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All varsity action, girls or guys, can be exciting

Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 5:00 am

Ken Jackson
The Sports Column

So after 10 weeks as The People’s Sports Editor, I’m finally more mobile and have been getting out and seeing some local teams play.

Among the area’s high school teams, here’s my tally of who I’ve seen so far: two girls soccer teams, four girls basketball teams, four boys basketball teams and nearly all of the county wrestling programs at the Orange Belt Conference championships last month. I’ll be adding to that tally quickly when district and regional soccer and basketball playoffs begin in a couple weeks.

I was treated to a fine girls basketball game last Friday. St. Cloud and Celebration, two fundamentally-sound and well-coached teams, swung the momentum back and forth, and the Storm pulled it out by two points thanks to sinking a three-point shot with seconds left.

Hours later, I got a text from St. Cloud Coach Chad Ansbuagh: “Thanks for coming out and covering our girls teams.”

He went out of his way to thank me just for that, and didn’t have to.

Girls, boys, whatever — they’re all varsity athletes to me, and I’ve always wished that schools’ fans beyond the ladies’ families understood how hard and well they play.

Physical differences mean the same sports are played a little differently — and it’s not a bad thing. Fox example, where guys basketball teams can and do play at or above the rim, the ladies play closer to the floor, so their fundamentals of being in the right position have to be spot on.

Also, that game Friday? One hour and twenty minutes long. The girls games keep their rhythm and momentum better, in general, than the more physical guys games.

Same with soccer. The guys want to go through the defense. The girls go around it, then loft a pass back into the middle. It’s poetry in motion when it goes right.

For whatever sport I’m going to see, and who I’m going to see play it, I walk in in the mood to see the way it’s going to be played. I encourage everyone to share my enthusiasm for how our young athletes get after it and support all the girls and the guys who suit up for their schools …

… My only take from Monday night’s college football game — is there a more fun team to watch play than Desperate Alabama? …

… This may shock many of the people who read this and know me well … but I have not, and don’t plan to, bought a UCF National Champion t-shirt.

I do have a commemorative “Undefeated 2017” shirt on the way, thought.

They’re not the national champions. They didn’t play for it, although they were definitely one of the best four teams and should have had the chance. I’m smart enough to know this, unlike a segment of UCF’s young, prone-to-hype and easily-enthused fan base. Some are loudly complaining that many people won’t recognize their team as the champs, and I apologize that you can’t tune them out.

People can argue whether UCF should have been ranked higher, or involved in ESPN’s made-for-TV playoff invitational. But there’s a few facts that nobody can argue about:

  1. The Knights were the only team to go undefeated through a schedule that a major hurricane interfered with.
  2. The final three acts to do so involved beating a ranked arch-rival, a ranked division champion in the conference title game and the team that beat Alabama and Georgia.
  3. When it was all done, four Associated Press college football poll voters ranked UCF as their national champion.

You can’t ignore what UCF accomplished, and if they get off to another great start in 2018 under new Head Coach Josh Heupel and run the unbeaten mark up past 20 games, more facts will become impossible to ignore …

… I said last week was it for the season … but, oh, to heck with it. Here’s one more NFL playoffs set of Picks of the Weak:

Atlanta (-3) at Philadelphia: Eagles, the top NFC seed, getting no respect with Carson Wentz out. That’s because, in his last two games, backup Nick Foles looked less like Wentz and more like Rodney Dangerfield. Black Birds by 4, and I don’t have to like it.

Tennessee at New England (-13): I think calendars up around Baaahstin and Aaaht’fird actually read “Tom-uary” this time of year. Pats by 10.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-7.5): When they met in October, the Jags’ D had five interceptions. No, Blake Bortles wasn’t playing for both teams. Steelers by just 3, and that’s with just one or two picks.

New Orleans at Minnesota (-4): Drew Brees has played in more Super Bowls — one — than Vikings under-respected QB Case Keenum has had playoff starts. He might as well be Dangerfield. Saints by 4 in No Respect Upset Special.

 

 

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