Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thursdays with Jamie 9/22/2005

Good afternoon and welcome to another weekend full of football and, sadly, another monster hurricane that figures to devastate a large swatch of the western Gulf Coast. Good gracious. I know I'm only 33, but I don't remember in my lifetime such a trying period of time in this country. Between the war, hurricanes and terrorist threats, life is quite a bit less care-free than I remember it being. Would I sound like a dork to say I miss the good ol' days? You know, the '90s.

Anyway, there's still no better -- and probably safer -- place to be than the good ol' U-S-of-A. We're taking a few shots, but we'll bounce back just fine. In the meantime, God speed to everyone in the path of Hurricane Rita, as well as to those overseas and to those with loved ones overseas.

OK, now some sports. Before I get to predictions and this week's mailbag, I want to comment on the new ESPN reality series "Bound for Glory," in which NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus "coaches" a struggling high school team in Western Pennsylvania. (First-run editions of the show appear Tuesdays at 9 pm Central on ESPN. ) My first thought after watching show #1 was that it was better than I expected. Could be because I've been less than impressed with virtually every ESPN Original Entertainment venture to come down the pike thus far (save for maybe "The Junction Boys"). So, I found the "football" elements of the show a little better than expected. ESPN producers didn't seem to contrive any of the on-field action. It looked a lot like what I often see when I visit high school practice fields across the nation -- some good football mixed with some loafing, jacking around on the sidelines, coaches needing to wake certain players up, etc.

Overall, it definitely resembled your average first few weeks of football practice. Except, of course, for the cameras and, oh yeah, Dick Butkus and Ray Crockett standing on your sidelines ... but, it wasn't all bad either.

Then I read this morning's column by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Bob Smizik (linked on the front page of He made a point that I had glossed over in my head. While I was kicking back and watching one of my football heroes (Butkus) on the screen, Smizik was asserting this: The show sucks because it really IS all show biz.

Here's a portion of what he wrote:

Butkus is not the coach. He might be the coach on the TV show, but he's not the real coach of the Spartans. Lou Cerro is the real coach. ... Cerro was hired away from Seton-LaSalle, where he was a major success, to rebuild the once-proud Spartans program. Before he coached his first game, the Montour school board sold out to ESPN and allowed Butkus and the ever-probing television cameras to take over. ESPN never explains this nor does it suggest at any time that Butkus is involved with Montour for three months and no longer.

Early in the show, Butkus says, "The real reason [for] coming to Montour is my love and respect for football."

That's another lie. Butkus is in this for the paycheck, nothing more.

We get no inkling in the first installment, which covers only the preseason, what kind of coach Butkus is. If his tiresome old-school act is as boring to the players as it is to the viewers, he'd better stick to making beer commercials.

Point made. Regardless of how this Montour season finishes up, Butkus will get more credit or blame than he deserves -- and unless he sticks around for offseason conditioning and weight lifting and is on campus again next year, this is NOT his team. It's Lou Cerro's team.

Aside from some inspiring speeches and technical pointers from Butkus and former NFL cornerback Ray Crockett (and an upcoming cameo from current Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger), Cerro and his staff are doing the ACTUAL coaching and caretaking of the Montour football program. Cerro and his staff will always be these players' actual high school football coach -- the ones who will write their college recommendation letters and remain a part of their community. Butkus and Crockett will be on to their next project, and to the kids, they'll become featured players in an exciting, memorable and ESPN-telecast three-month chapter of their lives.

As much I enjoyed watching the first show, I agree with Smizik. Shame on ESPN for leaving out the men who will make or break Montour football over the long haul: the REAL coaches.

To think, I almost gave ESPN credit for something. That will teach me.

A few quick predictions for this week:

No. 14 Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) vs. Abilene (Texas) at Texas Stadium: The Rock has won two big-school titles in the last five seasons and produced about a dozen scholarship players during that period. Hawklets coach Tony Severino is as good as there is. In other words, Rockhurst is usually quite good. But this year's Rockhurst team might be on par with the 2002 team, which finished the year ranked No. 5 in the National Prep Poll. It has great team speed, a swarming defense, and offenses packages that kill you with either the run or the pass. Abilene, led by blue chip QB Taylor Potts, is also very good. Remember, the Eagles came within an eyelash of derailing No. 1 Southlake Carroll in the playoffs and finished ranked No. 7 in the Southwest Top 10 last season. Coach Steve Warren's club returned only four starters aside from Potts from last year, however. AHS is 4-0, but haven't been as impressive as Rockhurst. One advantage for Abilene could be its experience, having played at Texas Stadium before -- not to mention the fact that Rockhurst could suffer from "Poly syndrome" brought on from leaving Kansas City on a bus at 5 a.m. Friday morning. Something about riding in a bus for seven hours on gameday doesn't sound much better than a two-hour flight to me. All that said, I still think the Rock has too much for Abilene. Coach Sev will have them ready. Prediction: Rockhurst 33, Abilene 21.

