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Piedmont volleyball with big expectations entering 2016 season

Blake Colston

After racking up the most wins in program history, hosting its first regional and winning its first postseason match, the Piedmont volleyball team is out for much more in 2016.

Blake Colston/Gazette Laureli Grothe goes up for a hit Tuesday night in Piedmont's sweep of Noble.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Laureli Grothe goes up for a hit Tuesday night in Piedmont’s sweep of Noble.

“I have high expectations for this season because we have a lot of returners and key players that play their positions really well,” head coach Lauren Bernhardt said.

Piedmont returns top outside hitter Brooke Spears, middle blocker Laureli Grothe and setter Hannah McGarraugh. All three have received interest from college recruiters.

That’s a big change from recent years for a startup program like Piedmont. Before last season, Piedmont was nothing more than a blip on opponent’s schedules. Fresh off a 22-win season, the Lady Wildcats have Class 5A’s attention.

“It helped put Piedmont on the board,” Bernhardt said of a record-setting 2015 season.

Now, Piedmont wants to take one more big step, said McGarraugh, the team’s senior setter. If the team achieves all it can, where can it go? A long ways, she says.

“I think it definitely takes us to the state bracket,” she said. “There’s a different atmosphere this year. It’s a lot more intense. Everyone has definitely picked up their game and is working in overdrive.”

Though McGarraugh plays setter on her club team, she didn’t set any of the previous three seasons for Piedmont while former setter Kasidi Hardy played. With Hardy graduated, it’s McGarraugh’s job now. She’ll play a big role in all that Piedmont does and she’s ready for the added responsibility.

“It’s been my home position since my freshman year,” she said. “I’m ready to seize the opportunity.”

Bernhardt scheduled tougher this year to challenge her team and prepare them for a possible run to the state tournament. That potential, which seemed hard to imagine four years ago, is a driving force for Piedmont this season.

“That would mean everything to us to set that legacy,” McGarraugh said. “It would show that our hard work has paid off and mean the world to all of us.”

Former Piedmont prep star was once top recruit

Blake Colston

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ronnie Osborne had it all.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound running back’s speed, power and finesse made him a highly sought after recruit from tiny Piedmont, America. He’s still the most high profile recruit in the school history.

“He’s a Marcus Dupree type,” former Piedmont head coach Steve Lykes told the Daily Oklahoman in 2001, recalling the University of Oklahoma tailback that once pulverized Big Eight defenders in the early 1980s. “In his (Osborne’s) running style and in his size, he really reminds me of him.”

At the peak of Osborne’s recruitment, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Florida, Kansas and Notre Dame, among others, all offered scholarships to Osborne. He still has a box full of mail sent by schools from coast to coast. The nation’s top college coaches flocked to Piedmont with good reason.

In 1999 as a sophomore, Osborne rushed for 2,143 yards and 26 touchdowns. The next year, he rushed for 2,082 yards and 31 touchdowns. In the two seasons combined, he averaged 201 rushing yards per game.

During his junior season, Osborne helped lead Piedmont to a 10-2 record and the quarterfinal round of the playoffs — its best season in school history — while also averaging 23 points per game on the basketball court on his way to All-State honors.

He seemed destined for stardom, but it never happened.

Read more →

Piedmont Gazette Podcast, Episode 2

In this episode of the Piedmont Gazette Podcast, Piedmont boys head basketball coach Troy Lallemand joined sports editor Blake Colston and intern Daniel Smola to talk about Kevin Durant’s departure, where the Thunder go from here and about Piedmont summer basketball.

Piedmont Gazette Podcast, Copa America Edition

In the first ever Piedmont Gazette Podcast, sports editor Blake Colston, Piedmont head boys soccer coach Zac Selph and Gazette sports intern Daniel Smola talk about the United States’ 4-0 loss to Argentina, the NBA Finals/Draft and Selph’s dream of a Cubs World Series Title.

Coleman excited to be a Wildcat

Blake Colston

Only a few months removed from playing for a state title, Keith Coleman is on to the next challenge, and it’s a big one.

Muskogee coach Keith Coleman, right, consoles senior Shaylee Rowland after the Lady Roughers’ 13-12 loss to Southmoore in the semifinals of the Class 6A state softball tournament at the Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee last season.

Muskogee coach Keith Coleman, right, consoles senior Shaylee Rowland after the Lady Roughers’ 13-12 loss to Southmoore in the semifinals of the Class 6A state softball tournament at the Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee last season.

Hired last fall to take over Piedmont’s tradition-rich softball program, Coleman coached one last season at Muskogee High School this spring, leading the Lady Roughers slow pitch team to a runner-up finish in 6A.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out at Muskogee,” he said.

