Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Iowa Star Conference Preview (Girls)

It’s November, the first Winter Storm Watch of the approaching winter has been posted, and high school basketball is right around the corner. Here’s a sneak preview at the top three girls’ teams in the North and South Divisions of the Iowa Star Girls Conference. Boys’ preview coming at a later date. Enjoy!

Iowa Star South:

1. North Tama—North Tama returns 3 starters from a 20-4 squad a year ago, including 6’2” senior center Kailey Kladivo. Kladivo led the team with 19.2 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game last season. Other returning starters are Allison Zobel (9.3 ppg, 3.2 rebounds/game, 4.1 assists/game and 2 steals/game) and Aryn Isenhower (1.8 ppg, 3.2 rebounds/game, 2.5 assists/game, 2.1 steals/game). Sydney Fehr (5.7 ppg) and Nicole Schlichting (4.9 rpg) should round out the starting line-up for a powerful Redhawks squad that could be rated in the top 10.

2. Colo-Nesco—The Royals return 7 of their 9 top scorers from a 16-7 squad a year ago, led by shooting guard Madison Eley and senior forward Jessica Johnson. Eley led the team with 12.3 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.8 assists. Johnson averaged 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3 steals a year ago. Other key returnees/starters are Caitlyn Riese (6.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg), Haley Stoeffler (6.0 ppg, 1.3 spg), Dana Baker (3.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 spg), Erica Babinat (3.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 spg) and Madison Farren (1.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg). The Royals will be the deepest, most experienced team in the league and will challenge the Redhawks for the South Division title and should make a deep run in the post-season tourney.

3. Don Bosco—A deep collection of juniors return to a Don Bosco team that finished 11-11 a year ago. Four of five starters return and 7 of the teams top 8 scorers, led by junior Melissa Ament (10.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg). She will be joined by fellow juniors Brittany Hickson (9.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Karli Welter (4.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.7 apg) and Cate Paulsen (7.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Other key returnees are juniors Kyndal Gardner (3.9 ppg) and Olivia Rigdon (2.0 ppg) and sophomore Kaitlyn McGarvey (1.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Look for Don Bosco to make great strides this season and potentially be a top 10 or 20 team next year with all of those seniors.

Iowa Star North:

1. Tripoli—Tripoli finished 23-2 last year and returns its top two leading scorers: Megan Gilbert and Bailey Kirchoff. Gilbert averaged 16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.0 blocks per game last season. Kirchoff averaged 10.7 points, 3.4 steals and 1.7 assists while connecting for 32 3-pointers. They will be joined by Ashlen Damm (3.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 spg), Hannah Gienau (2.3 ppg), Sara Hoppenworth (2.4 ppg) and Jenna Capper (1.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg). Tripoli will miss the scoring of three senior starters from a year ago that all averaged over 9 points per game.

2. Clarksville—Clarksville returns every player from a team that finished 12-11 last season. Like Don Bosco, they are led by a solid group of juniors including Hannah Poppe (12.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Megan Backer (10.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.2 spg), Kayla Mennenga (9.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 56 3-pointers), Kimberly Wedeking (3.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.2 spg), senior Carissa Kelm (3.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.7 spg) and sophomore Emily Mennenga (5.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg). Like Don Bosco, look for Clarksville to make major strides this season and be a strong force to reckon with next year.

3. Northeast Hamilton—Coach Brandon Frohwein lost one of the best players in the league from last year’s 17-7 squad in Kalli Richardson (20.8 ppg), but returns two starters including senior Kayla Fonken (5.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 1.5 spg) and junior Jennifer Willems, the teams leader in assists a year ago (3.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.0 apg). Molly Greenfield will be counted on to give the team a third scorer as she averaged 4 points per game and 2.7 rebounds last year. Other experience returning includes Jennifer Jeffers and Sara Elm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

Iowa State quarterback Jerome Tiller threw the prettiest ball he’s thrown in three years on the opening play from scrimmage in today’s annual spring game—a 30 yard tight spiraled strike to Darius Reynolds into a stiff wind. Highly touted junior college transfer Steele Jantz threw an equally impressive touchdown strike later in the first half. Jantz’ throw was into a stiff wind too. The defense returns 9 of 11 starters from a unit that surprised most college football experts a year ago. A new 13-year television deal between Fox and the Big 12 was inked this past week, meaning nearly every Cyclone football game will be televised beginning in 2012. The deal, according to Big 12 officials is the most lucrative television contract in all of sports. Yes, hope springs eternal in Cyclone country this April, still four months away from another college football season.

It was a windy, cold day at Jack Trice Stadium, but that didn’t stop thousands of Cyclone fans from venturing out to see who the new quarterback might be this fall, or what all the hype is about a slew of exciting running backs—maybe the best depth and combination of running backs the school has ever had when it’s all said and done.

