Marking 5 awesome years of getting to cover the local sports scene

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Tuesday of this week is the five-year anniversary of my time as the sports editor at The Daily Leader.

In my introductory column in 2018, I laid out how much this newspaper has meant to me as a lifelong resident of Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

However strongly I felt at that time about the importance of our town having a viable newspaper, my feelings have only grown over the last 1,827 days.

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I’ve seen some truly great plays, student-athletes and teams during that time.

And I’m not so egotistical to think that the management at the paper couldn’t have found someone else to do this job over these years that would be capable of producing similar results as myself.

However, I do think they’d be hard pressed to find someone who would care more than I have about the schools, communities and kids that we cover.

This is home for me. I want us all to look as good as possible, when possible.

The sports department of this community paper tries its best to cover the athletic teams at Brookhaven High School, Brookhaven Academy, Bogue Chitto, Enterprise, Loyd Star, West Lincoln, Wesson and Lawrence County along with Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Each of those schools has a proud fanbase that make up their community and they are the ones that help support the teams by going to the games, buying t-shirts from the cheerleaders and paying for sponsor signs that cover walls in gyms and fences around outfields.

Their support is vital, as there are few things sadder than when a team arrives to play a game, and no one comes to watch or cheer them.

You might not have seen that before, but I’ve witnessed it a couple times myself.

Once I was covering a football game at BHS and Wingfield was the visiting team. The Falcons from south Jackson were in the midst of a long losing streak and on that night, the Panthers had little trouble in securing a win.

You could count the fans in attendance to watch Wingfield on two hands. My respect for the young men on that team was tremendous as they deserved more recognition than what they were receiving.

And that’s what it’s all about for me, recognizing the student-athletes that give their time, energy and efforts in order to be part of a team.

The challenge that I enjoy the most is trying to tell a story that’s worthy of a great game or competition, especially on a tight Friday night deadline.

Rick Cleveland has long been one of my journalistic heroes along with Tom Goetz, Rick Reilly and the late Orley Hood.

I forget the exact wording of the quote, but I remember Rick relaying the advice given to him by his father when he started covering high school football as a young student himself.

Ace Cleveland told his son to go watch the game and write what he saw.

It sounds easy but can be made difficult when you see something amazing and have less than an hour to pull a story together.

Tyler Fortenberry scoring the game winning touchdown for Brookhaven Academy against Cathedral by jumping over a defender at the goal line, just as the final horn goes off.

Wesson, down to 16 healthy players last season in the opener against Tylertown, winning on a 2-point conversion with no time left on the clock to finish one of the most exciting high school football games these two eyes have ever seen by a 49-48 final score.

Loyd Star, having what they thought was the game winning score in overtime against St. Andrew’s called back by a penalty. The band was playing the fight song, the coaching staff was being mobbed by the team and the fans were fired up. So much so, that no one noticed a flag on the field that cancelled those previous results. Given one final play, the Hornets scored again, this time sealing that victory forever.

Those are a few times where I’ve stood on a sideline, with notepad in hand and asked myself – how am I supposed to write what I just saw and do these kids justice?

I hope I’ve been able to do that, and I always appreciate those who come up to me and let me know they enjoyed something I wrote.

Just as the support of the fans is vital to the overall well-being of a school, it’s important for this newspaper to have your support as well.

If you are a subscriber or a business that advertises with The Daily Leader, thank you.

We are very lucky to have so many brave folks in such a small town that are willing to put themselves into the often-difficult position of being small business owners.

I salute your entrepreneurial spirit and want you to know that when you buy an ad in these pages, you are also supporting local student-athletes and schools by allowing me to tell their stories.

I also owe a big thanks to Stacy Graning, the general manager of this paper, and to the people who’ve worked in similar roles during the last five years.

They understand that for me, this job is secondary to my main career as a teacher. They accommodate me in a whole host of ways, and I don’t ever take that for granted. I’m a teacher first and the happiest years of my personal life have been these last five as having this creative outlet to write has played a big part in that personal happiness.

The person I deal with the most at the DL office is longtime editor Brett Campbell. Brett is one of those people who shines the redemptive, restorative, transformational grace and love of Jesus Christ with no effort other than being himself. I consider him a great friend.

State championships, buzzer beating 3-pointers to win the game and dogpile on the pitcher’s mound – it’s all been a blast to watch and write about.

I was on the sideline of Troy Smith Field one Friday evening as I watched Bogue Chitto play a regular season football game. I can’t remember who the Bobcats and coach Gareth Sartin were playing, but I remember they were laying the wood to the visiting team.

With the victory secured, Sartin was making sure everyone got a chance at playing time. One of those players was a running back that I believe didn’t come out to play the sport until his senior year.

As he came off the field towards the sideline, he was loudly telling anyone that would listen how much fun he was having.

“This is awesome,” the happy Bobcat said as he came off the field and asked himself aloud why he hadn’t been playing football his whole career.

Sometimes you don’t need a $50 word to describe how good you feel about something.

Sometimes it can be said in three simple words, such as – this is awesome.

It’s a phrase I’ve muttered to myself more than a few times over the last five years while covering local sports in this paper and it’s something I hope to continue saying for many more years to come in this role.

Cliff Furr is the Sports Editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at