Category Archives: High School Football

Kansas spreading them very far and very wide

The Kansas State High School Activities Association determined its nine football state champions at eight different locations today. Silly. Just silly.
If KSHSAA used half a brain, it could easily get it down to three, which is still not ideal (ONE site is ideal), but three is a hell of a lot better than eight.
Hold 6-man and both 8-man divisions at one location, then three 11-man title games at two others. Who goes where could be determined by the teams in the finals. I would prefer to see 5A and 6A, the two largest classifications, split up, so the rural folks from the smaller towns can see big-city teams and vice versa.

My alma mater, Brother Martin of New Orleans, has advanced to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I SELECT semifinals.
This is the tenth season the LHSAA has operated with “select” and “non-select” divisions to determine football champions.
What’s weird is the schools play in districts like usual during the regular season, but then they are split for the playoffs, with brackerts filled based upon power ratings.
From 2013-21, the “non-select” side was much larger. “Select” schools were basically private schools, whether they were religiously affiliated or not, and a few other laboratory and charter schools.
In the largest division for “select” schools, there were only two public schools, Shreveport Byrd and Baton Rouge Scotlandville, both of which have been magnet schools for a long time.
Prior to the 2022 season, the LHSAA drastically expanded what constitutes a select school. This moved over 100 schools from non-select to select.
The Crusaders go to Lafayette Friday to play Carencro, which produced LSU All-American and longtime Patriot Kevin Faulk, who won three Super Bowl rings under Darth Belichick.
Carencro was moved to the select division this season because Lafayette Parish (county) has open enrollment for its high schools. This also applies to public schools in Caddo (Shreveport) and Rapides (Alexandria) parishes, among others.
The LHSAA also chose to reduce the number of non-select divisions from five to four. This forced many schools which play in 4A during the regular season into the highest classification for the playoffs.
Monroe Neville was the most notable school affected. The Tigers were a powerhouse for 30 seasons (1963-92) under coach Charlie Brown (Neville won a fourth in 1995 under Brown’s successor, Joe Coates), winning three titles at the top level despite having an enrollment which would have allowed them to play at a lower level.
Neville dropped from 5A to 4A in 2001 after the rise of West Monroe, which won five titles between 1993 and 2000, as well as the continued strength shown by perennial powers Ouachita and Ruston.
Neville reached the quarterfinals of Division I non-select before losing 21-10 last night at New Iberia Westgate.
Brother Martin has not reached a championship game since 1989. Its only title was in 1971, when the Crusaders defeated Catholic League archirval St. Augustine 23-0.
The Crusaders and Neville played three dramatic playoff games in the space of 368 days in 1971 and ‘72. More on that later.

A terrible side effect of the split was select schools being forced to play championship games in a stadium other than the Superdome.
The LHSAA first staged all their championship games in the Superdome in 1981. Many large schools raised hell and demanded the title games return to campus because they were losing money, but the LHSAA stuck with it, and soon nobody was clamoring for the title games to leave the home of the Saints.
If it were up to me, I would prefer all games at LSU’s Tiger Stadium. But it is ONE site. Better than Kansas!
The championships were forced out of New Orleans in 2005 due to the catastrophic damage Hurricane Katrina wreaked upon the Superdome. They were moved to the opposite end of the state at Shreveport, but returned, along with the Saints, in 2006.
In the first year of the split, all nine championship games were held over three days at the Superdome. The next year, the select schools held their title games a week earlier than the non-select, and that continued through 2016 before all nine were returned to one weekend in 2017 and 2018.
In 2019, the LHSAA ruled the select schools had to find their own championship sites for football and basketball.
The smallest select division petitioned the LHSAA to play at the Superdome and was successful.
Sadly, the other three divisions were split between Tulane, UL Lafayaette, and worst, St. Thomas More High in Lafayette, marking the first title game in a high school stadium since 1980.
STM treated the game vs. New Orleans De La Salle as another home game, not as a true championship game. Terrible.
In 2020, COVID brought all schools back to one site, but it was shifted from the Superdome to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, 65 miles south of Shreveport.
Last year, one select class played at the Superdome, two at UL Lafayette and one at Tulane.
This year, all eight title games are at the Superdome Dec. 8-10. Will it stay that way? Who knows.

The KSHSAA doesn’t get it. It never will. It’s sad to stage the state’s most important games at facilities which host junior colleges, Division II colleges and only high schools.

The KSHSAA also gave us the scourge of high school football overtime. Therefore, we will never, ever see what Brother Martin went through in the space of 18 days during the 1972 playoffs.
In my next post, I’ll go back 50 years to three games on three fields against two opponents.

LSU is getting hammered by Texas A&M. So much for the College Football Playoff.

Iowa gets it…Kansas NEVER WILL!

I am so lazy. So freaking lazy. First post since my birthday and that was 36 days ago. Pillory me if you must. Actually, pillory me because I’m asking you to. I deserve it.

