Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween ends soon!

Well, Halloween is here Saturday.

Duh? You say, or think. Hey, I wasn’t trying to break some big story or anything, that was my lead into a blog.

This is the day where everybody can dress up as ghouls, goblins or President Obama. As if.

Most businesses will let their workers do some kind of Halloween costume today. I rarely took advantage of this. It’s not that I am against Halloween, I’m not. I remember getting my share of Halloween goodies over the year. Great fun, huh?

Of course, back when I was a Halloweener (is that a word?), it was fairly safe. Nobody put razor blades in apples or gave away candy that was poisoned. We could safely go from neighborhood to neighborhood and not worry about get snatched by some crazy.

Now, most parents won’t allow their children to go next door without going with them. And back then, Halloween was not an excuse to egg houses or throw pumpkins at passing vehicles.

It is scary to drive through the better off neighborhoods. I’m not afraid of the decorations or costumes, just plowing into one of the little ones.

I flipped around the channels the other night and a good share of them had scary movies showing. Most of them are not scary. You want me to be scared? Force me to watch “Dancing with the Stars!”

Now that show raised goose bumps when I actually watched it one night. In the old days, I would probably be stoned and buried under heavy rocks.

Even Larry King is airing a special on ghosts. I don’t believe in ghosts, or vampires. I have never seen either, even though one television sometimes switches channels on its own.

I have watched some of the ghost hunters, or whatever they are called. Scare me? I don’t think so. Seeing Paula Abdul in HD? There should be a disclaimer or some kind of warning.

What about the movie “Twilight”? Weak, not the least bit scary. I just wanted them to get a tan. I am not into guys, of course, but why anybody would think the guy lead was attractive scares me.

I was in a video store the other night. Naturally, there was an entire section for horror movies. I didn’t rent one, but did look at some of the titles. Many of the videos advertised they were offering both the theatrical version and the UNRATED! version, promising parts that could not be shown in the theater.

I figure most of these movies went straight to the video store.

The economy? Finally, we found something truly scary.

Luckily, the Halloween madness ends Saturday night, just when the time changes and everybody shows up early for church or work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost time to hoop it up

Pardon me for being a little excited today.

I must state that I love high school football, even when the weather gets cold and wet. But I don’t like it as much as when the weather is good.

So now the weather is going south for the winter, it must mean basketball season is here. And it is, starting Monday.

Yes! I also love basketball. High school or college basketball, I enjoy both. I don’t really care for professional basketball until the playoffs start, the same as pro football and baseball.

But I simply dig basketball. No more standing out in the rain when the temperatures drive most sane people into a warm home. I have never gotten cold or wet at a basketball game. I have, of course, walking to and from a game, but never inside.

I have gotten a little warm a few times at a basketball game and sweated, but it still beats freezing.

That is why I am more than just a little pumped. Basketball is almost here! Carl Albert plays at home Monday, so does Howe.

Football fans, don’t fear. We will still cover football on Fridays and still provide the same coverage you have hopefully gotten used to seeing in the Journal. But now, there will be coverage of high-school basketball, hopefully lots of coverage.

That is if we get results from the games by coaches, fans, parents or whoever. I hope to have all the results from every game. That won’t happen, of course, but that is what I hope to see.

So you basketball coaches and fans, report your games. Let us know what happened and we will post information about the game. It is really simple, just send an email to if you can, or call. If you want to call, the number is listed in the contact information on the Journal or I will give it to you.

Instead of eight teams competing in football, there are 26 teams (counting boys and girls high schools) plus Carl Albert’s two teams.

We will have game coverage two or three nights a week and will cover Carl Albert. I have always felt Carl Albert did not get nearly as much coverage as it should. Hopefully this will change. The Vikings and Lady Vikings play good basketball and if you like hoops, go catch a game, or two, three or however many you can.

I would also appreciate if you spread the word about the Journal. A lot of people in the smaller towns, and many in the larger ones, aren’t aware of us yet. So any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Here is the LINK. All you have to do is click, copy the address and add it to emails to your friends.

This is your web site. I just manage it. So let everybody in the county and former residents know about the Journal. And provide me with information and photos from the basketball games and whatever else is going on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just wondering...

Okay, I was just wondering…

* When do I get my babyback ribs? When the liquor by the drink deal was passed a few months ago, the fine people of LeFlore County were led to believe it was a matter of letting people drink the hard stuff in a dining establishment and the big boys would come to the county.

