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ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher says he was in Michael Sam's corner from the start and that having the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team was no distraction at all in training camp.

Fisher says that releasing Sam was purely a football decision.   He believes too much was made of Sam's orientation and that wherever he lands, it should not be an issue. Fisher had high praise for Sam's non-stop energy and effort but said there were a lot of tough decisions that made to be made to reach the 53-man roster limit.

Fisher fended off a question about re-signing Sam to the practice squad, saying any roster adjustments would depend on other players now on the market.  

The coach personally delivered the news to all of the cuts, except for Sam, who attended Missouri's opening game and was informed on the phone. Fisher planned to meet with Sam on Sunday.

The 7th-round draft pick has been outspoken and confident as his progress was watched as closely as any rookie in the league. He has been cheered by athletes and celebrities. In the end, the defensive end couldn't make a team stocked with pass-rushers. He still can be picked up by another team or make the Rams' practice squad. 

The Rams selected the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri with the 249th overall pick out of 256 overall during May's draft. Sam came out as gay following his final season at Missouri.'

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Starlin Castro hit one of Chicago's three solo homers and Felix Doubront pitched seven strong innings in his National League debut, sending the Cubs to a 5-1 victory over the slumping St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

Logan Watkins and Chris Valaika also connected for Chicago in the makeup of a May 14 rainout. The last-place Cubs hit four home runs Friday, giving them seven in two games against the Cardinals.

St. Louis has lost four in a row for the second time this season. The Cardinals began the day one game ahead of Atlanta and 1 1/2 up on Pittsburgh for the second NL wild card.

The Cubs have won nine of 13. 


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - It took a while but new quarterback Wes Lunt delivered a come-from-behind 28-17 win Saturday for Illinois over Youngstown State in a season opener.

Lunt threw three late touchdowns for Illinois. The second was a 15-yarder to running back Josh Ferguson that put Illinois up for good 21-17.    Lunt finished the day 24 of 38 for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He used nine different receivers.   Lunt's highly anticipated debut after his transfer from Oklahoma State started slowly. The Illini had seven first downs by halftime and clung to a 7-6 lead.

The Penguins took a 17-14 lead with 10:57 left in the game on a 2-yard Brian Ruiz touchdown and a 2-point conversion by quarterback Dante Nania.

Ruiz finished with 32 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown. Nania was 11 of 24 for 177 yards.

CENTRALIA - The Salem Wildcats dropped their 6th straight Shrine Game to start the football season, dropping a 34-14 decision at Evers Field Friday night.

Centralia scored the first points of the game with 2:42 to play in the opening quarter on a 36 yard pass from sophomore quarterback Dawson Berry to Shandon Webster to make it 7-0 and then followed that up with a 77 yard touchdown run from tailback Matese Scott.  The senior finished the night rushing for 235 yards on 25 carries. 

Salem would cut into the lead following a Brock Irwin interception return deep into Orphans territory.  The Cats would cap off the short drive on a 2-yard run from Nic Helm to cut the lead to 14-7. 

Matese Scott would add another score for the Orphans with 3:28 to play in the first half making it 21-14 before Riley Martin would cap off a 63 yard drive with a 15-yard scoring pass to Daniel Dillon to cut the lead at halftime to 21-14. 

After a 3-and-out to start the half for the Wildcats, the Orphans got a big 69 yard scoring pass from Berry to Dorian Reeves to extend the lead, and after a bad snap forced a Salem blocked punt, senior kicker Nick Neubauer connected on a 34 and 36 yard field goal to make the final 34-14. 

For Salem, Riley Martin was 20-of-36 for 169 yards and a touchdown.  Dakota McDaneld rushed for just 47 yards on 13 carries, with martin going for 46 yards  in 8 carries.  Cole Steward caught 8 balls for 59 yards, Nic Helm added another 3 catches for 42 yards and Dan Dillon caught 4 balls for 39 yards including the touchdown. 

Salem will travel to Highland for Week 2 after the Bulldogs disposed of DuQuoin 56-0 last night.  Centralia will host Wood River who was dismantled by Columbia 62-0. 

    In other games involving Apollo Conference schools… Mt Vernon fumbled the ball six times, five were recovered by Taylorville and four turned into touchdowns as the Tornadoes swept through for a 40-20 win in Mt Vernon.  The Rams ran for 357 yards with 219 coming from Demontez Miller-Gray. 

    In other action, the Mater Dei Knights erased a 10-6 halftime with 16 unanswered points in the third quarter and held on to beat the Effingham Flaming Hearts 22-17. 

    Charleston defeated Rantoul 33-26, Mt Zion 60-36 over Mahomet Seymour and Mattoon lost to Triad 54-30.

Other Scores:
- Althoff 34 Collinsville 14
- Anna Jonesboro 37 West Frankfort 32
- Belleville East 28 Normal Community 21
- Civic Memorial 49 Alton Marquette 7
- Carlinville 64 Roxana 40
- Carterville 40 Benton 6
- Casey Westfield 40 Paris 0
- Champaign Central 26 Marion 14
- Columbia 62 Wood River 0
- Eldorado 44 Sesser Valier Waltonville Woodlawn 22
- Fairfield 55 Ziegler Royalton 15
- Freeburg 42 Massac County 14
- Greenville 56 Litchfield 28
- Highland 56 DuQuoin 0
- Hillsboro 20 Southwestern 14
- Jerseyville 21 Granite City 12
- Johnston City 29 Vienna 0
- Lawrenceville 40 Olney 0
- Marshall 48 Flora 0
- Mascoutah 35 Breese Central 21
- Mt Carmel 46 Harrisburg 12
- Murphysboro 35 Carbondale 7
- Nashville 22 Carlyle 20
- Newton 41 Edwards County 0
- O'Fallon 16 Cahokia 0
- Pana 23 Staunton 7
- Pinckneyville 41 Red Bud 6
- Robinson 41 Red Hill 12
- Shelbyville 47 Pawnee 12
- Wesclin 26 Mount Olive 26
- Vandalia 14 Gillespie 6
- Waterloo 28 Herrin 27

Friday Night Football Scoreboard


Centralia wins the Shrine game over Salem, 34-14.

Other scores from around the region:

Vandalia 14, Gillespie 6
Trenton Wesclin 26, Mount Olive 0
Greenville 56, Litchfield 28
Nashville 22, Carlyle 20
Taylorville 40, Mt. Vernon 20
Marshall 48, Flora 0
Newton 41, Edwards County 0
Fairfield 55, Christopher-Zeigler-Royalton 15
Charleston 33, Rantoul 26
St. Jacob Triad 54, Mattoon 30
Breese Mater Dei 22, Effingham 17
Breese Mater Dei 22 - Effingham 17
Casey-Westfield 40, Paris 0
Champaign Central 26, Marion 14
Murphysboro 35, Carbondale 7
Lawrenceville 40, Olney 0
Freeburg 42, Massac County 14
Carterville 40, Benton 6
Althoff 34, Collinsville 14
Highland 56, DuQuoin 0
Pinckneyville 41, Red Bud 6
Chester 42, Hamilton County 0
Jerseyville Jersey 21, Granite City 12
O'Fallon 16, Cahokia 0

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