Her older sister was quiet, studious and not too sporty. So who was the expect that the younger sister would be loud and make the game-winning hit as a freshman who was in her third game ever?
But Keziah Mendez won the wild cheers of the hometown fans, hitting a smartly-angled ball over the net that Gorman Learning Center couldn’t return for the last point of the game.
She’s 5’0″, and prior to joining Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica, she had never played volleyball, not even at church.
“That was really nice,” she said modestly, deflecting credit. “I missed multiple passes. I hit a few balls that were out. The one ball that was in, I let it go by. The girls on the team are very nice, and the coach is very encouraging.”
Everyday, before class gets underway with academics, Allie Scribner asks for prayer to grow four more inches — to be an even more competitive volleyballer.
Those four inches would have come in handy on Tuesday. Hillcrest Christian School, with taller girls, deployed effective blocking to stymie Lighthouse Christian Academy’s spiking game.
Lighthouse lost in five sets: 25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 16-25, 9-15.
The girls huddled in prayer after their first loss in four games so far this season.
“Lighthouse was so good at digging the ball that it got in our heads ,” admits Hillcrest Coach Michael Westphal, commenting on a battled, drawn-out victory that required the full five games to liquidate.
Lighthouse employs a dynamic style of play that culminates in spiking even when it starts with some of the most mind-boggling digs. It’s a team effort that has steamrolled so far this season.
To knockdown the LCA powerhouse, Hillcrest put to good use its mostly taller players. About one-third of the spikes fell back to Lighthouse, which mostly couldn’t pop back up to keep in play.
She actually signed her Shakespeare Sonnet quiz “Queen Elizabeth.”
Maybe she was being facetions, but later Thursday afternoon, she appropriated the title on the volleyball court by completing the reign of terror of Lighthouse Christian Academy’s strike force.
Dahlia Gonzalez and Clara Czer (also Frida Macias) provided the crossing spikes from opposite corners, creating havoc to the well-organized Gator team.
Then, senior Elizabeth Foreman provided the quick surprise shot from the middle that caught off guard forces deployed to deal with deadly corner attacks.
Accordingly, Lighthouse won 3 of 4 sets to extend its season winning streak to three.
After narrowly losing its first game 23-25, LCA won the second game 25-18, its third 25-19 and its fourth 25-20 in hard-fought, adrenaline-surging match.
After flaying the Gators, Lighthouse was feeling Gucci.
Lighthouse started sleepy. It seems like one of LCA’s problems is hitting its stride. In the first set, the Saints miffed spikes and serves go down 4-12. Eventually, they found their form and closed the gap, not enough to win though.
The Lighthouse Christian Academy launched its girls volleyball season Thursday and Zeus showed up for the win.
The latest incarnation of Zeus is sophomore Dahlia Gonzalez, who rained down lightbolts upon the hapless San Fernando Valley Academy Huskies. LCA won in three straight sets 25-10, 25-4 and 25-14.
Their attack was pointedly improved over last year, which was a positive season with 8 wins and 3 losses. The speed of serves and spikes, plus the downward angles, showed solid improvement. Last year’s team was formed with a solid core of sophmores and freshmen, a portent for future dominance.
When his family left Texas, little 9-year-old Mack Calvin saw poverty and physical and verbal abuse under the drunken terrors of his father. His family was evicted many times, so Mack moved from school to school and his learning suffered. In college, he read at a 7th grade level.
So when the 100 colleges offering him basketball scholarships saw his 1.9 GPA on his transcript, they shut the doors to him. “This boy’s dumb,” Mack imagined they said of him.
“My father was always drunk. It was kind of embarrassing when he came to my baseball or basketball games drunk,” Mack told God Reports. “God said to me, ‘You’re not going to ever drink. I didn’t want to be like my dad. I detested the anger he displayed towards my mother when he was intoxicated.
Ultimately, Jesus had big things for Mack, who eventually became a Hall of Famer in basketball. In August, he’s running free youth basketball camps in Long Beach, aiming to help impart values to underprivileged kids and teach them about Jesus.
Born on a farm in Ft Worth, Texas, Mack’s family was middle class and never lacked food. But his dad was an irascible, foul-mouthed drunk who decided to move the family to Los Angeles. His continuous gambling impoverished the family, and they went from eviction to eviction until they arrived at the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Watts.
Right next door, there was a gym where Mack played and practiced continuously until age 15, before the family moved to Long Beach.
“I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to be like my father,” he says. “I wanted to be great. I wanted to be special. I worked hard.”
Parks & Recreation coaches took the raw material in Mack and formed a high-caliber player. At Long Beach Polytechnic High, Mack led his team to back-to-back CIF championships both years he was on the varsity team. He was all-CIF, the state sports organization for high schools.
Colleges wanted him. But his schools had put him into wood shop class, metal shop and special education; he fell victim to the instability of his home. So off to Long Beach City College he went. Mack led his team to championships.
Coaches Chuck Kane and Bill Barnes turned his academics around. Starting him in easier academic classes and connecting him with tutoring, the coaches transformed the academic underachiever into a Dean’s List student.
After two years in the community college, Mack accepted a scholarship offer at USC, where he broke UCLA’s 41-game winning streak with his tenacious play. What the 6’0” point guard lacked in stature, he made up with sheer grit and determination.
Out of college, Mack played seven stellar seasons for the American Basketball Associating until it merged with the NBA in 1976. He was an ABA all-star five times and was named to the ABA all-time team
“You’re talking to a miracle,” Mack admits. “It was by the grace of God. God has always been at the center of everything in my life, no matter what I accomplished, no matter what accolades, no matter what money I made.”
Joining the NBA, he played for the Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Jazz and Cavaliers before retiring after the 1981 season. He did some stints as a coach, including for the Lakers and for the Virginia Squires.
For 44 years, he’s sponsored a basketball camp to give back to the communities where he’s lived. “I want to always aspire to make a difference,” he says. He’s mindful of the hardships of his own upbringing.
He’s always attended church. In college he participated in college sports faith groups. On the road, he’s attended whenever it was Sunday, as long as there wasn’t a game. Today, he attends Bishop Charles Blake’s West Angeles Church of God in Christ.
“I loved the spirit that came from the church,” Mack says. “I’ve always had the… Read the rest: Mack Calvin Christian
With $2.7 million on the line to win or lose the most legendary golf tournament in the world, the fabled Masters of Augusta, Georgia, 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler, who had won his first PGA Tour title only weeks earlier, broke into tears of nervousness on the morning of the final day.
“I cried like a baby this morning, I was so stressed out,” he admitted later.
His wife, Meredith, a strong Christian, told him: “Who are you to say that you’re not ready? Who are you to say that you know what’s best for your life?”
“If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by 10 shots, if you never win another golf tournament again, I’m still going to love you,” she said. “You are still going to be the same person, Jesus loves you, and nothing changes.”
Scheffler was grateful for her wisdom, “What we talked about is that God is in control and the Lord is leading me and if today’s my time, then it’s my time…if I shot 82 today then somehow I was going to use it for His glory.”
His wife’s advice and the Lord’s presence helped calm his nerves, and Scottie coolly chipped his way to the championship. As he donned the storied green jacket given to Master’s tournament winners, Scottie spoke about his Christian faith.
“All I’m trying to do is glorify God,” he said. “That’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m in this position and so for me it’s not about a golf score. I need a Savior and that’s probably one of the coolest things about our faith is recognizing your need for a Savior.”
Scheffler was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but moved with his family to Dallas, Texas when he was six. Throughout grade school Scheffler, filled with a fascination for professional golf, would wear golf attire to school, even though his peers made fun of him.
He attended Highland Park High School, where he played both golf and basketball, and then the University of Texas, where it was strictly golf. He helped the team win multiple championships.
It was in college that Scheffler “truly felt alone and didn’t know what to do.” He then started attending church and began to give his heart to God, piece by piece. “Gradually with time he just started taking over my heart,” he recalls.
With one arm amputated, Christian dunker Hansel Enmanuel is winning high school games and has D-1 scholarship offers from Tennessee State and the University of Memphis.
“It’s not about what I want to achieve or do in life, it’s what God wants from me,” Hansel told the Orlando Sentinel. “God always has a purpose. I am living His mission, what He wants me to do in this life. Everything I do, I do it with God first and for my family; they are everything [to me].”
To see young hotshots slaloming through opponents and dunking on them is enough to generate a buzz in the basketball world. But he does it with one arm.
