Category Archives: Mid-Continent League

Weekend of nothing

The weekend is over. Thank God. I have been bored out of my gourd since getting back from Plainville Thursday night and the Mid-Continent League track and field meet.

The MCL meet was a good day. Even though it was a little warm and a little too humid for my taste, it was all in all a fine day. I stayed the whole meet, which began at 3 and didn’t get done until 8:40. My longest day at a meet other than the state meet all year. Again, I stayed until the very end for Peggy Cox, since Caitlyn ran in the 4×400 relay. She set a personal record in the 100-meter dash in finishing second and won the 200 before helping Norton win the 4×400. The Bluejays won the girls team championship and Smith Center won the boys.

Originally, I was going to travel to Beloit for the North Central Activities Association meet Friday, but I was wiped out from Thursday. I stayed in the whole day. I also stayed in all of Saturday, when once again severe weather was forecast, but never came to pass.

I did get out of the house Sunday. Made a run to Walmart in Hays to stock up on things my parents will need when they get home later today–milk, bread, orange juice. Also got things for myself.

I’ve got to take out some more trash and finish tidying things up before they get home at 1. They left May 6, arrived in New Orleans the afternoon of May 7, and stayed through Saturday night.

I’ve got a lot of writing to do before Tuesday evening, when I go to Smith Center for the annual athletic banquet. I missed last year because it conflicted with the NCAA track meet at Russell, but I usually go.

Did it rain last night?

Just before 10 a.m. this Saturday morning, the sun is out. You never would have dreamed Russell County experienced severe thunderstorms only 16 hours ago.

Going back to yesterday and the early termination of the track meets at Osborne and Phillipsburg, I can remember a few other meets which were affected by rain:

  • 2006 at Norton–the Bluejays were unlucky that year. The meet was called off on its original date, April 7, due to cold and rain. Believe me, it would have been a miserable day for all. The new date, April 25, also found it cold and wet, so the meet was completely canceled.
  • 2006 at Hill City–the meet got underway at 4 p.m. (way too late) as scheduled. Two hours later, severe weather moved in and forced the meet to be called. I drove as fast as I could down US 283 to I-70 at WaKeeney to beat the heavy rain, which I did. The meet resumed the next day, although I did not attend.
  • 2007 Russell Invitational–meet originally scheduled for April 5, but rained out. Held April 16. Russell has two meets each year, the Russell Invitational in April and the Russell Relays in May.
  • 2007 at Norton–meet rained out on original date, April 6. Rescheduled and conducted April 23.
  • 2007 state meet–Saturday’s action was interrupted by over three hours due to heavy rain. I later learned the Kansas State High School Activities Association was very close to calling the meet and sending everyone home. The rain ended just in the nick of time, and the meet lasted until 10:30 that evening. That was the first year the 3,200 meter races were moved from Saturday to Friday, or else it would have been closer to midnight before everyone left Cessna Stadium.
  • 2013 at Smith Center–Redmen Relays scheduled for April 9, but called due to snow. Held April 12 with different field.
  • 2013 MCL at Hill City–several events conducted in the rain. Cold front came through with the rain, and thank God I had warm clothes and my parka to put on.

Yesterday marked six years to the day of a memorable event for me at Osborne.

I found a $50 bill laying on the ground near a gate which led from the bleachers to the track and football field. I did not think twice about bringing the cash to the press box so its owner could be located. Public address announcer Rex Johnston at first only announced he had a Federal Reserve Note to be claimed; not mentioning whose picture was on the bill, or of course the denomination.

Eventually, the unfortunate lady and her money were reunited, and I received $5 for finding her greenback.

If it had been a $1 bill, maybe I pocket it. But $50? I could not in good conscience pocket that much.

It turns out rain was not limited to Kansas.

