October 6, 2006: Long Beach (5-1, 2-1) at Picayune (6-0, 3-0)
Well, it's the most wonderful time of the year! Hold up, don't freak out, it's not time to cash in the Christmas club savings
account just yet. However, we do only have about 70 shopping days left until Christmas in case you didn't know. I've always
wanted to be the first one of year to say that. Now, back to this "most wonderful time of the year" thing.
First, we've got FOOTBALL! Man do we have football. We've got high school, we've got college, and we've got the N.F.L.
We've got it on Monday night, Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday. A few years ago, the networks come up with Thursday
night football. I have to admit, I didn't see it coming, but I like it. I guess that's why those guys are big network executives, and I'm
just a, well, I'm just a guy who watches his football on his T.V. Now we've got Tuesday night football. These guys are geniuses.
Who woulda thunk it? Tuesday night football on the tube- what will they think of next? I wish someone would have told the
Southern Mississippi offense about this Tuesday night thing. Let's not even go there.
This football in October is not just any football either. Everyone is finished with their pre-conference patsy schedules; who is this
'Patsy' anyway? The big games are unfolding and conference, division, state and even national championships are won in October.
You might be thinking-"playoffs are not this month". I know, I know, however in college football without a playoff system, a defeat
this time of year normally cost a highly ranked team a national championship. In pro football, the home field advantage is critical.
The end of the NFL season is still a long way off, but teams are playing for seeds and their home field advantage.
Now in Mississippi high school football, your regular season (division) record only guarantees you home field advantage in
the first round. The Mississippi High School Association tries to spread the wealth among all of the playoff teams. Any way you
look at it, it is a lot of football and I love it.
Did I mention baseball, the MLB playoffs? I told you it was the most wonderful time of the year. First it is the divisional playoffs,
then we got we got the league championships, and then it's the big one, the WORLD SERIES!
There's nothing like sitting in Picayune Memorial Stadium watching the Tide play football and listening to my Braves lose another
divisional series. I would give anything to watch or listen to them lose again this October. But, let's look at the bright side; all
of the Braves' players can now watch football without any interruptions. Back to watching the Tide play and listening to the Braves
at the same time, let's don't tell Mr. Meitzler----what he doesn't know want hurt him.
If you are not careful, one can work themselves into to a sports frenzy or even a sports coma. I do get comatose sometimes
during this month. That's why it is important that you and your wife come up with hand signals. Thumbs up means my team is
doing well and sometimes if she sees a tear coming down my face it can mean my team is not doing that well. But tears can
mean other things. Like when the NCAA Clearinghouse approves a player's eligibility despite his ACT score of 7. These are
tears of joy. She has hand signals of her own sometimes, let's not go there.
What about that Tide? The undefeated Maroon Tide is playing their biggest game of the year when they host Long Beach this
Friday Night. Long Beach has already lost a division game this year and they will be hungry for a division win when they come
to town. An interesting comment was made by a local area coach this week in the Sunherald. He said, "Picayune may be the
best team in the division, but Long Beach is the most physical". Man I got to see this game. Two very physical high school teams,
who are both playing their biggest games of the year. It's gonna be a good one. We need a big and vocal crowd to show up
and I know you will. Our home and away crowds have been the best I have ever seen at Picayune this early in the year.
I think it shows that this community's expectations are very high this year. I know I will be in that number with my head set on,
however I may not be listening to the football game. See ya Friday night!
Barry never listened when he was working the games with us years ago. I told last week about his escapades during a few half
times. Well, how about a little on the air insight about the 'Ol Wedge Buster a.k.a 2 minute Concession Crasher. Here's two.
One night we were in the middle of a game, and a good one at that, and I called a play and waited for him to speak. No response.
Next play, another exciting play, no response. After the next play, I said "You can chime in anytime you want to, sir." He did.
"Carey, I was just watching this guy down here on the track and he seems real nervous about the flips the cheerleaders are doing."
What fine color he gave us on that play. Another time, we were just back from our first break at halftime, where we always do
the scoring summary and the statistics, and when I finished the scoring summary, I said, "And now for some halftime statistics, here's
Barry.". He wasn't ready. He wasn't paying attention. He had no lifted his number 2 pencil since we went to break. When I look
over to my right at him, the Wedge Buster stated, "Carey, I just was watching this tuba player in the band for Biloxi and he's in his
football uniform." Then he paused, looked at my kind of funny, and then said, "Oh? you want the stats? Give me just a minute."
I went to a commercial.
The Maroon Tide Nation has been awesome during the first six weeks. They come early and get wound up well before kickoff.
