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Archive for: October 2011

Local pastor, wife travels to South Africa

Sam and Sheryl Powers petting a cheetah at Tshukudu Game Lodge in South Africa.

For two weeks in August Rev. Sam Powers of Piedmont First United Methodist Church attended the World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa, worshipping and meeting with Christian leaders from around the world.

Powers, who traveled with his wife Sheryl, was one of 17 delegates from Oklahoma to make the 30 hour trek to South Africa and said the experience left him with a new perspective on life and his own ministry.

“I think for me taking Communion there, so far away in a different culture, was very cool,” Powers said. “To have that sense of the spirit of Christ on the other side of the globe was powerful.”

Powers said his trip to Durban included worshipping at the convention center and in several local churches, learning about the local history of South Africa and even taking part in a safari at an area animal refuge. Powers said he had an opportunity to learn more about the period of apartheid, when South Africa was legally forced to be segregated for nearly 50 years.

“I found out that apartheid broke up people into four categories; Indian, black, colored (mixed race) or white,” Powers said. “I thought it was similar to our segregation (in America’s past) but it was very layered. They are still healing from that and still uniting as a people.”

South Africa is an English speaking nation but made up of many different types of cultures, including Indian as Durban was a major stop on the trading route between India and England.

Sam and Sheryl Powers in front of Berlin Falls in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

“There was a moment when we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and were asked to recite it in our native language,” Powers said. “It was really powerful and moving experience as we heard this prayer being said in different languages.”

Powers also said he observed a large amount of poverty while in South Africa. The nation suffers from a 25 percent unemployment rate, according to several international economic data firms, yet the nation is one of Africa’s most stable.

“It was interesting seeing a great need in the world, but also how similar we are to other people in the world,” Powers said. “We complain about such minor things in comparison to others, so it really helps me have a perspective on wants versus needs. At the same time you meet people and talk to them and you realize these people are people just like we are; they just live in different places.”

During one of the conference services all the pastors were asked to come to the front and pray with others. Powers said one woman in the choir came to him and asked for prayer that she would find a job.

“She just wants a place to work,” Powers said. “It really made me aware of the great need in the world and gave me perspective on how we can help others and how much we actually have here.”

Defense leads Piedmont to 7-6 win over Woodward

(Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont has been known for its offense for much of the season, but the Wildcats proved they can lean on their defense when the time calls for it. A missed extra point by Woodward and some defensive stops by Piedmont was the difference in the Wildcats’ 7-6 win Friday nigth.

Woodward marched down the field on its opening drive, but the Piedmont defense set the tone in the red zone and forced a turnover on downs. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, defensive lineman Hunter Winkle went down with an injury on the play. Piedmont (3-3, 2-1) got the ball and steadily marched down the field with Collin Bricker, again, doing his best Tim Tebow impression by pulling the ball down and running for first downs. Bricker would find Christian Foster for a six yard touchdown strike near the end of the first quarter to give the Wildcats the early lead.

Woodward responded on its next possession, using a combination of the swing pass and a powerful rushing attack to get on the scoreboard. The Boomer offense was able to steadily gain yardage all night, but Piedmont’s defense made a stand in the second half.

Between the fierce wind and numerous offensive miscues, the Wildcats never could seem to get things going on Friday. Punter Josh Brown had an outstanding night kicking the ball, pinning Woodward deep in their own territory on multiple occasions. Bricker would throw an interception with eight seconds left in the third quarter, but Foster came up with a huge pass deflection to force another Boomer turnover on downs.

After another Piedmont punt, the Wildcats were able to force Woodward fumbles on back-to-back possessions. While the offense wasn’t able to capitalize on the turn overs, they were able to melt precious seconds off the clock.

Woodward would get one final possession in the shadow of their own endzone. Woodward would mishandle the first snap and get caught behind the line. The Boomers then managed a first down, only to see Cameron Cowan get a huge sack to help ice the Woodward quarterback.

Bricker finished with 63 yards on 7 of 16 passing with a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 23 yards on 10 attempts. Cassius Calhoun rushed for 61 yards on 19 attempts. Foster caught four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Dylan Broyles caught two passes for 25 yards and Austin Ray grabbed one pass for five yards.