The Royals-White Sox game in Chicago was suspended in the 9th inning with the score tied 2-2. The game will resume at 1:10 this afternoon, followed by the regularly scheduled game. However, more rain is forecast. If the teams are unable to play, the suspended game will be finished tomorrow, and today’s game gets made up on one of Kansas City’s other trips to the South Side.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Major League Baseball regular season games could be supsended. However, this provision only applies when five or more innings are completed and the game is tied. If the game is not tied after five, the game is over. If the game hasn’t reached five, it is scrubbed and starts over. In the postseason, the game is suspended, no matter the score and inning, and nine innings must be completed.

The Royals have the best record in the American League, 12-4, one-half game in the win column behind the Mets, who saw their 11-game winning streak end last night at Yankee Stadium. The worst team in MLB? The Brewers. 3-14. Lovely.

Railers vs. Ringnecks times two

I am a few minutes away from departing Russell for my return to Hill City for tonight’s Class 2A sub-state championship doubleheader between the host Ringnecks and Mid-Continent League rival Ellis.

Hill City’s girls jumped all over Ness City early and the game looked like it would be a blowout. Instead, the Ringnecks missed many makeable shots, and the Eagles slowly but surely clawed their way back into the contest, forging a 33-33 tie at the end of the third quarter. It was tied at 36-36 with 6:50 to go before Hill City finally pulled away for a 49-42 victory.

Ellis and Hill City have played sub-state championship doubleheaders before. In 2010, the girls and boys teams from both schools met at WaKeeney. The Hill City girls won fairly comfortably, but the boys game went into overtime, with the Ringnecks coming out ahead 48-47. The Ringneck girls went on to finish second at the state tournament to Olpe, but the boys were one and done in Manhattan.

Ellis’ boys have not been to the state tournament since 2003. The Railers’ coach then, Chris Rorabaugh, has grandchildren playing on both the girls (Brittany Bollig) and boys (Brandon Bollig) teams, and his daughter, Jessica Bollig, is the assistant on the girls team to Perry Mick. Another of Chris’ granddaughters, Candace, plays softball at Barton Community College in Great Bend.

Hill City has won three boys state championships (1970, 1978, 1998) under its ageless wonder coach, Keith Riley, who will wrap up his 46th season at the helm either tonight or next week in Manhattan. The guy is amazing. He has the energy at almost 70 I wish I had, and I’m just over half is age. He loves the game of basketball and it shows in the way he coaches and the way his boys play the game. You’ll never see a Hill City team be anything less than totally fundamentally sound.

Ringneck girls coach Linda Nighswonger is the same way. She had a very long and successful run at Logan before coming to Hill City in 2006, and she pulled the Ringnecks out of a funk and back into a top-tier program. They should be a force to be reckoned with next year, too, since almost everyone is back.

It’s going to be a good night for the MCL regardless of who wins and loses. Time to get going.

Railers steamroll Norton

Even though Ellis came into the boys game on a seven-game winning streak, some might have still doubted the Railers, thanks to a five-game losing streak they suffered through in January.

There should be no more doubting Ellis. Not after tonight.

The Railers took it to Norton, rolling to a 70-48 victory and making them a legitimate state tournament contender, if they weren’t already.

Ellis never trailed after it was 10-9. Brendon Brenner’s three with 63 seconds left in the first quarter put the Railers on top to stay.

Norton fell to 16-3. The Bluejays have lost twice to TMP-Marian and now to Ellis, and they will be the No. 3 seed for sub-state unless something drastic happens with Beloit and/or Scott City.

Ellis closes its regular season at home Tuesday vs. Oakley. Barring a slip, the Railers should be 15-5 going into the sub-state hosted by Hill City.

Time for me to get on the road for the 78-mile trek to Norton. I hope there aren’t too many deer on US 283, but I can never be sure.

I’ve still got some thin mint chocolate cupcakes I won in the Ellis auction tonight. I know I can’t eat all of them. I gave one each to Peggy and Caitlyn Cox, and might give a couple more away before I leave.

Signing off from Ellis. Next stop Norton.

