in outdoor daylight scenes and grays and dark blues of nighttime scenes. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

Description: Trying to take advantage of the first quiet day at camp in a while, Mal and Molly's date takes a bizarre turn with the appearance of the Bear Woman! Back at camp, Jo, April, and Ripley must stay on their toes as they try and earn every badge possible, which ends up being a lot harder than any of them planned.

Review: While there may not be as much as action in this third volume of Lumberjanes, this was still a very enjoyable read. There are two subplots in this volume as Jo, Mal, Ripley, April, and Molly focus on earning badges. We follow the girls in hilarious mishaps as they conceive and execute a plan that will guarantee them to a badge. Meanwhile, Mal and Molly are looking for some quiet time to see where their potential romantic relationship will take them, but they are soon transported to a dangerous, dinosaur-infested alternate universe. The romance between Mal and Molly is very chaste and sweet. Even though there isn't a lot of story in this volume, the humor, adventure, and enthusiasm carries and holds the reader's attention through the volume.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like these books try: Lumberjanes Vol. 4 by Noelle Stevenson, Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley, Ms. Marvel series by G. Willow Wilson, Foiled by Jane Yolen

Challenge 326 ~ Always Anything Goes

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Kamis, 18 Agustus 2016

The Common Cure for Breakup

Description: Flight attendant Summer Benson lives by two rules: Don’t stay with the same man for too long and never stay in one place. She’s about to break rule number one by considering accepting her boyfriend’s proposal—then disaster strikes and her world is shattered in an instant.

Summer heads to Black Dog Bay, where the locals welcome her. Even Hattie Huntington, the town’s oldest, richest, and meanest resident, likes her enough to give her a job. Then there’s Dutch Jansen, the rugged, stoic mayor, who’s the opposite of her type. She probably shouldn't be kissing him. She definitely shouldn't be falling in love.

After a lifetime of globe-trotting, Summer has finally found a home. But Hattie has old scores to settle and a hidden agenda for her newest employee. Summer finds herself faced with an impossible choice: Leave Black Dog Bay behind forever, or stay with the ones she loves and cost them everything.

Review: The Common Cure for Breakup is a light, breezy, beach read. I didn't have any expectations for this book except for it to be entertaining and it was for the most part in a Hallmark movie kind of way. Summer is the heroine of this whimsical story. She is a beautiful girl whose charm is loved by all even by the most grumpy character.
  We meet Summer as a flight attendant who is known for wearing stilettos. She has been going out with the incredibly famous and gorgeous pilot. Summer does not do serious relationships well and she starts to freak out when she hears that her boyfriend is about to propose. Before the actual proposal, the plane crashes and she is later dumped by her boyfriend. I had a really hard time buying into Summer's heart break. The relationship was doomed and it seemed as if the breakup would be okay if she was the dumper and not the dumpee. Summer escapes from reality to a resort called Black Dog Bay which is known as heartbreak central. People come here to get over a heartache and a fresh start. At Black Dog Bay, Summer finds love, friends, and a second chance.
 I liked Summer at first. She is witty and funny, but her novelty soon wore off and she became annoying. She didn't act her age of a woman who was in her thirty's but more like a popular teenager. Though I liked the chemistry between Summer and Dutch (who is almost a mirror of Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls minus the diner), their relationship moved too quickly. For a guy who hasn't dated or been in a relationship for ten years, he is sudden he's interested in Summer, and is proposing marriage to her within weeks of knowing her. 
 The rest of the book focused on how Summer saves the resort from a bitter, elderly woman named Hattie who has been holding a grudge for several years. There are fun secondary characters who are unfortunately one dimensional and none of them stood out to me. There are moments where things get serious such as showing a peek into Summer's past and explaining why she is so flighty about commitment, but other than that everything was just peachy keen. I actually wanted to know more about the plane crash. What happened to the passengers? Did anyone die?
 If you are looking for a book to relax and turn off your brain for a little while, then check out The Common Cure for Breakup. You will be entertained for a few hours and after a little while you will forget about it.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, allusions to sexual situations, and crude humor. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick,

Rabu, 17 Agustus 2016

Raymie Nightingale

Description: Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Review: Raymie Clarke has a plan to reunite her broken family. Her father has run off with a dental hygienist without a word, but Raymie is certain that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, her father will see her picture in the newspaper and return. With this goal in mind, she begins baton-twirling classes with two other girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Both Louisiana and Beverly have their own reasons for entering the competition. Louisiana needs the prize money, and Beverly wants to sabotage the event. 
  I really appreciated the female friendship that was formed by these three very different girls. All three have lost people close to them, and each girl deals with her loss in different ways. With each small adventure, whether it's finding a lost book or rescuing a beloved pet, their friendship grows into an undeniable bond. Though Raymie Nightingale is a quick read with its short, precisely crafted chapters, there is so much heart and emotions demonstrated by her unique characters. Raymie is memorable. She is observant, thoughtful, and sensitive as she struggles to make sense of the world around her. My heart broke for her many times throughout the book. 
 I appreciated how the story was told in simple, straightforward way without the author sacrificing and shying away from exploring complex themes which is very tricky especially if you are writing for younger readers. Expect this to be discussed and short-listed on several award lists.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Raymie's father has an affair and leaves her family. There are also allusions to physical abuse. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers ad up.

