Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking back at the surprises of Christmas

It's hard to imagine anybody outside of Bell City predicting a Christmas tournament championship for the Cubs, but their performance at the Show Me Center this week was amazing. The Cubs came into the tournament at 4-4, then picked off three higher seeds - Scott County Central, Charleston and Jackson - for their first-ever title in the tournament. I've asked around, and nobody can remember the last time a team entered the tournament at .500 and left with a championship.

Besides being a huge boost for Bell City, the Cubs' win is a selling point for the tournament itself. It's the first time since 2000 that a small school has won it all. Bell City also becomes the fifth different winner in the past eight years, joining Notre Dame (2005), Jackson (2003, 2004), Charleston (2001, 2002), Advance (2000) and Scott City (1999) as champs.

The tournament will still catch flak for its format of scheduling eight mostly lopsided games on Day 1, even though it's a format that the majority of schools involved continue to vote for each year. But as long as underdogs walk out with a title the way Bell City did this year and the way Notre Dame did last year, a change in the format isn't likely.

Other tournament thoughts:

  • On the western edge of Southeast Missouri, Eminence had a surprise finish by reaching the title game of the holiday tournament at Cabool. Pete McBride's team was seeded eighth, then lost in a close championship game to Crocker and left with a 9-4 record. It's shaping up as a Bell City-Eminence final in the Class 1 District 2 tournament.

  • Besides Eminence, other surprises from the week of tournaments: Puxico was 3-1 and finished third at the Bloomfield tournament; Farmington was 3-1 after losing in the final at Park Hills; Advance was 3-1 and defeated Scott County Central for fifth place at Cape Girardeau; and Richland was seeded 16th and went 3-1 at Bloomfield to win the consolation title.

  • Teams that have to be disappointed with the week that was: Scott Central went 2-2 in the Cape tournament with losses to Bell City and Advance; South Iron lost twice at Park Hills after entering the tournament unbeaten; Sikeston went 1-2 at Dyersburg and is one game above .500; and eighth-seeded Hayti went 0-2 at Bloomfield.
  • Thursday, December 28, 2006

    How's this for a week of high school basketball?

    A big week of high school boys basketball is about to get even bigger when local teams tip off the first round of tournaments Thursday in Poplar Bluff and Dyersburg, Tenn., not to mention Thursday's semifinal showdowns at Bloomfield, quarterfinals at Park Hills and Cabool, and two more round-robin games at Saxony Lutheran. It all takes us closer to a big weekend, where we should know champions of each tournament by the end of the day Saturday.

    Check back throughout the day for updated scores from each tournament. Thanks to a lot of input from a lot of people, The Local Line ticker at the top of the home page has become the only source online with updated scores from all seven tournaments involving Southeast Missouri teams. And keep checking Mark Unterreiner's blog for the latest updates from the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament.

    A few thoughts on the games and tournaments so far:

  • The Poplar Bluff Showdown this week has the makings of one of the most balanced in its 20-year history. Poplar Bluff, which popped into this week's Top 20 poll at No. 20, drew one of the toughest first-round matchups against Union City, Tenn., which comes into Thursday's game at 13-1.

  • Scott County Central's loss to Bell City at the Show Me Center late Wednesday means that former co-workers Ronnie Cookson and Danny Farmer missed a chance to go head-to-head for the first time as boys basketball coaches. Cookson, who is filling in this season for David Heeb, coached the Braves' boys basketball team before retiring in 1995. Danny Farmer coached the girls team there before leaving for Charleston in 1997.

  • A surprisingly tough season for Sikeston hit another rough spot early Thursday with a nine-point loss to Brighton, Tenn., in the first round at the Dyersburg tournament. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in the new Top 20 poll Wednesday, are 5-4 and owe losses to Blytheville, Ark., Charleston, Notre Dame and now Brighton.

  • And speaking of polls, look for a special Sunday edition of the Top 20 this week that will include all the results of this week's tournaments. With some of the games looming between now and Saturday, there could be a big shakeup ahead.
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    North Texas hiring adds twist to the SEMO-McFerren debate

    It made for good message board fodder at the time, but opinions back in March and April ran heavily against the idea of Lennies McFerren replacing fired coach Gary Garner to lead the men's basketball program at Southeast Missouri State.