As I was lounging in my room at the Sheraton West Des Moines (sixth stay here in 13 months), I discovered the Iowa High School Athletic Association was televising its football state championship games live on the Fox affiliate for Central Iowa. I’m sure it was going out to affiliates in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Sioux City and Omaha, where there’s Council Bluffs and several other sizable communities on the east bank of the Missouri River.
Iowa has played its football title games at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. The school has a domed stadium for football and basketball which seats a little over 16,000. It’s obviously not big enough for college football at the highest level, but UNI plays one level below Iowa and Iowa State, so it’s perfect for the Panthers. It was the stadium where Kurt Warner shot to stardom as UNI’s quarterback from 1990-93 before going on to become an Arena Football League legend with the Iowa Barnstormers, and later, the Pro Football Hall of Fame gunslinger most football fans knew from his years with the Rams and Cardinals.
Since the UNI Dome opened in 1976, the IHSAA has held its football championship games. Makes perfect sense, as Iowa gets pretty nippy in late November. Today’s temperature in Waterloo, which is Cedar Falls’ larger sister city just to the east, is minus-6 C (21 F). BRRRRRR for most; for me, not too bad.
Fans from all corners of the state descend upon Cedar Falls every November for two days of excitement. It has to be a thrill for kids from small farm towns throughout the Hawkeye State to play on a big stage together with the big schools from Des Moines and the other big cities, even if it isn’t quite what it might be at Ames or Iowa City. I understand the IHSAA’s reasoning for putting the games under climate control. Makes it fairer for all participants, and is the most comfortable for fans. And playing on live TV is something these young men may never experience again.

Meanwhile, the high school playoffs in my home state are in the semifinals, which will be played tonight under some of the coldest temperatures in many years for Kansas high school games.
The EIGHTEEN (that’s right, 18) winners tonight advance to the finals, which will be next Saturday in EIGHT locations.
Let me repeat: nine games in EIGHT locations.
Holy Mother of God.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association introduced state playoffs in 1969. From that season through 1982, the home team in championship games was determined by a formula taking into account how many games each team had hosted prior to the final and which side of the state hosted in the previous season. Records had zero to do with it.
This formula was used in most states throughout the 1970s.
Missouri ditched it in 1978 to start holding all the title games in one place, and it has moved around between St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City and Springfield through the years.
Three years later, Louisiana moved all of its games to the Louisiana Superdome (as it was known then; now the Caesar’s Superdome).
In Texas, it wasn’t until Jerry Jones opened his palace in Arlington known as AT&T Stadium that the University Interscholastic League of Texas moved its 11-man title games to one spot. Six-man games were still being held at Abilene, which was fine because there are few, if any, 6-man schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas, but they eventually got in on the action at Jerry World.
Prior to 2009, teams which reached the final would usually agree on a neutral site, which often was the Astrodome in Houston, Texas Stadium in Irving, Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin (Texas) and Kyle Field in College Station (Texas A&M). Baylor’s old home in Waco, Floyd Casey Stadium, saw some games, as did Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth (TCU) and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
In 1983, the KSHSAA agreed to move all championship games to a neutral site.
That was good news.

The bad news? There would be multiple sites for the games.
The KSHSAA steadfastly refused to stage its title games on multiple days, so it required the use of three stadiums in 1983 to make sure they were all played the Saturday after Thanksgiving (except in 1983 and ’84, Class 1A, which was down to very few 11-man schools, played their title game the week before Thanksgiving because their playoffs consisted of only four teams).
The two largest classifications played at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The next three 11-man classes played at Kansas State in Manhattan. Both 8-man title games (1983 was the first season of two divisions in 8-man) were at Russell High. That’s right, the school about two kilometers from my house.
In 1989, the system was slightly modified. Wichita State began to host three 11-man games, while the other two alternated between Lawrence and Manahttan. The 8-man games moved to Hays in 1990. This held up through 1993.
This changed a lot in 1994. A fourth site, Emporia, was added for 4A only, while 3A and 2-1A moved to Hays. The top two classifications were either in Manhattan or Lawrence, while 8-man moved to Salina.
From 2001-03, there were five sites total. Eight-man moved back to Russell in 2002.
In 2004, each of the five 11-man finals were held at different sites for the first time since 1982. This became permanent in 2006. Russell lost 8-man to Newton in 2006, where it remains to this day.
In 2008, a Kansas state senator proposed a bill which would have forced the KSHSAA to move all championship games to either Lawrence or Manhattan. Rick Bowden, a former state representative and then an assistant executive director of the KSHSAA, testified against the bill.
I understand that KU and K-State now have to have their stadiums available Thanksgiving weekend. The college football regular season extends through November for all major schools, with the first weekend of December reserved for the conference championship games. Army-Navy is the exception; it’s on the second weekend of December to maximize the television audience.

