Archive for November, 2005

Life on the boards

November 28, 2005

I like checking out the messageboards over at ncpreps.com. I’ve even posted a time or two. Every once in a while, though, I become fodder for them.

It happened today that a Crest fan decided that two paragraphs in my column on Monday regarding the postgame celebration were an indictment of the entire Shelby and East Rutherford programs. It then evolved to me being a Crest fanatic who hates Shelby and so on.

It’s pretty easy to come on a messageboard and start slamming people for writing their opinions in the paper while hiding behind their screen name.

I’ll start by saying that I am not a fan or Crest, Shelby, Burns or KM. I have to deal with all of the coaches, players and fans of those schools and for me to pick a favorite would be stupid.

I was there, on the field, Friday night when the celebration was under way. I never said that ALL Shelby fans and ALL East fans were in the wrong. I simply stated that some people’s antics tried to ruin a good night of high school football for everyone else. I’m not backing off that, because I heard what some of the fans on both sides were saying and I saw the water bottles being thrown.

What bothers me about the whole thing is the fact that these fans are adults who should be setting the example for the players. Instead, nearly all the players involved were very respectful and supportive of each other after a thrilling, hard-fought game, a lesson clearly lost on some of their elders.

If anyone thinks I was slamming Shelby as a program, I certainly wasn’t. They are the gold standard for high school football in this state, and some of the best people I’ve ever known.

That, however, doesn’t change the fact that some of their fans – and East’s too – were out of line last week.

Another mandatory update

November 21, 2005

Anytime my wife checks my blog and tells me there’s nothing new on it, it’s time to do some updating…

So here are a few random thoughts from the weekend:

So you wanna be a sportswriter? I worked 24.5 hours on Friday and Saturday, covering a high school football game in Asheville, a college game at Gardner-Webb and assisting in the design of 10 pages worth of sports section for the weekend editions. I’m back in here on Sunday night working again, and I missed….

The biggest game in the history of Gardner-Webb basketball, the road trip to the Dean Dome. My apologies to the NAIA glory days, but college basketball games don’t come any bigger than this one. The fact that the Bulldogs were even competitive excites me. I’m not sure I could have handled it if they actually would have won. I like the way my buddy Matt Webber put it. It proved that GWU is a little better than everyone thought, and it also proved that UNC still has some work to do.

The Crest defense was outstanding Friday night, flying around on the magic carpet up at A.C. Reynolds. I have to say, though, the post game taunting from the Chargers, especially the basketball shooting motions directed to the fans, was very un-Crest like. After four state titles in 11 years, winning should be old hat by now. Coach Kirby didn’t like it either, as he ripped the team for the display in the post-game huddle.

To all my South Carolina-loving friends (read: Brad)…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Go Tigers…

If I don’t update again before Thursday, have a great Thanksgiving.

GWU Basketball Preview

November 13, 2005

Here’s the season preview that appears in Sunday’s Star:

BOILING SPRINGS – One week away from the biggest game in school history, Gardner-Webb men’s basketball coach Rick Scruggs couldn’t help smiling as he sat in his office last week.

While opening the 2005 season on Nov. 19 in Chapel Hill is an exciting event, Scruggs has his sights set on bigger things than just the Tar Heels.

The Bulldogs ended last season with an 18-12 record, falling to Central Florida in the Atlantic Sun Championship game. With all five starters back from that team – and UCF moving to Conference USA – the bar is set as high as it can go for this year’s club, a NCAA Tournament berth..

“After last year, there’s one more step to take,” Scruggs said. “Barring anything unforeseen, we’d like to be the ones that cut the nets down this year. I think we’ve got a good shot at it. Last year, we played hungry. It’ll be interesting to see if we still play that way.”

Last year, GWU was picked ninth in the Preseason Atlantic Sun poll. This year’s squad is the odds-on favorite to win the crown this season, making this year’s edition of the Runnin’ Bulldogs the hunted, rather than the hunters.

“It’s going to be a different mentality,” Scruggs said. “Now instead of people looking ahead to their next opponent, they’re going to be looking ahead to us. People are going to know that we’ve got the talent to play on that level. Now, we’re going to have to go out and prove it.”

Scruggs, entering his 11th season at GWU, will have the luxury of putting an experienced team on the floor. There are six seniors on the roster, including center Simon Conn, forward Brian Bender, reigning Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year Tim Jennings and point guard T.J. McCullough.Newcomers Ricky McPhee, who Scruggs describes as a “J.J. Redick-type shooter” and Takayo Siddle should fit into the backcourt mix early on.