Hansel was born in the Dominican Republic. His father, Hansel Salvador, was a professional basketball player on the Caribbean Island. But he grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods. He developed a love and passion for basketball as a kid.
Tragedy struck when he was only six-years-old. When he clambered up on a wall of cinder blocks, they came crashing down and trapped his arm under a block for two hours before he could be rescued. When his father took him to the hospital, doctors determined that his tendons were shattered and they could do little to save his arm.
“My life fell apart when Hansel’s accident happened. I was the one with him and when they had to amputate his arm, I felt like it was all over. But God grabbed us and led us down this path,“ his father said. “You remember everything [from the accident] because a blow like this is not forgotten so quickly, regardless of all that he is achieving, thanks to God.“ Read the rest: One armed baller Hansel Enmanuel is Christian.
The day of reckoning wasn’t when Kurt Warner was unexpectedly thrust on the field as the Rams’ quarterback amid predictions of failure after the first-string QB was seriously injured.
The day of reckoning came years earlier when his wife’s parents were killed by a tornado. That’s when Kurt saw how genuine her faith was – and came to real faith himself.
“Before that my faith was always like: God was out there and whenever I needed him, he was like my spare tire. I get a flat, pop out the spare, God I need this,” Kurt says on an I am Second video. “When her parents were killed by a tornado, she didn’t have all the answers. She was angry. She was willing to call out to God and ask God why and yell and scream.
“But she never lost her faith. She didn’t walk away from God,” Kurt adds. “It was at that moment that I realized that everything she had been talking to me about, this is what it looks like. This is what it is supposed to be. It was at that time that I really committed my life to Jesus.”
By the time Kurt saw himself leading the Rams into the Super Bowl, he was already forged by the furnace. His improbable ascent to NFL Hall of Famer as an undrafted quarterback is the stuff of a consummate underdog. His story – and faith – is portrayed by American Underdog, a movie released in theaters Dec. 25.
Kurt dreamed of football from childhood. The game was a cherished memory he shared with his dad, who left in a divorce.
In college, Kurt was a hotshot with a pinpoint aim, but he had the nasty habit of rolling out of the pocket and making his own plays, not the plays ordered by his coach. For his lack of discipline, the University of Northern Iowa coach kept him on the bench for three seasons.
According to the movie (which sticks closely to his real-life story), he begged for a chance to play, and coach finally leveled with him. He needed to stay in the pocket, a protected bubble formed by collapsing linemen around the QB, to give him time to find a receiver.
As a drill to see if Kurt could handle the pressure, Coach sent wave after wave of defensive linemen crashing into him to hurt him and see if he would stand up under pressure. It worked.
Kurt was named Gateway Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and first team all-conference.
At the same time, Kurt met the girl who became his wife and the catalyst to his faith.
The odds were against him striking up a relationship with Brenda. She loved country music; he hated it. Even worse, she detested football.
But as God would have it, Kurt went with his friend to a country-western bar where he was smitten by her good looks and decided he’d better learn to barn dance.
Steam-roll, blast, defeat, thrash, shellac, rout, conquer, trounce, humble, squash, dominate, or dismantle – just a few of the ways sports competitors wish to deal with their opponents.
Coco Gauff prays for her opponents.
“Before every match since I was eight, my dad and I say a prayer together,” Coco told Christian Headlines. “We don’t really pray about victory, just that me and my opponent stay safe.”
Cori “Coco” Gauff has a notable sports pedigree. Her parents were NCAA Division 1 athletes who supported her journey to professional tennis, sacrificing careers and comfort (Mom left a good job and house in Atlanta to move in with grandparents and homeschool in Florida for better training opportunities).
The move paid off.
In the 2019 French Open, Coco entered as a virtual unknown, receiving a wildcard invitation. Coco kept beating highly ranked girls. Then she faced the legendary Venus Williams, ranked 40th in the world at that time.Read the rest: Coco Gauff Christian.
Steve Weatherford — whose punting pinned the Patriots back deep in their zone to help the Giants win Superbowl XLVI — says all his heroics were a vain attempt to get the approval of his father.
“I was trying to get the attention of my dad,” Weatherford says on a 7 Figure Squad video. “During a lot of those amazing achievements, I didn’t really enjoy them because the reason I was achieving them was I needed some affirmation from the most important person: dad.”
Today, Weatherford has found peace, approval and acceptance from Jesus, leaving behind the inner turmoil that led him to drugs and porn despite his outward appearance of success and manliness.
Born in Indiana, Steve Weatherford was raised in Baton Rouge. From an early age, he showed inclination for sports, playing football, soccer, basketball and track in high school. He didn’t enjoy the greatest relationship with his stoical, old school-style father.
The foray into sports began as a means to win his father’s approval. He worked out in the gym incessantly. As a result of his impressive physique, rumors circulated around town that he had bulked up thanks to “the juice.” One day, his dad even called him at school and told him to come over to the office.
“Oh crap, what did I do?” he wondered as he drove over to Dad’s. “Oh my God, I’m really in trouble.”
“There’s rumors around town that you’ve been taking steroids,” Dad said. “I’m not mad at you, but I want to get you help.”
“Initially I was really offended. I wanted to lash back,” Steve remembers. “But then I sat back into my chair and I thought to myself, ‘My dad thinks that I’ve done something with myself that is impossible to do without cheating.’”
“Dad, you might not believe me but I’ve done this 100% the right way,” he responded. “I’ll take a test right now.”
It was the closest thing to a compliment that he ever got from his dad.
Weatherford proceeded to the University of Illinois as a kicker and punter. He also played track and was named Sports Illustrated’s most underrated athlete in the Big Ten in 2004. He walked on to the New Orleans Saints and played for four teams before landing with the New York Giants.
Punters are usually wimps, by NFL standards. All they have to do is kick well. But Weatherford had the build of a lineman as a punter. He maintained a maniacal workout and diet regimen that got him featured in bodybuilding magazines.
On the outside, he was achieving his wildest dreams. But on the inside, he was losing battles. He watched porn and started taking percocet.
“I worked so hard to get into the NFL. I worked so hard to become the fittest man in the NFL twice. I worked so hard to (win the) Walter Peyton man of the year community service award. I worked so hard to become a Superbowl champion,” Weatherford says. “Looking back on my life, those were all predicated on getting my dad’s attention.”
Superbowl XLVI was a dream. The Giants were playing against Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Weatherford punted four times with such distance and precision that the Patriots found themselves in their own 10 and five yards — a marathon distance to touchdown. When the Giants came out on top, some observers called Weatherford the MVP.
A punter MVP?
Weatherford basked in the glory of his achievements. He looked over to Dad. He wanted so desperately for his father to clap him on the back, give him a bear hug and lavish patriarchal praise. Read the rest: Steve Weatherford Christian
Frida Macias is emblematic. She likes art and architecture. At least once a day, she laughs until she cries. She’s happy-go-lucky.
But Frida and her teammates, facing the toughest team in the league, didn’t have happy feet. On Thursday in Camarillo, Beacon Hill Academy delivered hits that feel like lightning bolts from Zeus, and a lot of their serves landed like attacks.
Lighthouse Christian Academy, if it was going to put a fight, had to move quickly on the court.
They didn’t. LCA lost in three straight sets: 10-25, 14-25, 11-25.
“We shouldn’t let so many balls drop,” Coach Jessica Young said. “When they decide to work hard and sacrifice their bodies, then we’ll be better.”
So happy feet that move fast.
“I feel like I could have done better by moving my feet,” Frida said. “But overall I think I did really good for this good team. At sometimes I was a little frustrated with myself because I wasn’t really moving my feet.”
LCA also needed to dive to return lightning bolts.
For WACKY Wednesday, Clara Czer wore impossible hair to school. For WHACKING Tuesday, the sophomore was whacking balls down upon her adversaries.
Lighthouse Christian Academy made full use of her hits (13) and kills (5) to beat San Fernando Valley Academy 3 sets to 1 in an intense girls volleyball competition Tuesday in Northridge.
“Clara was pretty consistent the whole game. She was almost flawless,” Coach Jessica Young said. “She has come a long way from junior high. She is able to control her emotions. She’s probably our best hitter right now. She has pushed herself harder and harder, and she can spike it almost straight down.”
In the last, hard-fought set that drew out to 30-28, Coach Jessica instructed the team to “play smart” in the last back-and-forth trading “just one point to win” moments. Just get the ball over and don’t try to be too aggressive.
Clara still did — successfully — back row spikes.