    The biggest knock against McFerren, whose teams won nine state championships at Charleston and New Madrid County Central, was that he was a high school coach who knew nothing about the college game, nothing about recruiting, nothing about the complexity of NCAA rules. Even though he expressed interest in the job, McFerren never made it to the interview process, and SEMO finally narrowed the field to Rod Barnes, Jay Spoonhour and the school's eventual choice, Scott Edgar.

    Whether you were for McFerren's hiring or against it, this news out of Texas might make you wonder if the people at North Texas know something about hiring coaches that we don't know.

    The Sun Belt Conference school on Tuesday hired a high school coach to lead its Division I football program. The coach: Todd Dodge, who led Southlake Carroll High School to three state championships. He's a former Texas quarterback and has led Carroll to a 77-1 record over the past five seasons. He's also a former USA Today coach of the year and was an offensive coordinator at North Texas in the 1992 season.

    His hiring already has message boards and the media buzzing throughout Texas, some against the idea, others for it. He's expected to bring along his son, a star QB on the Southlake Carroll team, after he graduates in 2008. He also coached Chase Daniel, now the QB at Mizzou.

    The fact that Dodge can win at the high school level is proven. He's 96-11 at Southlake Carroll and has his team poised to win another state championship this month. He's also likely to draw fans with an exciting style of offense.

    But opponents of McFerren's hiring at SEMO didn't doubt his credentials, nor did they question his ability to draw a crowd - they simply argued from the start that a high school coach can't handle a move to the college level. Period. North Texas, a school bigger than Southeast, doesn't agree.

    And that leads us back to the original question: Does North Texas know something about hiring coaches that Southeast doesn't?

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    The area's first poll of the season has a familiar ring

    Our first weekly boys basketball poll of the season speaks volumes about the strength of the SEMO Conference.

    First is Sikeston. Charleston is second. Notre Dame is third. Fourth is Jackson.

    They're the top four seeds in this week's SEMO Conference Tournament and also Nos. 1-4 in our first Top 20 poll of the season. The rankings list the region's top 20 boys basketball teams and is down the right side of our home page.

    The rankings also show the strength of our region's smaller schools this season. Besides traditional powerhouse programs Charleston and Scott County Central, small schools -- including Clarkton, South Iron, Bell City, Puxico and Neelyville -- rank among the area's top 20, ahead of several of the biggest schools in Southeast Missouri.

    After you look at the poll, you'll have your own opinions. Who got left out? Who's overrated? Your input, along with the opinions of other local basketball enthusiasts, coaches and athletes, is taken into consideration each week before we come up with our top 20, so don't hold back. Click on our feedback page and send your thoughts, or e-mail me at

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Former Heisman winner joins OVC sidelines

    When Southeast goes to Samford next season, the Redhawks will face a Heisman Trophy winner. Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman in 1971, took the job as Samford football coach late Thursday. He replaced Bill Gray, who was fired after the team went 3-8 this season. One of those defeats was a 19-14 loss Sept. 30 at Southeast.

    Sullivan most recently was an assistant coach at Alabama-Birmingham. He was head coach at TCU from 1992-97 and has been at UAB since 1999.

    He could very well be the coach who guides Samford into a new league. The school is considering a plan to leave the Ohio Valley Conference and join the Southern Conference.

    Monday, November 27, 2006

    Memphis takes a pass on Bell City's Bogan

    It's looking less likely that Bell City senior Will Bogan, who committed to the University of Memphis in February, will play for the Tigers.

    First, the talk around Memphis heading into November was that the Tigers had lost interest because Bogan hadn't developed over the summer as much as Memphis coach John Calipari expected. Then on signing day, the Tigers signed four players, including two - Philadelphia brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris - who might instead attend prep school next season.

    Then last week, sophomore Kareem Cooper returned to the team, ending speculation that he might leave and free up a scholarship after he was suspended for breaking team rules.

    Calipari now has all 13 scholarships filled for next season and says his 2007-'08 team is set - assuming, of course, that none of the Tigers bolt for the NBA after this season.

  • Sikeston High School grad Blake DeWitt helped North Shore defeat Waikiki 5-1 for the championship of the Hawaii Winter Baseball League last week. DeWitt, who ended the summer schedule with the Los Angeles Dodgers' Double-A team in Jacksonville, Fla., was among a long list of MLB players sent to the offseason developmental league; he hit .216 with 4 RBI and a home run in 26 games.

  • Sunday, November 26, 2006

    The new OVC: Is Samford already jumping ship?

    Samford found out as an independent school in the late 1990s that it wasn't welcome in the Southern Conference. But now it appears the league has changed its tune and is in talks with the Ohio Valley Conference member to jump ship.

