PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

January 5, 2013

West column: No area player dominated like Earl Evans

PORT ARTHUR — Of the hundreds of athletes I’ve  written about over the past 40 plus years, Earl Evans remains far and away the best high school player in any sport. As I said at Saturday’s memorial service for Evans, covering his feats at Lincoln was like watching a man competing against boys. The two closest to Earl “The Pearl”, as far as being extremely dominant schoolboy stars, would be Jamaal Charles and Joe Washington, but Earl was clearly No. 1. Among the many Evans highlights I’ll always remember was the 1974 battle matching him and Moses Malone — the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 rated players — in the finals of a one-on-one competition at the Seamco All-Star Classic in New York. Malone, who was unbelievably quick and agile for a 6-11 guy, won but it was a terrific battle. Rest in peace, Earl. You were the best . . . Speaking of being the best, that’s where Jamaal Charles is headed on the list of the Kansas City Chiefs all-time leading rushers. Charles, on the strength of his AFC leading 1,509 rushing yards in 2012, has already climbed to No. 4 behind Priest Holmes (6,070 yards), Larry Johnson (6,015) and Christian Okoye (4,857). Jamaal stands at 4,536 yards and counting, which leaves him 1,534 behind Holmes.  Not only did Charles lead the AFC in rushing this past season, he was also tops in combined rushing and receiving yards (1,745), despite the lame-brained Chiefs taking him out of the game in most third-down passing situations. Nobody ever deserved to get fired more than a coaching staff that didn’t have the sense  to keep its best weapon on the field in key situations.

It was good to see the Houston Texans win a playoff game for the second consecutive year if for no other reason than they now own more post-season victory in their 11-year existence than the Dallas Cowboys have managed in the past 17 years. Interesting, too, is the fact Wade Phillips played a big part in both of the Texans’ playoff victories and the only one Dallas can claim since 1995. If Wade’s defense hadn’t been so dominating Saturday against Cincinnati, the Texans would be staring a long, bitter off-season in the face. When you hold a playoff opponent under 200 yards and without an offensive touchdown, it’s quite a statement . . . The downside of the Texans’ 19-13 victory over the Bengals was that they were within one barely overthrown Andy Dalton pass in the final four minutes of being down 20-19. Inability to score touchdowns in the red zone turned what was a statistical blowout into a nail biter. It’s mind boggling that you could out first down somebody 24-12, outgain them 420-198, shackle them with zero first down conversions in nine attempts, have a monstrous 38:49 to 21:11 edge in time of possession and are not able to win handily? The Texans rolled out the blueprint disaster with a field-goal fest that could very well leave them a double digit underdog next Sunday at New England. Unless ultra-conservative Gary Kubiak figures out a way for his team to score touchdowns, the Patriots will embarrass them again.

Texas A&M is a classic example of why the BCS system is so flawed, and why not having a playoff with at least eight teams deprives players, coaches and fans of knowing who the real national champion is. Notre Dame and Alabama are playing for the BCS title Monday night, but I’d take the Aggies over either one of them in a heartbeat. After watching Johnny Manziel destroy Oklahoma’s defense Friday night, I’m guess a fair share of football experts would agree. We’ll finally get a playoff in two years, but it’s only four teams and that’s not enough. A national champion should be the best team at the end of the year and one that’s good enough to survive a playoff. Alabama already knows how good the Aggies are. Notre Dame is lucky it won’t have to find out up close and personal . . .  Poor old Mack Brown. His Longhorns win a bowl game, albeit in less than impressive fashion against a less than impressive opponent, and he still walks away with negatives. Brown, as should be the case, was said to be more embarrassed over the situation forcing him to suspend Case McCoy and Jordan Hicks than anything during his tenure at Texas. Having two players, including the backup quarterback, breaking curfew, and getting into potentially serious trouble two nights before a big game fairly screams overall lack of team discipline. Add that to a UT football graduation rate near the bottom of the Big 12, and a miserable conference record the last three years, and Mack’s legacy is becoming increasingly tarnished. It doesn’t help either that A&M has soared past Texas as the state’s premier college program.

Let’s update the numbers on the disaster Jerry Jones has been as Dallas’ general manager. The Cowboys are now 140-141 overall since winning their last Super Bowl in 1995, have managed only four NFC East championships in that span and have managed the one playoff victory mentioned earlier. Dallas just wrapped up a second  consecutive 8-8 season under Jethro’s boy genius coach, Jason Garrett and, if you study the big picture of 2012, calling the Cowboys mediocre is a reach. Of Dallas’ eight wins, only two came against teams with winning records. In games against playoff teams, the Cowboys were 1-5 and that victory was by a single point over Cincinnati. You are certainly a difference maker, Jethro . . . Thanks to the Texans blowing home field advantage, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are the Las Vegas favorites to win the Super Bowl at 3 to 1. New England is next at 4 to 1, followed by San Francisco (6 to 1), Atlanta (7 to 1), Green Bay (8 to 1) and Seattle (12 to 1). Houston is 18 to 1. If I were in Vegas today, I’d jump on Seattle . . . As pass happy as the NFL has become, it’s interesting to note that the three leading rushers — Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Alfred Morris have their teams in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the top three in passing yards — Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo — are done. So are two of the top three receivers — Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Bottom line, top-notch running backs remain invaluable.

How many of you knew what was going on when Oregon was awarded a one-point safety in the Fiesta Bowl Thursday night? That’s right, a point safety? In case you missed it, the Ducks cashed in on a little-known rule after getting an extra point blocked in the third quarter. A Kansas State player, hoping to get two points for his team by returning the block 100 yards, picked up the bouncing football, circled back into the end zone and got tackled. Oregon received one-point. Only other time it’s happened was in the 2004 Texas-Texas A&M game when Texas scored the one-point safety. Afterward, both coaches — Mack Brown and Dennis Franchione — said they didn’t know such a rule existed. The one-point safety rule is also applicable in high school football . . . Southeast Texans are assured of seeing at least one Astros game on television in 2013. After forcing new Houston owner Jim Crane to accept a move to the American League, Major League Baseball has thrown him a bone in the form of a nationally televised 2013 home opener against the Texas Rangers. The game, to be played Sunday night March 31, will be televised by ESPN and won’t be upstaged by any other games that day. Beyond that, there are no guarantees of seeing the Astros, due to an ongoing pricing squabble between Comcast and area cable providers . . . Most area fans probably yawned at the Sugar Bowl matching Florida and Louisville. Such was not the case in the home of former Lincoln basketball coach James Gamble. Gamble and wife Margaret were on their feet cheering, when their grandson, Anthony Branch, made a tackle in kickoff coverage for Louisville. He’s the son of the Gambles’ daughter, Lynne, and her husband, former Lamar basketball coach Tony Branch.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net

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