It appears as though Jerome Tiller (12-18; 174 yards; 2 TD’s) and Steele Jantz remain in a close competition at the QB spot. Jantz threw for 113 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown pass from Jantz was a gorgeous 50-yard touch pass to his junior college teammate Aaron Horne. Of all the players that impressed me the most today, it was Horne who had 8 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Horne, will join three returning starters from last years receiving corps—Darius Reynolds, Darius Darks and Josh Lenz to give the Cyclones a potent, experienced passing game. The biggest question that remains though, is who will be leading that passing attack?

Whether it’s Jantz, Tiller, or even freshman Jared Barnett who looked great as a scrambler but not so much as a passer, one thing is for certain—it’s April, there’s a lot of talent returning from a team that nearly made a bowl game last year, there’s the new TV deal, we get the Hawks at home this year, and yes—hope springs eternal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Falling In Love With…Soccer???

I used to hate soccer. Despised it, actually. The whole “minivan” and “coffee addict-soccer mom” stigmas overshadowed the thoughts that soccer was actually a real sport. That, and the fact that so many matches ended with such low scores and I really had no reason to watch it gave me little reason to think otherwise. It just never seemed as exciting as the big television sports of baseball, basketball and football.

As a sports fan, I’d always dreamed of cheering for my children someday when they played sports. Until recently, there hadn’t been anything to get too excited about (the tee-ball games and soccer games ages five through nine are mostly fun and exercise more than anything). But a year and a half ago, it finally began to get exciting. My oldest boy, Sawyer (now 12), was in a Youth Soccer League that included 6 other central Iowa teams: Gilbert, Nevada, Indianola, Knoxville, Urbandale and Altoona. He was finally at the age where they started to keep score and keep track of team records. The games actually meant something.

After losing the first game that year, the boys improved leaps and bounds every week. Other than a tie with a tough Knoxville team on the road, the Ballard boys didn’t lose another contest all season. With a record of 5-1-1, the Division title came down to the final game of the season—a rematch with Gilbert, the only team we had lost to. The boys won that contest to finish 6-1-1, and for the first time in my life, I was really excited about soccer.

Last season wasn’t quite as successful, with several of the boys from the previous year’s team graduating up to the next age level. There was talent, but they lacked experience and cohesiveness. This year though, the excitement is back. The boys have started the season 2-0, looking very impressive after a 10-1 victory on Sunday. It’s been really fun to watch a core group of kids stick together and mature into a cohesive unit this early into the season. It’s becoming obvious that if this group and the group ahead of them sticks together through high school that they could accomplish some really great things.

It’s amazing what happens to your interests in life when your kids are involved. The Ballard high school squad is currently ranked #9 in boys’ soccer. My son’s Youth 12 team plays a tough Perry squad this coming Sunday and I can’t wait to see how we do. Our little “right defender” is playing some good soccer with a great bunch of kids right now and for the first time in my life I can honestly say, “I’m loving soccer.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

THIS is daytime drama!

It always cracks me up this time of year when the NCAA Tournaments take over daytime television for a whole two days. A WHOLE TWO DAYS. Every year, CBS has to scroll across the bottom of the screen that the normal daytime soap operas won’t be airing, much to the chagrin of millions of soap opera junkies.

But CBS has it all wrong.

The NCAA Tournaments ARE daytime drama—the best kind imaginable! I mean seriously, if this was the kind of daytime drama that was on 365 days of the year, think of how many more stay-at-home dads there would be!

Instead of home-wreckers, there are bracket-busters. Instead of people cheating on their spouses or significant others, there’s millions of employees cheating their bosses out of time worked by watching the games while they should be working. Instead of extra-marital affairs and catfights, there are coaches playing against their former schools or alma maters or mentors. There is cliffhanger after cliffhanger as fans sit on the edge of their seats to see how their brackets and favorite teams will play out.

Will Oakland beat Texas? Can Duke successfully defend its national championship? Can Belmont be this year’s Cinderella? Will Kansas’ Bill Self have to face his former team (Illinois) in the second round? How will two completely different styles of play with Kentucky versus Princeton unravel? Which high-seed will be upset first? Can a guy named “Jimmer” single-handedly lead BYU to the Final Four?

Forget the Bold and the Beautiful. This is daytime drama at its finest!

Monday, March 14, 2011

7 bracket-buster teams to watch

(Seeds in parentheses)

Washington (7)—Any team that has a player named Isaiah Thomas (16.7 ppg) has to be good, right? If you watched the Pac 10 final last weekend, you saw the mojo he brings to that Huskies team—a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season. Look for Washington to upset North Carolina and advance all the way to the Elite 8.

Kentucky (4)—A real head scratcher with the Wildcats slated as a 4 seed, while Florida (whom they destroyed on Sunday) is a 2 seed. KU has the talent—freshmen Brandon Knight (17 ppg) and Terrence Jones (17 ppg) are future NBA stars—and the athleticism to knock off Ohio State and make it all the way to the championship game.

