ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

SportsLink

Archive for August 2006

Today’s question

We’re back with another discussion question. And I expect some of you football experts out there to respond. You know who you are, so pipe up and write an answer in the comment box below.

Now that the preseason schedule is complete, do you think the Seattle Seahawks will return to the Super Bowl?

A tour of Joe Albi

PREP FOOTBALL

Welcome to the new Joe Albi Stadium.

Some of the changes are obvious, like the new FieldTurf surface. Some are more subtle, like the running water and painted walls in the locker rooms.

But all the changes are important – and for the better.

Let’s wander around and check it out.

Last preseason game tonight

SEAHAWKS

The Seahawks finish the exhibition season tonight by hosting the Raiders at 7 p.m. With a 1-2 preseason record, Seattle needs a win to finish at .500. As if anyone really cares.

What is more important is next week. Toward that end, here are a few features that served to advance tonight’s game – televised on KAYU tonight with the pregame show at 6:30.

Journeyman defensive end Joe Tafoya is the Seattle Times’ subject.

Rookie linebacker Lance Laury, striving to make the team, is the subject of the P-I’s story.

The News Tribune didn’t focus on one player but looked at all the on-the-bubble guys.

The drive would be worth it

PREP FOOTBALL UPDATED 10:27 A.M.; 12:50 P.M.; 3:30 P.M.

If there is one prep football game I would like to see this weekend, it is Prosser vs. Southridge at Qwest Field on Saturday. If the Cougars weren’t on the tube, I would get in the car and drive across the state for the 5:30 matchup – I kid you not.

The Seattle Times makes its prep picks each week and John Boyle let me know he picked this game (I had the wrong reporter earlier and John wanted me to “blame” the right person - thanks for the heads up). John chose Prosser but I’m going to disagree. Give me Southridge by 10, 34-24.

Mike Vlahovich took a look at the revamped Great Northern League today in the newspaper with a story and a column, along with notes. On-line, Mike has a team-by-team breakdown on his blog.

You’ll also find a question about recruiting on Mike’s blog. This is something that’s bothered him for a long time, and he’d like to hear your opinion.

This was also Prep Page day in the Review, with our weekly Quick Hits leading with the revamped Albi Stadium. I’ll be out there tonight and my plan is to give you a tour.

It was Prep Page day on the Idaho side of the border as well. Greg Lee examined the Intermountain League football race with a story and a notebook, which also covers the North Star League. The NSL story is here.

There are also Quick Hits as well, along with the Panhandle Picks, which can also be found on Greg’s blog.

From around the state, the Kitsap Sun looks ahead to this weekend’s games. The News Tribune examines the changing Tacoma-area leagues.

There is one other West Side game worth seeing this weekend, Friday night’s Bellevue at Skyline game. The P-I takes a look at this rivalry game between the 2005 4A champ (Skyline) now back in 3A, and the state’s most succesful program (Bellevue) this decade (four 3A titles).

Missed this yesterday, but the Columbian did a team-by-team glance of the high school football teams in its area.

Football in the Bellingham area is also quite different this year after the reclassification. Here is the Bellingham Herald story.

Eastern kicks off college season tonight

EASTERN WASHINGTON

We’re starting with the Eagles today because they open the season tonight (7) at Oregon State – and because Dave Trimmer posted a blog entry already. Check there for links to stories from the OSU perspective – there are a lot.

The Eastern game is on TV (Fox Sports Northwest) and we’ll be watching, though I’m headed out to Albi first and will DVR the first half. After the game is over, I’ll drop some opinions on to this site.

But let’s get to the pregame show. Trimmer looked back today at the last time EWU and OSU met, back when Dennis Erickson was the Beaver coach. That 2000 season opener was won by the Beavers 21-19, and Oregon State coach Mike Riley is trying to get his team to learn from it.

I think they will. Couple that with all the changes the Eagles are instituting – most notably at quarterback – it looks like OSU will roll. Call it Oregon State 35, Eastern 14.

Bonus coverage

COUGARS

Here is an Associated Press notebook from Auburn.

By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer

AUBURN, Ala. - Rodgeriqus Smith walked up to fellow Auburn receiver Courtney Taylor before fall camp bursting with confidence.

“Man, I’m going to start,” he pronounced.

It was a bold statement for a walk-on who had to audition just to make the team two years ago. But true to his word, Smith is a starting receiver going into the fourth-ranked Tigers’ opener against Washington State.

Eagles will fly in Corvallis tomorrow

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

When Eastern Washington opens the college football season tomorrow night in Corvallis, the game will have special meaning to Eagle running back Ryan Cole. If you want to know why, read Dave Trimmer’s feature from today’s paper.

There is more on the game on Dave’s EWU blog.

Dave’s blog, Glenn Kasses’ Cougar blog and Jim Meehan’s Vandal blog all have links to the numerous college football stories we ran today in our preview section. But there is one story I wanted to link to myself. It’s John Blanchette’s piece concernng old/new Idaho coach Dennis Erickson and his connections throughout college football.

As usual, over on the other side of the mountains, there are numerous stories about the Huskies, including this Times’ piece on quarterback Isaiah Stanback and Bob Condotta’s blog post on Saturday’s opponent, San Jose State. Everett also looks at the Spartans.

The best of the rest is Don Ruiz’s story in the News Tribune concerning freshman running back Paul Homer.

Soriano still in hospital

MARINERS

If you were watching the Mariners game last night, like I was, you probably saw Rafael Soriano take a line drive off his forehead.

The sickening sight of Soriano taking the blow and falling to the ground was all just about anyone could talk about this morning, especially in print. It even overshadowed the M’s sixth consecutive win.

First the latest news, courtesy of the Everett Herald. Soriano is listed in stable condition, and seems to be OK, though more tests are planned.

From the morning papers, the P-I covered Soriano’s injury better than anyone. There is also more in the Times’ story and Tacoma’s piece.

I’ll never forget catching in college when one of my pitchers took a line drive off the top of his head (he tried to duck). The sound has stayed with me the past 30 years. It sounded almost hollow, kind of like a melon hit by a hammer. Luckily, John wasn’t hurt badly and we were making jokes about how he got hit in the least-important place on his body in no time.

Let’s hope the same can be said of Soriano soon.

Your territory? Forget about it

CHIEFS

The lead story in The S-R sports section today was sort of loopy.

In a nutshell, the CHL’s decision concerning Trevor Lewis is idiotic on about three different levels.

Either the three leagues that make up the CHL have territories or they don’t. If they do, then the leagues have to respect them. If they don’t, then kids are fair game.

But there was one line in Jeff Bunch’s story about the situation that really stood out:

“David Branch, OHL commissioner, is current president of the CHL.”

Let me get this right. An OHL team signs a kid from the WHL territory, and the league approves it. Then the league commissioner, who approved it, also is part of the group that hears the appeal.

With rules like that, the Bush Administration could tap every phone in America and Donald Rumsfield could decide the lawsuits.

Little kids, big impact

LITTLE LEAGUE

When my eldest son was about six, he got me hooked on watching the Little League World Series.

All he ever wanted was to play in Williamsport, a dream that was unreachable for him, because we didn’t have Little League in Spokane at the time. But he still enjoyed watching it, even when he got older.

He was in town last week and together we watched as much of the Series as we could. We have our little traditions. My wife always roots for the smallest player, Tyler supports the U.S. team he thinks can win it all, and I root for the Russian team (they are always getting beat 11-0 or something).

Tyler’s pick this year was Georgia, because of left-hander Ryan Carter, who could throw the ball through a peach tree. And, lo and behold, he was right. The Georgia team made the U.S. final, where they faced the team from Beaverton, Ore. Usually in this situation, we would have rooted for the team from Nike town, but with Carter available to the throw the title game if Georgia won, we abandoned our Northwest roots and got in Georgia’s corner.

The Southern guys won, and we were ready to spend Sunday afternoon together watching the title game with Japan. Then it rained. And the final was pushed back a day. Tyler flew out Monday morning, so we didn’t get to watch the final together for the first time in years. Because of that, I didn’t pay much attention to the Georgia victory.

