Friday, October 7, 2011

The times, they are a changing!

It has been a couple of years since I have written a blog with comments, analysis, opinions of local high school athletics and I know you have missed my thoughts and analysis (eyes are rolling). A few folks have asked me about it over the last 20 months so I thought I would write a little ditty and tell you what I think. I don’t intend to write a weekly blog like a few years back, but thought I would put down a few thoughts since we a now over half way thru the 2011 High School football season (where does the time go?). I’ll categorize my analysis in 3 categories: 1) Cream – Programs on top and should be there for a while, 2) Rising – Programs heading in the right direction, and 3) Falling – Programs at or headed to the bottom. These are just my opinion and insight and as per my usual policy, I will not criticize any player by name or number.

The Cream:

Bob Jones – Personally, I think this program should have been contending for blue maps the previous 2 season and this year; they’re as good as anybody. I have seen them play a few times and defense is their strength and it is a good one. Offensively, they do enough to win and if not careful, can do enough to lose (Florence game a good example). If BJ plays with confidence and that includes playing tough at Hoover in week 10, this team can be in the finals. Weeks 9 and 10 are the key. BJ never plays well against Decatur and follows that with a trip to Hoover. Win both, and they can, the sky’s the limit!

Madison Academy – Going into the season, word was this may be the best team they have had in a while. That is saying something with the record they have produced over the last few years. Loses in the first 2 games had folks scratching their heads. Losing to North Jackson was not necessarily a surprise (you need to win some of these type games if you want to play in the show though) but losing to Sardis was. Unless Sardis loses twice, MA will finish 2nd in the region. Most folks didn’t respect this region last year but a good showing in round 1 of last year’s playoffs left many, including me, wondering if this region was pretty good after all. Like Bob Jones, MA has not proven it is ready for the big time and don’t know if they’re capable this year but they are playing really well now. Expect them to win out including week 10, against a very inconsistent 4A West Limestone. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made it to round 2 of playoffs.

Westminster – With one of the best coaches, if not the best, in north Alabama, not surprised to see Westminster winning this year. After what Hooks did last year (10-2) and making it to playoffs for first time in school history (6 years) and making it to the 2nd round, was phenomenal. Taking it on the chin last week from Fultondale and week 1 from Tanner was expected. If they can win week 9 at Sumiton Christian, they should lock up at least 3rd in 2A, region 7. I have not watched them this year but don’t need to, to know they’re well coached!

Hartselle – I saw Hartselle early in the year against Athens and even though they lost a few playmakers from last year, I could tell they have the makings for a very good, basic football team. They play defense while their offense is productive but not flashy. Their kicking game (including punting, point kicking, and kickoffs) is about as good as you will see at the high school level. They have a tough road game against Cullman in week 9 and play a sound 6A Austin in week 10 but this team has the making to be very special. It would be fun to watch Hartselle match up against the QB “Phenom” from Hueytown in the playoffs.

Other teams that I consider cream: Tanner, Muscle Shoals, North Jackson, Deshler, Lauderdale County, Austin, Florence, and Guntersville.


Hazel Green – When you think about how far HG has come in 2 years since Matt Putnam arrived, you can’t deny they’re a program on the rise. Going 3-7 last year and now standing at 4-2 this year, with quality wins against Huntsville, this is certainly a program heading in a good direction. Losing last week to an average Buckhorn team kept HG off the “cream” list but seeing the excitement and the numbers turning out now to play football at HG are positive signs. Remaining games against Decatur and Florence may keep them out of the playoffs this year, but considering where they have been over last few years, certainly on the rise.

Huntsville – Although I haven’t seen them play as of yet (I will before the year is over), looks like Scott Sharp has his program heading in the right direction. An impressive win over Florence in week 4 has the Panthers on the door of another playoff appearance and they will be favored in all their remaining games and could finish regular season at 7-3. The lost to HG is a head scratcher but it does look like the Panthers are a program on the rise.

Albertville – Coach Poole is in his 3rd year as coach of the Aggies and has them at 4-2. They could easily be undefeated having blown 2 leads late in the games, to Etowah and Hazel Green. If they can win 2 out of the remaining 4, they will have exceeded their recent history win totals for a season and could grab the 2 seed out of 5A region 7 and home field for the first round of the playoffs. Future looks bright for Albertville!

Other rising teams: New Hope (barely) , Johnson, and East Limestone.


Russellville – Can you guess how long it’s been since Russellville has lost more than 3 regular season games? Try 1998! Russellville currently is at 2-4 with Muscle Shoals this week and Florence in week 10. Assuming they beat Lee and Columbia, they will most likely finish at 4-6. They could get the 4th seed from 5A region 8 but this is a team that finished 11-2 and lost in the 3rd round just last year. It will be interesting to see how patient the fans will be with first year head coach Jackson (formally Buckhorn head coach) after this season.

Athens – Hard to say Athens is falling when you look at the last several years. Athens generally has 4 or more loses a year. Sitting now at 2-4 with games coming in week 9 and 10 against East Limestone and Decatur, this team most likely will finish 5-5. Last year they were 6-6. Difference this year though is one of Russellville’s 2 wins this year came against Athens. This program, fans, and facilities (taxpayers didn’t pay for their jumbotron), should expect a better product year in and year out. Coach Creasy can get it done as he has proven it with his state championship in 2006 but remember, even that year, they finished 3rd in the region behind Russellville and Hartselle. Perhaps instead of listing Athens as falling, maybe we should just say they are just maintaining.

Sparkman – Since the magical season of 2006 when Sparkman had their first 10 win season, the wheels have just fell off this program. From 2007 thru now, Sparkman has not won more than 3 games in one season. In 2011 they are 0-6 with Huntsville, Bob Jones, Buckhorn, and Minor left to play. See a win or two in that schedule? I have wondered for years wondering how a school that big and play in an average region, could not win football games.

Grissom – And then there was Grissom! 2002 was the last year Grissom had a winning season going 8-3 and losing in the first round to Clay-Chalkville. Most folks know about the situation this team was in at the start of the season. It has been, and was expected to be, a long season due to the disruption. That being the case, I have to state the obvious just like above with Sparkman. It is not a brutal region, why can’t a school this size get enough quality players/coaches to produce respectable football? Having been around this program the last several weeks I can tell you it will take a new attitude across the board. Coaches/Players/Parents will have to ditch this “you can’t play winning football at Grissom” attitude. It does not matter how successful you feeder middle schools or pop warner league teams are until if a winning attitude does not take over.

