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Issue Home January 21, 2003 Site Home

Local Sports Scene
Hot Biscuits, Pork Roast and Mashed Potatoes

Local Sports Scene
By Tom J. Robinson

Football Talks Continue Between Susquehanna, Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge's athletic committee will meet Jan. 27 to discuss whether to continue talks with Susquehanna about co-sponsoring football.

Susquehanna superintendent William Stracka said this week that talks are progressing within the necessary timetable, pending the results of the meeting at Blue Ridge.

"Our timeline is that we need to submit our request to the District 2 committee by April 1," Stracka said. "By May 1, we have to apply to the Board of Control of the PIAA.

"We're hoping that in February we can have some type of decision so we can go forward getting necessary approvals in March."

School board meetings are scheduled for Feb. 10 at Blue Ridge and Feb. 19 at Susquehanna.

Stracka said the informal talks to date have tried to "clear up issues so that we are all on the same page."

Interest in football and any other cooperative arrangements will have to be determined at the Blue Ridge athletic meetings.

Susquehanna's administration sought discussions on a cooperative sponsorship after the Sabers, with the smallest enrollment among District 2 football schools, suffered through their first winless season in 2002. Practices, at times, were conducted with as few as 17 healthy players.

Stracka said he has tried to clarify particulars and eliminate rumors. For example, Susquehanna already has the necessary equipment and uniforms to field a team of up to 45 players.

He also said Blue Ridge would not be responsible for any insurance costs. The only cost the Blue Ridge School District would have for football is if it chose to transport athletes to Susquehanna for practice. That is not a necessity for the plan.


The Elk Lake boys and Forest City girls wrapped up first-half Lackawanna League Division 2 North basketball championships.

Seth Button scored 26 points and Tony Rezykowski added 18 as Elk Lake took control early to beat Blue Ridge, 61-49, in the final game of the first half.

Blue Ridge came in alone in second place and with the potential to create a tie for the first-half title. Elk Lake, however, spoiled those hopes by jumping to a 37-20 half-time lead.

Wes Parks led the Raiders with 23 points.

In the other Division 2 North first-half finales: Carbondale defeated Forest City, 77-64; Carbondale Sacred Heart defeated Mountain View, 70-60, and Lackawanna Trail ripped Susquehanna, 67-47.

Elk Lake went 7-0 in the first half. Blue Ridge and Lackawanna Trail tied for second at 5-2, followed by Carbondale Sacred Heart at 4-3, Forest City and Lackawanna Trail at 3-4, Mountain View at 1-6 and Susquehanna at 0-7.

Montrose went 1-3 in the Division 1 North in the first half.

Forest City, which is ranked among the "teams to watch" in the state in Class A in the latest Harrisburg Patriot-News poll, had trouble with Lackawanna Trail before clinching the girls' title.

Amanda Vitzakovitch scored 27 points to lead a 59-53 victory over the Lady Lions. Dana Bennett and Lauren Pantzar added 12 points each for the Lady Foresters.

Mountain View took second place in the division by beating Carbondale, 53-50, to end the half.

Blue Ridge got its first win of the half by slipping past winless Carbondale Sacred Heart, 41-39.

Montrose defeated Elk Lake, 50-36. Coleen Walsh led Montrose with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Erika Brown added 14 points and Chelsey Parvin blocked three shots. Elk Lake was led by Nicole Nasser with 11 points and Heather Shadduck with 10.

Montrose finished the half at 5-3 while Susquehanna went 3-5.

Both the Lady Meteors and Lady Sabers suffered tough losses in non-league play later in the week.

Montrose (8-6 overall) lost to two teams that are contenders in other Lackawanna League divisions when it let leads get away.

North Pocono rallied from a one-point half-time deficit to beat Montrose, 45-35, despite 15 points and 15 rebounds by Walsh. Kate LaBarbera had five assists in the loss.

LaBarbera hit four 3-pointers to score 12 points and join Walsh on the all-tournament team in the Taylor Lions Tournament where Montrose lost, 39-34, to Riverside in the championship game. The Lady Meteors led, 32-23, before being outscored, 16-2, in the fourth quarter. Walsh had nine points and 14 rebounds.

Susquehanna fell to Maine-Endwell, 43-41, in overtime despite 21 points by Bridgette Stone.

In wrestling, Mountain View ended the week tied for the Lackawanna League Division 2 lead with Delaware Valley.

The Eagles easily handed Bishop O'Hara its first loss, 61-11.

Susquehanna suffered a pair of tough losses, 42-35 to Scranton Prep and 38-37 to Wallenpaupack.

Wallenpaupack also handled Elk Lake, 54-24, and Delaware Valley routed Montrose, 71-9.

Blue Ridge lost to two Division 1 unbeatens. The Raiders fell to Lackawanna Trail, 37-33, and West Scranton, 62-9.