Utah St. (12)—The pairing of Utah State and Kansas State may prove to be one of the most critical selections in your brackets. Kansas State has the potential to make a Final 4 run. Or, they could go down in the first round to a Utah State team that has won 30 games and has been to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row and start 4seniors. If Utah State wins, look for the Aggies to make a Sweet 16 run.

Belmont (13)—Staying in the Southeast region, the pairing of Belmont against Wisconsin is an intriguing one. Belmont is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation and plays ten players consistently. The Bruins lead the nation in scoring margin and rank #11 in points per game. Could it be a Utah State/Belmont match up to advance to the Sweet 16?

Oakland (13)—Similar to the Utah State/Kansas State pairing, this first round game could be a real bracket-buster. Texas has the talent to make a Final 4 run. Or they could lose (I’m predicting it) to Oakland in the first round. Oakland played a difficult schedule (at West Virginia, at Purdue, at Illinois, Michigan State, at Michigan, at Ohio State, and Tennessee) and isn’t going to be afraid of the Longhorns in the first round. They have good inside/outside balance with Keith Benson (18 ppg) and Reggie Hamilton (17.4 ppg). Look for Oakland to be a potential Cinderella team and advance to the Sweet 16.

Old Dominion (9)—The Monarchs are one of the best defensive teams in the nation and have a solid post player in Frank Hassell and advanced to the second round of last year’s tournament. Look for ODU to knock off Butler in the first round and give Pitt all they can handle in the second.

Richmond—(12)—Everyone who closely follows the NCAA Tournament knows that a 12 seed always beats a 5 seed. The Spiders are your absolute lock to do that this year, beating Vanderbilt. Mark it down. Richmond has wins over Purdue and Temple and is one of the best shooting teams in college basketball. Justin Harper, a 6-10 junior, averages 18 points and 7 rebounds, shoots 48 % from three-point distance and 80% from the free-throw line.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Royals Run Comes To End

Sometimes, it’s the luck of the draw. And, sometimes, that draw stinks.

I don’t care what anyone says, that was a state tournament game tonight. The events at Wells Fargo Arena in 2 weeks are just a formality. Besides, Wells Fargo Arena’s got nothing on the Roundhouse.

Lynnville-Sully beat Colo-Nesco, 52-35, and they will probably go on to win the state championship. They are that good. They beat two top ten teams to get there (and why there were 3 top 10 teams in one region is beyond me, but that’s a whole other conversation), and they’ve got it all—2 good inside players over 6’5, and two really good guards, including one of the best in the state—Chase Cullen, a junior.

But this column’s not about Lynnville-Sully, its about a Colo-Nesco team that has given its community one heck of a ride. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for this group of seniors. Back-to-back 20 win seasons, 3 substate appearances in 4 years, and a top 10 ranking are all things that cannot be taken away. The wins on the road this year against North Tama, Tripoli and Don Bosco were some of the most fun basketball games I’ve ever been to.

It hurts right now. Bad. But you’ve got to focus on the amazing things that have been accomplished in the last few years. Things to be proud of.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Royals Date With Roundhouse Is Set

The Royals beat Coon Rapids-Bayard, 47-32, to advance to the substate game on Saturday night at the Roundhouse in Marshalltown at 6:30 pm. The opponent will be Lynnville-Sully (22-2).

Colo-Nesco led by double-digits most of the night. The lead fell to 8 midway through the fourth quarter, and a Coon Rapids-Bayard three-pointer that went in and out made things a little uncomfortable. That would have cut the lead to five, but the Royals stayed tough and battled out the victory.

The Royals used their size to dominate the defensive glass, limiting Coon Rapids-Bayard to few second-chance opportunities. Thirty-two points is a season low offensively for Coon Rapids-Bayard, who made the state tournament last year. Brandon Eley led the way with 22 points (unofficially).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Too Close For Comfort; Royal Boys Win By 2

The Royals led by 12 at the end of the third quarter, then survived a flurry of three-pointers by East Greene in the final forty-five seconds (three of them) to hang on for a two-point win, 55-53.

East Greene was a good shooting team with five senior starters that proved their 18-4 record was no fluke. Colo-Nesco started the game strong, leading 15-9 at the end of the first quarter. East Greene grabbed their first lead of the game at the 6:45 mark in the second quarter, and the lead changed hands eight times before half time, with the Royals leading 29-27.

Colo-Nesco outscored East Greene 16-6 in the third quarter and led by 9 points with 45 seconds to play. A free throw by Bryan Angell gave the Royals a 5-point lead with 9 seconds left, but East Greene hit a shot from nearly half court that pulled them within 2 with 2 seconds left. Brandon Eley successfully passed the ball in bounds, the clock expired, and the Royals survived and advanced.