    Southern Conference officials told the Birmingham News this week that the league is moving ahead with plans to expand, and indications are that Samford might figure heavily into its future. The idea became even more attractive when Tennessee-Chattanooga chose to stick with the Southern Conference despite interest from the OVC, so that gives Samford - an Alabama school - a potential rivalry game closer to home. The league's other members are College of Charleston, The Citadel, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, UNC-Greensboro, Western Carolina and Wofford.

    The OVC hasn't said much, other than it hopes Samford stays on board.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    The underside of the B.J. Smith saga

    On a weekend when its basketball teams plays Arkansas, its women's soccer team goes to the NCAA Tournament, and its football team plays an OVC rival, Southeast hopes nobody notices that its women's basketball coach just got taken to the woodshed.

    Word leaked out quietly Thursday about B.J. Smith's suspension, or in university PR lingo, "personal leave." The news ranks so far down on the school's sports web site that the leading scorer for this weekend's opponent, Tulsa, is described in greater detail than Smith's absence and the ensuing coaching change.

    There's already buzz that Smith, who rankled the Southeast status quo with a list of NCAA violations less than five years into his job, might not be back. The fact that Smith told the Southeast Missourian that he's staying quiet on the advice of his attorney puts the issue right up there between trouble and turmoil.

    But given Southeast's situation, nothing will come as a surprise. Athletic director Don Kaverman expects to hear soon from the NCAA over a list of violations uncovered first through an outside firm this year. The group found problems in seven categories, and the NCAA set out on its own investigation shortly after. The NCAA came up with a similar list of problems in the men's basketball program less than 10 years ago -- and their report came out shortly after Southeast showed men's coach Ron Shumate the door. Coincidentally, the NCAA report on the women's program is expected any day now.

    We should know soon if Smith's departure -- temporary or longterm -- is a pre-emptive move in response to the incoming NCAA report. The early speculation is focused on Smith's supervision of a class called "Coaching Basketball," which students say Smith missed more often than he attended. Another instructor took over the class on Thursday, the same day John Ishee became interim head coach of the basketball team.

    Southeast has replaced its football coach and men's basketball coach both in the past year. Both processes had the appearance of seamless, smooth transitions that have, so far, appeared to make both programs better. This time, if Smith's exit really is more than just a temporary leave, Southeast won't walk away from it without a black eye. And that's the bad news that Southeast can't ignore.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    South Iron starts basketball season on top

    South Iron is the top seed for the area's first boys basketball event of the season, the Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament. Pairings were determined by coaches Wednesday night.

    The Panthers open the tournament schedule Monday, Nov. 20 against No. 8 Bismarck. The day's other games are No. 3 West County vs. No. 6 Clearwater and No. 2 Park Hills Central vs. No. 7 Arcadia Valley. Fourth-seeded Ellington and fifth-seeded Lesterville play Wednesday.

    South Iron won the tournament a year ago.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Being nice and being realistic aren't always the same

    It hasn't happened in a while, but I think I've been accused of being mean.

    One of the "Gimme Five" items on our home page this week riled up fans who said I was being insensitive and unprofessional. The offense: One line that questions whether there might be a change among the football coaching staff at Sikeston High School next season.

    One of the anonymous comments that showed up in my e-mail today:

    "Being a high school coach is a tough job in today's society. Sikeston's quarterback broke his leg and their best running back had to be released ... Dealing with a lot of adversity is a tough job but the coaches make no excuses. It would be very professional of you to remove your comment on the front page."

    I don't envy coaches. It used to be bad enough that the hours were horrific and the pay was lousy. Now a coach has to worry whether the whacko dad of a third-string tailback might whip out a pistol over his kid's lack of playing time. It's a wonder anybody even wants to be a coach.

    But the pitfalls of the job will never qualify any coach for a free pass. A coach, like any other educator, is hired to achieve a defined set of standards, no matter how real or irrational they might seem, regardless of whether he's coaching Penn State football or summer league softball. And as high school sports become even more exposed and scrutinized through live ESPN coverage, TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and online message boards, a coach's job won't get easier.

    If Sikeston or any other local high school has started to seriously talk about a coaching change, nobody's saying it out loud. Maybe they won't discuss it at all this year. Maybe it's pure speculation. But you can bet it's been the topic of conversation among fans, parents and students at several local schools, not just one.

    And unfortunately, all of our conversations won't be nice. But they also don't have to be.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Meet the SEMO Hall of Fame members Saturday

    The 2006 members of the Southeast Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame will be introduced before the start of SEMO's home football game Saturday against Tennessee-Martin. The new class includes Royal Tibe, football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis, 1919-1923; Charlie Brune, lifetime booster; John Schwepker, track & field, 1984-1988; Gray C. Harris, women's basketball, 1992-1996; and the 1976 baseball team.

    The teams play at 6 p.m. at Houck Stadium.

    Willie Ponder in a Rams uniform?

    The Post-Dispatch reports that Willie Ponder, cut last week by the Seahawks, was in St. Louis to talk about a spot on the Rams' roster, but he left without a firm deal. Ponder was a big part of Southeast's best teams under coach Tim Billings, then played for the Giants for three seasons. He was cut last week by the Seahawks to make room for a backup quarterback.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    How low can the ratings go? Fox-TV is finding out

    America just doesn't seem to care much about a Cardinals-Tigers World Series.

    This year's series is plummeting toward the lowest TV ratings in history. Through three games (and before Thursday's matchup) between the Tigers and Cardinals, the Fox network drew just 9.9 percent of the 111.4 million U.S. households with televisions, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. That's 7 percent below last year's 10.6 rating through three games, which featured the White Sox and Astros.

    Last year's final World Series rating was 11.1, the lowest in history -- although it looks like the Cards and Tigers will lower that number.

    If it's any consolation to MLB, they can look at NASCAR, where the ratings for the entire season have been down about 12 percent -- 29 of this year's 32 races so far have drawn worse ratings than the previous year.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Whiteside, Haines await news on their baseball fate

    Charleston High grad Matt Whiteside is among a long list of minor league free agents awaiting new deals. His assessment from, a blog site for the Rangers team that drafted him in the 25th round in 1990:

    "Matt Whiteside -- 39 years old, and still hanging in there, years after sucking in the Ranger pen. Whiteside was on the Rangers at the same time as Nolan Ryan, John Cangelosi, Dickie Thon, and Monty Farris. And he's still around ... "

    Whiteside spent the past season with the Pirates' Triple-A team in Indianapolis. He was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

    Also on the free agent list: Tally Haines, a Cape Girardeau Central and Southeast grad who spent the past season with the Reading Phillies. He was 5-2 with a 3.67 ERA.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    District football surprises? Count on 'em

    Farmington is still around. So is Crystal City. Same for Dexter and Salem.

    Now we find out if those same teams can keep the momentum that's carried them through the season and make it last for three more weeks and vault into the playoffs.

    Cape Girardeau Central and Poplar Bluff open the three-week district football schedule Thursday in a Class 4, District 1 race that looks like a toss-up. Central, Poplar Bluff and West Plains all are 2-5, and Sikeston is 1-6. Prediction: Central.

    A look at the other Southeast Missouri districts and what to expect:

  • CLASS 1 DISTRICT 1: Valle is 4-3 and easily the team to beat in Class 1 District 1. Brentwood, Louisiana and Van Far are a combined 2-18. Prediction: Valle.

  • CLASS 1 DISTRICT 2: St. Vincent stands the best chance to give Hayti a run for the title, but don't count on it. Hayti has quickness, confidence and a 5-2 record. Prediction: Hayti.

  • CLASS 2 DISTRICT 1: Caruthersville and Charleston were expected to make it a three-way shootout, but both collapsed with a midseason freefall just as East Prairie rallied after a miserable start. Malden has looked strong all season. Prediction: Malden.

  • CLASS 2 DISTRICT 2: Scott City mounted a midseason run to come in at 4-3, but Crystal City is on a roll. The momentum continues. Prediction: Crystal City.

  • CLASS 2 DISTRICT 3: Maplewood-Richmond Heights (4-3) and Cuba (3-3) will decide the title. Herculaneum and Principia will have to hope be be spoilers, but don't count on it. Prediction: Maplewood-Richmond Heights.

  • CLASS 3 DISTRICT 1: Dexter and New Madrid County Central meet in Week 10 to decide who advances. NMCC struggled with Charleston. Dexter didn't. Prediction: Dexter.

  • CLASS 3 DISTRICT 2: Potosi lost for the first time in Week 6, and now the Trojans contend with one of the region's toughest districts. Look for Potosi and Ste. Genevieve to play for the title and hope that Fredericktown and Park Hills Central don't sneak into the mix. Prediction: Potosi.

