TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

Feel it? A touch of fall, the air of optimism … here we go

With a break from the recent sweltering heat, days early this week have had just a touch of fall to them.
It seems Mother Nature took a peek at the calendar – just in time too.
It’s game week!
That’s right, the start of the 2014 fall sports campaign has arrived. Are you ready?
In this week’s edition of the Albion News, you’ll find our annual Fall Sports Preview section to help prepare you for the excitement ahead.
As the section’s cover notes, there are once again changes around our area.
Things new, such as the Riverside High School Chargers. Things returning to the old, with the Knights retired and the Shamrocks back at Spalding Academy.
And, then, there are things that seem to just remain the same, such as your Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals, pegged as the preseason #1 football team in Class C1, primed for another run at the program’s second state championship. Sound familiar?
On the gridirons, the volleyball courts, the softball fields and golf courses, it promises to be another fall season chock full of excitement and surprises.
We’ll have seniors beginning their high school swan songs. New faces bursting onto the varsity scene. Some coaches in their final go-round. Others just beginning careers at their respective schools.
One constant at this point, for all programs at all area schools, is the optimism in the air. Anticipation. Hope.
Everyone’s undefeated. Anyone can still win conference, district and state championships. Dreams are all alive.
It won’t last forever, of course. Reality will set in for some, while others build confidence and momentum, drawing ever closer to to their ultimate goals.
No matter what side they end up on, regardless of what their record may be, every participant has a chance to learn the lessons athletics and competition have to offer. Along with, hopefully, having plenty of fun – win, lose or draw.
It’s a great time in their lives, these high school years. Athletics and other extra-curricular activities are often among the highlights. Used properly, athletics can benefit everyone.
Of course, in the end, it’s about competition, have no doubt. That’s sports. That’s life. That’s our American way, in a nutshell.
Compete. Strive. Shoot to be the best. Learn the lessons from falling short. Be gracious in defeat. Then strive to improve and compete again.
There are teams around our area with legitimate shots at championship trophies and medals. Others with maybe an outside chance if the stars align just right. And, yes, there are those whose current optimism is probably misplaced.
That doesn’t make the effort any less admirable or worthwhile. It just means we fans will have plenty of varying storylines to follow.
All of our athletes will be laying it on the line, giving their best, attempting to carry on traditions – or, perhaps, to begin new traditions.
Familiar eleven-man football. Eight-man and Nebraska Six-Man football. Volleyball in classes large and small. Cross country programs with contending teams – and with just a few runners. Softball. Girls golf.
That’s our fall sports season – varied, hectic and oh-so-much fun!
The Riverside Chargers will charge onto our sports scene as, fittingly, the Chargers.
Cardinal fans have followed with interest Boone Central graduate Joe Imus’ success heading up the Spalding/Spalding Academy basketball team in recent years. Imus will now be the basketball coach at Riverside, but first, he’s tackling football. Not the eleven-man game he played, the six-man version.
Spalding Academy is returning to the six-man game for the first time since the 1990s, as well. Veteran coach Troy Kleffner agreed with the sentiments of Imus, saying the adjustment for coaches and players would be this season’s biggest challenge.
St. Edward doesn’t face that hurdle, having competed in six-man for a number of years now. In fact, the Beavers have their biggest squad, number-wise, in coach Jereme Jones’ eight years at the school. Certainly a cause for optimism.
Lindsay Holy Family spent a season in six-man limbo a year ago, but now returns to the eight-man game in its coopeerative with Humphrey High. Coach Bill Mimick, in his 39th season of high school football, says his team is not eligible for the D1 playoffs this season, so “we are going to try and treat every game as a playoff game.”
Area fans are familiar with Coach Mimick, who has spent a chunk of his career on sidelines at Newman Grove and Lindsay. Rest assured, with help from Co-Coach Corey Uldrich, Mimick will have his squad well prepared.
That’s only touching on the gridiron. There will be plenty of area intrigue in volleyball, cross country, softball and girls golf too.
So pick up the Fall Preview and take a little time to familiarize yourself with the teams and athletes as we get ready for a new calendar year of high school sports.
As I said, it’s a great time in the lives of high school students and athletes.
But it’s a lot of fun for the fans, as well.