East Ascension beats Dutchtown in overtime thriller _lowres

Advocate file photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Dutchown quarterback Jared Sparks looks downfield against East Ascension in a 2014 game.

Despite his relative lack of starting experience, Southern Mississippi saw enough promise in Dutchtown quarterback Jared Sparks to issue the rising senior a scholarship.

Less than a week later, Sparks took part in the Golden Eagles’ camp and felt compelled to call the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, school home for the next four to five years.

Sparks, who will be Dutchtown’s starting quarterback for the first time this fall, followed that recent experience with a commitment Tuesday to USM, which believes his dual-threat ability is a perfect fit for its spread offense.

“I really liked Southern Miss,” Sparks said. “I liked their coaching staff, the relationship I have with them and the way they treat their players.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Sparks also took part in camps this summer at TCU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Stanford. He’s planning to attend camps at LSU and Alabama next month.

“They liked my leadership skills at camp, my football IQ and the way I threw the ball,” Sparks said. “They saw a lot of raw football talent. They saw my aspirations to be great … to be at the top of my position and lead my team. They told me I could be a program-changer, and they were excited to have me a part of the family.”

While Sparks, the son of former Southern wide receiver Kenyatta Sparks, has determined his college path, fellow Dutchtown lineman Lloyd Cushenberry potentially got one step closer.

Cushenberry recently increased his scholarship total to 13 with an offer from South Carolina after the 6-foot-3, 310-pound offensive tackle participated in a one-day camp in Columbia, South Carolina.

“It felt good,” Cushenberry said. “It’s the biggest one (offer) I’ve gotten so far. I like South Carolina. I enjoyed the coaching staff and campus.”

Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said Cushenberry received a favorable review from LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after his performance at the Tigers recent summer camp.

Cushenberry, a starting right tackle, has also camped at Louisiana Tech and intends to attend camps in July at TCU and USM.

“It’s been going great, and I’m blessed to have all these schools that want me,” Cushenberry said. “I think Louisiana Tech and South Carolina are my leaders. I don’t know when I want to make a decision. I would like to do it during the season.”

After sharing time in a two-quarterback system a year ago with senior Brandt Fritsche, Sparks embraces the opportunity to be Dutchtown’s starter and lead the Griffins back to the postseason.

“It’s what I’ve been waiting and preparing for,” he said. “I feel blessed to be in this position. I’m excited about our team. I’m expecting great things because I believe in my teammates and coaches.”

“He’s gotten bigger and stronger and is capable of hurting you with his arms and his legs,” Saia said of Sparks.

Sparks said his attraction to USM was two-fold: the Eagles’ fast-paced offensive philosophy and the recruiting of running backs coach John Simon, a former Southern Lab and Louisiana Tech standout.

The Eagles are still developing their spread system under coach Todd Monken, a former LSU assistant, and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, which produced a modest 20 points and 365 yards per game in 2014.

“They’ve shown so much belief in me and that goes a long way,” Sparks said. “To get a chance to play on the D-1 (Division I) level is an honor, and I feel like I’ve got to take advantage of that opportunity. On top of that I have a great relationship with the coaches. It’s easy to understand where they’re coming from, and they’re genuine in what they’re saying.”

Brown commits to Nicholls

Walker High girls basketball player Keeona Brown committed to Nicholls State on Thursday.

The 5-9 Brown is a senior-to-be who averaged 12 points for a Walker team that finished as the Class 5A runner-up in March.

“I went to their (Nicholls’) team camp two weekends ago,” Brown said. “I really like the coach (DoBee Plaisance) and her personality a lot. She told me she liked the way I rebounded and hustled.”

Brown said she also considered Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe.

Robin Fambrough contributed to this report