Yet somehow, Missouri and Nebraska each were able to reach compromises with their flagship universities to hold championship games on their campuses.
Nebraska has moved its title games to the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week at the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium (6-man is held the Friday before Thanksgiving in Kearney, since nearly all 6-man schools are west of US Highway 281, which runs through Grand Island and Hastings). All of the games at Lincoln will be televised live by Nebraska Educational Television.
Missouri splits its title games over two weekends. Eight-man and Class 6, the largest classifications, go first on Thanksgiving weekend. The games are Friday when Missouri’s season finale vs. Arkansas is in Fayetteville (odd years) or Saturday when the game is in Columbia (even years). The other four championship games are split over the first Friday and Saturday of December.
If two neighboring states can work things out, why can’t Kansas?

Three of Kansas’ nine championship games will be held at Division II universities. Two will be held at junior colleges which double as a high school stadiums. Four, including both 8-man games, will be at high school stadiums.
If you want to see two games, you’ll have to go to Newton for 8-man. Otherwise, it’s one and only one.
Those who wish to watch the games from the comfort of their living room will have to shell out $11.99 for a streaming subscription to NFHS Network, operated by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

There is no excuse for the KSHSAA to continue this outdated and boneheaded system. If the Big 12 is going to keep KU-K-State on the final weekend of the regular season–and there is no reason it won’t–one stadium will be available.
Another great option is Children’s Mercy Park in KCK, home of Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. Unless SKC is playing for the MLS Cup (don’t get me started on MLS using playoffs to determine a champion), then it will be available. Fans can also do Christmas shopping at the Legends Plaza and eat at Whataburger.
Don’t give me the B.S. about it being unfair to western Kansas. Teams from north Louisiana get excited about playing on the same field which has hosted the Saints since 1975 and seven Super Bowls, even if it is more than 480 km (300 miles) from home. Same with those from south and west Texas about Jerry World.
If KU and K-State are both in use and the KSHSAA won’t consider CH, work around it. If the KSHSAA is worried about it affecting basketball and wrestling, then either move the football season up a week to match the start dates in Missouri and Nebraska, or move basketball and wrestling back a week. With the KSHSAA allowing only 20 basketball games and counting tournament games towards the total (most states count tournaments as one allowable game, not three), there are too many open dates. Not that hard. Then again, there are some pretty hard-headed people at the KSHSAA office in southwest Topeka.

I realize this will never happen in my lifetime. SMH.

Random football stuff

The National Football League’s 100th season kicks off tonight in Chicago when the Bears host the Packers. Really, it’s the 60th season of modern professional football and 50th of the merged NFL. The Patriots, last year’s Super Bowl champions, would normally have the honor of playing the first regular season game at home on a Thursday night, but since this is the NFL’s 100th season, the league decided its oldest rivalry should trump Brady and Belichick. Nobody outside New England is complaining, and I’m sure some Patriot fans are not upset, since they can now go to the season opener Sunday night in Foxborough vs. the Steelers who may not have been able to on a Thursday.

I’m in Kansas City, where Patrick Mahomes II, not the sun, is the center of the universe. Mahomes opens defense of his Most Valuable Player award Sunday in Jacksonville. The Chiefs don’t play at home until Sept. 22 when the Ravens and Lamar Jackson come to town.

If Kansas City isn’t 2-0 (the Chiefs play the Raiders in Oakland next week) when Baltiomre invades, there will be plenty of unhappy campers in Chiefs Kingdom. The Kansas City Star conducted a poll this week asking fans what is their realistic expecations for the Chiefs in 2019. Over a third said “winning the Super Bowl” and another 40 percent said “reaching the Super Bowl”. If that’s the case, there will hundreds of thousands of disappointed Chiefs fans come January 19 at 1830 (if not earlier), because I can’t see Kansas City defeating New England, no matter if the game’s at Arrowhead or in Foxborough.

In the NFC, the Saints had better get to the Super Bowl. They were screwed royally by incompetent officials in last year’s NFC championship game, and two years ago, they were undone by horrendous tackling which allowed the Vikings to score the game-winning touchdown on the final play. Drew Brees is 41 and can’t keep this up forever. The Saints should have no trouble winning the NFC South (should, because the Falcons will be tough if their defense improves), and if they have home field advantage, New Orleans will have a distinct advantage with its fervent fan base in the Superdome.

Saints and Patriots in Miami for Super Bowl LIV. Sounds good to me. And the Saints celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first Super Bowl championship with their second. Drew Brees rides off into the sunset on top.

Two nights before the Saints host the Texans, the states of Louisiana and Texas will have their eyes fixed on Austin.

LSU and Texas will square off for the first time in the regular season since 1954, and only the third time since then. It’s criminal the flagship universities of neighboring states, both with elite football programs, have not played a regular season game in 65 years. The only meetings since ’54 were in Cotton Bowls 40 years apart. LSU won 13-0 after the 1962 season to cap Charles McClendon’s first season at the helm, and the Longhorns prevailed 35-20 after the 2002 campaign. In each case, the loser went on to win the national championship the next season, the Longhorns under Darrell Royal and the Bayou Bengals under Nick Saban.