Quick-hitters (three upsets included):
No. 1 Mission Viejo 72, Marina 6
No. 2 Southlake Carroll 40, Fossil Ridge 15
No. 3 Lakeland 38, Dr. Krop 6
No. 4 Warren Central 47, Carmel 19
No. 5 Bellevue 49, Mercer Island 6
No. 6 Springdale 54, FS Southside 14
No. 7 Byrnes 31, Gaffney 7
No. 8 Independence 48, Weddington 17
No. 9 Longview 28, Mesquite 12
No. 10 Camden County 31, Brunswick 7
No. 11 Long Beach Poly 31, Mira Mesa 13
No. 12 Landstown 44, Kempsville 17
No. 13 Glenville (Cleveland) 52, Warren G Harding 24
UPSET ALERT: No. 15 Hoover 23, Tuscaloosa County 20
No. 17 Joliet Catholic 56, St. Joseph's 0
No. 18 Hamilton 28, Marcos de Niza 10
No. 19 Gilman 24, Georgetown Prep 3
UPSERT ALERT: No. 20 Bishop McDevitt 36, Harrisburg 31
UPSET ALERT: Eden Prairie 17, No. 21 Wayzata 14
No. 22 Riverdale 46, Dickson County 7
No. 24 Lincoln-Way East 29, Bolingbrook 13
UPSET ALERT: No. 25 St. Xavier 20, Covington (Ky.) Catholic 16

Thanks to those readers who answered my call to NOT keep your opinions to yourself and emailed me at with comments, questions and arguments. Keep 'em coming.
Alex Skorniakoff: ... You really don't understand high school football in southern california do you. you picked a perininal power (Hart, from Newhall) in your west top 10, they win a 7-6 game over a bad moorpark team, and the valencia vikings (ever heard of Michael Herrek, he'll break the california passing record this year) soundly beat a tough bishop amat team on the road. you rate Hart 5 and Valencia is not on your radar. HUH?this week Hart gets killed by st. bonnie of ventura, valencia soundly beats Birmingham of Encino (last years LA City Champs), still no ranking for the Vikings. They have a solid defense and the two best players in California high school football (Herrek and Shane Verrene, rb and cb), i could go on, but will spare you.Wake up and smell the coffee, even though Valencia maybe not as well know as Hart, we'll be the better team the next 5 years. Stop rating teams by what they have done historically and rate teams for what they are doing now. By the way, the Vikings played a good game in the Division II Championshio game vs Mission Viejo, recognize them?
JD: Thanks for the email and for taking time to write to someone who knows so little about your area of expertise. If you are interested in my take on the topic of So-Cal football, here it is. Yep, I've heard of Michael Herrick (seen him play a few times on tape, actually) and I've also heard of and respected what Valencia football has accomplished recently. (For those who don't follow So-Cal football closely, Valencia is led by U of Mississippi-bound QB Michael Herrick and standout junior RB/DB Shane Vereen. Last year Valencia was beaten by Mission Viejo (49-21) in the CIF-SS Division II title game, one of only two losses of a season that included a 29-10 win over defending CIF-SS Division II champ Hart. Now that's out of the way, the reason we ranked Hart is certainly not only because of their own recent success (only team to beat No. 1 Mission Viejo in the last five years, which Valencia was unable to do), but also their own highly rated QB (Tyler Lyons -- multiple Pac-10 offers), their top coaching staff, and admittedly, we were probably swayed by their summer 7-on-7 success more than we should have been. That is why we ranked them in the West Coast Top 10 and did not drop them after the close call versus Moorpark. As for Valencia: Herrick and Vereen give them a pair of outstanding weapons, but the Vikes were returning only seven starters from last year. We did not expect Valencia to be as strong as last year -- perhaps we will be proven wrong. It's not accurate to say that they are "not on our radar." You have no idea how many teams are on our radar. You made some fair points, but that was not one of them. Thanks for the email, and rest assured we'll keep our eyes peeled on Valencia.

