O.J. Murdock, Tennessee Titans wide receiver, commits suicide in car outside Tampa high school: police

TAMPA, Fla. — Tennessee Titans reserve receiver O.J. Murdock has died of an apparent suicide, Tampa police say. Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said officers found the 25-year-old Murdock inside his car Monday morning with what appeared to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The car was parked in front of Middleton High School, where Murdock attended school. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he later died. Murdock did not report to training camp over the weekend because of what the team said at the time was a personal issue. “We are shocked and saddened to hear of O.J. Murdock’s death this morning,” the Titans said in a statement Monday. “In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them. He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year’s training camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy.” As a senior at Middleton in 2005, Murdock was rated the 10th-best wide receiver recruit in the nation by Rivals.com. He signed with South Carolina, but played in only four games, making one catch, after redshirting his first season. He was arrested for shoplifting at a Florida department store during that 2006 season and suspended. Murdock transferred to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi and then to Division II Fort Hays State in Kansas. As a senior in 2010, he had 60 catches for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns. That earned him an invitation to the NFL scouting combine. After going undrafted, he was signed by the Titans last summer but spent the entire 2011 season on injured reserve after hurting his right Achilles early in training camp. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

‘To Be Heard’ IFC documentary features University Heights high school students, spoken word

Words are at the heart of "To Be Heard," a dynamic, award-winning documentary opening Wednesday at the IFC. Focusing on three students at University Heights high school in the Bronx, the movie shows how a unique program called Power Writing combines spoken-word poetry, performance and literacy advancement to give teens the tools necessary to tell their stories - and save their lives. The program's motto is "If you don't learn to write your life story, someone else will write it for you."  That has special resonance for Pearl Quick, Anthony Pittman and Karina Sanchez, who were filmed overcoming personal and academic hurdles more than half a decade ago, when Pittman and Sanchez were juniors and Quick was a senior. "We all need to be heard," says Roland Legiardi-Laura, a teacher in the program and one of the documentary's four co-directors. "If you create a space for young people where they feel listened to and respected, you'll be rewarded with the most amazing, enlightening personal and political commentaries." The program started in 2001, when Legiardi-Laura and two fellow instructors, Joe Ubiles and Amy Sultan - another co-director on the film and a longtime advocate for arts programs in New York - sought a way to have kids "take the lead in expressing what they want and need in their lives." Spoken-word poetry eventually announced itself as Power Writing's primary form of expression. But the teachers also emphasized literacy, with reading, writing and public speaking as the key to altering what seemed like preordained futures. Pittman and Karina Sanchez in 'To Be Heard.' (Handout) "Poetry is kind of what naturally comes out of the kids in Power Writing," says Legiardi-Laura. "This is a poetry class that doesn't teach rhyme schemes or sonnets. We teach poetry as a useful tool for any language expression, and they naturally move into performance poetry. When you find your voice, it's empowering to stand up and sing your own song." For Pearl Continue Reading

Dan Fogler, star of ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ revisits old high school stomping grounds, theater

Dan Fogler, star of the new movie "Take Me Home Tonight," sits in the top row of his high school theater, staring at the stage that spawned his successful acting career. "Thank God for this beautiful theater," says the 34-year-old comedian while perched atop the 380-seat Richard Perry Theatre at Poly Prep Country Day School in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. "I wasn't the best student, and if it wasn't for this stage and the times when I was able to shine and show people that I was worthy of being here in some way, high school would have been much more lonely." But shine Fogler did. After winning a Tony at the age of 27 for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," the Brooklyn-born funnyman jumped to the big screen in "Good Luck Chuck" and "Balls of Fury." His next film, "Mars Needs Moms," opens Friday. His newfound fame, however, hasn't distorted Fogler's fond high school memories. "I graduated in 1994, and those were the grunge years," he says. "I was into Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I wouldn't say I was ahead of my time, but I was shaving pretty early and had all different kinds of facial hair. That was pretty cool, but it upset the guys who hadn't gone through puberty yet." The bullies didn't like the new mature look, either. "Once I went through puberty, I became the bullies' bully," says Fogler, who now lives in Brooklyn Heights. "I would see the guys who used to pick on me pick on the smaller guys and I would break up the fight. I tried to put the bullies in their place, but that has its own drawbacks because then they go and get their bully friends." Fogler's teenage experiences influenced his portrayal of Barry Nathan, Topher Grace's best friend in "Take Me Home Tonight." "The dynamics in the movie were very similar to what I dealt with in high school," he says. "The whole thing felt like I was in 10th grade again with all the insecurities." Of course, Fogler never swapped spit with Angie Everhart in high school as he does in the movie. Continue Reading

