Building On Success

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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!

RW

 

Welcome To Hell

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Greetings From The Booth!

We’re now in the so-called “second season,” as it’s now playoff time in the high school football season, and as of this writing, the first round is almost done (only Handley has yet to play, with most games having been moved to Thursday of this week). With the leaves almost gone from the trees and thoughts turning toward Thanksgiving and the upcoming Holidays, there is a much different feel to the playoffs. But, more about that after a few quick thoughts about the possible sale of the Washington Commanders, which has been called for by a lot of the fan base…

Dan Snyder is under fire again this week after being sued by the DC Attorney General for deceiving residents about the NFL investigation into the team’s toxic workplace culture. The team is also being slammed for propping up running back and recent shooting victim Brian Robinson, Jr. as a distraction into all the above. I firmly believe that this recent mess will now fast-track Snyder into an imminent sale of the team. One of the groups rumored to be interested in buying is headed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world.

This would solve a number of things. First, the 20-plus year dumpster fire of the Snyder era would be over. Second, we can finally give the team the name it deserves: The Amazons. Yes, a name that at least has hints of it’s past moniker, although I’m not sure how I feel about the Amazon “smile” logo on the side of the helmet.

Ok, back to high school football. Playoff time is special. Each week of the “second season” brings a sense of finality with the late Fall chill. Lose and you are done. For many seniors it’s the last organized football they will ever play. And for a select few teams who win a state championship, their legacy will live forever in the school trophy case.

One of those teams was the 1994 Handley Judges, who I had the pleasure of following that season as a play-by-play broadcaster all the way to Gate City, Virginia on a muddy December day. That 14-0 Judges team was known for it’s high-powered offense, and led by the Partlow twins, Brian and Michael. On paper, the homestanding Devils had no chance. But the weather (and maybe some home-cooking by the grounds crew) would be the great equalizer. After a 6-hour ride from Winchester that required one to actually leave Virginia, go into Kentucky, then back into Virginia, The Judges fans and players were met with “Welcome To Hell” signs as they entered Gate City.

Then, under somewhat suspect circumstances, the Judges awoke on Game Day Saturday to find a field that was an absolute quagmire. The word quickly spread that a groundskeeper had “accidentally” left a sprinkler system on. Folks, I was there–the field was unplayable for a state title game, but the contest went on as scheduled. Despite all the adversity, Handley took an early 12-0 lead, but that would be all the scoring for the good guys as field conditions worsened. The Judges would have to hold an the end on with a game-saving tackle, a generous clock operator, and several batted-down Gate City passes for a 12-7 win and the state championship.

A mud bath never felt so good.

Until the next visit from the Booth…good luck to our remaining playoff teams…and remember, be true to your school!

RW