Playoffs sans Smith Center

For the first time in a dozen years, the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s football playoffs will be missing a familiar face.

Smith Center’s season ended last night when it was defeated 47-7 at Phillipsburg. The Redmen had to win the game to earn their 12th consecutive postseason bid, but they were never close as they suffered one of their most lopsided defeats to a Mid-Continent League foe since joining the league in 1977. That happened to be one year before Smith Center hired Roger Barta to coach their football program.

The Redmen made the playoffs 24 times in 35 seasons under Barta, winning eight state championships and 66 postseason contests. Those numbers certainly would have been higher if the KSHSAA had not limited the playoffs to only district champions from 1981, the year it began the district system to determine playoff qualifiers, through 2001. In 2002, the KSHSAA doubled the size of the playoff brackets to include second place teams from each district.

Smith Center won 10 consecutive district championships from 2004 through 2013, the last of those under Barta’s successor, Darren Sasse. The third place finish for the Redmen this season is not its worst; in 2002, they were 0-3, losing to Norton, Beloit and Phillipsburg.

From 1969, the first year the KSHSAA sponsored a football tournament, through 1980, all teams with eight victories earned automatic playoff bids. The playoff bracket was then completed with seven-win teams and so on, or if there were more eight-win teams than playoff spots, there would be play-in games.

The Redmen’s 67 playoff victories rank them third all-time, trailing only Silver Lake (87) and PIttsburg Colgan (75). The eight titles for Smith Center, including five in a row between 2004 and 2008, are tied for third, behind only Lawrence’s 10 and Kapaun Mount Carmel’s nine.

Barta went 323-68 in 35 seasons at Smith Center, and was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame earlier this month. In retirement, Roger has followed his son, Brooks, who has wonthree state championships and won nearly 200 games at Holton, located 20 miles north of Topeka in Jackson County. Brooks Barta was an All-State standout on the Redmen’s 1986 state championship team before earning All-Big Eight Conference honors as a linebacker at Kansas State, becoming the first of many standouts produced by Bill Snyder.

The Mid-Continent League will not be lacking for playoff representation. Norton went 9-0 and is primed for a deep run in the Class 3A postseason, while Phillipsburg and Oakley will play in the 2-1A bracket. The Panthers lost a tough game last year in the second round of the 3A playoffs to powerhouse Scott City, and even though this year’s squad lost several standouts from the 2013 squad to graduation, this may be Phillipsburg’s best chance to bring home a title.

Phillipsburg didn’t make its first playoff appearance until 2002. It has gone seven more times since (not including 2014), but never past the quarterfinals. This is the Panthers’ first year in 2-1A, the smallest 11-man football classification.

Norton won 4A state championships in 1985 and 1986 and reached the title game in 1983 and 1989, all under Neil Mellilo. The Bluejays have remained strong under Bruce Graber and Lucas Melvin through the past two decades, but they have made it to the semifinals only once since the glory days, losing in 2009 to Wichita Collegiate.

Oakley’s farthest advance was to the semifinals in 2005 and 2009, only to lose each time at Smith Center. The Plainsmen did not join the MCL for football until this year, although the school was officially welcomed to the league for all other sports in July 2013.

The playoff brackets in Class 3A and the two 8-man divisions have been posted by the KSHSAA. The other classes will have theirs done by the end of tonight. And then the fun begins.

First Sunday at 38

Again, for those of you expecting something since yesterday, I apologize. I was on the road for almost five hours yesterday, and when I got to Kansas City, I fell asleep right after checking in. I didn’t really get going until 9:15 this morning, and by that time, I had to get in the shower and get over to Buffalo Wild Wings by 11.

TMP-Marian won the Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament championship match in three sets over Phillipsburg. The Panthers won the first set, but the Monarchs rallied to claim their first MCL championship in any event. TMP became a full league member in July, but it participated in some league events last year, including volleyball, wrestling and track.