Other falling teams: Butler, Brewer, and DAR

Remaining games that should be interesting and the week played: Bob Jones at Hoover (10) , Hartselle at Cullman (9), Albertville at Guntersville (10), Muscle Shoals at Russellville (7), Hanceville at Hamiliton (9), Austin at Hartselle (10), Northridge at Hillcrest (9), Westminster at Sumiton Christian (9), Deshler at Muscle Shoals (10), and Hoover at Mountain Brook (9). MA at West Limestone (10)

Changing gears and talking about my favorite subject! You want a good food challenge? Try finding a bad bowl of she-crab soup in Charleston SC. You probably won’t. At least I couldn’t and I tried, ask Ms. Daisy. Since it has be a few years since I have blogged, the turnip greens at Top of the River are still good as ever, and I Love Sushi will fling some mighty fine sushi rolls at you if you visit. If you do go to ILS, sit in Jennifer’s section and tell her I sent you. She will take care of you. Leave her a big tip, don’t scrimp on this like some people I know (clearing throat while looking south).

Basketball is just around the corner. Be interesting to see what the area looks like after losing some great players from several schools last year but there are still a bunch a quality players in our area. I’ll give you my take on who and where next time.

Okay, enough for now. I may write a few things at end of season and during basketball season.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bob Who!

Now that the High School Basketball season is over, it’s time to take a look at how some of our local teams did this year. I had the privilege of seeing most of these teams live and up close and these are just my opinions based on what I saw or heard.

Without a doubt, High School basketball is alive and well with 12.5% of the teams in last week’s final four coming from Madison County. I know only two teams brought home the blue maps, but five of the six played in the finals and that speaks volumes of the quality of basketball in this county. To be honest, only two of the teams from this county were favored to win it all, Madison Academy girls and Lee boys, so to getting to Birmingham was a great achievement for the other 4 teams.

Before I analyze any of the games or teams allow me to climb on my soap box. What has happened to the game of basketball that has caused so many good (or great) players not to be able to make free throws? When you can’t make free throw you’re leaving points on the floor! I don’t understand this trend and it’s not just this year, but the last several years. I have seen players who garner lots of attention, be considered great players, get all kinds of accolades, sign college scholarships, yet they can’t make free throws on a consistent basis. When you have a lead and you are trying to milk the clock you’re going to end up needing to make the freebies to win. You can’t just blame the high school coaches on this alone. Most quality players are playing year round so the ability to shoot the FT’s, under pressure, starts at home. Now mind you, if you not a good free throw shooting team, you might not want to slow the ball down to kill the clock if you have a lead because the other team is going to fould you to put you at the line in hopes that you miss. A great example of someone who can make the FT's is Levi Randolph, Bob Jones player and MVP of 6A state tournament. He averaged around 24 points per game and 8 of those points came off of free throws. I saw games this year where he would make 14 to 15 points just off of free throws. That is one reason why a lot of major D1 programs are trying very hard to recruit him.

Congrats go to Lee and Bob Jones boys for bringing home the state championships for 5A and 6A. While Lee was playing I was watching part of the game with Coach Danny Petty (head coach at Bob Jones) and we were talking about the 42 years since Lee had won a state championship. That is hard to believe when you think about the quality of basketball that has come through that school. Lee is one of those schools that always seem to be good in certain sports but never good enough to win it all. Now they have. Oh by the way, Coach Petty was on that 1968 Lee team and was MVP of the tourney that year.

What can you say about Bob Jones boys? These guys should have been done a month ago but developed a refuse to lose type attitude. They do a lot of things right and that includes free throws. Most know the story of BJ losing 2 excellent starters before the season began and then lost another starter the last week of the regular season. Yet they found a way to beat Austin in the area tournament to ensure a sub-state game which they came from a double digit deficit to beat Hazel Green on the road. Bob Jones then beat a good Minor team in 1st round of the region and then figured out how to beat Sparkman, for the first time in 4 games, in the region finals. This got them to Birmingham where anything can happen and that it did in giving Bob Jones the first boy’s state championship in school history.

Speaking about Bob Jones, hard not appreciate what Coach Miller did with the girls. Remember his Patriot squad won the last two championships but graduated all starters after last year. He took a whole new group of girls, lost two regular season games and made it to the finals only to lose to Hoover. Anybody that saw them play during the year realized this squad was not a team with great scorers. They did play tough on defense and that gave them a chance for a 3-peat. Unfortunately they missed a bunch of layups and free throws in the finals or they could have won their 3rd in a row.

Bully B-Ball Awards:


Coach of the year: Hands down, Danny Petty. Not even close, even if I were not a Danny homer. He and his staff took an average team with one great player and won it all. They consistently beat teams to the bonus to take advantage of one of their strengths, shooting the FT. In the championship game against Homewood, BJ made only one field goal in the 4th quarter but still score a bunch at the free throw line, ensuring the win. They also played great defense. This is Danny’s 3rd Championship at 3 different schools, a first for the state.

Best team: Lee Generals. Once they figured out how to get past Butler, there was no doubt. It goes without saying that 5A basketball is the best basketball in the state (has been for a while) and Lee proved that they were the best.

Overachieving team of the year:
Bob Jones, enough said.

Underachieving team of the year: A tie between Hazel Green and Sparkman. HG had it all, good shooters, quick guards, and a big man. Against Bob Jones they went away from their big man in the 2nd half and this was against a team that didn’t have post players any taller than 6-2. Sparkman played good defense and pressed well but ran no offense to speak off. Both were very talented teams.

Player of the year: Levi Randolph at Bob Jones. A lot of good players in this area including Trevor Lacey, Josh and Devin Langford, Kendall Jennings, Ralston Turner, and Jay Watkins, but Levi took his team on his shoulders and won it all. He shoots well off the pass and dribble, great vertical leap, soft touch, great FT shooter. His only weakness is on the defensive side of the ball but some of that could be that he knew his team had no chance if he got into foul trouble.


