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The Pat on Sports: I am back!

After an extended vacation from covering the local sports scene I am back.  Most of you can figure out why I have stayed away if you think hard enough.

It is good to be back and what a time to come back.  This year has the potential to be magical for Cougar football.  It is the best line up of senior talent ever on the field there.  This should be a playoff year and we should advance past the first round for a change.  Despite a tough region I know this team has what it takes.

I can sum up the goodness of this team in four players that I had the pleasure of coaching.  Tyler Albright, Troy Arnold, Stephen Wells, and Phillip Wells all former the heart and soul of my final Jacksboro team.  I would take them on either side of the ball with any team I=2 0ever coached.

Albright has turned into a potent rushing threat.  I always figured he would evolve into more of a defensive player but hey is doing well on both sides of the ball.  That isn’t a personal slight towards him as a runner, it is simply the fact that he was a great tackler in middle school and always had a nose for making the play.

Troy Arnold is simply the most coachable player I have ever coached.  He is a great blocking back who can run when needed.  He is also the leader of any defense you want to put him on.  For raw tackling ability and ability to read plays there is nobody better.

Stephen Wells is versatile on offense and is one of the two best corners I ever coached.  He and his twin have a knack for knowing what the other is going to do and it pays dividends on the field.

Phillip Wells is the leader of the team.   Anybody who criticizes him being made the starting quarterback has never really watched him play.  He is a general on the field and is smart enough to change the play if needed.  Defensively he is one of the only quarterbacks on a team I coached that I ever let play on defense.  He is the other half of the best corner tandem I ever coached.

I also have to give mad props to the new voices of the Cougars Josh Parker and Adam Ellison.  They are a great team and really convey the game to me if I am listening to them.  I hear Robby Gross is their stat man and he has sports knowledge that is better than most.  He is an excellent writer and probably deserves a little air time himself either in the pre or post game.



The Pat on Sports:  Enough is enough and it is time for a change!

Phil Fulmer needs to go.  There I said it.  I have defended Fulmer for a long time but after the second half collapse during the Vols/Bruins game on Labor Day I can no longer do it.
Yes he is a long time Tennessee loyalist.  Yes he won a National Title.  Yes we usually have a top 5 recruiting class.
What has that gotten us?  Trips to the Peach Bowl.  UT should be contending for the SEC Title and a BCS bowl every year. 
I know the SEC is loaded with talent.  It is also loaded with coaching talent.  People that out coach Fulmer at every turn.  I never used to worry about losing to Kentucky and Vanderbilt.  Now it is a fear every year.  I have a constant dread of the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama games.  In fact I am getting to the point that I do not enjoy UT football.
Every year Fulmer fires a scapegoat.  Every year he seems to get a raise and contract extension.  Do you think Florida would extend a coach’s contract after a Peach Bowl year??  No that would be a coach with a season to turn things around or get axed.  UGA would not settle for owning just a share of the SEC East title every year.  That is why they are the top team in the nation right now.
I know several others have had enough.  In fact I used to argue with those people over Fulmer’s job status.  Now I have joined the choir.  It is time to bring in new blood.  I have to think most coaches would love to have a job in the SEC.  The fact that we have some of the biggest crowds in the country would certainly help draw a quality coach here.  The fact that we pay Fulmer huge amounts for being mediocre should make a coach think that if he did well that he could make amazing money.
Sadly this probably won’t happen.  Mike Hamilton seems content with Fulmer.  Besides he has the star power of Bruce Pearl bringing in great basketball crowds, deservingly so.  Pearl has done more with UT basketball in the few years he has been there than Fulmer has in the decade since the national title.
Onto other happier thoughts.  The Cougars are looking to rebound from the Jeff County loss this week. Clinton in a tough opponent but is a very winnable game.  The Dragons just came of a thrashing at the hands of Maryville and will be looking to rebound as well.  I don’t think their offense is as potent as the Cougar defense is.  I see this as a two touchdown win by the Cougars.
Also I will say it again Robby Gross needs to get on the air with Josh and Adam.  I don’t know why you won’t Robby.  I know you and I know you have a lot to add to the already great show.  It is time to get on there buddy

























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The Pat on Sports:  Ric Flair returns!



I haven’t regularly watched wrestling since last year’s Wrestlemania. It just wasn’t the same without Nature Boy Ric Flair who retired after losing a “career threatening” match to Shawn Michaels.