“I thought inside, ‘Oh she didn’t listen to me,” Coach said. “For her ‘playing smart’ is that aggressive. But she got it in.”
Nobody complains if you don’t mess up.
Lighthouse is now 8-1 and almost virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. Its last season game is Thursday against league-leaders Beacon Hill Classical.
“We had a lot of great team energy. I’m just really proud of us,” Clara said. “I think all of us are really improving. I’m so proud.”
Lighthouse struggled in the first set to adapt. SFVA hosted the game in its Northridge gym, a court covered with carpet. This took LCA off guard because the Saints usually dive for balls.
“At least two of our girls have rug burns,” Coach Jessica said. “They’re bleeding.”
The SFVA gym also had an unusually low roof, and the Saints lost more than one volley just because they hit with their accustomed strength. When the ball hits the roof or a fixture before going over, it’s the other team’s point. They lost the first set 20-25.
Suddenly, the volleyball court disappeared and the scene of a hot and dusty Wild West town emerged.
As a tumbleweed rolled lazily along in the scorching breeze and innocent bystanders scampered for cover, Allie Scribner, hands readied for her quickest draw, squinted sternly at her rival, Westmark’s Katherine Abraham.
When the ref blew the whistle, the gunslinger Allie fired, a blistering serve… straight at the person best able to return it, Katherine.
“I wanted to ace their best player,” Allie explained afterward. “I wanted to make them feel pain.”
It might seem that to liquidate the game efficiently, it was in Lighthouse Christian Academy’s interest to target easy victims with the deadly gunfire.
But when the spirit of posse justice possesses her, Allie turns into a merciless marksman.
“Number 1 had really good serves and overall played really well with the girls,” admitted Katherine, who herself was a powerful player and struck fear into the Santa Monica private school’s heart. Read the rest: Christian private school near Venice, CA – volleyball
After Gorman Learning Center punked Lighthouse girls volleyball 12-25, maybe thought they had the match in the bag. After all, the scored showed a solid domination in Valencia Thursday.
But Allie Scribner got mad.
And game 2 was a role reversal. The freshman got mad and served a string of unreturnable serves. She smashed 11 blistering bowling balls down the alley (get it? For Allie). After rotating through, another six aces and near-aces to rack up points for Lighthouse Christian Academy.
How did Lighthouse answer GLC’s lopsided 12-25, a message of mercilessness and intention to humiliate?
Lighthouse responded by winning the second set 25-11.
They one-upped them by one point.
Houston, we have a problem.
Where did the dramatic turnaround come from?
There are two answers. The Saints complained the pacing of Game 1 was slow. They made sloppy mistakes and looked lethargic. They came alive in Game 2.
The second answer was the sweet-faced freshman-turned-furious-face Allie Scribner.
Lighthouse Christian Academy unrelentingly buried volleyball rivals Hillcrest, which fought fiercely for life in the third and final set, battling each rally up to a minute. The final 30-28 meant Hillcrest returned home without consolation.
With solid hits, serves and life-saving digs, Sarah Montez led the mostly freshman team in the 3-set sweep.
But there’s something funny about her leadership. The 5’3″ senior only took to volleyball only out of a sense of obligation.
“I have to make it my duty to serve my school and team because they are my family at the end of day,” Sarah says.
After modernism, postmodernism and existentialism staged a coup on our intellectual framework, the antiquated concept of duty has fallen into almost complete disuse. Ridiculed and deconstructed by philosophers, literary titans and intelligentsia, the concept of duty is a quaint castoff gone the way of knights and lances from the times of chivalry.
Sarah committed to volleyball out of duty to her school. She practiced assiduously, joined a summer beach volleyball program and hit the gym.
All that commitment paid off Wednesday. She whacked the ball, rallied her players, guided the team to a hard-scrabble superiority.
When a driver found Mo Isom suspended by her seatbelt upside down in her rolled Jeep, with her face bloodied following an accident, she kept saying with a smile: “God is beautiful.”
Mo had asked God to “wreck” her life after her father committed suicide.
“I didn’t realize that God would answer my prayer so literally,” Mo says on a 100 Huntley video. “My vehicle lost control, flipped three times and landed upside-down in a ravine at 1:30 in the morning. He wrecked my life, but He revealed himself to me in that wreckage.”
Mary Isom (simply “Mo”) an All-American soccer star, fiercely loved her perfectionist father, who gave her the silent treatment when she fell short.
Of course, this developed into a performance-based understanding of God. “I do good things, I get blessings,” she explains. “I do bad things, God turns his back on me.”
Mo looked forward to college as a fresh beginning. As a soccer star on the team at Louisiana State University, Mo wanted to leave behind the bulimia she struggled with in high school.
At college, she stumbled across Matt 11:28: Come to me, all who are weary or burdened and I will give you rest.
The verse ministered to her greatly.
But then her dad put a bullet through his heart Jan 3., 2009 in Huntsville, Alabama, when his business soured.
“I was punctured as deep as you could imagine,” she remembers. “It left a gaping hole in my heart.”
The relationship she was trying to develop with God unraveled as guilt, shame, blame, grief, and rage cascaded unchecked through her heart.
She prayed with a sense of urgency: “God, if You are real, do something.”
Namely, Roxy Photenhauer — or simply “Pho” — who smacked the volleyball with vengeance to inspire her team, the Lighthouse Christian Academy, to fight until death in their attempt to repeat their season opening win.
In a thrilling 5-game match that saw Lighthouse teeter on the brink of losing in three close sets, LCA lost to always-tough rivals Newbury Park Adventist Academy in varsity volleyball Thursday. Two days earlier, Lighthouse handily defeated Pilgrim School of Burbank.
In set 3, the Newbury Park crowd erupted in cheers as one of their champion hitters thundered a ball down upon their rivals, only to be silenced by an impossible dig that fired it sneakily over the net unanswered.
The astonishing response came from sophomore Roxy Photenhauer, the last-born in a chain of same-named athletes and artists who have graced LCA’s hallowed halls.
“Roxy dug a ball pretty much as good as an Olympian could do it,” remarked Coach Jessica Young. “The other team was cheering for her.”
Roxy’s digging and serving — along with some mental toughness from her fellow Saints — sparked a comeback drive.
The potato chip — that quintessential diet-doomer with its overkill of salt, fat and, yes, sugar — fed medal-winner Gabby Thomas’s running.
Gabby munched chips before getting on the track and burning everybody.
“My first love was soccer,” Gabby says on Humbl Nation. “A lot of my soccer skill was speed-related. My college recruit came to watch my soccer game. I was just doing it to do it. I kind of fell into track. In high school, I was just having fun with it. After my sophomore year, I started to take it more seriously. Then with college, it became an option.”
Gabrielle Thomas won bronze in the women’s 200-meter dash. In addition to track, she’s an academic — a graduate from Harvard University — and a born-again Christian.
Just weeks before the Olympic trials, Gabby got an MRI for a hamstring injury and doctors also spotted a tumor in her liver. It was a cancer scare, but the growth turned out to be benign.
“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I am going to go out and win trials. I’m going to do everything I can to live my life to the fullest,’” she says on the Today Show.
It was Gabby’s mom, an academic in Massachusetts, who re-directed her into track. “I signed up for softball, and she said, ‘No, you’re doing track.’”
Mom says that Gabby used to eat potato chips — a snack not typically associated… Read the rest: Gabby Thomas Christian
There were plenty of things to blow Sydney McLaughlin’s concentration. The 400-meter hurdler was under strain from the months of preparation. There were bad practices, three false starts, and a meet delay.
Glaringly, right in front of her was her chief rival, the woman who beat her last time, Delilah Muhammad. Sydney figured she’d have to catch Delilah, whose explosive start out of the blocks was unbeatable.
But in the midst of her doubts and distractions, Jesus spoke to her heart: Just focus on Me.
Not only did Sydney beat her rival in the Olympic qualifiers a month ago, she set a new world record, breaking the 52 second barrier that no woman has ever bested in the 400 meter hurdles.
“The Lord took the weight off my shoulders,” she wrote later on Instagram. “It was the best race plan I could have ever assembled.”
The 21-year-old from New Jersey took the gold in Tokyo, beating her own record with a time of 51.46 seconds. She’s been called the new “face of track.”
It all began with a chocolate bar.
For her first race as a little tyke, her parents promised her a chocolate bar if she won. Her mom was a high school track star, and her dad was a semi-finalist in 400 meters for the 1984 Olympic Trials. Running, she says, “runs” in the family.