It would be hard for LSU and Texas to play every year, but why not four times every decade? One game in Baton Rouge, one in Austin, one in Arlington at Jerry World, and one in New Orleans. Saban wants the other Power Five schools to schedule more games against other Power Five schools, and he is dead on. This bull about helping out lower level schools by giving them big paydays doesn’t float with me.

For instance, let the small schools in Louisiana–McNeese, Southeastern, Northwestern, Nicholls, Southern, Grambling–play Louisiana Tech, UL Monroe, UL Lafayette and Tulane (although Tulane should consider itself on a higher level and try to schedule more Power Five games). LSU should not be subsidizing these schools’ athletic budgets with a football game. Doing it in men’s basketball and baseball is just fine.

Tthe SEC and ACC should be required to play nine conference games by the College Football Playoff committee. It is patently unfair the SEC and ACC play only eight conference games, then use the fourth non-conference date to schedule directional Louisiana, while the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 each play nine conference games. The Big 12 and Big Ten also up the ante by requiring teams to play a Power Five non-conference game.

Sadly, Saban is outvoted 13-1 at every SEC meeting about nine conference games. and I don’t see it changing until Saban is fishing with Ms. Terry on Lake Burton full time.

LSU should play Tulane every year, but the Bayou Bengals should demand the majority of the games be in Baton Rouge. The Green Wave will make twice as much on a game in Baton Rouge as they could ever hope to make on a game at their 30,000-seat on campus stadium, so why not? Without any travel expenses, save for the diesel fuel for the buses and possibly a hotel if the game is in the morning, the Wave will clear a bundle which would go a long, long way to helping their other programs. Yes, there should be games in New Orleans, but they have to be at the Superdome, and LSU must be guaranteed at least 40 percent of the ticket allotment.

If I were in charge of LSU football scheduling, it would be Tulane, a Power Five foe (ACC and Big 12 would get first priority, but Big Ten and Pac-12 would be worked in), and a nearby foe, such as one of the other three FBS teams in Louisiana (Tech, Mornoe, Lafayette) or antoher southern team (Southern Miss, Memphis, UAB, SMU). If the SEC. is obstinate about not adding the ninth conference game, then LSU should sechedule a second Power Five.

High school football starts in my native state and my home state this weekend.

I’m still pissed Kansas refuses to find a single site for its championship games. To me, it reduces title games to just another game; the only difference is it’s played on Saturday afternoon at 1300 instead of Friday night at 1900. If I were a high school player in Kansas, I would be livid that my title game could be on another high school field or a junior college field instead of the stadiums at KU and K-State, or at Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting Kansas City plays.

Louisiana has played at the Superdome since 1981 (save 2005, when the damage from Hurricane Katrina forced a relocation to Shreveport), but I wish they were at Tiger Stadium. That won’t happen, thanks to a lot of people who don’t want to move them out of New Orleans, and LSU, scared to death its field will get torn to bits. If Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State can host high school championship games on its fields, why can’t LSU?

Ah, the mysteries of life.

More of this BS OT

The Iowa-Iowa State game is in overtime.


God I hate overtime in college and high school football.

No, check that. I don’t hate overtime in college and high school football.


In case you have been living under a rock, college football games which end tied after four quarters use a tiebreaker where each team has a possession beginning from the opponents’ 25-yard line.

There is one man to blame for this bullshit format.

His name is Brice Durbin.

In 1971, Durbin, then Executive Director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, came up with an idea to break ties on the field, rather than determine the team which advanced in case of a tied postseason game (notice I did not say “win” the game, because the game actually ended TIED) using statistics.

At the time, the first statistical criteria to determine the team which advanced was first downs. If that was tied, then it was the team which had the greater number of penetrations inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (the “red zone”). If that were tied, then the winner would be determined by a coin toss. Fortunately, no games needed the coin toss.

Durbin came up with a tiebreaker where each team would receive possession at the opponents’ 10-yard line, first down and goal. The team which had more points at the end of the overtime period (similar to an inning of baseball) won. If it were still tied, the game would go on (and on and on) until one team had more points.

The 10-yard line? Give me a break. You want to talk about tilting the playing field. Asking a defense to stop a team from making two and a half yards per play for four plays is way too much. Any offense which can’t average three yards a play isn’t worth a damn, either.

Even worse, the KSHSAA format precludes a defensive touchdown. So let’s see here…a defender intercepts a pass and has nothing but open field to the other end zone. Instead of rewarding the defender with a game-winning touchdown, you’re going to reward the team that turned the ball over by giving them a chance to stop the opponent? What the heck?

Kansas first used it in 1971, but no other state (smartly) adopted it for many years.

In 1972, a Louisiana Class AAAA semifinal between Monroe Neville and New Orleans Brother Martin (my alma mater) ended 0-0. The Tigers and Crusaders were also tied in first downs (9-9) and penetrations (1-1).

Louisiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Frank Spruiell suggested to the coaches, Neville’s Charlie Brown and Martin’s Bobby Conlin, to flip a coin to determine the winner. Brown and Conlin told Spruiell to get bent. Spruiell then suggested a “sudden death” version of the KSHSAA overtime, where one team would take possession at the 10. If it scored, that team won. If it didn’t, the defensive team would have won. Brown and Conlin said no to that too.

The next day, the LHSAA executive committee told Neville and Martin to play again the following Tuesday in Alexandria. The Tigers won 8-0, then defeated Bossier City Airline three days later in Monroe for the championship.

Eventually, Louisiana and the National Federation of State High School Associations codified the KSHSAA overtime into the rule book.

The NCAA would adopt a modified version of the KSHSAA overtime for its playoffs at all levels except the top level in the late 1970s. The differences were the series started at the 25; teams could make first downs (the only way to make a first down under the NFHS rule was on a defensive penalty which carried an automatic first down, and there are very few of those in the rules); and the defense could score on a turnover.

Texas and Massachusetts, which play under college rules, finally adopted the NCAA overtime in the 1990s. Previously, Texas used first downs and penetrations to determine the team which advanced if there were a tie in a playoff game–EXCEPT in the finals. If a championship game were tied, the teams were declared “co-champions”. This was the case for Georgia championship games into the 21st century.

In 1995, the NCAA extended overtime to bowl games at the I-A (major college, now Football Bowl Subdivision) level, and in 1996, it came to the regular season. After numerous games went several overtimes, the NCAA added a new rule in 1997 stating a team had to attempt a 2-point conversion beginning with the third overtime.

The National Federation now allows states to modify the KSHSAA format. Missouri starts from the 25-yard line, except it does not allow the defense to score, nor does it require a team to go for two starting in the third overtime. Louisiana still starts from the 10, but it now requires teams to go for two starting with the third OT. Oregon allows the defense to score with a turnover.

I have seen way, way, way too many people on social media demand the NFL adopt the college format. They’re smoking some powerful crack. The 1985 Bears defense would have a hell of a time stopping an offense from scoring from 25 yards out.

I don’t care. I still despise it college overtime. It’s terrible. Unless a team has a godawful kicker, they are in field goal range to start the possession. And again, a team needs to make three yards per play to make a first down. Three yards per play over nine plays is a touchdown unless my math is faulty.

High school overtime REALLY turns my stomach.

I don’t see what the problem is with leaving a tied game tied. If colleges and high schools insist on breaking ties, limit it to the postseason (which means only conference championship games and College Football Playoff semifinals and finals in FBS), then use sudden death. And REAL sudden death, not the crap the NFL has now adopted.

Or better yet, adopt a system similar to association football, where there are two periods of equal time (5, 6 or 7 minutes), and the game is over after the periods are played. If the score is still tied, then it becomes sudden death.

Iowa won 44-41 in case you’re curious.


Good day to escape Russell

Russell High School is celebrating homecoming today.

Oh boy.

This seems like a great day to get out of dodge, and I am.

Kansas City, here I come.

I have never cared for homecoming in a small town, and I never will.

The first big event is the parade through downtown starting at 2:30.

Parade? I saw too many of them growing up in New Orleans. If you’ve seen Rex once, you’ve seen it plenty. If you’ve seen Endymion once, you’re set for life. If you’ve seen Bacchus once, I question your sanity. I should have stopped going to parades many years before I actually did. I only went to Thoth in 1993 and ’94 because I knew plenty of krewe members. And Thoth takes a unique route, so standing on the corner of Henry Clay and Tchoupitoulas was worth it, compared to some place on St. Charles Avenue.

The homecoming court is presented BEFORE the game, unlike most schools in Louisiana, which do so at halftime.

To me, that’s a very bad way to do it. It forces both teams to warm up on the practice field to the north of the stadium, and at Russell, that is an especially bad deal. Russell has artificial turf, and most teams which visit Shaffer Field are not used to playing on it.

I can’t understand for the life of me why Russell and other schools around here can’t present the court at halftime and extend the intermission by five minutes. It wouldn’t inconvenience anyone.

Smith Center has a better plan. It names the king and queen at a school ceremony in the afternoon, and simply presents the court before the game after both teams are done warming up. The court walks along the sideline and doesn’t get in the way. Problem solved.

I believe Russell has too many people on its homecoming court. Does it really need eight “attendants”?

When I covered high school football in Louisiana, I was not a big fan of homecoming games. Halftime in those cases was 25 minutes instead of 15, and it sometimes pushed me pretty close to my deadline.

One time, I covered a homecoming game at West Feliciana which was played in a driving rainstorm, and halftime lasted 35 minutes. Worse, there was no phone line, so I had to dictate my story. The bad night culminated having to drive down narrow US 61. I nearly spun out at Thompson Creek. Today that isn’t a problem, as 61 is four-laned to Natchez.

