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Friday, January 23, 2009

North Defense the Difference Against Dixie
J. C. Tilton
On a day where most students had the day off, two teams were hard at work this past Martin Luther Kings day. The North girls basketball team has been riding a wave this season and have had only 3 losses. Seniors Sara Whittaker and 4 year starter Rachael Heindl and freshman Mallory Ullery have been factors in the teams success. Dixie had been playing .500 basketball, but was riding a losing streak that they wanted to break.

Both teams were sluggish as the game began. The North defense was generating turnovers, but no buckets. Coach Music from TCN speculated that the day off may have gotten the girls out of their groove. But in the last minute or so of the half North finally caught fire and went on a 10-2 run to open up a 14-5 lead.

North used their press to help keep Dixie off balance and get them out of their game. They went to a spread offense to try and open up opportunities to cut to the basket. Dixie played mostly man to man, mixing in some zone. For their part, North got their points from driving to the basket or by shooting from the outside. Dixie had a tough time getting any consistent offensive production against the stiff North defense. Although Kayla Bertke was a bright spot for Dixie - scoring in double figures again. Also the Dixie defense was tough inside. Limiting North’s post player Ullery to just 4 points.
However, Dixie could not find a way to halt Rachel Heindl who is fast closing in on 1000 career points. This was her second game in a row where she would score 21 points. Dixie did make a 6 point to run to start the third quarter and the fourth quarter. But just as things would start to get interesting, North would press the gas and pull ahead. In the final minute North went into a slow down and then rode home with a 53-40 victory.

“We were clicking on Saturday night against a decent Ansonia team.” Said Coach Music from Tri County North, “But tonight nothing was working. But it was a win and we’ll take it. Our press and transition really helped us tonight when our set offense wasn’t working. Both of our senior guards have come up big for us several times this season and both Heindl and Whittaker did well.”
Scoring for TCN: Mullins 2; Errin 8; Bierly 8; Ullery 4; Whittaker 10; Heindl 21.
Scoring for Dixie: Seim 5; Kneisly 9, Ruppert 2, Neaves 1, Bertke 11, Rader 7, Thompson 5.

The JV contest was a close game with North edging Dixie 28-25. Scoring for TCN: Whittaker 12, Broughton 2, Shrier 6, Cruse 1, Mullins 10. Dixie: Brannon 3, Purcell 4, Landis 5, Rader 6, Bates 6, Camper2.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fourth and One
…and Other Life’s lessons
J. C. Tilton
There is a Chinese proverb which states that a child is a book in which everyone writes a page. This article is about a man who has written many pages in many books. As a teacher, a coach, a father, a husband, and a friend. A teacher not only in X’s and Y’s; or as a coach in X’s and O’s; but he went beyond that and was a teacher and coach on life. He touched many as could be seen from the number of those of us that attended his service this past week. He spanned several generations as evidenced by those who attended - from young men in letterman’s jackets, to old grey hairs (no hairs!?) like myself who came to pay their respects. As I sat there I thought back in time.

I first met Mr. Delong in his math class as a skinny 7th grader. At the time, he was very intimidating. To wake up the class, he had a yard stick he would crack against his desk to get everyone’s attention. Once he was earnestly trying to make a point that we weren’t getting and he smashed his chalk into pieces on the chalkboard. And his voice, that booming voice, I heard it many times over the years in the classroom, on the football field, and even as an adult. This was back when paddling was allowed in school and I don’t think he ever had to paddle anyone as the voice was enough to keep even the most unruly in line.

He had his gruff side, but as we got older we learned the other side of Mr. Delong. In the classroom we would occasionally leave the text book and talk about other things. He would pass along his wisdom and experience. Seemed to always have a story to share. Same with sports. Tough on the field, but approachable and willing to share off the field.

He was part of the success of many teams. He coached the linemen and helped give North football it’s only 10-0 season and several championships. He coached several athletes that attained all-state honors. I remember being part of the track team that won a district track championship, even though we had no track to practice on! Later when the district split up and he went home to South, he continued his success there. Finally after he retired, instead of sitting home, he continued to coach and work as a substitute teacher. He really loved working with youth and didn’t miss a beat.

And it seems like everyone who was a student of his has their Mr. Delong story. Even the pastor at the Memorial Service, Jim Hazelwood, told how he took him under his wing and helped make a football player out of him. A student, Nancy Moberly(Moore), told me how when she was pregnant in high school and some shunned her, that instead he was compassionate and helped her get thru a difficult time in her life.

Bryan Statzer, a captain of the undefeated North football team, liked him as a coach, but thought that he did even better in the classroom. “I thought the world of Mr. Delong. He was someone that you could relate to; someone that you could connect to personally. You could talk to him and we have continued to stay in touch over the years.” Mark Shepard, a colonel in the army and professor at West Point stated, “I would not be what I am today if it weren’t for Mr. Delong. “

My memory is this - every football team practices scenarios. And the ultimate scenario is 4th and one on the goal line with seconds to go in the fourth quarter. So when we got to the end of practice and we were lined up to go one more time. He would admonish us that when it’s fourth and one is when you reach inside yourself and find that something extra. It’s when you steel your nerve and think thru the other guy. It’s a physical toughness and a mental toughness. And several times over the years it’s been fourth and one in my life. And I hear that voice shout out “It’s fourth and one and we’re running to your side - what are you going to do!” It has helped give me the resolve to do what needs to be done.

