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Ray takes unlimited potential to NOC-Enid

Blake Colston

Cassadie Ray has already proven plenty on the softball field, yet she still seemingly has so much room for growth.

Piedmont’s starting catcher for each of the last three seasons, her steadiness behind the plate and knack for getting clutch hits throughout her career earned her the chance to sign with Northern Oklahoma College in Enid, where she’ll play for her former summer ball coach, Bryan Howard.

Blake Colston/Gazette Cassadie Ray will play at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid next season.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Cassadie Ray will play at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid next season.

“We got really close. He’s a really awesome coach and a great guy,” Ray said. “I’m really looking forward to playing for him.”

Ray recognizes her potential and said the chance to play and grow under Howard was the main factor in her choosing NOC.

“Coach Howard is going to make me a better player,” she said. “I’m really excited for it.”

Her high school head coach Rick Scott says that the same traits that made her successful in high school will again make her successful in college.

“She made the difference for our pitchers,” Scott said. “She’s just one of those wonderful girls to coach that always does her job. You could always go to her. She would move to first base, the outfield, wherever we needed her.”

Ray already has a strong arm and is rock solid defensively. Offensively, she hit in the middle of the lineup for Piedmont and has the potential to develop into a middle of the lineup hitter in college, too. Because NOC is a two-year school, Ray plans to hone her game there and move on to play at another school when she’s done in Enid.

“If I could work hard and maybe go to a D-I school after…” she said. “I don’t know, we’ll just see what happens. I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Edwards’ resiliency pays off

Blake Colston

One of Jourdan Edwards’ most difficult moments during her time in high school ultimately played perhaps the biggest role in where she is today.

Involved in a car accident with three of her softball teammates during the 2014 season, remarkably Edwards, a junior then, returned to the field that same day to deliver a walk-off hit in a 4-3 win against Chickasha. It showed her resiliency and she said it spurred her on to bigger and better things on and off the field.

Blake Colston/Gazette Jourdan Edwards signs her letter of intent with USAO.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Jourdan Edwards signs her letter of intent with USAO.

Wednesday, Edwards signed her letter of intent to play college softball at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

“It was definitely crazy,” she said of that day more than a year ago. “Being able to go into that game and pick my team up when they were down really helped my self-confidence and led me to believe that I could be as good as I wanted to be.”

Edwards put together back-to-back solid seasons for Piedmont while playing third base and batting towards the middle of the order. In the process, she caught the attention of USAO head coach and Edwards’ summer ball coach Jadyn Wallis. Interestingly, though, not as a position player, but as a pitcher.

“It was a little surprising for me,” Edwards said. “But with the skills that she has to teach me with, I know that I can do it.”

Piedmont head coach Rick Scott has confidence in Edwards’ ability, too.

“I think if Jourdan pitches all the time and that’s where they need her at the most that she will do well,” he said.

As confident as ever now, Edwards believes in herself as well.

“I always had the thought of playing in college, but I never knew I had what it took,” she said. “This is a really great opportunity to play for a really great coach I’ve known for so long.”

Scott happy to be a Red Raider

Blake Colston

It’s been a wild last month filled with ups and downs for Piedmont pitcher Kassidy Scott.

Wednesday was a good day.

Blake Colston/Gazette Kassidy Scott thanks a signing day crowd at Piedmont High School.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Kassidy Scott thanks a signing day crowd at Piedmont High School.

A longtime commitment to Texas Tech, Scott signed her National Letter of Intent with the Red Raider softball program where Scott had been committed to since February of 2014.

“I knew ever since my family and I visited there that it was the place for me,” Scott said after a ceremony at Piedmont High School. “It really feels just like a bigger version of Piedmont to me.”

Scott dominated 5A softball in the state of Oklahoma for four seasons, amassing 437 strikeouts in 466 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .168 average. She also hit .533 in her career and finished with a school-record 50 home runs.

But after leading Piedmont to a state runner-up finish as a junior, Scott’s senior season was filled with adversity. She dealt with an arm injury that lingered throughout the season and her dad and coach, Rick Scott, was ultimately forced to resign after the season.

Through it all, Scott still managed to lead Piedmont to the state quarterfinals and earn Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State team honors. Signing day brought a positive end in Piedmont for coach and player alike.

“Kassidy has been a joy to coach and so much fun to watch,” Rick Scott said. “There have been a lot of challenges, especially this year, but Kassidy always found a way, and this what I really admire about her, to put her softball career in perspective. That was what impressed me.