Coach of the year:
It would be hard not to give this to Donnie Quinn, head coach at Hoover. He had his girl’s ranked number 1 in the state all year and the top 20 in the USA Today national rankings. Bob Jones played them tough both times but his team finished with one loss (St Mary’s out of California) and he closed the season with a state championship.

Best team: Hoover Bucs. 32-1 and state champs, enough said!

Overachieving team of the year: Bob Jones. Lose 5 starters from the year before and only lose 3 games and have a chance in the finals, what else can you do short of winning the whole thing. A team without a superstar but would get after you on defense. They held Hoover to the lowest point totals both times they played allowing the Bucs only 44 and 39 points.

Underachieving team of the year: Madison Academy. Arguably the 3rd or 4th best team in the state in any classification behind Hoover, BJ, and maybe Sparkman (they split their 2 games with Sparkman during the regular season). How you can be that good and not win the 3A State Championship is hard to figure. Free Throws are part of the game, just saying!

Player of the year: Tyrese Tanner from Hoover.

I know I generally focus on High School sports but I have to give a big shout out to Coach Lenny Acuff and his UAH Chargers, winners of the GSC East and have played great basketball this year. Lenny does a great job year in and year out and his team’s play basketball like it is suppose to be played. Perhaps that is why he has long list for folks wanting season tickets each year.

HS football tidbits: Looks like Hazel Green has hired the former defensive coach from Buckhorn as their new head football coach. Also hearing New Hope is close to naming a new football coach. With the new classifications in effect for next year, the football schedules are shaping up with some interesting games scheduled. Madison Academy is slated to open with North Jackson. Now that Austin has left 6A Region 8, this will allow teams in R8 to have the standard 7 game region schedule with 3 out of region games mandated for weeks 1, 5 and 10. Bob Jones has scheduled North Gwinnett Georgia for week 1, Spain Park for week 5, and Hoover for week 10. That is brutal but will be fun to watch!

Now let me switch from sports and talk a little about places to stay and/or eat. If you in need to stay in Montgomery let me recommend the Hampton Inn downtown. Opened about 2 years ago in an old building, you can’t beat the location and the price. Rooms are not large but very clean and comfortable and I can promise you that everyone that works there will be some of the friendliest folks you will meet.

Hadn’t had a chance to go to these places but have had someone recommend Melvin’s Hamburgers and Dilworth’s Tamales, both in downtown Corinth Mississippi. They tell me the folks at Melvin’s will have you in stitches and they have a wonderful breakfast. Folks have also told me that you need to get a dozen of the Tamales at Dilworth’s as they are the best around. Again, these places are not Bully tested (yet) but they do come highly recommended.

I have had a chance to dine at Cheddars a few times for lunch. This restaurant opened a few months ago on University Drive in Huntsville right across from the Wal-Mart and in front of the shopping center that has Phil Sandoval’s and Ol’ Heidelberg. They have a friendly folks and a somewhat diverse menu. Food is good and the prices are in the Longhorn, Friday’s, Applebee’s type price range. Not worth waiting a long time for a table though!

That’s it for now as it is time that I focus on driving Miss Daisy around. If you run across anything worth mentioning, let me know at

Friday, January 29, 2010

Have you missed me?

It has been a while since I gave you, my loyal readers (all 4 of you), with a blog of my ramblings. Sorry about that, just got caught up in the Holiday excitement among other things and time has gotten away from me. After having a while to see several basketball teams around the local gyms, I figured it is time to give you some bully tidbits.

It has been a roller coaster ride of a season for several local b-ball programs but one thing is for certain, if you listed the top 3 or 4 girls teams in the state, 3 of them are right here in Madison County. Hoover may be the best girls team but Bob Jones, Sparkman and Madison Academy are right there. Yes, MA! These girls are as good as any team in the state and have proved that assumption with wins over several quality 6A programs such as Sparkman and Buckhorn. Their only loses are to Bob Jones (twice) and once to Sparkman, all by very few points. Bob Jones girls have only lost to Hoover at home, and that game was close. Revenge game against Hoover coming up this Saturday night gives the BJ girls a chance to stake a claim as being the team to beat to win the blue map in 6A. Speaking of MA, usually the difference between a good 6A and 3A team is the quality of depth off the bench. In MA’s case, they’re as deep as anyone. Add good players to a class act for a head coach how can you not root for them? Great job Coach Privett!

Butler has the best boys team in the surrounding area with Lee close behind. The rest are all lumped together when you talk 5A/6A, with Grissom/Huntsville a notch below. Sparkman has a good team but seems to be under achieving a little based on talent level. Bob Jones can’t catch a break. Without Reggie and Jose, they are decent but can’t control the inside. Butler or Lee can win the 5A state championship, don’t see anyone else from this area getting out of region with exception of MA in 3A. The worst thing about 5A playoffs for boys is that perhaps 3 of the top 5 teams in the state will meet in regions with only one advancing. Butler, Lee and Muscle Shoals may all be good enough to win it all but only 1 will get to the final 4. In 3A, MA boys may be able to get to Birmingham depending on how week 3A region in Hanceville may be.

I have seen a lot of head and assistant coaches at various gyms so far this year. The head couches from Bama, Auburn, Georgia, Vandy, and Florida State have been to Bob Jones games to see Bob Jones Junior, Levi Randolph. I have heard Lacey and Langford at Butler and Lee have also drawn a ton of interest from marquee head coaches.

You didn’t ask but I will give you the Bully’s All Star Boys Basketball Team. Give me JoJo Walls (Dora), Ralston Turner (Muscle Shoals), Jay Wadkins (Austin), Trevor Lacey (Butler), Josh Langford (Lee), Dallas Jones (Buckhorn) and Levi Randolph (Bob Jones) as my 7 top notch b-ball players that I have personally seen this year. Coach of the year would have to go to Dora’s Heath Burns. Obviously Doss at Butler is doing another fine job but Burn’s doesn’t have the talent level to justify his team’s record and they have played a tough schedule. Petty at Bob Jones may have done one of his better jobs of coaching this year but record won’t show it since they were hit with season ending injuries on 2 stud starters before the season ever got started.