  • CLASS 3 DISTRICT 9: Salem is 6-1 and Ava 5-2. The conference rivals will play for a league title and district title all at the same time. Prediction: Salem.

  • CLASS 4 DISTRICT 2: Farmington and Festus bring 6-1 records into the district that includes North County (3-3) and DeSoto (0-7). Farmington has been No. 1 in our PowerPoll most of the season, but Festus knocked off unbeaten Potosi a week ago. And North County is notoriously strong at season's end. Prediction: Farmington.

  • CLASS 4 DISTRICT 9: Hillsboro (2-5) enters with momentum from a pair of recent wins, but the Hawks can't counter unbeaten Union. Prediction: Union.

  • CLASS 5 DISTRICT 1: Jackson, Parkway West or Seckman? All three are 5-2, so take your pick. Eureka was 4-0 and fell from the mix after three consecutive losses. Prediction: Seckman.
  • Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Even Arkansas is catching flak over this

    You can't please everybody. Arkansas trumps No. 2 Auburn on the road one week, breaks into the Top 25, then relaxes for a 63-7 breather seven days later against Southeast Missouri State. And already the critics are piling on, claiming the Hogs should be ashamed of themselves for allowing a Division I-AA creampuff onto the schedule halfway through the season.

    For starters, Arkansas athletics director Frank Broyles has steadfastly refused to schedule games against in-state teams Arkansas State and Central Arkansas. It's baffling, because Arkansas vs. Arkansas State is a guaranteed rivalry, and even Central Arkansas -- a Division I-AA school, same as SEMO -- would at least generate a modest bump in local interest and ticket sales.

    Instead, Arkansas looked seven hours north and picked out (or picked on) SEMO to the tune of $300,000 -- quite a bargain, it turns out, since Arkansas State will pocket roughly $700,000 when it goes to Auburn on Saturday.

    But the Arkansas faithful and in-state media are piling on the Hogs after Saturday's flop. SEMO didn’t put up as much fight as the Razorbacks' second team would have, one columnist wrote Sunday.

    Interesting that the last time Arkansas scored 63 points was in a 63-14 win over New Mexico State in 2004. The Aggies' coach at the time: current SEMO coach Tony Samuel, who was fired at the end of that season.

  • Also on the local front, a stat from the SEMO-Arkansas game: New Madrid County Central's Desmond Sims was credited with four tackles for Arkansas. He's the only Missouri player on the Hogs' roster.

  • From Jackson grad and Kansas senior guard Travis Dambach on Friday: "There's not one key point that's caused those losses," he said, referring to three losses determined by a touchdown or less in the previous four weeks. "That's what makes it so frustrating. It's not like you can just go out and fix one or two things." The Jayhawks' response Saturday: a 42-32 loss to Oklahoma State.

  • Kansas receiver Brian Murph (NMCC) continued playing after injuring his hand in Saturday's loss. No word on the extent of the injury.
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    A big weekend for a local talent

    Daron Clayton of Sikeston cut his teeth on dirt-track racing at local tracks in Benton and Farmington, and now he's making a lot of noise on a national level -- especially after the weekend.

    Clayton dominated one of sprint-car racing's most recognized events, the 36th annual Tony Hulman Classic in Terre Haute, Ind., over the weekend. About 24 hours earlier, he won the opening-night events, too, although by a closer margin.

    A Terre Haute Tribune-Star reporter wrote this week that Clayton's effort Saturday was "flawless" and heaped praise on the 22-year-old as one of sprint racing's fast-rising stars.

    From the Tribune Star story:

    A virtual unknown to casual USAC followers, the 22-year-old Clayton is just one of a select group of talented newcomers to the open-wheel scene, leaving their mark in the sprinters.

    It was his Saturday night win that placed him in the record books as a prestigous Hulman Classic victor but it was his drive 24 hours earlier that had the sizable and apreciative fan turnout buzzing.

    His battle with sprint car racing’s hottest driver —- Jon Stanbrough -— during Friday's 20-lap feature generated some the finest if not best racing of the season on the half-mile dirt oval.

    Another Sikeston racer, Hunter Scheurenberg, had a strong weekend in the works after winning his heat race for the event. He finished 13th in the Hulman Classic behind Clayton.

    Would you take him on in a pick-up game?

