Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super memories

Neither time nor space permitted me to run a Super Bowl column in Saturday's print edition of the Wilson Daily Times but I have a few things to say about America's Greatest Sporting Event.

I'm not that enchanted by this year's matchup, to be honest. Sure, there are some angles out there. The lowly Cardinals' possible rise to the top or the Steelers winning an unprecedented sixth championship. But nothing about this one really speaks to me the way the Super Bowls of my youth do. You see, me and the Super Bowl go way back. It started right after I was born. I can always remember what Super Bowl it is by simply remembering my age (which isn't as simple as it sounds at times).

The first one remember watching was the Redskins-Dolphins in Super Bowl VII but all I recall are grainy sequences from my grandparents' old black-and-white television. I must admit here that I have been a lifelong Redskins fan; at least up until the current ownership and free agency warped my sentiments. I only follow the NFL in a professional sense now but my affinity towards the Burgundy and Gold have certainly colored my past.

So, if you will, I am here to proclaim my top 10 all-time Super Bowl memories in somewhat orderly fashion.

10. Super Bowl X, Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, Miami — As an avowed Cowboys-hating fourth-grader, I was a huge Steelers fan that day. Will never forget the acrobatic catches Lynn Swann made and the end zone interception by Glen Edwards to seal Pittsburgh's 21-17 win. Can you believe the Super Bowl used to begin early Sunday afternoon, like any other regular-season game, back then?

9. Super Bowl XXXIV, Tennessee vs. St. Louis, Atlanta — The one play that puts this one on the list is the touchdown-saving tackle by Rams linebacker Mike Jones of Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson on the one-foot line to end the game and give the Rams a 23-17 win. It's the only Super Bowl that ended with a team stopped a foot short of the tying TD on the last play. Years later, the Oiler-Titans are still searching for their first Super Bowl title.

8. Super Bowl XXXII, Denver vs. Green Bay, San Diego — Nobody thought the Broncos had a chance against Brett Favre and the Packers but I had been following Denver's run all season. In fact, the Broncos had two great seasons in a row but were derailed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs the previous year. I spent the whole week telling a buddy who was a Packers fan that an upset was imminent. And it crystallized into one unforgettable moment when 37-year-old quarterback John Elway got helicopter-flipped by a vicious dual hit from Packers defensive backs LeRoy Butler and Mike Prior. Elway bounced up, fired up his teammates and got them into the end zone two plays later as Denver pulled off the 31-24 upset.

7. Super Bowl XXV, New York vs. Buffalo, Tampa — The Pre-Bobby Brown Whitney Houston sang the national anthem as the fighter jets flew over in missing-man formation as the first Gulf War was in full swing. But that's not what I remember most. I remember being the only guy at the Super Bowl beach party insisting the Giants would win and (normally I don't root for the 'Skins NFC East opponents in a SB) my prediction came to fruition when Buffalo's Scott Norwood missed a potentially game-winning field goal at the final gun. The Giants won 20-19 on the first Super Bowl that I had seen to come down to the final play.

6. Super Bowl XXIII, Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, Miami — This one stamped, in my mind, the 49ers' Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback to ever play as he led the team on a 92-yard game-winning drive, culminating in a TD pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left in San Francisco's 20-16 win.

5. Super Bowl XLII, New England vs. New York, Glendale, Ariz. — No way were the Patriots going 19-0. As I had done in 1991, I went against my enmity for Redskins rivals and took the Giants to pull off the upset — and did they ever. I know it's only been 12 months since it happened but who will ever forget Eli Manning spinning out of what looked like a sure sack and finding wide receiver David Tyree 32 yards downfield. All Tyree did was make a circus grab, holding the ball against his helmet. Four plays later, the Giants were in the end zone for a 17-14 stunner. (Edited to correctly name David Tyree, not David Patten — who never even played for the Giants! — made that awesome catch. Apologies to Tyree and mucho grande 'preesh to V!)