Flair has been a fixture in my TV viewing since I started watching wrestling in the early 80’s.  While everybody else was out there being a little Hulkster I wanted to be a little Nature Boy.

To me he was the most electrifying man in sports entertainment long before The Rock.  Of course back them it wasn’t sport’s entertainment it was simply wrestling or rasslin if you lived in the south.

Flair made every match he was in worth watching even if his opponent was sub par.  If the opponent were decent you would get an awesome match.  If the opponent was good you would get a match of the year candidate.

My biggest treat was when he would make his yearly trip to Knoxville to face the Continental Champion.  This was back in the days when the NWA champion toured all of the smaller territories that made up the larger National Wrestling Alliance.  His matches in Knoxville were usually with Bullet Bob Armstrong and were always the highlight of the year locally.

Flair is one of the main reasons I got into wrestling myself.  I mean who wouldn’t want to be like the Nature Boy.  I even bleached my hair platinum blonde like his once.  Granted he had much longer hair and wasn’t nearly as balding as me.  I came off looking more like Dusty Rhodes than Ric Flair.

Flair continued wrestling much longer than his peers and even n his late 50’s put on better matches than most of the “superstars” that currently fill the roster of WWE.

When I saw that he was going to be on Raw Monday night I had to watch for the first time since his farewell address on the Raw post Wrestlemania.  He didn’t disappoint.  His interview and confrontation with Chris Jericho was the best thing on WWE TV in the last year.

Even if he is just back for the weeks leading up to this year’s Wrestlemania he has made me watch again.



The Pat on Sports:  How soon to start?

I recently had a pair of conversations with some friends.  One friend was happy that his son was already playing little league football.  The other was afraid his son was not interested in sports at all.
Starting early in sports is a double-edged sword.  It can be great if you have the proper teachers.  It can also cause a child to burn out early or learn poor skills.
When I coached football at Jacksboro Middle School I used to dread getting players that had played little league.  It often meant completely reteaching the very fundamentals of the game.  The worst part was the kids did not understand why I was telling them what they learned was wrong.  One time my old editor Jason Davis, now with The Mountain Press in Sevier County, horrified me when he told me while photoing a little league practice he heard a coach tell a player, "don't move 'til you hear them say hike".  That is horrible to teach as a slow or long count could easily defeat that tactic.
I am not saying all little league coaches are bad.  When the late Jerry nelson ran the program it was as good as any school program in the county.  Folks like the Moser's also did a fantastic job.  Sadly anybody that wants to can coach little league.  While I applaud the dedication of the folks that give their time they should at least go to a coaching clinic or two.
On the other hand starting late can have its benefits.  Sports can be very rough on a body.  A growing body is often more vulnerable. An early injury can be devastating to a young athlete both physically and psychologically.  Also the burn out factor is something I experienced first hand.  After having football pushed on me my entire life I was done after middle school.  I am sure the scholars bowl team and drama departments were very happy with my lack of desire to play football.  Looking back though I regret not playing and had I not been so burnt on it I am sure I would have.
Let your kids try other things if they aren't interested in sports.  Sign them up for music lessons or dance.  Let them expand their horizons.  Remember that they aren't supposed to play sports for you to live vicariously through.  Encourage them to do things they like.
Also remember that Chad Pennington did not play football until he was in high schoool.  That worked out pretty good for him.


