05/19/2024
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By Sonny Jones

Back in the day it was common for sports columnist to put together a Christmas wish list for area coaches. It could be serious, silly or sarcastic and usually was a combination of the three.

Not sure if it’s still a thing. I certainly wouldn’t do one these days on Christmas Eve.

I’d never ask Santa to bring East Bladen girls’ basketball coach Patty Evers a long-sought state championship nor West Bladen boys’ basketball coach Travis Pait a championship in the upcoming Bladen Offroad Christmas Tournament. I’m not going to ask the jolly one to bring East Bladen boys’ basketball coach Aking Elting nor West Bladen girls’ basketball coach Brian McCleney continued success this season as they aim for conference titles.

No way will I ask St. Nick to bring first-year West Bladen baseball coach Jason Jones a flame-throwing left-handed pitcher nor East Bladen baseball coach Grant Pait a slugger who can belt it out of spacious Russell Priest Field.

I have nothing in the bag for soccer coaches Jay Raynor (East Bladen) nor Kristen Parker (West Bladen), football coaches Stanley Williams (West Bladen) nor Robby Priest (East Bladen), softball coaches Pam Stephens (West Bladen) nor Chris Davisson (East Bladen).

I did write one in 1979 while working at The Bladen Journal that wasn’t well received. I wished for Santa to bring former Clarkton High School girls’ basketball coach Raymond Marlowe a better point guard to run the offense and get the ball inside to Sheila Ford. Although he never said anything to me, Coach Marlowe was not amused. I was told that he immediately went to the players’ house that night and explained that idea didn’t come from him and that he was pleased with the point guard’s play.

Fast forward to 1993. That same point guard and I exchanged wedding vows at First Baptist Church of Clarkton. We now live in the house she grew up in and the same house that Coach Marlowe visited that night in 1979 to tell his side about the column. There’s a copy of the column around the house somewhere. The point guard’s mother clipped it out and saved it … unfortunately.

Funny how things turn out.

Here’s hoping Santa is good to you. I got the only gift I’ve needed in 1993. The point guard is still looking for hers.

By the way, Clarkton reached the state championship game that season, losing to, I believe, Belhaven. The point guard did just fine.

Merry Christmas!

BOWLS, BOWLS, BOWLS

The drive to watch every bowl game continues. Streaming is my friend. Have watched them all, thus far, but it’s about to get much tougher.
Games played: 16 (through Dec 22). Games watched live: 8. Games streamed: 8.

• GASPARILLA BOWL: Wake Forest 27, Missouri 17
(Played Friday, Dec. 23, watched Friday, Dec. 23)
Sam Hartman tossed three touchdown passes to became the ACC career leader with 110 and came up 33 yards short of joining N.C. State’s Philip Rivers as the only ACC quarterbacks to pass for at least 13,000 yards.in touchdown passes. The Deacons trailed 17-14 midway through the third quarter before Hartman threw TD passes to Jahmal Banks and Taylor Morin.

• INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Houston 23, Louisiana-Lafayette 16
(Played Friday, Dec. 23, watched Friday, Dec. 23)
It took until the second half for the Cougars to get tuned in, but quarterback Clayton Tune and receiver Nathaniel Dell Jr. connected for a pair of touchdowns, the second with 20 seconds remaining for the victory. Tune and Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed are tied for most TD passes this season with 40. It was 25 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 12 on a bitter afternoon in Shreveport, Louisiana.

• CELEBRATION BOWL: N.C. Central 41, Jackson State 34 (OT)
(Played Saturday, Dec. 17, watched Friday, Dec. 23)
Even knowing the outcome and some of the details — the lone game thus far that has been the case — it still was exciting to watch. The lead changed six times during regulation. Jackson State tied it on the final play of regulation. N.C. Central scored in overtime, then held Jackson State out of the end zone to bring the HBCU title back to Durham, proving the MEAC is better than the SWAC.

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY

• 2014 — Western Kentucky holds on to defeat Central Michigan 49-48 in a wild inaugural Bahamas Bowl. Central Michigan trails 49-14 entering the fourth quarter before Cooper Rush engineers a comeback. He throws four touchdown passes in the final minutes, and the Chippewas get the ball back at their own 25 with one second remaining. Rush completes a pass to Jesse Kroll, and the ball is lateraled three times before Titus Davis dove into the pylon for a touchdown with no time remaining. CMU elects to go for two, only to have the pass drop incomplete.

POTATO PICKS TO WATCH TODAY

• TENNIS: World Tennis League final, 9 a.m., TENNIS

• NFL: Detroit at Carolina, 1 p.m., FOX

• NFL: Cincinnat at New England, 1 p.m., CBS

• NFL: Philadelphia at Dallas, 4:25 p.m., FOX

• HAWAII BOWL: Middle Tennessee vs. San Diego State, 8 p.m., ESPN

• NFL: Las Vegas at Pittsburgh, 8:15 p.m., NFLN

Sonny Jones can be reached at wibbyj@gmail.com.

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