“Tonight proves that all of us can step up on defense,” Blake Robinson said. “We can make plays. I had to come in after one of our best linemen went down with an injury. We had to get stops, and that’s what we got.”

“Our defense was excellent tonight,” Coach Craig Church said. “In our first series, we lost one of our better defensive players. But our guys played a physical game, and put (Woodward) in some bad spots.

“While we can’t seem to fix our penalty issues, (kicker) Josh Brown bailed us out of some tough spots.”

Piedmont hosts Elk City next week. The Wildcats are now 2-1 in district play and 3-3 overall.

Softball’s state streak ends with Bethany loss

(Photo by Greg Evans)All good things come to an end, and Piedmont softball’s streak of state tournament appearances came to an end on Friday. While the Lady Wildcats were able to beat Cache and advance to the regional final, they couldn’t pull away and force another game against Bethany.

Piedmont played Cache at noon at Friday and got off to a quick start. Hannah Morris knocked in a two run homerun in the first, Caitlyn Deason stole home on a wild pitch, Hayley Baie hit a homerun in the second, and Courtney Miller brought in a runner to give Piedmont a 5-2 lead after three innings. Cache rallied to score five in the fourth and two in the sixth, compared to just one run for the Lady Wildcats, to take a 9-6 lead into the seventh inning. That’s when Piedmont opened it up.

Deason sparked the Piedmont rally by hitting a homerun to start the inning. She would also bring in another run later in the inning. Michelle Brandon brought in a run and Jordan Chism knocked in the tying run. The six run rally gave Piedmont a 12-9 lead.

Chism walked the first batter in the bottom of the seventh. Miller caught a pop fly to center for the first out. Chism then walked the third batter, struck out the fourth batter, walked the fifth and struck out the sixth to keep Piedmont alive.

Piedmont had Bethany up next and would have had to beat the Lady Bronchos twice to advance to state. Bethany and Piedmont traded three-run homeruns in the first inning, with Morris hitting Piedmont’s homer, but the Lady Bronchos steadily pulled away. Bethany built a 6-4 lead after five, but Chism knocked out a three-run home run for a 7-6 lead. But Piedmont would later walk in a run followed by a Bethany grand slam in the sixth. The Lady Wildcats would fall to Bethany 13-7 in their final game of the season.

“We fought hard,” Coach Rick Scott said after the game. “We didn’t get a good draw, but four other ranked teams fell today. We came back and battle but our luck ran out. I can’t fault the girls’ effort. They gave absolutely everything they had (on Friday). We reached 30 wins on the year, and they gave all they had and that’s, honestly, all I can ever ask for.”

Council schedules special meeting to discuss interim city manager

A special city council meeting will be held on Tuesday to discuss several issues, one of which is to schedule a council election for Ward 4.

During the Piedmont council’s last meeting a certified petition seeking a recall against Councilman Hoss Cooley was presented to the council. There was some confusion on when an election could be held and the council decided to table the issue until further clarification could be made. City officials said the state election board said the earliest an election could be held would be February 2012, two months before the council seat is up for its normal election, but a least one council member said he felt the city could hold its own election whenever it wanted.

According to City Clerk Jennifer Smith, the election board has indicated that a city with a population of less than 1,000 people could hold its own election, but not a larger city, such as Piedmont. However, an official legal recommendation is expected during Tuesday’s meeting from City Attorney Tom Ferguson.

Also on the Oct. 11 city council agenda is an executive session to discuss and possibly appoint an interim city manager. The council voted to remove Clark Williams as city manager last month and the Oklahoma Municipal League has provided the city with a list of potential interim city managers to be considered, according to one city official.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Piedmont Civic Center.

Loss creates long road to state tournament for Lady Cats

(Photo by Greg Evans)

Bethany, Okla. — The Lady Wildcats softball team took a wrong turn Thursday and have to win three straight games on Friday to qualify for state. By losing to Bethany in game one and beating Blackwell in game two, Piedmont is taking the long way to their ultimate goal.

