Monday’s musings, take II...
• MHS KICKERS HOME TUESDAY — After opening the season with six straight road games, the McPherson High boys soccer team is home for the second straight time on Tuesday when it hosts Augusta.
It’s hard to believe this game marks the halfway point of the regular season for the Bullpups, who perhaps have surprised some folks by starting the year 4-2-1, the only losses being 1-0 verdicts to Hays and Salina South. MHS practically has a brand-new starting lineup as nearly every standout from last year graduated.
Augusta generally isn’t a strong team, so the Bullpups are hoping for a convincing win that would give them some momentum going into Thursday’s road game at Hutchinson. Even though they no longer meet in football, there’s still nothing quite like McPherson against Hutchinson in any sport.
Following Thursday’s game, MHS is home next Tuesday to take on Rose Hill, which is ranked No. 1 in Class 4-1A and made it to the state championship game last year while the Bullpups were taking third place.
• SPIKERS AT ROSE HILL — McPherson High and Rose Hill will meet for a second straight week on the volleyball court, this time on the Rockets’ home floor.
Winfield will be the third team in the triangular on Tuesday.
MHS and Rose Hill have developed a nice rivalry over the last three years. While the matches are always competitive, the Bullpups have prevailed most of the time.
The teams met last week as part of a triangular at Andale, with the Bullpups winning in straight sets. MHS takes an 11-1 record into the tri and it’s part of a big week, as the team plays in the always-competitive Newton Invitational on Saturday. The Bullpups are expected to see some of the better teams in the state. At this point the other teams expected to compete are Andale, Andover Central, Goddard Eisenhower, Hays, Salina South, Wichita Heights and Wichita Northwest.
• ROYALS WILL COME UP SHORT — When looking at the schedule of baseball’s final week, the odds are not in favor of the Kansas City Royals making the playoffs.
The Royals will certainly lose the suspended game today at Cleveland, which would make them 84-71. That would put them a game behind Oakland for the No. 1 wild-card berth as the A’s are 85-70. Seattle is 83-72 and I’m telling you, don’t count out Cleveland, which is 81-74.
The Royals and Cleveland then play a regular game tonight as well as games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Indians have been tough on the Royals at home. It seems like Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Michael Bourne just wear the Royals out.
The Royals then close with four in Chicago, a team they have had some moderate success with.
Cleveland also is home for its final series, a four-gamer with Tampa Bay, which already is looking to next year. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Indians sneak in.
Oakland is home for three against the AL West-winning Angels, who probably will be resting some of their front-line players in anticipation of the playoffs. Seattle goes to Toronto for four, then closes with three against the Angels.
I think Kansas City can forget about winning the AL Central. Detroit plays its final seven at home against AL Central tailenders Chicago and Minnesota, though the Twins always seem to be competitive.
If I was a betting man, Oakland and Seattle are going to get in and that Cleveland is going to pass by the Royals, though both teams will be on the outside looking in.
• BIG 12 THOUGHTS — This isn’t going to be a banner football year for the Big 12.
Judging from what I’ve seen so far, only three teams are going to be on the national radar.
Oklahoma still looks to be the team to beat, though this isn’t a team the caliber of the one that took down Alabama last year. It’s hard to get a read on Baylor because of its fluffy schedule, while Kansas State showed against Auburn it can compete nationally, but how will it react when it has to goes on the road as its only away game has been Iowa State, which it was fortunate to edge late. The Wildcats also have to play at OU and Baylor, with a split probably the best outcome realistically.
Most certain is that Kansas is far and away the worst team and will go O-fer in conference play unless one of its opponents shows up and sleep walks. I watched the Jayhawks’ game Saturday with Central Michigan and all I could say was “yikes.” The offensive line is slow and unathletic and quarterback Montell Cozart is incredibly shaky. The defense can thank its lucky stars for Ben Heeney. If not for the former Hutchinson High standout, 50-point games will be commonplace the rest of the way.
• SPECIAL TEAMS PENALTIES — I may miss some exciting plays, but I’ve taken a vow not to watch punt returns and kickoff returns anymore in the NFL.
Either the rules make it virtually impossible for there to be a return without a penalty or the dumbest players are put on special teams and simply don’t know any better.
The Kansas City Chiefs committed three penalties on special teams Sunday, which is about the norm these days. The common calls are block in the back or holding.
It also disrupts the flow of the game. Kick returns are starting to become the second-most irritant in the NFL — next to every kickoff going out of the end zone, unless you have a kicker with a weak leg like Kansas City’s Cairo Santos, who makes all Chiefs fans long for the days of the departed Ryan Succop, an economic casualty.