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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!
As you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast and hopefully long weekend, a HUGE thanks to everyone who had a hand in making our 13th Camping For Hunger a big success again this year. Last week we raised almost $10 thousand in cash plus a full bus of non-perishable food that will enable Front Royal/Warren County CCAP feed our neighbors in the months to come. To you who donated, our drop-off locations, local law enforcement, and sponsors, we can’t thank you enough. Once again, and incredible example of a community coming together for a common cause. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
Remember the famous line from one of the Godfather movies: “every time I try to leave, they pull me back in!” ? Or something to that effect. The Washington Football team has done that to me. Left for dead at 2-6, I was content to find other things to do on a Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in my life had no aversion to turning the game off before it was over. Well, look what has happened…again. The Football Team has reeled off 2 consecutive victories against the likes of Tom Brady & the Bucs, and the Carolina Panthers. All of a sudden, there are those who are daring to use the “P” word (cue Jim Mora’s famous “Playoffs! rant). While I’m not ready to take that leap, the last two Sunday’s have been fun, if not nail-biting, as the WFT has improved to 4-6, with 2 winnable games ahead. I think I just jinxed ’em.
Washington has become relevant again, thanks in no small measure to the quarterback play of Taylor Heinicke. The journeyman from Old Dominion has played with confidence the last two weeks, and looks like he’s having fun. He is playing with a gunslinger mentality, much like his idol Brett Favre. Heinicke is taking advantage of his second-chance opportunity in the NFL, and is performing like someone with nothing to lose. In the last two games, he has outdueled the GOAT (Brady) and took the spotlight away from Cam Newton, who was supposed to have made his triumphant return to Carolina on Sunday. Heinicke’s supporting cast has stepped and made big plays, too. WR Terry McLaurin is an absolute beast, while a trio of running backs hammered the Panthers for an old-school 190 yards.
And, has anyone noticed that the defense has played much better the last 3 weeks, giving up just an average of 20 points per contest? The loss of Chase Young for the season is certainly a big-picture loss, but last Sunday the defense performed as a team, instead of a collection of individual parts.
So, here we are again, at a place we WFT fans seem to be every season, playing the game of “if we beat this team, and so-and-so loses to so-and-so, we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs.” With a home Monday night game looming against the 3-7 Seahawks and a road contest against the 5-5 Raiders, 6-6 looks possible, leaving a stretch run against mostly division opponents. Maybe, just maybe…
Like Al Pacino, I think I’ve just been pulled back in.
Until the next visit from the Booth, Happy Thanksgiving, Hail WFT…and GO HORNETS!
Greetings from The Booth!
It was “one and done” for The Washington Football Team on Super Wild Card Weekend, as the burgundy and gold lost to the ageless Tom Brady and the Bucs , as expected, 31-23. But the 7-9 WFT didn’t go down without a fight, and earned the respect of Tampa and a lot of the NFL who thought they didn’t earn a seat at the post-season table.
(At this point, I need to veer off-track with a few random thoughts. Why is the much-heralded Washington front four nicknamed “Maroon-4”? I get the reference to the musical group, but maroon isn’t one of the team colors. I’m reminded of former Redskins coach Jim Zorn, who in his opening press conference upon being hired, asked for “3 cheers for the old maroon and black.”
And, did you see the comparison-photos of 43 year-old Brady and 43 year-old George Blanda from back in the day? Blanda looked 70, while Brady looked 25. I’m pretty sure the reason is that in the late 60s, Blanda had no access to dieticians, massage therapists, and yoga pants. But the difference was striking.)
Anyway, on Saturday night, the WFT acquitted itself nicely, thanks to the efforts of instant folk hero Taylor Heinicke, who in his first start as Washington QB, almost single handedly willed his team to victory. The former ODU signal caller even came back out of the locker room late in the game after a shoulder injury, and in a “Willis Reed” moment, got the WFT within a TD at 28-23.
As disappointing as the loss was, it felt like more of a beginning than an end. In the last 20-plus years of the Dan Snyder regime, the playoff appearances have been few and far between, the post-season wins even more rare. And the playoff exits always felt like the end, rather than something to build on the following year. Even “Joe Gibbs 2.0″seemed like like a magic act performed with smoke and mirrors.
Saturday night’s loss felt different. Much has been written about the exciting young defensive line, led by rookie captain Chase Young. But there are some exciting young stars on the offensive side of the ball, and while this year might be the final chapter of the feel-good story of Alex Smith, and the end of Ryan Kerrigan’s time in DC, there is a lot to be hopeful about in 2021.
In a tumultuous year for the organization on many fronts, head coach Ron Rivera navigated his team through the rough waters of 2020 to a division title and playoff appearance, despite his own personal challenges. For that, he should at least be considered for Coach Of The Year honors.
We all know too well that ownership could mess things up without even trying, but Saturday night felt like the start of something big.
Until the next visit, so long from The Booth. GO WFT, GO HORNETS!
Smith Wins Heisman, Manning Leads HOF Finalists, Rivera May Rotate QB’s
Alabama’s Devonta Smith outdistanced Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to win the Heisman Trophy last night in a virtual ceremony. Smith is the first wide receiver to win the coveted award since 1991. The other finalists were Smith’s teammate Mac Jones, and Florida QB Kyle Trask.
Peyton Manning leads the list of finalists for this year’s Pro Football Hall Of Fame class. Other finalists include defensive back Charles Woodson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive end Jared Allen. As many as five of the finalists will be chosen later this month for enshrinement.
Ahead of Saturday’s playoff game with Tampa Bay, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said yesterday he is considering rotating quarterbacks Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke in Wild Card contest. Smith led Washington to Sunday night’s win over the Eagles, and was 5-1 as a starter this year, but is still favoring a calf injury suffered several weeks ago. The game is scheduled for 8:15 at Fed-Ex Field.
And, in college hoop tonight, number-22 Virginia hosts Wake Forest tonight at 9, while number-19 Virginia Tech travels to Louisville for a 6:30 tip-off.