With all the work that he did with school, did he slack with his family? The answer is no according to his sons, Mike and Jason. “He was always there for us. From helping change diapers for his grandchildren or helping us skin a deer when we were teenagers - he looked over us. We weren’t the best athletes in school, but he was there for our games. He knew what his priorities were, nothing came in front of god and family. We would not be what we are today if it weren’t for him.” Both sons knew that their father was popular and along with their mother, Charlotte, were amazed at the outpouring of support from the community. “There must have well over a thousand people at the Tuesday service, we had no idea that so many would show up.”

And there are some humorous stories as well. My senior year the linemen had a bad game on Friday. So Monday we lined up at the blocking sled and Coach Delong admonished us that we needed to sustain our blocks and drive until the whistle. We lined up at the sled, he gave the cadence and we flew out of our stances and popped the sled. And we drove it, and drove it - first 10 yards, then 20, 30 - around the 40 yard line 2 guys dropped off, the rest kept driving and finally we too fell from exhaustion after driving about 2/3rd of the field. We turned around to find out that Coach had dropped his whistle in the grass when he went to blow it, couldn’t find it, and was running behind us down the field yelling whoa! We were too tired laugh, too tired to do anything but roll over and lay down in the grass.

So I sat in the filled room and listened to the Memorial service and I took a look around. My mind refocused from the past and came back to the present. I thought to myself we worry about the finances on Wall Street and the economy. But here is true wealth. Here in this room are the people that have been enriched by one mans life. This is the treasure that can’t be measured in bank accounts and balance sheets. As long as we have people ready to pick up the baton and carry it like Mr. Delong did our future is not in doubt.

Leaving the world a better place - a lesson for all of us.

South Varsity 2-0 Saturday Night
J. C. Tilton
Both the South Girls and Boys teams came up winners on Saturday night in games over Dixie. But both games were exciting and weren’t decided until the final quarter. It was a day where you could get all the basketball you could eat. Starting with a Dixie - South freshman game, then JV’s and finally varsity’s the two schools squared off all afternoon and battled until the final whistle blew after 9 o’clock that night.
The South girls varsity took an early 13-7 lead. But the Greyhounds doggedly stayed on their heels. South stretched out their lead to 10 points but Dixie closed the gap thanks to a pair of baskets from Kayla Bertke and a pair of free throws from Jessica Leis. This late quarter surge brought Dixie back to within 5 at the half.
Dixie played mainly in a man to man defense, while South used a variety of defenses to keep the Greyhounds off balance. South was being very aggressive on defense and accumulated a surplus of fouls in both halves. This would be a factor late in the game and also showed on the scoreboard as Dixie would go on to score almost a third of their points from free throws.
Dixie made a run at South in the third quarter. They pulled to within one at the 2:29 mark. South needed to regain momentum and got it when Adelee Gates connected on a trey to pull South ahead. South stayed true to form and ended the quarter with 6 fouls to Dixie’s one. A short South team was made even shorter when sophomore Laura Ingram was sent to the bench with 4 fouls.
The last quarter was in the hands of the defense. Both teams turned over the ball but had problems finding the basket. South deliberately ran their offense and tried to use clock. Dixie played aggressive defense and chipped away at the South lead. Laura Ingram would get her 5th foul and would watch the rest of the game from the pine. Dixie closed to within 2 and got their chance with 20 seconds left. They tied up the South offense and got a jump ball. They set up their shot, it hit iron but didn’t drop. Time expired before another attempt could be made. South would win 37-35.
South’s Coach Mabry, “We played well in spurts, we had open shots but they weren’t always dropping for us. We’ve been working on getting the ball inside tonight, but we probably didn’t get in there hardly at all tonight. A win is a win and at this point in the season, I’ll take it.”
Dixie Coach Tom Geglein, “We started out slow. We let Gates hurt us with 10 points and Ingram added 4. We hustled and we had the last second shot. It looked nice, it just didn’t fall. I can’t complain, we played well - if we played like this against Eaton we would have beat them. They have a nice team, Gates is a nice player.”
The boys varsity game followed a similar format. South got the early lead with a 6-0 run. Dixie stayed on their heels. Dixie seemed to have problems with the South zone, but were later able to figure it out and at start scoring. Dixie started in man to man defense, but went to a box and one, placing Nick Worley one on one with South scorer Ryan Innis. Greyhound Tyler Darney made his presence known with three 3 point baskets in the second quarter. South with Innis getting extra attention, balanced their attack with shots landing from the outside as well as scoring in the paint. Dixie made up some ground but was still short 33-26 at the half.
In the third quarter South again peeled off a 6-0 run to start. They applied pressure with a half court trap and made adjustments on offense to open up scoring opportunities. But like their counterparts in the previous game. South accumulated fouls at a faster clip. And their big post player Eric Walker accumulated his third foul early in the third quarter.
The Greyhounds made their run and pulled to within 3 with about 2:54 left in the game. But a foul shot by Jordan Combs followed by a bucket by Eric Walker stretched the lead back out again. South was sure footed on the foul line and extended their lead as Dixie tried in vain during last minute of play. At the final buzzer South would win 67-57.
“It was a frenetic game,” stated coach Augspurger, I thought Dixie’s kids battled hard and scrapped hard. We started off playing well, but I thought we didn’t move in our zone as well as we needed to move and they took advantage of that. They changed the pace of the game with the box and one. Worley did a great job against Ryan [Innis]. But there are other guys who can help offensively and until we start making shots, we are going to be susceptible to this. But this is the type of game up to this point of the season that we have lost. We could have folded and died but we didn’t do that tonight.”