From where I stand:
The North County in general and the city of Escondido in particular need to really start getting behind one of their own in the San Diego Sabers hockey team. I suppose that on balance, the attendance and reception that this team has received has been adequate but this is a franchise deserving of much greater and more passionate support.
A Tier II junior squad that plays in the highly competitive Western States Hockey League, the Sabers are an entertaining bunch to watch. Hardworking and hustling, they truly give the fans their money’s worth. And the roster is made up of talented youngsters you can’t help rooting for — like dynamic wingers Mason Kohn, Philip Larsson and Greg Houle, physical forward Kevin Dumont, heart-on-his-sleeve captain Keegan O’Brien and gifted defensemen such as Mattias Eklund, Oskar Johansson and Martin Valicek.
Rebounding from a difficult season last season in which they won but nine games, the Sabers underwent wholesale personnel changes and the results have been promising. Competing in the super competitive Western Division, San Diego currently owns a very respectable 13-13-2 record as it hopes to make a strong push towards the playoffs during the season’s second half.
Operated by involved Owner/General Manager Jim Cavataio and driven by a desire to give back to the community in any way it can, this is a team that merits plenty of love, more so in my opinion than it has yet received.
By all means get out and support high school athletics in any way you can but the Sabers offer another avenue to demonstrate some civic pride. The product is great, the price is absolutely right and very few sports can get the juices flowing quite like a spirited hockey game.
So come on Esco, let’s show these committed kids (ages through 16-20) that we’re behind them. There’s no reason that the Iceoplex shouldn’t be rockin’ each and every time the Sabers step onto the ice. Thus far, the Sabers home record is a modest 6 and 8. I’m convinced that if the local barn had been filled with more animated fans that mark would have been decidedly better.
The Sabers will return to town for a three-game series against the Arizona Hawks beginning on Friday, January 13. There needs to be a great turnout for each and every one of those contests. I’ll be watching to see how you fans respond so don’t let this worthy group of athletes down. And if the support isn’t sufficient or should it lag, you can bet your puck and skates I’m going to call the locals out for not stepping up and backing this worthy team.
Talented football players
Now that high school football has been put to bed for 2016, I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t take one last opportunity to sing the praises of a quarterback-wideout combination that was clearly the best and most dynamic in the entire County, bar none. When it came to pitching and catching and turning their collaborative efforts into something scintillating, nobody could touch Orange Glen’s sharpshooting Blaine Bailey and the electrifying Malachi Russell.
It seemed as if just about every time these two hooked up it was a pyrotechnic show. By year’s end, Russell, who paced the San Diego Section in receiving yards (1,742) and touchdowns (24), had latched onto to an astounding 87 throws from Bailey. These two were the high school equivalent of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice. They possessed a chemistry that was amazing, a simpatico that was sublime. They could read other like a book and the timing that existed between them was precise and honed to a fine edge.
Whenever the accurate Bailey would load up and fire a shot to the elusive and speedy Russell, fans rose to their feet and held their collective breath because Malachi always seemed capable of taking it to the house. Bailey, who finished third in the County with 3,258 passing yards and a school-shattering 38 TD tosses, was continually drilling the ball to spots that hit Russell right on the numbers and in stride. When Bailey and Russell were in a groove and cooking,things flowed to such an extent that defenses were at their mercy and unequipped to even slow them down.
They were a gas to watch because you sensed that another big play was just around the corner. It got to the point where you expected the spectacular out of them and more often not, they delivered. There was only one thing wrong with their partnership, that being that it couldn’t go on for longer because Blaine will graduate in June while Russell will be tasked with the real challenge of trying to approximate his gaudy numbers in 2017 without his prolific pitchman to get him the rock.
Yeah, they were something special. They were a feast for the eyes. They made the game exciting and fun. Two talented kids who took chuckin’ and catchin’ to a whole new level and made the Patriots one of the most dangerous offensive units from here to the border.
Now then, all due credit to SDSU running back Donnel Pumphrey who finished his Aztec career with a staggering 6,405 rushing yards that the NCAA will try to tell you is the FBS all-time high. But don’t you, even for a moment, believe it! If ever a stat was deserving of an asterisk, this is it.
Let me stress that this is in no way meant as any sort of a slam against the terrific and prodigious Pumphrey. Though somewhat slight in stature at 5-9, 180 pounds, Donnel owns an enviable skill set; plays with speed, runs hard, possesses keen vision, is durable, takes care of the ball, keeps his pads low and in addition to all that, he’s one heck of a receiver. Though his size is scaring off some evaluators at the next level, this motivated kid has the all the prerequisites to make it in the NFL. Some projections have him going somewhere between the fourth and six rounds but if that’s the case, then they are going to be an awful lot of teams ruing the day they passed on him.
