Tidbits - October 14 2019

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TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY


THE BIG ONE!

  As Dolly sings, “Here we go again.”
  It’s time for the Abbeville-Saluda game. Since 2015, this has been one of the top contests in the state, and even though this will be the  sixth meeting between the two teams in the last four years, only one of the games has been played in Saluda.
  The Tigers will return to antiquated Hite Field Friday, sporting an impressive 7-1 record. The Panthers are their usual top ranked and 8-0.
  You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time Saluda beat Abbeville. That final score was 10-7, and Saluda sealed the win on a blocked field goal return for a score in the fourth quarter.
  As Saluda’s luck goes, the Tigers advanced the play-offs and the first round opponent was Abbeville. Even though the Panthers entered the game with a 3-7 record, they beat Saluda at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field, 21-0.
  The next year was Coach Stewart Young’s first season as Saluda’s head coach, and although the Tigers finished the year 2-8,  they gave Abbeville a good game before falling 26-18.
  The next year marked the Tigers’ return to big time football, playing in the Upperstate championship game for the first time since 1973. The Tigers finished with their best record since 1973, 10-3, and two of the losses came at Abbeville. Despite all the school records set by the 2015 squad, Abbeville was clearly the better team.
  I’m not being a homer, however,  when I say I thought Saluda had the better team in 2016 and 2017.
  The two teams were no longer in the same conference, so their only two meetings were again in the Upperstate Championship game at Hite Field.
  In 2016, the Tigers committed two turnovers inside the Abbeville ten-yard-line and lost 21-16. Abbeville romped to the state title the next week. That should have been Saluda’s state title.
  In 2017, Abbeville won 20-15. The next week the Panthers crushed another opponent for their third straight title. That should have been Saluda’s, too.
  Last year, the two teams were placed in the same conference again, and Saluda finally got a chance to play Abbeville at home for the first time since 2014. Abbeville won 31-13, but that was the lowest point total the Panther had scored all season. The Tigers had 17 first downs and gained 334 yard, while Abbeville had 18 first downs and gained 369 yard. The Tigers just couldn’t cash in on scoring opportunities.
  Saluda didn’t get a chance for a rematch the Upperstate Championship last year. Southside Christian eliminated the Tigers in the miserably cold third round game in Simpsonville.
  The Sabres lost to the Panthers, and Abbeville won its fourth straight state title.
  This season, the Panthers beat Southside Christian, 14-10, and Saluda lost to the Sabres, 16-13.
  In other like match-ups, Abbeville beat Silver Bluff, 48-7, while Saluda beat the  Bulldogs, 55-0. Fox Creek’s 52-14 drubbing by Abbeville was followed by a 50-7 drubbing by Saluda. Totalling the scores, Saluda leads 118-114 in points scored, and has held the three opponents to 23 points scored, while Abbeville has allowed 31.
  Again, it will be a matchup of Saluda’s outstanding passing game against Abbeville’s potent rushing attack.
  This game has big play-off implications. You want to finish first or second on the league to earn host spots in the playoffs. Remember, Saluda finished third in the league last year and had to travel for three straight play-off contests.
  Saluda knows Hite Field all too well. The visitors’ side has much too small seating for the best team in 2A football, so you better get there early or you’ll be standing.
  As you know, the field is named for Tommie Hite, who is a member of the Saluda Schools Hall of Fame for coaching the 1941 SHS team to the state championship.
  I would love for Coach Hite’s field to see a win by his former team!
  Tiger players, coaches and fans have waited a long time!

STILL DONE....

  I really thought Carolina was going to beat Florida Saturday, but that was before the monsoon and little league referees came to town.
  Rain alters things, particularly the passing game. Little league referees aren’t used to seeing grown-ups play.
  Last year, Carolina led Florida 31-14, but allowed the Gators to come back in the fourth quarter to win 35-31. I blamed Muschamp and his staff for playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. They took their foot off the gas.
  Guess what, Carolina led Florida again going into the fourth quarter Saturday, and, again, the offense disappeared, and the Gamecocks lost 38-27.
  It would have been nice to beat two Top Ten teams in a row, but it was not meant to be.
  I’m not saying the little league referees cost the Gamecocks the game, but how could they miss a Florida player holding a Gamecock player’s jersey for nearly 50 yards, while the Gator back ran for the touchdown. Oh, and they missed the false start by Florida before the play even began.
  Against  Alabama, a Carolina player barely touched a Tide player on the fake field goal touchdown, but the Gamecocks were flagged for holding and the play came back.
  Florida ran an obvious illegal pick play on another Gator touchdown. No flag again.
  Flags or no calls have cost the Gamecocks 14 points against Alabama and 14 against Florida. Carolina is not good enough to overcome that.
  But, like I said after the Missouri game, I’m done. The Gamecocks aren’t ruining my life anymore. Oh, by the way, did you see where Vandy’s awful team beat Missouri Saturday?
  Suddenly, the Vandy game doesn’t seem like a gimme anymore for the Gamecocks, nor does Tennessee, 24th ranked Appalachian State, Texas A&M nor unbeaten Clemson. Getting six wins to qualify for a bowl will be a challenge.
  Clemson has BC, Wofford, NC State, Wake Forest and Carolina. All but Wake, have three or four wins each. Wake is 6-1.
  The Tigers are getting crucified for their schedule, which isn’t their fault.
  After Clemson dropped out of the top spot due to a narrow win over UNC, then fell again the next week after a victory, someone posted on Facebook, “If Clemson keeps on winning they’ll probably drop out of the Top Ten.”
  Now, that is funny.
  Schedules are set years in advance, and there was no way to predict the ACC would be down this year.
  As of this week, Clemson’s 12 opponents have combined to win 43 games. Carolina’s have won 62. Last week’s ranking showed Carolina had five Top 25 teams on its schedule. Clemson had none.
  There are several sites that show strength of schedule. One site had Carolina ranked with the hardest schedule in the country, while Clemson was ranked 66. A more recent ranking has Carolina second and Clemson 25th. ESPN has Clemson’s remaining strength of schedule ranked 72nd, while Carolina’s is 22nd.
  What this is getting to is Clemson cannot lose. Despite the fact Clemson is the defending National Champion, the selection committee is going to look at who the Tigers beat, and so far the only decent team they’ve beaten is 4-3 Texas A&M.
  Gamecock fans wish we had that problem!

GERALDINE SHAW

  I was saddened at the passing of Geraldine Shaw.
  My second year of coaching the little league Yankees, Geraldine and her husband Rankin’s son Thomas was on my team.
  Thomas turned out to be a phenomenon that year, hitting eight home runs, including four in one game!
  I’ve told this before, but it bears repeating. Grant Scurry hit a grand slam in that game, and nobody noticed since Thomas hit four homers.
  During that season, the Shaws would host the team members and coaches at their house, and we shared good memories for all these 44 years since, with Geraldine and her children, Thomas, Sandra and Sula.
  Little league baseball is more than a game.