Football: Heard Coach Saban was visiting Bob Jones this week in regard to three of their Junior/Sophomore players. Congrats to Jordan Matthews (MA) for committing to Vandy. Good pick up for the Dores. Hearing Rivers at Athens is really being courted by several D-1 schools.

Football coaching updates: Hazel Green has named the defensive coordinator at Buckhorn as their new head coach. I haven’t heard anything from the Scottsboro opening. Since my last blog, New Hope has made a change and now has an opening for head job. This will be an interesting hire but my opinion, from afar, is they need to start from scratch to rebuild that program and get the “Pop Warner” and middle school teams on board to build a successful high school football program. Hearing rumors the Brooks job may come open soon. That would be a nice head job for someone. More to come…..

How about little tidbits on some places to eat and stay that Ms Daisy and I have ran across the last month or so?

Wentzell’s Oyster House has opened in Huntsville. Now I am not an oyster eater but I do like other shell fish. Ms Daisy does like oysters so we decided to try it. Food was okay, not bad but not exceptional either. They had not been opened very long so service was a little uncoordinated. Prices were a little on the high side for what you get. Bottom line, a platter of oysters and a littler crab dish with a cup of soup and tea was well into the $50 range which I thought was a little too much. Will go again down the road but certainly don’t recommend as a must eat destination.

If you looking for a quick getaway and don’t have time to go to Gatlinburg, head to the Opryland hotel in Nashville. Especially this time of year where you can enjoy the climate controlled atriums without worrying about how cold it actually is outside. If you go, pay the extra to get a balcony overlooking one of the atriums. We got one overlooking the Delta Atrium and I enjoyed just sitting on the balcony hollering, nodding, or heckling those that were walking the atrium paths. You can also get in a bunch of walking just exploring this huge resort.

We dined one evening at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Opryland hotel. Highly recommend and reservations are preferred. Wonderful steaks and you can’t beat the setting when you dine. You feel like your outside even though it is climate controlled. If you go, try the lobster bisque as it is the best I have ever tasted and I'm a bisque eating professional. Also, if you sit a certain area, you can watch the fountain show that occurs every hour or so in the Delta Atrium. Beware though; the food is very good but expensive. Ruth Chris and above category of price range!

Finally, about the jewel of a restaurant we found in downtown Franklin. Spent an afternoon hitting some of the many antique stores in the downtown Franklin area and Ms Daisy suggested we try a place not far from downtown called Dotson’s. Meat and 3 and absolutely wonderful! Afterwards we split a piece of their famous chocolate pie and I will tell you it is the best I have ever eaten anywhere. Make a puppy pull a freight train it was so good. We had fried chicken on the bone along with vegetables. I have to admit we were so impressed with our lunch that we went back again the next day on the way back home. This time I had roast beef while Ms Daisy had some more of the chicken. I also couldn’t share the pie this time and made Ms Daisy get her own. She didn’t mind as she liked it as well plus I knew she wouldn’t eat the whole slice and I would get more than just a slice. FYI, a good strategy to use when you want more.

Soap Box Time – Ol’ Bully has observed some things over the last while that have bothered me to a point of becoming a bee in my bonnet. Below are Bully Etiquette tips to help you become a better person. Just saying……

1) If the elevator door is closing don’t stick your hand in it to open it back up. The folks that are on board got there on time to ride, you didn’t. You ain’t important enough to make others wait, Take the next one!
2) If you are boarding an elevator, wait till the folks get off before you board. Just the right thing to do!
3) While we are talking elevators, guys let women board or exit first.
4) Moving on, we don’t need to hear your cell phone ring in meetings. If you expecting an important call that you are afraid you’ll miss, put it on vibrate and sit on it. You’ll feel it!
5) Whoever told you that you should go ahead and start your conversation on your ringing cell phone while still in the meeting or the movie lied to you! Believe it or not, some folks in the meeting want to hear the person conducting the meeting.
6) If you talking to someone in person, they’re more important than your ringing cell phone. Enough said!
7) Yes, you look silly with that piece attached to your ear so you can walk around and talk on the phone. What are you trying to prove or who you trying to impress?
8) If it is snowy, sleeting, hailing, rainy, fogging, cloudy, or dark, turn your lights on. That is what the good folks in Detroit (Japan/Germany) put lights on your vehicle for.
9) If you’re at a light and there is a long line behind you, stay tight to the vehicle in front of you so as many as possible can get thru the green light or arrow. If you allow more than a 30 foot gap to the vehicle in front you, you’re being rude.
10) Also, you are not too important to make a new pot if you take the last cup of coffee.

Now for men, below are rules for conduct in the men’s restroom:

1) Under no circumstance are you to talk on your phone in the men’s room. Just don’t do it! We need a place to get away and you ain’t that important enough to violate this man rule.
2) If you walk into the men’s room and there is more than 1 urinal, you always take the one furthest away from the nearest occupant. You don’t stand next to someone if you don’t have to. This should be drilled into you when you are born.
3) You don’t shake hands in the men’s room. Yes, even if you just washed. We might not understand why your hands are wet.
4) You don’t carry on conversations with your buddy at the urinal. You can nod, say hey but that is it. Just weird to have detailed conversations!

I am sure there are more to list but these are the ones in my crawl at present. If you got some that need to be listed, email me. Until next time here is a thought for you married men; “What a pity it is that nobody knows how to manage a wife, but a bachelor” (George Coleman). Don’t know why but thought it was true and funny.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm a ramblin man!

Well, if I was batting or pitching horse shoes it would have been a good week for ol’ bully but since I am talking about football picks from last week at only 50%, I really didn't do to well.  To review: I picked Brantley-1A, Clay County-2A, Cordova-3A, Cherokee County-4A, Russellville-5A, and Hoover-6A. I was correct with Brantley, Cherokee County, and Hoover but missed on the others. 3 out of 6 is not that great when you think you know a little something about high school athletics. The funny thing is one of the teams I got right, Cherokee County, was the one game that was most surprising in terms of the final score. I thought CC would win going away but this turned out to be a very good game. 2009 final games may have been the best set of games in regard to scores we have seen in a long time, with the largest margin of victory being only 13 points. Congrats to Brantley, Reeltown, Piedmont, Cherokee County, Demopolis, and Hoover. As a parting shot to some of the Hoover fans, you now have a championship team with a class coach and you should be glad that he represents your school. Some of you may wish for the former coach but I can guarantee you that there would be a bunch of schools wanting your current coach due to his leadership of young men and his class. Don’t think that was the case before.

