Tailgating for high school seniors to be held Thursday

FirstThursday

Northwestern State University’s Office of University Recruiting will sponsor a Whiteout Tailgate party for high school seniors Thursday, Sept. 3 from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p. m. near the Athletic Fieldhouse. Admission is free for high school seniors and their families.

City Bank and Trust Company of Natchitoches will provide food. The Office of University Recruiting will have free snow cones and Northwestern State giveaways.

Tickets to the Northwestern State-Southeastern Louisiana game will be available at a group rate of $5 for high school seniors and their families. Demon fans are encouraged to wear white for Thursday’s game as part of the annual Whiteout.

To RSVP, go to recruiting.nsula.edu.

Volleyball — NSU hosts UL Lafayette in rare early-season home match

_DSC2545[3]

Tuesday night holds a couple of firsts for the Northwestern State volleyball team.

When NSU hosts UL Lafayette at 7 p.m., it marks the first home match for coach Sean Kiracofe and the earliest home match for Northwestern State since 2009.

A year ago, NSU did not play a home match until Oct. 2 -15 matches into the season. This year, its home debut comes in match No. 4.

“They have definitely had a great home-court advantage here in the past, and we’re looking to continue that,” Kiracofe said. “It’s nice to play at home before you open conference. It’s nice to get used to the normal gameday experience.”

Northwestern State (1-2) opened the season with a win against Tennessee State before dropping matches to Oral Roberts and Ole Miss at the Magnolia Invitational.

Meanwhile, UL Lafayette (0-3) dropped all three matches in the Texas Tech Invitational, being swept by Houston, Texas Tech and Utah State.

There is familiarity between the state rivals as they have met in two of the past four seasons. Each team has grabbed a 3-1 home victory in that stretch.

The Cajuns took the victory last season when the rivals met in UL Lafayette’s Sawyer Camillo Classic.

“We kind of know each other off the court,” said Glynna Johnson, an all-tournament selection at the Sawyer Camillo Classic. “It’s fun.”

The Cajuns had a key veteran corps depart at the end of 2014 and are feeling their way through the early season.

NSU finds itself in a similar situation, one in which four freshmen made their debuts during the Magnolia Invitational.

“We’re both learning each others’ teams and trying to find a rotation,” Johnson said. “There are going to be a lot of new things, and we’ll probably have some weird plays go on, but at least it’s on both sides.”

With an influx of new talent on both sides, the results from the opening weekend were somewhat expected.

“They played a tough first weekend,” Kiracofe said. “They had glimpses of good volleyball and struggled at times. They’re going to be excited for an in-state rival. It should be a good match.”

All-tournament selection Lauren Agan paced Northwestern State in the opening weekend, delivering 32 kills across three matches.

It was the second all-tournament selection of Agan’s career as she was named all-tournament at last season’s North Texas Invitational.

“She’s a little bit of an unknown going into the first matchups we have,” Kiracofe said. “As she starts to put up those numbers, people will game plan around her, and she’ll gain a little more attention from the block. Then it’s a matter of staying consistent in what you’re doing. If someone takes away your best shot, you have to be able to adjust and be smart. She showed glimpses of that this weekend.”

Following Tuesday’s match, Northwestern State begins a three-week, nine-match road trip with three matches at the Bama Bash tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Football – Demons’ Cook itching for Thursday opener

Paxton Cook

Paxton Cook didn’t get his undergraduate degree in history but he takes note of it.

Thursday evening when Cook, who graduated magna cum laude this summer, and his Northwestern State football teammates take the field at Turpin Stadium, the Demons will wear white helmets for the first time in 14 years.

It’s the second annual White Out Game for NSU, adding the new white headgear to a new set of white uniforms that typically are worn for road games.  The Demons pulled on their new hats for the first time Sunday and had them on again Monday afternoon as coach Jay Thomas sent them through a two-hour workout getting ready for 19th-ranked, two-time defending Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana.