You see, it’s not about the baseball, at least not in our case. It’s about the connection. The tradition. The time together. It’s something we’ve been able to do for years, something that brings us together, no matter how weird he thinks I am or how many times I’ve embarrassed him. We can still sit together, watch the games and talk about his youth. The plays he made, the hits he had, the fun we shared. Watching the kids play on TV gives us that opportunity, an opportunity to run down memories’ baseline and touch them all.

So call it child exploitation if you want. Rail against the idea of 12-year-old kids playing on TV if you must. I’m not going to join you. I’m going to sit down and watch it with my son as often as I can. And enjoy the memories.

Spartans on the horizon

UW AND PAC-10 FOOTBALL

As always, there is more about Husky football than you could ever read in today’s Puget Sound newspapers, but we’ve waded through them, and here are our nominees as the most interesting.

The Seattle Times, like the paper did with the Cougs today, focused on UW’s opponent Saturday, San Jose State (and, also like with WSU, here is the game covered at-a-glance). The paper’s UW notebook centers on the saga of linebacker Scott White, who left the team for a day, returned and earned a starting spot.

The P-I must have run its Husky season preview today, with Art Thiel doing his usual fine job, this time writing about the trials and triumphs of the UW seniors. There was also a good Ted Miller column on how much having a bad football team affects the rest of UW’s athletic department.

For quick consumption, here is the P-I’s preview of the defense and the offense.

It was conference call day among Pac-10 coaches, and Everett’s Mike Allende summarized what they had to say on his blog (second post down). Don Ruiz of Tacoma did the same on his blog. It’s fun to see how the different writers emphasized different things the coaches said.

It’s not the heat, it’s the running game

WSU FOOTBALL

It’s only a few days until the Cougars open their season at Auburn, everyone’s pick to the win the Southeast Conference and a team ranked as high fourth in the nation.

Glenn Kasses has been putting links to stories about the Tigers on his blog, with today’s take – and his profiling Kenny Irons, Auburn’s star running back. The Times also had a breakout of the game matchup. Even the AP has a story worth reading about Auburn linebacker Will Herring.

One last Cougar note. Former Cougar defensive back (and Lewis and Clark Tiger) Eric Coleman is the subject of a profile on the New York Jets’ website.

A surprise on the tube

If you are waiting until 5 p.m. to watch the Little League World Series title game, you better turn on ESPN2 now. The game started at 5 p.m. Eastern, or 2 p.m. our time. Through 3 1/2 innings, Georgia leads Japan 2-1. on Cody Walker’s two-run home run. And that turned out to be the final score, with Georgia winning the title.

First look at the preps

First the links. We are trying something a little different at The S-R this year: Running our team-by-team prep previews online, instead of in the print edition.

On the Washington side, we kicked off today with the Northeast A football. Like all Washington leagues,the NEA underwent tremendous change due to the addition of a sixth classification. Correspondent Steve Christilaw’s team-by-team account can be found on the Prep Report while his story can be found here and a quick look at the league here.

Greg Lee’s North Idaho girls soccer capsules and the Inland Empire League boys soccer capsules can be found at Idaho Prep Sports, while his story can be found here, with a quick preview of the Inland Empire League here.

But there is so much more.

Wait for me

So we have to wait until tonight to figure out who is the best Little League team in the world.

But it could be worse. Heck, we have to wait until Thursday before we start to find out how good the local college football teams are going to be in 2006.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn something Sunday. Let’s start with the Chiefs, who held their annual end-of-training-camp Red and White scrimmage (or is it the White and Red scrimmage?). According to Jeff Bunch’s story Michael Grabner was the biggest answer offensively.

It’s a big year for the Chiefs, what with the last few seasons being disappointments and owner Bobby Brett making a guarantee the team will be in the playoffs. One preseason scrimmage isn’t enough to determine if Spokane will be better, so we will have to wait.

Sundays are made for TV

Sunday is a day to sit back, relax and watch Little League on TV, isn’t it?

But first, a few words from our sponsor, The Spokesman-Review.

Our coverage of the Shock af2 championship win, with Blanchette’s column and his game story.

Shifting gears, you can find Glenn Kasses’ Cougar coverage here.

Of course there is more in today’s paper, but lets get to the West Side. Here is the Seattle Times on the Cougs. Craig Smith talks with defensive coordinator Rob Akey, who thinks his defense is improved – though he knows it has a ways to go.

Mike Sando didn’t just cover the Seahawks loss in San Diego in today’s News Tribune, he also gave the reasons behind the Seahawks poor showing. Early on he also mentions a couple injuries, including tight end Itula Mili. The Hawks are already thin at the position due to Jerramy Stevens’ injury.

Also, there was this little piece of news out of San Diego. The Seahawks are going to play the New England Patriots in an exhibition game next year in China, according to Sando.

All I can say is amen to John McGrath’s column in the News Tribune today. As days go by, the arguments against a national Division 1-A football playoff look weaker and weaker.

As a way of fulfilling your Mariners’ Jones, here is a notebook from the P-I. There is a note about Mark Lowe about halfway down and, for once, it’s good news if you are an M’s fan.

Here is a link to Bob Condotta’s Husky blog, which includes a position-by-position analysis of where the Huskies stand with a week left before the season starts.

Condotta mentions this blog in the post. Thanks for the plug – and for the daily Husky news. I know SportsLink’s readers appreciate the information. The comment Bob refers to was meant as a compliment: The more I can read of his stuff, the happier I am. I was really hoping he would expand on some of the well-reasoned points made in last week’s story on his blog – heck, that’s what blogs are for. But there wasn’t any, and I was disappointed.

Shock vs. Green Bay - ArenaCup

It’s 4:07 and the Yankee game is just in the seventh inning.

Why is that important? Because the Shock game is on KAYU, the same channel as the Angels vs. Yankee game, that is now in the eighth.
Sorry you Angel fans, I think KAYU will cut away to the Shock (I was wrong). And we’ll share our thoughts while the game is on, and when it is over.

We’ve done this the past couple weeks, the first via the radio, last week’s National Conference championship live. Both times I’ve put each post on the site individually.

Today I’m trying something different. Just keep refreshing the full post because I’ll keep updating it…

The nightly news

While reading through some stories this evening, I noticed I didn’t post anything today of interest to Husky fans.

No, I don’t have a WSU bias. I just didn’t find all that much I thought you would be interested in. Now I have.

It come from Bob Condotta’s blog on the Seattle Times site. In his last post today, he summarizes the injuries the Husky have suffered so far, and surmises those injuries aren’t all that deadly to the UW hopes.

There was also something I overlooked this morning. Art Thiel also had an insightful piece on Jake Locker and the pressure on his 18-year-old shoulders. My favorite line from Thiel about Locker: ” Expectations hang on him like Christmas ornaments.”

Enough Husky crud. Let’s get back to teams that really matter. (Before you start to e-mail or write nasty comments, that was a joke. Whether you thought it was funny or not, it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.) According to ESPN, the team that will represent the Pac-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Washington State University. Ya, the Cougs. You can find a rundown of the ESPN bowl predictions here.

Short or tall running backs?

I was reading USA Today’s college football preview, and noticed Mike Lopresti’s column about the upcoming season.

One of the more interesting notes he had in the column concerned the nation’s leading returning rusher, Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe. You see, Wolfe, who ran for 1,580 yards last season, is just 5-foot-7.

It was the height that triggered a memory for me. At the first Cougar practice this season, Glenn Kasses and I got into a discussion about the height of running backs. Having matured while watching running backs such as O.J. Simpson (6-1) and Eric Dickerson (6-3) and even John Riggins (6-2), I am prejudiced toward big guys who can run over a defensive back as well as run away from a linebacker. Glenn, on the other hand, likes the quicker, stockier, more bowling-ball-like backs the Cougars – and just about every college team these days – prefer.

I’ve never bought the argument that smaller guys can hide behind the O-line, appearing as if by magic in the defensive secondary.

But that being said, the more I think about it, the more I understand – and begin to agree with – today’s philosophy. Why the change? I’ve come to realize today’s defensive players are bigger – lot’s bigger – than they were in O.J.’s day. The d-back that John Riggin ran over, you know, 5-9, 165, no longer exists. Even the quick corner guys are a well-sculpted 185 pounds, capable of bench pressing a small refrigerator. And linebackers? They are the size of O-lineman when O.J. was playing – and they run as fast, or faster, than the old-time receivers.