“She’s worked hard for this day ever since she was in grade school. This was a nice way to end things. I think it went very well.”

Kassidy expects to hit and pitch for the Red Raiders next season and said the Red Raider coaching staff at Tech was a major factor in choosing to sign with Tech.

“I’m just really blessed,” she said. “This is an amazing opportunity for me.”

Hampton ready to ‘row the boat’

Blake Colston

Western Michigan head football coach P.J. Fleck’s mantra is ‘row the boat.’ Piedmont kicker Butch Hampton is ready to row.

Hampton signed a financial aid agreement with Western Michigan on Wednesday and plans to enroll at the Kalamazoo, Mich.-based school in January. He will officially become Piedmont’s first FBS-level signee since 2007 on National Signing Day in February.

Blake Colston/Gazette Butch Hampton addresses a crowd at a signing ceremony in Piedmont.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Butch Hampton addresses a crowd at a signing ceremony in Piedmont.

But for Hampton, his college experience begins in 19 days when he heads north for Michigan.

“For me, if I could be a freshman in January instead of being a freshman in August, that benefits me for school and football,” he said. “There’s no way that it won’t help in the long run.”

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound prospect hopes the early enrollment will give him a better chance to earn a starting position right away. Initially, Hampton, who kicked, punted and handled kickoff duties in high school, hopes to win the starting placekicker job and go from there.

“I’m best at field goals. That’s what I would say is my strong suit,” said Hampton. “But my senior year, at the latest, I would love to be doing all three.”

Hampton has been a standout for Piedmont since his sophomore season. He holds numerous school records including longest punt (65 yards), longest made field goal, (44 yards) and most made field goals in a game (three). In his career, Hampton booted 56 of his 78 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Although the financial aid agreement does not bind Hampton to sign with Western Michigan, he said he fully intends to and can’t wait to get started with one of the top programs in the MAC.

“For me, I wanted to go somewhere that won, and they do that,” he said. “Coach Fleck and coach Rob Wenger (special teams coordinator), I’m going to Western Michigan for them and who they have there. They’re a process-driven program. They’re a team that’s going to be good every single year.”

Hampton is rated as a two-star prospect by rivals.com and is considered as one of the top prep kickers in the country.

Western Michigan is 6-4 this season and will take on Northern Illinois tonight at 7 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2.

Piedmont’s Simunek inks with Oklahoma State

Blake Colston

Piedmont’s Logan Simunek is known for throwing offspeed pitches in the circle, so it’s only fitting that a figurative change-up thrown by Simunek before her senior year of high school has turned out so well.

Blake Colston/Gazette Logan Simunek signed with Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Logan Simunek signed with Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Siumunek signed her National Letter of Intent with Oklahoma State University on Wednesday at Piedmont High School after originally committing to the University of Missouri at Kansas City this summer.

“I was so relieved when I committed to Oklahoma State,” Simunek said. “After I decommitted from UMKC, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”

The decommittment wasn’t the real change-up, though. A three-year starter for Piedmont, Simunek decided after her junior season to skip her final year with Piedmont and focus solely on travel ball.

“I wanted to take a break from school ball,” she said. “It was a huge decision, but my travel ball really helped me develop and improve as a player. It helped me get where I am now.”

She made what she admitted was a big risk pay off. In July, Simunek led her travel team, Oklahoma Exclusive, to the 2015 TC/USA Nationals 16U championship game, where she earned a no decision in the Exclusive’s victory. Simunek finished the season with a 33-4 record, 167 strikeouts and a 0.68 ERA. Over a two-year span, Simunek accumulated a 56-8 record in club competition.

“She’s a competitor and we’re looking forward to having her on the squad,” Oklahoma State first-year head coach Kenny Gajewski, previously an assistant at the University of Florida and a University of Oklahoma graduate, told okstate.com of Simunek.

Simunek, who grew up an OSU fan, said the opportunity to stay close to home and join a program with a energetic new coach, made Oklahoma State the place for her.

“Coach Gajewski is family-oriented and really close with his players,” she said. “He knows what he’s doing because he came from Florida and they just won back-to-back national championships.

“I’m super happy I get to play for a state school because everyone knows who OSU is.”

Gossen pleased with improvement made in 2015

Blake Colston

Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen called Piedmont’s most basic of run plays to running back Landon White. There was no intricate blocking scheme or misdirection involved; it was intended to go right up the gut.

