Sunday, May 6, 2012

These guys are good

To borrow a line from an old NBA commercial, “These guys are good!”

Those guys are the soccer players for Poteau and Heavener, two teams which met at Harvey Stadium Friday night in a Class 4A quarterfinal playoff game.

I have only attended approximately three soccer games in my life. The previous ones were not exactly compelling.

That certainly wasn’t the case Friday. I was caught up in the action, the excitement and all that goes with it.

I can’t count how many games I have been to this year, but Friday’s game was as good as any I have attended.

The players were like magicians with the soccer ball, backwards kicks to teammates, headers which would have given be a migraine, and the constant action.

They did things with the ball I could never dream of doing. Poteau’s Ashby Clark did something I have never seen before.

On throw ins, he would start way back at the track, run forward, place the ball on the ground and while flipping over heave the ball a long way and wind up standing. If I tried that, they would need to bring out the backboard and neck traction.

There was so much action that I grew tired just watching them within a few minutes.

It was hot and humid and the players were coated with sweat after a few minutes. But they kept going, like the old Energizer Bunny, full-speed sprints from one end to the other, then back again, with only short periods of rest.

Despite the importance of the game and one featuring opponents from only 15 or so miles apart, there seemed to be a respect between the teams which you seldom see in a sport anymore. Late in the game, there was a break and Heavener’s players got a drink of water.

They also shared the water bottles with a couple of Poteau players near the sidelines. Perhaps it is a sad reflection of the times, but that was one moment I will remember for a long time.

Think that would have happened in any other competitive sport such as football? I don’t.

Poteau eventually won, 4-2, to move on to the semifinals Tuesday at Mount St. Mary’s. The loss was the first of the year for Heavener in the Wolves’ first trip to the playoffs in the five years the school has been playing the sport.

And after the game ended, the players lined up and crossed the field to shake hands and offer congratulations. Again, just the way it should be.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A great day for the county

Thursday was a great day for LeFlore County.

Poteau's girls wrapped up the Class 4A state tournament by winning the tournament by 21 strokes over Anadarko and Hannah Ward was the medalist in the tournament.

The win was the first team state championship for Poteau since the late 1970s and Ward became only the second golfer to win an individual championship, to go along with the one Kyle Cofer won.

But that was far from the only good news.

The Spiro and Wister baseball teams won both their games Thursday to move within a game of making the state tournament.

While defending state champion Wister was expected to win both its games and the Wildcats did in defeating Haworth, 9-4 and Hartshorne, 3-1, Spiro pulled off a big one.

After defeating Morris, 9-5, in the first round of the regional tournament, the Bulldogs then defeated third-ranked Eufaula on its home field, 12-6, to move into the championship game of the tournament.

Wister and Spiro only have to win one more game to advance to the state tournament.

The only negative was Pocola lost to Hartshorne in the first round of the Wister regional and played a elimination game later Thursday.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Heavener, Poteau meet in a big one

Heavener vs. Poteau, two old LeFlore County rivals will meet again Friday.

Just the mention of those two teams squaring off brings back memories of pep rallies, snake dances, bloated bleachers, lots of noise and a big game.

Heavener and Poteau have paired off in so many big games over the year in football, basketball, baseball and soccer. Just last month, they met in the finals of the slowpitch softball LeFlore County Tournament.

They haven’t met in football since 1985, at least the American variety. Now the biggest meeting of the year between the two schools comes Friday in…soccer.

Heavener didn’t even have a soccer team until a few years ago. Poteau has been playing for much longer.

While the stands at Harvey Stadium might not be as full as they once were back in the old days for an American football contest, this one is huge.

State quarterfinals. Winner advances one step closer to a possible state championship. Serious. Aside from the Poteau boys’ golf team qualifying for the state tournament, this is the deepest a boys team from either school has advanced into the playoffs.

Soccer fever hasn’t exactly swept LeFlore County, but this could help.

With apologizes, I must admit that I am not a big soccer fan.

We didn’t play it when we were kids or participate at any age group. I don’t understand much about soccer, other than the goal is to put a soccer ball into…the goal.

But for the players, parents and fans, this game is just as big, or bigger, than any they have competed in. And if it is anything like the first meeting, the fans will certainly get plenty of excitement.

In a conference game last month, the two teams could not figure out a winner in regulation. The first overtime didn’t help. Heavener finally won in the second overtime, 3-2, and eventually won the conference.

Poteau has won twice on the road in the playoffs, defeating Catoosa, 7-1, before edging Oologah 2-1 on Tuesday. Heavener had its first soccer playoff game Tuesday, winning 3-0 over Riverfield at home.

The two teams are the best in southeastern Oklahoma, and among the best in their class. Maybe the best overall. That will be decided next week.

Next up for the winner is a game against the Southeast-Mt. Saint Mary’s game on Tuesday in the semifinals.