4. Super Bowl XXXVIII, New England vs. Carolina, Houston — The Carolina Panthers have never been my favorite team but as I watched from my apartment in El Cerrito, Calif., I was certainly rooting for my home state to enjoy its first world championship. When Carolina QB Jake Delhomme hit that ancient Demon Deacon Ricky Prohl for the tying TD with about a minute to go, I thought the Panthers would get it done in overtime. But then John Kasay, who has done so much in his Carolina kicking career, committed the Cardinal sin — he sent the kickoff out of bounds. From there, it didn't take much for the Pats to get in Adam Vinatieri's range and the diminutive kicker won another Super Bowl on a last-second kick 32-29. Of course, the other memorable thing about this game was Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction," which somehow I noticed from the balcony outside the apartment from 30 feet away. Funny how that works.

3. Super Bowl XXVI, Buffalo vs. Washington, Minneapolis — This one is memorable to me mostly because it's the only one I've ever watched outside the United States. I was on a post-collegiate backpacking trek through New Zealand and watched the Redskins win their third Super Bowl in a pub in Auckland. Kickoff was Monday at noon, in local time, and luckily it was a national holiday in N.Z. so the pub was packed with curious Kiwis there to imbibe as much as watch American-style football. But by the time the 'Skins had won 37-24 and sent the Bills to their second straight Super Bowl lose, I think I had taught several locals and some German tourists the words to "Hail to the Redskins!"

2. Super Bowl XXII, Denver vs. Washington, San Diego — This one was weird because really, the Redskins didn't belong. They'd had a solid season but the 49ers had gone 15-1 and were clearly the best team in the NFL that year. But the wild-card Minnesota Vikings tripped up San Francisco in a huge first-round upset and the 'Skins edged the Vikes in the NFC championship. Denver wasn't that great but the Broncos had just been to a Super Bowl, losing to the Giants the previous season. So when John Elway led Denver to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, I was dangerously close to breaking my TV set. But before I knew it, Washington QB Doug Williams donned his Superman suit and fired four TD passes in the second quarter and the 'Skins took a 35-10 lead at halftime on their way to a 42-10 victory. I just remember that by Washington's fifth TD of the quarter, I was laying on my back, too tired to even cheer, much less sing "Hail to the Redkins!"

1. Super Bowl XVII, Miami vs. Washington, Pasadena, Calif. — Easily the best one because it was the first time I'd experienced Super Bowl Sunday as a fan of the winning team. The moment that lives forever, still to this day as my favorite as a fan of any team, came early in the fourth quarter, about 10 minutes to play. Washington had trailed the Dolphins all game and it was 17-13 and the 'Skins faced a fourth-and-inches at the Miami 43-yard line. Everyone watching the game knew the ball was going to John Riggins but it wasn't clear which way he was taking it. As the Washington wide receiver went in motion before the play, Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal went with him, then realized he'd been pulled out of position so as he reacted, he slipped. Riggins took the ball through a hole on the left side, picking up the first down but "The Diesel" was only in first gear. But the time the late-to-arrive McNeal got to Riggins turning the corner, all he got for his efforts was No. 44 shrugging off his diving attempt at a tackle before chugging the rest of the way into the end zone. There was still a lot of time left in the game but as I bounded off the living room floor in ecstasy, I knew then the 'Skins were on their way to the championship. I still get chill bumps thinking about it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hesmer asked back to U.S. Men's National Team training camp

This time, it's got to be for real for William Hesmer.

The MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew goalkeeper was invited to the U.S. Men's Soccer National Team training camp for the second time this month. Hesmer, who everyone should know by now is a Wilson native and Hunt High graduate, participated in training camp earlier this month but did not make the roster for the United States' international friendly match with Sweden on

This time Hesmer is one of 20 players summoned by U.S. head coach Bob Bradley back to The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., for nine days of training before the team departs for Columbus, Ohio, where it will take on Mexico on Feb. 11. That game, the United States' first match of the final round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will be broadcast on ESPN2.

I know this is an important match but I'd love to see William get his shot at playing for the U.S. team, especially since the game's in Columbus. Chicago Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch, who made the roster for the Sweden game but didn't play, is also back in camp.

Here's the entire article from USSoccer.com.

Lane speaks at NCSCA awards program

Robert Lane of Wilson, now the men's soccer coach at Coker (S.C.) College was the keynote speaker at the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association All-State Awards Program in Chapel Hill last Sunday, Jan. 25.