If you like this book try: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor,

Winner & Top 3 324

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Selasa, 16 Agustus 2016

We Are the Ants

 If you only have time to read just one YA book this year, then I would highly recommend picking up We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson. This book was exquisitely written and left me thinking about it long after I closed the last page. It is my first 5 star read of 2016.

Description: There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.
Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

Review: The writing style of We Are the Ants is very reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's masterpiece Slaughterhouse Five. While the book is categorized as science fiction, it is mostly science fiction in the allegorical sense. Henry Denton is a depressed, nihilistic teen who is having an existential crisis. He has been abducted by aliens and have been told by them that the world will end. Strangely, they give Henry a red button that he can press to save the world but is the world and humanity worthy enough to be saved? From Henry's point of view, humans are not the center of the world, we are actually as significant as the little ants crawling on the ground.
  All throughout the book Henry asks the same question over and over again: if you were given the chance to save the world, would you take it and why? For Henry, the answer is not an easy one. His life is in tatters in a town called Calypso where the flaws of the characters tether them down and prevent them from growing much like Odysseus and Calypso from Homer's epic The Odyssey. Henry's first love and boyfriend, Jessie, has committed suicide. His father left his home and some point to Henry's 'abductions' as a reason, his chain smoking, alcoholic mother is struggling to make ends meet while taking care of his dementia ridden grandmother. His older brother and fiance are expecting a child though neither of them are adults or capable of supporting themselves. On top of all this, Henry is bullied and used as a play toy for the closeted gay bully.
  It is hard to be Henry and be optimistic when there is so much negativity and sadness revolving around him. Henry blames himself for Jesse's death and further drives the nail in his self loathing coffin. I liked how Hutchinson uses Jesse as a symbol of Henry's self-worth because Jesse is the only person who made Henry feel loved and accept despite his quirks. Jesse was Henry's safety net, but when he is tragically ripped away due to Jesse's own mental health issues he helplessly watch Henry go in a similar downward spiral until he meets the charismatic Diego who shows up in town.
 Like Henry, Diego is also dealing with his own personal demons, which Hutchinson sprinkles throughout the story. Instead of turning to aliens to help him sort out the meaning of life, Diego uses art to express himself. I really appreciated that the book focuses on the friendship and connection between Henry and Diego while leaving the possibility of a romantic relationship open. Diego and Henry do not solve each others issues miraculously because they find each other, but they do form a supportive network that is immensely important. There is also Audrey, a mutual friend of Jesse and Henry, who gives us a more realistic account of Jesse instead of Henry's romanticized view of his boyfriend. Ultimately, we are all on the edge of our seats wondering if Henry does really have the freedom of choice he thinks he has or will push the button to save the world?
  We Are the Ants is an excellent novel that is much needed in our world that often seems uncaring and meaningless. Each character is complex, necessary, and most importantly true to life. There are both light and dark moments in the book much like real life. The novel is never didactic and perfect for readers who love character driven stories and it would make a fantastic book club discussion.

Some favorite quotes:

“Depression isn't a war you win. It's a battle you fight every day. You never stop, never get to rest.”
“We may not get to choose how we die, but we can chose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn't matter. Because we are the ants, and we'll keep marching on.”
“Dreams are hopeful because they exist as pure possibility. Unlike memories, which are fossils, long dead and buried deep.” 
“We're not words, Henry, we're people.
Words are how others define us, but we can define ourselves any way we choose.” 
Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book, drug use and underage drinking, allusions to sex, and scenes of bullying. Recommended for Grade 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday this pain will be useful to you by Peter Cameron, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, and for similar writing style definitely check out Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Senin, 15 Agustus 2016

Honor Girl

Description: Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Review: Honor Girl is a poignant graphic memoir that explores first love, self discovery, and identity. Thrash zeroes in a pivotal bittersweet summer that changed her outlook on life. At age 15, Maggie returned to Camp Bellflower for Girls, a conservative Christian camp located in Kentucky that she'd been attending for years. Following traditions including Civil War re-enactments is expected and required. Maggie has aspired to be named Honor Girl, an award given each year to the girl who exemplified the camp's spirit, but this year is very different. Her normal fun-filled, carefree world is slowly shifting and becoming constrictive especially when she is being drawn to Erin, an older counselor. Now Maggie is focusing her attention to forging and expressing her own identity.
   The illustrations for Honor Girl are deceptively subdued and ordinary yet raw and have a sketchbook feeling to them. We see Maggie go through every day, slice-of-life moments such as handling conflicts with mean girls, gossip and rumors as well as confiding in confidants. These banal moments contain deeper meaning. Thrash effortlessly conveys the awkwardness of coming into one's own. The tone of the mercurial teen is spot-on, morphing from funny and quirky to quiet and contemplative especially when a romantic, chaste relationship is budding between Maggie and Erin. There are light moments that feature pop culture such as Maggie's unabashed love for the Backstreet Boys (who I also loved as a teen) along with darker historical references such as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which the camp abides. Maggie's reluctance to come out at camp rings true though it made me feel so sad that she could not be open about her romance like the other campers. Readers regardless of their own sexual identity will relate to the awkwardness and uncertainty of first love in Maggie's memoir. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and some crude humor. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald

Challenge 325 ~ Always Anything Goes

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