First of all, I have to start with a “good-bye” and “thank you” to outgoing LaFayette head football coach Tab Gable.
I’ll never forget the day Coach Gable was hired at LaFayette. I called my friend Stump Martin, who used to cover Gable’s teams at Trion while writing for the paper in Chattanooga, to tell him the news. The first words out of Stump’s mouth were “you’ll love Coach Gable and you won’t meet a finer man.”
Having following northwest Georgia high school football all my life, I knew who Coach Gable was, even though I had never met him. It took exactly one meeting with the man to know that Stump had hit it right on the head.
Coach Gable is a straight shooter, but he only had the best interests of his players at heart, and you can’t help but respect someone like that.
Coach, I know we talked at length on the phone the other day, but I want to go on record, publicly, in wishing you nothing but the very best in this next stage of your life. I may have only gotten to “work” with you for three seasons, but I’m a better person for having done so.
Your time at LaFayette may have been brief, but I can tell that your impact here was huge, not just on the football program, but on the community as a whole. Your presence on the sideline will be missed here in Walker County, and all throughout the state.
Speaking of people doing things the right way, huge congratulations are in order for Ridgeland senior linebacker Daniel Johnson, who if you didn’t hear was named as a finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.
No, not just a state finalist, but a national finalist.
The award, in its 19th year, honors the top senior student-athletes based on athletics, academics, community service, and other areas. More than 45,000 seniors from around the country applied and only 12 have been selected to go to New York City with a chance to become one of two national winners.
Needless to say, it’s a huge honor. It may be the single biggest honor any high school student-athlete can receive, and one of our own has an excellent chance of winning it all.
If you’ve ever met or know Daniel, you probably already know what I’m about to say. He’s simply one of the most polite and well-spoken young men I’ve ever have the pleasure of covering in this business. The kind of young man who still says “yes sir” and “no sir” and looks you in the eye when he speaks. The kind you’d want your daughter dating.
Not only he is a fantastic athlete, but his leadership skills are off the charts, and not just on the athletic field. President of the Student Government Association. Governor’s Honors Program. United States Senate Youth Program. 4.0 student in Ridgeland Honors Academy. Not to mention one heck of a football and baseball player.
He’s just one of a number of kids that are putting Ridgeland High School on the map. Not just as an excellent school for athletics, but as an excellent school for academics as well. Congrats again young man, and good luck in New York.
And turning to the college game, the SEC Championship Game is shaping up to be a heck of a matchup between Alabama and Georgia.
The Alabama team we’ve seen the last two weeks is the Tide team I sort of expected this year. Good. Very good, actually, but not great. You can’t lose that much talent to the NFL and not expect a drop-off, even at Alabama.
Georgia, on the other hand, looks to have finally found the defense we expected all season long. Their offense has been great since Day 1, but now with the defense rounding into form, this is a team that can easily win the SEC and, yes, even a National Title.
And barring something else really unforeseen, the Dawgs may get that chance after Black Saturday this past weekend.
The next part of this column had to be rewritten late after the events of Saturday, which saw both No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon lose on the same day.
I never saw that happening. I felt certain that K-State would roll to the Big 12 title and the BCS title game, and that no one had any chance of slowing down the Ducks on their way to a BCS title berth.
Now, it appears college football purists will get the matchup they wanted all along. Notre Dame against either Alabama or Georgia.
Of course, the Irish still have to beat rival USC (which is looking more and more likely if Matt Barkley can't play this week), while Alabama and Georgia still have rivalry games with Auburn and Georgia Tech.
But with what's now at stake, I don't see anyone of the three losing, but of course, I didn't see K-State or Oregon losing either.
And for the haters hoping and praying no SEC team wins, much less even plays for the national title this season, try this one on for size...
If Notre Dame falls to USC, it could very well be an all-SEC national title game with the Alabama-Georgia winner facing Florida for all the marbles, assuring the SEC of yet another BCS crown.
Florida might just be in the catbird's seat at this point. All the Gators would need, besides a Notre Dame loss, is a win over rival Florida State and they are all but guaranteed to face the Tide or Dawgs in January.
Scott Herpst is Sports Editor of the Walker County Messenger.