Even though the ability of a running back to deliver a blow is still revered among coaches, they want it to be delivered from a lower plane, allowing the back to get under the pads of the bigger defenders. This makes sense.

Plus, there aren’t very many 6-2 guys who run 10-flat 100 meters these days – was there ever? – and the ones who can aren’t going to make their way to the Inland Northwest very often. But there are plenty of 5-9, 5-10 guys who are strong as a grizzly with the speed of an antelope to fill out the Cougars’ roster.

So where do you fall in this debate? Would you rather see a 6-3 speedster running behind the Vandal or Coug or Eagle offensive line, or a 5-8 tank? Let me know.

Seahawks out of here

The Seahawks left Cheney – it’s a good thing, really, because the Cheney police risk carpal tunnel every year with all the tickets they write – and Dave Trimmer piece in the P-I. For the best analysis, check out Scott Johnson’s story in the Everett Herald.

Golfing in copper country

One of the things the Inland Northwest is known for is its availability of affordable, playable and scenic golf courses. And that number is growing every summer. One of the newest ones is Circling Raven in Worley, site of this year’s PGA Sectional tournament the past few days (check out Steve Bergum’s story here).

Steve is our golf writer, but I got the opportunity to fill in for him recently when Jack Nicklaus visited Sandpoint to work on The Idaho Club, the new course Nicklaus’ group is designing on the former Hidden Lakes course. While touring the construction site, I was enthralled in how much time Nicklaus took on perfecting the greens.

I also vowed to play the Old Works, Nicklaus’ course built on the remains of the old smelter in Anaconda, Mont. With my son Jack – named after the golfer, but not attracted by the sport one bit – headed to Bozeman for college this fall, I made plans to stop in Anaconda on the way home and play the course with my eldest son, Tyler.

And we found out first hand how tough Nicklaus can make a green.

Hard to find

There’s no doubt about it. If you want news about the Idaho Vandals and the Eastern Eagles, there are very few places either to get it (as in the case of the Eagles) or to get it for free (Vandals).

While we were away, Dave Trimmer covered everything from the bee that stung Gregor Smith to the Wags’ most-recent scrimmage on his blog. That doesn’t even count the stories that appear in The S-R, like this one on Eastern’s last scrimmage prior to the Oregon State opener.

UPDATE AT 2 P.M.: Dave confirms on his blog that punter Fritz Brayton will be transferring to EWU from WSU. More on his blog.

In today’s paper, Jim Meehan wrote about UI’s final scrimmage (you can find it here). You can also get your fill with Jim’s blog. The most recent post has a look at the Bracket Buster info and a new Kibbie Dome video screen.

UPDATE AT 2 P.M.: Jim catches you up on his blog with the freshmen who will play for UI this year, along with news about where Dan Dykes is headed.

The return of the head Silvertip

OK, so I lied.

As I was looking for college football stories, I came across these two stories concerning the Everett Silvertips Back to The Future-like changing of the guard.

Doug Soetaert, who built the current WHL U.S. Division champions before leaving for an NHL job prior to last season. Here is the news piece and here is John Sleeper’s column.

It has been tough to win the past few years in the Chiefs’ division and Soetaert’s return – along with the continued reign of coach Kevin Constantine – to Everett means the Silvertips aren’t going to collapse anytime soon.

Time to weigh in

After reading all the stories mentioned below about the Mariners, I feel like something of an expert. Well, I feel something.

Sick is more like it.

Sick of the Mariners falling apart. Sick of the management in the dugout and above. Sick of paying mucho bucks to an organization that seems to be floundering.

Say what you will about the A’s and moneyball, at least the franchise has a discernable organizational philosophy – and it doesn’t vary from it. That’s why every year the A’s are near the top of the A.L. West standings.

The M’s don’t seem to have an identity. Are they trying to win by developing young talent like the Twins? Will winning come from paying for big-name free agents like the Yankees and Red Sox? Do they rely on homegrown young pitchers and mid-range free agents like the A’s?

As a longtime season-ticket holder – for years I’ve been part of a 10-person group that splits M’s season tickets – I’m about through. Why throw away $400 every season, drive 300 miles, pay for a hotel room and then sit in Safeco and watch a team that doesn’t seem to care?

Seattle’s fans may not be the most rabid. They may not be the most knowledgeable. They may not be the most forgiving. But they are good fans who appreciate good baseball and good players. And they deserve better than the floundering team management has put on the field the past three years.

How long will Sigfried stick?

We will start this fine Tuesday with a tough question.

Will Chris Siegfried leave the Shock? Jim Meehan examines that question in today’s paper. An interesting fact I didn’t know, but I should have surmised: Coaches in arenafootball2 also have a salary scale, just like the players. But, unlike the players, they don’t seem to earn more if they win.

The Shock’s travel to Puerto Rico was pushed back a day, so yesterday’s post about the team being on its way to the island was premature. Maybe they had to stay in Spokane to wait for the National Conference championship trophy to show up.

Don’t forget, the ArenaCup game will be on KAYU, Fox 28 starting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Given the track record, I wonder if the real Arena Cup, the trophy for the winning team, will be there?

I grew up in a UCLA household. Both my older sisters were Bruins and I don’t think there was a more dedicated teenage UCLA basketball fan in the late ‘60s than myself. Of course, when it came time to enter college, I had no desire to live in Westwood, so I went south – all the way to Orange County and UC Irvine.

But one thing I kept was my healthy respect of the UCLA-USC rivalry. And what a rivalry it was – and is. You would think people who drive Beamers and Jags wouldn’t waste their time obsessing about college sports but you’d be, like, way off base, dude.

After moving to Spokane more than 20 years ago, I entered the arena of the Cougar vs. Dawg fight (for some history on the rivalry, check this site and scroll down to the rivalry section). It didn’t take me long to realize that, as intense as it is, it still isn’t as mean-spirited as the L.A. rivalry. People here are just nicer. And drive pickups instead of Audis.

So it comes very easily to me to use USC as the butt of jokes. And I know, if any Trojans have my story in today’s paper read to them, I’ll get calls. But I also know that, after spending four or more years attending L.A.’s best football university, they develop a sense of humor. After all, they had to put up with years of Ted Tollner and Larry Smith.

The professionals

So what are people saying now about the Seahawks after their second exhib … sorry, preseason game?

Mike Sando, writing in today’s News Tribune gave the Hawks a passing grade for their 30-17 Sunday night win.

The P-I’s Clare Farnsworth highlighted the game-turning plays of defensive lineman Julian Peterson.

The Seattle Times’ José Miguel Romero concentrated on the more mundane aspects of the win, and how the Hawks’ effort was more akin to last year.

None of the Seattle-area columnists made the trip for the preseason (see, I can get it right) game, so there was a dearth of commentary about the Hawks. They did, however, have something to say about the M’s – and none of it good.

Being a Mariners basher is easy right now – after an 11-game road trip that ended Sunday without a win – and just about everyone chimed in.

My favorite, on a personal level, was Steve Kelley’s piece about one of Seattle’s most personable players, Jamie Moyer. Kelley writes about how Moyer not only fit in on the pitching staff but in the community as well. The Times also talked with Moyer as well to get his point of view on the trade, one he had to approve.

But there was more than just the Moyer trade this weekend. Art Thiel, in the P-I, takes the organization to the woodshed and rightfully so. I highly recommend this piece.

If you want to know who the Mariners can turn to in the farm system, check out this piece from David Andriesen of the P-I. If you want to know the mood of the Mariner clubhouse, read Larry LaRue’s story from Tacoma.

About halfway there

Let’s discuss college football.

Glenn Kasses looks at the Cougs at the halfway point of fall practice. Here is his story today about the Cougs’ coaching staff backing off a little Sunday and Monday. There are only about two weeks before the opener at No. 4 Auburn. Glenn also looks ahead to the Tigers a little more on his blog.

Alex Brink firmly established himself as the Cougars’ quarterback last year, so now stories about him are popping up all over the state, like this one from the Vancouver Columbian.

On the Idaho front, Jim Meehan writes about the Saturday scrimmage and links to this Orange County Register story about former coach Nick Holt on his blog.

UPDATE: Dave Trimmer has just about everything you could ever want to know about Eastern’s weekend on his blog, including the news fromer Eag Erik Meyer was cut by Cincy.