The Pat on Sports:  Legacy of Greatness part 2:  The Rivalry

Every good team has a rival that no matter how good or bad they are from year to year you know it will be a war when they play.  The Dallas Cowboys have the Washington Redskins.  Ohio State has Michigan.  Jacksboro has LaFollette.
The Eagle/Owl rivalry stretches all the way back to when both schools were high schools, continued through their days as junior high schools, and to this day continues as the hottest middle school rivalry in East Tennessee.  A few years back a traveling trophy was added to the rivalry and it was named the Egg Bowl by former Eagle head coach and current Wartburg Central defensive coordinator Rodney Ellison.  Ellison, a long time Eagle assistant under both Johnny Bruce and Scott Stockwell felt the team needed something similar to the old Beer Barrel that UT and Kentucky played for (and that should be brought back but that is a column for another time).  He contacted then Owl head coach Lonnie Vann and a new twist was added to Campbell County football’s version of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. Both coaches felt that it gave both teams a little something extra to play for, especially if one was having a losing season with no hopes of the playoffs.
At one point the buffoon that was the first Campbell County Director of Schools tried to end the rivalry saying that he felt it was bad for the CCHS Cougars because the rivalry caused to much hatred between the two groups and didn’t allow them to come together as a high school.  Of course smarter people than him pointed out that Oak Ridge never had a problem with Jefferson and Robertsville playing each other.  Luckily smarter heads prevailed and he is no longer directing anything.
The rivalry has long been won in the favor of the Eagles.  Stretching back to the inception of the schools the teams have met 25 times.  The Eagles have come out on top all but four of those encounters.  Three of those victories have been since the inception of the Egg Bowl.  Not taking anything away from the Owls.  For the longest time they had an administration that only cared about their basketball team and football was an after thought.  Newer, smarter administrations and better coaching have seen the Owls come alive in recent years and added even more excitement to this already exciting rivalry.
Having coached in several of these meetings myself I have felt the intensity first hand.  It is like no other game I have ever coached in, playoffs included.  No other team even comes close to bringing out the passion in the coaches, players, and fans.  Not Clinton who we never beat during my coaching tenure at Jacksboro, not Robertsville who always knocked us out of the playoffs.  Only the Owls could truly bring out the passion in us.
I just came from announcing this year’s Egg Bowl.  It is the first one the Eagles have won since I took the press box duties.  It was a barnburner even though it was a lopsided victory for the Eagles.  The crowd there made it feel like a high school playoff game.  The Eagles staff and fans went all out.  The Cheerleaders from both sides did their best to entertain the crowd.  The action on the field was intense but clean.  It was everything that makes being an Eagle so grand.

The Pat on Sports: Legacy of greatness part 1, JMS Football

Football season is always a special time for me.  Since I was a young child I have spent late summer, and early fall on the football field at Jacksboro Middle School.  Of course it was Jacksboro High School before I was born and later it was Jacksboro Junior High; until they moved the freshmen to the high school.  It was always a good time.
When I was in 6th grade it was time to actually play at Jacksboro.  This meant a lot to wear the blue and gold that I had grown up watching.  Of course I was extremely lazy, and my heart was never in to playing football.  That is one reason I only played at Jacksboro.  You may ask yourself why would you play at all if your heart wasn’t in it?
Because of the pride that comes from being an Eagle that is why.  It is a rare group that gets to wear the blue and gold.  If you look around they have accomplished a lot football wise all over the area.  Go down to Anderson County High School and look at their wall of fame and it is dominated by athletes that started out at JMS.
In fact it is the nature of Eagle football that sent Larry Kerr up to recruit here in the first place.  At Jacksboro players learn two very important things, fundamentals and how to win.  In fact up Jacksboro has the best winning percentage of any football team in Campbell County.  If you exclude the horrible Stockwell years Jacksboro has never had back to back losing seasons.
Not saying there haven’t been other great teams in Campbell County, but no team has been as consistently good like JMS.  LaFollette has had a good run recently.  Nobody can say Coach Wells has not done an outstanding job with Campbell County High School; Jellico has a good football legacy of their own (they are the only team to ever make the A, AA, AAA state playoffs).  Jacksboro has simply done it better and longer than the rest.
Much of the credit for Jacksboro’s success can go to one man, Coach Johnny Bruce.  He was the first coach at the middle school, and its longest tenured one.  He always taught fundamentals and brought out the best in the players.  Ronnie Lasley, Robbie Kitts, Sean Jessie and Rodney Ellison all continued the winning ways established by Coach Bruce.  Mike Miller is doing the same now as the Eagles are trying to make it to the TMSAA Championship game that will be hosted by Jacksboro this year.
This year’s Eagle team is top loaded with a great 8th grade class.  Will they make it to the title game?  The next few weeks will tell the tale.
Next week part two, The LaFollette rivalry.









Though all but a handful of NFL games remain in this football season it is not yet finished for a trio of Cougars.  Tyler Albright and Phillip and Steven Wells have been invited to play in the National Guard's Tennessee-Kentucky Border Bowl that will be held on January 17th at James H. Taylor II Stadium on the Campus of the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, KY.
Albright made the team as a running back after a stellar season with the Cougars.  Phillip Wells will be asuming the role of defensive back while his twin brother Stephen will be playing as a wide reciever in the contest.
The trio will be coached by a staff headed up by Sevier County's Steve Brewer. 
Cumberland Gap's John Shiply will also play in the game.













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