Thursday, October 30, 2014

CC-New Haven Sectional Preview

By Travis Stahl

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

Earlier This Season: New Haven defeated Columbia City 42-21

Next Week: The New Haven-Columbia City winner faces the winner of the Norwell-Marion game for the sectional championship

About the Game:  Halloween games always bring out the best in fans.  The Eagles are 3-1 in Halloween game with the only loss coming in 2008 to Bishop Dwenger.  Playing in New Haven has been no easy task for Columbia City.  The Eagles have won only once on the Bulldogs home term since 2000 and that was a 2005 victory over New Haven.  For one generation of former Eagles facing New Haven in sectional play brings back cold memories.  The game between the two teams in the 1989 playoffs featured several inches of snow on the ground and the forecast this year is also calling for some snow flakes to fly.  The winner of this New Haven-Columbia City game advances to the sectional championship game.

Key Questions:  Can Columbia City slow down the New Haven running game?  In the first meeting the Bulldogs pounded out 405 yards on the ground including 279 from Nishawn Jones.  The Eagles know they can't allow that to happen again if they want to be in this game.  The defense has played much better the last two weeks for Columbia City in wins against Norwell and South Side.  For the Eagles to win this one they are going to have to at least put New Haven in a few third-and-long situations so the Bulldogs have to pass the ball.  Can the Eagles offensive line push around New Haven?  Columbia City's line was as dominant last week as it has been all year.  Kohltin Hoppner, Turner Gawthrop and the rest of the gang need to be able to control the clock and the ball and sustain long drives with Braden Myer smashing into the Bulldogs defense.  The more Columbia City has the ball the less New Haven has the ball and that's a good plan for the Eagles.

The Outcome:  When you reach this point in the season it is obviously win or go home.  Neither team wants to do that.  There probably won't be any tricks from either team as both squads would rather line up and run it right at you.  But the treat to the winner will be pretty sweet as one of these Northeast Hoosier Conference teams gets a shot at a title.  The outcome of this game will probably be pretty simple.  Whatever team runs the ball for the most yardage will likely be the winner.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The NBA Started Off Great

By Travis Stahl

The brand-spanking new version of the NBA season tipped off last night with a few games on the schedule.  Most teams actually begin their season tonight but there were some marquee games to open the new year last night.  If the games last night were any indication of what is in store for this year it is going to be, for lack of a better word, fantastic.  Here are just a few of the highlights from last night's season openers in the NBA.

LA's season ends already - We all knew the Lakers were going to be bad.  Kobe Bryant is old and Steve Nash saw his season end last week while carrying suitcases.  At best this is the second-worst team in the West.  Then, in the third quarter of LA's blowout loss at home to Houston, the team's first round pick, Julius Randle, broke his leg.  That's it.  They're done.  It doesn't matter that Kobe still has a lot of bark as he showed against Dwight Howard there just isn't enough talent on this roster to compete.  And one final thought, Houston seemed pretty happy to beat the Lakers.  I know a win is a win, but let's not get carried away just yet.  All you did was beat a very bad team.

The Brow Rules - Anthony Davis is very, very good.  The New Orleans forward/center/third best player in the league dominated last night and fell one block short of recording a triple-double.  The most scary thing about Davis is that he is 21 years old which means he is still younger than some of this year's rookies.  Imagine how good this kid is going to be in two more seasons.  Now the Pelicans just need to find a way to put some decent players around him.

Still the champs - San Antonio got to hold a ring ceremony last night for winning last year's title.  Then the Spurs squeaked by Dallas by one point to start their title defense.  San Antonio did was they always do so it was almost more impressive to see how much fight this Mavericks team has.  Rick Carlisle is a heck of a coach and if Dirk and Monte Ellis can sustain this throughout the season this is going to be a tough team at the end of the year.