Brandon Eley led the way with 31 points. The Royals play Thursday night in Story City at 7 pm.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Royal Girls Bow Out To Lynnville-Sully

The Colo-Nesco girls’ basketball season came to an end Friday night, falling to a veteran, ninth-ranked Lynnville-Sully team, 39-28.

While the girls didn’t literally take a bow at the end of the game (obviously), they certainly could have. Their season was a magnificent production—something to be proud of. Who knew, coming off a 4-19 record a year ago, that this team would be so successful so quickly? Certainly not this writer/fan.

I told coach Cafferty after the game that it was truly a pleasure to cover the team over the course of the season, and I meant it. It was an honor. Cafferty mentioned how blessed he was to be able to coach this bunch of girls, and I can say the same about writing for them. They’ve got great heart and determination and team chemistry. I’ve been so amazed at how well they have jelled together over the last 3 months, each girl discovering her role as coaches Cafferty and Hendrick shuttled them in waves onto the court, consistently playing 10 different players. With their full-court pressure defense and three-point shooting, they really were fun to watch.

The team finished 16-7 and won 11 of its last 13 games. Like any great performance, you hate to see it end. But with 7 of the team’s top 10 players returning next season, including the top five scorers, stick around—the encore could be special.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February Frenzy!

College basketball has its own term for tournament time (March Madness), so why doesn’t high school? “February Frenzied” is exactly the way many Royals fans may feel (hope to feel) in the next two weeks as the school could potentially play as many as 7 games in the next 13 days.

It all starts Tuesday in Colo as the girls play their second-round game against Meskwaki (9-12), a team the Royals beat twice in the regular season by a combined total of 43 points. If the Royals win that game, that would set a Friday match up against Lynnville-Sully (17-4) or Montezuma (14-8) at 7 pm in Newton. A win in Newton would result in a sub-state game in Grinnell on Monday, February 21.

The boys begin their post season on Thursday, also in Colo, against either Paton-Churdan (2-18) or Madrid (4-16). Should the Royals continue to win, they could play as many as 3 games in 5 days the following week, culminating in a sub-state game at the Roundhouse in Marshalltown on Saturday, February 26.

It’s time to “Drink the Kool-Aid.”

By Andrew Gogerty

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another close win by Royal boys takes its toll on coaches/fans

If you see Royals coach Pat Wynja walking around with a cane and gray hair next week, there’s a reason why: Back-to-back nights of boys’ basketball barn-burners are taking their toll on Royals fans and coaches. “I feel like I’ve aged 20 years tonight,” said Coach Wynja. That was his post-game comment after Thursday nights two-point win at Don Bosco (a game that more than likely clinched a share of the conference title). But there was no rest for the weary, as the Royals were back in action 24 hours later against Woodward Academy (7-8), a team that had won four of its last five, and had wins earlier in the season against Ogden (16-3) and Grandview Park Baptist (14-6). Woodward Academy is the fourth-highest scoring team in the state (all classes) at 70.6 points per game.

It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t easy, but the Royals squeaked out another close one in the end, 70-64, in a game that (for the second night in a row) wasn’t decided until the final seconds. To give you an idea of how tight the contest was, the score was tied at the end of the first quarter and the end of the third quarter, and the Royals led by only two at halftime. Foul trouble plagued the Royals as both Brandon Eley and Austin Larsen sat with four fouls for much of the second half. The Royals trailed by 5 points with under three minutes to play, before Ethan Jamison scored six critical points in a row to bring the Royals within a point. A pair of free throws finally gave the Royals a two-point lead with 38 seconds left, and free throws proved the difference in the end—the final 7 points for Colo-Nesco all came from the free throw line.

Both the boys’ and girls’ teams wrap up their regular season Tuesday night in Colo against Dunkerton. The game time has been moved up to 5:30 pm, and it’s probably a good thing--old people need to get to bed early!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Royal Boys Win at #5 Don Bosco; Girls Improve to 13-6

When you beat the #5 team in the state by 2 points on their home court, every basket, rebound, block, steal and assist matters. The Royal boys trailed by as many as 8 points in the first half, battled back to lead by as many as 7 in the second half, then hung on for a 50-48 victory that was decided in the games final seconds. Austin Larsen hit some clutch free throws in the final minute and Don Bosco had a last second three-point shot that fell just short as time expired. Brandon Eley led the way with 20 points and Weston Neuendorf had one of his best games of the season with 11, including a big three-pointer that gave the Royals their largest lead of the night, 31-24, early in the third quarter.