Conn averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season and spent his summer playing for his native Australia in the 2005 World University Games. His continued development is a big part of GWU’s tournament chances.

“Last year, the first part of the year, Simon played fair,” Scruggs said. “It seemed like around Christmas – he must have gotten a good present or something because he just blossomed. I thought he was the best post player in the league after Christmas. This year, I think you’ll see us go to him more than we did early last season because he’s obviously a force in there.”

Jennings has started drawing interest from NBA scouts because of his defensive prowess, and his abilities will also be key for the ‘Dogs.

“We had the San Antonio Spurs’ scout in here the other day watching him, which was exciting and a little different” Scruggs said. “I’ve never had a pro scout come in and watch practice. I’ve had them watch games where they came to see somebody else and saw us.

“The thing they said (about him) is he has the ability to play defense on the NBA level. Now, they didn’t say anything about his offense, but they like his defensive ability.”

Former Burns High standout Chris Gash should also crack the starting lineup this season, and Scruggs is happy with the junior’s development as well.

“I think where he’s most improved is that he’s refined some things,” Scruggs said. “He’s smoother, and he’s developed into a very strong young man. He’s had a great preseason, and I think his game will step up next season when we lose all these seniors. I think he’ll be ready to take another giant step forward then.”

It won’t take long to find out how the Bulldogs handle their newfound expectations, as North Carolina, Auburn, East Carolina, Minnesota and Ohio State dot the early schedule.

“Playing games like that is great for Gardner-Webb,” Scruggs said. “I just think when you play against those kind of crowds and those kind of teams, it helps you get ready for league play. I think also the kids who come here now are expecting to play a big-time schedule. That’s one of the reasons we get kids here, because we play such an ambitious schedule.”

If that schedule plays on into “The Big Dance,” Scruggs’ smile will be bigger than ever.

Playoff blitz

November 10, 2005

Here are my previews for the three games involving Cleveland County teams:

North Lincoln at Shelby

Thomas Wolfe is famous for saying that you can’t go home again.

North Lincoln’s Joe Rempson is flying in the face of that notion this week, as the Shelby native will stand on the visiting sideline as his Knights take on the Golden Lions in the first round of the 2A State Playoffs.

Rempson, a former tight end, defensive end and long snapper for Coach Jim Taylor and a 1993 Shelby graduate, is a first-year assistant coach for head coach Matt Beam. His parents, Tom and Cathy Rempson, and several other family members live in Shelby, and Shelby assistant coaches Lance Ware and Andy Roberts were groomsmen in his wedding.

“When we got the pairings, Coach Beam called me and said ‘you’re not going to believe it, but we’re playing Shelby,’” Rempson said. “It’s the most exciting week I’ve had in my short time coaching. To go back there and stand on the other sideline is going to be a little strange.”

For Shelby head coach Chris Norman, facing off with Shelby graduates is nothing new.

“We’ve been in that situation before,” he said. “We’ve gone up against some of our guys before. The staff knows him, but the kids don’t know who he is.”

The Knights (6-5) finished in a three-way tie for third in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference, and are powered by quarterback Trent Hopkins. The junior has passed for 1,431 yards and 14 touchdowns this season while rushing for 664 yards and 16 more scores.

That’s more than enough firepower to get Norman’s attention.

“It’s their first year in 2A, and it looks like they play real hard,” he said. “I’m sure they feel like this game is a tremendous opportunity for their program.”

Rempson agreed, saying “It’s exciting for us to bring our team down there. It’d be a big win for us, so we’ll just put it out on the field and see what happens.”

The Golden Lions (8-3) have plenty of weaponry as well. Halfback Tavorris Jolly (817 yards, 10 touchdowns) and fullback Arsenio Parks (795 yards, 12 touchdowns) lead a potent ground game while quarterback Darryl Montgomery, the school’s all-time leading passer, keeps foes honest through the air.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. Shelby dropped a 23-21 decision to East Rutherford while North Lincoln fell to Lincolnton, 42-10.

The 2AA bracket features a potential rematch with East Rutherford in the third round. But Shelby isn’t looking any farther ahead than this week.

“There are a lot of obstacles in front of us,” Norman said. “You have to take it one game at a time. It’s a one-game season now. One slip up, and you’re gone.”