    A Charlotte Observer reporter sat down with the Charlotte Bobcats' Sean May, a former UNC Tar Heel and No. 13 pick in the 2005 draft. The topic, among others: pick-up games around Chapel Hill and taking on Poplar Bluff grad Tyler Hansbrough:

    How hard do you think it is to get up a pick-up game in Chapel Hill? May and Williams played with former Tar Heels Jerry Stackhouse of the Dallas Mavericks, Brendan Haywood of the Washington Wizards, David Noel from the 2005 team and current Tar Heels Reyshawn Terry and Tyler Hansbrough.

    Who was tougher to go against, Stackhouse or Hansbrough?

    "Um," says May.

    Come on.

    "Hansbrough," says May. "Stackhouse is old and he's just trying to run up and down and stay in shape. But Tyler always makes it personal. He loves playing against (the pros), and that's what you love about him. He's intense even when we're having a shooting drill. That's why he's going to be a special talent."

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    A former NMCC star scores big for Kansas

    Kansas senior Brian Murph of New Madrid County Central ran in a game-tying touchdown that helped Kansas send No. 21 Nebraska into overtime Saturday in a Big 12 showdown.

    The Jayhawks tied the game with 46 seconds left in regulation when Adam Barmann found Murph for a TD from the Nebraska 26. Murph finished with a team-high 129 yards on eight catches, both season-highs. His TD reception was the fourth of his career, and his 129 yards receiving was the most by any Kansas player since Mark Simmons had 135 receiving yards against Texas in 2004.

    Kansas lost 39-32 in OT.

  • Tennessee-Martin's rodeo team opened its season Saturday with Southeast Missouri names leading the list.

    Ty Atchison (Jackson High School) won in saddle bronc and was fourth in steer wrestling as part of UTM's winning total at the Missouri Valley College event in Marshall. Troy was second and MVC third overall; UTM also won the women's event, where Kasey Burchett (Zalma) was fifth in barrel racing. Brent Menz (Delta) added points on the UTM men's side.

  • Murray State sophomore Joe Shane (Poplar Bluff) fired a 547 in smallbore and a 520 in air rifle for an aggregate of 1067 to help the Racers win the season-opening rifle competition at Tennessee-Martin.

  • Mitch Craft (Cape Girardeau Central) saw limited action of the season in Southern Mississippi's win Tuesday at Central Florida. It was his first time on the field this season after an early two-game suspension.
  • Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Something to frame if you're a UNC fan

    • Two popular college basketball magazines are on newsstands with Poplar Bluff's Tyler Hansbrough on the cover.

      Hansbrough, a sophomore at North Carolina, is on the cover of the Lindy's and Athlon preseason magazines, although he's solo on Athlon's ACC regional cover. Hansbrough is also on Athlon's the pre-season All-America squad and is the only Tar Heel on the ACC's first team.

      According to, Lindy's rates the Carolina backcourt as the nation's best and picks the Tar Heel frontcourt behind top-ranked Florida. Hansbrough is the top power forward, while Terry was listed as the 10th-best small forward.

      Both magazines pick UNC to reach the Final Four. Lindy's picks Carolina, Florida, Kansas and Ohio State. Athlon picks Florida, Alabama and Kansas to reach the semifinals in Atlanta, with Carolina winning the title.

    • Mizzou is in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the second week of the 2004 season. The Tigers are No. 25. What's even more interesting is to see who's not in the Top 25: Miami, Michigan State, UCLA, Alabama and Penn State. MU plays Colorado on Saturday.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts head-to-head

    A USA Today photographer was in Durham, N.C., last week to shoot a series of photos of UNC sophomore forward Tyler Hansbrough (Poplar Bluff) and Duke sophomore forward Josh McRoberts. has a 12-photo gallery from the photo shoot on its web site.

    Hansbrough, last year's ACC Freshman of the Year, skipped a chance to enter the NBA Draft this summer and said he wanted another chance to win a national championship. The fact that Hansbrough will play just 2 hours from Poplar Bluff this season might have been a factor, too -- the Tar Heels play Dec. 22 at University of St. Louis in a game scheduled to air on ESPNU.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Craft sits out Southern Miss win

    A couple of weekend highlights involving familiar Southeast Missouri high school players:

    Former Cape Girardeau Central quarterback Mitch Craft was expected to split time on the field at middle linebacker Saturday in Southern Mississippi's win over North Carolina State, but the chance never came.

    Craft, who was suspended for the first two games of the season, never played Saturday once junior starter Jerome Lyons got on a roll and made the most of his first career start. Lyons led the team with seven tackles. Lyons had never played prior to last week's 45-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana.