Super 10, Mississippi high school football class rankings: A new team enters Super 10

1. West Point(10-0), Previous: 1West Point put up its highest-scoring game of the season in beating Saltillo 62-0 Friday night. This was the Green Wave's third shutout of the season. Marcus Murphy had 136 yards for two touchdowns while Chris Calvert had 80 yards for two touchdowns as well. The defense accumulated three interceptions. West Point finishes the regular season at home against Lewisburg (6-4).  More: Here's what you need to know about Week 11 of the Mississippi high school football season 2. Pearl(11-0), Previous: 2Pearl rolled Oak Grove, beating the Warriors 42-0 Friday night. The Pirates forced five turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles. This defensive unit has given up just three points against region opponents. Pearl finishes its season on the road at rival Brandon for one of the best games in Mississippi. These two teams will be playing for the Region 3-6A championship.  More: No. 2 Pearl blows by Oak Grove 42-0, setting up huge regular season-finale next week 3. Tupelo(10-0), Previous: 4Tupelo claimed the Region 1-6A title with its 25-7 win over Horn Lake Friday. The Golden Wave finishes the regular season at home against Oxford (8-3), which will be fighting for a playoff spot.  4. Hattiesburg(10-0), Previous: 5Hattiesburg clinched the No. 1 spot in Region 4-5A with its 48-19 win over Long Beach. Fabian Franklin had two rushing touchdowns while three other Tigers scored on the ground as well. Defensively the Tigers accumulated 14 tackles for loss and four sacks. They finish the regular season at West Harrison (1-9). 5. Starkville(9-2), Previous: 3Starkville fell in one of the biggest upsets of the season to Warren Central 23-0 on Friday. The Yellowjackets were averaging 36 points per game. Despite the loss, Starkville has proven it is one of the best teams in the state and still owns the No. 1 spot in Region 2-6A. Starkville finishes the season at home against Clinton (5-5). More: Continue Reading

Mississippi high school football scores live updates, news

6AStarkville 27, Madison Central 24Pearl 52, Meridian 12 More: Starkville beats Madison Central to advance to Class 6A state title game More: Back to state: Pearl crushes Meridian, headed back for another shot at 6A title 5AWest Point 39, Olive Branch 6Hattiesburg 33, Laurel 22 More: Hattiesburg High wins 5A South State championship 4ANoxubee County 35, Louisville 28East Central 52, Poplarville 45 3AYazoo County 59, North Panola 26Jefferson Davis County 26, Hazlehurst 16 More: Yazoo County continues its historic season and its march to a 3A state title More: Deep ball prayer sends Jefferson Davis County to the 3A championship 2AWinona 22, Calhoun City 14Taylorsville 48, Collins 32 More: Taylorsville beats Collins, wins 2A South State crown 1AHollandale-Simmons 20, Okolona 14Nanih Waiya 36, Resurrection 32***It's North and South State week in Mississippi, with 12 spots in next week's Mississippi high school football state championships on the line.Follow along all night for live updates, scores and news from around the state. More: Yazoo County is chasing a championship in a season of firsts for the Panthers More: Who will win the North/South State title games?     Continue Reading

Daily News’ All-Brooklyn boys and girls high school basketball teams

Lincoln set the standard in the PSAL this season, winning an unprecedented fourth straight city title in March. Lance Stephenson set the state scoring record and capped off one of the best high school careers in Big Apple history. The highlights, however, were not confined to Coney Island. Chaz Williams carried Bishop Ford to the CHSAA 'A' final; Mike Taylor emerged as a rising star at PSAL semifinalist Boys & Girls; Transit Tech showed it belonged in the PSAL 'AA', and Jack Alesi's Xaverian squad beat Christ the King and Rice to help stir things up in the CHSAA. JAYVAUGHN PINKSTON, Bishop LoughlinBurly 6-5 junior forward missed six games due to academic troubles but still made a big impact in the CHSAA, averaging 23.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game to lead Lions to the CHSAA semis. JAMES PADGETT, LincolnThe Maryland-bound forward hurt his knee early in the season, but 6-8 senior returned to form in the playoffs, in which he averaged 16.6 ppg and 13.0 rpg. LANCE STEPHENSON, LincolnSome say Stephenson showed little improvement in his senior season, but it's hard to argue with the numbers. The McDonald's All-American and co-Mr. New York Basketball scored 31.9 ppg and averaged 12.8 rpg to help Railsplitters win their fourth straight PSAL title. CHAZ WILLIAMS, Bishop FordThe Hofstra-bound point guard averaged 25.9 ppg, at times single-handedly carrying the Falcons. JOEL WRIGHT, JeffersonSometimes, the big man's emotional play got the best of him, landing him on the bench. But the senior, who is verbally committed to Fordham, averaged 17.0 rpg when he was on the floor. DWAYNE MORTON, coach, LincolnIn a season of impossibly high expecations, Morton navigated the Railsplitters through injuries to key cogs and an exceedingly difficult non-league slate. He ended the PSAL season in the same place he'd been standing the previous three years: on the Garden floor, trophy in hand. SECOND TEAMDarwin Ellis (Lincoln), Rasheem King (Xaverian), Lamount Continue Reading

