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In the books

Unfortunately for Russell, the boys could not carry the momentum over from the girls game. Ellsworth scored the first six points and never trailed, going on to win 62-48.

The Broncos, who lost to Ellsworth by 19 last month, got to within one point in the second quarter and trailed by five going to halftime, were outscored 17-2 to start the third quarter. The Bearcats’ lead never fell below 12 the rest of the way.

Got to write up these games and then go an appointment in Hays tomorrow morning. It will be frigid, which is why I refueld tonight before going home. That way, I don’t have to stand outside in the cold with the pump.

Return to Russell

Rarely have I been happier to be in the Russell High School gymnasium than I am tonight. It means my troubles in Kansas City are over, and I’m back to work doing what I get paid to do (why I don’t know), watching sporting events.

I left Overland Park at 11:20 this morning. The drive was smooth, without construction or accidents to slow me down. Even with a detour at Topeka and a wait in the drive-thru line at Wendy’s, I was in the garage at exactly 3:02 p.m. I picked up my mail and spent a couple of hours downstairs relaxing.

I’m back in Russell for the first time since leaving for Kansas City the day after Christmas. Maybe I should have come back earlier.

I arrived at RHS in plenty of time for the girls varsity game, which tipped at 6:05. Ellsworth leads 12-9 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Another Thursday catching up (UGH)

Once again, I’m lax in posting to the blog. I can’t believe I keep doing this.

There were two important events which have gone on since the last post which caught up everything. Those deserve more detail.

Anyway, here’s what you missed:

Friday, December 5

Didn’t get out of Kansas City until 11 a.m. No big deal, because the varsity girls game at Smith Center wasn’t scheduled to start until after 6 anyway. I was feeling awfully tired only a few miles out of Kansas City, so I stopped at the Love’s Travel Center in St. Joseph to get snacks before heading across the Missouri River back into Kansas.

The drive from St. Joseph to Smith Center and points west (Phillipsburg, Norton) is grueling. Two-lane highway, not much in the way of scenery except the little towns along the route, and heaven help you if you get behind a slow driver in a no-passing area. At least there wasn’t any construction zones along the way this time to bring me to a stop.

I barely made it through Hiawatha. By time I got to Seneca, I was starting to feel the fatigue again. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the Sinclair in Marysville for snacks and a restroom stop. It was worse west of Washington, but again, I had enough to make a run through the drive-thru at the Dairy Queen in Belleville for a Butterfinger blizzard and a chicken strip basket. I was hungry.

Turns out I made it to Smith Center before 4, way too early, but enough time to sneak in a quick catnap before going into the gym. The Lady Red and Redmen hosted Mid-Continent League rival Plainville, which is unusual for a season opener, although with two more teams in the MCL this season, teams have to make room for nine league games. With two tournaments, that doesn’t leave much room, so hence there are league games on opening night.

Smith Center’s girls season hit a roadblock only 89 seconds into the game. The Lady Red’s All-MCL center, Drew Mann, went down with a left knee injury. She was on the court for several minutes before being helped off.

The bad news: Mann is out for four to six weeks. The good news: no ligament damage, just a subluxated (slightly dislocated) kneecap. She’;ll be back in mid to late January.

Smith Center used an 18-1 surge over the game’s final 4:32 to pull away to a 46-31 victory. The Cardinals have not defeated the Lady Red since January 2006.

The boys game was close, if sloppy. Plainville had numerous opportunities to put the game out of reach, but went just 15 of 36 from the foul line. Still, the Cardinals prevailed 68-64.

Got home just after 11, facing a very short turnaround.

Saturday, December 6

Got out of Russell later than I would have liked. Didn’t leave the houe until 8, and then I had to get gas before heading north on US 281 to Osborne for the Bulldogs’ wrestling tournament. This has been the first wrestling tournament I have covered every year since coming to Kansas, and although the number of wrestlers is not as large as some other events, the quality of competition is excellent, especially for the first tournament of the season.

I sepnt three hours at the tournament taking pictures and talking to people I know. I left at 1 so I could get back to Russell in time for the SEC football championship game.

Alabama rolled past Missouri 42-13 to clinch the top seed for the upcoming College Football Playoff. Not surprised.

I was very upset Florida State won the ACC championship game over Georgia Tech, although the Yellow Jackets gave the Seminoles all they could handle and more before falling 37-35.

Sunday, December 7

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State were selected, in that order, for the first College Football Playoff. I was not happy to see Florida State in there. Not at all. But I guess if Florida State had been excluded despite going 13-0, there would have been a real problem.

