Friday, October 24, 2014

Giving Gifts to Linemen

By Travis Stahl

I'm told that women like to receive gifts "just because."  Good husbands do stuff like that for their wives.  Seriously though, who doesn't like to get a gift?  That's why we all love Christmas and birthdays so we can get some new stuff.  The most gifted group in the NFL is always the offensive linemen.  Running backs always give their blockers gifts and sometimes they get some pretty crazy stuff.

This week Dallas Cowboys running back Demarco Murry renewed the tradition.  Murry is leading the NFL in rushing so he bought all of his offensive linemen new iMacs.  Usually running backs wait until the end of the season before rewarding their blockers but Murry was so appreciative of the work his teammates are doing he couldn't wait.  Murry buying his teammates a gift wasn't that unusual but buying them computers seems a bit odd.  But purchasing the iMacs is just the latest in a long line of gifts for the big uglies who work in the trenches.

Houston Texans running back Arien Foster bought all of his offensive linemen Segways in 2012.  When Michael Turner had a breakout season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 he bought all of his blockers massive flat-screen TVs.  Adrien Peterson got all of the Minnesota Vikings offensive linemen snowmobiles when he won the NFL MVP in 2012.  Just in 1993 Emmitt Smith gave his Cowboys offensive linemen Rolex watches, bottles of champagne and gift certificates.  None of this takes in to account the food running backs buy for their blockers on a yearly basis.  Would you have liked to foot the bill to feed Nate Newton?

Look at the teams that win in the NFL, they all have exceptional offensive lines.  That is the key to success in the NFL.  Want to run the ball?  Better have a good line.  Need your quarterback to throw the ball 50 times a game?  Better have a good line.  That is where it all starts.  Look at the improvement the Cowboys have made just from two years ago until now by focusing on the offensive line in free agency and the draft.  Denver's line is phenomenal and the 49ers go to the NFC title game every year because they have an offensive line that can control a game.  It's not easy to find great linemen who can work well together but it should be every team's top priority.

If Murray wins the rushing title it will be interesting to see what he gets his linemen then.  I'm hoping he does something "cowboy" related like buying each of them a pony.  That would be the gift that keeps on giving.  Of course it would also be the gift they would have to keep feeding.  The point of the gifts though isn't to provide something of value as much as it is to show appreciation.  Nothing says I love you like a new pony.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CC-South Side Preview

By Travis Stahl

The Game: Columbia City at Fort Wayne South Side at 7 p.m.

Last Season: Columbia City lost in the first round of sectional play at Norwell45-28

Next Week: The winner plays the winner of the New Haven-Logansport game in the second round

About the Game:  As close in proximity and size as these two schools are one would think there would be more meetings between them but that isn't the case.  In 2004 and 1990 South Side was able to defeat Columbia City in sectional play but both games were close.  The Archers come in to sectional with a record of 2-7 after a grueling schedule in the Summit Athletic Conference this year that featured several strong teams.  Columbia City improved its record to 3-6 with a win last week against Norwell.  The Eagles always seem to know how to turn it on at the end of the season.  Since 2000 Columbia City has won a first-round sectional game eight times.

Keys to Victory: Who can get to 35 points first?  That seems to be the magic number for Columbia City the last two weeks as the team first lost an overtime game to Carroll only to come back and win an overtime game against Norwell.  The offense is going to score points so any stops or turnovers the defense gets only helps the cause.  If the defense can come up with more big plays like it did last week from Ashten Barnes and Drew O'Dell the Eagles offense can do the rest.  South Side has only scored more than 10 points in a game twice this season.  Can the Eagles keep riding on emotions?  The last two weeks have been gutty, emotional games for Columbia City and in both games they played their best football since the beginning of the year.  Playing emotional games like that though is draining and it will be up to the seniors to once again pull this group together and carry them through.  Seniors understand this could be the last time they step on a football field and the Eagles seem to have the kind of guys who can buckle down when they need to the most.