The girls hit SEVEN three-pointers to win easily, 55-38. Madison Eley led the way with 22 points, including her 4 three-pointers. The girls are 12-3 in conference play, with one conference game left before tournament action begins next Thursday.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Royals fans and players hoping for a date with the Roundhouse

“The Roundhouse was incredible. Back then it was IT. When you got to play in Marshalltown, that was a big deal…You felt like you had accomplished something if you were playing in Marshalltown.”
~Ed Vaske (Excerpt from Royal Reign)

Royals fans and players have their sights set on one of the most iconic basketball arenas in Iowa—the Roundhouse in Marshalltown, site of the 2011 sub state boys final. To get there, the Colo-Nesco boys must win three games. It all starts on February 17 at 7pm in Colo against the winner of Madrid (3-14) or Paton-Churdan (1-15).

With a first round win, the Royals would most likely face a stiff second-round opponent--East Greene (14-3). East Greene’s three losses this season have been to Exira EHK (40-37), Ankeny Christian Academy (54-44) and Woodward Granger (47-46). The second round contest is scheduled for February 22 at 7 pm, site to be determined.

A third round opponent would likely come from a mix of Ankeny Christian Academy (13-5), Glidden-Ralston (9-7) or Coon Rapids-Bayard (8-7). The third round game is scheduled to be played in Story City on February 24 at 7 pm. Ankeny Christian, Glidden-Ralston, East Greene and Paton-Churdan all hail from the Rolling Hills Conference and are very familiar with each other. Coon Rapids-Bayard’s losses have all come to teams with strong records and/or teams in class 2a, and they are one of two teams in the bracket that made the boys state tournaments last season (Ankeny Christian is the other). Ankeny Christian returned just 3 letter winners from last year’s team, but did return its leading scorer: AIB-bound Tim Olejniczak.

The sub state pairing is set for Saturday, February 26th at the Roundhouse in Marshalltown, and would be the culmination of a busy week of basketball—the third game in five days. The Roundhouse is my favorite high school basketball venue in the state of Iowa. Here’s an excerpt from Royal Reign to get you in the mood:

“The Roundhouse, which opened in 1965, is the biggest high school basketball venue in the state of Iowa with a seating capacity of 5,000. The building is a rarity by Iowa high school gym standards. There are seemingly hundreds of small, vertical, rectangular shaped, multicolored windows that makes the building look like a glowing jewel at night. The court is 94' long, and is entirely surrounded by bleachers. These aren’t just any old bleachers; these are the scariest bleachers man has ever created. Tall, shaky, and full of child-eating gaps between the walkways, they are scary even for the bravest of folk. One could probably fill an entire gymnasium with the lot of coats, purses, shoes, popcorn, candy and small children that have dropped through these gaps over the years. Walking up to The Roundhouse on a chilly evening moments before a big game is enough to make spectators’ stomachs do somersaults in anticipation. Of course, having a stomach full of Zeno’s pizza right before a big game is probably never a good idea, but how can one resist?”

The likely opponent at sub state would most likely be North Tama (14-3) or Lynnville-Sully (14-2). The Royals are plenty familiar with North Tama, having split the conference series during the regular season. Lynnville-Sully, ironically, would be the same team Nesco defeated in 1984 to advance to its first-ever state tournament. Can you name the location of that game in 1984? You guessed it. The Roundhouse.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No-namers Lead Fantasy Football Teams to League Titles in 2010

Didn’t win your fantasy football league this year? Thought you drafted really well back in August? Don’t worry. 99 percent of us finished the same way. The problem with your team (most likely) was not your drafting ability; it was your success or failure in picking up the right free agents. ESPN recently listed its All-Fantasy Team for 2010, and 3 of the 8 players on the first team were undrafted on average in ESPN Fantasy Leagues last season: Michael Vick (at the uber-important QB position), Brandon Lloyd at wide receiver and Sebastian Janikowski at kicker. Four more players were not drafted until the late fourth round (Arian Foster), sixth round (Dwayne Bowe, Jason Witten) and eleventh round (Pittsburgh defense). Amazingly, of the 16 players on ESPN’s first and second All-Fantasy Teams, only 3 players were drafted in the first round on average—Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and Chris Johnson. So, the moral of the story is, if you don’t draft well next year, don’t worry…just make sure you do a good job picking up the scraps off the waiver wire!

Here’s a look at ESPN’s All Fantasy Teams:
1st Team:
QB—Michael Vick
RB—Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson
WR—Brandon Lloyd, Dwayne Bowe
TE—Jason Witten
K—Sebastian Janikowski

2nd Team:
QB—Aaron Rodgers
RB—Peyton Hillis, Chris Johnson
WR—Roddy White, Greg Jennings
TE—Antonio Gates
K—David Akers
DEF—NE Patriots

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hall of Famers to Highlight Friday Night in Colo

Call it basketball's version of "Homecoming." Since I played basketball in high school and not football, I always wondered why the football team got to have one extra special night every year during homecoming, and the basketball team didn't. I guess that's the way every school does it and probably always has. That's why I think it's extra neat that Colo-Nesco has implemented its "Hall of Fame" night during the basketball season the last two years. It's a chance to recognize special achievements by Royal alums and also a good excuse to get back to Colo and watch a high school basketball game. And what better time to do it? The Colo-Nesco boys are 14-2, while the girls are 11-6--which would place the tandem as one of the best boys/girls combos of the last twenty years.