She started at age six, following in the footsteps of her older brother and older sister, who ran track.
Her first track meet was two towns away, and that’s when she got promised the chocolate bar. She won and enjoyed her candy.
Some shed tears. Others dedicate their win to Mom. A few make political statement with clenched fists or whatnot.
Fiji’s seven-man rugby team broke into a song of worship when gold medals were hung around their necks at the Tokyo summer Olympics after they stunned New Zealand 27-12. It was their second, back-to-back gold, and for such a small nation in the South Pacfic, monumental. They sang:
We have overcome We have overcome By the blood of the Lamb And the word of the Lord.
In a time of self-aggrandizing superstars and political propagandists, a showing of sheer joy and spontaneous rejoicing to God is refreshing. The words of their triumphal song come from Revelations 12:11 And they overcame the devil by blood of the Lamb and bthe word of their testimony.
Their victory is also a highlight to Fijians who are currently languishing under strict lockdown, being scourged by Covid.
“Last Olympics we gathered in numbers, tears flowed and bells were rung. Tonight in the middle of a pandemic and (with) Fiji under curfew, pots and pans ring, fireworks go off in yards and the cheers from every house can be heard,” tweeted Fiji Broadcasting Corporation presenter Jaquee Speight.
Due to Covid, Fiji players were called upon to practice 5 months in quarantine. That meant, they couldn’t go home and see their families, and some of the players barely stood the pressure of being away.
Two words turned track star Quanesha Burks around after an injury dimmed her chances to make it to the Tokyo Olympics: BUT GOD.
“A few months ago, I was dealing with severe bone bruising in my femur and two strained tendons in my patella and popliteus,” Quanesha wrote on Instagram June 30th. I couldn’t physically bend my leg yet alone walk or run properly.
“BUT GOD,” she declared in faith.
Then the Olympic star explained how her attitude, prayer and positivity allowed her not only compete but make it on America’s Olympic team.
“I couldn’t control the injuries or what my future held. But I decided to embrace every day with prayer, positivity, and continuing to be a blessing to others,” Quanesha says. “I refused to let the setback determine my outcome and I knew God didn’t bring me this far to leave me.”
Born in Ozark, Alabama, Quanesha Burks had a small-town girl mentality. She even worked at McDonald’s after track practice to pay her grandmother’s car insurance. (But judging from the shape she’s in, perhaps she didn’t over-indulge on fries and shakes.)
“When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” Burks told Sports Illustrated. “I was making $100 every two weeks. It’s terrible, but I came to work every day happy and I knew it was all part of my goal to go to college.”
Quanesha is a hard-working Christian girl who put her life into God’s hands.
At Hartselle High School, she placed third in the triple jump at the 2012 USATF Junior Olympics and won a 100-meter dash/long jump/triple jump triple at the 2013 state championships.
All the while, she drove grandma to work every morning at 4:30 a.m. and her sisters to school and after track practice, she logged hours flipping burgers and ringing up orders at McDonald’s from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Since she excelled in sports, she hoped she might get a scholarship to college. She would be the first in her family to attend higher education. She researched and found she needed to… Read the rest: Quanesha Burks Christian
Some dragons you can slay once and for all, others, come back.
That’s what Christian UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler says. He should know.
Plagued by a small-town mentality for most of his life, Chandler — who is widely regarded in the arena of glove-less grapple — went 688 days without a win. He suffered three straight losses.
“That small guy from that small town inside my brain still tugs at me from time to time,” he says on the Ed Mylett podcast. “It was definitely the hardest time of my life. Some dragons, you slay and you slay them they’re dead. You cut them off at the head. You never see them again.
“But then some dragons you just get good at pinning them,” he adds. “I’m probably never ever going to be able to slay him, but I have gotten really, really good at duct-taping him to the basement of my mind, with a big old roll of duct tape and taping over his mouth.”
Today, Chandler fights, owns a mixed martial arts gym, and speaks on the motivational circuit. He’s a devout Christian who says God called him into the arena to use it as a platform to talk about Jesus.
“God pulled me into this sport and pushed me in the direction of mixed martial arts to be put on a platform not just to be good, but to be great, not just to be great, but to be impactful,” he says.
A God-fearing man feared by many men, Michael Chandler was born in High Ridge, Missouri, population 4,300. His father was a union carpenter.
In high school, he played football and wrestled, the latter at which he excelled, being selected to the All-St. Louis Team his senior year. He walked on to the University of Missouri wrestling squad, where he collected 100 wins and was four-time NCAA Division I qualifier.
Training in mixed martial arts, he excelled at Strikeforce in 2009 and then Bellator MMA where he won his first 12 bouts.
“I came out shot out of a cannon, won my first 12 fights, finished most of most of them in the first period or in the first round,” he remembers.
The end of her running — the end of her very identity — came when Olympian Morolake Akinosun hit a wall at the end of a race in 2018 and ruptured her Achilles tendon.
“The Achilles is the strongest tendon in the human body, and you need it to do literally everything: walk, jump, crawl, climb stairs, stand up, sit down,” Morolake says on an I am Second video. “I had it surgically repaired but I was being told, ‘Hey, you might never be the same runner that you were ever again. This may be a career-ending injury for you.’”
What rescued Morolake was her spiritual community.
“For the first time I realized that I was surrounded by people who believed in me and not only did they believe in me, they believed that God had a plan for my life and that He was still going to be faithful through it all,” she says.
Morolake Akinosun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to parents who were Christian pastors. The family immigrated to America when she was two years old, and she flourished at track and field at the University of Texas at Austin, where she won consistently.
“Every training cycle is about figuring out how can I break my body,” she says. “We push ourselves to the limit, breaking your body apart and coming back the next day and doing it over and over again.”
In prelims for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, her teammates dropped the baton in between the 2nd and 3rd leg of the relay race. Morolake, who stood waiting at the 4th spot, was stunned.
“In that moment I had that thought of like, ‘Wow, I’ve trained what feels like your whole life for a moment that now seemed to be gone and stripped from me within the blink of an eye,’” she remembers.
As it turns out, the American women’s team was allowed to re-run the qualifying race. In the final competition, they took gold.
But everything she trained for her entire life was stripped away when she crashed into the wall on that fateful day in 2018.
Angry thoughts ran through her mind toward God: I thought this is what I was supposed to be doing and if this is what I’m supposed to be doing then why did You take it away from me? she questioned. My identity was built in track and field. Read the rest: Morolake Akinosun Christian track starruptured her Achilles
Daniel Chand loved to fight. As a boxer in Greenwich, England, he was a champion in the ring. On weekends at the pub he liked to raise hell and often found himself in drunken beer brawls.
But then he got arrested for really hurting someone and faced eight years in jail.
“I remember being outside the court room and I prayed to God to give me one more chance,” Daniel told the UK News Shopper. “The next thing I knew, the trial collapsed.”
Chand still loves to fight. But he has traded punching for preaching.
An earnest international evangelist, he has joined the ranks of a new generation of street preachers in London who have traded hellfire and brimstone for more tempered reasoning relying on apologetics.
And he loves praying for the sick — right there on the street or in the store.
“I remember walking up to a Muslim man who was limping and thinking that he might respond negatively to me because he was a different religion. I told him Jesus wanted to heal his leg. And he just looked at me.
“You would have had to put a dagger in her heart to stop,” her coach said of Jenny Johnson Jordan, team captain of the under-manned UCLA volleyball squad that triumphed in semi-finals against Penn State in 1994.
With only nine healthy players, the team had to fight for every single victory in their second place finish nationally.
Jenny never left her faith on the bench.
“The culture is trying to say, ‘Hey, you leave your faith over there and now you can come play your sport. Pick it up when you’re done. We don’t want to see it,’” Jenny says. “I was like, ‘How can you be super competitive and fiery (which I was) and also honor the Lord. I learned very quickly that me and my fire and desire to win and to honor the Lord came when I would do it the right way. “
That zeal led Jenny and her team to a national championship and two runner-ups in 1992 and 1994. She won All-Tournament Team honors in 1994.
Later, she won the silver medal at the 1999 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Marseille with her partner.
The daughter of 1960 decathlete gold-medal winner Rafer Johnson, Jenny grew up in the world of sports. Naturally, she wanted to join a highly competitive college program, so she went to UCLA.
“When I made it to the collegiate level I was just learning how to own my faith and what it means to have God in my sport, that they’re not separate things because that’s how I saw it,” she told Gospel Light Society.