The Outcome:  Columbia City gets the job done when sectional starts as the record shows.  Both teams come in battle-tested from playing in tough conferences against good teams.  But the Eagles offense is much better than South Side's and the Archers will have a tough time with Columbia City's big players like Braden Myer and Dayne Asplund.  Columbia City probably needs to get a lead in this game early and letting the offensive line maul the Archers during the second half.  As history has shown this game will likely be close but the Eagles odds of advancing look pretty good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kobe is Killing the Lakers

By Travis Stahl

I'm 40 years old.  I don't like it but I've accepted it.  Really ... what can I do about it?  Nothing so I have to move on.  There are just some things I can't do now that I'm 40.  I'm not going out and playing pick-up basketball.  I don't think I will be doing any body building.  Entering a swimsuit pageant is probably out of the question so I just have to move on with life.  It's time for Kobe Bryant to wake up and realize the same thing.  The Los Angeles Lakers can't move forward until Kobe rides into the sunset.

Kobe has been very reluctant to accept that in this late stage of his career he should step aside and let another star come to town and be the team's top option.  Instead Kobe still thinks he has another title run in his tired legs with a team full of players thrown together.  It's not happening.  Even if Kobe wasn't Old Kobe this team isn't winning anything with Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle as the two best options other than Bryant.  It's over.

The Lakers have traditionally been a team that is good about transitioning from one star to the next.  Kareem let Magic take over when it was time.  Then the team shipped Shaquille O'Neal out of town so Kobe could lead the way.  If Kobe isn't going to do it on his own the Lakers need to come to their senses.  I understand the team being loyal to a guy who has spent his whole career in purple and gold.  But at this point Kobe is setting this team back four or five years with his refusal to part with his power or his strangle hold on the team's salary cap.

LA tried to sign every free agent on the market this summer but Carmelo Anthoney, LeBron James and anyone else worth his salt didn't want to come to town and play with Kobe.  Bryant has failed to realize he can't win a title anymore as the No. 1 option, he needs help but won't accept it.  Kobe has one more year on his contract so next summer the team could legitimately say good bye.  The problem is are no free agents worth spending money on next summer, this team missed out on the bonanza of this year's talent.

I have grown to respect Kobe for what he has done in the league.  I've never been a fan but the guy is a stone-cold killer who wants to win at all costs.  At this point though that is what is making this whole thing embarrassing.  Kobe, like other athletes, is failing to see the writing on the wall.  It's time to retire and let the Lakers move forward.  This team couldn't make the playoffs last year and they won't again this year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Greatest NFL Players to Never Win a Ring

By Travis Stahl

In case you are a deaf mute you probably heard that Peyton Manning set the all-time record in the NFL for most touchdown passes.  Along with that, we had to endure listening to the critics crow that Manning hasn't won enough Super Bowl rings to be considered the greatest quarterback of all-time.  Manning has one Super Bowl title which is more than most players can say.  Oddly enough, as the record was being set, loyal reader Rob Schuman began a discussion about great players in the NFL who have never won a ring.  Rob and I began to compile a list and this is who we feel are the greatest NFL players at their respective positions who have never won a title.

Quarterback - Dan Marino
Running Backs - Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas (Eric Dickerson gets an honorable mention)
Wide Receivers - Andre Reed and Larry Fitzgerald
Tight End - Tony Gonzalez
Offensive Tackles - Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews
Guards - John Hannah and Will Shields
Center - Dermontti Dawson

Defensive Ends - Bruce Smith and Deacon Jones
Defensive Tackles - Cortez Kennedy and Merlin Olsen
Linebackers - Dick Butkus, Sam Mills and Derrick Thomas
Corner Backs - Champ Baily and Eric Allen
Safeties - Steve Atwater and Paul Krause

Obviously there are players that was have missed on this list.  That just shows you how many great players have never won a title.  This list should also serve as a reminder to fans appreciate guys like Manning and Drew Brees who should be praised for the rings they have won, not the ones they have missed out on.  Winning a Super Bowl is tough and it should never be the only measure of a players true greatness.

Monday, October 20, 2014

O'Dell Leads Eagles to Win

By Travis Stahl

When teams are preparing a game plan they can put together a plan to try to stop a specific player.  Usually teams will try to slow down the opposing teams quarterback, or a stud running back or an electrifying receiver.  It is impossible for teams to plan for the player who contributes in multiple areas to lead his team to a win.  For Columbia City it was Drew O'Dell that Norwell couldn't plan for as the Eagles earned a 35-34 win in overtime.