I thought about going to Russell’s game this evening vs. Republic County, but I’ll pass. Today is such a nice day I might as well make the four-hour trip east on I-70. It will allow me to get a good amount of sleep for tomorrow, since I’m planning to be there at opening. LSU isn’t playing, but the Kansas Jayhawks are. Good for some laughs.

Catholics competing for a crown

Baton Rouge Catholic is currently playing Archbishop Rummel of New Orleans (actually Metairie, an unincorporated area in Jefferson Parish) for the Louisiana “Division I select” high school football state championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the Big Easy.

Rummel has widely been considered as Louisiana’s best high school football team this season. The Raiders’ lone loss was 10-3 to Don Bosco Prep, a powerhouse from Bergen, New Jersey. The Raiders won the Division I select championship in 2013 and the Class 5A championship in 2012, the last year public and private schools played against one another in the playoffs.

Rummel is a member of New Orleans’ Catholic League, which currently consists of seven all-boys schools. I attended Brother Martin, another Catholic League member. When I attended Brother Martin, the Crusaders never lost to Rummel, part of an 12-game winning streak over the Raiders between 1983 and 1994.

Since Jay Roth took over as Rummel’s coach in 1995, the Raiders have never lost to Martin. That’s 22 consecutive games. Roth is 206-45 in 21 seasons at his alma mater, and earlier this season, he passed the late Bobby Conlin, Brother Martin’s coach from 1970 through 1996, as the winnigest coach in the Catholic League. Conlin, who passed away in July 1997, only eight months following his retirement, was 203-100-5.

Roth played quarterback at Rummel from 1977-80 for his father, Easten Roth, who was the Raiders’ coach at the time. I met Easten when I was covering football in the Baton Rouge area for The Advocate. Great man. Easten still does radio in Ascension Parish for Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools.

Catholic had to win two games on the road in dramatic fashion to reach the final. It won 49-48 over Brother Martin in the quarterfinals after stopping the Crusaders on a two-point conversion in the final minute, then went to Shreveport and rallied from a 21-0 third quarter deficit to defeat Evangel 27-21. See my previous post for more about Evangel.

The Bears are coached by the legendary Dale Weiner, who is one of Louisiana’s greatest high school football coaches, but more importantly, one of its greatest men, period. He’s won 306 games during his distinguished career at four schools, and been at Catholic since 1997.

I had the good fortune to cover Catholic many times when I worked for The Advocate, and some of my most memorable games involved Weiner’s teams.

The Bears haven’t reached the finals since 1990, when they lost 52-10 to Ruston. Catholic began that game by recovering an onside kick, but it could only get a field goal, and the Bearcats then unleashed their full fury. That Ruston team is widely considered to be one of the best to play high school football in Louisiana.

Rummel and Catholic are tied 7-7 in the second quarter. Looks like it will go down to the wire.

Loony in Louisiana

Louisiana is holding four high school football state championship games tonight in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This is the first of three days of championship games spaced over two weekends.

The reason two weekends are needed in the Bayou State is due to a ludicrous decision by the majority of high school principals to split schools into “select” (private, parochial, other religious, charter, magnet) and “non-select” (traditional public schools) divisions.

It was all because two small private schools, Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport and John Curtis Christian in the New Orleans suburb of River Ridge, have been so good at football and are accused by many public–and some private–schools across the state as being nothing more than football factories.

The difference is Curtis has been doing it much longer. The school was founded in 1962 by John T. Curtis Sr., who wanted to provide New Orleans children with a alternative private school to the Catholic schools and the underfunded and overcrowded public schools. His son, J.T. Curtis Jr., took over the football team in 1969, and by 1975, the Patriots won their first state championship.

Many more state championships have followed. As in 25 more. J.T. is one of only two prep football coaches in the United States who has won 500 games in a career, and earlier this year, he was inducted into the National Federation (the national governing body of high school sports, headquartered in Indianapolis) Hall of Fame.

Evangel was founded in the 1980s by several ministers from an evangelical Christian denomination. Shreveport is hardcore Baptist, but strangely enough, it has had a Catholic high school, Loyola Prep, for several decades.

Evangel rocketed to prominence in the early 1990s, and by 1993, its fifth varsity season, won the Class 1A (smallest class) state championship. The Eagles moved up to 3A (the middle of the five football divisions) in 1995 and won three consecutive titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

In 1999, Evangel moved all the way up to 5A, the largest classification. In three of the next four years, the Eagles beat perennial Louisiana powerhouse West Monroe in the championship game.

What angered football coaches, fans and administrators was that not only Curtis and Evangel were so dominant, they were so small and dominating larger schools.

At the time, Louisiana schools had the option to play into a high classification than their enrollment dictated. One of the state’s most successful public schools on the gridiron, Monroe Neville, played up to the top class for almost 30 years before finally going back to playing where its enrollment dictated in 2001.

In late 2004, Louisiana principals passed a rule stating schools could not play up. It moved Curtis back to 2A (second smallest class) and Evangel to 1A, but it also had the unintended consequence of severing many longtime rivalries.