Bob Condotta examined the Huskies’ practices through the halfway point in a Seattle Times story this morning. I was hoping for a little more commentary on his blog, but as of 9:30 a.m. there wasn’t any. There is also a good piece in the Everett Herald about Alex Mercier’s senior thesis.

But the best story out of UW comes from Don Ruiz in the News Tribune. Ruiz talked with freshman safety Jake Merrill and explains why Merrill quit playing football. A good read.

There is trouble in the Arizona desert. Read this Arizona Republic story and this East Valley Tribune piece and see if you read the same thing between the lines I do.

Here’s how I see it: ASU coach Dirk Koetter names senior quarterback Sam Keller the starter Friday night. Saturday, a group of players come to Koetter to say they want sophomore Rudy Carpenter as the starter. I’m also speculating Carpenter have dropped hints about transferring as well. So Koetter backtracks Sunday and names Carpenter the starter. Now Keller will probably leave. In the end, a senior who has given his heart and soul to a program for four years is out and a sophomore has the job for this year – and probably two more.

There are no winners here.

Sunday morning musings

One last Shock blog entry this morning. After sitting in the Spokane Arena last night, I woke up with a noise-induced headache – ya, it was the noise, that’s the cause. Maybe it was the dog down the street barking away at 6:48. Either way, your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, I picked up the paper on the porch, and grabbed the sports section. After reading Jim Meehan’s story on the game, I was struck by how well Jim caught the essence of everything that went on Saturday night, from the magical ability Charles Frederick had to tie the Twister defenders into knots to the way the Spokane defense truly decided the outcome. The noise, the play calling, the opening kickoff return – it’s all in there.

After reading the story, you’ll know what happened, even if you weren’t one of the 10,550 in attendance. On the attendance front, the Arena’s listed capacity for arena football is 10,187. Which means … zero minus seven, carry the … 383 (is that right?) extra people found a way to squeeze into the place Saturday night.

I think all of them were in line to buy a dog and a beer at halftime.

The Vandals held a scrimmage Saturday, and this time the defense more than held its own. You can read the UI report here. Mead grad Paul Senescall is mentioned after having five tackles. Expect Senescall to see plenty of time at linebacker as a true freshman.

Down the road in Pullman, Glenn Kasses started his Saturday previewing the upcoming scrimmage on his blog, then finished it by covering the aforementioned scrimmage. The Cougs’ biggest worry right now may not be Auburn. It may be the number of players in the training room.

Injuries hit in Seattle as well, as starting defensive end defensive end Greyson Gunheim injured his right-knee on kickoff coverage and was helped off the field. According to the Seattle Times story, the extent of the injury is not known.

One last Sunday morning note before heading back to bed (the dog has finally quieted down).

Sports Illustrated did a kind-of-cute-in-a-hokey-way listing the Big Man on Campus for every Division 1-A college football school. For Washington State, the BMOC was, appropriately, defensive lineman Mkristo Bruce, who not only looks the part, he plays it as well.

But Idaho’s BMOC was Mike Barrow. Why is this wrong? Not only is Barrow a kicker – the only punter/kicker chosen for any school – he will miss the season with an injury. Nice.

UPDATE: Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times posted a full report on the Huskies scrimmage yesterday. Well down in the post is a mention of Spokane’s Cameron Elisara, who saw plenty of action with the first team.

On to Puerto Rico

The Shock run out the clock by actually running the ball. The Twisters don’t call time out and the game ends 48-30.

Spokane, in its expansion year, will play for the af2 title.

Trufant’s great play and an injury

Trufant makes the defensive play of game dominated by the Spokane defense. With a little over 6 minutes left in Arkansas’ season, Church sends his No. 1 receiver, Williams, deep down the middle. Williams turns Trufant around and gets separation – what looks to be plenty of separation.

But it was not enough. Trufant explodes as the ball is in the air, closes with incredible speed and knocks the ball away with his left hand.

Then he slaps five with some lucky fans.

Just a minute later, however, Trufant goes down in the left corner of the end zone after knocking away another long pass headed toward Williams and crashing into the boards. Trufant is down for a few minutes before finally getting up and leaving under his own power.


A hit to end a quarter

The award for the best form tackle goes to Shock kicker Jon Koker.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but Koker does make a tackle on the ensuing kickoff, and the form is good – especially for a kicker.

But it was nothing like a hit by Peaua, who nails lineman Vernon Robiskie on the third quarter’s final play. Church had been sacked, and Robiskie picked up the loose ball. But before he can move, Peaua hits him like a missile, knocking Robiskie’s helmet flying.

The hit ignites another crowd explosion.

Building the lead

For most of the game, it’s almost as if the Shock have one receiver – Frederick. Then Beard lets you know that’s not the case, making a seemingly impossible one-handed catch to give Spokane a first down deep in Twister territory.

The Shock cash in on a 6-yard run by Vijil, behind the big body of Ta’amu. With a little less than 20 minutes left in the game, and with a trip to the Arena Bowl on the line, the Shock lead by 11.

If the defense makes another stop, you may be able to make your reservations for that long-anticipated trip to Puerto Rico.

At the half

The Shock play the last minute with a quick front, but it doesn’t stop the Twisters from moving to the Shock 3. They have more trouble with the crowd, as a false start moves them back to the 8.

Which just gives Williams more room to work in the end zone – and allows him to get behind Trufant for another score.

Arkansas, which converted the extra point, left 38 seconds on the clock, however. Most nights this year, that’s been enough for Spokane.

The key for the Shock is the ability to get Frederick isolated away from traffic and for Rowley to have enough time to find him. At first, the guys up front do their job (when they don’t get caught holding) and Frederick finds the open holes. But penalties are killing the Shock’s drive. It finally ends with a sack. The Shock lead 27-23 at the half.

IN AN UNRELATED NOTE: The Mariners have traded Jamie Moyer to the Phillies.

A stop for Arkansas

The matchup between Ratliff and Ta’amu is worth watching, and is starting to get ugly. On a pass play, Ratliff’s right hand connects with Ta’amu’s head in what suspiciously like a punch. It’s not called, but a couple of penalties are against the Shock. This time they can’t overcome them and have to try a 59-yard field goal.

During the possession, Beard takes an orange flag from a fan in the end zone and wipes his face. Not exactly what the fan was expecting.

Penalties? Big deal

The penalties start to even out, with the Shock hit with another holding, this time on the offensive end. That’s followed by an illegal procedure, but an extra 15 yards in arena ball is nothing – at least it is this night. A third-down pass to Vijil brings a first down at the 11.

The Shock get in, despite Rowley missing an open Savage in the end zone on third down. He just goes to Frederick on fourth down, isolated against Byron Hughey on the left side.

The drive took only about 4 minutes off the clock but about 15 minutes off our lives, as the Shock used time out after time out. Now, at least, they are out.

One interesting note from the first quarter stats: The Shock led despite Rowley completing just 2 of 6 passes.

Dropping in

It’s obvious the Twisters decide they have to attack up front, with some guy named Arnold, wearing number 50 but not in the program, even attacking one-time after losing his helmet. (Found him in the media guide. His name is Clay).

The third Arkansas penalty helps Spokane, but two drops by Frederick helps Arkansas even more. At midfield, facing a fourth-and-5, Rowley goes back to Frederick, isolated on Delenell Reid. It’s a good choice and a perfect throw. Six points because Koker hits the left upright with the PAT.

After Frederick’s drops, Rowley didn’t hesitate. That’s the mark of confidence.

The first score

For the second week in a row, Frederick has a big opening kickoff return, this time to the Arkansas 12. When it looks like the Shock might be in trouble, Rowley’s attempt for Savage results in pass interference and a first down on the 3. An illegal formation penalty on the defense – that’s something you see only in arena football – moves it to the 1 where Kevin Beard runs its over the left side and into the end zone.

Last week, Bakersfield attacked the middle on kicks, which Arkansas tries as well, but Jerome Stevens and Neil Purvis take care of that.

The Shock have started slow in many games this year, but not tonight – and the key was up front, where Bryant had trouble with Ed Ta’amu on the first drive.

The introductions

The introductions are serving their purpose. The Arena is rocking. And the Shock isn’t on the field yet.

This reminds me a lot of the Rubber Chicken, when both Ferris and LC are good. But even then, I don’t think the Arena gets this loud.

