Friday Night Rewind: Hooray for football

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

So sometimes I’ll be sweating bullets over getting a story written by deadline, or my stomach will do a few quick loop-de-loops after I open the paper and realize I’ve made some new whopper of a mistake, or I’ll get home after 10:30 on a weeknight and think: Why did I want this job again?

And then I get to cover a game like last Friday’s Linden-John Essex game and I think, Oh yeah, THAT’S why.

I won’t get into all the details again (there’s Saturday’s and yesterday’s paper for that) but suffice it to say that it was a game that was just about as good football gets: two archrivals under the lights, slugging it out for four quarters and overtime; both sides close to exhausted but neither side willing to quit; the final difference between the two all of one yard on one final two-point conversion. If ESPN had covered this game instead of Hoover-Nease, why, you’d still be seeing it ten years later on ESPN Classic.

Email newsletter signup

Yes, eventually this season I’ll watch games (state title games, with any luck) where there’s more at stake than playoff position in one 1A region. I’ve already seen a few games that, yeah, were played at a higher level of play than Linden-Essex.

But if I see another high school football game this year with as much guts, as much drama, and as much emotion as this one, I’ll be surprised…and also, once again, very lucky to have the job I have. So thank you, Linden, and thank you, John Essex: once again, the best two-and-a-half hours of my week were on Friday night.

Other developments this week in area high school football:

How much is too much?

With the usual recent array of lopsided scores that comes from having three powerhouses in the area (and a fourth, American Christian, paying the area frequent visits) it’s not surprising that the issue of running up the score does pop up when discussing area football from time to time.

Some of that discussion has, naturally, focused on Demopolis (that will happen when you score more points than any other team in state history the year before). And some of that has, evidently, focused specifically on the Tigers’ 54-0 defeat of Northridge Sept. 23.

Should it have? I was there, and let’s just say I think it’s a little harsh to say Doug Goodwin is channeling the spirit of Steve Spurrier circa 1995 just yet. Demopolis did score twice in the fourth quarter, but there wasn’t a player involved that wasn’t second-string. Sophomore backup quarterback Scott Cannon handed to backup Calvin Bryant for the first score on the initial play of the fourth quarter. Two minutes later second-team linebacker Rock Jones returned a fumble for a touchdown. Jones is a starter–but only at running back. Both extra points were even attempted by the backup placekicker, Reed Gardiner. Let’s just say that if Doug Goodwin was committed to driving the score as high as it could go, well, he wasn’t that committed, was he?

As long as there have been teams like Demopolis and Sweet Water and Southern Academy, there’s been controversy about how coaches should balance not rubbing an opponent’s face in it and getting a team’s starters enough playing time to be prepared for more difficult challenges later on. Somehow I don’t think DHS yanking the starters at the end of the third quarter and scoring one offensive touchdown from there, on the first play of the fourth quarter, is quite the terrible example of sportsmanship some think it to be.

Sheer dominance from Sweet Water

The fact that the Sweet Water Bulldogs haven’t allowed an opposing team to come within 43 points of them since the season-opening loss to Thomasville has made for a bit of monotony in their Saturday morning game stories: Landrum scored, then Holt scored, then Lockett, than Landrum again, and then…

But even if the blowouts are boring, it shouldn’t obscure the fact that Stacky Luker has his team playing better football than they were at this time last year during their championship season. Their games with Linden and A.L. Johnson weren’t close in 2004, but they weren’t 55-6 or 43-0, either. It’s easy to forget, too, looking at scores like those, is that Linden and A.L. Johnson are GOOD teams. The caliber of team that could win a playoff game given a chance, and yet the Bulldogs made them play Oklahoma to their USC.

More and more, it appears that the titanic match-up between the third-ranked Bulldogs and second-ranked American Christian in two weeks may just be the prelude to an even bigger match-up in the state semifinals. It’s a long, long way away, I know. But when Sweet Water doesn’t given us any reason to expect close games in the here and now (at least until the ACA game…or games), it’s very hard for those on the sidelines to not look ahead a bit.


Chaos reigns in 1A Region 1 after Marengo’s narrow 22-18 loss to Frisco City last Friday. Marengo is one of three teams at 3-1 with Millry soon to join them (a game with Fruitdale was postponed) and J.F. Shields a game behind at 2-2, but with a win over Millry. What does this mean for Marengo? Even if the Panthers lost to Millry in their Oct. 14 showdown but took care of also-rans Fruitdale and McIntosh, they should be a-OK for the playoffs (especially with tie-breaking wins over J.U. Blacksher and J.F. Shields). But if all five teams end up at 5-2, who knows… When Central took a surprise 6-0 lead over Southern Academy in Greensboro last Friday, it was the first time the Cougars have trailed this season. Maybe their fans should have enjoyed it–after all, there’s a good chance they won’t trail again in 2005…Kudos to MMI, which got their first W of the season at home vs. WAP, and to Marengo Academy, which got their first regional win since 2003 by going on the road to defeat South Choctaw 33-14…Greene County is clearly a different team at home than on the road. In Eutaw the Tigers came within eight points of Jemison (closer than any regional opponent has played them to date) and defeated Greensboro at home. But on the road the Tigers have now lost 53-28 to Southside and 25-16 to Dallas Co., and at 1-3 in region (along with Livingston, Dallas Co., and Southside) have an uphill climb to the postseason.