In the loss to Lackawanna Trail, Chris Lewis posted a 3-2 victory over three-time District 2 champion Adam Johnson at 135 pounds. The win avenged a 7-3 loss by Lewis against Johnson in last year's district final.

In the American Hockey League, the Binghamton Senators took over the East Division lead.


Mountain View is at Delaware Valley Saturday in the match that will likely decide the Lackawanna League Division II title. First, however, the Eagles have to deal with third-place Scranton Prep in a home match Wednesday.

Second-half play begins in basketball.

The top boys' game is Friday when Elk Lake is at Carbondale, one of the teams that tied for second in the first half behind the Warriors.

The AHL schedule includes Saturday night's game when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit the Binghamton Senators.


Jacob Merrill, a junior from Montrose, is about to enter the busy part of his indoor track and field season at Lock Haven.

In his only competition this season, Merrill reached the NCAA provisional qualifying standard with a triple jump of 47-9 to win the Blue & Gold Open at Bucknell. The provisional qualifying means that, depending on the number of athletes who reach the standard, Merrill's performance could give him a berth at the NCAA Division II Championships.

Merrill has had two highly successful seasons at Lock Haven where he holds the school's indoor record with a triple jump of 47-11. He won the school's Jumper Award in each of the previous two seasons.

As a freshman, Merrill was the team's leader in points while earning all-ECAC honors in the triple jump and all-PSAC honors in the 400 hurdles.

As a sophomore, Merrill was a PSAC all-star in the 400 hurdles and the 1600 relay where he was on the school's conference championship indoor team.

Merrill won six District 2 gold medals and four state medals while at Montrose.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at

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Mike Wallace

What Does Preseason Testing Really Mean – NASCAR's preseason testing at Daytona is over.

Mike Wallace, who has yet to win a Winston Cup event turned in the fastest time, while Mike Skinner was second, and Kyle Petty came in third.

Is the preseason testing an indication of who will win this year's Daytona 500?


Most teams aren't going to reveal what they've got. And some teams might not even be legal since NASCAR doesn't mandate that teams go through inspections. It's possible a team could turn a fast lap and be illegal.

Wallace insisted his team wasn't fooling themselves. Wallace was in the same chassis Geoffrey Bodine used to finish third in the 2002 Daytona 500, but it had a new Dodge Intrepid body.

"They know what this car ran last year with the Ford body on it," Wallace said. "That was the gauge, to come here and at least be equal to that. You always want to improve. You don't know if your body switch was a positive or a negative."

Apparently, it was positive for Wallace and the others in the top 10. Jeremy Mayfield was fourth overall at 183.688, with Michael Waltrip fifth at 183.572. Christian Fittipaldi (183.561) was sixth, followed by Bobby Labonte (183.539), Elliott Sadler (183.505), Ricky Craven (183.501) and Sterling Marlin (183.434).

The top-10 fastest cars were separated by .165-seconds, which could mean that qualifying for this year's Daytona 500 might be interesting.

Gone Is The 28 Car – The familiar No. 28 Ford of Robert Yates Racing will be missing from this season's Winston Cup lineup.

The car first became known when Davey Allison drove it. Over the next 10 years, Kenny Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd drove it.

As part of widespread restructuring, Yates Racing has replaced it with a new number and new driver.

This season the No. 28 will be the No. 38 driven by Elliott Sadler.

The car dates back to 1988 when Harry Ranier sold the team to Yates, who was Allison's crew chief at the time. Together they built a winning tradition that has been rivaled by few since.

Allison was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1993 at Talladega. But he collected 19 victories in this car. To his legion of fans the memories are endless. There was triumph, like the 1992 Daytona 500. There were heart-stopping moments like the 1992 Miller 500 at Pocono, Pa., where Allison led 115 laps before tangling with Darrell Waltrip, flipping 11 times and being seriously injured. And no fan of the Alabama Gang can forget the emotion of the 1988 Daytona 500 when Davey finished second to his father, Hall of Famer Bobby Allison.

"It was a reflection of Davey Allison," said Davey's father, Bobby Allison. "So many people thought of him when they looked at the 28 car and Texaco. That was its identity and what it represented to so many."

But it seems that the cold financial reality of the sport today was the catalyst for the number changes. The major sponsor, M&M's wanted to create a new identity. After seven lackluster years in NASCAR the candy maker is still looking for its first victory.

Can Football Find A Place In NASCAR – Two former Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are teaming up to form a new Winston Cup team that will debut in 2004.

But based on their press releases, it appears they have a lot of homework to do if they are to be successful.

The two quarterbacks are partners in Hall of Fame Racing, which will be directed by former Trans-Am driver Bill Saunders, who will act as managing partner.

"Roger and I have discussed this for a while, and all the pieces just came together. We're not naive going into this thing. We recognize it will be a real challenge," Aikman said.

But the team has no shop, no equipment, and no employees other than the three owners, no driver and no sponsor. The latter will be a priority, the three-time Super Bowl winner added.