It hit hard for me.

My alma mater, Brother Martin, a Catholic all-boys school in New Orleans, saw its traditional rivalries in the New Orleans Catholic League severed due to the new rule.

Because of it, two members of the Catholic League, Holy Cross and Shaw, were forced down to 4A. Eventually, St. Augustine, an all-black school less than three miles from Brother Martin and the Crusaders’ fiercest rival, also had to go down. When the Purple Knights moved down, Brother Martin and two other Catholic League members, Jesuit and Rummel, had to move into a league with public schools.

The rule banning playing up was repealed in 2013, but with it came the split.

Mississippi and Texas have separate associations where private schools make up the entire membership. Private schools are allowed to join the public school association, but in Texas, only two, Dallas Jesuit and Houston Jesuit, have done so.

Louisiana’s system is beyond convoluted. I can’t explain it all here. There are four games for the “select” schools today. Next Friday and Saturday, there will be five “non-select” championship games int he Superdome.

Nine state champions. Kansas has only one fewer, so I can’t really say too much.


Football in an oven

I have survived yet another 8-man football All-Star Saturday. I’m glad that comes around only once per year.

What is it going to take to get these coaches to move the games to nighttime? Face it–the vast majority of high school football games are played at night. The only games which are played in the daytime, at least in Kansas are a few high school playoff games on Saturday, the state championship games the Saturday before (8-man) and after (11-man) Thanksgiving, and those games at Weskan High School. Weskan is a microscopic hamlet not too far from the Kansas-Colorado state line on US 40. The stadium in the town does not have lights, meaning home games kick off at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time. If Weskan somehow hosts a football game, it has to play it at Sharon Springs, the nearest facility with lights.

Even worse, why do the 8-man coaches insist on conducting their All-Star games in the middle of the day in June? Today was downright toasty. Temperatures near 90 (32 Celsius) with high humidity. The dew point was hovering near 70, which is more like it should be in Little Rock at this time of year. As bad as today was, it has been much worse in past years.

Is it going to take someone suffering heatstroke to get these coaches to change? Is it going to take someone dying or suffering severe damage to organs for this to change?

If I were a parent who had a son who was asked to play in this game, I would seriously consider not letting him play to send a message to the 8-man coaches association. They are playing God with lives. It is utterly ridiculous.

I also don’t believe there is the need for two games. One game would do just find. Expand the rosters to 30 players. Of course, by having two games, the 8-man coaches association can rip off more people with their outrageous ticket prices ($12) and contribute to our society’s desire to make everyone feel good and not teach them that disappointment is a part of life and it’s better they learn it now than later.

Yes, I am well aware tickets for the Shrine Bowl, the All-Star game in July, cost more than $12. However, all of the proceeds from the tickets are going to a great cause, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. The ticket proceeds for the 8-man games could be going back into the coaches’ pockets for all I know.

I don’t have anything against Beloit. There are some wonderful people in Beloit. I love you, Cami Engelbert.

However, I would like to see the game at a larger facility with artificial turf. Newton and Salina, as I’ve mentioned before, are great ideas. So is Hays. If the coaches would like to continue to hold camp in Beloit, that’s fine. Then bus the kids to the game site. And if the coaches insist on two games, play one game Friday at 7:30 and the other Saturday at 7:30 (move it back 30 minutes as a concession to the heat).

Today was a mixed bag. The 8-man games rate somewhere between the ugly (Serena Williams winning the French Open) and the sublime (LSU winning on Chris Sciambra’s home run in the bottom fo the 9th vs. ULL in the first game of the super regional at Baton Rouge). As for American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown, now those of us between 10 and 43 can now say we witnessed a Triple Crown winner. I was alive for Seattle Slew and Affirmed in 1977 and ’78, but even I couldn’t fathom horse racing at 19 months old.

The boys of summer (not baseball)

I’m up before the sun this morning since I have to travel to Beloit for what has become an annual rite of June for me.

Today, the Kansas 8-Man Football Association will conduct its annual All-Star doubleheader at Beloit High School. There is a game for each division; the Division II game starts at 10 a.m., followed by the Division I game at 1:30 p.m.

Teams are divided strictly based upon the district assignments of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Therefore, schools in districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 make up the East teams, and the schools from districts 5, 6, 7 and 8 make up the West squads.

That’s too simplistic of a way to select teams. Osborne, for instance, has its players on the East squad since it is a member of District 4 of Division I, but there is no way you can tell me Osborne is in eastern Kansas.

Eight-man coaches bitched for years and years about the lack of 8-man players in the Shrine Bowl, the annual All-Star game which is played later in the summer. In 1986, when there were fewer 8-man programs than there are now, the coaches decided to begin an annual All-Star game just for the 8-man players at Beloit. It was one game until 2001, when separate games were created for each Division.