Lane spoke to more than 120 of the top men's soccer players from around the state, including Hunt junior Aaron White and Greenfield senior Curran Blackwell. Lane also presented the awards for regional and state coaches of the year, all-state teams, All-South Region players and the NCSCA Player of the Year.

"It was a great honor to be a part of this awards ceremony," Lane said in a press release from Coker. "I can remember being in the very same seats as these players when I was in high school, so it was very neat to be able to honor them now."

For those who don't know, Lane played at Hunt High School under head coach Brent Walston and alongside current MLS goalkeeper William Hesmer. Lane was the 3-A Big East Player of the Year in 1998, an NCSCA All-State pick in 1999 and a member of the East-West All-Star Team in 2000. He played at Barton College before finishing his career at East Carolina.

Rolle on to next level

My sources tell me Beddingfield standout Jumal Rolle has committed to Catawba University's football team. Rolle, the 2008 Wilson Daily Times Ironman of the Year, should make it official on Wednesday, National Signing Day.

It's possible that one or more of his Bruins teammates might land scholarship offers as well but for the most part, Wednesday will probably be a quiet day for area football players. I am amazed that no NCAA Division II program thinks Fike's Rashad Parker is worth an offer. All he did was run for 26 touchdowns and almost 1,700 yards this past season.

Poll time again

NCPreps.com released its weekly North Carolina high school basketball rankings on Monday so these might be outdated by now. For one, the No. 1 team in the 3-A boys poll, Kinston, lost at Beddingfield on Tuesday.

Beddingfield didn't lose this week but dropped another spot to No. 8 in the 3-A girls rankings.

I see Fike got a few votes in the 3-A boys poll. I'm wondering where are the votes for North Johnston in both 1-A polls. The Panthers and Lady Panthers sport identical 12-5 overall marks and are both perfect through five 1-A Carolina Conference games.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fike to honor '84 state champs Friday

The 1983-84 Fike High School boys basketball team (they're not boys anymore!) will be honored during halftime of the Fike boys home game against Rocky Mount. The '84 team remains Fike's (and Wilson's) only state champion. The Golden Demons were coached by Harvey Reid Jr. who had won state titles at Frederick Douglass and Elm City before coming to Fike with merger in 1978-79.

The reunion has been put together by Charles Howard, now an assistant coach at Barton College after coaching the varsity boys for six years at Beddingfield, where he still teaches.

That Fike team was pretty remarkable as no player was taller than 6-foot-3 and down the stretch Reid played his starters almost exclusively. Only one player went on to an NCAA Division I career, 6-2 sophomore John McNeil who played at Pittsburgh.

(Correction: McNeil signed with Pittsburgh but never played for the Panthers. Instead, McNeil played at Chowan College (then a junior college) and Elizabeth City State, where he graduated. Howard, who signed with Belmont Abbey College out of Fike, ended up playing at N.C A&T State University, becoming the only player from the 1984 Demons to play Div. I basketball.)

I've found lot of great photos from that season and will put them on a photo gallery to go along with a retrospective on that team which will run this weekend. So if you like short-shorts, check it out!

Lady Bruins slide to 7th in NCPreps.com 3-A poll

Beddingfield dropped two spots to No. 7 in the last 3-A girls basketball poll conducted by NCPreps.com. The Lady Bruins (13-3) lost to Fike last Monday night, giving them two straight losses to the Lady Golden Demons this season. Beddingfield's other loss came in overtime at Rocky Mount early in the season.

NCPreps.com high school basketball rankings

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wachovia Cup conference standings update

Here's another better-late-than-never item from our friends at the N.C. High School Athletic Association. The conference standings after the fall sports season for the Wachovia Cup were released Jan. 6.

Fike, Hunt and North Johnston have taken the early lead in their respective conferences.

With 3-A NEW 6 Conference championships in girls tennis and girls golf, Fike leads archfoe Rocky Mount, 64-60.5, followed by Nash Central 58, Northern Nash 55.5, Southern Nash 43 and SouthWest Edgecombe 30.

