'The girl born twice' blossoms into a teenage water skiing champ

Sarah Switzer was scared, and for good reason. She had just watched a skier break both ankles during a jump at the Disabled Water Ski National Championships. It was 2014 and the first time Switzer - a  paraplegic - had competed at nationals. "It was a little nerve-wracking just to watch the people from our team go off the ramp," said Switzer, a 17-year-old junior at James Clemens who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which there is an opening in the spinal cord that can cause full
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Bo Nix, son of former Auburn quarterback, making name for himself at Scottsboro

Patrick Nix found himself struggling to make a decision. The former Auburn quarterback was in his second season as the head coach at Scottsboro in 2014 and the Wildcats were entering a bye week. They were coming off a 42-39 loss to North Jackson in Week 6 and changes needed to be made. One option was having senior quarterback Justin Whitehead move to defense, but that meant Nix's son, eighth-grader Bo, would have to start under center. "I was very, very hesitant," Patrick said.

'I never dreamed that he would be here': Randolph coach Wright Ward inspires while battling brain cancer

A number of thoughts immediately flooded Randolph basketball player Libby Gold's mind. What's the plan? Can there even be a plan? How do we react? The senior guard's teammates at the Huntsville private school shared her confusion last September when they learned third-year coach Wright Ward had been diagnosed with brain cancer. With the start of practice for the new season only a month away, their world had been turned upside down.   "I was shocked," senior guard Haley Smalley said. "I d

From near death to five star: The untold story of Joshua Langford

It was six years ago when the current Madison Academy senior basketball star worked through football two-a-days in late summer with his Riverton Middle teammates. Langford started getting tired easily. He first thought he was just out of shape, but then came headaches, a spiking fever and hallucinations. Langford soon learned he had bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening infection in which there is inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. "Basically, I was on my d

Alabama gives opportunity to punter who abandoned scholarship to help mom fight cancer

Working alone at Bob Jones' turf practice field, Mike Bernier booms punt after punt on a sunny, late-May afternoon. This is not where he expected to be a year after graduating high school and going to Eastern Illinois on scholarship. But after starting his freshman year for the Panthers, Bernier returned 400 miles south to Madison for something he loved more than football: His mom. Not long before Mike signed, Sonja Bernier was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had metastasized to the ...

‘Live your life to the fullest’: Cancer doesn’t keep Elkmont’s Leah Seibert from softball team role

Few could understand the mix of emotions that Elkmont’s Leah Seibert experienced when she stepped onto the softball field March 24 at New Hope. The 18-year-old senior has spent the last three years battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that begins in muscle tissue. She entered as a defensive substitute, marking the first time this season and only the third time in the past two seasons she’s been able to participate. “I just love the game,” Seibert said earlier this week during a pho

'I'm going to find a way': Outfielder with arm defect catches and throws with same hand

Taylor Davis fielded a simple ground ball in the outfield and panicked before throwing. The typically routine play, which came during Davis' freshman season at Sparkman, was a life-changing moment. Davis has Erb's palsy, a condition that limits the use of her right arm. The play in 2015 marked the first time in a game that Davis used a technique in which she catches the ball with a gloved left hand, removes the glove and throws left-handed.    "I was freaked out," said Davis, now a senior.

Danville's Kane Hogan plays in first home game since beating leukemia

Kane Hogan didn't score a touchdown or force a turnover in Danville's 28-27 win over visiting Falkville on Friday night, but he was the game's true star. Hogan, a senior, played at home for the first time since 2014 after missing the past two seasons while battling leukemia. He took the game's opening handoff and saw action at running back and linebacker and on special teams. “To see him out there working with us, and making plays, it’s a huge boost for our entire team,” Danville senior Zed Sh

Legally blind Alabama HS football player starts at one of sport's toughest positions

David Lloyd got some surprising news after being hired as St. John Paul II’s football coach in May: The starting center of his new team was legally blind. Jay Spencer, a junior, was diagnosed with an inherited retinal degenerative disease when he was 3. He started last season as a sophomore when St. John Paul II ran the flexbone. Lloyd planned to install an offense that operated out of the shotgun, meaning longer snaps for Spencer. “Would that be possible?,” Lloyd wondered. Spencer quickly got

'He's really an inspiration': Kicker with Asperger syndrome overcame condition and excelled

Rogers players and coaches watched anxiously as the ball sailed through the uprights. The game wasn't on the line, but there was plenty of emotion for this particular field goal. The 27-yard kick came Sept. 15 during a 44-7 home win against West Limestone and caused an eruption along the Pirates sideline and in the home stands. Senior Rhett Powers, who suffers from Asperger syndrome, had just kicked his first field goal. "It was huge," said Rogers senior defensive back Austin Killen, the P

Former Madison Academy star follows in late brother's footsteps as member of Harlem Globetrotters

One of the first things that Chandler Mack did after dunking for the first time as an eighth-grader was call his older brother, Chris Richardson. "Without my brother, I probably would have never picked up a basketball," said Mack, a former Madison Academy standout who followed in Richardson's footsteps as a member of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters. Richardson, who was a high-flyer at UNLV and went by the nickname "Flash" during his six seasons with the Globetrotters, passed away at the age