Even in the locker room, she says, you’re pressured to listen to certain pump-up music. “These are places we can take stands as believers, which I know is not always comfortable or easy,” she says. “But it’s important.”
She had one coach at UCLA who was a Christian and encouraged her to keep up her Christian testimony. As she accepted the challenge, she got even better at volleyball and became the team captain.
The MAGAhulk who erupted on social media after appearing at #OpenCalifornia rallies all over the state is a Christian who walked away from God after his mom died of cancer when he was 17.
“I completely turned my back on God after being raised in a strict Christian home,” says Stephen Davis, 35. “I was like, ‘Why, God, why? You know how much I need my mom.”
He fell into the party scene and dropped out of college after the first year. “I always knew there was a God. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with him.”
But at age 25, a series of “eye-opening miracles” eventually brought him back to Jesus — things like financial miracles. He found himself in a church service thinking, “I was too far gone to come back. God didn’t want me anymore.”
But the service seemed entirely centered around him with a message of hope that he could find forgiveness and begin serving Christ again.
“It hit me that He wanted me back,” Stephen says.
Stephen’s handle on Instagram is @realtalkperiod, but he’s been dubbed the MAGAhulk after he began showing up at rallies protesting what many view as senselessly prolonged shutdown of California’s economy.
At 6’4” and 335 pounds of lean muscle mass, he carries a commanding presence, dressed in a dark blue 45 T-shirt and MAGA cap with a Trump flag and American flag slung over his shoulder.
People are drawn to him and begin to talk to him and he jovially but forcefully talks about the need of Governor Newsom to loosen lockdown restrictions and the blowback he’s gotten from the Left after he “came out” as a Trump supporter. A popular meme showing him in Trump cap saying “Go ahead bro, knock my cap off” taunts liberals, but Stephen is amiable and non-threatening.
“I used to hate Trump, but I didn’t know why,” he confides. “I was told he was a racist. I was told he was a horrible person. I believed all the media’s lies. But then I started to have doubts because in the 90s, all these prominent black leaders and rappers loved Trump. They wanted to be with Trump and be like Trump. I was a little confused. How is he now a racist?”
After being troubled by these considerations, Stephen decided he wouldn’t accept the standard story told by the Left and would conduct an inquiry for himself. What he found astounded him.
“I started to do my own research. I started reading his policies and what he stood for and how much he loved his country. I loved what he stood for. I asked, ‘Why is the media lying?’ He has American ideals.” Read the rest MAGAhulk at OpenCalifornia rallies.
Figure skating sensation Scott Hamilton owes his Olympic gold medal to… a brain tumor.
It limited his growth as a child and baffled doctors who could never find the cause of the problem. Through an unlikely series of events related to his frequent visits to doctors, he wound up in figure skating.
“Who would I be without a brain tumor?” Scott reflects in a White Chair Productions video. “I could choose to look at it as debilitating, to choose to focus on the suffering. (But) I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten because it made everything else possible.”
In 1984, the United States hadn’t won a gold medal in men’s figure skating for 24 years. Hamilton’s feat made him one of the top eight most popular American athletes, according to an Associated Press study.
The 5’4” athlete was adopted by two college professors who raised him in Bowling Green, Ohio. Badgered by health issues from childhood, his lack of normal growth caused experts to search in vain for a cause.
“When I came back from being in and out of hospitals, I ended up going to the skating club by accident,” Scott remembers. “I found skating.”
He excelled on ice. His progress in the sport caused him to move away from home to receive training by better coaches.
His first awareness of a need for God arose after his mother lost a battle to cancer. “Something awakened in me,” he says. “I knew I needed something better. I knew I needed some strength.”
Beginning in 1981, Scott won 16 consecutive national and international championships. He loved entertaining spectators. His signature move was a backflip, a move so dangerous it was banned by U.S. Figure Skating and Olympic competition rules. Because it was risky, it was also a crowd-pleaser.
After bringing Olympic gold to male figure skating, Scott won another world championship and retired from amateur competition to the professional, entertainment sector, where he performed until 2001.
In 1997 Hamilton was forced to leave figure skating to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer. It was a scary moment because cancer had claimed the life of his mother. With God’s help Scott overcame the health battle, but it was emotionally staggering.
“I survived something that took the most important person, my mother, off this planet,” he says. “My mom died. I survived. Why?”
He started to ask what his purpose was. His soon-to-be wife helped answer that question. Tracie Hamilton introduced him to Jesus and they began to attend church together.
As he was getting to know the principles of Christianity, Scott and his wife prayed to be able to have a child — no easy thing for a survivor of testicular cancer.
But God answered their prayers. Nine months after their wedding in 2002 they were blessed with a baby boy, Aiden.
Anyone would say that Scott had already suffered through more than his share of health issues. But after the growth deficiency and his battle with testicular cancer, Hamilton discovered he had a brain tumor.
His wife took his hands in hers and they started to pray.
“It was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything, my trust, my faith, everything,” he remembers. “That was the most powerful moment in my life. From that moment forward, we just said, whatever it is, whatever it takes.”
The biopsy was fear-provoking in itself. Doctors drilled a hole through Hamilton’s skull, weaved their way through the coils of the brain, cut out a small piece of the tumor, extracting it for later analysis.
“We seem to have found a safe corridor to do that,” the doctors told him at the time. Read the rest: Scott Hamilton Christian.
Coach poured coolant into the radiators at halftime.
Down 5-18, Lighthouse Christian Academy performed better in the second half, though not good enough to beat its amaranthine rival Hillcrest of Thousand Oaks in a foul fest of a basketball game on Friday.
“These guys have to learn to handle their frustrations with referees, with contact in these games,” said coach David Horowitz. “I’m trying to remind them that when you play with the power of God, you answer to that. You don’t have to get fired up about it.”
Senior Marcus Scribner was bringing competition to Hillcrest with speed and physicality. He was beating players and putting up shots. Others on the Lighthouse were missing and misunderstanding passes.
After the half time pep talk from coach, others calmed their nerves and began to score, including the ever-calm Pat Cannon, who uncharacteristically reacted a ref’s call in the first half, resulting in free throws for the opponents.
Senior Zachary Brewer found his rhythm, and Daniel O’Neil, the tallest player in the court, lurked into the key to receive passes and score. The Santa Monica Christian school hit 25 points in the second half.
But its defense leaked.
“We definitely played better in the second half. Our energy was better,” said Coach David. “But we didn’t have the defense we wanted to be able to shut (them) down. Our defense didn’t hone it down.
“We had no business being that ugly early. We’re just better than that,” he added. “We put ourselves in a hole, and you start playing the other team’s game and you give them confidence. We had the ability and the skill to not only compete with these guys but to overcome it. Read the rest: Gotta keep your cool to win basketball.
Ridiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.
On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach. (He lost the rematch.)
“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”
Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.
A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.
“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.
“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.” Read the rest of the article: Andy Ruiz Christian.
After winning its third straight basketball game, Lighthouse Christian Academy credits for its breakout success its science program, specifically, chemistry class.
“A young team playing their third game together is going to have to go through some growing pains every time a game starts, so the first quarter is going to be a little rough,” says David Horowitz. “But as we play, the team chemistry, the cohesiveness, begins to show up on the court and in the second, third and fourth quarter, the team bonds and does nothing but get better and stronger.”
Pilgrim School just west of Downtown Los Angeles of was fired-up. With a couple of towering players (one was 6’4″, another was 6’1″), the Patriots looked to notch their first victory against the inexperienced Saints, who debuted this year.
But Lighthouse tightened up its game by the end of the first quarter, down 13-17. In the second quarter, LCA took the lead with Pilgrim close behind 26-22. In the critical third quarter the Saints pulled away 45-35. Read the rest: the importance of team chemistry for basketball.
Lighthouse Christian Academy was missing three starters for Tuesday’s basketball game because the seniors went to Six Flags Magic Mountain for an unauthorized ditch day and were disqualified from league play.
Naturally, players were glum. Having won its first game, LCA didn’t expect — with only six players (half the roster) — to be able to muster much.
But Highland Hall also showed up with only six players, and so the Santa Monica Saints won 43-22 in the Northridge game.
At the first quarter, Lighthouse was sloppy. The score was 7-7. The Saints gave up easy turnovers.
When Drew Brees tore his ACL, he felt his very life was torn from him. He was only a junior in high school, at a time when he wanted to attract the attention of recruiters.
“I’ve seen friends get that injury, and they would never come back quite the same,” Drew told Sports Spectrum. “What I thought was going to be my life, I felt like it was being stripped away from me.”