Remember? Chili’s, Applebee’s, etc. Hey, I want my babyback ribs? Where are they? Is it because the economy is struggling or was there ever any indication the larger chains would consider coming to LeFlore County or Poteau?

But hey, we are getting a Holiday-Inn Express (insert your lame Holiday-Inn Express joke here, like I did in yesterday's blog).

Hmmm, my inquiring mind wants to know.

* What’s the status of the county tournament? Mainly, where will it be played this January? I have not heard anything lately, so if you know the scoop, let me know.

From the people I have talked with, playing at UAFS was a great experience for the fans and the players. It was first-class. Nobody had to stand in the end zones and smell the body odor of everybody within 10 feet of them.

Now, I have not heard how crazy the fans of Talihina were about this. As you know, Talihina is not just a hop, skit and a jump to the Fort. That is a long trip. And since the Talihina boys are likely to be playing in the finals, I am sure they are interested in this.

But you also have to look at tradition. The county tournament was played at Carl Albert for so long that fathers and sons have shared that experience. But Carl Albert lost some seating during a renovation last year and is not big enough to handle the crowds, not that it was before.

One coach expressed some fear that the host school from now on would host the finals. Uh, I have no problems with small schools and tiny gyms, but is that the best for our county tournament, probably the best in the state? I think not.

The best thing that could have happened was Poteau building a civic center big enough to host the county, area and regional tournaments, but…Now, if the county tournament is played in Fort Smith, just think how much sales tax money is going across the state line.

*It has not been a good year for the county football teams. Only three teams from the county will probably make the playoffs and only one (Talihina) will get to play at home in the first round of the playoffs.

Is there hope for the future? Poteau has some good talent in the seventh and eighth grades. Heavener is looking good in the younger grades while Talihina will be loaded again next year.

Spiro also has some good young talent. But will next year be better? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Change isn't always for the best

I do not like to complain, honest.

You can call me old fashioned, out of touch, or Craig (since that’s my name).

I am not an offensive coordinator and did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

So I will state that I am not an expert when it comes to football, although I have watched games since I was a little Craigman and did play. I will also say I am all in favor of change, when it is good. But one change I do not care for is the spread offense in football.

Give me the old wing-T, wishbone, veer or power-I any time. Or if a team runs the spread, at least make running the ball the main emphasis.

Yes, there are teams that run the spread very well with passing the main emphasis. But for most teams, it just doesn’t work that great. First off, most high-school quarterbacks don’t have the arm to make all the necessary throws or make the correct reads. Pass blocking is much more difficult than run blocking, especially with all the stunts and blitzes the nasty defensive coordinators throw into the mix.

Plus, for many schools, it is difficult enough to get enough receivers to run the offense and actually catch a pass thrown their way.

This is not a complaint about any school in particular. So do not take it that way.

I’m just old school enough to think for most teams, especially the smaller schools, they need to be able to run the ball. If they are balanced, it is even better.

The best team I have seen this year is Sallisaw. The Diamonds can hurt you either running the ball or passing. Yes, they do operate out of the spread. But they can run or pass, and you never know what is coming. Plus they are physical and block and tackle with a passion. It seems like many teams that use a pass-first offense are not as physical as some teams.

Over the last few weeks, the weather has not been great. It has been cool, wet, or a combination of the two. When that happens, it is tougher to throw and catch passes. Of course, usually when teams play late in the season or in the playoffs, the weather is bad, thus making the passing game difficult.

I enjoyed watching Talihina and Central Sallisaw play a few weeks ago. That was a Craig-kinda game. Total passes in the first quarter? One. It took 15 minutes to play the first quarter!

I was home from Talihina before Heavener’s game that night was even over! The two teams lined up and tried to knock the stuffing out of each other. Does Talihina have a sophisticated passing attack? Not really. Do the Tigers throw the ball on third-and-two? Uh, I don't think so.

They are not the typical ball-control team, though, because their backs have the speed to break the long runs. There will be a game when Talihina plays a team that crowds the line without worrying about giving up the big run and force the Tigers to pass the ball.

That will be the big test for them. But would Talihina worry about playing in 20 degree temperature with the field wet and muddy? Nope.

So I do like Talihina’s style. But I also enjoyed watching Sallisaw and Broken Bow last week. The Savages lined up in the I-formation and ran the ball. But Broken Bow could also pass the ball okay. Not great, but good enough to keep the defense honest. Was Broken Bow physical? Yes, without a doubt.

