ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike called this "the worst week to be a NFL football fan." And you know what, they are right. This is Week 4 of preseason-- better known as "60 Minutes of Fame for special teams players." In recent years, coaches have got smart about using-- or not using-- their top and even middle players, so they won't be hurt for next week's Week One-- when the games count.
Is there any purpose behind Week 4 of the preseason? In some cases, maybe-- if you have a figure out the 52nd or 53rd player, and who will be cut as player 54 or 55-- or your have a last minute depth issue for your team. But seriously... how many people will want to watch that this weekend?
My idea is a radical one. Make it a 3 week preseason, so you can evaluate talent in those games and get a good dress rehearsal in. After that, give the teams a week between preseason Week 3 and regular season Week 1. it will allow players to recover from training camp, give them two weeks to prepare for their first opponent, and spare fans the indignity of seeing that battle between player 53 who holds the spot, and player 54 who gets cut. Finally, it gives college football its own spotlight for its opening weekend.
As for an 18-week season concept... jury is still out. Good for the fans-- but with today's football and the unbelievable risk for injury, it may not be worth it. My question is...did the same issues come up when they expanded from 14 to 16 games in the 1970's?
Ok... the question before the assembled High School football masses are... "How good are they?" Let's review Week One-- all together class...
-- The big winner in Week One: North Knox. 79-- count 'em, 79-- points in a win over Pike Central. The question here is... is North Knox that good, or it is a snowball effect that rolled to that many points? The answer may be given as early as Week 2 at Eastern Greene. To be fair, this IS a different North Knox team-- a very balanced one. It starts with a good linemen, specialized players, and a new spirit on this team I haven't seen in a long time. Despite a great Week One, to me, the jury is still out on just how good this team can be. I think a lot of it will be on the shoulders of the development of Christopher Graman. Early returns on the split quarterback tandem of Graman and Jordan Meurer are positive-- through Week One.
-- Week One Game of the Week: Lincoln at Sullivan. Kudos to the Arrows for a late drive to win it over the Alices. Sullivan will be a good team-- but to start with Lincoln, Linton, and North Knox-- and then into the WIC... that is a real good schedule. The Arrows are the defending WIC champ-- don't be surprised if they do it again...
-- Week One question: Just who are the Alices? They lost to Sullivan at Sportand Field. However, their real mettle will be determined in Week 2 against Boonville. If they can rebound-- this is still an optimistic season for Alice fans.
-- Week One enigma team: The Linton Miners. New coach, new quarterback, same result-- 50-12 in a win over Eastern Greene. Their first true test will be this weekend vs. Sullivan. The Miners are tops in Class A-- the way they play against Sullivan on Friday will answer a lot of questions.
-- Highest riser in Week One: Gibson Southern. A celebrated coach and a Number 7 ranking. The "Insurance Firm" may cash their policy at Lucas Oil Stadium. They can score points...
-- Future game to watch: Lincoln vs. Jasper September 21st at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jasper is ranked-- but when it comes to Jasper, the Alices know how to turn the ranked into the filed. It will be worth the trip-- and beside all this, come on! It's Lincoln vs. Jasper for crying out loud...
I love this time of year. Tomorrow night begins Week One of Indiana High School fooball. From now through Thanksgiving weekend, teams from across Indiana will battle on the field to determine who is best.
We saw the teams in their shakedown cruises last Friday-- better known as controlled scrimmages. I was at the North Knox-North Daviess scrimmage-- I am North Knox's broadcaster, after all-- and I walked away rather impressed. Even though North Daviess scored five times to North Knox's two, four of North Daviess' scores came on 10-yard goal line stands, where the Cougars' size at running back came into play.. Other than that segment-- which North Daviess won convincingly-- the other two, more full field scrimmages were either even, or with a slight North Knox advantage.
Also, coach Shawn McDowell put teams on notice-- he is not afraid to throw this year. Since 2004, when McDowell took over, the North Knox offense has been run early, run often, and run a little more when that is done. However, for the first time in at least ten years, the Warriors have a kid who can pass in Christopher Graman, and several kids who can catch it. Will this mark a difference in North Knox's attack? Coach McDowell has hinted it might-- but time will tell...
The surprising scrimmage award has to go to Vincennes Lincoln. Jon Heiden has to like what he saw Friday night. Questions at auarterback and running back may have been answered positively by the Alices. An easier schedule start also helps-- no Evansville schools early, and no Heritage Hills to start the season. This year, the Sullivan Golden Arrows kick oft the season. Sullivan has been decent at times, but they are no Heritage Hills. Lincoln starts will Sullivan and Boonville, before getting Terre Haute South in week 3. A 2-0 start for the first time in years is not out of the realm of possibility-- and at least 3-1 heading into the Jasper game is definitely not out of the question. If LHS believes in itself-- and its talent level-- it is hard to beat. Since I got here in1996, one thing I have learned is-- Lincoln makes a living out of bettering expectations. Alice Nation expects nothing less.
Finally, this is a transition season for the Linton Miners. Steve Weber is no longer prowling the sidelines, and Austin Karaszia is off to South Alabama to play basketball. Can Linton keep its tradition alive as a major southwest Indiana football power? A move out of the Southwest Seven will tell the tale, and a Week One matchup against improving Eastern Greene will also answer a lot of questions. Linton is still a talented team-- just how talented? We will see...
