With the high school football championships, college conference championships, the College Football Playoff selection and college bowl bids, most sports fans needed a swivel instead of a cervical spine.
Here’s my take at what went on:
The 14-0 McKenzie Rebels appeared to be streaking toward their first state title in school history. The Rebels raced to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and appeared to have things rolling. Suddenly, all the things that went right for the Rebels in that first drive went wrong and South Pitt rallied for a 24-21 victory. Two uncharacteristic fumbles turned into 10 South Pittsburg points and with under four minutes to play in the game, McKenzie’s 14-0 point lead had turned into a 10-point deficit
Give the Rebels credit for quickly driving down the field and scoring with 1:15 to play, cutting the Pirates’ lead to three, 24-21. The Rebels just fell into too deep a hole and couldn’t exhume itself. As a result, MHS tasted defeat for the first time this season. But this was a magical and historic season for the Rebels. They have nothing to be ashamed of. It was a football game, albeit a big football game. But if losing a football game is the worst thing to happen to them, life’s going to be okay. The good news is, the Rebels return much of their lineup next season.
Martin-Westview claimed its first state championship in school history by roasting Hampton 55-14. The Chargers, of course, were making their second appearance in the Blue Cross Bowl. In 2001, Westview defeated McKenzie 35-0 in the semifinals, but lost 14-0 in the 2A finals to Goodpasture.
Westview might consider losing to Trenton-Peabody as a good luck charm? Why? When the Chargers made their first foray into the state football playoffs back in 1989, they lost early in the season to then-district foe Peabody. The Chargers trailed 14-8 in that game at Freed Field and appeared to have caught a break when a bad punt snap rolled almost into the end zone. The Tide’s Conchas Powell, picked up the football, eluded three or four would-be tacklers and returned the ball across midfield for a first down. The Tide ran out the clock.
From there, Peabody ran out the clock. The Chargers’ playoff hopes were in jeopardy, right? Nope. Westview rallied from 19-0 down in the final five minutes to beat Humboldt 22-19 and jump back into playoff contention. The Chargers eventually reached the state semifinals that year.
In 1990, Peabody came to Martin and won in a controversial manner. The game was delayed by a severe thunderstorm, but the Chargers had a chance to send it into overtime. From where I was standing, which was a pretty good location, Kyle Alexander’s extra-point attempt to tie the game with no time left went well inside the upright, but the officials said the kick was wide. No matter, the Chargers qualified for the playoffs again.
This year, Peabody broke the Chargers’ hearts again. With 1:42 to play, Westview quarterback Ty Simpson found Omarion Harris for the go-ahead touchdown, putting three-time defending state champ Peabody’s 38-game winning streak in jeopardy. The Tide, however, went the length of the field, winning the game 31-29 on Chase Minton’s field goal with two seconds left. Moral to the story? Maybe a lost to Peabody portends good things.
Georgia was the No. 1-ranked team in college football. Its defense was holding teams to 6.9 points per game. All indications were that the Bulldogs were going to beat Alabama by three touchdowns in the SEC championship game, as some pundits suggested.
Well, where Bama coach Nick Saban is concerned, never, ever count out the Tide. Alabama 41, No. 1 Georgia, 24. Now, Bama is the top-ranked team headed into the playoffs and will face Cincinnati in the college playoffs. Never, ever rule out Saban.
Sunday, we learned the 7-5 Tennessee Vols will take on 8-4 Purdue in Nashville’s Music City Bowl. The Vols and Boilermakers last met in the 1979 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. Purdue won 27-22. A few Tennessee fans are lamenting the fact that the Vols didn’t get a better bowl game and didn’t get a shot against Clemson, Miami, or somebody like that.
Folks, Purdue is a decent opponent. It has signature victories over then-No. 2 Iowa and then-No. 3 Michigan State. It also has a puzzling loss to Minnesota. Yes, maybe Tennessee fans were looking to Charlotte and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl for a matchup with Clemson, but sometimes, you just don’t get what you want.
Given what the Vols just experienced 11 months ago, they are lucky to be here. Take it and run!
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs from 4-6 p.m., Monday-Thursday on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden.