Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Newton's Laws of Sports

Sir Issac Newton (no relation to Cam) was a famous mathematician and physicist from the late 1600's who developed three laws of motion.  The first of these, roughly translated, states that objects continue to do what they are currently doing unless acted upon by an outside force.  This not only applies to objects, but teams as well.  Take a look around the State of Texas in all classifications and you will see the same teams at the top of the district rankings and state football polls year after year.  Even in Central Texas, you see teams like Copperas Cove, Rogers, Troy and Cameron, in the playoffs year after year.  Conversely, you can look around the area and State and find teams that perennially find themselves at the bottom of the standings. Why?....Newton's First Law.

To turn a program from one to the other takes time.  A great example of a successful transition is Jack Welch's Copperas Cove program.  For many younger fans, Cove has always been a powerhouse.  Those of us that are a little older remember the days when they would see six homecoming queens crowned every year! It didn't happen overnight, but Welch eventually got it done and is now reaping the rewards outlined by Mr. Newton.

On the flip side of this, there is the Temple Wildcat program.  At one time, the Wildcats were one of the premiere programs in the country.  Simply put, Temple was a football town.  From coaches like Rusty Russell, Jay Fikes and Bob McQueen to players like Ki Aldrich, Brad Dusek, and Kenneth Davis, you could always count on the Wildcats to make a deep playoff run.  However, following McQueen's retirement and a series of coaching changes, Temple now finds themselves in the unenviable position of trying to stop the fall and start the climb.  This may seem unbelievable to some, but today's Temple ISD students were not even alive when the program was thriving.  To them, Temple has always been an also ran.

Authoring a turnaround is the task that new coach Mike Spradlin has before him with the Wildcats.  He has certainly shown an ability to do this at some of his other stops, including Abilene Cooper, and it is easy to see why.  Spradlin has brought a high powered offense, a sense of discipline and pride, an infectious personality and an outstanding staff with him to Temple.  Although the Cats have yet to win a game this year, they have looked a lot better.  While it may be next week, next month, or next year before the Cats get that first win on the field that they are craving, it looks like they are close to getting their biggest win in a long time....over Mr. Newton's Law.  When this happens, the good times will roll again at Wildcat Stadium.                      

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are You Surprised Longhorns?

With the passing of Thanksgiving, we are now officially into the Christmas season.  This means non-stop parties, school events, and shopping for gifts.  Now, for fear of my life, I will have to give full disclosure that my wife handles most of the gift buying for our family.  While this is a tall task, luckily, just about everyone in the family has made it a little easier by putting together a Christmas list and emailing it out.  Admittedly, I was not a fan of this practice early on because I like being surprised on Christmas morning.  However, after receiving the SPAM haiku book of poems one year (I am not kidding....Look it up), I have now come over to the list making side.  It is a little sad that the surprise is gone, but at least you know what you are getting.

Texas fans shouldn't be surprised by the bowl-less season that is 2010.  Well, maybe a little surprised.  After all, the Longhorns came into the season with a top 5 preseason rating and being a Colt McCoy injury away from winning the title last year.  While no one could expect that type of free fall, the warning signs were there.  The last few years, guys named Young and McCoy have served to cloak the short comings of Greg Davis as an offensive coordinator.  All you have to do is remember back to the pre-Young/McCoy days when Davis could not get the Longhorns' loaded offense (Roy Williams, Chris Simms, Cedrick Benson, etc.) to perform in big games.  Time and time again, the Longhorns would stall against the likes of OU and others (especially in big games!).  Just like Shaq or LeBron in their prime could have made me a better basketball coach, that is exactly what Young and McCoy did for Davis.  Although it would have been tough given the success of the last few years to do so, Mack Brown's unwillingness to make changes doomed the Longhorns to mediocrity.

Speaking of Longhorn signal callers, is the quarterback position for Texas a government office?  That would be the only way to explain how the staff hung with Garrett Gilbert all season.  While he has a great high school pedigree, the guy just has not demonstrated enough of an "it" factor to be given such a long rope.  In fact, if  anything, he seems to have demonstrated an unfortunate knack for making the game-changing play for the other team!  Brown and his staff's unconditional devotion to Gilbert with his lack of results and poor track record further doomed the Longhorns to mediocrity in 2010.

So, what now for the Longhorns?  As an Aggie fan, you hope that they stand pat and give both Greg Davis and Garrett Gilbert another shot next year.  As strange as this sounds, the most natural reaction in this situation is to do nothing.  "We're great...It can't be us...2010 was a fluke...Gilbert will get better...Look at what we did in the past."  To quote George Strait, "Famous last words of a fool."  Coaches have egos just like CEOs and admitting that they were wrong is not at the top of their Christmas list.  However, the great ones can not only admit their shortcomings, but also embrace the changes to address them.  The ones that can't...well ask Sears, Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster, etc., what happens to them.

While no one in their right mind thinks that the 'Horns will go the way of Montgomery Wards, if their 2011 team includes Davis and Gilbert in their current roles, don't be surprised at what you get for Christmas next year Longhorn fans!     

Monday, November 15, 2010

If It Was Easy....Anybody Could Do It!

In 7th grade, I was the back up quarterback.  By back up, I mean really back up...I wore the number 48!  That tells you how close I was to getting the keys to the Rogers 7th grade machine (8-0!).  Nonetheless, it did provide me with a great deal of perspective on the position.  Typically, our games consisted of the first team running up the score the first three quarters, and then we second teamers would come in for what I liked to call the "save" situation.  During the first three quarters, I would often pass the time by taking snaps from the back up center.  Although I am not sure why, we probably took 50 snaps a game prior to coming into the game.  However, when the fourth quarter would roll around and we would hit the field, we could never execute a successful snap.  While the question of who was at fault for this failure to execute the snap might never be answered (see Michael Morris #51), it illustrates an important point....everything looks easy until you have to do it.

Last week, the Rogers Eagles kicked off their 2010 playoff run (on without the services of their quarterback, safety, punter, and kicker.....Ryan Fares.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Rogers signal caller suffered a broken ankle on the last play of the season finale against Lexington.  This created numerous job vacancies for the Eagles.  While Cody Richmond filled in admirably at the quarterback position with two touchdowns and only a couple of missed snaps/fumbles (they are trickier than they look!), the highlight of the night was Dylan Mendoza's performance filling in as the placekicker.  While I am partial to placekickers anyway (my only career score was a PAT on homecoming night 1988), there is something great about seeing a big guy wearing number 60 trotting on for the PAT that makes me smile.  Although Mendoza was able to hit his first two PATs, it was his third one that was the play of the night.  On the attempt, Mendoza fielded a bad snap that had sailed over the holder's head.  Rather than panicing, the sophomore took a step to the right and then headed to the left corner of the end zone for the 2pt conversion that ended up being the difference in the game.  For you old timers, it looked like John Riggans running the counter tray behind the Hogs for the 1980's Redskins!

Make no mistake, the Eagles really miss Ryan Fares and we would all love for him to be playing.  But his absence opened up an opportunity and Dylan Mendoza stepped in and stepped up.....Maybe it was just me and it is as easy as it looks!    

Monday, November 1, 2010

When The Music Stops

All of us have an identity.  Whether it is a great singing voice, a quick wit, or being good at math, there is something that defines us all.  For many high school seniors, it's football.  As we close in on Week 10 of the high school football season, many young men will be strapping on the pads for the final time in their career and they will no longer be who they have been since they were in elementary players. 

Unlike certain NFL quarterbacks who get to shamefully prolong their careers (see FARVE), the high school player's days are numbered.  Even for those who are fortunate enough to prolong the fate by being on a playoff team, it's not a matter of's when.  When that final horn finally does sound, the emotions take over and the memories start to flood...The first game that you remember going to as a little boy and watching your team win...Trying to catch the little footballs that were thrown into the stands so that you could get your buddies together in the endzone for a game...Friday night family road trips to follow the team...The first time that you donned the school colors and hit the same field that your dad played on for your seventh grade debut...Your first touchdown (Note: some of us are still waiting for this!)...The bus rides with friends...The memories of opponents and hits that gave you the shivers to the big victories and memorable plays...The pep talks from the coaches that made you want to run through a wall...Running through the sign for the last time in front of your home crowd...Leaving a legacy for the next generation of players.

To all of the seniors.....Thanks for the memories!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Confessions of A Back-Up

Hello...My name is Ricky and I was a career back-up. 

Face it, being a back-up on the high school football team is not the life.  Most of the time it meant going through all of the team's running and conditioning,  holding dummies, and getting pounded by the starters while manning the "scout" team and....doing a lot of standing around on Friday nights.  While the starters picked up the cheerleaders after the game, we back-ups usually had to pick up the cups and Gatorade. 