ESPN is debuting the eighth of its women's sports-related "Nine for IX " tonight with the opening of "The 99'ers." The hour-long documtary reviews the impact of the 1999 US Women's soccer team who won the Women's World Cup. The 1999 tournament was played in the United States, with the final in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
However, the success of the 1999 women's team owes itself in part to something that happened five years ago-- also in the Rose Bowl. That was the 1994 men's World Cup Final, where Italy and Brazil went to a penalty shootout before Brazil won it. The U-S also hosted that World Cup; that was the turning point for soccer in the U.S. Over 94-thousand attended the final, while hundreds of thousands more attended other games in other venues. The 1994 World Cup success in the U.S. set the scene for the women's triumph five years later.
In most of the world, women's soccer is ignored. Most of the time, America ignores it too. But the '99ers were a team loaded with talent, charisma, and possibly the best soccer player ever in Mia Hamm. The Americans tore through the tournament, before facing China in the final. China almost won the game in extra time, with a ball that eluded goalkeeper Brianna Scurry, and was cleared off the line by the U-S defense. IN the shootout, Scurry made a brilliant penalty save, before Brandi Chastain ended it with her penalty success. Afterward, she showed off the most famous training bra in history, after ripping off her jersey on the field
Charisma, talent, success-- that was the '99ers. Tonight's "Nine for IX" is definitely worth your time. The '99ers struck gold-- and became one of the sports stories that come from nowhere, and made its players national icons. Not to mention, their success has fueled some success on the men's side as well.
A Tracy Lawrence country song in the early 2000's stated when you are in dire need, "you find out who your friends are." I listened to that song and thought that that was a nice sentiment. However, right now, I know better. Following the accidental drowning of my son Luke, and the passing of my father less than a week later, I know the sentiment is absolutely true. Over the last two weeks, I really have found out who my friends are-- and that they are many and numerous.
First, I want to thank my Lord. Sometimes God has reasons that we don't understand for the timing of events, and why they happen. In this trying time, I am not sure of those, but maybe one day it will become clearer. It doesn't shake my faith, but as a human being, sometimes you have to wonder. Wondering is fine-- but not at the expense of faith that God has his reasons.
Second, I want to thank my co-workers at the Original Company. Several took off work on a Friday to come to Luke's memorial service. Words can't describe my deep gratitude for that simple show of solidarity. I love my TOC family.
Third, my thanks to the North Knox community. I came back for last Friday's football scrimmage, and they passed the hat for Luke. The money that was raised was forwarded to purchase a gravestone for Luke in Louisville's Evergreen Cemetary.
Finally, my thanks to two very special people in my life. My mother-- who was grieving the loss of her own husband, and still was able to help me with my two losses. The other is my long term girlfriend, Adrienne Henning. She came up from her home in southwest Kentucky to help me and my mother for around a week following my dual losses. I love you babe-- that was one of the most unselfish acts I have seen in a long time.
I will get back to sports-- and what may be a great football year-- tomorrow. Today, it is about my gratitude to all. The bills for Luke are still there-- and any financial assistance anyone can be is still greatly appreciated. But for all everyone has done so far-- my deepest gratitude. I may not be able to repay the money for Luke's expenses, but I can repay the sentiments with "thank you's." This area is an unelievably giving area-- and now I am firsthand proof. Thank you for that, Knox County.
Are you ready for some football? All apologies to Hank Williams, Junior.... but it is that time again. Football practice starts Monday, as IHSAA teams get into practice; pad practice starts Wednesday. School starts on Friday in Vincennes; that means counting Saturday, there will only be 3 days of two a days in full pads. Many schools are going through this, as school starts earlier and earlier. The lack of two a days in pads will be to the advantage of experienced teams, or teams with established programs.
Vincennes Lincoln will build on its momentum-- and an easier start to the scheduled will help a lot. No more Heritage Hills to start this year; instead, a trip to Sportland Field awaits to face Sullivan. Sullivan is not a bad program for its area, but they aren't Heritage Hills. Coach Jon Heiden and his staff had to look at that schedule and breath a sigh of relief to have Sullivan and Boonville opening up before a Week 3 test awaits against Terre Haute South.
At the other end of the county, the North Knox Warriors open with some questions. Coach Shawn McDowell wants to do more passing this year-- and is taking strides to do so... but his number 1 quarterback-- Chris Graman-- is still recovering from a concussion he took a year ago. Question 1: How quick will he return? Jordan Meurer will take the QB spot for now, and he isn't chopped liver as a passer either. Bringing up Question 2: If Graman eventually makes it back, will Meurer move to running back? Wide Receiver? Both?
Question 3: Will the North Knox line make the transition to pass protection? Since McDowell took the keys to the program in 2004, he has been a "run-first" coach, and his line has reflected that macho type of play. Can a more experienced line make the move to more pass protection?
A respectively easy start to the schedule awaits-- with a caveat. Eastern Greene in week 2 looks as strong as they have in their short football career, and Sullivan is always a tough pill in Week 3. North Central looks good in Week 5, and you still end with Linton , North Daviess, and Washington. If North KNox can pass the ball effectively, this could be a new era...
Oh forget it... I'm ready for some football!!!