Huntsville student assistant who suffered childhood brain injury pinch runs on Senior Night

Cade Hedden has always been there for the Huntsville High baseball program, so tonight the Panthers showed their appreciation. Hedden, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a car wreck at the age of 2, temporarily set aside his duties as student assistant to enter as a pinch runner during the second inning of Huntsville's Senior Night game against James Clemens. Hedden lost multiple motor skills and cannot communicate vocally due to the injury, but those hurdles never kept him away from

Born a 'drug baby,' West Point runner Joey Riggs defies doubters

Doctors gave Joey Riggs no hope of being successful at athletics. Abandoned by his birth mother at 2 months old, he was born a "drug baby" and suffered from severe respiratory syncytial virus. Doctors told his foster - and later adoptive - parents, Jerry and Michelle Riggs, that Joey's poor lung function would never allow him to play sports. But that never stopped Joey, now a senior at West Point. "Me, being so stubborn, I would always beg my mom to let me go play baseball," he said. "S

'Every breath I take is a blessing': Boaz football coach Eric Whaley gets 1st win since beating cancer

The magnitude of Boaz's win at Douglas last Friday night could not be fully told by the scoreboard at Arthur Jarvis Stadium. A 15-game losing streak came to an end as the Pirates rolled 42-12, but an even bigger victory belonged to head coach Eric Whaley. The 20-year coaching veteran won his first game since 2014 after missing all of last season while battling cancer. "Every breath I take is a blessing," Whaley, 39, said. "I'm back doing what I love. Obviously, I wish we had a better seaso

A-List No. 7: Buckhorn 4-star LB Will Ignont challenged, strengthened by adversity

Will Ignont learned early in his life how to persevere. The Buckhorn four-star middle linebacker had his foundation rocked as he was preparing to enter the seventh grade. His mom, Daphane, suffered a series of strokes and spent four months in the hospital. "It was pretty tough on me and my sister," said Ignont, the No. 7 player on AL.com's A-List, a ranking of the top senior recruits in the state. "All I had at the time was my sister. That's why I'm so close with those two." Ignont's sister,

A-List No. 12: Auburn commit Malik Miller had character tested during life-changing trip

Malik Miller has made a name for himself by bulldozing through would-be defenders and racking up touchdowns. But nothing on the playing field could have prepared the Madison Academy senior running back for the experiences of late last March. Miller was approached about joining a group of schoolmates for a spring break trip to Tabacundo, Ecuador to work at the Hacienda of Hope orphanage and HOH Christian Academy. Miller was hesitant about the idea. He had never been outside the United States, an

Alabamian Kyle Wright drafted No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Braves

History may have eluded Kyle Wright, but you won't find him complaining. The Vanderbilt junior right-hander and Buckhorn High alum, who was seeking to become the first Alabamian taken No. 1 in the MLB Draft, went fifth overall to the Atlanta Braves tonight. "It was really special," Wright told AL.com. "And to be drafted by the Braves was even more special because that's who me and my brothers grew up watching and were big fans of. We went to games. We watched them no matter what; through ups a

Built from scratch: The struggles and thrills of Alabama's newest high school football team

Tucked away on a quiet piece of Sand Mountain in Marshall County is Alabama's newest high school football team. Asbury High, which opened in 1967, made the move to varsity play five years after beginning its gridiron program with a freshman squad. So why did this rural school with an 10th-through-12th-grade enrollment of 213 decide to join the football club? Two of Class 2A Asbury's Marshall County neighbors - 4A DAR and 3A Brindlee Mountain - added football in 2006. Athletics, overall, w

An 'unfair business': Numerous Alabama prep football coaches endured the grind of college jobs

Fred Riley guided the Simplicity riding lawn mower across the football field at Lenior City High in east Tennessee. It was a three-hour job that he performed twice a week. The chore was also a world away from where he had been just 12 months prior. The year was 1990 and Riley was a 30-year-old, first-time high school coach. He was coming off nearly a decade of working at the college level, the final season as running backs coach at Miami of Ohio. He coached against Purdue on ESPN that year

A-List No. 8: Tragedy, family and faith mold Alabama commit Kendall Randolph

The Bob Jones senior offensive tackle and Alabama commitment comes from a tight-knit home, and Randolph's bonds extend to some friends who are as close as blood relatives. Because of that, Oct. 25, 2013 is forever etched in his mind. In the early morning hours of that Friday, Dezmond Dennis, a longtime friend of the Randolph family, was killed after the car in which he was a passenger was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Dennis, a former Bob Jones football player and 2012 graduate, planned to wat

Championship-winning coach Mike Bates now leads team with state's longest losing streak

Mike Bates was on top of the high school football coaching word in December of 2007. His St. Paul's team - featuring future Alabama stars AJ McCarron and Mark Barron - had defeated Briarwood Christian 14-13 in the Class 5A championship game. It was the first state title for Bates in what was at the time his 25th year of coaching. Fast forward eight seasons and Bates is on the opposite end of both the state and the coaching spectrum. He's the head man at Class 3A Holly Pond, which is mired
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Your friendly neighborhood sports writer since 2006. Email: danielboyette@gmail.com