Bill Irby: Just a local update...As a long time supporter of Germantown High School I can tell you with confidence that south panola is definetly better than Riverdale. Germantown has played Riverdale a couple of times in the last 3-4 years. Riverdale is the class of TN football and they are very good but......they are not South Panola. South Panola beat Germantown worse than any team I've ever see since the mid 70's. South Panola also did this with their #1 tailback out due to a preseason injury. The difference is Riverdales outplays you with precision and smarts. South Panola beats you to death. I thought they were a junior college team warming up. They have multiple big hits a game and just strangle you. Their offensive line is the best cohesive group I've seen to date. Their running backs weren't being touched until they were 3-5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Germantown is down this year but as a proud alumni it would have take out best team in 84-85 with Eric Still (OL - U.T.) and Howard Moss (DB/RB - Ole miss) to compete and win.
South Panola does have a weakness and it is their quarterback...he is adequate but not great...but they would still roll over Riverdale....In my opinion and I like both programs. Enjoyed your rankings....

JD: Thanks for the email, Bill. Hard to disagree with your analysis on South Panola. They continue to impress the hell out of us. What's more is that they simply reload each year. For now, we have Riverdale ranked one spot ahead of South Panola in the rankings, but things could change as the season goes along. The state of Mississippi has been sort of a sleeping giant in the national rankings picture the last few years, just waiting for a coach to put together a program that can turn talent into winning championships on a consistent basis (like Moss Point used to). It sure looks like SP coach Ricky Woods has things going that way.

Huey Counts: Love the Web site, I check it out regularly. I noticed that Olathe South has slipped into your Midlands region football rankings at No. 10, so I figured I'd submit Salina (Kan.) Central for consideration.
My simple reasoning is that Salina South last season showed that the Class 5A title doesn't necessarily go through Olathe (North, that is) and this season Central has fairly impressive victories over both the 5A (Salina South) and 6A (Hutchinson) defending champions and is 3-0. Barring a monumental upset, Central won't be tested again until the playoffs. Central wouldn't stand a chance against the powerhouses on the Missouri side of Kansas City --- I was the sports editor for several years at The Examiner and some of those Blue Springs and Rockhurst teams would bury Central --- but I was never awestruck by the teams on the Kansas side. Thanks for your time. Again, I enjoy the site.

JD: Thanks Huey. Tell your friends. :-) Good argument for Salina Central ... and a good "examination" of the Kansas side of KC prep football (where I live). I got to see Olathe South play earlier this season, but not yet Salina Central. I do know that the 5A title will likely not go through Olathe (North) this year -- heck the 5A title pretty much has a permanent address set up in Salina. But I think the 6A crown might come back to O-Town this time around. This O-South team might be even more talented than the 1999 team that finished 2nd to Garden City, and is pretty much back in tact from last year's 6A 2nd place team. No, I don't think O-South could challenge seriously for the Suburban Big Seven (formerly Big Eight), but I do think they'll bring some Kansas state hardware home to KC in November.

Dean0713: Thank you for showing some love Warren (Central)'s way. They are a great team and go unnoticed in the midwest next to Ohio. Warren is well on it's way to a thrid straight state title, and hopefully a national title. Also thanks for showing Dexter some love, from what I understand going into the year he had 0 offers and he went to the Ann Arbor summer camp and was a DB. He is showing that he can run with the best of them. sadly though he isn't a very polished passer, and is undersized. We'll see what goes on as the season unfolds, once again thanks for showing some love our way and GO WARRIORS!!!!!!!

JD: You're welcome. Warren Central is a legitimate Top 5 team this year, and if they continue to breeze through their schedule, will almost assuredly finish ahead of the top-ranked Ohio team. As for Dexter Taylor ... I'd almost consider changing my offense to the option if I knew I could bring this guy in. He is the real deal.

CoanFJ: I dont see how springdale jumps to tp 6 rankings after beating a No.13? Just curious.

JD: If shutting out No. 13 Jenks (Okla.), 44-0, isn't enough to jump a team up in the rankings, I don't know what would be. Remember, Jenks had just beaten then-No. 6 Tulsa Union the week before. Jenks has never lost this badly in 10 years under coach Allan Trimble. It was as impressive of win as you will ever see.

Please, whatever you do, DON'T keep your opinions to yourself. Email them to me at I will include a mailbag feature on this blog as the emails come to me. You don't have to write me a book, just a short comment, question or suggestion and I will be happy to share your thoughts and my reply to the world. Thank you!

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