O'Dell is this week's T and T Athletic Supporters Player of the Game for his all-around great play against the Knights.  Offensively O'Dell caught three balls for 38 yards, ran the ball twice for 18 yards and returned a kick off for 27 yards.  Defensively O'Dell was a huge force for the Eagles.  He led the team with six tackles, recovered a Norwell fumble and then returned that fumble 55 yards for a Columbia City touchdown.

Columbia City also got three touchdowns from Braden Myer who had 150 yards rushing.  Eagles quarterback also rushed for good yardage with 106 on the ground with another 63 yards passing.  Bronson Ball added six tackles and Ashten Barnes got five tackles on the night.

The win was the first for Columbia City in Northeast Hoosier Conference play and brings the Eagles record to 3-6.  Columbia City will now travel to Fort Wayne South Side for sectional play Friday night at 7 p.m.

Friday, October 17, 2014

CC Runners to Race at Regional

By Travis Stahl

So do you have big plans for tomorrow morning?  It's supposed to rain so I'm guessing there aren't too many people that will wake up on their own and drive to Ligonier to run 3.1 miles.  But that's what the Columbia City Lady Eagles cross country team will be doing.  Tomorrow morning is the regional cross country event at West Noble High School and the Lady Eagles under the guidance of head coach Bob Fahl will be trying to advance.

Fahl has been coaching the cross country teams at Columbia City for as long as anybody can remember and doing a fabulous job.  As much as Fahl enjoys winning he enjoys working with the kids he coaches even more and he has a great group of runners this year.  This year's group of harriers includes Bailie Brown, Isabelle Hunter, Karina Rubrake, Whitney Shelton, Samina Qureshi, Alissa Jagger, Hannah Wappes, Natalie Johnson and Lauren Keller.  Plus, Columbia City's Andrew McFarland will be running in the boys race.

Sometimes us outside observers look at cross country and think all it's just running.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Runners in cross country meets have to know when to push the pace a little faster and when to pull back.  They must know who to run with and avoid being kicked.  Runners have to study the track and know where they can make up ground if they need to and where they can pull away.  Running cross country is about being a smart runner and not just about being a fast runner.

Cross country is a grueling sport and if there is any coach who has his kids ready it is Fahl.  T and T Athletic Supporters would like to wish all the runners good luck at regional.  Here is hoping you run your best race of the year and continue the team success you have all worked so hard for and deserve.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

CC-Norwell Preview

By Travis Stahl

The Game: Columbia City travels to Norwell at 7 p.m.

Last Season: Norwell defeated Columbia City 35-21

Next week: Columbia City is at Fort Wayne South Side

About the Game: One of the most balanced rivalries in the Northeast Hoosier Conference is Columbia City against Norwell.  The two teams began playing each other in 1989.  The Knights hold a 16-9 advantage in the win column but the two teams always battle each other tough each season.  The two teams appear to be very even again this year as Columbia City comes in at 2-6 and the Knights are 3-5.  Columbia City comes in after a narrow overtime loss to Carroll while Norwell was beaten last week by Homestead.

Keys to Victory: Can Columbia City keep up the pace?  Last week was prove that when the Eagles offense is clicking on all cylinders there isn't a team in the NHC that can stop them.  Quarterback Trevor Bolt was connecting with Drew O'Dell and Dayne Asplund and Braden Myer was running over people.  The Eagles need to carry that offensive momentum into Ossian against a Norwell defense that just surrendered 48 points to Homestead.  Can the Columbia City defense keep Norwell out of the end zone?  In the last three games the Eagles have given up 41, 49 and 42 points.  The CC defense needs to start flying around the ball again and force some turnovers.  Last week the team got an interception from Davin Lawrence and a sack from Kolten Wood.  The Eagles might need more than that this week.

The Outcome: This is a very winnable game for Columbia City.  The Eagles have to take care of the ball on offense and really be fast and physical on defense.  If that happens Columbia City should be able to head in to sectional next week with another win.  The way CC is playing right now Norwell is going to have a hard time stopping the Eagles offense.  The win this week though will be decided by the defense.