    "When you play that good, you don't come out of the game," USM defensive coordinator Jay Hopson said of Lyons.

    Coach Jeff Bower gave Lyons a clear vote of confidence Monday, which mean Craft's chance of making an impression this week is probably up in the air.

    Bower on Lyons: "He's just come on and has gotten better. He's a smart player and is instinctive. I think he is a physical player. He played well." .....

    Greg Klund had nine tackles in Lindenwood's 27-17 loss Saturday to Georgetown (Ky.). Klund is a senior defensive back from Cape Girardeau Central. Teammate Billy Ray Uren, a sophomore from Jackson, had four tackles; Chris Kline, a sophomore from St. Vincent, had one.

    The three are part of a strong local group that includes sophomore Kyle Kline of St. Vincent, sophomores Adam Cecil and Plessie Ellitt of Caruthersville, and freshman Stuart Sago of Farmington.

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    What's new, and what's still to come

    There's good news if you've clicked around and found broken links: They're gradually going away.

    Our individual high school pages continue to be updated with year-by-year information, and five more were updated extensively today. Boys basketball records should be updated for every team in Southeast Missouri by at least the start of basketball season, and football records already are online for every SEMO Conference team. Al Jackson of Hayti devoted endless hours to researching local basketball teams and uncovered years and years worth of information, which is now finding its way to the Internet for the first time.

    There's also good news about our blogs and our photo gallery: The blog roster is likely to grow in the next month or so, and there are plans in the works for local photographers to showcase their photos in the gallery (although you're still invited to post your own snapshots and share your sports achievements with the rest of the online world).

    As always, don't hold back with your suggestions. Or ideas. Or even complaints. They're always welcome.

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    Hometown athletes in college ... who are they?

    Do you know of a local high school athlete who now competes in college? Or maybe the minors or even a pro league? We're setting out to compile the most complete list of college athletes with ties to any of Southeast Missouri's 23 counties, whether it's Jefferson County to the north or Pemiscot and Dunklin at our southern edge.

    We have several names already, but there are dozens more who represent us well, whether it's in baseball, basketball, soccer, track or a variety of other sports. Pass along the names of your hometown athletes now in college either with a reply here or an e-mail at

    And look for the list to appear on our home page soon.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Farmington (might) have a new basketball coach

    It looks as though Farmington High School has its third different boys basketball coach of the 2006 calendar year. This item from the B104 FM web site Monday:

    "Amid a cloud of uncertainty, has learned that Farmington has reached a tentative agreement with Joe Arnold to become the new boys basketball coach. Arnold was an assistant basketball coach last year and is also the head coach of the Farmington boys golf team. The coaching vacancy opened back in April when Tim Banger was fired after four years at the helm. Ed Belva was selected to replace him, but resigned after the first few weeks of the school year. The agreement with Arnold is pending board approval. The next Farmington school board meeting is Sept. 19."

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Two weeks in, and it's a battle at the top

    For all practical purposes, we might as well be in the high school football preaseason right now. Under the Missouri state playoff format adopted almost two decades ago, Weeks 1-7 offer little more than message board material and roster shuffling. As playoff games, Weeks 8-10 are the ones that make or break a season.

    But there's a field of contenders quickly pulling away from the rest of the pack, and Friday night was another step toward weeding out the field and giving a peek at which teams are likely to be the noisemakers when Week 8 comes along.

    Among Southeast Missouri's 32 teams, 10 are unbeaten. Some are surprises, some not.

    No surprise: North County, Caruthersville, Crystal City, Farmington, Charleston and Potosi are 2-0. They were all among the top 15 in our preseason PowerPoll and, for the most part, have shown only a few blemishes through two weeks of wins.

    But it's the undefeated surprise teams that could turn into the most-watched programs over the next five weeks leading into the playoffs.

    For starters, Festus was among the top-tier preseason teams but faced a true wildcard Friday against Dexter. The outcome: Festus won 13-10 and jumped to 2-0.

    New Madrid County Central was a heavy favorite in Week 1 against St. Pius X, but the Eagles faced bigger odds against Cape Girardeau Central. Outcome: NMCC won 32-30 and withstood a rally to be 2-0.

    Malden shoved past Scott City in a Week 1 warmup, but Hayti was an early season SEMO South opponent that had us all dishing out predictions. But few of us predicted the onesided outcome: Malden 32, Hayti 14.