And the amazing thing is, the place isn’t full yet.

The loudest cheers are reserved for Charles Frederick, as should be expected. Frederick has caught the imagination of Spokane and, after scoring five times against Arkansas in the first game, will have the Twisters attention as well.

Pardon my mistake. The loudest cheer was for coach Chris Siegfried, and the announcement about his coach of the year award.

One of the Twisters’ captains, lineman Shakorr Bryant, from the University of Memphis, has longer braids than Frederick, which is the first upset of the night.

Four minutes to game time and the coin flip goes to Arkansas. The Twisters defer and Spokane will get the ball.

The last time they met

When the Shock doubled up the Twisters in Little Rock on July 1, 46-23, they fell behind 3-0 less than 3 minutes in. But quarterback Kyle Rowley, making his first start for Spokane, led the Shock to scores on every possession in the first half – and a 27-17 lead.

But it was the defense that dominated the second half, with Jerome Stevens and Moa Peaua supplying the pressure. And Rob Keefe was the recipient, picking off two Walter Church passes.

The win did one more thing. It clinched a playoff berth for the Shock. A win tonight would clinch another berth, this one in the af2 Arena Cup next Saturday.

How is golf like surfing?

I stayed up until after 1 p.m. watching a) the PGA (did you know six hours of hi-def will take up most of your DVR space?) and b) a documentary on surfing.

The latter was actually a heck of lot more interesting. Though Phil Mickelson’s Friday round was a lot like the surfing film. You know, real highs, real lows and some spectacular crashes in between.

But I digress, and after five hours of sleep it’s no wonder. I can’t wait for the golf to come on so I can put my butt in the chair, put up the foot rest, grab the remote … and take a nap.

Anyway, the main subject of this blog is Inland Northwest sports. So let’s get to it.

Noble claims bronze medal

Rebekah Noble is coming home from Beijing with a bronze medal from the 2006 World Junior Championships.

Noble, the Rogers High product who is a sophomore at the University of Oregon, finished third in the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 4.90 seconds.

“I’m very happy with my bronze,” Noble said via a USA Track press release. “But I could have done better, I waited too long to kick.” Noble’s time was just off her personal best of 2:02.07, set winning the NCAA title in June in Sacramento.

Still, Noble’s bronze is the first 800-meter medal for an American woman at the World Juniors. You can find more at USA Track’s website.

The rest of the day

I’m away from my computer for the rest of the day, so this evening I’ll make a swing through the blogs and see if there is any interesting Cougar, Eagle, Vandal, Husky or Seahawk news to report –we all know there is nothing interesting coming from the Mariners right now.

Jim Meehan checked in with Dennis Erickson yesterday and has some news on the Vandal front. Meehan also has an interesting link to an AP story on the new graduate-transfer rule. You can either go to Meehan’s blog and follow the link or click here.

By far the most interesting Husky story I found this morning was Bob Condotta’s piece on Jake Locker and the probability he’ll redshirt this year. What fans usually fail to realize when focusing on program “saviors,” like Locker, is a coach has to balance what’s best for the program with what’s best for the kid. In this case, redshirting might be best for both.

Whitworth opens football practice today, the 100th year of football up north. You can get more info on the Pirates on the school’s football website. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Mt. Spokane grad Joel Clark run the Whits’ offense at the Pine Bowl, make sure you do it this year. The senior has matured into one of the best Division III quarterbacks in the nation and there is little better than a game in the fall in the Whits’ stadium.

From the good to the injured

Where to start? Well, let’s begin in Cheney, where there was good news, in the form of the Eastern scrimmage, and bad news, in Jerramy Stevens’ knee injury.

First the bad. As I linked to below, Mike Sando of the News Tribune, writing on his blog last night, sees the injury as a setback, but not crucial. He goes into the ramifications a little more in his story today.

Everyone covered the injury, including our Steve Bergum in his coverage, though the lead was about the trip to the movies (see post below). The Stevens injury was big news in the Times, the P-I and everywhere else, including Everett.

The good news coming out of Cheney yesterday included the Eagles’ first scrimmage of the fall. Dave Trimmer’s story and blog tell the tale. Dave mentions wide receiver Aaron Boyce in his blog. Keep that name in your mind, because the freshman is someone you are going to be hearing about for a while.

There was quite a bit of other Eagle-related news Thursday in the S-R, including Jim Meehan’s piece on EWU’s contribution to the Spokane Shock. This is really worth reading, especially if you are an Eastern fan.

The Shock also received some press in the P-I today, with Jim Moore taking a break from slobbering over the Cougs to talking about E.T., Charles Frederick, and his role in the Shock’s success. One little nitpick: This area hasn’t been called the Inland Empire since Dennis Erickson was last coaching in the Palouse.

Stevens suffers knee injury

An interesting day for the Seahawks (see post below, which I corrected around 1:30) got a little more so with an injury suffered by tight end Jerramy Stevens. According to the Associated Press story, the Seattle Times Seahawk blog and the Tacoma blog, Stevens went down with a left knee injury this morning.

The extent and the seriousness of the injury was still to be determined.

UPDATE: Stevens tore the meniscus and will be out for about six weeks. Check out Tacoma reporter Mike Sando’s analysis of the situation at his blog.

A road trip for the Seahawks

Here’s the most interesting Seahawks news of the day.

No, it’s not that Grant Wistrom was practicing Wednesday. No, it’s not that Jerry Rice was in camp (low in notebook). No, it’s not the great play of Jordan Babineaux.

No, the big news comes out of downtown Spokane. That’s where the Seahawks will be this afternoon, instead of sweating at practice in Cheney. They’ll arrive at River Park Square around 4:30 p.m. on buses to view a special screening of “Invincible.” The AMC theater is holding an open-only-to-the-big-guys-from-Seattle early showing of the Mark Wahlberg story about former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale.

UPDATE:Earlier in the day, we had been informed the Seahawks were watching “Snakes on a Plane.” That was wrong. Sorry.

The whole idea opens a world of questions. Will Walter Jones have to pull up more than one armrest to fit? Will anyone want to sit behind him? How many free popcorn refills will the AMC folks have to shell out? Milk Duds or Raisinettes?

If you want to see the Hawks, you have a chance when they get off the buses. According to a press release, “the public is invited to stop by for a glimpse of their favorite Seahawks players!”

A kickoff to the prep’s season

The first subject we are going to conquer today is Washington State high school football (old habits are hard to break). Practice kicked off Wednesday for most schools, with the first games in the state starting Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

If you are a college football fan, and wonder, “why would I read these stories,” remember, the guys talked about here are the Cougs and Huskies and Vandals and Eagles and Pirates of the future.

The S-R’s Mike Vlahovich visited three practices Wednesday, from West Valley’s, where the Eagles are getting ready to play in the Great Northern League this season, to defending Greater Spokane League champion Mead, where the Panthers are making do without a handful of special seniors who are playing at the next level.

UPDATE: Mike’s blog entry can be found here.

Just about every other paper in the state also had something on practice starting, so we’ll just link the pieces. Just click on the paper’s name for the story. We’ll start with the Seattle Times, the News Tribune, the Tri-City Herald, the Kitsap Sun, and its story on the return of an old coach, the Bellingham Herald, and the Longview Daily News.

If you have anymore questions after reading all those stories, just ask and I’ll try to get to them. And remember, the Prep Report is still the place to get information like this on a daily basis.

Now let’s talk about the M’s

OK, let’s talk Mariners.

A couple of days ago I ran across this piece in the King County Journal from columnist Greg Johns.

I know there will be more of these what-should-the-Mariners-do columns over the next few weeks, and I’ll link to them as I see them. This season is over as far as the postseason is concerned, so it’s time to start thinking about the future.

And I want to know what you think. I would like to get beyond the typical “fire Mike Hargrove” or “fire that idiot Bavasi” crapola. Yes, we all know those changes need to be made – the franchise needs more proactive leaders in the front office and the field – Steal a base? Sacrifice? Hit-and-Run? No, we’ll wait for the three-run dinger in one of the most-pitcher friendly parks in the American League.

But what else?

Going deep on first down

OK, we start today – and a little late, I apologize for that, but I was trying to run down the Rebekah Noble note lower in this post – with a link to Glenn Kasses’ Cougar blogand not because he has my name in the first paragraph!
No, because he asks a good question about the Cougs’ opener with Auburn, and I want to see what people think. Really. Putting my name in the first graph, that’s gravy. By the way, my guess: First play.

