Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clash of the Titans... and the Eagles (fans)

Tribune photo by Aaron Lambert

Tuesday’s pivotal girls volleyball matchup between Arroyo Grande and Nipomo had he feel of something like a major college basketball game.

Two rowdy student sections were going head-to-head for dominance on and off the court. Arroyo Grande did its “Get out the game” chant. Nipomo countered with a rendition of “Mighty, mighty Titans.”

Each tried to drown out the other while employing the dirtiest looks this side of the Measure J debate.

After the game, one adult Eagles supporter actually went up to a student fan who helped lead the cheers and said, “You guys did it.”

I’d argue that the girls actually did most of “it” in Arroyo Grande’s 3-0 win, but it was a blast watching the dueling constituencies.

And as an added bonus, the Nipomo kids, who said they weren’t allowed to dress up during school, came decked out in some great Halloween costumes.

Notables were a walking refrigerator box painted like Spongebob Squarepants, a circa 1970s male tennis player complete with short shorts and a young man with a lucha libre mask. I think he was supposed to be Hijo del Santo, but I’m not sure.

But the Bloggin’ with Scroggin award for best costume went to Nipomo’s Mikie Michel.

Followed by four body-painted shirtless guys I assumed to be the Eastside Boys, Michel strutted into the gym moments before game time as rapper Lil Jon.

From the sideways cap and sunglasses to the trademark dreadlocks and golden chalice, Michel (the guy with the orange hat up there) had Lil Jon down. Kudos to Michel. Hopefully, he can wear the thing more than once.

Also, if it seems like I’m leaving out the Arroyo Grande costumers, it’s because they always dress “creatively” for volleyball matches. And other than a few girls with painted on mustaches, it was hard to tell if any of their outfits were specifically for Halloween.

If this was the precursor for what gyms will be like this winter, bring on basketball season.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Guilty conscience

Central Coast athletes should be an example for sports figures worldwide.

Friday night was the second time in a couple weeks that a local football player uttered something akin to the phrase, "I have to admit..." followed by an embarrassing actuality that somewhat took the gloss off a pretty big accomplishment.

First it was Atascadero running back Michael Reynoso, who had to admit he threw up after making a 95-yard touchdown run against King City. For the record, I didn't even ask.

Friday it was Arroyo Grande's Reade Lobdill, who rushed for 247 yards, a rarity for the Eagles considering the way they share the ball in coach Jon Huss' fly offense.

Admitted Lobdill, also a preseason All-County linebacker: "I have to say that I didn't make a tackle in the first half. I was focused so much on offense."

That was also unprovoked.

I'm preparing to interview Coast Union running back T.J. Nelson, who ran for 451 yards at Fresno Christian this week, sometime soon, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that he chopped down the cherry tree or shot the sheriff or didn't eat his Wheaties.

If only professional athletes could be as open. Who wouldn't want to hear a certain high-profile baseball player admit he juiced — or another world-famous cyclist for that matter? Anyone who heard Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers bumbling this week about the pine tar incident knows how honest he is.

But here in San Luis Obispo County, our athletes spit it right out. Here's to telling the truth, no matter how unflattering it may seem.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

K-Mart: SLO's Blue Light Special

Though the Atascadero High defense may feel like it shut down San Luis Obispo in the Greyhounds' 42-13 football victory Friday, it's because they were only hoping to contain Tigers receiver Kevin Martin.

Martin, who set a San Luis Obispo team record with 189 yards on seven receptions in win over Righetti last week, followed up the effort with a 13-catch, 162-yard performance agaist Atascadero and scored both of the Tigers' touchdowns.

"He's definitely the best receiver we've seen," Greyhounds coach Vic Cooper said, "including the kid from Clovis that's going to Fresno State."

Cooper was referring to Clovis' Matt Lindsay, a Scout.com two-star recruit who made a verbal committment to the Bulldogs and caught 12 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in Atascadero's 17-15 win in Clovis last month.

Martin, who leads the Central Coast in receptions and yards, entered the game ranked in the top 15 in the state in receving yards and 46th in the nation, according to Maxpreps.com.

And he's quickly made a reputation for making the tough catches: diving grabs, acrobatic leaps and holding on the ball after big hits.

"We have a little kind of connection," Tigers quarterback Conner Reese said. "He makes great plays and that's what I like."

When was the last time a league MVP was a receiver? If the Tigers can rebound from the loss and get back into the PAC 7 title picture, Martin could find himself in that kind of a discussion.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deeply shallow

As Stuart Browlee stood arms stretched in goal for the Atascadero High boys water polo team — his belly button above the water level — there was no way he was giving up a goal to visiting Nipomo High.

"Stop standing up!" one mustachioed Titans fan yelled.

See, your feet aren't supposed to touch the bottom of the pool in water polo. But here was Brownlee, standing straight up with nearly half his body out of the water. But most pools are deep enough where standing up isn't really a problem.

I wasn't too surprised to find out Brownlee wasn't 14-feet tall when he crawled out of the pool after the game. The real shocker was that one end of Atascadero's pool is only 3 1/2-feet deep. That's like one half of a football field being 20-yards wide.

Because of the shallow end, the rules get bent a little when it comes to goaltending. Contrary to spectators' gripes, the goalie is allowed to stand.

And that's not the only tweak to the rulebook and strategy guide. The goals are super huge, and the teams switch sides every period as opposed to only at halftime. Plus, most goals are scored by whichever offensive team is currently attacking the deep end.

