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Sports Palady Tournament still bringing joy after 5 years

Thursday, June 23, 2011   Midlothian Mirror   3C

Alex Riley, Sports Writer 469-517-1456 | alex.riley@wninews.com

By ALEX RILEY Mirror sports writer

Jerry Palady looks out over the more than dozen fields that are in use at Hawkins Park. Hundreds of people, most of which Palady knows by face and name, are pouring sweat and battling for goals in the heat of 4-on-4 soccer competition. Smiles are everywhere. Laughter is easily heard. Brandon Palady wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Brandon Palady, a former soccer player at Midlothian High School, had his life cut short in an accident while he was a freshman at Baylor University. After his death, Panther coach Austin Guest began working out a play with the Palady fam-

ily to celebrate Brandon’s life. The end result – a yearly soccer tournament that would raise money for a scholarship to be given out during Midlothian’s end-of-season soccer banquet. Five years later, it has evolved into something no one could have imagined. “I think now, the kids that had played with Brandon have now graduated from college and are going on and getting jobs, starting their careers. But they’re coming back,” Jerry Palady said. “They’re coming back and saying, ‘We won’t miss this thing.’ They’re coming back and that makes it phenomenal.” The Palady Memorial Tournament is friendly competition event

which has grown from a few dozen teams to more than 100 squads over the last five years. The tournament features players ranging in age from elementary school children to grandparents. Teams travel from all over the Metroplex to take part in the event. But no matter how big the tournament gets or how many teams show up, there is still a since of family and camaraderie. Friends say both were qualities that drew people to Brandon. It’s a major reason people are drawn to this event. Guest, who is one of many people that helps organize the tournament and distribute the scholarships, points to different fields were players who were once part of the

Midlothian program are playing. Some received the scholarship money when they made their sojourn to college. Others played with Brandon and always make the trek back home to celebrate his life. Year after year the story remains the same – a tragic event continues to produce a positive result. At the end-of-season banquet for the past year, Linda Palady, Brandon’s mother, spoke to the crowd for the first time since the scholarship’s inception. Jerry and Linda both helped with the pre-tournament set up this year that goes on the night before. After a few hours of setting up fields, hanging banners and getting all the little things ready to go, Jerry

had a small realization. He knew just how much work went into planning the event but to see everything play out made him realize just how much people loved his son, are eager to honor his memory and enjoy the atmosphere that descends on the park each of the last five years. It’s a feeling he described as “incredible.” “I worked with them this weekend a little closer than I had in the past and I’ve got to tell you, I worked my tail off,” Jerry said. “I know it takes months to get this thing prepared and they’re the reason for the success.” Contact Alex at alex.riley@ wninews.com or at 469-517-1456.

Not vertically challenged Veteran post player working to separate herself, contribue when called on By ALEX RILEY Mirror sports writer

WAXAHACHIE – Standing tall is something Sam Drusch has heard all her life. When you’re 5-foot-11 and playing women’s basketball, you’re expected to get in the post, block shots, be a strong defender be muscle up for close-range baskets. For the most part, that’s exactly what Drusch has done her whole career. It just so happens that is needed to do it now more than ever. With two key seniors graduating from last year’s team and several other players expressing decisions to not return to the team next season, the time for Drusch to step up and shine is now. As the Lady Panthers battle through summer league work, her commitment to meeting that challenge is evident. “It’s very important because some of our best shooters or people who put the most points on the board are leaving and are not playing next year so it’s kind of important for somebody, a whole bunch of people actually, to step up and find that consistency,” Drusch said. Photo by Alex Riley/The Mirror

Sam Drusch continues to develop her shooting touch during summer league work in hopes of being a consistent offensive threat for Midlothian next season. Over the past two games, the post player has combined for 25 points.