The Seattle Times’ Bud Withers is in Pullman and he examines the WSU injury situation. There is one line in his story that stood out to me. “…when an all-league first-team player gets hurt, WSU may be dropping down to a backup who was honorable mention in the Greater Spokane League.” Who is the honorable mention All-GSL guy he’s talking about? I couldn’t find a name later in the story. If you know, let me know.

Tacoma’s Todd Milles also looks at the injury situation, which brings up a point.

It seems over the years, if the Cougars stay relatively injury free, they challenge in the Pac-10. Too many nicks, and the close games are lost. In other words, most seasons, WSU front-line players can play with anyone. But the Cougs just don’t seem to have the depth the USCs and the UOs of the conference have. Which doesn’t bode well for 2006.

UPDATE: The Vancouver Columbian did a story today on tight end Cody Boyd.

Switching gears, Rebekah Noble ran a 2 minute, 5.56 second 800 meters Wednesday, fast enough to qualify for Friday’s final at the World Junior Track Championships in Beijing. Noble, a Rogers High graduate and a sophomore at the University of Oregon, finished third in her semifinal heat but had the fifth-fastest time overall. University of Florida freshman Shannon Leinhart failed to qualify for the final, running 2:07.67.

Now back to football. Dave Trimmer summarizes EWU’s Tuesday’s practice here and Jim Meehan has some Idaho stuff here, along with a couple of basketball notes.

UPDATE: Dave has posted a note about Wednesday’s practice.

On the Husky front, let’s start in Tacoma, where the TNT’s Don Ruiz writes about the offensive line; Michael Ko of the Times writes about the return of Marlon Wood; in Everett, Mike Allende profiles kicker Michael Braunstein and blogs about, well this and that.

Sort of like what’s above. We’ll be back later with Seahawk stuff and, I promise, a Mariners’ rant. Plus maybe something on the Shock.

Noble moves on in Beijing

Rogers High grad and current University of Oregon runner Rebekah Noble advanced Tuesday in the opening round of the women’s 800 meters at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing.

The reigning NCAA 800-meter champion finished second in her heat, running 2 minutes 8.97 seconds. The other American, University of Florida freshman Shannon Leinert, took fifth in her heat, finishing in 2:07.24. The semifinal races are Wednesday.

You can find more at USA Track’s website here.

USA Today caught up with the fact Ken Hamlin, injured last year in an early morning fight outside a nightclub, is back in action. Here’s the link.

Could be the Shock may have a local rival in the near future. There’s a move afoot in the Tri-Cities to put an af2 team in the Toyota Center. The Tri-City Herald story is here.

One more Husky note: It seems the status of receiver Chancellor Young, currently academically ineligible, is in the news. His dad, former Seahawks Charle, told a radio station in Seattle his son, a transfer from Duke, was working to get eligible. According to multiple reports, including Mike Allende’s blog, Young’s chances of being eligible this year have improved.

Here’s one for you Big Sky football fans. According to the following Associated Press report, Montana’s lost one of its stars Monday.

Montana halfback Lex Hilliard, a first team all-Big Sky Conference player for the past two seasons, suffered a season-ending foot injury at practice Monday afternoon.

The injury requires surgery and Hilliard will redshirt this year, the school announced Tuesday.

“We’re very disappointed for Lex Hilliard,” said coach Bobby Hauck. “For him to lose his senior season, especially one he has prepared so hard for, is a hard pill to swallow. It’s difficult to put into words just how bad that myself, our coaches and our players feel for Lex.

“Obviously this is a tremendous loss to our football team and certainly puts a damper on our championship aspirations since we lost our best player for the season,” Hauck said.

UPDATE: Dave Trimmer writes about the injury, and Eastern’s practice on his blog.

Lots to read at the ol’ S-R today

Before I run off to meetings – I’m filling in as the top brass catches up on vacation time, us grunts never get any time off, except maybe June and July – I thought I would catch you up on what you missed if you didn’t have time to read today’s S-R – or our sports blogs.

The Cougs’ deep quarterbacking corps got a little shallower this weekend as Arkelon Hall broke his leg. Glenn Kasses points out in his story that even the yellow jersey couldn’t protect him. Sounds like the Tour de France.

There’s even more info on Glenn’s blog, including one of those great notes you won’t find anywhere else. It concerns Cougar alum Jerome Harrison and how the Browns trade of Lee Suggs to the Jets will mean more playing time.

UPDATE:The trade has been voided after Suggs failed his physical. Find the AP story here.

Besides an update of Eastern’s weekend of practice, Dave Trimmer’s blog has a note about Levi Horn transferring from Oregon to Montana. Levi probably belonged at UM all along – football-wise – but fell for the allure of the Pac-10 when the Ducks came in late.

This happens more than you might think. A bigger school has a need, the recruits they really want have gone elsewhere, so they recruit a kid who’s abilities – and potential – really are better suited for a smaller school. The kid gets stars in his eyes, and signs. A year or two later the kid doesn’t see a future at BigTime U., the coaches have found someone else and the kid has to transfer through no fault of his own.

Mike Vlahovich takes over the Prep Report - he has a huge waistline to fill – and takes his turn saying goodbye to Tom Oswald.

Mike also has a great update about Albi. I was out there last week walking the turf and I’ll tell you it is such an improvement. If you played on Albi before, try to get down to the field at some time and feel the difference.

Frederick, three others honored by af2

The arenafootball2 all-star teams were announced today, and the Spokane Shock had three players named to the National Conference first team.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to Jim Meehan’s story, which explains why so few Shock were picked.

Wide receiver/linebacker Charles Frederick, who caught the winning touchdown pass in Spokane’s 50-47 playoff victory over Bakersfield on Saturday, offensive line specialist Ed Ta’amu and defensive specialist Rob Keefe all earned first-team honors.

Lineman Jerome Stevens was a second-team choice.

Despite having the best regular-season record in the af2 at 14-2, the Shock’s four honorees trailed the number picked from Florida (with six selections split between first and second team), Louisville and Oklahoma City (five each).

The af2 will dole out the remainder of its awards through Aug. 22, when the Ironman of the Year will be announced.

Playing for a conference title

Once again the Spokane Shock pulled a win out of their hat.

Saturday night’s 50-47 comeback against Bakersfield reserved a spot in the National Conference championship game next Saturday, that will now be held in the Spokane Arena. Tickets for the 7 p.m. game go on sale today at 10 a.m. from TicketsWest. according to Jim’s story.

For more on the Shock’s win, here is Jim Meehan’s game story, and here is John Blanchette’s column.

You can also follow my impressions below as they were posted live last night from among a crowd of one in the basement.

Cougar scrimmage

We interupt this Shock coverage to give you a heads up. The Cougars held their first scrimmage today, and some new faces popped up. See Glenn Kasses’ blog entry here and the CougarFan.com post here.

One thing the Cougars can’t afford is injuries, so the past few days have been difficult to say the least.

Cheney says goodbye to a friend

They gathered in Cheney on Saturday morning to celebrate Tom Oswald’s life. Hundreds came, nearly filling the floor and bleachers of Cheney High’s gym. They cried, they laughed. They were a living memorial to a man whose life touched theirs.

They entered to the strains of Josh Grobain’s “You Raise Me Up,” the chorus of which, appropriately, says:

“You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains; You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas; I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up … to more than I can be.”

They left to the upbeat words of John Fogarty’s “Centerfield,” which, also appropriately, says:

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today.”

Tom Oswald did both those things. He gave kids a chance to play and he raised them up to be more than they could be. What better words can be written about a high school coach?

Sure, Tom was a loving husband and father. He was a respected math teacher. He was a leader of his church, the sprinkler-system installer for half of Cheney and a good friend to many.

But the Tom I knew was a high school football coach, and among the best I had the opportunity to meet. When he retired a few years ago, the high school football community lost an irreplaceable asset. When he lost his battle to cancer last week, our area lost an irreplaceable person.

O’Reilly an All-American

Mt. Spokane’s Megan O’Reilly was the only Spokane runner named to the USA Today high school All-American track team. You can read the paper’s story about the girls team here. The boys team is here.