This year marked the first time since 1994 neither Phillipsburg nor Smith Center won the MCL volleyball championship. The Lady Red won 11 consecutive titles from 1995 through 2005, and the Panthers followed that with six in a row between 2006 and 2011. Smith Center broke back on top in 2012 and 2013, the 13th and 14th for the school, all under coach Nick Linn, who has won 673 matches in 28 seasons at Smith Center. One of his proteges is Phillipsburg coach Terra Keeten, who played at Smith Center as Terra St. Clair from 1989 through 1992. Terra’s little sister, Whitney, played for the Lady Red from 2007 through 2010. Their parents, Ron and Tracy, still come to many matches ,both at Smith Center and Phillipsburg, even though their children have all grown up.

With the championship match going three sets, as well as both semifinals taking the maximum time, I did not get out of Smith Center until 5:30. I stopped at the Belleville Dairy Queen for food and the Marysville Sinclair for a bathroom break.

Then came the real fun.

I was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy in eastern Nemaha County, about halfway between Seneca and Hiawatha. I was afraid the deputy might think I was intoxicated or was doing something else illegal, but it was because the low beam headlight on the driver’s side was burned out. The high beams still worked, and so did the fog lamps, but I need the low beams on the two-lane highways whenever I pass someone coming from the other direction. If you leave your high beams on when someone is coming from the other direction, you could blind them and cause an accident.

It was the first time I have been pulled over by a law enforcement officer since July 2010, when I was driving from Pittsburg to Tulsa following the Shrine Bowl. I have not received a ticket, thank God, since September 2008, for following too closely.

Last night made me the first person from Russell to get pulled over in Cherokee County, n the very southeast corner of the state bordering Missouri and Oklahoma, and Nemaha County, most famous for producing John Riggins.

The deputy only gave me a warning to get the lights fixed, and I was on my way. I used my fog lamps whenever I needed to turn off the high beams. I got gas in Hiawatha, then got to the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs Parkway. I considered ordering Outback takeaway just before closing time, but I passed. Twenty minutes later, I dozed off.

I’ve been playing poker today instead of trivia. Lisa suggested to me. She’s in that mood because she’s going to Las Vegas this week with her parents. She has to drive back to St. Louis Tuesday to meet them before she flies out of Lambert International Airport Wednesday. It also was a very good idea to play poker because the arrogant know-it-all Rondo was sitting at the bar. Lisa told me she had him once as a customer and she did not enjoy it at all.  Now that Rondo has left, I’m finally going over to trivia. In two poker games, I won a total of almost $20,000 in virtual chips. Not bad.

Today is Lisa’s last day of full-time work at Buffalo Wild Wings. She’s going on to bigger and better things. I’m really, really glad to have had the chance to get to know her over the past few months. It will leave a hole in my heart not to see her anymore, but it’s for the best.  She’s here today, along with Raymie and Ashley, who is doing an awesome job of taking care of me. Alex just showed up, and Brittany is supposed to be tending bar tonight.

I wrote the Smith Center-LaCrosse game story at Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ll get started on my column too. My Monday just got fractured by the fact I have to drive to Morse-McCarthy Chevy in Overland Park to get the headlights fixed. Could be worse. Not going to complain, because it will give me a chance for cheesecake.

Long day coming

Day two of my 10th Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament began at 9 a.m. Actually, it began a little after 6 when I pulled out of my garage in Russell. I decided to take the long way through Hays and Phillipsburg so I could get breakfast at Wendy’s, which is far superior to the crap McDonald’s serves.

Smith Center dropped the first set of its first match this morning to Hill City 25-22, but the Lady Red have come back to win the second 25-9. Smith Center now leads the third 22-7, and it looks like it is back in control. I hope this is the first of a bunch of three-set matches, which will make today longer than it already is. Now I get word that the first match at the other gym, Ellis-Trego, is going three. Yikes.