A lot of local young men and women basketball players are receiving interest from various SEC schools. Over the last few weeks I have spied several SEC head and assistant coaches in various gyms’ watching some of the local talent.

6A Women’s basketball is going to be fun to watch with Hoover, Bob Jones, and Sparkman all capable of winning the state. In 3A, it should be Madison Academy’s to lose. With a couple of new players that transferred, they are better than last year‘s state runner up. They have already claimed victories over 6A Decatur and Sparkman.

On the men’s side there are 4 teams right now standing out in the Huntsville/Madison County area. Butler is the most talented and best coached team around. Sparkman/Lee/Johnson are all very athletic and capable. My guess is Sparkman will win the 6A Area 15. Bob Jones will be better as the year goes forward but it will be late January to early February before they have at least one of their injured studs back. By that time, Sparkman will most likely have locked up the right to host the area tourney. For the girls, Bob Jones took game 1 against Sparkman but which team wins the area is still TBD. Decatur may be the spoiler before it’s over. In boys 5A Area 16, who knows? Butler should win but with Johnson and Lee in the same area, these three could split victories. Look for 2 of these 3 to meet in region finals at Jacksonville State with the winner advancing on to final 4 and ultimately winning the state. You know the song, second verse, same as the first…. That is usual what happens with 5A Area 16.

Now, how about some bully travel tips for those traveling to Gatlinburg? Most folks that know me, know, I go to G-burg on a routine basis and I am often asked to refer dining spots among other things in and around G-burg.

Breakfast – I recommend The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. Huge breakfast and good food. If you’re into pancakes then you’re in luck as the G-burg area has a bunch of places you can try. To me their all about the same and I tell folks all the time if you want plain pancakes and not the weird kind (buckwheat, pecan, chocolate chip, etc) the best place to go is Crackle Barrel as theirs are crispy and cheaper. You may find that funny but it’s true. A lot of folks foam at the mouth for the Pancake Pantry in downtown G-burg but it ain’t anything special. In fact, they charge way too much for what you get, don’t take debit or credit cards, and have an ATM inside so you can get cash to pay your check while charging you $3 for this privilege. Folk’s line up to get in the place so some must like it but to me it proves that people will buy anything. If you want doughnuts, hit the Doughnut Friar in the Village Shopping Center in downtown G-Burg. Great doughnuts, especially early morning when their hot!

Lunch – Try the Farmhouse restaurant right across the street from the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. Food for everyone including the frou-frou crowd that wants quiche and fruit. They have a diverse menu including meat and soups as well. Another neat spot is a little German cheese/spice shop in the Village right next door to the doughnut Friar (see above). If you can catch them at the right time (they only open the restaurant for lunch and it’s not standard lunch times), upstairs is a small 4 table area with a good REUBEN sandwich. If you’re out by the outlet mall, you can lunch at J T’s (formally Connors). I asked the manager why the name change and he stated it is still owned by Connors but since it is much more casual than other Conner’s restaurants, they changed the name to appease the folks that think Connors ought to be fine dining.

Dinner – Where do I start? I most always eat dinner in G-Burg as I like the restaurants and most you can walk to if you staying in or close to downtown. Peddler has great steaks and salad bar but is always crowded on weekends. The Park Grill is owned by same folks that own Peddler and has a great salad bar and overall menu plus a good piano player (tip him well). Cherokee Grill has wonderful food and great crab bisque. Another good place to try is the Alamo Steak House, their steaks are good but get a cup of their steak soup to start, its good. Looking for something out of the way (not too far) and where the locals dine, the Greenbrier is good. If you want to go, you will need directions as it is not easy to find and on top of a small mountain. For a unique pizza, try the Smokey Mountain Brewery. For fine dining, hit Maxwell’s.

Lodging – There ain’t but one place to stay. Go to Baskin Creek Condominiums. You can walk to everything downtown and you will have plenty of room and covered parking. Rent unit 213 and tell them the owner referred you. I know him and he would appreciate it. If you go and like it, he might even sell it to you. Just saying…!

Fly Fishing – Call R&R Fly Fishing out of Townsend. Ian and Charity are a good team and will put you on some trout in the park. If you don’t have the equipment, they will provide.

These Smokey Mountain travel tips are free as my gift to you, my faithful readers.

I don’t go to a lot of movies (Ms Daisy does) but I did see one a few weeks back that is worth mentioning. Most have already seen The Blindside but if you haven’t you need to. It’s a good’un! Even if you’re not a football fan, it is a good (and true) story.

This will be the last post for the year. I will give you some basketball info after the first of the year. Besides, I might spend some time writing Ms Daisy a love note, you never know. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Breaking news - Tebow wrecked his car and Tiger Woods played his last game or something like that. Film at 11!

I hope everyone enjoyed their Turkey Day weekend. I know I did. Always fun to mix family, food, football and basketball into a long weekend. By the way, did you know that Tebow played his last home game this past Saturday and Tiger Woods had an automobile accident early Friday morning? You would have thought ol' Tiger died with the way they were covering the story on Friday and the same thing with Tebow on Saturday. What will CBS do next year with no Tebow? Some wonder if they will cancel college football because to hear the announcers and analyst on CBS and ESPN it seems it was never played prior to Tebow coming. Just wondering!

This is the final week of the 2009 high school football season. The final pairings are set with a few surprises! I must admit Russellville in 5A is a surprise but judging by their playoff scores, this team may be peaking at the right time. Russellville destroyed McAdory last Friday night 40-7 following the previous week’s 42-14 beating of Cullman. I saw Russellville against Athens earlier in the year and thought they were good but not great. In fact, Athen’s played them tough and could have won the game. I have said this before but it’s worth repeating, anything can happen in the playoffs and a team playing with confidence is a coach’s dream.

Let see how Ol’ Bully’s picks to represent the north did last week.

