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Sports Column | Bucky Dent: Terriers' Ragland earns national honor

Sports Column | Bucky Dent: Terriers' Ragland earns national honor

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Football season may be in the rearview mirror for most players until next August, but for Carbondale’s Darius Ragland, he’s getting ready to put on the pads and do some hitting next week on behalf of the Stars and Stripes.

Ragland will play for the USA’s 17-Under team on Jan. 15 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas – a.k.a. Jerry World, in reference to Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who helped pay to build the 80,000-seat stadium – against a squad from Japan.

The 6-1, 168-pound Ragland earned his way to the game through two rounds of tryouts conducted by Team USA. Ragland was nominated to attend a regional camp in Chicago last spring, eventually being named Most Valuable Player of the camp.

That enabled him to attend a final camp in Canton, Ohio, and he performed well enough there to earn an invitation to the game. Ragland is one of just two Illinoisans on the 50-man USA roster, the other being tight end Anthony Cirrincione of Bartlett. Ragland will see action as a defensive back.

Ragland enjoyed a breakout year in 2019, triggering the Terriers’ spread offense with his arm and feet. Carbondale went 8-2 and shared the South Seven Conference title with Marion and Cahokia. It averaged 42.3 points in what coach Bryan Lee felt might be a transition year.

“It’s good for our program, good for his teammates and great for him,” Lee said. “Part of what makes Darius so good and so cool is he’s recognized as a great defensive back, and he doesn’t get to play on that side of the ball.

“He’s got this jerk coach here who is worried about him getting hurt, and he does everything you ask him to do. He’s the real deal at quarterback as well, and with another year under his belt, he’s going to be even better. He’s the ultimate teammate.”

Lee thinks Ragland could play either side of the ball in college, although he added at this point that Ragland projects as a defensive back.

Refs on point

Credit officials Jim Kowzan, Eric Saunders and Kevin Diss with keeping a potentially bad situation from getting truly dicey Friday night at Herrin.

At the end of what was a physical but clean SIRR Ohio matchup with the Tigers and Massac County, an altercation broke out after a Herrin player was pushed to the floor. The potential existed for things to devolve from bad to worse.

The third team didn’t allow it to happen. They quelled multiple fires and dispensed the correct justice. They assessed five technicals and ejected two players, including a Tiger who came off the bench to stick up for his teammates.

As a result of their work, the final 33.7 seconds of a 69-59 Herrin win occurred without further issues, and the teams executed a peaceful postgame handshake. Good officiating isn’t always about being a good play-caller. It’s sometimes about handling situations, which Kowzan, Saunders and Diss did very well.

Rankings

The most notable thing about Tuesday’s Associated Press state basketball polls was that Pinckneyville jumped up to No. 1 in 2A boys despite a double overtime loss to two-time state champ Chicago Orr last month in Edwardsville.

The Panthers’ body of work is such that it merits them sitting atop the polls this week. They are 14-1 with few close games aside from that one. But they figure to find a close game Friday night when they journey to 10th-ranked Nashville in the friendly but fierce Highway 127 showdown in SIRR Mississippi.

Also, Goreville is a deserving No. 4 in 1A boys, having won two major tournaments in the 2019 part of its schedule. And the Carterville girls are No. 2 in Class 2A, followed by Harrisburg at No. 6.

Bucky Dent covers prep sports for the Southern Illinoisan and also votes on the Wooden Award. Contact him at 618-351-5086 or at bucky.dent@thesouthern.com.

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