Brooklyn’s Jefferson High School caught in Pearl (Washington) jam

Hiring Dwayne (Pearl) Washington, a New York City basketball legend, as girls basketball coach seemed like a good idea to officials at Jefferson High School in Brooklyn back in November, the week before the season started. Now, weeks before the playoffs, the PSAL has ruled that Washington lacked the required certifications and the Lady Orange Wave's 10 regular-season victories have been changed to forfeits, dropping the team's record to 0-12 on the season. "We were told (by Jefferson) he had a license, but when asked for verification it never came," said Margie Feinberg, the Department of Education spokesperson. "We were told we would get it shortly, but it never came, and a decision had to be made." But that's not how Feinberg explained Washington's status back in December. "He does not hold a teaching certificate, but his license to work as a substitute teacher makes him eligible to coach in the PSAL," Feinberg told the Daily News for a report published on Dec.9. Now, the girls who have been working diligently to challenge city champion Bergtraum may have seen all of their hopes dashed. "It's still sad, discouraging - there's something always coming up," assistant coach Unique Nelson said. "So much drama, and it's unnecessary drama. (Washington) should have had (the papers) after the first or second or third game. I was trying to tell him to stay on top of that." Washington, the team's fifth coach in the past year, would not discuss the situation when the Daily News contacted him. "I have no information at this point," he said. "Once I get information I will let you know." Jefferson principal Lottie Almonte also declined to comment. Tuesday's decision comes days after the girls basketball commissioner, Virginia Matthews, resigned for reasons that neither she nor the league would explain. Jefferson may need to appoint Woody Souffrant, the school's JV girls coach, to take over for the rest of the season. Despite the setback, the Wave Continue Reading

America’s best high schools: A look at the schools that excel

There are more than 18,000 public high schools in the United States. What if you could take a snapshot of each one and capture, at a particular moment, what kinds of students were enrolled there and the caliber of the education provided them? If you were to collect these individual snapshots into one huge national yearbook, which high school would be chosen as "Most Likely to Succeed," meaning that it set the best example of how to prepare students to achieve their post-graduation goals? We've attempted to answer that pivotal question in the following pages, our first ever ranking of America's Best High Schools. Using a formula produced in collaboration with School Evaluation Services, a K-12 data research and analysis business run by Standard & Poor's, we put high schools in 40 states through a three-step analysis. First, we measured how each school's students performed on state tests, adjusting for student circumstances. We next evaluated how well each school's disadvantaged students did. Finally, we looked at whether the school was successful in providing college-level coursework. The 100 schools that did the best in this analysis earned gold medals. The next 405 schools were awarded silver medals, and an additional 1,086 schools earned bronze. Like any good photograph, the details of the data gathered for this project reveal a number of fascinating stories. Most notable is the variety among the schools that have earned the highest honor. Our first-place winner, Thomas Jefferson High School in suburban Washington, D.C., picks its students from the children of the nation's leaders. Yet just 10 slots lower, Hidalgo High School on the border of Texas and Mexico has found success educating a student body comprising the children of challenged immigrants. And in Boston, the nation's oldest school carries on an exemplary tradition while a new charter school explores innovations such as housing tutors in dormitories on the third floor of its building. A good Continue Reading

