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Learning my way around my new home

By By Jeff Byrd
Aug. 30, 2001
Having moved from the small Alabama town of Andalusia to this growing mid-range city like Meridian has provided it's own little challenges during my first week on the job here at the Meridian Star.
Questions like, where am I going to live? And what will be the big daily question: where am I going to park?
That aside, it's nice to be back doing sports in Mississippi. I was the sports editor of the Bolivar Commercial in Cleveland for 12-plus years. And no, not once did Delta State win a national championship in football, like they did in 2000.
My tenure in the Delta ended in June of 1998. I spent the 1998 football season down in south Louisiana bayous as a stringer for the local paper there while also working for a local business paper.
For the past two-plus years, I was the sports editor in Andalusia, Ala., a town of about 9,000 in the middle of Covington County which resides above panhandle of Florida.
While I've never lived or work here before, I am familiar with Meridian having passed through or stayed the night en route to one of Alabama's smaller universities.
I'm also well aware of Meridian's sports past.
Next to Lusia Harris, the best basketball player to ever suit up for the Delta State Lady Statesmen came from Meridian. Her name was Crystal Hardy. I had the pleasure of watching Crystal lead the Lady Statesmen to two NCAA Division II National Championships, the last being in 1990 when the team capped a 32-1 season by blasting Bentley 77-43 in the national title game in Pomona, Calif.
While Crystal may have produced what most would consider average stats she never averaged more than 16 points per game in four seasons at DSU she was the most complete player that DSU had in my 12 years of covering the Lady Statesmen.
Her accomplishments were duly recognized in 1990 when she was named the Kodak Division II Player of the Year.
When I made my initial rounds through Lauderdale County, I was surprised to know that I already met one of the new local coaches.
He is Northeast Lauderdale's Andy Stevens. The first meeting came 15 years ago when Andy was an 18-year-old senior at Amory High School.
We both remembered the occasion because it occurred right after Amory had ended Rosedale's historic 40-game winning streak in 1987 in a fourth round, 3A playoff game, 29-28 in double-overtime.
In my first two years in Cleveland, I had witnessed Coach Leland Young's team win back-to-back 3A titles and go 14-0 in both season's to boot.
They won 12 more in 1987 before running into the Stevens' Amory Panthers. The game had a controversial ending because Amory was allowed a new set of downs after a fourth-down interference call.
Angry Rosedale fans wrote two months worth of "we wuz robbed letters."
But enough about that. I have so far been really pleased with the co-operation I've gotten from the area's coaches. Besides Stevens, I've also been able to personally meet Mac Barnes, Bill Sartin, and Dwane Taylor.
On Wednesday, I was able to touch base with Tom Goode at East Mississippi and Terry Underwood at East Central. Ironically, East Central will open at Mississippi Delta which will no doubt have a few kids who I covered when they were Little Leaguers in Cleveland.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, or e-mail him at sports@themeridianstar.com.

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