“Like Coach T says, you look good, you feel good, and you’re going to play good,” said Cook, who is taking 12 hours this fall and preparing for physical therapy school. “Hopefully it brings us a little swagger, and a little good luck. You look back and that Demon 2001 team was pretty good in those white helmets.”

Led by LSU transfer Craig Nall at quarterback and future Pro Bowler Terrence McGee in the secondary and on returns, the 2001 Demons made a run into the FCS playoffs.

Cook, who graduated this summer with a 3.73 grade point average in health and exercise science, knows enough Demon history to see some parallels. There’s a 50-50 chance NSU will start a transfer quarterback, two (Stephen Rivers, Joel Blumenthal) competing for the job with Demon veterans J.D. Almond and Daniel Hazlewood. Last year’s AP All-America all-purpose player Ed Eagan, a senior receiver and returner, offers explosiveness reminiscent of McGee’s versatility.

The matchup against SLU is especially appealing for Cook, a 5-9, 220-pound starting middle linebacker who has lettered three times since leaving Baton Rouge-Parkview Baptist. The grind of preseason camp is done and the adrenaline is rapidly rising.

“It’s been a couple weeks since we started gearing up toward them. Thursday can’t get here soon enough,” he said. “They’re a very proven team. They have a lot of athletes and a winning culture now, and that’s something we have to counter by going out and answering their intensity with our own, and then some.”

Enhancements to the game day scene around and in Turpin Stadium are evident, with fresh paint, a new north endzone staircase down from the Presidential Tailgating Party hosted by new NSU leader Dr. Jim Henderson, and other improvements and initiatives including a new student tailgating area bordering the southeast corner of the stadium.

“We’re excited to see the changes going out at and around the stadium, as we speak,” said Cook. “I think the fans Thursday night will see a transformed stadium, and a transformed team, one that is very eager to take care of business Thursday and the rest of the season.

“The camaraderie on our team this year is better than it’s ever been. These guys are willing to fight for the guy next to them, and in the fourth quarter that’s going to be a factor,” he said. “We’ve paid attention to the details, and when Thursday comes, we’ll free our minds, free our feet, and play fast.”

Cook hopes the Purple Swarm defense will replicate last year’s production, when it ranked fifth nationally by forcing 30 turnovers. NSU will have eight new starters trying to slow the Lions.

“The biggest things we will rely on are our heart, and our speed. I think that will bring turnovers our way,” said Cook. “We have to tackle well. This will be the first time we tackle somebody in a different jersey and I think it will set a tone for the entire season, the way we tackle Thursday night.”

The Demons will go through a 2:30 practice Tuesday putting on the final touches of the game plans for the 6 p.m. Thursday game against SLU, the first conference opener pitting Southland foes in a season opening game since 1992.

HMTCA students honored

Rachel McKenna Opbroek

Rachel McKenna Opbroek

Northwestern State University students Rachel McKenna Opbroek of Shreveport and K’Una Woods of Alexandria were named recipients of scholarships awarded by the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation.  The two are seeking degree in NSU’s hospitality management, tourism and culinary arts program and were recognized at the 2015 Five Star Futures Gala on Aug. 8 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. Opbroek is an entering freshman majoring in HMT who completed the Louisiana Restaurant Association ProStart program while a student at Caddo Magnet High School.

K’Una Woods

K’Una Woods

LRAEF supports the educational efforts of students on a path to a career in the culinary or hospitality industry and will award $70,000 to 33 students as part of the 2015 scholarship cycle. Scholarship awards are merit-based and presented to full-time students seeking a career in the restaurant, food service, tourism or hospitality industry.  LRAEF Program Manager Jennifer Jeansonne is a Natchitoches native and NSU alumna.