Like I mentioned earlier, I will never be an offensive coordinator. But if you look at the teams in college that win the big games, those are the teams with balanced offenses.

Look at Florida and USC, probably the most successful programs of the past 10 years. Both teams have good passing attacks, but can run the ball. Oklahoma has had great offenses, but struggled in bowl games with the break between the end of the season and the bowl game giving defensive coordinators extra time to prepare.

This year, the two best college teams are Florida and Alabama. Both teams can run the ball and pass. Would you consider either team soft? I wouldn't. Do pro teams run the spread? Nope, except for using the Wildcat, which is primarily for running or the shotgun, when they face third-and-long.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Winners even when the scoreboard...

I don’t particularly enjoy covering blowouts.

Whether it is a county team doing the blowing out or especially when one of our teams is getting blown out.

Unfortunately, the last two weeks, I have covered Poteau when it was on the bad side of a blowout.

First, it was Sallisaw 49, Poteau 7. This past week, Broken Bow downed the Pirates, 42-6.

I love watching high-school football. It is one of the joys of my life. I did not enjoy these two games as much as I did several other good games this season.

But I do believe you can find out a lot about a team’s character and that of the players when you observe how they react when things are going bad.

There is, of course, a different reaction among players and even coaches. Sometimes a player’s effort lessens when things start going bad or all hope is lost.

For others, those players play as hard on the last play as they did on the first play of the game, even when there is no hope of winning or even making the score respectable.

There wasn’t any giving up for Poteau’s coaches the last two weeks. They continued coaching just as hard at the end as they did at the beginning. So did many of the Pirates.

I don’t like to mention names, because I will miss some. But there were several Pirates who never gave up, even when there was every reason to do so.

Players like Tanner Wright, Seth Burgess, Zach Stubbs, just to name a few. The Pirates were in the second of two physical games. Several players were playing through pain against Broken Bow, a team that was just as physical or even more so than Sallisaw.

Wright was singled out by coach Jeff Broyles in an article in the Southwest Times-Record for playing despite having a leg injury. I was also impressed with the way Brody Shipley ran the ball in the fourth quarter, even though the game was well out of reach.

Offensive lineman Bryan Chaplin was walking the sidelines encouraging his teammates. Another lineman Everette Jones made a bad mistake in the first half that cost his team a needed first down.

He came back into the game, was injured at least twice but kept coming back into the game.

Nick Donathan took a vicious hit in the first half and was limping and in pain. He kept giving his all.

These were just a few of the players. I know I missed several others and for that I apologize. But their teammates and coaches know who didn’t give up. So do the opponents.

And in the game of football, much like life, the ones who don’t give up when things are going bad are winners, even if the scoreboard does not say so.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Contrary to what it might seem, I do try to be perfect when writing stories, headlines and captions in the LeFlore County Journal.

Honest, I do. Nobody is perfect, I’m sure not. But I still don’t like it. I don’t know why I make mistakes, probably because I get in a hurry.

And when I goof up, it’s usually pretty obvious.

Consider the following:

1. I got notice about a group called Sounds of Hope coming to the Hodgen United Methodist Church. I published this under church news. No problem, right? Uh, not so fast. On the flier, it says they are a gospel expression of praise and worship. But when I typed up the story, it said they are a gospel expression of praise and WORRY. Ugh. I’m sure that would bring in a lot of people. Luckily, alert reader Margaret Scoggins caught this and it was fixed fairly quickly.

2. I did a story about the humane society golf tournament a couple of weeks ago. Not too hard, right? Wrong. I put in that it was the HUMANA society golf tournament. Humana? I used to work for them, but last time I checked, they did not take care of lost or injured dogs and cats. Alert reader Ralph Perdue Jr., gets credit for this correction.

3. This one almost caused me to laugh, if I didn’t cringe after alert reader, Barbara Hall (my mother) pointed out an oops to me. It was a simple headline about the annual Bigfoot Festival in Honobia. Turns out, my typing turned it into BIGFOOD Festival at Honobia. I guess if somebody was going to eat a Bigfoot, it would be bigfood.

I do use spell check. Honest. Usually, there will be the nasty red line under the misspelled word telling me I am an idiot for spelling the word wrong. But on these goofs, they were tragically spelled right, just not spelled the way I intended them to be.