The Shrine Bowl began in 1974. There are two players from the 8-man ranks selected for each squad, not many when you consider 68 players in all are selected. The 8-man coaches have begged for proportional representation in the Shrine Bowl, which would mean there would have to be eight or nine players on each squad from the 8-man ranks, since nearly one quarter of football playing schools are currently in the 8-man ranks.

I don’t understand why these games are played in the daytime. Most football games are played at night to begin with. The only day games are second round playoff games on Saturday for Class 3A and the two 8-man divisions, and the state championship games. Worse, why the heck do coaches want to play a day game in June, when it will more than likely be 90 degrees or above? Today’s highs are going to come close to 90, and as bad as that sounds, it has been worse. I can recall more than one day it was above 100. That’s just begging for heat exhaustion, or God forbid, heatstroke. The track athletes may love the hot weather because it’s easier to warm up, but they aren’t wearing all that equipment. The helmet may protect a player’s head, but it sure traps the heat.

Beloit supports sports and has some great people, but I would like to see these games played at a larger stadium, preferably one which has artificial turf. Newton, which hosts the 8-man championship games in November, would be ideal. So would Salina Central or Kansas Wesleyan, both of which have turf and the proper capacity. If Russell upgraded its visitors stands, then it could also be an option.

I’ve got my fluids and my sunscreen ready to go. Should be a hot one. I guess I have to pay the piper for the beautiful weather at state track last weekend.

Back to it

I did it again. I negelcted yet another blog. Going ten days without a post is totally unacceptable.

On the other hand, there just hasn’t been much happy news to report. I’ve been mostly miserable, save for the football games I’ve had to cover. If it had not been for those football games, plus a trip to Topeka last Thursday, it would have been pure hell.

Going all the way back to the day of my last post, the Phillipsburg-Oakley game was the coldest sporting event I’ve ever covered. The temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff, and a biting south wind dropped the wind chill into the mid-teens. I could not wear gloves because I was trying to take pictures and write down each play as it went, and my fingers paid a heavy price.

As bad as it was with the cold, I nearly made it much worse. There four space heaters on Oakley’s sidleline–I did not go to Phillipsburg’s side because I wanted to avoid certain people from a rival paper–and I attempted to warm up my frozen hands by sticking one in front of the heater.

Terrible idea. It got so hot I had to pull the hand away immediately. I was afraid I had damaged nerves in my hand, but that wasn’t the case. My hands were still frozen, though, and I was fearing any longer in this weather would cause frostbite. Coincidentally, I was thumbing through an e-book about the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay where the temperature was 13 degrees below zero at kickoff, with a wind chill of 38 below. Quite a few players who played in the Ice Bowl received permanent frostbite from that day.

At halftime, I went to my car to warm up. Fortunately, I was parked right across the street from the entrance to the stadium, so I didn’t have to walk but a few feet. I ditched my camera for the second half and just took notes. At least I was able to put a hand in my pockets in between plays.

I stayed home the weekend after that game due to a forecast of snow. There was no snow, at least in Russell, and I didn’t have the best weekend. LSU got shut out by Arkansas, and all I wanted to do Sunday is sleep after eating my mother’s pasta.

It all began to go downhill a week ago Monday. It was the first day of practice for basketball and wrestling at high schools across Kansas, and I was asked to go take some pictures at Russell High. I really didn’t want to do it, because it was in the low 20s outside and I really didn’t feel like practice pictures could make that much of a difference, but they insisted.

I was very upset. I threatened to quit. I threatened worse. I began to send out desperate e-mails to people about how sad I was. I went out and got the pictures, but I still was not a happy camper.

The next morning, I went to visit my primary care physician, Dr. Shanon Custer, in Hays. We discussed my depression, and she said she would refer me to High Plains Mental Health in Hays. I agreed to go, and I ended up going the next day.

The visit to High Plains–where I was a patient many years ago–was routine and just was designed to get me back into the system. I have my first appointment with my counselor on Dec. 11.

Thursday was another trip to Topeka, this time to pick up a hand warmer at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That was a great idea, as I would find out the next night.

I wore my hand warmer at the Phillipsburg-Ell-Saline semifinal football game at Phillipsburg. I would put a hand inside the warmer, and it would immediately feel much better. No worries about frostbite this time.

The host Panthers dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker. They had the ball at the Ell-Saline 1-yard line with 17 seconds remaining, but a fumbled snap ended their hopes. The Cardinals earned a berth in the Class 2-1A state championship game this Saturday vs. Olpe.

I had to leave Russell before dawn Saturday to go to Newton for the 8-man Division Ii state championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. It was foggy the whole drive down, and the fog did not lift until late in the game.

Victoria easily defeated Attica/Argonia 52-8. The Knights led 36-0 at halftime and allowed the Titans, who scored 751 points in their first 12 games, just 163 yards.

I’ve been at the Wichita Marriott since Saturday’s game. I spent most of Sunday sleeping. I’ve got work to get done today and tomorrow. Back to Russell Wednesday.