Tennessee high school football state playoff pairings

The Tennessee high school football regular season has concluded.Here are the first-round pairings for the TSSAA playoffs.All games are 7 p.m. local time and are set for Friday, Nov. 3 Class 1A Midway (5-5) at Cloudland (8-2)Hancock Co. (2-8) at Coalfield (9-1)Oliver Springs (3-7) at Jellico (4-6)Greenback (9-1) byeMonterey (6-4) at South Pittsburg (10-0)Copper Basin (2-8) at Jo Byrns (8-2)Clay Co. (6-4) at Whitwell (9-1)Lookout Valley (5-5) at Gordonsville (6-4)Bruceton (6-4) at Cornersville (9-1)Franklin Grace (5-4) at Wayne Co. (7-3)Collinwood (6-4) at Moore Co. (7-3)Fayetteville (6-4) at Huntington (10-0)Memphis Middle College (4-6) at Dresden (9-1)South Fulton (6-4) at Hillcrest (6-4)Freedom Prep (5-5) at Lake Co. (8-2)Greenfield (5-5) at Westwood (8-2) Class 2A Cumberland Gap (7-3) at Sullivan North (7-3)Hampton (4-6) at Rockwood (7-3)Oneida (6-4) at Happy Valley (7-3)South Greene (3-7) at Meigs Co. (10-0)Jackson Co. (5-5) at Tyner (8-2) Polk Co. (4-6) at Watertown (8-2)Westmoreland (5-5) at Marion Co. (5-5) Bledsoe Co. (4-6) at Trousdale Co. (7-3)Hickman Co. (4-6) at Columbia Academy (9-1)Eagleville (8-2) at Riverside (8-2)Scotts Hill (3-7) at Lewis Co. (9-1) Forrest (4-6) at Waverly (8-1)Manassas (3-6) at Union City (8-2)Trinity Christian (7-3) at Douglass (5-5)Mitchell (4-6) at Peabody (8-2) Adamsville (6-4) at Fairley (8-2) Class 3A Northview Academy (5-5) at Johnson Co. (10-0)Unicoi Co. (5-5) at Austin-East (8-2)Kingston (7-3) at West Greene (6-4)Claiborne (5-5) at Alcoa (8-2)Sequatchie Co. (6-4) at Red Bank (8-2)Signal Mountain (4-6) at York Institute (8-2)Upperman (6-4) at Loudon (7-3)Sweetwater (6-4) at Smith Co. (7-3)Camden (2-8) at Pearl-Cohn (8-2)East Nashville (4-6) at Cheatham Co. (7-3)Sycamore (6-4) at Giles Co. (6-4)Stratford (3-7) at Fairview (7-3)Melrose (3-7) at Covington (9-1)Milan (5-5) at Wooddale (6-4)Trezevant (4-6) at South Gibson Continue Reading

Tennessee high school football playoff predictions, bracket breakdown

With the high school football postseason getting under way, here’s a quick look at what lies ahead for the more than 200 playoff-bound teams across the state. More: Top Nashville area playoff games for Rd. 1 More: High school football statewide rankings Class 6AFavorite: Oakland (10-0)Contenders: Germantown (10-0), Maryville (9-1)Darkhorse: Mt. Juliet (10-0) Top players RB Jeremy Banks, Cordova, Sr. (1,832 yards rushing, 28 TDs) LB Bryson Eason, Whitehaven, So. (75 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 Int.) QB Dylan Hopkins, Maryville, Sr. (1,649 yards passing, 14 TDs) WR Jordan McCray, Cane Ridge, Sr. (1,091 yards receiving, 10 TDs) RB Aidan Raines, Mt. Juliet, Sr. (1,224 yards rushing, 21 TDs) QB Carson Shacklett, Brentwood, Sr. (2,116 yards passing, 22 TDs) QB Dylan Standifer, Bradley Central, Jr. (2,573 yards passing, 24 TDs)  DB Woodi Washington, Oakland, Jr. (354 yards receiving, 5 Int., 1 TD) QB Gavin Wilkinson, Farragut, So. (1,795 yards passing, 19 TDs) WR/DB Jaylin Williams, Germantown, Sr. (877 yards receiving, 14 total TDs)First-round matchup to watch: Riverdale (8-2) at Mt. Juliet (10-0)Collision course: Mt. Juliet at Oakland, quarterfinals (Nov. 17) Predictions Tom Kreager, The Tennessean: Oakland over Whitehaven Michael Murphy, The Tennessean: Maryville over Brentwood Cecil Joyce, Daily News Journal: Oakland over Germantown Diana Nearhos, Knoxville News Sentinel: Oakland over Brentwood Michael Odom, The Jackson Sun: Oakland over Germantown Luis Torres, The Jackson Sun: Oakland over Germantown George Robinson, The Leaf Chronicle: Oakland over Germantown John Varlas, The Commerical Appeal: Oakland over Brentwood Class 5AFavorite: Beech (10-0)Contenders: Fulton (8-2), Knoxville Catholic (7-3)Darkhorse: Oak Ridge (8-2) Top players WR Gus Antoine, Northeast, Sr. (1,371 all-purpose yards, 13 total TDs) DE Jordan Davis, Southwind, Sr. (18 sacks, Alabama commit) RB Kaemon Dunlap, Beech, Sr. (1,616 yards rushing, Continue Reading