Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh the perils of fall break!

Having been around football coaches over the last several years, I can tell you this is the week they dread more than any other. The week of fall break! Why this week is any worse than other weeks during the season? Mental distraction more so than anything physical. By this point in the season, the athlete and coaches have an established routine that is gets totally hosed this week. Their established routine is in total disruption. Coaches don't have control of their kids compared to when school is in session and distractions abound. Players will sleep in (unless the team schedules practice early in morning) and then drag in to practice after lounging or goofing off all day and, coaches will tell you, the focus for the upcoming game is just not there. I know some coaches who try to schedule things on Friday so they at least of some control over that day and keep the focus on where it should be. Of course the solution to all of this would be to move the start of the football season up a week early, and give coaches 11 weeks to play 10 games. This would give each team a much needed week off and I bet that schools that have the fall break week (block systems generally don't have the whole week) would choose this week for their off week. Coaches do have the option to punt one of their out or region games and only play a 9 game regular season but that could be dangerous strategy if the “out of region opponents” tie-breaker is used. This is always the case in a 3-way tie where each team beat the other then the defeated out of region games generally decide the regions finish. Seems to me a simple fix but what do I know! Let’s get off the soapbox and move on.

I remember a few years ago I got the chance to see Randall Cobb play in the Tennessee state championship game when he played for Alcoa High School. I thought he was as good as it gets when it comes to an athletic QB who could run and throw. I figured he was at least a 4-star and could name the school he wanted to attend. What do I know! When I got home and researched, he was listed as a 3-star, not highly recruited and committed to Kentucky. I understand Tennessee got into recruiting him late but he stuck with Kentucky. I write this because sometimes something seems so obvious is not necessarily the reality. Why the Vols would let this good a player leave their own back yard (Alcoa High school is in the Knoxville metro area) to sign with another SEC school is something I can’t figure out, especially when you look at the lack of talent on the current Vol roster. This brings me to Stephen Rivers at Athens. Although a junior, you have to expect he is being looked at by a bunch of schools, especially in the SEC. Could he be headed west, say to UCLA? That is where his brother’s college OC, Norm Chow, is now running the offense. Following the pattern established when Philip graduated Athens, his dad would move to a location near the university that Stephen ends up playing for. Although the west coast is a long way from North Alabama, it makes sense as his dad could watch his youngest son play on Saturdays and his oldest son play on Sundays. This could be interesting to watch it all unfold next year as I suspect there are at least a few SEC schools will recruit Mr. Stephen Rivers. Having watched him once last year and twice this year, I think he is good, but again, what do I know! Oh by the way, Hartselle has a good looking football team. The best game I have seen this year was last week’s Athens/Hartselle game. A 10 point game but was decided late in the 4th quarter. Also enjoyed visiting with John Hannah (you Bama and Pro Football fans will remember him) and conversing with him about football.

The water is starting to be really clear for 3A, Region 8. With Elkmont’s win last week over Colbert County and MA's win last week of Colbert Heights, if both of these teams hold serve the rest of the year, MA will win region with Elkmont finishing 2nd. Elkmont still has a tough contest on the road this week as they travel to Colbert Heights and you can't go ahead and chalk up a victory for MA when they travel to C T Manly later but both can now control their own destinies. Even if MA loses one and Elkmont wins out, MA still will get 1st seed by virtue of their victory over Elkmont in week 2.

Cullman’s last hurdle for a region 6 championship could be this week's trip to Springville. I don't expect Springville to pull the upset but stranger things have happened. I haven't seen Cullman this year but I'm anticipating an exciting matchup in the playoffs if Cullman and Hartselle can both stay alive till they meet. This would be a "must see" game. Cullman plays in a 9 team region so they play their last 2 regular season games out region. Both of these games will be interesting. Week 9 they host Mountain Brook and week 10 go to Austin. If they finish their regular season 10-0, watch out! Hartselle still has Muscle Shoals left in the region and MS may have the best defense in Region 8 so they don’t need to over look that game. Hartselle will then end the regular season with Decatur and although that is out of region, still should be a good one!

Bob Jones had an opportunity for a "statement game" last week but blew it. Listening to the last several minutes on the radio as I was driving home from the Athens-Hartselle game, I couldn't believe BJ came from 2 scores down to take the lead with less than a minute to play only to blow it at the end. I ain't ready to jump off the BJ band wagon but was disappointed they fumbled (literally) the opportunity to tell the Birmingham area that BJ can play with that region. Although Homewood came in the game 1-4, they had lost to Hoover, Spain Park, Oak Mountain, and Vestavia Hills which are all good teams and playing in the best region in the state. With the exception of the Vestavia game, most of Homewood’s loses have been close games. This was an opportunity for BJ to tell the world that they were for real. Doesn't really matter since we have playoffs and if BJ is for real, and they can be, they will get the opportunity to prove it. I was just disappointed that this opportunity for folks in Madison to strut a little was lost. I think BJ is good and possibly a player, or two, away from being one of the best in the state. That is a good thing for N. Alabama which has the reputation, especially in 6A, as having weaker teams than the rest of the state. BJ can rebound with a win this week against Huntsville.

The most interesting games this week and the next are in 4A Region 7. Earlier in the year I had Guntersville/North Jackson as a potential must see game. Luster has fell off of Guntersville with their recent 2 game losing streak but this game still has the making to be interesting. The focus in this region has turned to Fairview which is undefeated and hosting Plainview this Friday night. Both Fairview and NJ are tied in first place with Plainview and Guntersville tied with 1 loss in the region. Plainview but beat Guntersville last week, scoring 25 points on perhaps, the best defense in that region. The next few weeks will be interesting. Next week Fairview goes to Guntersville and then ends region play hosting a game with NJ. If Fairview survives this week and next, the NJ game will most likely be for Region Championship. But, as has happened in the past, in 3 weeks, this region could look entirely different if Guntersville beats NJ and Plainview and/or Guntersville beats Fairview. I may head to Fairview this Friday to get a look at them!

Deviating from Football and to discuss my other favorite hobby, eating! I told you I would write when I eat somewhere that was good or bad. I had an opportunity to eat at Santa Fe Grill this past week in Hampton Cove. I had heard mixed reviews from folks that had dined there so decided to see for myself. For my visit, the food was not very good. Steak was tough and overcooked and soup/stew was terrible.

One last comment for the gear heads, go Mark Martin. Just saying……!

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