PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

January 24, 2013

Best of West: Jimmy Johnson, Ronnie Thompson feel Belichick's pain

PORT ARTHUR — Editor’s note: The following column from the Best of West collection was first published in the Port Arthur News on Feb. 6, 2008.



    As Tom Brady’s final, desperation pass fell incomplete Sunday, sealing New England’s fate  in Super Bowl XLII,  more than a fourth championship ring eluded the grasp of Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick.

    Down the drain for Belichick, with most everybody outside the Northeastern quadrant cheering his misfortune, was a chance to tower above every other coach in NFL history. Only Miami’s Don Shula had ever orchestrated an unbeaten NFL season. But conventional wisdom had already declared a 19-0 New England in 2007 superior to the 17-0 Dolphins of 1972.

    Then, 35 seconds from immortality of sorts, Eli Manning and the New York Giants pulled the plug.

    For the sour, dour Belichick, the upcoming days, weeks and months promise to be painful. Eventually, his thoughts will turn to next season, to the next game, to the next push toward a Super Bowl. But the memory of what happened Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, Arizona will never be far away.

    Two football coaches with Port Arthur backgrounds can relate to the feeling of emptiness. Both, on different levels, were oh-so-close to pulling off something really special, to having their teams tagged with a “best ever” label at the end of dominant unbeaten seasons. Both still carry the burden of having their date with destinty snatched away at the last moment.

    “That loss will haunt him forever,” said Jimmy Johnson, who went through a Belichick-type downer as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.

    Johnson’s Hurricanes were 11-0 and loaded with future NFL players. With Vinny Testaverde heading a quick-strike offense, and boasting a defense with speed the likes of which had never been seen in college football, the No. 1 ranked ‘Canes took no prisoners. They were heavy favorites against Joe Paterno and Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.

    But the coronation never happened. Testaverde banged himself up in a motorcyle accident a few weeks before the game. He wound up throwing five interceptions, including a late one that snuffed out Miami’s last chance. Penn State prevailed 14-10.

    Miami, with a less-talented team, would rebound to go unbeaten and defeat Oklahoma for the national chamionship the next season, but the loss to Penn State lingered for Johnson. He knew what had been lost. Despite the national championship and two Super Bowl rings, the Fiesta Bowl downer still eats at him.

    JJ, who considers Belichick a fishing buddy, was asked in an e-mail if he had Fiesta Bowl flashbacks while watching New England come up short. At first, he ducked the question. His only response was the above quote about the loss haunting Belichick forever.

    So a second e-mail was sent. “Does the Fiesta Bowl still haunt you?” His response was one word.

    “Yes.”

    Then there’s Memorial football coach Ronnie Thompson. Back in 1980, Thompson’s Thomas Jefferson Yellow Jackets were changing the face of Texas high school football, behind the passing of Todd Dodge. In a state where nearly every coach ran the veer, the wishbone, or the wing T, Thompson’s Yellow Jackets unleashed a sophisticated passing game.

    After a couple of close calls early in the season, including a 14-13 escape at Port Neches-Groves, TJ’s star-wars attack began lighting up scoreboards. The Jackets closed the regular season by winning 33-7, 44-7, 37-6, 55-6 and 49-7.

    Except for a 29-24 decision over La Marque in the second round of the playoffs, the blowouts continued. Aldine fell 49-6. Spring Branch Stratford went down 34-0. In the 5A semifinals, San Antonio Holmes was routed 34-7.

    Lance Van Zandt, who was then defensive coordinator at Nebraska, left one of the playoff games shaking his head.

    “I’m not sure how you stop them,” he said. “They are doing things we don’t see in college.”

    TJ, at 14-0, had outscored its opponents 494-131, or an average of 35.3 to 9.4. The Yellow Jackets were on the verge of being annointed one of Texas’ all-time great teams. Then, in a state championship game played in freezing conditions, it all unraveled as a 19-7 halftime lead became a 28-19 loss to Odessa Permian.

    Thompson admits to a flashback while watching the Super Bowl.

    “It’s still there,” he said, seemingly no more eager than Johnson to revisit the big one that got away. “I know the look on Belichick’s face after the game. We spend the rest of our lives finding out why everything happens for a reason.”

    Without drawing any parallels, Thompson said he thought the pressues that go into an undefeated season helped bring down the Patriots.

    “Sometimes you can put too much weight on the bar when it shouldn’t really be that heavy,” he said. “I’d go with New England, if they played again. A number of things had to happen for the Giants to win and each and every one of them did.”

    He could just as easily have been talking about that TJ-Permian game 27 years ago, or the Miami-Penn State game seven years later. In the Giants’ case, even after the defense battered Tom Brady throughout the game, it still took a miracle throw and catch in the final minute for finish off the Patriots.

    It’s a play that Belichick will never put be able to put out of his mind. Just like Johnson will never forget Testaverde’s costly interceptions. And like Thomson can still see a dropped TD pass and missed third quarter field goal that would have put Permian away.

    Three great coaches. Three missed dates with history. Three reasons why you play the games.

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

    

    

    

    

    

    

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Bassmaster Elites are coming back

    The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
    The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
    I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
    It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
    • Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
    Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
    Beginning probably in the early fall we will see many anglers fishing local waters to get a better idea on how to approach the area.
    • East to West Runs-The Elite anglers fished far and wide but I expect even more running next go-round. After launching from the Simmons Drive Boat Ramp in Orange angler Bill Lowen ran down the Intracoastal, across Galveston Bay and fished in the Clear Lake area and placed in the top 12. The more adventurous anglers will try super long runs, in my opinion, even longer than last time to try and score on big fish. The Intracoastal Canal system makes that possible.
    • Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
    • Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
     It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
    The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
    We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
    It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV.org)

    July 23, 2014

  • Mid County knocked out of tournament

    The Mid County 16-18 Babe Ruth squad’s run to the World Series is over.

    July 22, 2014

  • West golf notepad: West duo claims title in Texas Father-Son

    July 22, 2014

  • Mid County sets up championship series with Tri County

    The Southwest Regional Babe Ruth championship series is set and yes the hometown Mid County squad will be there to play.

    July 21, 2014

  • MC Babe Ruth goes 2-0

    First things first, give Clint Landry and the rest of the officials credit for making the Southwest Regional Babe Ruth tournament possible this weekend at Nederland High School.

    July 19, 2014

  • Up the odds for solid bank fishing

    There are certain limitations to fishing without a boat.

    July 19, 2014

  • Derek Williams, Summer Money League light up the lanes at Max Bowl

    Thursday nights Summer Money League produced some very impressive scores.

    July 19, 2014

  • West column: Pacers hiring Pat Knight didn't help Lamar

    July 19, 2014

  • Babe Ruth.jpg Mid County Babe Ruth set to host Southwest Regional

    The Mid County Babe Ruth 18U team is once again knocking on the World Series door. Mid County will host the Southwest Regional at Nederland High School starting today. Mid County’s first game of the tournament is slated for 7 p.m. Friday against Pine Bluff, Ark. Thursday was a special day for Mid County Babe Ruth as two locals, Jimmy Collins (shown speaking) and Skip Hopkins (back left) were inducated intot he Southwest Regional Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. Both Hopkins and Collins have been involved in Babe Ruth for over 40 consecutive years either as player, coach or board member. There are nine teams in the tournament with the winner headed to Washington state for the World Series.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • West golf notepad: Eleven-year-old Henry scores ace in YMBL tourney

    July 15, 2014

From the Fieldhouse blog