Hoover made the show as they beat Gadsden City last Friday setting up a Prattville/Hoover final. How many times in the last few years have we seen these two teams in the 6A finals? I was correct in 4A as Cherokee County beat Deshler 37-20. I listened to a lot of this game on the internet and it was close until CC pulled ahead by 3 scores in the 4th. I may be wrong but I think this was actually the 4A State Championship game as I think either would have won the final game. In the 2A, Clay County won setting up a meeting this week with Reeltown. I was also correct with the 1A Hackleburg pick as they beat R.A. Hubbard in a close one, 10-7 last Friday and now take on Brantly in the finals. So, I ended up with 4 out of 6 in the finals for 67% but who is counting.

Bully’s final pick’s.

1A – Hackleburg (14-0) vs Brantly (13-1). I think this one could go either way but take Brantly due to their strength of schedule and their better football tradition.  Hackleburg was 9-2 last year but the big stage is new to them having never won a state championship in football. Brantly has had only one losing season since 1991 and won a few blue maps back in the late 90’s.

2A - Reeltown (13-1) vs Clay County (13-1). Hard not to go with tradition in this one. Clay County seems to always make it to the semi’s or finals whether it is 2A or 3A and has not had a losing season since 1982. Six state championships since the early 90’s this is high school football tradition at its finest!

3A – Piedmont (12-2) vs Cordova (13-1). A lot of folks might have thought Cordova would have missed their great running back from last year (Simon who signed with Ol’ Miss) but apparently they haven’t. Cordova’s only loss was to 5A R8 Champ, Hartselle and that was 13-22 game. Piedmont beat Leeds last week to revenge one of its two loses of the year. I know Piedmont is playing well but can’t see them beating Cordova.

4A – Cherokee County (14-0) vs Jackson (13-1). Jackson comes into this game as a runner up in 4A R1 losing to region winner UMS Wright 51-24 in week 6. The closest CC came to losing was in week 2 when they won by 11. CC should win this game, maybe big but remember; they went undefeated last year and got blown out in the finals to UMS Wright.

5A – Russellville (12-2) vs Demopolis (11-3). Demopolis finished 3rd in 5A R3 and certainly knows how to win the close games since all but one of their playoff games has been decided by 8 points or less. Russellville seems to be getting better and better. I thought there was a chance they could lose in the first round but they are on the verge of their first state championship since 1968. Hard not to get on their bandwagon now.

6A – Hoover (13-1) vs Prattville (12-2). Since 2000, these two teams have won all but one 6A state championship. Prattville comes into this game going for its 4th in a row while Hoover has won five coming in 2000, 2002 thru 2005. Prattville has beaten Hoover in two of the previous three title games so these two meeting again is really no surprise although some thought Auburn would beat Prattville last week. Safe pick is to go with Prattville but this game is an opportunity for Hoover to re-establish themselves in the post Propst era. I think Hoover will pull this one off.

Historically north teams don’t fair as well in football state championships compared to basketball so I’m going out on a limb picking a north team in four of the six games. Check me out to see how good (or bad) I am.

I saw several high school basketball games over the week including the Sportsmed Shootout at the VBCC. I will say, right now, Butler looks to be the class of our area with Lee and Sparkman both showing potential to be very good. Butler is well coached (there's a shocker), good guards, a great player in Lacey, and team quickness. Sparkman has a lot of quickness and height and Lee has a marquee player in Langford. Butler won the Sportsmed, beating Lee by 1 in the finals. A couple of lower classification teams played well in this tourney. In 3A, keep an eye on Greene County. Good size and athleticism will make them a favorite to compete in 3A. Dora is extremely well coached. Not very tall but plays extremely well and could also make noise in 4A.

Short blog this week but that is all I can offer. Until next time……

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And the Bully goes to...........!

Eight teams are left in each classification, two from north and two from the south and unfortunately no local teams. Bob Jones and Madison Academy lost last week leaving Hubbard, Deshler, and Russellville as the only true north teams remaining. I bragged last week my picks for the north were still good but after last Friday I lost one when Russellville put a whipping on Cullman. This one surprised me as I have seen Russellville this year and while their good, didn’t see them getting to the semi’s in 5A. Remember, they didn’t even win their region. McAdory, beating Hartselle at home last week, now travels to Russellville this week for the right to the super 6 (finals).

Madison Academy’s dream season came to an end in a close one last Friday, losing on a game winning field goal to the defending state champs, Leeds. I was impressed with MA's ability to keep this one close. I know Leeds is not as good as last year but figured they would shut down MA’s offense and grind out the yards wearing down the MA defense.  Ultimately they did! I didn’t think Leeds would make mistakes with turn-over’s which is something MA’s defense has capitalized on all year. A pick 6 and fumble return gave MA 14 of their 21 points. Give MA credit for using opportunities to stay in this game.  Leeds will struggle this week against Piedmont if they can’t throw the ball any better than what they have been and I am no longer confident of my Leeds pick for the 3A north now.

Bob Jones fought hard at Hoover last week even without their QB and one of their better players (most of the game) both due to injuries. A little self destruction in the 3rd quarter resulted in a pick 6 and blocked punt for a TD which became too much for the Patriots to overcome. One thing about this year's BJ team, they didn't quit. Like the Homewood game earlier this year they fought back late scoring multiple times in a hurry.  A lot of returning starters next year so they should be fun to watch.

Now that football season is over for our area, it is time for the Bully awards. These picks were based on I have seen or know this year so some teams might not have gotten a fair review. Doesn’t really matter, it’s my blog.

Bully’s Coach of the Year: I was hoping at least one would win last week to make this award an easier choice but that didn’t happen. Therefore, I give out two COY awards, one to Kevin Rose of Bob Jones and one to Eric Cohu of Madison Academy. Both first year head coaches that took their teams to new heights in regard to total wins in a season. Bob Jones played like most folks around here have been waiting on them to play over the last 5 years since we know there is a ton of talent at that school. Although MA caught lightning in a jar with the weakest 3A R8 in recent memory, they still capitalized on it by running the table which is all you really can do. In my opinion, losing their QB in week 9 made MA less likely to go far in the playoffs yet won at least one more game than I thought they would. Props to both coaches for a job well done!

Bully’s Offense: Athens can pass, Russellville can run, and Bob Jones and Hartselle can do both but I was really impressed with Florence High School when I saw them so they get my offensive team of the year.