The other bowl game matchups were announced Sunday as well. LSU drew Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. Good matchup, even if Notre Dame collapsed down the stretch. Terrible venue. The field in Nashville stinks, and it probably will be bitterly cold. Problem is, the people in Tennessee can’t handle it.

I tried to avoid watching the Chiefs-Cardinals game, simply because I feared Arizona would lose. My fears were misplaced. Cardinals 17, Chiefs 14. Arizona is 10-3, marking the first time the Cardinals have won 10 games in back-to-back seasons since doing so three straight years from 1974 through 1976, when the Girdbirds were in St. Louis.

Monday, December 8

Could not get going for the life of me. Fortunately, I only had one paper to get done today, and I had my articles and pictures ready for Osborne by 1. I fooled around the rest of the afternoon, waiting to leave for Russell High and the Broncos’ basketball doubleheader vs. Nickerson.

Russell’s girls were not challenged, leading 14-2 at the end of the first quarter and coasting to a 50-19 victory. The boys were not as fortunate, falling 73-58. It was, however, a happy homecoming for former Russell boys basketball coach Pete Herrera, who is now coaching Nickerson. Herrera led Russell to an 11-10 season in 2009-10, one of only two winning seasons in the last 24 for the Broncos. Herrera’s reward? A pink slip. Fired over false accusations.

Tuesday, December 9

Had a lot of work to get done. Somehow I had it all done by 3 p.m. I stayed up through the night to get most of Phillipsburg done early, then knocked out Ellis, Plainville and Smith Center.

Didn’t go out tonight since Russell played last night. Probably a good thing.

Wednesday, December 10

Got most of Russell done pretty early. Fell asleep for awhile in the late morning/early afternoon before finally finishing the last page by 1:15. I dozed off time and again in front of my computer.

Dr. Custer’s office called with the results from my lab work last week. I’m going on insulin to combat my diabetes. My A1C is far too high. I went to get the insulin at Walgreen’s after dinner.

I stopped by the office tonight to see Jack krier, who was playing in the usual Wednesday night poker game with my dad, my grandfather, and several other friends.

Okay, got two more posts coming. They should be far more interesting.

Sunday catchup

I was wiped out last night when I arrived back in Russell last night at 7. I got out of WaKeeney at 5:45 after Russell lost its semifinal match to Stockton in two sets. I was a little disappointed the Broncos didn’t make the final, but they represented well and are on the right path under their new coach, Don Fenwick.

Russell is off until Saturday when they host a round robin with Central Plains of Claflin, Lincoln, Minneapolis, Larned and Hoisington. Hoisington should win all of its matches; the Cardinals always have talent. If Russell can win a couple, then it will be a good day.

My next volleyball is Tuesday at Victoria when the Knights host Smith Center and Ellis. Victoria is 0-9 this season, and it will be very difficult against both opponents. Smith Center is 5-0 and was fourth in Class 2A a year ago, and Ellis is a highly regarded team which lost to Smith Center in the sub-state championship match at Hill City.

I’m sure I’ll be back at Smith Center Friday for football when the Redmen host TMP-Marian. Smith Center should easily win, but that’s why they play the games.

Right now, I’m back at Buffalo Wild Wings in Kansas City, watching the early football games and playing trivia, trying to focus to get some work in.

The Arizona Cardinals are without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who has a nerve injury in his throwing shoulder. The injury was not reported widely until this morning, and about two hours before kickoff, it was announced he would not play. Drew Stanton, who has not thrown a pass in a regular season game since December 2010, is starting in Palmer’s place. So far, so good, the Cardinals scored on their opening drive at East Rutherford and lead the Giants 7-0.

The Chiefs don’t play until 3:25 when they face the Broncos in Denver. Oh boy.

Volleyball Saturday

Once again, I forgot to save my draft, and that’s why I haven’t posted all day. That, my battery dying and a lot of volleyball have also been affecting me.

I’ve got a long break right now before Russell plays its next volleyball match. The Broncos defeated Wichita County and the TMP-Marian junior varsity before losing to host Trego in the tournament here at WaKeeney. Russell will play Stockton in one semifinal, and the other semi will match Trego and TMP. The winners play for the championship; thankfully, no third place match.

I was dead tired after getting home a few minutes before midnight last night. I went straight to bed; I did not even set the computer up. I wanted to wash some clothes, but no dice. I’m just going to leave┬áSunday morning at 6 if I go to Kansas City. No sense in wasting money or points for a hotel night tonight.

One week after going to Columbus and beating Ohio State, Virginia Tech gave it all away today, losing at home to East Carolina 28-21. Ouch. But I was glad to see Louisville and their Judas Iscariot coach, Bobby Petrino, lose to Virginia. LSU plays Louisiana-Monroe at 6. Not sweating it one bit. Bayou Bengals win and win big.