And it did, for three yards on a crucial fourth-and-two in the first half against district champion Bishop McGuinness in the final game of the season.

Daniel Smola/Gazette Quarterback Noah Ellis runs for a big gain against Noble.

Daniel Smola/Gazette
Quarterback Noah Ellis runs for a big gain against Noble.

Gossen said as much as anything that showed the improvement his team, which finished 3-7 overall and 3-4 in district play, made from an 0-6 start to a 3-1 close to the season. Earlier in the season, Gossen wouldn’t have had the confidence in his line to make a hole, by season’s end he did.

“To be able to have confidence in those guys, look them in the eyes and say we’ve got two yards, go get it,” Gossen said. “That’s part of the identity we developed. It shows that we got a lot better, because there were times in the year that wasn’t something I thought we could do.”

Piedmont ran for more than 100 yards in three of its last four games. No small feat for a team that struggled just to stay out of negative yardage early in the season.

And the improvement has a chance to continue next season. Piedmont returns its top two rushers, quarterback Noah Ellis and four of its five starters along the offensive line. Only starting center Austin Rhines graduates.

“Seeing how many guys we have coming back on both sides of the ball is good,” Gossen said. “Our defensive front seven largely returns and the same is true with our offensive line. We’re excited about that.”

Defensively, an injury to starting senior defensive tackle Kohl Francis forced Piedmont to flip from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 in the middle of the season. Though it wasn’t ideal at the time, it allowed outside linebackers Elijah Cavaness and Christian Bricker to excel at rushing the passer. They’re both back along with inside linebackers Jacob Bakewell and Dylan Meador.

“Those guys were there a lot making plays and really made life for the other teams’ quarterback difficult,” Gossen said. “If you can start there defensively you’re on the right track.” Read more →

Longtime Piedmont softball coach forced out

Blake Colston

Piedmont will have a new softball coach next season.

The saga of former head coach Rick Scott’s planned resignation and attempt to return met a final end when the Piedmont school board did not discuss the item at Monday’s meeting. Instead, school board member Karen Green read a prepared statement, stating that the board supported Piedmont Superintendent Dr. James White’s acceptance of Scott’s resignation and that the board considered the matter final.

Rick Scott is out as Piedmont's head softball coach.

Rick Scott is out as Piedmont’s head softball coach.

The board also voted to ask the Piedmont Police Department and, or the Canadian County District Attorney’s office to investigate the misuse of Piedmont Fast Pitch Softball funds previously held by a limited liability corporation represented by Scott.

Scott, who submitted his resignation Sept. 1 then changed his mind in mid-October, has said previously that ‘mistakes were made’ with some funds, but said they were made unintentionally and corrected soon after. He denied any wrongdoing.

Piedmont’s administration saw it differently, though, and would not allow Scott to pull his resignation.

Scott coached 15 seasons in Piedmont, leading the Lady Wildcats to 10 state tournaments and three appearances in the state title game. He was 455-121 overall.

In a text message to The Gazette, Scott thanked his supporters and said he respected the board and Dr. White’s decision.

“It has been my honor to represent Piedmont. It was an awesome run,” he said. “I can’t describe how much love and appreciation I have for the community, especially during these last few weeks. My current and former student athletes have blessed my life beyond what I deserve.”

More than 100 supporters of Scott’s gathered at the school board meeting to voice their support for Scott in hopes of persuading the school board to allow the coach to return. The board stood by its administration;s decision, however.

Earlier in the process, Scott indicated he’d like to coach at another school next season if he was not allowed to return as head coach in Piedmont. His intentions are unclear now.

Piedmont has begun the search for the next coach. Potential candidates include assistant coaches Todd Brown and Ken McQueen, as well as Piedmont head baseball coach Kory Williams. Williams currently serves as the head junior high softball coach.

The Lady Wildcats went 26-14 last season, losing to Carl Albert in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

McGuinness beats Piedmont in season finale, 35-20

Blake Colston

Both Piedmont and Bishop McGuinness entered the final night of the regular season with little to play for in the district standings.

McGuinness had already clinched first place and Piedmont needed the most unlikely of scenarios to unfold (Southeast beating Carl Albert) to make the postseason. So it could’ve been a lethargic game, but it was far from it.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont's Hunter Chism tries to elude a pair of McGuinness players Friday night.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont’s Hunter Chism tries to elude a pair of McGuinness players Friday night.