Now if they could only come up with a Craig check instead of just spell check, I would do much better. Hopefully Jay Leno never checks out the Journal.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One great win for Poteau

During the 20-plus years I have covered sports, I have seen many good games, some great games and a bunch that were not very good.

There have been blowouts, overtime games and some that went down to the wire.

I was expecting a good game when Wagoner visited Poteau on Friday night. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 and had won their first two district games.

Many people expected Wagoner to take the game, even though Poteau’s closest game in an undefeated season was an eight-point win over Hilldale.

They figured Wagoner’s speed would be too much against a Poteau team that had not really faced a top-notch team.

That did not happen, of course. Wagoner was loaded with speed, but Poteau kept the Bulldogs’ speed under control for the most part.

On a cold and damp Friday evening before a huge crowd, Poteau’s defense blanketed Wagoner in the first half, allowing only three-yards rushing. The Pirates knocked out Wagoner’s starting quarterback on the second series with a leg injury.

He was starting because Wagoner’s first-team quarterback was nursing an injured ankle. More about that shortly.

Poteau had a couple of good opportunities in the first half, but came up empty. Wagoner never threatened against Poteau’s stubborn defense. In addition to knocking out the quarterback, two other Wagoner players were sent to the sidelines in the hard-hitting first half.

After the defensive struggle in the first half, more of the same was expected in the second half. Before the kickoff, Wagoner’s usual starting quarterback, Prince McJunkins was spotted on the Wagoner sideline, dressed out and warming up.

Poteau got the ball to start the second half. Suddenly, the Pirates came alive and marched quickly down the field, scoring on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Garrett Klutts to Britt Brown.

McJunkins entered the game for Wagoner and led the Bulldogs inside Poteau’s 10. The drive fizzled and a bad snap on a field goal forced a run that was gobbled up for a five-yard loss.

Poteau’s offense started to struggle as Wagoner’s offense continued to march up and down the field. The Bulldogs tied the game on their next drive, then took a touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Poteau was stopped again and after a short punt, Wagoner started driving again. This time, Poteau’s defense stopped the drive, giving the Pirates the ball on their 32 with 2:45 left.

The Pirates trailed 14-7 and were in trouble. But Poteau’s offense came alive again. Klutts completed three quick passes and moved to Wagoner’s 28. Klutts was sacked back to the 34 and the drive was in jeopardy.

Klutts then hit Brown on a slant pass for 16 yards down to Wagoner’s 18. It gave Poteau a first down and plenty of time to score.

The Pirates called a running play. Klutts faked an inside handoff from the shotgun, kept the ball and took off up the middle. It looked like the run would fail, at first. Wagoner’s defense was waiting, but Klutts lowered his head and broke through the line, running like a bulldozer.

He broke through the line, carried a couple of defenders with him and was not to be denied. Klutts made it past the goal line and as the officials raised their arms, Poteau’s side went nuts.

That brought on reliable kicker, Blake Williams, for the extra point. The kick would tie the game and the possibility of overtime was running through my mind.

On the extra point, the snap appeared to be good, but Brown had trouble. Brown rose up and started sprinting around the left side. Most of Wagoner’s defense was trapped in the middle and he had some running room. A Poteau blocker gave Brown a little time and he sprinted into the end zone for the two-point conversion, giving the Pirates a 15-14 lead.

Wagoner still had plenty of time and there were plenty of worried coaches, players and fans on Poteau’s side.

The Bulldogs had the ball on their 41 after a 12-yard kickoff return with only 1:39 left. McJunkins scrambled on first down, picking up seven yards. On second down, his pass was batted down and a pass on third down sailed high and incomplete.

The game came down to a fourth-and-four. McJunkins took the snap and tried to find some running room, but Seth Burgess and Zach Stubbs fought off blocks and stopped the Wagoner quarterback well short of the first-down marker.

Poteau’s defensive stand brought a roar from the crowd and the Pirates had the ball again. Wagoner exhausted its remaining time outs. Facing third-and-six, Klutts called his own number one last time. Again, his way was blocked by Wagoner players, but he bulled through the defense, picking up just enough yards to give Poteau a first down and everybody knew this one was over.

Klutts took the final snap, kneeled down and the victory was a reality. As the clock wound down, Poteau started celebrating the kind of win that can serve as a launching point to even a greater season than anybody could have expected prior to the season.

It was truly a great night for the Pirates and the expected good game turned into a great one.