Players other than the goalkeeper still aren't allowed to touch bottom, which can get a little ridiculous when guys like Atascadero's 6-foot-3 hole set Karl Weit can nearly sit down in the shallow end and keep their heads above water.

Fans knock the pool. Opposing coaches say it somewhat disables their team's offense. Even Atascadero coach Mitch Stafford denies it's an advantage for his team, saying it's just less of a disadvantage for the Greyhounds. And when Atascadero goes on the road, it makes other pools seem twice as wide and even more cavernous.

It certainly is a different brand of water polo. That is, if you're accustomed to water polo. Football fans are probably thinking, "As long as it's deep enough to submerge all the Speedos, it's cool."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The box of all boxes ...

Before I went off to cover Atascadero's thrilling 24-17 prep football victory over Arroyo Grande — the Greyhounds' first win over the Eagles since 1997 — Tribune intern Tristan Aird told me that Doug Hitchen Stadium in Arroyo Grande had the best press box on the Central Coast.

He lauded the construction and the viewing angles, the large windows and the lighting.

Tristan was right. The Doug Hitchen press box experience was priceless but not because of its comfort.

The best part about the box is that the radio and print media are all together in one big room. Normally, the radio play-by-play announcers are separated from the newspaper reporters and put in different rooms.

Picture the Atascadero radio guys in one extreme corner, the Arroyo Grande guys in the other, this unbiased reporter in the middle and several Eagles boosters filling out the rest of the chairs.

In a tight game, it was a hoot to hear the Atascadero radio guys pipe up when the Greyhounds made a big play or got nailed with a controversial penalty. And when Arroyo Grande busted a big run, the Eagles' play-by-play men had their say. It was kind of like watching all the television channels at once.

And to top it all off, the stadium's namesake, Doug Hitchen himself, who worked at the high school for 34 years and 17 as principal, sat like a king on his throne in the dead center of the box, fittingly on a chair taller than everyone else's.

Is Arroyo Grande’s the best press box? I haven't been to them all, but it was a great place to watch an exciting game.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mr. Anonymous

For the record, I very much enjoy when readers log onto the blog and tell us exactly what we’re doing wrong. I wish everyone would do it.

But for some less internet-savvy readers, they just wait until they see a guy with a clipboard at a high school game, ask if he's with the T.T. and do it in person. That’s cool, too. (Except for the T.T. part. It’s just “The Tribune” now. Telegrams are so last century.)

The last time a reader came up to me, he brought up a good point. I was forced to reveal a heavily guarded newspaper secret. And now I’m giving it away in this blog.

He wanted to know if I was the guy who came out to last week’s water polo match — because if I was, I got all the details wrong. I told him that nobody was at the match.

“But it said ‘staff reports,’ ” he exclaimed.

I might get fired for telling you this, but here’s the journalism secret revealed: “Staff reports” in a byline is newspaper code for “we weren’t there.”

We sports journalists also have other cryptic ciphers, kind of like the “Da Vinci Code.” And I’ve heard when you put them all together and read them backward in a mirror, they reveal the source of the Barry Bonds grand jury leak, but I’m not sure.

Basically, whenever you read a sports story that’s penned by the staff of The Tribune, it means the report’s information was either taken over the phone or written off a news release — or both. Sometimes I write them or another reporter or editor does. Most times it’s one of our interns or news assistant.

Mistakes surely happen, but not because some reporter covered the game with his eyes closed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who's lookin' good? You tell me

OK, since you made it pretty clear in my blog last Friday that The Tribune, meaning me, doesn't really know much of anything when it comes to high school football, I've decided to go to the people who do: You, the readers.

But seriously, all phony self-deprication aside, we're halfway through high school football season, and I want to know who you think are the players who've been most impressive so far this season.

I'll throw a few easy names out there. San Luis Obispo quarterback Conner Reese has looked sharp. Atascadero running back Michael Reynoso surprised me. And despite a ho-hum showing against Templeton on Friday, Morro Bay's Kevin Scott has showcased his sprinter's speed.

Now before some rogue Mission Prep Harrison Keller fan blasts me for leaving him out, remember, I can only go to one game a week. This is your chance to tell me who I need to see -- without calling me an idiot preferably.

Who's on "Bloggin' with Scroggin's" midseason All-County team? You decide.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Back on the market

Ashley Adams just wanted everybody to give her some space.

Phone calls, e-mails, nagging fans. The Division I volleyball recruiting process was taking a mental toll on the 16-year-old San Luis Obispo High junior last winter.

Now 17 and a senior, Adams said she was rushed into making a decision when she verbally committed to attend Louisville on an athletic scholarship in February. And two weeks ago Wednesday, the Tribune County Player of the Year rescinded the committment, which she made without visiting the Kentucky campus.

"I thought I wanted to go there, but I just wanted recruiting to be over," Adams said. "It was was a rushed decision."

Now Adams is back on the market, and she said hometown upstart Cal Poly and perennial power Hawaii are her top two, with Louisville still harboring an outside shot to get her back.

Mustangs coach Jon Stevenson, who is prohibited by the NCAA from commenting on recruits, is trying to build the program back up to its glory days in the mid-80s, when the Mustangs were a national title contender. An athletic talent like Adams is sure to further that goal.

Before she can take her official visits, Adams has to take the ACT test, which she's scheduled to do Oct. 28. She said Cal Poly may have the advantage of being close to home, but the most important factors in her decision will be quality of education and which school will give her the best opportunity to play volleyball after college.

"Olympics, beach, whatever," Adams said. "I love volleyball so much, I want to play as long as a I can for as long as I can."