They joke with each other, high five each other, and basically just enjoy their three hours together each and every Friday. There are
a lot of good ones out there and I will try to mention a few each week as this season goes on. This week, I say we all say thanks to
one of the most dedicated: Mr. Fred Cruse.
Fred loves it. He loves the players. He loves Picayune. Yes, he loves Ole Miss, but I don't think he would trade a day in Oxford
for a Friday night with the Tide. Fred is a blessing to our sports programs. He gives with his heart, from his wallet, and his time.
Friendly Freddie (heard that on his commercial), like me, is always worried before the game about our chances to pull out a win.
Once underway, he's in his element. Sometimes he needs a little help from his wife Diane, or friend Bill Hillery, turning on and
adjusting his radio. Once its game time, he's ready to go. When you see him this week, let him know he's appreciated. Fred has
done things for me over the years that really have meant a lot. He's a good guy. I've seen him do it for so many of the players in
all of our sports. Maroon Tide Nation, tell him thanks. And ditto for his wife, Diane; she's always there with him.
Picayune's offense is clicking along and scoring some points the past few weeks. At the same time, the defense has allowed a few
big plays on defense. Offense is a timing thing and each week the blocks, the counter steps, the vision and the cuts of the backs;
it all seems to be a little better. Defense is a little different because its mainly based on reads and assignments. I think a few
assignments were missed the past two weeks that allowed our opponents a chance to make the big plays they did. But at the same
time, our Maroon Platoon was solid most of each game vs PRC and Pass Christian. My own opinion was the Tide didn't turn
the motor up on every play on defense; possibly they were looking ahead to this week's game with Long Beach. Maybe not.
Just an observation from watching the game from up top.
Long Beach is the defending Division champion. They lost to Poplarville two weeks ago and rebounded last week with a win over PRC.
They are well coached with Sean Harden doing an outstanding job in getting their program to the level it is today. They have quality skill
people in QB Jeremy Hill (6-3, 190, Sr.), RB Ira Smith (5-11, 190, Sr.), and RB/WB Bradley Jacobs (5-10, 185, Jr.). FB/LB Santino
Davis (5-10, 200, Sr.) was the Coast Player of the Week for his effort last week. The Bearcats like to run it, but will throw it some to
keep you off balance. Hill, a southpaw, is a three sport athlete as is Jacobs. This team is solid on both sides of the ball. One observation
I saw on WLOX highlights: they changed their helmets to the same scheme as Picayune's: numbers and a stripe have replaced Cats.
You can't get that kind of information from listening to a Braves' game.
I have some close friends who are on their staff: Mark Ross and Mike Odenwald. Mark and I roomed together in college and I got to
know Noodle (Mike) through Mark. Both are Long Beach natives and also coach baseball down there with Mark serving as the head
coach and Mike as one of his assistant coaches. I look forward to visiting with them before the game.
This week is Homecoming for Picayune and sometimes you wonder about all the distractions and the impact it might have on the team's
mindset and practice habits. You don't have to ponder long on what to expect this Friday. The Tide will be ready. Count on it.
I know this about Coach Lee and his staff: when it comes to getting their teams prepared, they are one of, if not the best, week end week
out. The coaches work pretty much seven days a week for the entire season.
Picayune, like Long Beach, knows what is at stake this week. With a win, Picayune continues to control their own destiny. Long Beach
needs this one to throw the last 3 weeks of the regular season into a frenzy with a few games looming they could catapult them back atop
the division. This one has all the makings of a great game. I expect a big crowd on both sides, a lot of media coverage, and what looks
like some decent weather. Both teams appear to be healthy as well. Should be a good one.
I think this game will be decided within these three areas:
* Field position.
This will be dictated in a large degree by the kicking game. Irving Gonzalez (6-0, 185, Sr.)
has been consistent for Picayune on punts, kickoffs, and extra points.
Turnovers, fumbles in general, will highly possible because of the way each team will be hitting.
If LB Levi Slaydon (6-3, 230, Sr.) and the rest of the Maroon Platoon come to play like I expect,
keep your eye on the bouncing ball.
With the emotion and pace of this game, I look for the team that controls the second half to win it.
Picayune has done this so far and I hope it's another Ground Hog Day Friday for us.
One last thought just crossed my mind. Take a minute and pray for those folks in Nickel Mines, PA. What a tragedy they have
experienced this week. And let's not forget that we still have brave young men and women abroad in the line of fire allowing us the
privilege to go to the games on Friday. May the Lord shine His light on your path.
Roll Tide Roll.