On Friday night, January 28, the school will induct four members into its Hall of Fame--Myndie Berka, Doug Riese, Missy Miller and Luke Nessa. Berka led the lady Royals to their first-ever state tournament appearance in 1989 and starred as a pitcher for the Iowa State University Cyclones softball team in college. Riese was an all-state football player who accepted a full-ride football scholarship to UNI and was also a key member of the 1990 boys state championship basketball team. Miller was selected as Miss Iowa Basketball in 1992, the award given to the best female basketball player in the state of Iowa. She scored 3,783 points in her career and helped lead her team to four consecutive state tournaments. She is also an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall-of-Famer. Nessa was a star track and field athlete that high-jumped at the University of Iowa.

It's true--it may not be that perfect autumn night, with a full harvest moon as the backdrop to the Friday night football lights, wandering the sidelines in a sweatshirt while sipping a cup of hot chocalate--but it's still Colo-Nesco, it's still a chance to connect with some old friendly faces, and it's still a chance to celebrate and reminisce. And hey--everyone knows Colo-Nesco is a basketball school, not football! :) See you in Colo Friday night!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

C-N Girls Regional Pairings

The Colo-Nesco girls are having a terrific season. Four of the top five scorers are freshmen and sophomores, but despite the teams youth, the Royals are 10-6. It's hard to believe that only four games remain in the regular season. The girls finish at Meskwaki, at home against GMG, at Don Bosco, and at home against Dunkerton before the post-season begins on Thursday February 10 at Colo. Out of the 16 teams in Colo-Nesco's Regional, only 2 teams have more wins than the Royals: Montezuma and Lynville-Sully. Here's a look at the Regional pairings.

Springville (6-9) vs. Belle Plaine (7-9)
Central City (10-5) vs. Lisbon (9-6)
Waterloo Christian (0-16) vs. Janesville (8-8)
Don Bosco (8-7) vs. Cedar Falls NU (7-9)
GMG (2-11 vs. Meskwaki (6-9)
Madrid (1-13) vs. Colo-Nesco (10-6)
HLV (3-11) vs. Montezuma (11-5)
BGM (4-9) vs. Lynville-Sully (13-2)

A closer look at the top 5 teams in the Region:
Lynville-Sully: Currently rated #6 in girls class 1A. 50.7 ppg; 45-148 3 pointers; 28 blocks; 190 steals; 19.0 point difference per game. 2 losses were to North Mahaska(13-1) 34-22 and Iowa Valley (11-3) 41-40. Top 3 scorers are Brianna James 12.7, Tara Van Rees 10.9, Danielle Samson 8.9

Lisbon: 48.4 ppg; 33-153 3 pointers; 56 blocks; 279 steals; 8.9 point difference per game. 6 losses were to Lone Tree, Bellevue Marquette, Prince of Peace, North Linn, East Central adn Wilton. Top 3 scorers are Melissa Alger 11.9, Kady Light 9.4, Emily Svatosch 6.3

Colo-Nesco: 47.3 ppg; 46-198 3 pointers; 53 blocks; 269 steals; 9.1 point difference per game. 6 losses were to West Marshall, East Marshall, #2 Tripoli, Nevada, #11 North Tama twice. Top 3 scorers are Madison Eley 11.0, Jessica Johnson 8.6, Caitlyn Riese 7.1

Montezuma: 45.9 ppg; 48-128 3 pointers; 37 blocks; 194 steals; 10.6 point difference per game. 5 losses were to Lynnville Sully (twice), North Mahaska, Eddysville-Blakesburg, and Keota. Top 3 scorers are Brittany Bryan 17.4, Emily Long 11.2, Courtney Latcham 5.0

Central City: 41.1 ppg; 36-125 3 pointers; 57 blocks; 142 steals; 1.5 point difference per game. 5 losses were to Maquoketa Valley (twice)(#9 in 2a), Edgewood Colesburg, Monticello (#8 in 2a), and North Linn. Top 3 scorers are Tanya Hendrickson 12.1, Meghan Simmons 12.1, Rachel Enabnit 7.5

Monday, January 10, 2011

Boys Basketball District Groupings

There are 138 schools in Class 1a boys basketball in the state of Iowa. Only 8 will make it to the state tournament. On Monday, the groupings for each district came out. Here is the grouping for the Colo-Nesco boys:

Colo-Nesco 10-1
Royals average 56.2 ppg; give up 36.0; 189 assists (#1 in 1a); 67 Blocks (#2 in 1a); 169 steals (#3 in 1a); 31-117 three pointers; 45.6 % FG; average margin victory is 20.1; one loss was to Don Bosco

East Greene 9-1
Hawks average 60.1 ppg; give up 42.7; 140 assists; 27 blocks; 74 steals; 30-91 three pointers; 47.5% FG; average margin of victory is 17.4; one loss was to Exira-Elk Horn Kimballton (40-37) who is currently rated in the top 10 in class 1a.