Friday morning ramblings

No, I was not up at 2:01 a.m. when Verizon began taking orders for the new Apple iPhone models. I was so tired when I got back from Buffalo Wild Wings I was out about 15 minutes later. Good decision, because when I finally got up at 5:30, I was quickly in the shower and dressed.

The traffic heading south from Platte County to Overland Park was easy. I figured an easier way by getting off US 69 at 95th Street, so I did not have to U-turn across Metcalf. I was in line at 7 a.m., and now my car is getting its new tires. By getting here so early, I don’t have to sweat it. If I’m out of here by 11 a.m., I’ll be to Smith Center in plenty of time, no matter if I take US 36 all the way across or I take I-70 to Salina, cut north at Belleville, and then across. Going back to Russell is not an option, at least not right now.

I don’t think Smith Center and Oakley have played a regular season football game, which stands to reason, since the Plainsmen were in the Northwest Kansas League forever until coming to the Mid-Continent League this season for football, last season for everything else. Oakley has played Norton quite a bit, since the Bluejays were in the NWKL before coming to the MCL with Smith Center in 1977. I have also recalled the Plainsmen playing Phillipsburg and Plainville in regular season games in recent years, and they have been in districts with Ellis and Trego.

Oakley was put in a bad position when the NWKL schools began to rapidly depopulate. Oakley was the largest member of the NWKL beginning in the fall of 2010, when Colby and Goodland left to form the Great West Activities Conference with Holcomb, Hugoton, Scott City and Ulysses. Quinter went 8-man in 2008, Hoxie went in 2010, and it was only a matter of time before the same happened at Atwood and Saint Francis. It figured there would come a day when only Oakley and Oberlin were left among the 11-man ranks.

The NWKL used to be a powerhouse league. Scott City was in the league until 1996, and they had a dynasty in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Atwood used to be one of the best in 2-1A year in and year out. Goodland had some fine teams in 4A. Oakley was a consistent winner in 3A, and then 2-1A. And once Tim Lambert, the starting quarterback on Smith Center’s 1986 state championship team, took over at St. Francis, the Indians soon zoomed to the top of the league. In fact, Sainty lost four consecutive seasons (2004 through 2007) to Smith Center in the playoffs, highlighted by a neanderthal 6-2 battle in 2006.

When it became apparent Colby and Goodland were twice as big as any other school in the league, the other members politely asked those two to move on. They did, and the result is a league which stretches almost from Nebraska to Oklahoma north to south, and all of the travel is along two-lane highways.

In 2012, after Atwood went 8-man, the NWKL added 8-man schools Sharon Springs, Dighton and Greeley County (Tribune), plus 11-man school Leoti.

It was too late for Oakley, which in January 2012 was voted into the MCL by a 7-2 count, with Osborne and Trego dissenting. Not long thereafter, the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles both left the MCL, but Trego would soon return. The Plainsmen would play in the 2013-14 MCL volleyball and basketball tournaments, and would participate in the league golf and track and field meets, but could not play a full football schedule, or a round robin basketball schedule, until this school year.

TMP-Marian was placed in the MCL by the Kansas State High School Activities Association in June 2012, effective July 1, 2014. Trego’s return brought the MCL back to 10 for the first time since Victoria departed at the end of the 2004-05 school year.

The MCL was the first, and to date only, league to win three state football championships in the same sesason. It was 1985, when Norton won 4A, Plainville claimed 3A, and Victoria triumphed in 2-1A. The next year, Norton repeated in 4A, and Smith Center won 3A. From 1983 through 1987, six different MCL schools won state championships.

I have written about the Mid-Continent League since coming to Kansas in September 2005. I have worried about the league breaking up, which would really be hard for the three schools along US 36–Norton, Phillipsburg and Smith Center–since all are in a sort of no-man’s land, and all are very good in most sports. Norton and Phillipsburg are too big for some of the other area leagues. They were invited to the GWAC, but Norton superintendent Greg Mann had it right when he said no thank you. He wasn’t about to make his students travel three to four hours on a Tuesday night for a basketball game.

I have suggested Russell should be in the MCL. The Broncos are not a fit for the North Central Activities Association, as much as RHS principal Larry Bernard tries to tell me otherwise. Russell’s closest league foe is 45 miles away, and for the most part, most Bronco teams have struggled against Beloit, Sacred Heart and Southeast of Saline. A lot of people at Russell, led by Bernard, think the MCL is beneath them, but why?

As far as I’m concerned, there shouldn’t be league play for football. Form eight-team districts, and that way seven of nine games are taken care of. It would be easy to schedule the other two. If this were the case, Russell would be in a district with Norton, TMP-Marian, Hoisington, Scott City, Cimarron, Lakin and Southwestern Heights. Two more games would be a cinch.