Bully’s Defense: Although I thought Muscle Shoals had the best linebackers of any team I have seen, I give the nod to Madison Academy due to their ability to score on defense and make adjustments at half to shut so many teams down in the 2nd half.

Bully’s over achieving team: Elkmont, due to the numbers they lost last year and the fine job they did this year, getting to round 2 of the playoffs.

Bully’s underachieving team: One could say Huntsville but they did get to playoffs so I pick Buckhorn. Too much talent on that team not to make the playoffs.

Bully’s Stadium of the Year: Hard not to be impressed with the Bedford Bowl, I mean Russellville high school. If they had artificial turf, it would be perfect.

Bully’s playing surface: Hands down, Milton Frank.  A great decision by the city of Huntsville 3 years ago. I still don’t understand why they put the yellow soccer lines on it though.

Bully’s fans of year:  No question-Bob Jones. No one tailgates and packs a stadium each week like they do. 

Bully’s Band of the year: While I enjoyed the Athens band half time song selection and the BJ band is big and impressive, I still think Grissom has the best overall marching band.

Bully’s Band Player of the year: Athen’s Alex Beaver. No one blows a bugle on Led Zeppelin tunes any better.

Bully’s best fund raiser of the year: Athens band fund raiser of selling chicken stew. So good it would make a puppy pull a freight train (if I had to explain it, you wouldn’t understand).

Bully’s cheerleader of the year: Caitlin Griffith at Bob Jones. Like you expect a tough football player to play thru injury, she cheered late in the year while battling illness. A real gamer!

Bully’s best concession stand of the year: Holtville High School. Fresh food right off the grill and served with a smile.

Bully’s best PA announcer: Huntsville High’s announcer at Milton Frank. Don't know who he is but he is the best around!

Bully’s best High School football writer: Uh, Me! What, you think I’m impressed with the real media? Honorable mention goes to Brooke Milam at the Decatur Daily.

Bully’s best radio broadcasters: Although they get a little caught up with too many complaints of the officials, I think Bob Jones crew does the best job overall. Good clarity and you generally can tell what is happening.  Wish I could remember their names.

Now that we are down to just a few teams and you will have to travel at least an 1.5 hours from Huntsville to see a game, you might want to pencil in Cherokee County-Deshler this Friday.  The Bama/Auburn game should be over in time to drive down to Centre.   I have been mentioning this game for a few weeks and it most likely will be the 4A State Championship game as I can't imagine anyone from the south beating either team. Last year, Deshler lost to CC at home 39-36 in the semi’s and this year’s game could be just as exciting.

Some random ramblings.

Below is a portion of an email I received from one of the weekly readers of the bully blog and instead of summarizing, I will just cut/paste. Thank you Mr. Owens!

Basketball is in full swing. Holidays are right around the corner, which means there will be several tournaments to attend. A lot of talent in the basketball arena this year. Probably none bigger than the kid from Muscle Shoals that signed with LSU last week. It will also be interesting to see how Deshler's boys do under first year head coach Jake Miles. Jake was at Austin last year as an assistant coach.

Baseball just finished up with a week of fall/winter practice. Congrats to Stafford Booth (M.A.) for signing with Auburn and C.K. (Mars Hill) signing with Samford. Samford's program is on the way up thanks to their relatively new coach Casey Dunn. Casey is the son of former Vestavia Hills legend Sammy Dunn (9 state championships) and former All-American catcher at Auburn.

Also, if you not a Bama/Auburn fan but want to see some exciting college football, go catch UNA in Florence. They got a week 1 bye in the DII playoffs and won last week in the 2nd round. A great program under first year coach Terry Bowden that could play for the National Championship on Dec. 12. Tickets are $20 and you can’t beat that price for a college game.

You remember last week I gave you some insight to breakfast in the Huntsville area. Below is another email I received on the subject from Ms. Daisy. Don’t get any better for a professional biscuit eater.

The best breakfast in Huntsville should be easy to find, especially for a seasoned professional like you. Just get out of bed and take the first right as you leave your bedroom. Breakfast made to order and served with a kiss! Now you tell me where you’re going to find a deal like that anywhere else!

She is the best homemade biscuit maker around bar none! 

Basketball is in full steam. Got a chance to see Butler the other night and they’re good. No other way to say it. Looks like Coach Doss has a team that could 3-peat in 5A. Bob Jones is really struggling with the success of football lasting into the first few weeks of basketball and some injuries. They will begin to get better but injuries sidelining two key players till at least late January will make this season very challenging for Coach Petty. Madison Academy is another program that is struggling early. Some of this is due to the success of their football program as well, but also demonstrates what happens when you lose an all-state point guard to graduation. Never under estimate the importance of that position. Just saying!

If you want to catch some good high school basketball over the Thanksgiving weekend, check out the SportsMed shootout at the VBCC.  The only local tourney where you get quality teams from all over Alabama, and some from Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.  Cheap admission for the whole day with two games going on at the same time and free covered parking.  I personally think it is one of the best tourney's of the year due to ease of parking, availability and comfort of the seats, and the walking around room.  It starts Thanksgiving (Thursday afternoon) and goes thru Saturday.  Here is the link to the web site if you want to check out the bracket and see who is playing when.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Step aside and let a professional take over!

Playoffs started two weeks ago with 192 teams now down to 48 as we head into week three of the high school playoff season. Congrats to Bob Jones, Russellville, Hartselle, Cullman, Madison Academy, and R. A. Hubbard. All of these teams are still alive from N. Alabama. I know there are a few basketball coaches watching this Friday with mixed emotions as basketball season heads into week 2.

Remember a few weeks ago I gave you Bully’s picks to represent the north in the super 6. To review, I picked 1A-Hackleburg, 2A-Clay County, 3A-Leeds, 4A-Cherokee County, 5A-Cullman, and 6A-Hoover. Ol’ Bully is still alive with these picks headed into the 3rd round. I subscribe to the saying, you better toot your own horn or somebody else will. I am sure I will miss some of these over the next 2 weeks though.

Last week had another large crowd at Madison City Stadium for the Bob Jones – Decatur game. I have enjoyed going over there this year because it reminds me of the crowds we use to have at Milton Frank back in the late 60’s and most of the 70’s when any city team played and the place was packed. At a B J game you can expect 10K plus fans and with a fun environment for High School football. I understand it is easy to support a winning program but props to the B J fans for the crowd they bring each week.