Ankeny Christian 8-3
Eagles average 57.1 ppg; give up 46.6 ppg; 115 assists; 17 blocks; 168 steals; 53-239three pointers; 37.9% FG; average margin of victory is 10.5; three losses were to Exira Elk-Horn Kimballton (66-51), East Greene (60-48) and Grand View Park Baptist (72-57). A matchup against the Eagles would pit two future college teammates against each other--Tim Olejniczak (25 ppg) against Brandon Eley--both of whom will be playing for AIB next year.

Coon Rapids Bayard 7-3
Crusaders average 48.7 ppg; give up 47.2 ppg; 121 assists; 10 blocks; 73 steals; 52-146 three pointers; 40.4% FG; average margin of victory is 1.5; three losses were to Des Moines Christian (50-42), Guthrie Center (56-48) and Panorama (69-44). Coon Rapids handed Exira-Elk Horn Kimballton its only loss of the year, 40-38.

Glidden Ralston 5-5
Van Meter 3-7
Madrid 2-7
Paton Churdan 1-9
SE Webster 1-11

Colo-Nesco is in district 12. Assuming the winner of District 12 will play the winner of District 11 to advance to the state tournament, the best schools on that side of the bracket are North Tama and Lynville Sully--both rated in the top 10 of the latest AP rankings.

Monday, January 3, 2011

4 Things to Be Excited About As a Broncos Fan

The Denver Broncos just finished the 2010-2011 season with a 4-12 record. And no, the four wins aren’t what I’m referring to in the title of this article as things to be excited about. Or are they? Maybe, with 4 wins, the Broncos have officially hit rock bottom. It’s the lowest win-total since John Elway was drafted in 1982 and the second lowest of my lifetime. But what it did, was force the Broncos organization to make some much-needed changes. As a Denver fan, here are four things that make this disaster of a season something to be excited about:

1. #2 Draft Pick: With four wins, the Broncos secured the second pick in the draft, allowing them to finally draft a franchise player on the defensive side of the ball--an area left barren by former coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos will most likely draft shutdown corner Patrick Peterson from LSU.

2. The return of John Elway—Elway is expected to be named Vice President of Football Operations this week. If “the greatest football player ever” is half as good in the front office as he was wearing #7 for the Broncos, better days are on the way.

3. The hiring of a new head coach—Will it be Jim Harbaugh? Jeff Fisher? John Gruden? Bill Cowher, maybe? Three things are for certain: Josh McDaniels set the franchise back 4-5 years with his horrible personnel decisions; Elway is already evaluating Harbaugh at Monday night’s Orange Bowl; Any of the aforementioned coaches would be terrific hires. I can’t remember an off-season with so many good coaches available.

4. Tim Tebow—Yes, he still has his critics—lots of them. But Tebow’s will to win and compete at the highest level showed during the Broncos’ last few games. And Tebow showed that he CAN run at the pro level. Tebow ran for 94 yards and a touchdown in yesterday’s loss to San Diego. He also threw for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns. Critics will point to his 16 of 36 completion rate and inability to throw the deep-ball, but hey, Michael Vick had the same criticism in his early years in Atlanta. I say, give the kid the ball next year and build the offense around him. Find some athletic playmakers like Philly has done, and see what he can do. For the season, he completed 41 of 82 passes for 654 yards, with 5 TD’s and 3 Int’s. He ran the ball 43 times for 227 yards (5.3 avg) and 6 TD’s. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Adam Robinson spits in the face of Hawkeye Nation

(Please welcome guest blogger, Arrend Jelsma. Arrend lives in Florida with his wife Nicole and newborn baby girl, Claire. Arrend is my cousin and is a passionate sports fan just like myself. Unlike myself, Arrend is a HUGE Hawkeye fan, and should add some balance to the Sports Caffeine site! Welcome Arrend!)

By Arrend Jelsma

It was February 1, 2008 when Adam Robinson first visited Iowa City with dreams of playing for the black and gold. Not highly recruited out of Lincoln High School in Des Moines IA, the 2 star recruit didn’t know if Iowa would call his name or if he would be overlooked and maybe have to settle at the “Sister School” Iowa State. In May he got the offer and his chance at stardom in Iowa City.