It happened at the 2010 tournament in Norton. One pool had three-set match after three-set match, and it got to the point where there was a lag time of two hours between one pool and the other. The semifinals that day didn’t start until after 5, and it wasn’t until after 8 when I finally got out of there. Last year at Plainville wasn’t nearly as bad, but it helped that most matches went only two sets.

I’ll be leaving the high school at 11 to go to the other gym and see Norton play. Peggy Cox I’m sure wants to see me.

Gone before sunrise

It’s almost time for me to leave the abode on North Brooks Street and head back to Smith Center for day two of the Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament. Each team will play two more pool matches before the top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals.

Two-time defending league champion Smith Center and Stockton are 2-0 in pool A, while Plainville and TMP-Marian are 2-0 in Pool B. The four undefeated teams will pair off in pool play today.

Smith Center lost its second consecutive football game last night, as LaCrosse took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 48-14 victory. The Leopards scored on each of their first two possessions, then tallied again in the final minute of the opening period on Andrew Jay’s 65-yard interception return. The Redmen twice got to within 14 in the second quarter on touchdowns from Cale Rogers (7 yard run) and Kody Zabel (11 yard pass from Thayne Benoit), but never any closer.

LaCrosse rushed for 408 yards, with 164 from quarterback Jack Garcia and 150 more from Jay. The Leopards gained 508 yards against a Smith Center defense which allowed 64 last week to Ell-Saline and 82 two weeks prior to Republic County.

The Leopards had been lying in wait for this game, even though it wasn’t a district game and has no bearing on playoff berths. LaCrosse lost playoff games to Smith Center n 2006 and 2008, the latter at home, and the Leopards made sure they enjoyed every minute of the victory. The final score would have been worse had not a 76-yard touchdown run by Jay in the fourth not been called back by a holding penalty well downfield

LaCrosse is basically in the playoffs anyway. The Leopards are 2-0 in their district and have 1-6 Wichita County next week before closing with Oakley. .

Smith Center was limited to 169 yards. No back gained more than 41.

This is the latest in a season Smith Center has lost back-to-back games since 2002, when it lost all three district games to Norton, Phillipsburg and Beloit to finish 4-5, the last time the Redmen missed the playoffs. If the Redmen are to avoid missing the 2014 postseason, they will have to beat Bennington next week at home and Phillipsburg on the road Oct. 30.

No other surprises last night. Norton 60, Russell 14; Phillipsburg 54, Republic County 6; Plainville 51, Wichita County 7; Osborne 52, St. Francis 6; Hill City 51, Stockton 34; and Victoria 58, Thunder Ridge 34.

Okay enough dilly dallying. Time to get going north.

Change coming

Things are getting really interesting between longtime rivals Smith Center and Phillipsburg. The Lady Red had no trouble in winning three meetings earlier this season, including two days ago at Phillipsburg, but the Panthers are showing fight in the second set, tied at 16 after Smith Center won the first set 25-11.

So far, the higher seeded team has won every match. At the high school, Smith Center over Oakley and Stockton over Hill City; at the elementary school, Ellis over Norton and Plainville over Trego.

I’m about to go over to the elementary school to watch Norton, since I promised Peggy Cox I would.

One hour in

The 2014 Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament is off and running. Smith Center defeated Oakley 25-9, 25-4 in the first match in the pool at the high school, while Ellis ousted Norton 25-22, 27-25 in the first match of the elementary school pool. Stockton leads Hill City late in the first set of the next high school pool match, while the Plainville-Trego match at the elementary school is just getting started.

I’m not used to doing volleyball on a Thursday, but this will be a way of life, since the MCL is going to have a two-day tournament from this point forward with 10 schools. It’s the right thing to do, because if they tried to do it in a single day, it would drag on and on and on. You need four courts to do a 10-team tournament in a single day, much the way Concordia has, although one of the two courts at its high school is the old gymnasium, where there is absolutely no room on the sidelines.

Stockton just won the first set from Hill City 25-17.