While speaking of Bob Jones, they survived a scare last week but Decatur has a good football team and B J has only beaten them three times since they established a football program (1973) and two of these victories came this year. Beating Decatur twice in one season is a great accomplishment for Coach Rose and his team. Now, for first time this playoff season, B J has to go on the road and play the mighty Hoover Bucs or as they say down there, “Hoovah”. For the record, B J has never advanced this far in the playoffs in football and this will be more than a playoff game it will be a statement game. A win Friday will finally get the monkey off the N. Alabama 6A as not being as strong as the Birmingham teams. Nothing makes a statement more than killing the king and a win Friday night, will go a long way in establishing respect for N. Alabama 6A football. I will be surprised (not shocked) if they can pull it off but remember B J has speed and at times, a tough defense so anything can happen. R. Rageland twisted an ankle Friday night and they will need him at or near 100% to have a chance.

In the bet you didn’t know category, do you know who has the longest winning streak in the state in any classification? If you guess Madison Academy, you would be correct. MA didn’t make the playoffs last year but won their last game of the season against Columbia. Add that to this year’s 12-0 mark and MA is riding a 13 game winning streak as they travel to Leeds to take on the 3A defending state champions this Friday night. Like Bob Jones, MA has had the advantage of playing at home the first two rounds and now must travel. Some of the players on the team have a ring either in basketball or baseball and know what playing on a big stage is all about. MA has been opportunistic of late and I don’t see Leeds being very charitable this Friday. MA will have to play the best they possibly can and I don’t know if that would be good enough.

Cullman survived a scare last week from Fairfield 22-19. Fairfield came into the game with a 8-3 overall record with two of those loses being to Jess Lanier (6A R6 playoff team that lost to Hoover last Friday) and McAdory which won their 5A R5 and host Hartselle this week. I knew Fairfield would be a good team but surprised Cullman struggled and won late in this game. I know they lost their starting running back with a fractured jaw in week 9 and did not realize the impact that may have had on this team. Still, if Cullman can survive their trip to Russellville and Hartselle survive the trip this week to McAdory, Thanksgiving Friday would be a much anticipated show down between the two schools that will share a region starting next year.

Speaking of a dream match-up, Deshler and Cherokee County are on a collision course to meet if both win this Friday. Both of these teams are marching thru the playoffs like Sherman marched thru Georgia and I don’t see either losing this week, even though both are on the road. If they survive and play November 27, this will be a game to watch for any High School football fan.

I watched the North Jackson – Guntersville game last week and even though it was an entertaining game, with NJ winning 16-14, I can’t see North Jackson beating Cherokee County this week. My first trip to see a game at Guntersville and enjoyed the environment, the game, and TOTR was as good as usual. Best turnip greens around!

A couple of coaching vacancies have already popped up with Hazel Green and Scottsboro looking for a new head Football coach. Hazel Green is looking again for the 3rd time in 5 years and it has been 2004 since they have had a winning season. Hard to figure why it is so hard to win at H G and attracting a “name” coach may be hard. Safe bet is to try and get an assistant from one of the successful programs and give him a shot at being a head coach. If he is successful, might not keep him long but it would start to rebuild football at H G and make hiring a “name” coach a little easier down the road. Otherwise, H G better open the check book if they want an already established, successful coach. Considering a local middle school coach has claimed to have won 100 games in like, 6 years, maybe he should apply. Especially considering he only played, at most, a 7 game schedule each year. If he can get 100 wins out of at most 42 games (and that would assume he was undefeated each year and his teams were not) then he certainly could work miracles at H G. If he were to be the new H G coach and started winning, he could print shirts up and throw himself a party, uh wait a minute, he already did that. Just saying….!

Scottsboro is another school and they may have an easier time landing a top coach than some think. They have had a couple of winning seasons since 2004 and were 10-2 that year. Although I am not plugged into the goings on at Scottsboro, it would seem to be an area hungry for good football. Could it be possible that a current successful high school coach in Limestone County be called to go “home” to take over that program? This hire could be interesting!

I won’t be surprised if a few more opening didn’t pop up over the next few months. I’m hearing rumors that there could be a one and done situation at a high school in a neighboring county, will see.

Basketball is now into week two. Some teams will begin their season this week with several interesting games. Decatur boys should be much improved this year as will Lee-Huntsville will the addition of Langford transferring from Johnson. Bob Jones opened last Thursday with a close win over Grissom. This B J team is currently missing 3 starters, 1 with an ACL tear and the other 2 due to success of the football team. Hard to get a handle on B J with one game under their belt and they travel to Butler this Saturday evening and that’s a tough chore at full strength and brutal without the whole team.

Now, to close, some of you may not know that I’m a professional biscuit eater. I was listening the other day to Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie” and got to thinking about the phrase in the song “the day the music died”. For the record he was referring to the 1959 plane crash killing Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, and Richie Valens. Do you know the day the breakfast died in Huntsville? The answer is when Miss Eunice Merrill passed away and the doors to her little restaurant closed and at about the same timeframe that “The Little Farm Grill” changed ownership. That was the day Huntsville lost their outstanding breakfast spots. I went to Edith Ann’s the other day, voted the best breakfast in Huntsville by the readers of the Huntsville Times. It’s not bad but nothing special. For the record, Little Farm still has best gravy but they don’t take their biscuit making very seriously and opting instead to use the ones that come frozen plus they charge too much for what you get. Gibson’s has good biscuits but they take no pride in their gravy. No one does country ham and red-eye like it should be. For the overall best breakfast value, best you can do in Huntsville is still Mullins. If you want pancakes, Cracker Barrel is your best bet unless you want some with nuts or buckwheat, etc. then IHOP will have to do. You want hash browns, go to the place that smothers, covers, and chunks them – Waffle House. Rolo’s is not bad and Another Broken Egg is cute. None stand out like Eunices and The Little Farm Grill did back in the day. I know you didn’t ask but thought you might want to know what a professional thinks. If you know somewhere I need to try or a comment, email me at

If you’re not interested in traveling to a football game this week, go catch some basketball as there several good games slated.