No one thought he would see the field as quickly as he did, but a rash of injuries gave him an opportunity and he capitalized. Racking up nearly 1800 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2 seasons, Robinson filled a key role in the Iowa running game. While Robinson was never accused of being a speed burner, his versatility and constant motor enabled him to place the team on his shoulders. I still remember the Saturday in Ann Arbor where he made a crucial shoe string catch and willed our team to victory over the “Maze and Blue”. Adam Robinson was a on his way to becoming an Iowa homegrown legend until it all came unraveled…

December 27, 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa, according to the Iowa State Patrol, Robinson was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over for not having front license plates. Police say a trooper detected a marijuana odor from the vehicle, and then found marijuana after a search. Robinson, with rumors flying that he was involved in the D.J.K. drug ring, couldn’t help himself from hanging with the wrong crowd while his team was out in Arizona getting ready for a talented Mizzou team. (Heck Robinson and D.J.K. IS the wrong crowd and who knows how long they have been under the radar.)

With how far A-Rob had come to becoming the starter at Iowa, how could he just spit in the face of Kirk Ferentz and the rest of Hawkeye Nation? The team had been through more turmoil than any team I can remember and he selfishly got into trouble the night before the bowl game. While I hate to lose A-rob’s talent, he has to be removed from the team.

With Robinson potentially being off the team permanently, all 3 of the top young running backs (Wegher and Hampton being the others) to begin the season may now be off the team before next year. When you think about the talent that all 3 of these guys had you would think it could be the end of the powerful Hawkeye running game. But in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!”

When Marcus Coker was trying to pick a school he could go pretty much anywhere he wanted as a 4 star recruit. He saw the stardom that Shonn Greene achieved shortly after getting off of the furniture truck and imagined what he could accomplish running behind the Hogmalies that Kirk Ferentz recruits year after year, and chose Iowa.

Coker's size and speed remind me a lot of ex-Iowa running back Nick Bell. On Monday, ESPN Classic replayed the 1991 Rose Bowl where Iowa faced Washington and it was neat to look back at the talent of Bell and compare him to Coker. Little did I know how true the comparison was and that Tuesday night I would get to see the birth of a new super-star. Coker rattled off over 200 yards and set an all-time Iowa bowl rushing record as he led the underdog Hawks to a victory over the #12 ranked Missouri Tigers. I truly feel that with Coker and the incoming 6-4, 240 pound 4 star Rodney Coe coming in, we are going to see an Iowa backfield that will rival the John Clay and Dontee Ball backfield at Wisconsin. So no reason to be worried Hawkeye fans we have many more glory years to come!

Nebraska Limps into the Big 10

(Please welcome guest blogger, Arrend Jelsma. Arrend lives in Florida with his wife Nicole and newborn baby girl, Claire. Arrend is my cousin and is a passionate sports fan just like myself. Unlike myself, Arrend is a HUGE Hawkeye fan, and should add some balance to the Sports Caffeine site! Welcome Arrend!)

By Arrend Jelsma

Thursday night’s 19-7 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington is further proof that Nebraska’s entry into the Big 10 will be no picnic for Cornhusker fans.

Upon announcement of their entry into the Big 10, Nebraska fans have been purchasing their Big 10 title T-shirts by the thousands in Lincoln. But before they set their sights on the Stagg-Paterno trophy, they are going to need to replace their quarterback “T-Magic” (Taylor Martinez).

While racking up over 100yds per game rushing in 5 out of his first 7 games, Martinez (like Denard Robinson at Michigan) was being brought up in Heisman talks across the country. This made Big 10 fans nervous as Nebraska enters the Big 10 Legends division next fall. But as the season wore on, teams started to realize Martinez’s inability to throw the football and were able to stop his running style. Taylor only threw for over 200 yards in 1 game last year.

As the season wore on his running ability didn’t look nearly as explosive and it seemed like something was systematically wrong with the Nebraska offense. Late in the season, there were some highly viewed YouTube videos of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini melting down on Martinez on the sidelines during the Texas A&M game, and although we don’t know exactly what was said, it certainly didn’t look like a coach that was in love with his quarterback.

Like Denard Robinson, 6’0- 200 pound quarterbacks will not be effective over the span of an entire season in the Big 10 trying to run the football. They will play great the first 4 games and put up video game statistics, but if you can’t throw effectively you won’t compete for conference titles. If Nebraska wants to make it to the title game next year it won’t be with Taylor Martinez.

I predict at least 3 losses with this schedule:

Date Game
Sept. 3 Tennessee-Chattanooga at Nebraska
Sept. 10 Fresno State at Nebraska
Sept. 17 Washington at Nebraska
Sept. 24 Nebraska at Wyoming
Oct. 1 Nebraska at Wisconsin
Oct. 8 Ohio State at Nebraska
Oct. 22 Nebraska at Minnesota
Oct. 29 Michigan State at Nebraska
Nov. 5 Northwestern at Nebraska
Nov. 12 Nebraska at Penn State
Nov. 19 Nebraska at Michigan
Nov. 26 Iowa at Nebraska