The one bright spot to this was that I was not alone.  In fact, I was part of an even more tightly knit team than the varsity itself.  I was a member of the "sideline crew."  The sideline crew was a band of misfits that had been cursed with either an early maturing stud in front of them or some combination of poor genetics and attitude when it came to football.  While we were all different, we had two goals that we all hoped to achieve every Friday night. The first was to not fall down while running through the sign (embarrassing even within sideline crew circles).  The second was to somehow make a big play that got us noticed.  Often this meant jumping onto the pile at the end of a tackle or faking an injury late in the game so that the PA announcer would call out our name.  Occasionally though, one of the sideline crew members would find themselves in a situation to make an even bigger play that was actually meaningful in the game.  Although it did not happen often, when it did, we all took some joy in the event even if we hadn't been the one who had actually made the play.  All for one and one for all.

It is because of this, that I read with great delight about Belton's Ryan Stinson and Carlo Mosnia's efforts on Friday in the Tigers victory over Ellison.  Mosnia, who came into the game after an injury to starting kicker Tyler Pate, kicked a 31 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give Belton the lead.  The victory was cemented when Stinson, who was in for injured linebacker Tyler Vail, recovered a fumble with 52 seconds remaining to seal the victory and put the Tigers in great position for their second straight playoff birth.

Speaking for the millions of members of "sideline crews" throughout history.....Thanks for making our week!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

David Ash Has Got "It"

With just about all of 12-5A going strictly to the ground game (Temple, Cove, and Bryan combined for 0 yards passing Friday), Coach Rodney Southern has bucked the trend and kept the Tigers air assault humming behind Ash.  It is easy to see why.  After a nice junior year with the Tigers that garnered the attention of many, including Mack Brown, Ash has been torching defenses in 2010 to the tune of over 2,200 yards passing and 28 touchdowns.

In his latest outing, a contest with archrival Temple, Ash demonstrated the tools that have made him a legitimate DI quarterback recruit.  Whether throwing the deep post, the stop route or the flanker screen, Ash's pinpoint accuracy was something to behold.  The only thing more impressive than his accuracy was his pocket presence.  No play demonstrated this better than when he almost fumbled while executing a fake handoff and then calmly hit a streaking Levi Jordan for a 29 yard touchdown pass.  Talk about cool! 

Earlier Friday, former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden spoke to a group at the Bell County Expo Center.  Among his many great stories, was one about a player that he recruited and coached at West Virginia.  While the kid looked incredible and had all of the tools, he never reached his potential because, according to Bowden, he just didn't have "it."  "It" is hard to define and measure, but you know when someone has "it" and you know when they don't.  Tom Brady has "it"....Tony Romo doesn't.  After seeing David Ash Friday night against the Wildcats, rest assured that he has "it."  Let's just hope for the Aggies sake that he leaves it in Belton and doesn't take it to Austin with him!                 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Real Heartbreaker

Real Heartbreaker.  That was the headline in Marcus Hood's article in Saturday's Temple Daily Telegram describing Temple's loss on Friday night against Harker Heights.  While the article did an excellent job of summarizing the game's events, it was only one of a few heartbreakers that night.

Following the game, I made my customary trip over to the locker room to visit with the coaches and players to try to provide them with a little encouragement.  After making the rounds, I stopped to briefly visit with Coach Brad Gunn before heading home.  While talking with him, one of the Wildcat players asked Coach Gunn to go back out onto the field to get Joseph Pickett, the Wildcat kicker who had missed a 45 yard field goal as time expired.  Walking out of the locker room, the scene looked like something from a movie.  There, on the half lit turf of Bob McQueen field, was Pickett, kicking field goals from the spot that he had misfired from at the end of the game...He had been kicking for over half an hour.  Watching him continue to pound football after football toward the west end goal post, my heart broke....then swelled with pride.

To be sure, no one is going to confuse the 2010 version of the Temple Wildcats with the 79 or 92 squads, but they do have something in common.  They are great kids who play hard and want to win.  They just haven't yet.  This lack of victories has caused many to not only question everything in and around the program, but more importantly, to quit coming to the games to support the team.  That is the real heartbreaker. 

Wildcat "mystique" is often spoken about in the community to describe Temple's ability to pull out victories when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances.  While the former players and the coaches deserve a great deal of the credit for this "mystique", the great Wildcat crowds certainly contributed as well.  Anyone who has ever competed knows the feeling and adrenaline that a big crowd can provide.  Occasionally, it is even enough to give a team that is struggling, or out manned, a little extra push that could mean the difference between winning and losing a last Friday night. 

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." - Thomas Edison

We could all learn a lesson from these Wildcats in determination and perseverance.  I thank Joseph Pickett for reminding me of this.  They haven't given up and neither should we.  I encourage all Wildcat fans come to Belton Friday to support your Wildcats...and bring your "mystique".