As I’m writing this, I’m happy to report that the sun did come up Saturday morning after Kilgore’s loss to Texas High – it was an orange sun, like T-High’s uniforms, but I was glad to see it.

The Bulldogs’ loss to the Tigers Friday night wasn’t fun viewing, but it’s a loss that coach Mike Wood and his staff can latch onto, a teachable loss, one that wouldn’t hurt as much as, say, a loss in district play to Henderson or Van. And yeah, “teachable loss” does sound like a term Nick Saban would use. But it’s accurate.

Should we be thankful for the loss? Heck no. I’ve never lost and got happy about it. I’m not high-fiving anyone if Kilgore loses, and I wouldn’t expect any of you to be. But there’s nothing that says you have to win every single one of your games in a season to claim a district championship, or even a playoff spot. It’s about getting better, week by week.

That Texas High football team is a good one. Kilgore has a good one, too. We’ll see how the Bulldogs respond this Friday night in Pittsburg, and – here it comes – we’d love to win that one, but it’s non-district, too. The very IDEA of playing non-district games is to tweak things, to try things, to get ready for the district schedule, because that’s where your money is made, so to speak: that’s where it’s decided who gets the playoff spots in a district, and who’s sitting at home the second weekend in November.

In football, especially with a loss like that, you’ve got to have a short memory. Chew on it a little bit, think about what you could’ve done better, make the necessary adjustments or calculations to change it, learn from it, and don’t let it happen again. If you’re going to make mistakes from that point, make different ones, and obviously eliminate as many as possible. That’s what you do over the course of a season.

OK, I’ve got to say it: There is this one thing.  Y’all weren’t exactly the Seattle Seahawks crowd on Friday night.

The crowd wasn’t playing, but that was the most quiet homecoming crowd I’ve ever heard in almost two decades of watching Kilgore football. I know things weren’t playing out on the field in a way that Kilgore would’ve liked, but talk about sitting on our hands – I kind of thought I went to a football game and a librarian convention started up.

Y’all need to let people hear you. Anyone who’s ever played team sports will tell you there’s a REASON it’s called “home field advantage.” R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium needs to be a house of horrors for opposing teams, not one they can hear every signal that’s called at the line of scrimmage.

By the way, I’m not saying y’all are never loud, just that we weren’t Friday night. When Chapel Hill gets here Oct. 11, let’s do like Emeril and kick it up a notch, what say?

Chapel Hill isn’t your big brother’s Chapel Hill. They had over 700 yards of total offense against Bullard on Friday night. (I know, Bullard, but still)

Bad calls or “bad calls”: Well, it’s hard to gloss over this.

I was able to watch and re-watch Texas High’s fourth-and-goal play at Kilgore’s 1-yard-line in the fourth quarter, and with the benefit of replay, it seems so clear that Rian Cellers mishandled the ball and seemed to scoot with it into the end zone.

I have no idea how officials didn’t see it.

But there are literally missed calls in every game, in every high school sport. There are missed calls, or at the very least, not completely correct calls, in every NFL game, and those officials are supposed to be at the highest level.

It’s frustrating, to be sure, and I guess the only thing I could say about it to allow us to breathe a sigh of relief is at least Kilgore-Texas High was a non-district game and it didn’t affect the outcome of a game with playoff implications.

I’m sure coaches would say, “Well, if we hadn’t let them get to the 1-yard-line to begin with, we wouldn’t have had to worry about it,” and I’m sure there’s truth to that, too.

In their defense, I won’t say I would never officiate a game, but someone would have to probably hand me a check with several numbers on it to get me to agree to do so. Officiating is a pressure job, one that I wouldn’t trade mine for.

A few run-ins (not mine) with football officials: I was covering a game in Mississippi once, and after a seemingly-awful call against the home team, a press box music operator made the choice to play “Three Blind Mice” over the stadium sound-system. That choice didn’t go over well with the officials: they ejected the guy.

In another game, also in Mississippi, a flag was thrown on the home team, and the stadium announcer said – on a live mic – “Hey, come on, ref, let them play!”

The referee turned to the press box, pointed to it, and then made a baseball-like thumb signal, like “you’re out.” Now, I’m sitting in the press box beside the announcer, and we didn’t think just a lot about it, but about five minutes later, one of the game officials burst into the press box.

“Sir!,” he said. We turned around, and the guy continued. “The referee says for me to tell you, you need to leave the press box immediately.”

He kicked out the announcer!

One more. Covered a Mississippi State University SEC game in 1997, ’98, and in every college press box and NFL press box, they make the announcement that it is unprofessional to cheer one team or another: you’re there to work.

The sports editor of a pretty large daily paper was openly cheering for Mississippi State in the game, and getting visibly upset when calls went against the Bulldogs.

At one point, he threw his pen, which ricocheted off the press box glass and back behind him, almost hitting one of the press box attendants.

About two minutes later, MSU security approached him at his seat.

“Sir, you’ve been asked to vacate the press box,” one of the security guys said.

The sports editor looked up, without standing, incredulously. “What?,” he asked.

The security guard repeated it, and the editor collected his stuff. He was escorted to the elevator and out into the crowd somewhere, where I’m sure he had to call his paper’s newsroom and tell him the embarrassing moment.