At the very least, as a change-of-pace back or as someone manning the slot, Pumphrey can make both an impact and a difference. It will truly surprise this reporter if he fails to have a serviceable if not a highly productive career in the pros.
But that aside, that doesn’t alter the reality that the claim that Pumphrey is the record holder is totally bogus. You see, the real top dog should be Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne who gained a whopping total of 7,125 yards on the ground. But as in so many other things, in this regard the NCAA has things catawampus and ass-backward. Do those guys ever get anything right? In their infinite wisdom, the knuckleheads who headquarter themselves in Indianapolis believe that any individual bowl stats prior to 2002 shouldn’t count while those that came after that should. Huh, say what? So the extracurricular numbers that Pumphrey accumulated go up on the board while Dayne’s, which total a significant 728, are completely ignored and neglected. Sure sounds logical, right? Pardon me while I guffaw and laugh out loud.
The NCAA, so accomplished at convoluted explanations, can probably come up with some cockeyed rationale for this utter stupidity but I ain’t listening and I’m sure not buying into this crap. These guys take the word “dunce” to the extreme. It can’t be that hard to just go back and make sure that the all the data in its entirety is tabulated, both regular and postseason. Then, we can truly determine who was the most prolific and deserving of the designation of being the all-time leader.
The truth be told, if the arithmetic was processed as it should be, Pumphrey wouldn’t even be number 2 on the list. That distinction would go to Pitt’s Tony Dorsett, who racked up 6,526 yards if all of his games were included.
This whole sorry circumstance is simply a bad joke and unnecessarily distorts and perverts the numbers. While some people, ignorant of the facts and caught up in the moment, may think of Pumphrey as the being on the top rung, others willing to do their homework know better.This is just another case where the NCAA just can’t get out of its own way, going from dumb to dumber.
Spanos, come clean
The Chargers season is winding down to a seemingly ignominious end. Yes, injuries have played a significant role in their dismal 5-9 record but let’s not kid ourselves. The Bolts have also been undermined by shoddy play, inexperienced personnel, dubious coaching and a disturbing inability to finish. Even stalwart QB Phillip Rivers has noticeably struggled on a few occasions under the weighty burden of attempting to win games on his own.
But once again, the underlying story that has gurgled up throughout the year has been, are the Chargers going to stay put or are the Bolts going to bolt? With the defeat of Proposition C, things have become quite muddled. This was a measure that never stood a chance given the high threshold that needed to be met and the distrust and disdain that many voters still held for owner Dean Spanos.
Now, we’re back to exactly where we were a year ago, with the Chargers not so subtly reprising their threatened move to Los Angeles and once again playing with the emotions of the football fans in America’s Finest City.
Well hell, enough is enough already. This same old tune has gotten more tired than Rip Van Winkle. It’s droned on for too long. I for one have had it up to here with this constant game of jerking people around.
Damn it, Spanos, if the die is cast then just have the guts to say that you’re vacating, bailing out and getting out of Dodge. Stop the charade once and for all. At least, have the decency to be upfront and transparent and quit the obfuscation. Even the little blurb you uttered this past Sunday suggesting you’re leaning towards taking off was crouched in double-speak and profound vagueness.
What’s so sad is that hardly anyone, except for maybe for good old Deano boy, wants to see to Chargers depart. Certainly countless fans would be broken up about such a parting, the city’s image would take a sizeable hit and the NFL itself recognizes that it would be greatly diminished without a presence in San Diego.
Even now, earnest and sincere people are trying to revisit the Mission Valley option and hoping that they can convince Chargers management that this is a doable alternative. But are the Bolts willing to listen or have they already set in motion a scenario that will culminate in the moving vans congregating down in Murphy Canyon and heading north to La La Land?
No one can know for sure and that’s the problem. Instead of keeping the public informed and up to date, we’re mired again in trying to guess what truly lurks in the mind of the evasive Spanos. If San Diego is still in play, couldn’t he or one of his mouthpieces at the very least indicate that all hope is not lost? Uncertainty in this regard simply creates too much unnecessary angst. Just check in with the public in a straightforward and forthright manner.
And let’s get one thing straight. If the Chargers should migrate up the 405, they’ll be doing themselves a great disservice. Yes, the value of the franchise will jump exponentially but other than that, this is a losing proposition. In Smogsville, the Bolts won’t even be second-class citizens. As far as generating interest and positioning themselves in the pecking order of importance when it comes to sports, they’ll be bottom-feeders. The Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Rams, Kings, USC and UCLA will all easily eclipse the Bolts in popularity and visibility. Heck, even the Galaxy might have them beat when it comes to resonating with the public.
So hopefully Spanos will man up and give his answer right here and now. Not next week or even on January 15th which is the deadline that the NFL has imposed on him, but right this minute. It’s hard to believe he hasn’t made up his mind as this is being written. It’s time to finally come clean. The curtain needs to be brought down on this pathetic and interminable game of cat-and-mouse.