Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2008

The eephus pitch

August 28, 2008

It's been a mild August, to say the least. It almost seems like fall, and that means football; high school, college, NFL, you name it.

I still call baseball America's pastime, but I think most people have come to agree that football is America's game.

Taking nothing away from cross country, soccer, volleyball, baseball, tennis, basketball or any other sport, nowhere else in sport can two men run full speed at each other, have a collision and get up and walk back to their respective teams.

Also, nowhere else do you see a 300 pound lineman out in the flat trying - and succeeding in doing so - to block a 180 pound defensive back who runs a sub-4.5 second 40.

One might argue the same thing happens in rugby, but it's not at full speed because a helmet gives a player the innate security to truly go full throttle.

In certain cases - Louis Green most recently, and previously Kevin Everett and Dennis Byrd - it can be life altering.

But players still choose to play, it's too fun, too fulfilling, and fans still turn out in droves to watch.

High school football, right or wrong, is the most popular high school sport. The town turns out, the lights come on, and athletes who've sat in classrooms all day or week thinking about the game finally get to showcase what they can do on a field that is as close to a battlefield as the U.S. public education system has.

This year, the players on the De Soto high football team have a chance to showcase something the town hasn't seen for some time, team success. And, maybe even more importantly, the kids in the program now have the chance to lay the foundation for developing a reputation as a solid football school. Around 80 kids are out this year, the most coach Brad Scott has had out in the nine years he's been coach.

He calls it the deepest group of talent that he's had out, and depth in high school football is probably more important than how far the quarterback can throw the ball.

At the head of that talent, among others, are Mark England, Jamel Townsend and Dylan Burford.

I watched England, a running back, for almost every track meet of 2008, and he's faster than he's ever been. The track coaches themselves were surprised at the strides he made from beginning to end, where he ran an 11.33 in the 100.

Wideout Townsend excelled in basketball. He led the team in rebounds and averaged a double-double, with 12.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. In track, he was always near the top-three in the long jump and triple jump, and ran a leg of the 1,600 relay that qualified for state.

Burford is another three-sport athlete, logging significant minutes as one of the point guards for the Wildcats and playing center field/pitcher and batting near the top of the order at the plate.

But, all three are as gifted at football as any sport they play. They seemed primed for breakthrough years on the gridiron.

That's not where it ends. Townsend spoke highly of the defense, calling the linebackers the strength, though all three of the previously mentioned athletes will probably see time in the secondary together.

Pair those three with a line that returns all but two players from a year ago, and De Soto could be in for a show this fall.

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