On his 17th birthday, Brees wallowed in self-pity and mounting depression as he sat in church. He listened to the pastor for once instead of goofing off with his brother. The preacher said God was looking for a few good men to carry on His kingdom. For the first time ever, the sermon struck a chord in his heart.
“It was at this moment that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart,” Drew recounted. “I knew that there was something bigger planned for me than just playing sports.”
Of course, Drew did make it in football. He played college ball at Purdue University and was picked by the San Diego Chargers in 2001.
In 2005, Brees was enjoying a relatively successful season when Broncos tackle Gerard Warren hit him on the ground recovering his own fumble. The late hit caused a shoulder dislocation on his throwing arm.
“I had never dislocated anything in my life, but I knew exactly what happened,” Drew recalls. “I knew that besides a broken neck, this was the absolute worst injury I could ever ask for” as a quarterback.
I’m probably never going to put on a Chargers uniform again, Drew thought grimly as he walked off the field. I’ll probably never play football ever again in any uniform.
However, Drew had a remarkable recovery of the torn labrum and the New Orleans Saints expressed interest in hiring him. He signed in 2006.
In 2009, he led the Saints to their first Super Bowl win. He earned the moniker “Cool Brees” for his presence of mind under pressure. He has continued to play for New Orleans.
Drew married his college sweetheart Brittany Dudchenko in 2003. The couple has four children together: three sons and one daughter.
Just this year, the well-loved quarterback found himself maligned after he encouraged kids to participate in Bring your Bible to School Day in conjunction with “Focus on the Family.”
Leftist Louisiana-based Big Easy Magazine accused Focus on the Family of being anti-LGBT and supporting “conversion therapy.” Because LGBT are often bullied, they said Drew was joining “haters” and undercutting his lifelong campaign against bullying. Read the rest: Drew Brees Christian.
The Ravens quarterback is not out to win. He’s out to destroy his opponents, to bury them under so many points, both passed and rushed. His mindset is insanely competitive.
He’s been compared to Mike Vick, but he passes more, and he’s been hailed as a prototype revolutionizing football for future generations of QBs, who ought to be both athletic like a running back and precise passers. The 22-year-old, who outgunned both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in double digits this season, is charging madly into the NFL’s MVP.
On top of all that, Lamar Jackson is a Christian, who credited his faith when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at the University of Louisville.
“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Lamar said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now.”
Lamar Jackson lost his dad in an automobile accident when he was eight. From then on, his single mother raised Lamar and his siblings in poverty in Pompano Beach, Florida. He credits Mom with doing her best to fill the role of Mom and Dad.
And the role of football coach.
Felicia Jones was a passionate athlete herself and pushed her son into football. Even at eight, he outran and outpassed all the other kids in Pop Warner football. Felicia watched intently from the sidelines and then took little Lamar home to give him more drills, either ones she saw or ones she made up. She even tackled him roughly so that he would intensify his game to beat bigger people.
“People don’t believe me,” Jackson said on ESPN. “She was an athlete. She used to play basketball. She saw what we were able to do, and she’d go back there and play football with us. She was just making us tougher because she’s older, so she’s bringing power that we’re not used to feeling. We didn’t take it like anything different.”
In addition to intense workouts, she drilled Lamar with a code of moral principles called The Super 8: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.
By the time Lamar got to college he was a football machine, chewing up opponents and spitting them out. In his opening game during his sophomore year, he established the school record scoring eight touchdowns, all in the first half. He went on to become the youngest ever recipient of the Heisman trophy at age 19.
But when it came time for the NFL draft in 2018, 28 teams overlooked him in their picks. He was the last pick of the first round.
But the snub only inspired him. Lamar and his mom, who acted as his agent, remembered and repeated Matt. 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last,” according to CBS Sports. He wasn’t a first in NFL draft; he came in last. Now on the football field, he determined to finish first. Read the rest Lamar Jackson Christian
He lived fast and punished his body with riotous living. Four years ago, NBA Legend Lamar Odom nearly lost his life to a drug overdose in Las Vegas. Last month, he finally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ in Atlanta.
“I had to show Jesus my appreciation for keeping me alive!” he told People magazine. “Nowadays I’m doing the best I can in walking with the Lord. Thanks to Pastor Vernon @drravernon, I got saved at @thewordchurch this weekend.”
Lamar was named Parade’s national player of the year out of high school in 1997. After playing one season at the University of Rhode Island, he signed for the LA Clippers and was named the NBA rookie of the year. He formed part of the LA Lakers’ league winning teams in 2009 and 2010.
But the South Jamaica Queens native followed his father, a heroin user, into addiction. While on the Clippers he was busted twice by the NBA’s anti drug rules and later he faked urine tests with the help of friends and fake body parts, he admitted.
Lamar, who no longer plays basketball, met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 but says he cheated on her innumerable times, and eventually the reality show star divorced him in October 2015.
“I had broken my vows with Khloé so many times it’s just impossible for me to remember them all,” he told US Weekly. “I don’t know why Khloé stayed with me.”
Lamar was a consummate team player on the court, but off the court, his life was a mess. After catching a DUI in 2013, Lamar overdosed two years later after crossing cocaine, cognac and cannabis at a Las Vegas brothel called the Love Ranch.
This was his lifestyle, when days blended into nights surrounded by beautiful women and “a mound of drugs.”
On October 13, 2015, his world came crashing down when his body finally rebelled against the excesses. “I lay on the floor in my room at the Ranch, dying,” he said later. “My body was convulsing. The women who kept me company screamed and called 911.”
Lamar was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital where he lingered between life and death.
“My heart stopped twice. I had twelve seizures and six strokes,” he said. “My lungs collapsed and my kidneys ruptured. I was on life support. Everyone I’d ever loved was looking at me through bleary eyes.”
He woke up the next day confused and disoriented. He tried to pull out the tubes from his body. He tried to speak and panicked because he couldn’t.
“That was the scariest part. And not being able to walk,” he says. “I’m a big athlete you know?” Read the rest: Lamar Odom Christian
They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.
They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.
“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”
LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.
“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.
Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.
It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.
“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.
He could have mangled his fingers, broken his toes, fractured his ribs… any number of ER trauma from high school football.
Pat Cannon — known on Instagram is Sk8erpat with 19K followers worldwide — wants to go pro skateboarding, so what was he doing playing football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy?
On Saturday, the senior scored a touchdown, handed off and passed for touchdowns as quarterback to help the Saints win 34-30 against Cal Lutheran Wildomar in LCA’s season closer.
He gambled with jeopardizing his true passion for somebody else’s.
“I just wanted to help my teammates out. I wanted to help my school,” Pat said. “It was worth it. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
The Saints’ high hopes for its 2019 season were dashed in the first game of the season.
That’s because Levi Photenhauer, a slick runner with unflagging tenacity, went down with a torn ACL. It was as if LCA had lost its queen early in a game of chess.
The Saints still had Seniors Marcus Scribner and Hosea Ashcraft to marshal the defense and ramrod the offense. But their core horsepower was cut by one-third. LCA only won two games all season.
Out of the crater of the first game, coaches asked soldiers to rise up and (attempt to) fill the gap.
Josie Bowen was a notable revelation. The sophomore was a beast on kickoff returns and tackling. He scored a TD Saturday that was called back because of an illegal block.
Sophomore Steven Lahood, who grew like Gulliver over the summer, rose to the challenge and became an offensive threat and a stolid defensive player. He blocked a key pass in the final moments of the game to assure LCA’s victory.
Rob Scribner, an unobtrusive freshman, exploited his unmenacing frame, to surprise with touchdown catches. David Hutchinson, a newbie to football, became a solid lineman and tackler. Brandon Farah learned how to do in real life what previously he had done only on video games, and Luke Mammana performed pinpoint kicks under pressure.
“We didn’t have all the pieces on defense, so we had to decide where we were going to bend,” said Assistant Coach Josh Scribner, father to Marcus and Rob. “Marcus is our backer or end, but we decided to put him deep so there was never a breakout. Our game plan was give them a 5-yard play, give them a 7-yard play, give them a 3-yard play. But we never give up the 60-yard breakout blow.
“For their touchdowns, they had to drive it all the way down, and time went off the clock, and we scored fast. Bam, bam, bam,” Josh said. “We’d get up, and maybe they’d make a mistake, and we’d get the ball back, and that’s when the game was played. I think the key to the game was we had a lot of people that we’re involved. Everybody made great plays.”