Now, Coleman is officially a Wildcat.

“It’s been great. It’s kind of like I said through the spring, it was a really tough decision to leave Muskogee, but when I made the decision it gave me new life. Something about Piedmont kind of sparked my interest,” he said. “It’s a growing school district and a it’s team that’s been successful in the past.”

Coleman embraced the opportunity to take over for popular head coach Rick Scott then and has the same mindset now. The parents and coaches have been receptive. Read more →

Piedmont foursome takes part in 5A All-State soccer game

By Daniel Smola

CATOOSA – Piedmont’s Kylie Pyle, Julia Grimes, Kanton Logan and coach Brad Brucker represented the West in the 5A Girls’ and Boys’ All-State soccer matches at Frank McNabb Field on Friday night.

Blake Colston/Gazette Kanton Logan outruns a Woodward defender for the ball Friday night.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Kanton Logan outruns a Woodward defender for the ball Friday nightduring his senior season.

Brucker said being named the girls’ All-State coach meant a lot to him.

“To me, it was like the validation that everybody said ‘O.K. you guys are making that next step,’” Brucker said of Piedmont’s soccer program. “It really says more about where our program is than where, you know, I am as a coach. And I get to represent our program here in front of the whole state, so it meant a lot and it was a lot of fun.”

The girls’ match ended in a 1-1 draw. Pyle and Grimes got off to a fast start within the game’s first 5 minutes. The duo fired a handful of shots at goal that required saves from the East goalkeeper.

Pyle had a couple of 1-on-1 opportunities that were saved by the goalkeeper. The first chance came in the first half, as Pyle was played through and found herself alone in the penalty box. She attempted to bend the ball into the far corner around the East goalkeeper, but her shot was saved.

“I thought we did pretty good working as a team even though we didn’t really know the people,” Pyle said of the West’s performance despite not having much team chemistry. Read more →

Gossen pleased with Piedmont’s spring football performance

Blake Colston

Piedmont head football coach Drew Gossen had high praise for his team’s recently completed spring practice efforts._MG_5107[1]

“This is without question the best spring we’ve had since I’ve been in Piedmont,” said Gossen, who’s been the head coach at Piedmont for two years and on staff a total of six,

Chief among Gossen’s reasons for optimism was the play of the Wildcats offensive line. Last season, the group started two freshman by season’s end and struggled to play well consistently. This spring, however, Gossen saw a big jump in the unit’s productivity and depth.

Joseph Almaguer, C.J. McCaster, Bryce Johnston, Zach Moser, Cameron Coit, Caden Banks and Derek Grassman were all mentioned as possible starters by Gossen.

“Playing the young guys was hard for us last year, but it turns into a big positive for us this year,” he said. “The biggest improvement on the team this spring was along the offensive line. I really feel good about them.”

On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats morphed into a 3-4 defense by the end of last season due to injuries along the line, but this spring, Piedmont plans to play the 3-4 by design. Read more →

Taylor takes state title in the 110-meter hurdles

Blake Colston

MOORE — Ethan Taylor closed his high school track career in style Saturday at Moore High School.

Taylor set a new school record — breaking the record he held previously — in the 110-meter hurdles on his way to his first state championship. The senior ran the race in 15.07 to beat Jaquwan Blalock of Pryor who finished second in 15.29.

“I woke up Sunday and it felt like it had been so long since the race,” Taylor said. “It’s just starting to sink in a few days later.”

Taylor didn’t pull away until late in race, but knew he was a state champion immediately after it was over.

“They were ahead of me for the first couple hurdles, but towards the end I could feel that I had caught them and passed them,” he said. “When I finished I was so happy that all my hard work had paid off. I was smiling so hard. I thought to myself, ‘that actually just happened.'”

Impressively, Taylor only started to run the 110-meter hurdles competitively last season.

The only downside to the day for Taylor was not being able to pick up another state title in the 300-meter hurdles. Though he was favored to do so, Taylor clipped a hurdle near the turn into the final leg, fell to the ground and couldn’t recover. He finished eighth.

“It’s just unfortunate,” he said. “But whenever I won the 110s, I said anything else can happen and I’ll be happy.”

Taylor said a gust of wind near the back-half of the final curve threw him off enough to cause him to catch the hurdle.

“My steps were a little strange,” he said.

Taylor was set to compete in the Meet of Champions at Moore Tuesday.

On Friday, freshman Blake Cope placed fourth in the 3200-meter run.

“He’s only going to get better, too,” head coach Corey Strahorn said. “He rose to the occasion and had a strong finish. It comes with hard work and he has the body type for it, too.”