Thundering start for Dennis Erickson’s second stint at UI

MOSCOW - The first scrimmage of the Dennis Erickson Era, Part II, started with a rumble.

And some bright lights.

The only problems were the rumble was thunder and the lights were supplied by lightning.
So the whole show – minus the weather – had to be moved indoors.

Not like Erickson isn’t used to weather-related pyrotechnics. He did coach in Miami, after all.

“If we were playing golf, I’d have kept playing,” Erickson said after the scrimmage, held in the Kibbie Dome. “But our trainer thought it was getting too close, and we have to protect our players.”

Thunder and lightning is what most Vandal fans are hoping Dennis’ return – and he’ll always be known as Dennis to them – will provide, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

But, like the weather, Thursday’s scrimmage began inauspiciously for the offense, especially for the big guys up front.

“We started off in a blitz series, so we knew they were going to blitz and things like that, so that’s what we really schemed for,” starting quarterback Steve Wichman said. “Some got through and some didn’t. We were able to make some good things happen and we weren’t able to make other things happen.”

Sometimes senioritis can be good

Let’s get started with the Cougs and Huskies before I have to hit a meeting.

The one thing I learned while covering high school football is that seniors make or break your season. There are lots of reasons for it that I won’t delve into here, but trust me.

Now it seems like that might also be the case with the Cougars this year, albeit on a smaller scale. Glenn Kasses profiled fifth-year senior Josh Duin today, and the Seattle Times’ Craig Smith wrote about all the fifth-year guys.

Glenn also had more on the center battle on his blog entry this morning. He also covered the verbal committment WSU’s hoop team received from Nick Witherill, a guard from Arizona, and the Cougs’ 2006-07 basketball schedule. Glenn’s story about Witherill is here.

Todd Milles also wrote about a fifth-year senior, tight end Cody Boyd, whose Cougar career has been hampered by injuries.

It’s nice to know the WSU campus police don’t play favorites. Read to the bottom of Jim Moore’s column and you’ll see what I mean.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, the P-I’s Molly Yanity writes about three Husky freshman who might contribute this year. Ferris High grad Cameron Elisara seems the most confident of the trio.

Uh oh, there’s already dissension in the Husky camp, and it’s coming from a senior. According to Bob Condotta’s story, two-year starter Scott White has been running with the second team, and the linebacker isn’t happy about it.

What’s in a quarterback’s name?

I made a small note of Johnny Unitas’ shoes in an earlier blog and that little thought triggered a memory.

No, not of high-tops.

It took me back to George Plimpton’s book “Mad Ducks and Bears,” a sequel of sorts to his much-more famous “Paper Lion.” “Ducks” is about Alex Karras (the Mad Duck) and John Gordy (the Bear), two Lions who Plimpton befriended during his “Paper Lion” stint in Detroit.

“Ducks” is set in a time after Gordy had retired and Karras was nearly so. The two spent a lot of time with Plimpton reminiscing about the “old days,” of pro football.

One night the three guys started talking about the importance of quarterbacks, and the conversation evolved – as those type of conversations often do – into a discussion about the importance of a quarterback’s name in a team’s success.

Karras pointed out the Colts had Johnny Unitas and the Packers had Bart Starr. The Lions had Milt Plum.

Which team seemed tougher? Which team seemed better led? Which team seemed ready to be crushed? Karras, facetiously, blamed all of the Lions’ troubles on the name of the quarterback.

But let’s take Karras’ premise and apply it to our local teams. How do they rate?

Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck: OK, this one is pretty good. If you hassle us, we’ll hassle back. The first name – rhymes with doormat – isn’t as good, so we’ll give Seattle a quarterback name grade of B-.

Cougars – Alex Brink: Talk about how you spin it. Either the Cougars are on the brink of disaster (not good) or the brink of something special (good). Because sports is so much about perception, and anything that can be perceived by an opponent as in their favor isn’t good for you, we’ll give WSU a C+.

Huskies - Isaiah Stanback: OK, being named after an Old Testament prophet is a good thing, but that last name? Wow. “Stand back and watch,” isn’t much of a rallying cry, is it? The names of the backups are so non-descript (Carl Bonnell and Johnny DuRocher) that it’s no wonder every one can’t wait for Jake Locker to lock down the starting spot. Grade: D.

Eagles – up in the air: Who will replace Erik Meyer (a great arm, a name mired in mediocrity) at QB? The choices are Chris Peerboom and Matt Nichols. Lowering the boom on someone is a good thing in football and nickels aren’t what you would call the gold standard, so we’ll give the slight edge to Chris. Peering into the future, he’s the right choice for EWU. Grade if it’s Peerboom: B-; if it’s Nichols: C-.

Idaho – Steve Wichman: Let’s concentrate on the last syllable of the last name, because everything else is too mundane. But being the man is a good thing, so we’ll give the Vandal QB a B+.

If you have differing interpretations of these guys’ names - and a different grade - go ahead and let me know.

A Dawg start to the day

Our first posts today have to do with UW opening football camp yesterday. We’ll get into the Cougs and others – wasn’t the Mariners’ game last night fun to watch? Felix was impressive – but for now let’s put our attention on the Dawgs.

John Blanchette’s column from Seattle focused on the optimism the Husky fans are showing, even though UW is coming off some awful years – and is picked to finish last in the Pac-10.

One thing about Tyrone Willingham: He believes in keeping his privacy - or at least his team’s privacy. The UW coach closes every practice other than the first one, so the notes in the Seattle Times on Bob Condotta’s UW football blog for are the only ones you’ll see this year with anything from practice.

Condotta also did two stories from the first day, including this overview of the first day. The second is a notebook. The lead note is about, guess who, Jake Locker, who seems to be the biggest Husky recruit since Hugh McElhenny.

You can find Ted Miller’s Husky story in the PI here. Molly Yanity’s look at, who else, Jake Locker leads the notebook, and her camp story is here.

The Tacoma News Tribune’s Don Ruiz started with the players UW doesn’t have in his story, before getting into other stuff. That’s the same focus Mike Allende of Everett had with his notebook, though his camp story was about the optimism everyone was showing.

Time changed for Cougs/Vandals game

For once TV helps out.

The starting time for the Sept. 9 Washington State vs. Idaho football game has been moved up more than three hours.

The game, originally scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m., will start at 12:45 p.m., to accommodate Fox Sports Northwest. The game will be televised live on FSN (channel 32 on Comcast cable in Spokane, but check your local listings).

The game will be the home opener for the Cougs (they open Sept. 2 at Auburn) and the return of coach Dennis Erickson’s in the Palouse (UI opens Sept. 2 at Michigan State).

One more reason to have hired Dennis

Class is over, and I’m smarter. To be precise, more educated.

So much so, I found a story for you in an unlikely spot. USA Today’s Reid Cherner was in Moscow recently to profile Idaho football coach Dennis Erickson.

Nothing surprising here, except the fact it was the lead story on today’s USA Today sports section.

By the way, Idaho announced its basketball schedule Monday, and it’s a schedule that will test the mettle of first-year head coach George Pfeifer’s team. You can find the schedule on the UI website here.

The first day in Pullman

As promised, here is a look back at Washington State’s first day of football practice. I’m not going to cover anything in-depth that Glenn Kasses covered either in his story or his blog this morning, both of which are worth following the links to.

But there is so much going on at the first day of practice, redundancy will not be a problem. In fact, winnowing down pages and pages of notes is the bigger problem.

So let’s make it a seven-on-seven drill.

There are five quarterbacks running (if you want to call it that – “It was a hard summer,” starter Alex Brink said of the Cougars’ conditioning. “You lose a little bit in a week, but not enough to make you feel too winded. It’s different, I don’t do a lot, obviously, I work on my drops. Everybody that actually runs, ran just fine.”) around in yellow jerseys, though only four are eligible to play this year.

They are: returning starter Alex Brink, backup Gary Rogers, redshirt freshmen Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan, and Kansas State transfer Kevin Lopina, who must sit this year. (One-day impression: Lopina is the real deal. His mechanics are solid and his arm strong enough.)

Brink is the unquestioned leader, not only of the quarterbacks but of the offense. Rogers, he of the strong arm and 6-foot-7 body, is the No. 2 guy, with the real battle between Morgan and Hall for the third spot.