Fighting Irish senior quarterback Jacob Mullins went 16 of 24 for 276 yards and threw three touchdown passes, including two to receiver Rubell Goe, and McGuinness escaped Piedmont’s upset bid, 35-20.

“I told our kids before the game, it’s a trap game, essentially,” said McGuinness head coach Justin Jones. “I think for us, the big picture was that we wanted to be playoff ready and be on point from the get-go here tonight.”

Piedmont found its own motivation. Playing on senior night, the Wildcats got big contributions from part of its nine-man senior class.

Senior defensive back Kanton Logan intercepted a pass, receiver Delbert Todd scored on a 30-yard reception, kicker Butch Hampton executed a successful onside kick in the final minute of the game and hit a pair of field goals while Hunter Chism reeled in a spectacular 30-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-12 play in the fourth quarter.

“It was fun to see the spark come, in a lot of ways, from our seniors. All the seniors had a great night,” Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen said. “Chism made an amazing catch. I still don’t know how he caught it.”

Chism’s catch brought Piedmont within a score, 21-13, with 9:39 to play. McGuinness, which capped off a perfect 7-0 district record with the win, answered back quickly, though. Mullins passed to Goe for a 48-yard touchdown to cap a four-play, 75-yard drive that lasted only 1:14. Kolby Mendenhell seemingly iced the game with a 52-yard touchdown run a little more than three minutes later.

“We were glad we were able to come back and score quickly there,” Jones said. “Piedmont came out and played well. You’ve got to give credit to them.”

Piedmont fought back again. Trailing by 22 with less than two minutes to play, Todd willed his way into the end zone by breaking three tackles to pull Piedmont within two scores. Hampton’s ensuing onside kick was recovered, and for a brief moment there was a hope of a wild last-minute rally. But the Wildcats couldn’t pick up a first down and McGuinness ran out the clock.

“There was that glimmer of opportunity when we got the onside, but it didn’t work out,” Gossen said.

Quarterback Noah Ellis finished the game 14 of 32 for 180 yards passing. McGuinness running back Zach Segell ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

Gossen thought a strong effort against the district’s best team was a good end to the season. Especially for his seniors.

“I was extremely proud of how we fought,” he said. “I truly believe that some of the things these seniors have imparted on this team are going to be things that last long after they are gone.

Piedmont basketball bigger, stronger this season

Blake Colston

A Facebook application called ‘Timehop’ might be the most tangible evidence Piedmont’s boys basketball team is bigger and stronger heading into this season.

Timehop compares side-by-side pictures from current to a year in the past. Head coach Troy Lallemand said the difference was striking from a year ago to now.A Iyaye

“One of our team managers has (Timehop) and you can see the difference in definition in their arms,” he said, noting sophomore Blake Owens in particular. “I see them every day, so it’s a little harder to pick up on how much bigger they are, but I do think that’s true of all of them. I’m very happy with the work they’ve put in.”

It’s a relatively minor improvement, but far from the only one, Lallemand said. His team appears improved defensively and has shot the ball better in fall practice. If Piedmont can make teams consistently respect its outside shooting, Lallemand thinks that’ll translate into easier paths to the basket and more free throws.

“We’re shooting it really well right now,” he said. “But again it’s only practice.”

Senior point guard Addaryl Quinn knew he needed to get bigger and stronger. He did and he said he feels more comfortable to start this season. It’s night and day from a season ago, in fact. He’s stronger and more confident.

“I think that’s going to make things better, especially for the young guys,” Quinn said. “Now that we have some experience we can give them some wise words about what it’s really going to be like for varsity.” Read more →

Piedmont hosts Bishop McGuinness in regular season finale

Blake Colston

There’s good and bad news for Piedmont football entering the final week of the regular season as it hosts District 5A-II leader Bishop McGuiness Friday night at 7.L White

The good news revolves around a still-alive mathematical chance to make the playoffs. The chain of events that have to transpire for Piedmont to make the dream a reality, though, represents the bad.

First, Piedmont must beat McGuiness. Then, the Wildcats need Southeast, who is winless in district play and has just one victory on the season, to

upset Carl Albert.

The latter appears on paper as exponentially less likely to occur. But for a Piedmont team that enters Friday night as winners of three straight games, controlling their portion of the puzzle is all the Wildcats will be concerned with. The rest, head coach Drew Gossen said, is quite obviously out of their hands.

“Southeast beating Carl Albert is one of the more unlikely things that could possibly happen this season,” he said. “But we’re going to go out and play our game like it’s a possibility.” Read more →

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