Everyone knows that most people are going to pay the most attention to Cleveland because of LeBron and deservedly so.  But there are going to be a lot of really good teams this year and I am most interested to see how Chicago puts everything together.  I really think the Bulls can give the Cavs all they can handle.  I still think Cleveland will win the Eastern Conference, they are too good not to.  San Antonio never wins two years in a row so I believe this is the year the Clippers finally make it to the finals by winning the Western Conference.  In the end I believe Cleveland will win the title against the Clippers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There's Lots to Learn From Rankings

By Travis Stahl

Today is the first day of rest of the college football season.  Yes, I know college football started two months ago.  But today is the first day the playoff selection committee reveals who the four playoff teams would be at this moment.  This is big.  Not only do we get to go over in our heads how the playoff games would unfold if they were played right now we also get some insight on how the committee comes to its decisions.  Let the speculation, arguing and finger pointing begin.

As it stands now I think the four teams that would be in the playoff are Mississippi State, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn.  Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn are all in the SEC West so we know right off the bat that these will not be the four teams playing at the end of the year.  Two of these teams will be eliminated because they all play each other.  The Seminoles seem like the only lock right now based on an easy ACC schedule to finish off the year.  That means by the first of December when it is time to set those four playoff teams in stone we will likely have Florida State, the winner of the SEC and two other one loss teams.  Here is where the politicking comes in to play.

Who are the best one-loss teams in the country and will they finish the team with just that one defeat?  We could have Oregon, Michigan State, Ohio State, Utah, Oklahoma, TCU and Notre Dame all in major conferences end the year with one loss.  That is a lot of schools that could have their feelings hurt when the playoff begins.  In other words, instead of the playoff eliminating the controversy of the BCS it may have increased it.  Tonight's announcement will shed a lot of light on what these remaining teams need to do in order to have a chance.  There are going to be some teams taking their cases to the media to announce how much better they are than the other schools.

The first rankings release lets us know what the committee wants to see.  Other than winning games it would seem teams would have to have a pretty solid schedule.  And, a playoff resume better have wins over quality opponents.  Perhaps a consideration in choosing teams will also be the "eye test."  Does this team "look" like a playoff team and could they compete with the other playoff teams?  Do we really think Michigan State, Ohio State, Utah or TCU could hang with one-loss Alabama or Auburn?  If the answer is no than they probably aren't going to be a playoff team.

There is no way at this point to even say who a favorite would be to win the national championship.  About the only thing the committee has to go on at this point is the polls and how good teams have looked.  As much as this is going to explain how the selection of teams is going to take place I'm also guessing today's announcement will show the selection committee how irrationally the world will react.  People are going to be upset today and question why their team isn't in yet.  Of course the rest of us will realize there is still a lot of football to play and sit back and laugh at those Ohio State fans as they freak out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

CC Line Powers Team Past Archers

By Travis Stahl

Nothing builds a teams confidence more than really unleashing a completely dominating win on an opponent.  Especially if that win comes courtesy of just lining up and consistently beating the opponents lined up right across the line of scrimmage.  Friday night the Columbia City Eagles lined up against Fort Wayne South Side and physically dominated the Archers.  The Eagles powered past South Side 39-0 behind an overpowering performance from the team's offensive and defensive lines which pushed the Archers around all night.

The Columbia City offensive and defensive linemen are this week's T and T Athletic Supporters Players of the game.  The offensive line of Michael Simmons, Drew Cummings, Kohltin Hoeppner, Turner Gawthrop and Jake Elkins made massive holes for the running backs all night.  The Eagles pounded out 242 yards on 52 rushing plays.  The line also allowed quarterback Trevor Bolt time to throw for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

On the defensive line Trevor Sharpenburg and Cody McClure helped lead an Eagles group that only allowed South Side to gain just 16 yards rushing for the entire game.  The defense only let the Archers amass a total of 137 yards on the night and recovered a fumble as well as putting the team's offense in a position to get right back on the field.

Columbia City now earns a rematch against New Haven.  The Eagles travel to face the Bulldogs Friday night at 7 p.m.  Columbia City gets the chance to avenge a loss to New Haven from earlier in the season.

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.