    And the biggest surprise of all? Try Perryville, which added to Pacific's woeful losing streak in Week 1, then swarmed MAFC opponent DeSoto 24-6 on Friday. The upstart Pirates still face a handful of hurdles, but Friday's win could be a big boost for a team that, until this season, hadn't won since 2004.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    What we learned from Week 1

    Observations from opening weekend:

    • With a 34-game string of losses, Chaffee was among the what-ifs of Week 1, but the Red Devils were among the surprises of the night: surprising not because of the win, but because of the ease of it. Chaffee dominated Grandview and, based on that alone, has the second-best record in the SEMO South behind Malden and ahead of Portageville and Scott City. This is a team that not only shown it can win, but that it could be a player in the league.
    • Sikeston was expected to be improved after last season's letdown, but its opening-night loss to Caruthersville leaves lingering doubts. Sure, we knew Caruthersville had weapons, but for the Tigers to gang up on what has consistently been among the area's top programs was almost startling. And it doesn't bode well for a team facing what might be the region's toughest schedule -- its next four opponents are ranked in the top 10 on the PowerPoll. Ouch.
    • And speaking of Caruthersville impressions: Wow. Its matchup Sept. 15 against Cardinal Ritter and Sept. 22 against Hayti suddenly rank among must-see games through the early part of the schedule.
    • One week into the season, East Prairie already faces a crossroads: Regroup for Corning, Ark., on Friday, or settle into a frustrating path for Weeks 2-10. The Eagles returned talent and skill Friday against Hayti and watched it fizzle in what was expected to be an exciting rematch of last year's shootout. As a reward, East Prairie on Friday faces a Corning team coming off a 48-7 win over Rector, Ark.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    You've found, so now what?

    You're reading this, which means two things: You found Southeast Missouri's first all-sports web resource, first of all, and then you were intrigued enough by what you saw to look around a while. For that, we're grateful.

    As you continue to explore the site, there are a few things you will notice.

    Yes, there are areas of the site that have not been completed, so you might see a few blank spots or a few irritating "coming soon" lines. Be patient, and check back, because information is added to our site every day. Much of the high school year-by-year information is still to come, photo galleries will be significantly expanded over the next few weeks, and profiles of local athletes and sports personalities will appear on the site soon.

    As you find areas of that you like and don't like, let us know. E-mail me at, or click on the Feedback page and fill out the comment form with your thoughts and suggestions.

    Our No. 1 goal, of course, is for to be the most objective and balanced sports resource in our 23-county region. We hope you'll join us as we continue to grow.

    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    As racing fails, who locally will survive?

    The fate of Auto Tire & Parts Racepark -- and maybe other local racetracks -- has taken another punch to the gut now that one more track in the region has fallen to economics.

    Mount Vernon Speedway in Southern Illinois, a quarter-mile track that has been a big draw over the years for Southeast Missouri fans and racers, will hold just two more events in September and then shut down earlier than planned, its owner said this week. He promised that the track will reopen in 2008 while hinting that he'd be happier to lease or sell the place.

    That's a bad sign for local fans waiting for the chains to come off ATPR in Scott County. The track has been quiet since the middle of 2004 when owners took the promoter to court over a lease dispute. Its asking price -- which at one time was in the $1 million range -- has plummeted to about half that amount, still a hefty check considering the worsening fate of other tracks in the region.

    Promoters elsewhere are sure to take note. Local crowds at tracks in Poplar Bluff, Malden and Farmington are trickling in at best, barely covering the cost of insurance, payouts and light bills. Tracks in metro St. Louis are dealing with smaller crowds this year, too, even after a competitor in Godfrey, Ill., sold to developers and one in Brownstown, Ill., shut down over the summer. Now add Mount Vernon Speedway to the list.

    Is the economy that bad? Has grassroots racing become that much of a bust?

    No, and maybe. The rise in gas prices might keep casual customers from driving to their nearby track, but they're also not staying home. Gas consumption in the United States is mostly unchanged since prices began to spike, meaning that the same customers that once frequented a local track are now going elsewhere. To the mall. To a restaurant. To Wal-Mart. Someplace. They're still spending money.

    As for the second question: Grassroots racing has die-hard fans, so it's not a bust ... yet. Good marketing and promotion keeps tracks like I-55 Speedway near Pevely afloat and thriving. The tried-and-true plan of opening the doors and expecting customers at ANY business is over. Show me a track that shut down early, and I'll show you a track that didn't know how to appeal to its fans.

    The diehard fans are out there, and the potential customers are waiting for the invitation. Now it's up to the tracks to reach out to them.