Strahorn said the goal he’s set for Cope before he leaves is to win a state title.

“He understands that, too,” Strahorn said.

Colton Lindsey finished 12th in the 3200.

Wortmann places sixth in 100-meter hurdles
Megan Wortmann placed sixth in the 100-meter hurdles, good enough to get her on the medal stand in her first-ever appearance at the state meet.

Much to her surprise, she said.

“I was actually about to cry because I didn’t think I made it,” she said. “It wasn’t my fastest race.”

Because she placed at state, Wortmann was set to take part in Tuesday’s Meet of Champions.

“She’s done a great job. She’s the kind of kid who battles at everything she does,” head coach Jon Bakewell said. “She knows what her goals are and she works her best to try to get to the next level.”

A total seven more Piedmont athletes — Kylie Burris, Sydnei Storts, Lydia Wade, Hannah Thomas, Josilyn Schenk, Anna Jacobs and Ashlyn Hamon — competed at state. All but one — Schenk who is moving to Canada — are set to return next season.

“Just to see them compete was big. Not only did they compete to get there, they worked hard once they were there,”Bakewell said. “It’s so exciting to see.”

Shawnee beats Piedmont to win its second straight state title

Blake Colston

YUKON — Shawnee pitcher Eli Davis sprinted off the mound to field a slowly hit ball near the third base line, spun and calmly threw to first base to strand the bases loaded.

Blake Colston/Gazette Brayden Nelson swings at a pitch during Saturday's state championship game in Yukon.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Brayden Nelson swings at a pitch during Saturday’s state championship game in Yukon.

The left-handed pitcher fielded his position perfectly all day, pitched seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and went 3 for 5 with an RBI to lead Shawnee to a 9-0 win over Piedmont in the Class 5A state championship game at Yukon’s Miller Field.

Shawnee (30-9) scored seven times after Davis kept Piedmont scoreless in the fifth. Then, he capped the Wolves’ five-run seventh inning that followed his slick fielding an inning later with a single to left field. Shawnee also scored twice in the sixth.

“I’ve seen that kid play for a few years now and he has that it factor,” Piedmont head coach Kory Williams said of Davis. “It was a big time environment and he stepped up and had a big game.”

Davis’ play on Koy Priddy’s chopper in the fifth gave Shawnee momentum it used down the stretch to win its second consecutive state title. Piedmont put just one batter on base against the University of Kansas commit in the final two innings. Read more →

Piedmont rallies to beat El Reno, advances to 5A title game

Blake Colston

YUKON — Piedmont’s Trevor Larson admitted to holding back tears as his teams’ hopes of reaching the state title game faded in the seventh inning Friday.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont's Ty Anderson delivers a pitch Friday afternoon in Yukon.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont’s Ty Anderson delivers a pitch Friday afternoon in Yukon.

“To be honest, I was about to start crying with my teammates,” the senior outfielder said.

Larson watched from the dugout as El Reno turned a 6-4-3 double play to come within an out of sealing a come-from-behind, 4-3, victory in a Class 5A semifinal at Yukon High School. Moments later, after a walk and a single, Larson collected the biggest hit of his career to tie the game at four to send Piedmont and El Reno to extra innings.

“Over the season I’ve been tight every time I’ve gone up to the plate in a situation like that,” Larson, who looped a single to center, said. “I was just trying to stay calm.”

Following the two-out rally, the Wildcats scored three times in the eighth and pitcher Ty Anderson worked a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning to give Piedmont a 7-4 win and a berth in the Class 5A State Title game vs. defending champion Shawnee at 4 p.m. Saturday in Yukon.

“What can you say about our guys battling back like that,” head coach Kory Williams said. “I’m so proud of them.”

Bryce McDermott, who walked to keep the game alive in the seventh, brought home the eventual game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Brayden Nelson followed McDermott’s walk with a single in the seventh and added an RBI-single in the eighth. With new-found confidence, Larson added an RBI-double to cap Piedmont’s eighth-inning rally.

Down to his, and Piedmont’s final strike against El Reno starter Ryan Kouba in the seventh, Nelson received added motivation from an unlikely source.

“I actually heard the umpire tell the catcher, ‘good luck in the next round,’ and that kind of made me mad,” Nelson said. “I said, you know what, I’m gonna go get a base hit.”

He did, setting the stage for Larson who entered the pressure-packed at-bat hitting .255 on the season.

“We have faith in everyone in our order,” Nelson said. “It’s someone new everyday. Everyone is coming up clutch these days. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Trevor came through.” Read more →

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