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.
It rained off and on all the way from Kansas City to Brookville yesterday. It would not stop raining in Brookville until late in the second quarter. This made for an interesting night.
I had a rain cover for my camera, and I would have used it, but I could not get my flash over the rain cover, so I ditched the cover. It wasn’t raining that hard.
The bigger problem was my game notes. I always pride myself on being able to keep a running play-by-play of the game even though I’m taking pictures. I’ll take the play-by-play I write down on the sideline and feed it to The Automated Scorebook on my computer, and it will spit the stats out immediately. I would operate TAS live from the press box when I worked for The Advocate, and that saved me so much time, since I didn’t have to sit there and manually add up statistics. I could just print out the stats and play-by-play, write the story, file it, and be done 15-20 minutes following the game.
My first quarter play-by-play from last night almost didn’t make it. It was quite soggy. The second quarter was a struggle, too, but it was because the paper was wet. Fortunately, the rain abated, and the second half was much easier.
I was also glad I brought two jackets. My parka was soaked after the first half, and I changed to my Milwaukee Brewers dugout jacket for the final 24 minutes. Not as warm, but I had two layers over my turtleneck anyway.
Last night’s Smith Center-Ell Saline football game proved two things:
- Mother Nature is often a great equalizer.
- Special teams matter.
Both points were proven early. A fine punt by Smith Center’s Kody Zabel and excellent coverage by the Redmen following the game’s first offensive possession left the Cardinals marooned inside their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Ell-Saline quarterback Luiz Antonio Arceo could not handle the muddy football following a low snap, and the Redmen had the ball at the 4.
Nick Lehmkuhl scored two plays later, and just like that, it was Smith Center 7, Ell-Saline 0, and the game wasn’t four minutes old.
Smith Center looked poised to add to its lead when it used a lengthy drive to reach the Ell-Saline 5, but on fourth down, a low snap to Thayne Benoit did not allow the play to come off, and the Cardinals took over on downs. The first half ended with the same 7-0 score.
It took all of 20 seconds of the second half for the score to change.
Arceo fielded the second half kickoff near the left sideline. He found a wall of red shirts and followed them to the middle of the field, and reached the Redmen 3. One play later, he scored on a keeper around the right side. The conversion failed, but it was a new game at 7-6.
The Redmen looked like they would strike right back when Kaden Meitler returned the next kickoff to the Ell-Saline 14, but that drive came up empty when the Cardinals held on downs with a fourth-and-two at the 6. The Smith Center defense held, and following Arceo’s punt, the visitors had the ball at the Ell-Saline 22.
Guess what? No points. Despite first down from the 12, Smith Center couldn’t pick up the first down from there, and then Zabel missed a 22-yard field goal attempt.
The next Smith Center drive did result in points. For the wrong team.
The Redmen again penetrated the red zone, but with the ball at the 18, Meitler fumbled on a run around left end. Ell-Saline linebacker Luke Sheridan spotted the loose ball and picked it up, and began running the other way. Benoit was in position to make the tackle inside the Smith Center 20, but a good block downfield allowed Sheridan to complete an 80-yard touchdown jaunt. Arceo this time was successful on the conversion, which proved to be critical. Ell-Saline led 14-7 at the end of the quarter, although Smith Cneter was driving.
Six plays into the final period, Benoit spotted Zabel open over the middle. His pass got over the outstretched hand of Cody Walters, and after making the catch, Zabel rumbled into the end zone from 34 yards out. Now, if Zabel could convert the extra point, it would be deadlocked with 9:26 to go, and overtime would be a real possibility for the second time in three seasons between the schools.
Except that Zabel missed. There was still 9:26 to go, but the Cardinals still had the lead.
That 14-13 score did not change. Smith Center never got close to scoring again, and its final play was a Benoit pass which was intercepted by Noah Bradley. Despite gaining 64 net yards and picking up just five first downs, going 0-for-8 on 3rd down conversions and losing the time of possession battle by nine minutes, the Cardinals prevailed, winning for the first time in three games vs. Smith Center. The Redmen won 43-8 at Brookville last year and 20-18 in overtime at Smith Center in 2012. In the 2012 game, the Cardinals missed their conversion in overtime after having the ball first; the Redmen scored and Payton Buckmaster ran in the conversion to win.
The Redmen saw their 33-game winning streak in district games ended. They had not lost a disirict game since October 2003 to Norton at home.
More importantly, Smith Center’s string of 11 consecutive state playoff appearances is in trouble. Not only must the Redmen hope the Cardinals lose at least one district game out of three, they must also defeat Bennington and Phillipsburg in the final two weeks. The best hope would be to hope Phillipsburg wins against Republic County and Ell-Saline, and then Smith Center beats the Panthers in the regular season finale Oct. 30 to force a three-way tie. Since Smith Center lost to Ell-Saline by only one point, the Redmen would need to beat Phillipsburg by two to finish among the top two in a three-way tiebreaker. If Ell-Saline beats Phillipsburg, of course, the winner of the Redmen-Panthers game would finish second behind the Brookville boys.
Following the game, I listened to the Royals-Orioles game. Incredibly, Kansas City got TWO MORE home runs in extra innings to win a postseason game. Alex Gordon led off the 10th with a solo shot, and Mike Moustakas added a two-run clout to put the Royals up 8-5. The Orioles scored once in the bottom of the 10th, but Greg Holland shut the door, allowing the Royals to prevail 8-6 and take a 1-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.
It was midnight when I got off I-435 at Missouri Highway 152, so I decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and see who was there. Liz was, and of course she had a big smile when she saw me. Both Morgans, Gilliand (who’s six-plus months pregnant) and Tomec, were there, as was Alexandra Mullinax. Since I was staying only three miles away at the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs, I stayed until a little after 1 before leaving.
Today is going to be hell for the crew at Buffalo Wild Wings. Missouri plays Georgia at 11, the Royals play at 3. LSU plays at 6:30, but who cares?