One drill was interesting. Quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach brought out two huge inflated red balls (sort of like the ones they sell for Pilates, but larger). The quarterbacks and Rosenbach made a large circle, with one in the middle holding a football. That quarterback took the throwing position, his feet moving and his eyes up, as if searching down field for a receiver. The others took turns throwing the ball at the quarterback in the circle. His job was to avoid the ball (the rush), keep his balance and his feet moving, and refocus downfield. This would go on for at least 30 seconds. Funny thing. Hall, the quickest of the quintet, seemed to have the most trouble avoiding the balls.

It’s been at least 24 years since I’ve attended a practice for a big-time college football team (and you Duck fans, no jokes about having that streak still alive). Little has changed – the big, red ball drill notwithstanding – though I was surprised by one thing.

The Cougars aren’t very big.

According to Kasses, that’s not unusual. The emphasis isn’t on the 6-8, 325-pound guy – possibly because there just isn’t that many of those guys out there and available for WSU.
That’s not to say there isn’t some impressive physiques – Mkristo Bruce (a svelte 6-7, 249-pounds, if such a thing is possible) comes to mind – but for sheer bulk, well, the Cougars aren’t going to break any scales.

Which might explain this next note.

Despite the heat, despite the three-hour practice, despite the conditioning, I only saw one guy (he shall remain nameless) have to use a trash can for the time-honored football tradition of … you know, cleansing his digestive system.

The conditioning for the heavies – the quick guys were in the weight room, the two groups will switch spots today – wasn’t of the same genre you might remember from high school.
Instead of gassers or bear crawls or any other end-of-practice conditioning drill that made you want to kill that smug coach with the smirk on his face – you know the guy I’m talking about, every team had one – the Cougs’ drills were a combination of running and agility – with the emphasis on the latter.

“The big guys, that’s a lot of pounding with the wind sprints and it’s hard on their legs,” coach Bill Doba explained. The new drills allow them “to keep their heart pumping for an extra 10, 15 minutes without beating up their legs.”

Even the dry heat was taken into accou

Off to Pullman

A couple of things before I make the trip down U.S. 195 to Pullman.

There is no doubt that John Blanchette is the most talented writer on our staff. Few people could have handled the subject of today’s column - the loss WSU football coach Bill Doba suffered in April when his wife Judy died - with the deft touch Blanchette showed. My favorite line from Doba, while talking about his recent summer vacation: “Three weeks with six grandkids. Next year, I think I’ll go back for two.”

Cougar beat writer Glenn Kasses this morning examined what the year ahead on the field means to Doba and the Cougs, who open practice this afternoon - the reason I’m driving to Pullman. I’ll share my observations about the Cougars’ first football practice of 2006 here later.

So why am I a full-time Internet guy? Sports editor Joe Palmquist explained the reasons behind the move today.

When he mentioned in there that I was “apprehensive,” you don’t know the half of it. Then again, it always takes me a while to try anything new - except my i-Pod. Greatest invention ever, better than the airplane. I can listen to nothing but 70s music from here to Seattle. Wow. But I digress. Yes, I take to new ideas - and jobs - with trepidation. But after I grow used to something, though, I give it everything I got.

The Nicklaus posts below hold little, if any, comment. In the future, a piece like this will appear on our sports page’s website. I don’t know how to do that yet - school is scheduled for next week - so I put the piece here. In the future, when a story like this is posted to our site, I’ll comment about it here and put in a link.

So what’s my comment about Nicklaus’ visit? The guy is one of the greatest golfers in history - in the discussion with Bobby Jones and, yes, Tiger Woods. He’s taking the focus he put into golf and transferring it to course design. I’m sure The Idaho Club will be a pleasure to play. I know it is going to be beautiful. On one hole, Nicklaus pointed out the water and the tree line and told his team no one could screw this hole up.

But golf course design is so different today than when Alister Mackenzie had Bobby Jones hit shots off the dirt to help shape Augusta National’s holes. I was kind of hoping Jack would do that Friday. He could have hit the shots good golfers hit - and I could have shanked and sliced and skulled the ones guys like us hit. Every course needs a 180-yard par 4 that goes dead right, exactly where my driver lands.

The last note is a sad one. I’ve known Tom Oswald for 20-plus years, and I’ve never met a man more perfectly suited for his career (Dave Trimmer’s obituary can be found here). Tom was the epitome of what a high school football coach should be. More than that, Tom was the epitome of what a man should be. He will be missed.

Another prep commits to GU

Andy Poling, a 7-foot center who will be a junior at Westview High in Beaverton, Ore., verbally committed to Gonzaga University on Wednesday night.
According to a story in today’s Oregonian, Poling picked the Zags over offers from nearly every Pac-10 school.

“It was a tough decision, but I know it’s the right place for me.” Poling told the paper. “I decided to go ahead and announce my decision because I didn’t see the point in making other schools waste their time recruiting me. I know things are not going to change.”

Like all verbal commitments, Poling’s choice is non-binding. In fact, Poling won’t be able to sign a letter of intent until November of 2007.
But he joins a long list of high school players who committed to GU early, including current Zag David Pendergraft, who announced his choice as a sophomore at Brewster High, and 2007 recruit Steven Gray of Bainbridge who also announced as a soph.

Poling told the Seattle Times he knows he has to get stronger as well as improve other parts of his game before he’s ready to play at GU’s level.
“That’s one of my main issues,” he told the Times. “That’ll come with time; I’m still pretty young. That, and developing more of an outside game, a mid-range game, that’s what I’m working on right now”
According to the Times, Poling averaged 17.8 points a game last season, including 35 in a double-overtime game against Beaverton, attended by University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar.

It’s never too early for college basketball news

Some college basketball news: The Huskies released their schedule yesterday (Times story is here, and the full schedule is here; the TNT story is here; the official Husky release is here) and it’s a lot tougher than last year. Not only will UW be in the Kennel to face GU on Sat., Dec. 9, it hosts LSU, which made the Final Four last season, Dec. 20 and plays at Pitt on Feb. 17.
The start of the Pac-10 schedule isn’t easy either, with the Huskies opening at USC on Dec. 28, then meeting UCLA on New Year’s Eve in LA. The first conference home game is Jan. 4 against Arizona.

Speaking of UW hoop: Spencer Hawes, the Huskies’ most heralded recruit, has finally started to put on weight. The 7-foot freshman-to-be from Seattle Prep has been relatively thin, but, according to a P-I story, that’s changed.

One last basketball note: The Maui Classic schedule has been released and it includes UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. The 2006 version will be hard-pressed to top the 2005 Classic featuring the GU vs. Michigan State triple-overtime semi and the UConn last-second final victory over the Zags.

The short introduction

Welcome to the SportsLink.

What the heck is the SportsLink?

Well, honestly, I’m not sure yet. I have a general idea of what I want it to be, but I guess you’ll judge if it hits the mark.

I want it to be your link to Inland Northwest sports – all Inland Northwest sports: preps, colleges, pros.

I want it to be fun – and funny.

I want it to be timely – and timeless.

I want it to be your first stop on your sports-orientated web journey each day.

I hope you’ll find …

- Up-to-date (as in “right-after-it-ends” coverage of all the Inland Northwest sporting events, from key Cougar football games to important Gonzaga basketball matchups to top prep battles.
- Commentary, analysis and opinion (OK, I know that’s redundant but it does sound better than just writing “uninformed bull”) about our local sports scene.
- Links to stories in other newspapers and websites, stories that relate to Inland Northwest sports.
- Other crud that comes to me – and stuff you might suggest.

The idea is to have a conversation every day, or as I called it when talking to one of the bosses, “sports radio with journalistic ethics.”

I’ll give you the stuff promised above and you can comment about it. I’ll call you names, belittle your opinion, make fun of your life, and you’ll apologize and send me presents – anyway, that’s how I see it working.

If you have had a chance to read the Prep Report blog that past couple years, you know most days I’m just trying to have fun. Some days I get serious. Whatever, I hope you enjoy it – every day.

So let’s get started …

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

SportsLink is your portal into sports news around the Inland Northwest and beyond. You'll find updates, notes and opinions, and plenty of reader feedback.

Filter










Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on SportsLink.

Contributors

Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

Recent work by Jim

Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

Recent work by Jim

Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

Recent work by Chris

Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here