Upcoming schedule June 27 vs. Waxahachie1 4:30 p.m. June 29 vs. Ferris 4:30 Last season, Drusch was a consistent contributor to Midlothian’s offense. She scored at least one point 27 games but never cleared the double-figure mark. Over the last two outings, Drusch has shown just how improved her game has become since the end of the 2010-11 season. Against Red Oak, she led the team with nine points. The following Monday, Drusch poured in a game-high 16 points in a big win over Venus. Her impact in the scoring column is growing week by week. As a veteran, it’s a responsibility she has embraced. “I’m one of the oldest and I feel the oldest should step up and take part of that,” Drusch said. Where Drusch goes after the summer league is complete is anyone’s guess. She will be one of the players returning next season with varsity experience and will most likely be a starter. Her leadership as both a scorer and vocal force are getting

stronger with each day. While all these things could happen, there is some uncertainty in terms of post play on the Midlothian roster. Some positions only have limited depth in terms of returning varsity experience. Not the Lady Panther posts. Drusch joins teammates Alyssa Freeman and Haley Lott as players who have a year of 5A competition under their belt. All three expected to see the court and so far all three have played well in summer league work. Despite the battle for playing time, there is no animosity between the players. In fact, they’re downright encouraging of each other because each brings a different skill set to the game. Lott has shown the ability to block shots with her reach. Freeman can shoot jumpers from inside he arc. Drusch isn’t afraid to get tough for rebounds and short shots against opposing defenses. Drusch sees the depth as an advantage Midlothian will try to use when the season roles around. “We all respect each other pretty well. We fight for our time but we also know who gets what time and stuff like that,” Drusch said. “All the posts are great but there’s just some that have a little height over everybody and it’s just a little bit easier because everybody we play is really tall. To have that is good.” Contact Alex at alex.riley@wninews. com or at 469-517-1456.

Clanton finds the perfect fit

Senior catcher caps career by signing with Williams Baptist College, enjoys small town feel By ALEX RILEY Mirror sports writer

There’s a seven-hour driving difference between Midlothian and Walnut Ridge, Ark. But it’s the similarities that made Colton Clanton want to make the trek. Clanton, an outgoing baseball player, will continue his career behind the plate for Williams Baptist College next season capping a stellar career on the high school diamond. Born and raised in Midlothian, Clanton was looking for a second home when he chose where he wanted to go to school. He found just that in Walnut Ridge. “I guess going up there and visiting with the school and the teachers and the coach, it was just kind of like being back here but in a different state. It was a small town feeling even thought things are getting bigger,” Clanton said. “It was more of the country. I could fit in and it fit me. Plus, it was paid for so that was a big part of it.” The lineage of Midlothian catchers playing at the next level has been a topic for discussion all season. Clanton split time with fellow senior Justin Shealy for much of the year. Shealy did beat Clanton to the spotlight, signing a scholarship off with Clarendon Junior College to keep his career going. Each of the last half dozen catchers for Midlothian have taken their talents to the college ranks. For his senior season, Clanton batted .333 with seven RBI and 16 total hits. Of those 16 hits, four were doubles. Clanton also played a major role as a linebacker on the football team, amassing 45 tackles and a sack for the Panthers in the fall. His signing might have been a little later but timing was not important. Finding a place that fit just

Photos by Alex Riley/The Mirror

With his family and coaches looking on, Midlothian senior catcher Colton Clanton signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Williams Baptist College next season. Clanton cited the small town feeling in Walnut Ridge as a major reason for his decision to head to the Arkansas based school. Williams Baptist has a student body size of 625 students. right was the relevant issue. The Williams Baptist student body is a mere 625 students, almost the same size as the Midlothian graduating class of 2011. That small size appealed to Clanton. Getting to play baseball might be the reason for heading east but the decision was far easier than just baseball. “He’s got some ability and some talent and he really wanted to play at the next level and he found a

place where he’s comfortable. I think that’s the most important thing,” Midlothian coach Ray Hydes said. “I think he’ll do good things. I think Colton will continue to get bigger and really going to get stronger. I think he’s still got a lot to learn about the game but once he does that, there’s not telling what can happen and we’ll see where he goes from here.” Continuing a career while playing at a place that feels like home is

a good portion of the dream Clanton had growing up. Now he’ll get the opportunity to live that out. Wherever the road goes for the senior from here still remains to be seen. One thing is certain – Clanton will give it his best shot and that tends to be pretty good. “I remember being little and dreaming of going off to play college ball somewhere so just going off to do it is icing on the cake,” Clanton said. “I would have loved

to have gone to a big school but, like my dad says, college is college and if you can play baseball it’s just that much better. I’m just glad to keep playing.” Contact Alex at alex.riley@ wninews.com or at 469-517-1456.

Mirror Sports 6-22  

Alex Riley's final Midlothian Mirror Sports section on June 22. A countdown the top five senior athletes and a look ahead at future stars.

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