“Thank you to Jennifer Jeansonne, program manager, with Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation for her seeing the potential in our students,” said Landon Amberg, assistant professor in NSU’s HMT program.  “Ke’Una and Rachel are great choices by the LRAEF for scholarships.  They are representing the Northwestern State University HMT program for the first time as LRAEF scholarship recipients since the program was established in 1994.”

The LRAEF non-profit organization founded in 1995 to enhance the industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. He LRAEF Scholarship Fund was created to provide an opportunity to further educate culinary/hospitality students, industry employees and educators by giving financial support via scholarship funds with hopes that the recipients select the culinary and/or hospitality fields as a career choice or continue to work in the industry.

This fund allows recipients access to post secondary education in the culinary and/or hospitality fields or special certificate programs for educators or industry professionals. The scholarships are awarded for one time financial assistance.  The LRAEF Board of Directors, through its Scholarship Fund, has awarded over $270,000 in scholarships to Louisiana students to further their post-secondary culinary educations.

NSU’s HMT program is housed under the university’s School of Business in the College of Business and Technology.  For information on programming, e-mail Amberg at ambergl@nsula.edu.

All-American Eagan eager to learn NSU’s QB pick for Thursday opener

Northwestern State receiver Ed Eagan

Northwestern State receiver Ed Eagan

Northwestern State All-American receiver and return specialist Ed Eagan admits like everybody else, he’s eager to see who the Demons start at quarterback in their Thursday evening season opener at Turpin Stadium against Southeastern Louisiana.

Eagan has a vested interest. With 119 grabs, he’s nine catches away from becoming the Demons’ career receptions leader, and 740 yards from the career receiving yardage school record.

But he doesn’t think about that, or get worked up about starting the season against SLU, the two-time defending conference champ located an hour’s drive from his New Orleans hometown.

“No, I don’t. It’s a team effort. They have some great players, especially in the secondary, so it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m hoping we come together as a team and that’s how you win,” said the Holy Cross High School product, who has piled up his career receiving totals in just two seasons after playing cornerback as a true freshman.

Eagan’s production at receiver to date has been with 2014 senior quarterback Zach Adkins. Now he’ll count on getting throws from senior transfer Stephen Rivers, junior two-year letterman Daniel “Bear” Hazlewood, or sophomores J.D. Almond or Joel Blumenthal.

Demons’ coach Jay Thomas said he’ll likely set the quarterback rotation when the team resumes practice Sunday afternoon, although he will probably not announce it prior to NSU’s first offensive series following the 6 p.m. kickoff Thursday. All four players will continue to get repetitions in practice, and Thomas said all four could play.

That’s fine with Eagan, who is pleased at the progress he’s seen since the Demons reported for preseason camp Aug. 4.

“We’ve gotten a lot accomplished. All the quarterbacks have worked with the playbook and we’ve all gotten a lot done, gotten our timing down,” he said. “There’s still a lot to learn, but we’ve come a long way.”

While fans and coaches analyze the attributes of each quarterback, Eagan can also add some perspective away from the field.

“They’re all pretty funny, actually. They all have a good sense of humor, always joking, until it’s time to focus in on football and then they compete,” he said.

“Stephen’s pretty good at FIFA, a video game we like to play. We all joke around about FIFA, and I have to give him that. Bear has a lot of skills. He’s good at basketball. He thinks he could play here … they have some good athletes out there.”

Blumenthal, a mid-year transfer from Butler County (Kan.) Community College, is Eagan’s roommate.

“Joel is a lot like me, actually. He likes to focus in, doesn’t do anything crazy. We just hang out and when it’s time for football, go to work,” said Eagan.

Blumenthal’s blazing speed – he ran on an Oklahoma state champion 4×100 meter relay team at Deer Creek High School in Edmond, and his 40-yard dash time ranges between 4.3 and 4.4 – is eye-catching and explosive. It’s also the source of roommate rivalry.

“In the spring he had me by a step, but this summer I’ve been grinding really hard, and he’d let you know now that I’m a little faster now,” said Eagan, with a slow grin.