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Greetings From The Booth!
The cream is starting to rise to the top with regard to the VHSL football playoffs. Five of our area teams are still alive after quarterfinal action this past weekend and although there were a few surprises, usually when we get to the state semifinal and championship level, the best teams are left standing. One of those teams appears to be Strasburg. The Rams, who will host Stuart’s Draft this Friday night in a Region 2B semifinal, are 10-1, with their only loss coming via forfeit in the season opener. My broadcast partner, Ryan “The Duke” Rutherford, correctly describes Strasburg by calling them almost “militaristic” in their approach. They don’t do anything fancy, but they are always in sync, well-disciplined, and fundamentally sound. They will be hard to beat on Friday night.
As a football fan, I had a rare “Daily Double” this past weekend (for entertainment purposes only, not in a gambling sense), as my WVU Mountaineers and the Washington Commanders both posted wins. West Virginia beat Oklahoma in Morgantown for their first home victory against the Sooners. This year’s Oklahoma team is a bit down and still not bowl eligible, so this is not like beating your father’s Sooners. We’ll take it. These last few seasons have been lean ones for the Mountaineers, and head coach Neal Brown is on the hot seat. With the exit of WVU AD Shane Lyons earlier this week, Brown would almost certainly have to win out against Kansas State and Oklahoma State (unlikely), then win a minor bowl game to keep his job. Even that might not insure a 5th year for Brown, as there is no Lyons now to act as a buffer. A new athletic director will almost surely want his own guy, so it appears “The Climb” will end sometime shortly after the season ends.
The Washington Commanders shocked the football world Monday night with a win over previously undefeated Philadelphia in Philly. Don’t look now, but the Commanders are 5-5 and have won 4 of their last 5. Washington QB Taylor Heinicke has been the catalyst, and the team has rallied around the ODU product, who has now become a Cinderella story around the NFL. Chase Young is set to return this week, so things are looking up for the Burgundy and Gold as they head to 1-7-1 Houston on Sunday.
Can the aforementioned Mountaineers and Commanders build on the success of their recent victories? In the case of Washington, I’ve seen this movie way too many times before where a great win is followed by an egg-laying performance against a weaker foe. This just feels like one of those games. A win Sunday, however, would set the Commanders up for another winnable game the following weekend against Atlanta and a 7-5 record. Make no mistake–Sunday is an important game for Washington, and they must treat it that way.
It’s a much different situation for WVU. Forget about the angle of “playing to save your coach.” That is overrated. Brown is probably gone already, so their game Saturday against K-State is about finishing strong and building some momentum going into Spring 2023. The Mounties have some nice young players, including QB Garrett Greene, who injected much-needed life into the team in the win against Oklahoma and hopefully will start on Saturday.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need go to FanDuel about that Daily Double…
Until next visit from The Booth, HTTC & Go EERS!
Greetings from The Booth!
Well, I’ve got a bit of a dilemma this coming Thursday. Mountaineers or Commanders? The way both are going, I may opt for a third choice: bed. Thursday night, my 2-3 WVU Mounties host Baylor, while the dumpster fire franchise formerly known as the Redskins play the Chicago Bears. This past Sunday, I watched exactly zero seconds of the Washington disaster against Tennessee (I’d better explain. I don’t get CBS and efforts to stream or add some app would take longer than the game itself). I decided to tidy up my long-neglected .92 acre. It turned out to be a great choice, as the Commanders lost on a Carson Wentz interception on the Titans’ 2-yard line on the game’s final play.
As for West Virginia, the cries of “fire Neal Brown” are growing louder in the Mountain State, as the fans are growing tired of “trusting the climb.” Should things go south early against Baylor Thursday night, it could get ugly in Morgantown. I have never bailed on the Blue and Gold–until their last game against Texas. 28-0 down was about all I could take.
So, who to watch on Thursday night? Forget about the DVR option. That stuff is beyond me, My VHS is still blinking twelve o’clock.
OK, we’ve all heard about the imminent end of the perfect marriage of Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Apparently, the two are living separately, and she is nowhere to be seen at any of Brady’s games this year. I have no way of knowing for sure, but this all seems to stem from his decision to come out of a brief retirement and play one more season.
In my mind I can almost see how this breakup happened. After last season, Brady decided to hang up the cleats and concentrate more on his family. Football puts a great strain on a marriage and family, even more so with a player as driven as Tom Brady. His many Super Bowl rings are a testament to the time he has given to the game, and the sacrifice Brady has made at the expense of other facets of his life.
Gisele has made sacrifices of her own, having assumed most of the parental duties in the marriage while giving up her own career as a supermodel. I’m almost sure the couple mutually agreed that last season was to be Brady’s last. But, as most retired NFL players will tell you, there is an empty space when a player leaves the game. It’s not the grueling training camps they miss, or even the games. It’s the camaraderie they miss with the other guys. Players share a common bond that nothing else can replace, and Brady needed that more than another ring.
This has become a polarizing tale, with some calling Tom Brady selfish for choosing football over family, while some say that Gisele knew what she was getting when she married Tom Brady. As with most stories, there are three sides: his, hers, and the true story that lies somewhere in the middle. The truth, for now, remains Victoria’s secret…
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO MOUNTAINEERS!
Greetings from The Booth!
It was great to put on the headphones and call a football game this past Friday. I hadn’t done play-by-play for a high school football game since the ’90s, but football is football, and after some early rust, I fell into the old routine again. It helped that we had a good game to call, as Skyline went on a final 81-yard game-winning drive, scoring a TD with just 1:34 left to play. It was fun to get back into The Booth, and I look forward to bringing you our area Game Of The Week with broadcast partner Ryan Rutherford.
Well, I wanted to wait a few days and let my emotions die down after my West Virginia Mountaineers lost to the hated Pitt Panthers in the renewal of The Backyard Brawl this past Thursday night. The 38-31 loss still stings, mainly because WVU was in control of the game late in the fourth quarter, and like so many times before, they broke my heart.
I don’t say this lightly–I no longer “trust the climb.” Mountaineers’ Head Coach Neal Brown, who once again was outcoached, and showed no ability to manage the clock in the game’s final frantic moments, sent a clear message to his offense when the game was on the line in the final stanza. With WVU leading 31-24 and facing a 4th and less than a yard to go with around six minutes left, decided to try to draw Pitt offsides, and then punt. The Mountaineers had been running the ball effectively to that point and with a first down, would have grabbed firm control of the game. As the underdog, WVU had nothing to lose by going for the first down.
Instead, Pitt went on the game-tying 91 yard drive, and would win the game in the final minutes on a pick-six. We WVU fans have seen this movie all too often. I wish they’d change the ending.
Contrast the above with a few years back when the Mounties scored against Texas (at Texas) in the final seconds of a back-and-forth affair, and trailed the Longhorns by a point. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen asked his quarterback, Will Grier, “do you want to win the game?” When Grier answered in the affirmative, Holgorsen said famously, “then let’s go win the (expletive) game!” and went, successfully, for the 2-point conversion. Now, I’m no fan of Dana Holgorsen, but I give him credit for trying to win the game, as opposed to trying not to lose.
Neal Brown tried not to lose.
I ran into a fellow WVU fan at Rock Harbor Golf Course this past Sunday, who reminded me that had WVU gone for the first down and failed, we would have been equally upset at Brown. He is probably right. After all, most of us are oscillating fans with 20/20 hindsight. Having admitted that, I will say that I am generally ok with errors of commission, as opposed to errors of omission.
We are at the point in this so-called “climb,” where almost is not good enough.
Until the next visit from The Booth…LET’S GO MOUNTAINEERS!