NFL stars coming to lift South Pike

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 7, 2008

Pike Countians and area football fans are in for a treat. NewYork Giants linebacker Danny Clark is bringing a herd of NFL starsto Magnolia and McComb next week for an inaugural Summer Sportsfestwhich will benefit the South Pike athletic program.

A series of events are planned, starting with a Monday CelebrityBowl and Silent Auction at the McComb Bowling Center. Among the NFLcelebs expected to be present are defensive end Will Smith of theNew Orleans Saints, South Pike grad and Houston Texans coach PerryCarter, linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears, defensive endDerrick Burgess of the Oakland Raiders and linebacker CharlieAnderson of the Miami Dolphins.

Anderson and Burgess are both Ole Miss products who have made itin the NFL.

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The cost is $10 for children and $25 for adults. Admissioncovers bowling, food and drinks.

There will be free Kids Football and Cheerleading ClinicsTuesday at South Pike, starting at 10 a.m.. Enrollment is limitedand applications are accepted on a first-come basis.

A Celebrity Basketball Game is scheduled for Tuesday night,starting at 6:30 p.m., in the South Pike Coliseum. Tickets are$10.

South Pike athletic director Tyrone Varnado, a 1994 SPHSgraduate, is delighted to have Clark and his group from FlyingColors Sports coming to Pike County. Varnado gives credit toClark’s wife, Chasity Tillman, for hatching the event. She is fromthe Pike County area and wanted to give something back to thecommunity.

The Clarks will be part of a large family reunion this weekendin Pike County,

“It will be wonderful,” said Varnado. “It’s great for our schooland the community.”

Varnado is in his seventh month as athletic director. Hereplaced Nelson Tate who retired in December.

Varnado played football and middle linebacker at South Pike forCoach Greg Wall. Varnado signed with Nicholls State but wound upgoing to Alcorn State University on an academic scholarship.

South Pike has long been a football powerhouse, winning threestate championships. The Eagles are currently under the directionof Randall Huffman.

Football and basketball are South Pike’s strengths but theEagles are competitive in other sports, too. Reclassification fouryears ago landed the Eagles in Class 3A. In football, they wereSouth State runners-up to Hazlehurst in 2005 when the Indianscaptured the state championship.

Speaking of Hazlehurst, Todd McDaniel is the new athleticdirector at the financially-strapped school. He has been workingovertime since being hired as AD and head football coach threeweeks ago.

Although the school is on academic probation, the Hazlehurstathletic teams remain a source of community pride. McDaniel, 31, a1995 Hazlehurst graduate, is an intimidating figure. He stands6-foot-4 and weighs 250 pounds.

McDaniel played football for Alcorn State University. He knowswhat is required for a football team and an athletic program to besuccessful.

For the last two years, McDaniel had been head coach at JacksonWingfield, a Class 5A school known best for its basketball program.He coached the Falcons to a winning season and the state playoffsin 2007.

Before his arrival at Wingfield, the Falcons had been severelygrounded and defeathered on the gridiron, going 5-49 over a 5-yearstretch.

“We are trying to get the program back in order,” said McDaniel,referring to the Hazlehurst athletic department. “We want to getthe right people in the right position.”

He replaced Vernon Perry, a former NFL player who coached theIndians for two years with mixed success.

Perry, you may recall, replaced Willie Brown who went toGreenville after gaining a state title at Hazlehurst. McDaniel wasdefensive coordinator under Brown before taking the Wingfieldjob.

McDaniel said Brian Miles, a Pennsylvania product, is the team’snew defensive coordinator. Andre Carter, new running backs coach,is from Brookhaven.

According to McDaniel, summer weightlifting and conditioningworkouts are going well. “The kids are real enthusiastic aboutit.”

In other sports, Brookhaven assistant coach Chastidy Sandifer, aHazlehurst grad, has been hired to direct the girls basketballprogram. “She’s from Hazlehurst and she loves the school,” saidMcDaniel.

Sandifer played for Copiah-Lincoln Community College andMississippi College before launching a career in coaching andteaching.

His younger brother, Robert McDaniel, Jr., will coach the boysbasketball team. Their father, the late Robert McDaniel, wasHazlehurst’s superintendent of education. He passed away five yearsago.

The Indians kick off preseason football practice Aug. 4, thesame day that school begins. McDaniel said 45 athletes have beenparticipating in offseason work.

Hazlehurst debuts Aug. 29, at Franklin County.

In the meantime, McDaniel will try to spend as much time aspossible with his wife, Janet, and their four daughters: Paris,Jayla, Jasmine and Andrea Burrell.

Coaching is not an 9 to 5 job.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail