JOPPA
BY JACK BULLOCK
The Joppa Rangers won more games than they lost last season, something that was more than just an anomaly in this part of Massac County.

Then head coach Zack Essex put together a nice run, with a Dongola Christmas Tournament title and an 18-12 mark before falling to Hardin County in the opener of the Hardin County 1A Regional.

New head coaches (plural) are Kenny Harris and Andy Stewart, who will have many kids and some talented ones to work with as the 2017-18 season begins.

Two of the important returning players are 6-foot-5 senior Kaleb Cox, a starter from last season that was part of the nice winning run for the Rangers.

Cox is over 1,000-points for his career and he was also an ABV all-south special mention for 2016-17.

Thomas Kendal, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, was also an important player in the run.

In the Rangers' 57-44 title game win over Elverado last season at Dongola, Kendal took advantage of a pair of technical fouls on the Falcons and calmly nailed six free throws in a row to lead his team to the tournament championship.

He should also reach 1,000-points before he is done wearing the Green and Gold.

Look for the coaches to have several other key players ready to improve as the club begins the season hoping to make the winning an everything season, not just once ever couple of decades.

Five-foot-nine senior John Dry was mentioned along with three juniors, 6-foot- Griffin Greer, 6-foot-4 junior Mason Stewart and 5-foot-10 junior Noah Holland also look to get involved early in the season.

The coaches mentioned three sophomores; 5-foot-6 Jacob Dry, 5-foot-10 Tristan Lowery and 5-foot-9 Thomas Sparks, as players who could “spark” the team off of the bench.

“We are a defensive minded team and that is how we will win games,” said the coaches. “We have a lot of height and quickness this year. If these boys come together, we will have a great year!”

OUTLOOK – There is definitely talent there at Joppa, but unfortunately they will play a lot of teams this year that will also be talented. But this program has done a lot in the past few seasons leading up to this. The coaching change was kind of a surprise but it is what it is. Look for the Rangers' kids to get better and an above .500 season is reachable. Not unlike Elverado and the Falcons recent success, these Rangers won't be able to sneak up on anyone this winter.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N20-25 Crab Orchard Turkey Tournament J12 Dongola

D1

@ Wolf Lake Shawnee J16-20 Egyptian "Mid-Winter Classic"
D5 Cobden J23 Tamms Egyptian
D8 @ Fulton City (MO.) J26 Mounds Meridian
D12 @ Tamms Egyptian F2 @ Marion Agape Christian
D15 @ Ullin Century F3 @ Thompsonville
D19 @ Galatia F6 Golconda Pope County
D28-29 Dongola Christmas Tournament F16 Elkville Elverado
J6 Tamms Egyptian Shootout F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD
J11 Paducah (KY.) CCA F-27-M2 IHSA Sectional TBD