Pays to be in the confines of your home when you criticize officials, I guess.

New ‘Dogs: Don’t get me wrong by this. We’ve got some seasoned “veterans,” as much as you can be a veteran in high school sports, that are back: running backs Kennieth Lacy and Trey Epps, center Brayden Johnson, defensive linemen Deundre Blanton and Kaden Kenney, wide receiver/ defensive back Donovan Adkins, and so on.

But these first-year-on-varsity Bulldogs have been impressive. Quarterback Dalton McElyea, receiver Brian Brown, kicker Chris Baldazo and punter Jose Jaime, offensive lineman Devin Coleman, defensive end Alex Chavez, safety Jayce McFarland, and, as my friend Gordon Solie used to say, a host of others.

McElyea is giving new meaning to the term “quick learner.” He’s completed 49-of-81 passes for 554 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception, and plays like he’s been on varsity for four years. Baldazo and Jaime have handled the kicking game well, and Coleman has been part of a an offensive line that has already helped the Ragin’ Red get 1,429 yards through four games, about 357 yards a game.

Chavez is part of a good KHS defensive front, and McFarland is one player you don’t want to see coming if you’re on the other team, and have the football. In addition to developing a reputation as a hard-hitter, he’s got a knack for always being at the ball – he had a game-sealing interception in Kilgore’s season opener at Nacogdoches.

How ‘bout them Cardinals?: A play on the old Jimmy Johnson “How ‘bout them Cowboys?!” thing, but have you noticed what’s happening out at Liberty City lately?

Before the season started, coach Rex Sharp told me how the Cardinals lost very few to graduation, how something like 19 or 20 starters were back. I drove that home in our early stories, and if you’ve been reading Jeremy Newlin’s accounts of their games on, you know Sabine is 4-0 going into their open date next Friday night.

Yes, I know who the four are: Carlisle, Shelbyville, Harleton and Elkhart. But did you know the combined record of those four is 11-5, and remember that four of those losses were dealt out by Sabine?

The Cardinals are whipping folks, and averaging 41 points a game. They’ve only allowed 36 points all season so far, and the most they’ve allowed in a game is 14.

Sabine gets the next week off, then goes to Tatum Oct. 4. Their District 8-3A, DI schedule is a bear: Tatum, Gladewater and West Rusk all in their district. But it’s looking very much like the Cardinals will very much be a player in deciding who gets in the playoffs in that group.

At the other end of the spectrum: Sorry to see the Overton Mustangs lost again Friday night, 26-0, because that drops the Mustangs to 0-4 on the season. Overton is having some growing pains in football right now, in spite of some good effort on behalf of the players and coaches.

Particularly bad was Overton’s 76-0 loss to Carlisle, and it’s not embarrassing to lose to Carlisle, to be sure, that was just the most overwhelming result in 11-man football that I think I’ve ever seen. Overton’s offense has only scored 20 points in four games, and the defense is giving up a record amount of points.

Here’s hoping for a turnaround. Coach Justin Arnold and his guys have one more non-district game, that’s next Friday at Quinlan Boles, and they’ll get an open date (Oct. 4) to evaluate things. The district schedule starts at home against Detroit Oct. 11.

We’ve seen teams before (2003 Atlanta) have an awful non-district schedule and bounce back for a great season. Take heart, Overton: Atlanta lost all of its non-district games in 2003 before rallying, getting hot and winning the 2003 3A state championship.

A few quick hits from college football on Saturday:

- Michigan is a bad football team. I don’t care if their coach is Jim Harbaugh or Paul “Bear” Bryant; they are BAD. They made Wisconsin look like the 1993 Dallas Cowboys today.

- Went to bed Saturday night and UCLA trailed Washington State, 42-17. Woke up Sunday morning and checked scores before going to church. UCLA 67, Washington State, 63. WHAT? Yes, a ridiculous second-half comeback in which UCLA scored 48 second-half points. And that’s why Mike Leach cannot be taken seriously as a head coach. His teams not only play no defense, they don’t know what defense is, apparently. If you throw nine touchdown passes in a game – and that’s what Washington State’s quarterback did in that game – you should not lose. Good grief.

- You win some, you lose some. I called the Wisconsin beat-down of Michigan, but after Florida quarterback Felipe Franks was injured last week, I honestly thought Tennessee might give Florida a bit of a game. If you’ve followed Tennessee, you know they’re due. But Florida pretty much demolished them. Maybe the Gators are a better football team than I thought.

- Apparently, Texas A&M only gets up for games against Alabama. Flatter than a pancake against Auburn on Saturday. An embarrassing performance by quarterback Kellen Mond. And don’t get on to me for singling out a “kid.” That “kid” has been a starter in the SEC for a few years and his only signature win was that jillion-overtime game against LSU last year. Before you think about e-mailing me about how “good” Mond is, leave all the statistics out he accumulated against non-FBS schools. Give me his numbers against SEC competition. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

- The win Saturday night in Austin for Texas was big, big, big. Oklahoma State is a pretty good football team. Looking like UT and Oklahoma may again decide the Big 12 title.


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