I suppose by now you’ve heard the news that Kilgore is ranked second in the state in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Class 4A poll.
That really shouldn’t come as any surprise, given the level the Bulldogs have played in the last couple of seasons, getting within a game of the state tournament in 2018, then actually reaching the event last year, losing in the semifinals. And also, the players coach Eugene Lafitte returns and the fact that Lafitte himself, and his assistants, largely return (Josh Riley departed for a position at another school).
Only Argyle, the defending state champ in 4A, is above the Diamond ‘Dogs. Things are going to get very interesting around here when the season starts around Valentine’s Day. All at once, we’ll have basketball hitting the postseason, soccer beginning to hit its stride with district play, spring tennis, golf and track all kicking up, and the two diamond sports – baseball and softball – both looking to take that next step.
By the way, on Lafitte: he took the Kilgore position shortly after the Bulldogs completed the 2017 season. “All” he’s done since then is go 58-14 over two seasons, winning the district championship both times, getting within a round of the state tourney his first year and to the state semifinals his second.
But before Kilgore, Lafitte coached at Woodville for a year, getting his team to the playoffs, and had phenomenal success as head baseball coach at Douglass ISD. His 2014 team went 33-1 and made the state tournament, and his 2015 and 2016 teams didn’t lose a single district game.
So I’m telling you, get on the bandwagon now. Don’t wait until Kilgore is 29-0, and about to play in the regional finals. Now’s the time.
The “Music City Miracle” was 20 years ago today: The first “big” moment for the Tennessee Titans – as the Titans and not the Houston Oilers – actually has already been 20 years ago. And it was one of those “I remember where I was when” moments.
You can see it right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pfz4JViRkoA
The Titans trailed the Buffalo Bills (coached by Wade Phillips, ironically enough, the son of longtime Oilers coach “Bum” Phillips), 16-15, with less than 15 seconds on the game clock. The Bills had just scored, and kicked off to the Titans.
Little did Buffalo know, Tennessee had practiced for such a situation that week, a play called “Home Run Throwback,” with wide receivers Derrick Mason and Anthony Dorsett.
But Mason and Dorsett both got hurt in the game. Titans coach Jeff Fisher had no choice; he had to find a replacement, and that replacement was Kevin Dyson. Fisher told Dyson to get in there.
Fullback Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick at his own 25-yard-line, and Neal turned around and gave the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck. Wycheck whirled to his left and passed the ball, in what appeared to the naked eye to be a forward pass, to Dyson, running along the Titans’ sideline.
Dyson caught the ball right at the 25, then turned upfield. Dyson turns on the speed, and jets up his sideline. His teammates and the crowd – and announcer Mike Keith – are losing their minds as Dyson races 75 yards and is never even touched, for what appeared to be the winning touchdown. In all the turmoil, the play went to the review booth.
Phillips looks to an assistant coach right after Dyson crossed the goal line and clearly says, “forward pass,” meaning he just knew it would be overturned. Replay officials reviewed the play for what seemed like forever. It was actually only a minute and 57 seconds.
They announce that the throw was a lateral, and if it’s possible, the stadium gets louder, and – in a moment of pure late 1990s symbolism – the crowd begins chanting, “Whoop, There It Is,” a stupid song from the time.
Tennessee collects themselves enough to kick the extra point, and takes the 22-16 win, which is a great moment for their team, a team that was led by quarterback Steve McNair, running back Eddie George, Wycheck, Neal, Mason, Dyson and “The Freak,” a defensive end named Javon Kearse.
And the rest of the story is that the Titans actually had another iconic moment a few weeks later, that might be even more memorable, and also, strangely, centered around Dyson.
With six seconds on the clock in the Super Bowl, against the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams, the Titans are set to run a play at the Rams’ 10. Tennessee is down 23-16, so they have to have a touchdown and an extra point to send the game into overtime, or a touchdown and a two-point conversion to win.
McNair takes the snap out of the shotgun, and swings the ball to a crossing Dyson, who’s cutting from the right side of the field to his left, to the inside. Dyson is wide open when he catches the ball, and gets to the Rams’ 2.
“It is caught by Dyson!,” Al Michaels exclaims, on the ABC broadcast. “Can he get in?! No, he can NOT! Mike Jones made the tackle!”
Jones grabs Dyson and pulls him down right at the 2. Dyson extends the ball as far as a human being possibly could, but the ball only makes it as far as the 1, as time expires, and the Rams win Super Bowl .
As everyone else is up, shaking hands, Titans swatting away confetti, Warner celebrating with teammates and family, McNair being consoled with a lengthy hug from coach Jeff Fisher, and Dyson still kneels on the turf where he was tackled, likely in disbelief – just as the Buffalo Bills had a couple of weeks earlier in Nashville.
Football – it’s sometimes joyous, sometimes cruel. But it always evens itself out.
“There was a movie called, ‘The Longest Yard,’” Michaels opines, as confetti continues to rain down. “There is your sequel.”
Here’s a link to that final Super Bowl play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3eukxNnm0M
Believe it or not, after I wrote almost all of the rewind of those two plays for this column, ESPN placed a story on its website about the Music City Miracle. Just shows you what kind of legendary play that has become.
They do a “where are they now” thing at the end of the story. Turns out Dyson is a principal at a school in Tennessee. “My principal catches more touchdowns than your principal,” I guess is what the kids say.
Fisher is retired, looking to get back into coaching after (strangely enough) finishing his career as head coach of the now-Los Angeles Rams. Wycheck briefly had a Nashville morning show, was color commentator for a time for Titans’ local broadcasts, and now lives in Philadelphia, where he’s an assistant football coach.
Neal hosts a radio sportstalk show in the San Francisco area. His son plays defensive line at Purdue.
Come back this weekend, and I’ll make my prediction on the College Football Playoff’s national title game, LSU taking on Clemson.