In the first five minutes, Lighthouse scored two touchdowns. Rob intercepted a pass, and immediately Marcus caught the pass on LCA’s first play to burn defenders and run for a touchdown. Then LCA came in for hard hits on kickoff, provoking a fumble, which Brandon recovered. On the first play, a pass to Hosea brought another TD. Read the rest of sk8erpat on football.
Pretty much everybody of the Lighthouse Saints was crying, or fighting back tears, after their football loss Saturday — everybody except David Hutchinson.
The 14-20 heartbreak loss against La Verne Calvary Chapel, a similarly small school, left Lighthouse Christian Academy dejected.
But David remained buoyant, perhaps because he has experienced worse losses, namely that of his parents, who went MIA. He’s now adopted by his grandparents. He wasn’t doing well in a previous school before coming to Lighthouse.
“Even when we lose, football is fun because it brings us all together like brothers,” the sophomore said after the game. “We played our hardest. It’s made me stronger and closer with all the boys. We know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. We have a love for each other.
“At this school, the teachers actually care. In other schools, the teachers don’t care. They’re just doing it for the money. And the students are the best. They’re like a family. It really touches you when the teachers actually care.”
There hasn’t been so much bad blood between Christian brothers since the Baptists accused the Pentecostals of being of the devil about 100 years ago.
The last time Lighthouse Christian Academy beat their perennial archrivals Hillcrest Christian in 8-man football was 2014.
That year, Ricky Rand cheekily snatched the ball out of the cocked arm of the quarterback, who was ready to throw, and ran for a touchdown. That snarky steal typified a game of gleeful humiliation.
Hillcrest never forgave Lighthouse and each year since then has exacted new revenge. Both teams are called “the Saints” but appear to think each other “the Satanists.”
On Saturday, Lighthouse lost 25-56, and at the final whistle Hillcrest ran into its corner and gloated and howled while Lighthouse glowered and hurled insults. Coaches stood midfield to make sure words didn’t come to blows.
“Let’s go! Let’s play one more game right now!” Hosea Ashcraft yelled across the field.
They weren’t just hollow words.
Lighthouse tends to compensate its inexperience and lack of execution with pure stamina and hard hits that bring results in the third and fourth quarter. They wear teams down. Even if they don’t win, they send opponents home with some real stingers — and a measure of respect.
In what amounted to the last significant play of the game, Josie Bowen rocked Hillcrest quarterback from his blind side, foiling a conversion attempt.
Hosea hit a kid so hard that he knocked the ball free late in the third quarter for a turnover that the blood-sniffing Saints thought marked their turnaround point.
The crash and kill strategy wore down mighty Milken Community School on Sept 20 and earned the praise of opposing coach of Downy Calvary Chapel Christian School on Sept. 8. He called tiny Lighthouse, with enrollment 45, to the military last stand of the 300.
For administration class, A+. Actual volleyball, a C, at best.
Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica won four out of nine games this season in varsity volleyball. Girls from all different levels banded together and put forth their best effort. On Wednesday, the Saints limped out of its season against Westmark School of Encino.
“We all got in our heads,” says Sarah Montez, sophomore. Our emotions got to us. When somebody wouldn’t do good, we would think, Oh, well, she’s not going to get anymore. We got frustrated with each other. That was our worst game we’ve ever done.”
But while LCA’s volleyball has fallen off from the years when the slashed their way into playoffs, other skills associated with participating on team soared.
Namely, Sarah Montez became an entrepreneur.
When she found out that LCA wasn’t going to even have a team due to lack of interest among the girls, she spearheaded a move to assemble a team.
“Sarah and her parents were a major driving force in wanting to make sure there was a team this year,” says LCA Principal Josh Young.
Sarah, with the help of her parents and her close friend Laken Wilson, communicated with all the school’s girls and encouraged, cajoled, persuaded, spammed by text until enough players relented from the low self confidence and agreed to integrate on the squad.
Then, having mastered the business strategies of forming “a staff” and motivating them to their optimal performance, Sarah forayed into a search for a CEO. (There was no coach, which is a volunteer position.)
She held brainstorming session with interested parties. She formed a search committee to identify and recruit a ideal candidate. (She got her parents involved.)
They used software to scoure LinkedIn. Just kidding. They thought of who might pitch in from the Lighthouse Church, LCA’s oversight organization.
They zeroed in on Felipe Rodriguez for all his merits: He had time. He liked working with the youth. He was an expert at sports and teams.
There was only one drawback: Felipe didn’t know a thing about volleyball.
But options were few, and Felipe had the will to serve — even if he didn’t know how to serve (a volleyball).
Felipe contacted his good friend and fellow youth worker, Xiovana Moraida, who assists her husband, Lucas Moraida, as youth leaders in the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.
He used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.
The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.
“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”
Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.
“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”
At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.
“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”
The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.
Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.
That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.
Heidi Hutchinson wasn’t too upset by Lighthouse’s loss Wednesday.
That’s because she’s winning, though losing.
Heidi comes from a rough background. So now, not only does she attend a school she says loves her, she’s part of a team actually playing league sport.
“I’m learning about being on a team instead of just working by myself,” says Heidi. “They never gave up on me when I couldn’t hit the ball straight. When I first started, I didn’t know how to do anything, but now we’re playing actual games. I have some real friends.”
But Heidi knows that winning has many measures. If you’re a school that regularly churns out batches of Ivy League-bound college kids and draws from club team sports, then congratulations, you’re a winner.
But for others in life who don’t get the supportive, nurturing start of a dual parent home with no financial lack, just making the decision to not succumb is to overcome.
Eventually, Child Protective Services intervened for Heidi and her twin brother David. After years of neglect and abuse, they are now adopted by their grandparents, who enrolled them at LCA.
The last time Heidi saw her mom was 2017. And her dad? When she was 4.
This is not a sob story. This is a story of how people can be winners. All of society is a winner for every kid who chooses to rise above hardship, process and hopefully heal from the trauma and not spiral out of control with some pernicious coping mechanism.
“It wasn’t until the middle of 9th grade when I came to the Lighthouse, and me and my brother finally felt cared about by teachers and friends,” Heidi says.
Xiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.
“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”
Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.
On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.
Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.
Starting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.
In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team).
As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.
As part of last year’s soccer team, Cece Hang’andu refused to run on the pitch.
There was one moment in which Coach yelled from the sideline: “Cece, run!”
She turned and looked at the sideline with something of a glare. Some people say they can read palms. But that day, Coach could read her face: “I’m not running. I’m going to continue to walk.”
Today, Cecelia, a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, is part of the Saints girls volleyball team. Now that she is contributing in this sport, she comments about her lackluster participation in last year’s soccer.
“Running? Heck no. Too much cardio,” she complained to this reporter. “It was too much effort. Too much, too much, too much. They weren’t depending on me. Anyway, the boys were going to get the ball and were going to win. They didn’t need me.”
Cece is not completely wrong in her assessment. Lighthouse soccer last year did not depend on her. She was given the opportunity to participate, thrown on the pitch from time to time. But there were motors driving last year’s successful soccer team, and she was not one. So she walked.
But now Cece has to be a motor on the volleyball team.
“They needed seven players to have a team, and I wanted to be there to help them out,” she says. “They needed me.”
After winning the first set Wednesday, the Saints ultimately fell to Westmark School of Encino 27-25, 16-25, 23-25, 24-26. LCA now has one win and three losses.
It almost didn’t have a team — at the beginning of the year.
Lighthouse is a small school. With limited resources, they’re always trying to squeeze just one more drop out of the grape. First they needed enough players. Cece stepped up. Then they needed a coach.
Lighthouse is not alone among small private schools. As a matter of fact, another team dropped out of the league because of lack of players. This provided LCA a chance to participate in league play (it originally wasn’t going to figure in the league because it didn’t foresee enough players).
Because she stepped up, Cece is discovering a motivation she previously lacked. Read the rest of finding motivation.
Nine years ago, Josie Bowen was the awkward, shy adopted missionaries’ kid from West Africa who didn’t fit in the small private school in Santa Monica.
Today, the sophomore is ready to take over America.
Milken Community School was probably glad they racked up 47 points in the first half against Lighthouse Christian Academy to assure their final victory.
Because a sleeping giant was waking.
In the second half, Josie beasted out. On kickoff return, he ran the full 80-yard field, smashing through Wildcats, to score a touchdown. There were no cuts, no jukes, just Cruise missile launched straight up the field.