Hunt ruled boys cross country and was tied for first in boys soccer and volleyball to take the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference lead over Eastern Wayne 69-65. The rest of the standings are Southern Wayne 57, Beddingfield 56.5, C.B. Aycock 56 and Kinston 29.5.

North Johnston won volleyball and girls soccer (although the NCHSAA Web site mistakenly has N.J. winning football, too; the Panthers were second to Ayden-Grifton. North Johnston has 19.7 points to 16 from second-place Spring Creek, followed by Princeton 12, Ayden Grifton 12, Rosewood 9.5 and North Duplin 7.

NCHSAA Wachovia Cup standings from Jan. 6

Warm up with high school hoops polls and stats

The latest NCPreps.com state high school basketball polls are out and Beddingfield inched up from sixth back to fifth, the spot in which the Lady Bruins debuted in the 3-A girls poll.

The rankings were released Monday (I know, I know, I'm three days late) so they clearly don't take into account Beddingfield's second loss to Fike on Monday night. The Lady Golden Demons are still getting no love from the voters as they are unranked and received zero votes.

South Central is atop the 3-A girls poll while (big surprise) Kinston continues to rule the 3-A boys rankings.

NCPreps.com high school basketball rankings for Jan. 12, 2009

Also, NCPreps.com is publishing statistics for girls and boys basketball and a few area players made the lists. I guess you could say Fike senior Jeremy Atkinson "made the list" since he's second in the state in scoring with a 27.1 average (again these stats were released prior to Fike's consecutive games against Beddingfield and Hunt on Monday and Tuesday).

However, those numbers are only good through eight games. On Fike's Maxpreps.com team site, Atkinson's updated scoring average is 24.4 which is still pretty ding-dang good and among the best in the state.

On the girls side, Beddingfield junior Casey Elliott is listed third in assists through 13 of the Lady Bruins' 15 games.

SouthWest Edgecombe junior Ny'Neka Euwell is fifth in rebounding with an 11.8 average but the Lady Cougars' Maxpreps.com site has her at 12 rebounds per game.

Ny'Neka is the younger sister of Linwan Euwell, a University of North Carolina football player and the 2007 WDT Athlete of the Year. Keep an eye on her.

By the way, thanks to Fike varsity head coaches George Drawhorn and John Gay, SouthWest Edgecombe's Sandra Langley as well as the other coaches in the area who put their boys and girls stats online. It sure does make my job a lot easier and helps to publicize their teams. I wish all the coaches would use this free feature.

NCPreps.com high school boys basketball statistics

NCPreps.com high school girls basketball statistics

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Freddie's career not dead

Freddie Bynum, Wilson's only major league baseball player at the moment, was picked up by the Washington Nationals last month, reports Bill Ladson of MLB.com.

Bynum, a Beddingfield High School graduate, was one of 13 players signed to a Minor League contract by the Nationals.The list included former Wilson Tob Brad Eldred.

A four-year MLB veteran, Bynum, who is expected to appear at the 35th annual Hot Stove League Banquet on Jan. 26, spent the last two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. His best season was with the Chicago Cubs, who acquired him from the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2006 season. Bynum hit .257 in 136 at-bats with four home runs, 12 runs batted in and eight steals in his only season in Chicago. He was traded to the Orioles before 2007. In his first season in Baltimore, Bynum batted .260 in 96 at-bats with 11 RBIs but his on-base and slugging percentages were lower.

Injuries plagued him last summer as he batted just .179 in 112 at-bats with an anemic .220 on-base percentage and five errors in 142 chances at shortstop.

Hopefully, Freddie has a great season and can stick with the Nationals. Should Bynum and Eldred make the Nationals' roster, they will be joined by Ryan Zimmerman as players with Wilson connections. Zimmerman's father, Keith, played third base for Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College in the 1980s (I think, although it may have been the late '70s).

Since Washington is the closest major league team to Wilson, that makes perfect sense.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Coaching change in ECC

The Goldsboro News-Argus reported Sunday that Eastern Wayne head football coach Jeff Price is stepping down and will join the Tom Nelson's staff at North Johnston.