Burns at Hickory
For the last four years as members of the Southwestern Foothills 3A Conference, Hickory and Burns tangled every season for positioning in the now-defunct league.

The two teams went their separate ways this season — Burns into the Southwestern 2A/3A and the Red Tornadoes into the Catawba Valley 2A/3A — but their paths cross again Friday night in Hickory in the State 3AA opening round.

The Bulldogs (6-5) settled for third in the SWC this season while Hickory (9-2) finished in a three-way tie with Newton-Conover and Maiden for the CVAC crown. That tie resulted in a drawing for playoff seeds, and Hickory pulled the low number, setting up the game with Burns.

“They’re a good football team,” Burns head coach Ron Greene said. “They finished in a tie in that conference, and they were unfortunate when they pulled that third seed. They’re a good team without really doing anything different than they’ve done the past few years.

“It’s a lot of Carlos Shade and a strong fullback running the ball. They play good strong defense. They’re going to try to keep the game close and keep our offense off the field.”

Shade, who’s rushed for 1,178 yards and 16 scores this season, drives the Hickory attack. Senior quarterback Patrick Shelton brings balance, passing for 1,128 yards and 11 scores this season.

The Bulldog offense starts and stops with quarterback Lance Camp. The junior has passed for 2,017 yards and 13 scores this year while rushing for 1,139 yards and 19 more touchdowns.

Senior running back Brandon Jackson has rushed for 751 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and receivers Ulysses Tuft, Teron Famble, Shamar Howell and Keron Phelps have combined for 74 catches, 1,591 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The two teams have met six times in their history with Burns holding a 4-2 edge. Hickory has won the last two meetings, however, on its home field — including a 31-24 triple-overtime thriller in 2003.

“We have to play a good football game,” Greene said. “We can’t have a bunch of mistakes and a bunch of turnovers if we want to be successful.”

Injuries have plagued the Bulldogs this season, but Greene expects to have everyone available Friday.

“I see most everyone being playable,” he said. “We just don’t need them to get hit in the same place again. It’s do or die. We’ve got to go.

“I think our playoff chances are very good. Once you get into the playoffs, you can make it happen. That’s what we’ve got to go out and do.”

The Burns-Hickory victory advances to play the survivor of the West Rowan-Mooresville matchup.

Page at Crest
In the late 1990s, the month of November meant one thing for the Crest High football team — a trip to Greensboro and a date with the Page Pirates.

From 1996-1998, Crest ended Page’s season with playoff victories. In an unexpected twist to the State 4A olayoffs, the pair meet again this week.

Only this time, it’s the Pirates who’ll make the two-hour plus trip to Sid Bryson Stadium.

“I never laugh when we’re playing Greensboro Page,” Crest head coach Roy Kirby said. “It was odd, though, since we’ve never played them here. Let’s just say it piqued my interest.”

The Pirates (4-6) finished in a three-way tie for third in the 4A Metro Conference and look much like those teams Crest met in the 90’s — physical and dedicated to running the football.

“They run a lot out of the I-formation,” Kirby said. “They’ve got a tailback (Remene Alston) that was ranked as the preseason No. 10 back in the country. He’s got over 1,800 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games and he’s committed to Kentucky.

“Needless to say, we’ve got him rated as the ‘A’ player. He’s about a half-step behind (former
Crest standout) Travis Padgett speed-wise, so it didn’t take us long to figure out who to stop.”

The Chargers (6-5) are better equipped to slow down Alston than most teams, thanks to its defense.

“Well, if Brandon Peterson can make 14 solo tackles every week like he did last week, that’ll help,” Kirby said of his senior nose tackle. “Anytime you have a guy that can play two gaps, that helps everybody.”

Injuries have been a constant worry for Kirby’s squad this season, but even with Brandon Spikes being “a little sore,” he expects to have everyone available for this week’s contest.

That includes sophomore Tosh Toms, who rushed for 97 yards and a score in last week’s 21-20 win over South Point. The diminutive Toms has rushed for 735 yards and eight scores in just seven games as the Chargers’ starting running back.

Junior quarterback Jordan Robinson has thrown for 1,475 yards and 10 touchdowns this season for a Crest squad that’s flying under the radar this year after two straight 3AA championships.

“I sort of like it. At least the target on my back is just in Cleveland County and not all over the state,” Kirby joked. “We haven’t played the underdog role in a few years. I told the team ‘let’s stay healthy, be underdogs and see what we can do.’

“We have our own expectations around here. We’re just going to line up and see what happens.”