This was no fluke. The volcano had been rumbling for three games. On Lighthouse’s fourth game Thursday night, Josie Bowen was in full eruption.
Gentle Jekyll transformed into hideous Hyde, and CIF’s southern section 8-man football won’t ever be the same again.
Josie made seven tackles, three kickoff returns and one run. He appeared to harness the kinetic energy from hits received to increase his speed and power. Or maybe the Vibranium kicked in.
Fledgling Lighthouse suffered a serious casualty in its first game when point man, Levi Photenhauer tore his ACL. Fellow senior Marcus Scribner would be hard-pressed to drive the team forward single-handedly and a dour season was forecast.
But other players stepped up. Sophomore Steven Lahood and senior Hosea Ashcraft delivered on offense, and skater Pat Cannon showed a previously unseen maturity as QB. But the biggest revelation was the kid weened on soccer in Africa.
“I was kind of lost last year. I was crying, like, ‘I don’t wanna be on this team,'” Josie says. “My team did amazing blocks, and I just ran through the hole. I feel amazing. I just feel like I ran 100 laps and I feel nothing. I just ran through the herd.” Read the rest of African missionary turns beast in American football high school.
Brandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.
But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.
“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.
Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.
“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.
“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”
The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.
No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.
When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.
However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.
In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.
Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.
While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.
Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.
Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.
Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.
The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.
This was not King Leonidas’ battle. It was Gideon’s.
After witnessing Lighthouse’ undermanned but courageous stand against his team, Downey’s coach Mike Nuño compared his Santa Monica opponents to the Old Testament hero who vanquished the Midianites with an army of just 300.
“You’re like Gideon’s warriors,” Nuño told them after Saturday’s game. “You guys are the 300 that stayed and say, ‘Man, we’re going to go out there and do this thing.’ It takes heart. You guys battle and battle and battle. You guys come out with a small group year after year after year and fight until the end.”
If Lighthouse Christian Academy got compared to Gideon’s 300, it lost like Leonidas’ 300, overwhelmed by the endless swarming hordes of the Persian Empire. Despite a late first-half, valiant but quixotic surge, the Saints lost 21-62 against Calvary Chapel Christian School of Downey in CIF’s Southern Section 8-man football league.
“I coached 16 players one year, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Nuño said. “You come out with 10 or 12 players. I applaud you guys for that.”
LCA and the Grizzlies were roughly even at the beginning of the game as players sized each other up, identified strengths and weaknesses and sought to exploit opportunities. Realizing their superior firepower, the Grizzlies began to pull away, making the score 6-24.
But then a short kickoff gave Lighthouse a short field to drive for a touchdown. Senior Marcus Scribner caught a pass in the 2nd quarter for a touchdown to make it — with the subsequent 2 point conversion — 14-24.
Downey discovered they could essentially block Lighthouse as long as they needed to make the long bomb pass and quickly added a TD.
When Lighthouse tried to reply, the Grizzlies stymied their advance. Despite a dazzling one-handed catch and subsequent power scramble from senior Hosea Ashcraft, the Saints were unable to capitalize and had to punt.
The Grizzlies shot their effective long pass down the right side to 1st and goal. It seemed they would pull away definitively in the scoring. But sophomore David Hutchinson tackled a running back for a 2-yard loss, and two passes bounced off the receivers hands brought an unexpected stop to the Downey steamroll. Read the rest of Christian school Santa Monica football fight.
He was the quietest of five brothers. While his older brothers fought and his younger brother was being the mischievous clown, Steven Lahood was the quiet — and obedient — of the siblings, both at home and at school.
But Friday, Steven made himself heard, first with a touchdown on the second play of the game and then by stripping the ball from Teach Tech Charter High player and running almost for a touchdown in what was Lighthouse’s last chance to overtake its opponents.
Despite the sophomore’s eruption on the football field, Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica lost its opening game 25-38 in its sputtered bid to establish league dominance this year.
2019 was supposed to be the year for the Saints. With a crop of talented, speedy and big seniors, LCA hoped to win by big margins.
But key man, Levi Photenhauer, injured his knee in the first quarter and went out for the game. Without the speed of “Cheese” (as coach calls him for his shock of red hair), the Saints’ offense centered pretty much around hulkish Marcus Scribner, who trains constantly and wants to crack the NFL.
“We became one-dimensional,” said Head Coach Zach Scribner, Marcus’ uncle.
After a controversial ref’s call annulled a Lighthouse touchdown because of a smart block by Marcus, the blond-haired kid returned undaunted to the offense and caught a pass to not be denied the TD.
But it was not enough. At the end of the day, the Tech’s Rams from Los Angeles, weaved and wobbled their way through the Saints enough times to secure the win. Read the rest about Small Christian School’s football team.
When he made the switch from racing to daredevil trick riding, Ronnie Faisst got sponsors, pay, notoriety… and a drug habit.
“You can’t become a top professional racer if you’re a partier. Tight diets and training everyday — that’s the background I came from. Didn’t do any drugs, didn’t drink, didn’t want to,” Ronnie says on This is Me video.
“But then when you got into freestyle, all you really needed was to be willing to take some risk. So we found you could party and still do this. We all got caught up in girls, drugs, alcohol, late nights.”
For 10 years, Ronnie soared at the top the emerging Freestyle Motocross, or FMX, pioneering tricks and competing on tour. But while his motorbike flew, his soul was sinking into the depths of sin.
Ironically the thrills-seeker who thrived off of the adrenaline rush found Jesus in a very ho-hum way, watching a televangelist explain the gospel. What drove him to the arms of Jesus? His greatest obstacle in freestyle: fear.
“If you’re a free-style riders, there’s gonna be tricks that scare you a little bit. You have to push through that fear to learn the trick. Right at that time, the back flip came out which to land one you might crash five,” Ronnie says.
“This dude speaking on T.V. was talking about faith, and it spoke to me because he was speaking about fear. I experienced fear everyday,” he says. “I thought, ‘This dude has such a cool view on life. I’ve never really looked at it that way.’ I got saved in my bedroom just watching this program. It makes you feel good. God’s on your side. God starts blessing you.”
Ronnie, from Murrieta, California who now lives in Kansas, is an X Games regular since 2000, winning Moto X bronze medal four times. The 42-year-old was featured in the original Crusty Demons daredevil videos.
He was living his dream, getting paid to ride his motorcycle and perform tricks and compete — and God was on his side.
Initially he didn’t realize there was much more to the Christian life.
The hottest commodity in basketball right now is Toronto Raptors star Kwahi Leonard who honors Jesus and has single-handedly carried his team to unpredicted wins, first in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers to enter the Eastern Conference, then again last night to upset the Warriors in Game 1 of the finals.
“Last year was a very down year for me (he was injured); I was going through a lot,” says Kwahi, whose buzzer beater to beat the 76ers in Game 7 is now legend. “And you know, God is good! I prayed every day and ended up getting healthy, now I’m able to play basketball. You could just see what He does for you.”
Kwahi is dropping jaws both on offense and on defense. He averaged 35-point games against Philadelphia. He locked down Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks to reverse a 0-2 game deficit to secure the Eastern Conference.
“Leonard is killing dudes in isolation (like Harden), pounding and rocking the basketball (like Harden) before blowing past defenders or hitting step-back threes (like Harden),” Jesse Washington crows on The Undefeated.
Up until last night, the idea that the Golden State Warriors would sweep the finals — again — was thought to be as pre-determined as the Book of Revelations. It was sure to be boring, and only diehard fans and somnambulists who like eye-glazing as they observe the inevitable even bothered to tune in.
But Leonard and the on-fire Raptors suddenly woke up the soporific middle American who only turns on the game if there actually is going to be a game. Now, the final is promising to be interesting.
The talent-rich Warriors knew they had to double-team and even triple-team Kawhi to win. Stymie the star and blitz to victory. It’s been their not-so-secret strategy, and it has worked against James Harden and Damian Lillard.
It didn’t work last night.
The Marvel’s Avengers of the NBA got blindsided by the no-names of the Raptors. Harassed at every turn, Leonard passed the ball to his teammates, who materialized superstar performance. Pascal Siakim, notorious for poor shooting, transformed suddenly into a marksman, hooping 32 points to lead his team to a 118-109 thrashing.
Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.
But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.
“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”
Cody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.
Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.
“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”
He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.
With his brother Zach Garbrandt
“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”
Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.
“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.
“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”
Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.
“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.
In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.
“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.
After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”
“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”
The fight lasted 45 minutes.
“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.
“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.