Price, who spent six seasons with the Warriors, will be joined in Kenly by Trevor Pilkington, a Charles B. Aycock graduate and former assistant under Golden Falcons head coach Randy Pinkowski.

As the Panthers make the move from the 1-A ranks to 2-A next season, they'll have a quite a staff.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Baseball season will be here before Groundhog's Day

Are you tired of winter already? I think I am. If it's not cold, it's wet. Can we get a few 70-degree, sunny days in a row in January? Is that too much to ask?

I shouldn't complain. There hasn't really been any extended cold snaps and no snow — or worse, ice — thus far. But if the post-holiday winter blahs have set in, here's something to warm your heart.

Barton College opens its 2009 baseball in about three weeks. The Bulldogs host Tusculum for a doubleheader beginning at noon Sunday, Feb. 1, at Nixon Field.

Play ball!

2009 Barton baseball schedule

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Area soccer players get some ink

More acclaim for a pair of highly acclaimed Wilson high school players in the Dec. 15 issue of Southern Soccer Scene, a regional soccer publication.

Greenfield's march to its 10th state 1-A championship was mentioned along with senior forward Curran Blackwell's team-best 35 goals. Under the "N.C. Soccer" notebook, Hunt junior Aaron White was saluted for setting "a new school single season scoring record with 44 goals, including eight hat tricks."

I wonder how SSS determined that White's feat was a Hunt record since very few Hunt soccer records have been kept over the past three decades. I would say that it is believed to be a record since there doesn't seem to be any challengers. If former Warriors head coach Brent Walston, now at North Johnston, didn't have anyone with more than 44 goals in his very successful 10-year run, it's very doubtful anyone had 44 goals at Hunt. And Coach Walston is known for his meticulous record-keeping.

Also, Larry Taylor reports from Morganton that his son, Collin, was featured in a story in The News Herald about his freshman season as goalkeeper at Appalachian State University. Collin, who was named to the All-Southern Conference first team and the all-freshman team, is the roommate of his former high school rival, Mark Bridges.

Taylor starred at Morganton Freedom High while Bridges, also on the SoCon all-frosh team, was an East Burke High standout.

For those who don't know, the Taylors lived in Wilson for many years where Collin learned the game playing for the Wilson Recreation Department and Wilson Youth Soccer Association, which Larry served as president for several years.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Big East is back!

I have it on high authority that the 3-A NEW 6 Conference will be renamed next year when N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment takes place.

With SouthWest Edgecombe returning to the 2-A ranks, the "E" in N(ash)E(dgecombe)W(ilson) is gone so the conference athletic directors made the most sensible choice — call their league the Big East Conference.

The Big East ended in 2004 when Rocky Mount and Northern Nash dropped to 3-A. It was formed in 1978 as a 4-A conference when the Wilson school system merged and Hunt and Beddingfield opened their doors. The original conference members were 4-A Eastern Conference holdovers Fike and Rocky Mount, along with Kinston, Northern Nash, Greenville Rose and Elizabeth City Northeastern.

With Hunt joining the conference next fall, it makes sense that it be named the Big East. Southern Nash and Nash Central are the only schools that weren't members in the original conference.

High school basketball polls released

The first basketball rankings for N.C. high school teams have been released by NCPreps.com and Beddingfield debuted at No. 5 in the 3-A girls poll.

The Lady Bruins collected 42 votes in the list released last week. South Central, which lost to Beddingfield in the 3-A Eastern Regional final last March, is No. 1 with 7 of 8 first-place votes while Hickory is second and defending champion Concord is third with Western Harnett coming in fourth.

With Tuesday's 57-50 loss in the Eastern Carolina Classic holiday tournament, I expect Beddingfield to dip in the next poll, which will be out either Monday or Tuesday. The question is, will Fike be ranked now?

In the 3-A boys poll, Kinston is ranked No. 1. No surprise there. The Vikings are the favorites to repeat as state champions. But what is surprising is Charles B. Aycock collecting two votes under the Honorable Mention category. Nice work for the Falcons, now 10-3 after losing to North Lenoir on Friday night. CBA won two games last season and none the year before.

NCPreps.com girls basketball rankings

NCPreps.com boys basketball rankings