Piedmont got off to a bad start against the Lady Brochos, allowing four runs in the first inning and losing 8-1. The Lady Wildcats managed just six hits in seven innings. Emma Nelson hit two singles, one in the first and one in the sixth. Courtney Miller also hit two singles, one in the third and one in the seventh. Haleigh McAnally hit a single in the final inning and Hannah Morris hit an RBI single to score the Lady Wildcats only run in the seventh.
Jordan Chism got the start on the mound and allowed one hit and four walks before being replaced by Courtney Anderson. Anderson pitched five total innings; struck out one, allowed three hits and one walk. Jamie Lowrie pitched one and two thirds innings and struck out one.
Bethany got the ball rolling on an error in the first inning.
The Lady Wildcats rallied in their second game on Thurday, beating Blackwell 8-2. Lowrie pitched two and two thirds inning, allowing five hit. Jordan Chism finished the game for Piedmont.
Bre Davis ht a three run home run in the second. Morris allowed hit two RBI, one in the first and one in the sixth. Morgan Ratliff brought in a runner on a fielder’s choice in the second. Nelson hit an RBI single in the fourth and Chism brought in a runner in the sixth.
The Lady Wildcats put together three double plays against Blackwell.
“This same thing happened two us two years ago,” Coach Rick Scott said. “We lost to McLoud big, then we came back to beat Harrah. The last day we beat McLoud and then beat Bethany twice. We’ve done this before, and it will be up to the girls to do it again.”
Piedmont will play the loser of Bethany-Cache Friday at noon.

FELDER: City’s image problem can be fixed in-house

Ben Felder, news editor

City leaders believe Piedmont has an image problem, or at least that was their claim when the council proposed hiring a public relations firm to help improve the city’s image last month. You know they must really think the image problem is a big deal because after saying the city is broke, by declining to match funds for a sewer project with the school district and providing little relief for our poor roads, the council appears willing to spend money on a PR firm for services that don’t come cheap.

Personally, I think hiring the services of a PR firm would be a waste of time and money but I do agree there is an image problem. Political fighting, recall elections, running off an experienced city attorney, firing an experienced city manager, losing your police chief and coming to a point where city hall is protected with police officers during council meetings as if it were Grand Central Station during rush hour are all things that will definitely lead to an image problem, especially when all outsiders see is the fighting and political rhetoric.

However, I think some of this could be taken care of in-house. I’ve worked in several small towns and Piedmont’s problems are not unique. I have seen cities respond appropriately to those challenges and create a solid future, and I have also seen cities fail to respond and set themselves up for even bigger challenges. I’m not a PR expert, but I do have some simple suggestions on how the city can improve its image in-house.

Transparency

I don’t have a problem with Jeff Davis being sworn in as a councilman, I just have a problem with when it happened and how long it took to be announced. Davis was voted on by the council and I believe the mayor had the authority to break the 2-2 tie. Davis should have been sworn in during the August meeting or at least at the September meeting. But Davis was sworn in three days before the September meeting and it took the city three days to officially announce him as the newest councilman.

While I don’t believe the intentions were bad, the move seemed sneaky, and flew in the face of transparency; something this council and mayor have preached since election day.

If the mayor didn’t want to wait until the September meeting to administer Davis his oath of office then a statement should have been released the day of Davis’ appointment. Use the city’s phone/text/email announcement service. Put the announcement on the city’s website, and call each council member. A press release or call to the local newspaper would have been nice, but not required.

There is a communication problem at city hall and it could be solved with a better website, a Twitter account and maybe even an outlet for the mayor to write personal messages to the citizens of Piedmont. Most newspaper editors won’t advise that because everything I just recommended actually hurts the newspaper. If the city announced Davis’ appointment on Friday with a city-wide release, the Gazette would have been scooped. But I think it’s better for people to receive timely information, no matter where it comes from. Instead an official announcement was not made until the council meeting. We had a story published online within minutes of the announcement but it should not have taken three days to become “public” knowledge.

