Tidbits August 18, 2016

 

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY

 

ALREADY???

 

 

 

 

 

  I’m not ready for the new high school football season to begin, because I’m still enjoying the last one.

 

 

 

  The 2015 edition of the Saluda Tigers was a fun team to follow. Any team that puts up 34 points a game is fun.

 

 

 

  Last year’s season was in three parts.

 

 

 

  It began with a 5-0 start, the first 5-0 beginning since 1973. Included in the good start was a 37-17 win over Midland Valley, a team that would play for the 3-A state championship.

 

 

 

  Tiger fans began to think we had something, and then "along came Jones," better known as Ninety Six.

 

 

 

  Saluda began the Region schedule against a team they had not beaten since 1997, and when the game was over, Saluda still had not beaten the Wildcats since 1997.

 

 

 

  The loss was followed by a blow-out defeat at Abbeville.

 

 

 

  A 5-2 start was not bad, but 0-2 in the conference meant the Tigers might not make the playoffs, especially with Strom Thurmond and Batesburg-Leesville still to come.

 

 

 

  On week eight, Saluda travelled to Thurmond to face a team they had not beaten since 2003.

 

 

 

  It was going to be another one of those "close but no cigar" seasons for the Tigers. They’d lose to Thurmond and B&L, and beat Crescent to finish 6-4. No playoff games, but a respectable season after going 2-8 the year before.

 

 

 

  Nobody told this scenario to the Tigers coaches and players.

 

 

 

  Saluda upset Strom Thurmond, and followed that with a win over Crescent.

 

 

 

  The final regular season game was against Batesburg-Leesville. The only chance the Tigers had to make the play-offs was to beat the Panthers, and you know Saluda can’t beat B&L and Thurmond in the same season.

 

 

 

  Saluda won 52-34 and was play-off bound.

 

 

 

  If someone before the season told you Saluda would score a combined 86 points against Thurmond and B&L, you would have had that person committed.

 

 

 

  The playoffs began against a Keenan team that was much better than anyone in the stands anticipated, including me. We overlooked the fact the team played for the state championship the year before.

 

 

 

  Saluda won on a last second field goal by Dylan Strickland.

 

 

 

  This set up a long, long trip to Chesterfield, a team Saluda has never beaten in the play-offs.

 

 

 

  The Tigers won 24-7, setting up their first appearance in an upper state championship game since 1973.

 

 

 

  The opponent would be league foe Abbeville. For the second time in the season, the Panthers prevailed. Saluda finished 10-3, with two of the losses coming against the eventual state champion Abbeville.

 

 

 

  It was a season few fans will ever forget, but now it’s time for 2016!

 

 

 

  The Tigers return some good players, including one of Saluda’s most exciting players ever, running back Malik Brooks, who rushed for 2100 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last year.

 

 

 

  As Coach Stewart Young said, the Tigers play their five closest rivals, Thurmond, RSM, Mid-Carolina, B&L and Ninety Six, in the non-region schedule. Four of those teams will be seeking revenge, except, of course, Ninety Six. I long for the day Ninety Six seeks to revenge a Saluda loss.

 

 

 

  The new region is highly Columbia-related. When I heard the teams in the league, I was looking forward to eating in some Columbia restaurants on away games.

 

 

 

  Then, I saw the Tigers only have one away game in the region, Fox Creek in Edgefield County.

 

 

 

  I’m sure the 2016 season is the first time Saluda has played seven home games.

 

 

 

  I’m positive the returning players learned a great deal about winning last season. They will not be intimidated by anyone on the schedule.

 

 

 

  The Tigers have had some excellent athletes the last five years. Even the 2-8 team in Coach Young’s first year was a kicking game away from winning five or six games.

 

 

 

  The Saluda goal is to claim the school’s first football conference championship since 2003. That is the winning attitude to have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UP ONLY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  One thing we Gamecock fans can say is we have nowhere else to go but up!

 

 

 

  Practically all the prognosticators are picking Gamecocks to finish dead last in the SEC, behind perennial cellar-dwellers Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

 

 

 

  I like it. There should be no pressure on a team that everybody thinks sucks.

 

 

 

  I feel the Gamecocks will be a surprise team for one reason, and one reason only. They have coaches who know how to coach defense.

 

 

 

  A pitiful defense has been the teams’ downfall the last two seasons, and if Muschamp and staff improve the "D" even a little, the Gamecocks may win some of those close games they lost the last two years.

 

 

 

  The Gamecocks lost five games by seven points or less last year, including a five point decision to the team in orange that played for the national championship.

 

 

 

  Fans will be happy this year with a break-even season, just like in the "good old days." A winning season will be a big bonus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Saturday night, I was thirsty, so I went into my bathroom to get a glass of water.

 

 

 

  I picked up my cup and was about to fill it with water, when I looked down and saw two tiny eyes staring up at me from inside the cup. It was a small rain frog.

 

 

 

  I hurried with the cup to the front door and deposited the frog outside where it belonged. I then went to the kitchen, where I washed the cup over and over again.

 

 

 

  Since that night, I can’t get it out of my mind how I came very close to swallowing a frog, or at least getting it in my mouth.

 

 

 

  There aren’t enough "yucks" in the day.