I don’t make the rules,, I just cover the rules enforced by the KSHSAA. Too bad Gary Musselman doesn’t have more power to affect change. I believe he would make a positive difference if he could.

Broncos busted

It didn’t get any better for Russell in its second varsity volleyball match at Beloit tonight. The Trojans rolled 25-7, 25-11. I had to fuel the car before exiting Beloit, stopped for food in Salina, and then got home at 10:20.

The Broncos will have a week to work out the flaws. A very good Southeast of Saline team comes to Russell next Tuesday.

Long day on the road. I would have gone to Beloit from Kansas City had it not been for Jack and Frank wanting to see me at the office in Russell. Instead, I made the 250-mile drive, then drove 82 miles to Beloit, and then more than that back since I went the long way, taking US 24 east from Beloit to US 81, and then 81 south to I-70 at Salina. i don’t like K-14 because of its narrow and winding nature. US 24 is two-lane, but it’s flat. And 81 is four-lane from Salina well into Nebraska.

I’ve got a lot of writing to do tomorrow for the Russell County News. But I will get some down time before going to Smith Center Thursday.

One down, one to go

The new volleyball season began for Russell and Beloit high schools a little under two hours ago. The Trojans defeated the Broncos 25-13, 25-20, spoiling the debut of new Russell coach Don Fenwick.

I’m now waiting for the second varsity match to begin. In the North Central Activities Association, teams play two varsity matches at the same site on the same day, rather than home-and-home, which is common in leagues where the schools do not have far to travel.

The Mid-Continent League, the league I cover in volleyball for the most part, does not have a mandatory round robin schedule. With the membership of the league in flux in recent years, that hasn’t been possible. The MCL determines its champion by a league tournament in mid-October. Smith Center has won the past two tournaments and 14 overall. Phillipsburg won it six straight between 2006 and 2011.

I just checked the weather for my football game Friday. Does not look good. There’s a chance of rain, and if that happens, the field at Kensington will turn muddy.

I agreed with Jack and Frank this afternoon that I should cover Osborne and Thunder Ridge of Kensington this Friday. Kensington is a tiny hamlet located on US 36 in western Smith County, halfway between Phillipsburg and Smith Center. Thunder Ridge was formed in 2008 after the merger of the school districts of Kensington and Agra, another tiny town in eastern Phillips County.

Thunder Ridge won the 8-man Division II state championship in 2011, finished second in 2012, and went 8-2 a year ago, although the Longhorns were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by Sharon Springs.

Osborne won the 8-man Division I state title last year. The Bulldogs played 11-man from 1966 through 2009, winning a state title in 1983, but mostly falling on hard times since, as their enrollment could not keep up with powerhouses like Smith Center, Norton and Plainville, and later Phillipsburg. Schools in Kansas are allowed to play 8-man if their enrollment in grades 9, 10 and 11 is 100 or fewer in years when the Kansas State High School Activities Association draws up new football districts, which are odd-numbered years for the cycle to begin the following year.

I’ve got a lot of stuff between now and Friday. The second match at Beloit, the drive back to Russell, writing and laying out pages for Russell, volleyball Thursday at Smith Center…it will get interesting.

No time to waste

I’m back in Russell, but only for a few more minutes. I’ve got to get my butt in gear and head to Beloit for the first volleyball matches of 2014 for Russell and Beloit high schools. It will be an 82-mile adventure, since Kansas Highway 14, the road which connects Interstate 70 to Beloit, is two-lane, narrow, winding and hilly. Nice combination. It’s dangerous at night, but it is the worst when it snows and/or is icy, meaning there is very little clear road and the slightest slip can mean big trouble.

The drive back from Kansas City wasn’t fun. For some reason, I have a harder time driving westbound during the day than I do at night. The drive east is relatively easy, since I’m anticipating seeing everyone in Kansas City. But the drive west…blah. Especially the part between Topeka and Salina. Save for Junction City and Abilene, there’s nothing to see.

As bad as the Courtyard near the Kansas City Airport has been for past stays, the Holiday Inn Express near the airport was worse. The Internet did not work, and you had to insert your room key in a slot just to turn the lights on. I understand this idea of conserving energy and going green, but this was a little over the top. The Courtyard Briarcliff, which is the only hotel in Kansas City which is LEED certified, doesn’t even go that far. I seriously doubt this hotel will be on my radar again. I was glad to get out of there. Thank God I had points to make sure I didn’t have to pay a dime for this monstrosity.

Time to head out. Beloit, here I come.