Promote positivity

One of the biggest complaints I hear from city officials is the newspaper is too negative. In reality we are not positive or negative; we just report what happens. A newspaper is not a community cheerleader. We love to report positive stories, but it’s not our job to put a positive face on the city.

However, the city could promote more positivity. Another way to boost the city’s image might be to highlight the wonderful achievements in the town. Why not start each council meeting by recognizing a volunteer, service organization or student achievement in the community? Why not issue more proclamations to citizens that exemplify community spirit and strong citizenship? There are plenty of positive stories in Piedmont and I feel the Gazette does a great job of showcasing those stories, but the city could also do its part.

Hold more public events

This city shines during the few festivals we hold a year. Visitors to Founder’s Day, Fourth of July and the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting see the best part of Piedmont: it’s people. Holding more public events that give residents a chance to rub shoulders and talk about non-political issues would be a great way for the city to promote itself.

Those are three simple ways I feel the city could do a better job of promoting itself. The list could go on and this week on PiedmontToday.com I will be asking readers for their own ideas on how to promote the city and put our best face forward.

Our town does have an image problem but not just because of the negative reports on the nightly news. No one looks good on local TV news and some of our problems are the normal growing pains that all cities our size experience. But there are some simple steps that could be taken by our city leaders to improve our image and they don’t involve spending thousands of dollars with a PR firm.

Piedmont falls to Clinton, 42-10

Cassius Calhoun rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries in Piedmont's loss to Clinton on Friday night. (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont was trying to pull an upset over Clinton on Friday night, but struggled to hold onto the ball down the stretch as the Red Tornadoes pulled away with a 41-10 win over the Wildcats.

Clinton got off to a fast start, forcing Piedmont (2-3) to a three and out and then throwing a long pass for an early score. On the Wildcats next drive, Collin Bricker kept the drive alive on a fourth and one quarterback drive at his own 30 and then tossed a long bomb to Christian Foster for Piedmont’s only touchdown of the night. Bricker has success finding Foster through the air as the combination accounted for 149 of Bricker’s 177 passing yards.

Clinton broke out their traditional power attack on its next few positions and were able to find pay dirt again on a full back dive. The Red Tornadoes lead 14-7 after the first quarter. Piedmont wasn’t able to put an offensive attack together as the clock ticked down, but Jared Slavens intercepted a Clinton pass with 51 seconds left in the first half to preserve the 14-7 score.

The Red Tornadoes scored on its opening drive of the second half, after taking the kick to midfield. Cassius Calhoun made a number of tough, tackle breaking runs in the second half but wasn’t able to find the endzone. Calhoun gained 100 yards on 22 carries in the game. Midway through the third quarter, momentum completely swung away from the Wildcats.

Through halftime, Piedmont had committed only one penalty to Clinton’s six. A holding penalty called back a Calhoun rushing touchdown and while the Wildcats were able to get a field goal from Josh Brown to bring the score to 27-10, they were unable to really threaten Clinton for the rest of the game.
Piedmont started to force things in the final quarter, with Bricker throwing three of his four interceptions in the final frame. As a team, the Wildcats just weren’t able to string together a strong offensive series as the clock ticked down.

“We have to move on to Woodward now,” James Green said. “We’re going to look at our mistakes and go back and work on technique, but we’re not going to talk about this game after we get done watching film. We have to work on finishing.”

“We made some key mistakes, but so did Clinton,” Coach Craig Church said. “A lot of that is mental focus. I talked to the team after the game, and told them that our goal (of hosting a home playoff game) is still well within our reach. Now, that Woodward game becomes the Elgin game, it’s a must win. A win would set us up for where we want to be. This loss hurts right now, but our guys are mature and they will refocus and get back to work.”

Bricker finished with 177 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions on 12 of 25 passing. Calhoun rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries. Bricker ran for 7 yards on 10 carries. Tyler England had 11 yards on five carries late. Foster caught nine passes for 149 yards and a score. Zach Tucker and Calhoun hauled in a pass a piece, going for eight and 15 respectively.

Piedmont will travel to Woodward next week to take on the Boomers.

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