"For Roger and me, our involvement will, hopefully, be in sponsorship, and we'll be go to the races when we can," he said.

"Maybe we can bring some things to a company that others can't. We're not in it for the sake of being in it," Aikman added. "We'll be up and running in 2004 but we know we've got a lot of work ahead."

But if the two former Dallas players manage to run just one partial season, they will have done more than many of their counterparts from others sports.

Stars from other sports have not had a very good track record in NASCAR.

NFL star Joe Washington had a Busch team, but couldn't sustain momentum, lost his sponsor and disappeared from the stock car sport.

Three years ago, Olympic track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her husband, Bob, announced plans to form a team, but nothing ever materialized.

Aikman said Joe Gibbs, former coach of the Washington Redskins and now owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, which won Winston Cup championships in 2000 and 2002, has helped get the team off the ground.

"Coach Gibbs has been a tremendous resource for our team already," Aikman said. "When he got involved in the sport, people helped him and he is returning the favor and keeping us, hopefully, from hitting some of the same pitfalls he found."

He also said it's premature to be talking about a driver.

The team will be headquartered in Dallas while maintaining a race shop in Charlotte, NC.

Fielding a Winston Cup team is much more than throwing a couple touchdown passes.

Good luck!

Racing Trivia Question: Which Winston Cup team will Jerry Nadeau drive for in 2003?

Answer To Last Week's Question: Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 38 M&M's Ford.

Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to:

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Hot Biscuits, Pork Roast And Mashed Potatoes

Of all the trying times and difficulties associated with covering NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch series races, I think Sunday evening gives me the most tribulations. I really get down on Sunday night.

Maybe this goes back to my childhood because Sunday mornings and afternoons were wonderful. Growing up in the country on a flower nursery, we got up early every day to a wonderful breakfast.

During the week, mother made flour hoecakes in a big iron skillet on top of the stove. After eating a big slice of buttered hoecake, sausage or bacon, eggs and grits, I would catch the school bus for the eight-mile ride to school.

But Sunday mornings were just a little different. Instead of the flour hoecake, mother would cook homemade biscuits with cane syrup, ham, bacon, eggs, grits and fresh fruit. While there might be chores to do around the house, it was not a structured workday, and I was usually on my own.

Quite often we went to Sunday School at the nearby Methodist Church. Growing up in the country made this in itself a social event. They put the boys in one classroom, and the girls in a separate one. We played games, and sang songs like, "Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, because the Bible tells me so."

About noon came a wonderful lunch, or dinner as we called it. Since we raised hogs and chickens, the menu usually consisted of a pork roast or fried chicken. And it was fresh. In the mornings, if mother decided she wanted to cook a chicken, she would tell daddy, and he would go out to the chicken yard and select one of the young roosters.

Most of the time we had company for dinner. As soon as we had finished eating, the men went outside. They would congregate on the front porch, if it was summer, or on the south side of the house in winter. The womenfolk remained inside to wash the dishes and share all the local news with each other.

There was always something to do. In the summertime, us kids would go fishing in a small creek that was within walking distance. Once, my nephew, Gene, who lived in Mobile, came in contact with some poison ivy and missed three days of school.

From then on, when his family came to visit, his mother made him stay inside with her. But I never really liked Gene because he was a sissy and always telling on me if I went swimming in the creek.

I think my problems with Sunday night began about five o'clock. It was about that time I realized it would soon be dark, and the next day would be a school day.

Sunday nights during racing season still make me feel the same way--depressing.

I usually arrive at each track on Friday morning. After getting my press credentials, I set out to talk with drivers and line up weekend stories. On Friday evenings, Winston Cup qualifying is held, and that to me, is always exciting-just wondering who is going to have the fastest car.

Saturday is another busy day. There is always some kind of race, either Busch or Craftsman Truck series event. After it ends there is a race recap to write and send out as well as checking out all the photos taken over the past two days.

I meet every Sunday morning with expectation. Everyone at the track is enthusiastic, especially the drivers, and it is a fun time. In the place of hot buttered biscuits and ham there is only toast and cold micro waved sausage, courtesy of the track.

The high point is of course waiting in victory lane to photograph the winner. Being in victory lane means you can't see what's happening on the track, so you wait until the winning car pulls into it.

After getting the photos and having sent out the last story, it's time to pack up and head home. It's a long wait at most tracks, sometimes it takes three or four hours just to get on the main highway.

Then there is the long ride home, either by car or plane. All the adrenaline and excitement has disappeared. There is a distinct quietness then. Sometimes it's so quiet that it's hard to endure it.

And I think, 'Lord, it's going to be Monday in a little while. How am I going to make it?'

But like thousands of other people I do. And by the time Thursday rolls around, I'm ready to go at it again.

I think if I had some of mother's leftover biscuits, pork roast and real mashed potatoes and gravy on Sunday evening, it would make those rides back home a lot easier to endure.

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