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Dick Bagnall built the Susquehanna football program to its highest levels and rebuilt it from its lowest depths.
Now, after originally announcing his second retirement, Bagnall has decided to return in an effort to stabilize the program for the future.
Bagnall was rehired as coach during Wednesday's school board meeting.
"We have a lot of work to do," Bagnall said. "We lost a lot of kids. I know our offensive line is really thin."
Bagnall has a 144-103-3 record in 24 seasons as head coach of the Sabers. He took the 1994 team to the state Class A semifinals.
While he declined to elaborate on other personal reasons for changing his mind and returning as coach, Bagnall said it was difficult at first to come to terms with losing 100 games.
"I said to myself I would never have 100 losses," he said. "That was a big deal for me.
"But, I'm OK with it. I got over it and I'll go on from there."
With the program going through serious struggles, Bagnall came out of retirement midway through the 2004 season. In 2005, the Sabers ended a school-record, 34-game losing streak and went on to win four games. The Sabers struggled again in an injury-plagued 2006 season, going 1-9.
Bagnall is beginning a series of steps designed to prepare for the challenge of completing the rebuilding process that had gained momentum in the 2005 season. He planned to visit Blue Ridge Tuesday with his coaching staff to talk to students there who are part of the football team in a cooperative sponsorship between the two districts.
A similar meeting will take place with Susquehanna students in the upcoming days.
"The main thing is to get kids to play, to try to get the athletes out," Bagnall said.
The coaching staff will head to Navy's football clinic this weekend.
Ultimately, Bagnall would like to restore the feeder program of freshman football. He would like to see the Susquehanna and Blue Ridge Junior A football teams merge, clearing the way for enough athletes to be available for the return of freshman football. That would reduce the problem of getting players in the high school program who have been away from the sport or have never played it in the past.
"Sometimes, we get kids who are sophomores with no experience," Bagnall said. "They're not going to step in and contribute right away unless they're really exceptional athletes.
"It takes time. You don't just step on the football field, put on a helmet and play."
While Bagnall is clearly closer to the end of his career than the beginning, his return gives the Sabers a chance to try to put together a more stable program before he retires for good.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson was assigned to minor-league camp by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Thompson is currently listed on the roster of the Class AAA Tucson Sidewinders, a Pacific Coast League team.
Thompson went 4-for-16 (.250) in 13 games for Arizona as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He had a double and drove in three runs. Thompson also drew five walks while striking out just twice and was 3-for-4 stealing bases.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins went 3-1 during a busy five-day stretch, clinching an American Hockey League East Division playoff berth in the process.
The clincher came in the team's most impressive effort of the season.
The Penguins outshot league-leading Norfolk, 50-20. They kept the pressure on until finally tying the game on a Micki DuPont goal in the final two minutes of regulation to set up Tyler Spurgeon's overtime game-winner in a 2-1 victory.
In high school basketball, Reading Central Catholic completed an impressive run to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A boys' championship with a 58-33 rout over DuBois Central Catholic.
The only test for Reading CC on the way to the title was a 50-45 win over previously unbeaten Old Forge in the quarterfinals.
Schenley (AAAA), General McLane (AAA) and Prep Charter (AA) also won championships in the first year they were held at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.
Cheltenham (AAAA), Hopewell (AAA), York Catholic (AA) and Bishop Guilfoyle (A) won girls' titles as the PIAA wrapped up its winter sports season.
Seth Button, a senior from Elk Lake, is tied for first in home runs, second in RBIs and third in batting average for the University of Pittsburgh baseball team.
Button has three homers, 11 RBIs and a .290 average while appearing in all 20 games, including 19 as a starter. He also has three doubles.
In his first pitching appearance of his two years at Pittsburgh, Button threw a scoreless inning, walking one and striking out one.
Button arrived at Pittsburgh after earning All-American honors at Gloucester County Community College in New Jersey. He was third on the team with a .305 average last year when he had nine homers and 27 RBIs in 40 games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Baseball and softball seasons are scheduled to open for high school teams Monday, April 2.
Volleyball and tennis seasons are already underway and track was scheduled to open Tuesday.
In professional hockey, the Binghamton Senators are at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Wednesday.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
KYLE BUSCH Ushers In New Car Era, Bristol, TN – Kyle Busch claimed the first Nextel Cup win in NASCAR’s new Car Of Today in Sunday’s Food City 500.
“Without Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon being behind me I would never have won this race,” said Busch. “I’ve got to thank those guys for giving me a break. Burton could have dumped me there at the end between three and four.”
Busch was able to hold off the two Jeffs in a green/white/checkered finish for his fourth career win.
“I wanted to win the race really bad, obviously, but if you can’t pass him without knocking him out of the way, then do the best you can,” said second-place finisher Jeff Burton. He’s driven me clean and I’m trying to return that.”
Kyle Busch celebrates his Sunday win at Bristol.
Jeff Gordon’s third-place finish moves him into the Nextel Cup points lead.
“We really struggled yesterday in practice and we fought really hard today,” said Gordon. “We were fortunate to stay on the lead lap.”
Even though he won, Busch said the new COT car, “sucks.”
Despite 16 cautions, the last coming with three laps remaining in the 500-lap race, the performance and handling of the new style car was hardly noticed by fans. Drivers passed, wrecked, made their pit stops and raced each other hard, just as they always have at Bristol.
Tony Stewart led the most laps (257), before a fuel problem on lap 290 put him 23 laps down.
Teams will race the new car again next weekend at Martinsville.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Jeff Burton, 3. Jeff Gordon, 4. Kevin Harvick, 5. Greg Biffle, 6. Jeff Green, 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 8. Clint Bowyer, 9. Jamie McMurray, 10. Casey Mears.
Top 10 Cup leaders after 5 of 36: 1. J. Gordon-791, 2. J. Burton-788, 3. Johnson-716, 4. Kenseth-697, 5. Harvick-647, 6. Kyle Busch-639, 7. Martin-629, 8. Bowyer-621, 9. Hamlin-606, 10. Edwards-598.
Car Of Tomorrow Helps Toyota Teams – It appears NASCAR’s new car, used for the first time at Bristol, gave Toyota teams a boost.
The Japanese automaker’s teams have struggled to get their regular cars in the first four races of the season. Only two of seven Camry drivers made the field two weeks ago at Las Vegas.
With the new COT, five Toyota drivers qualified at Bristol, including Jeremy Mayfield, Brian Vickers, A. J. Allmendinger, Dave Blaney, and Dale Jarrett.
It was the first race that Jarrett qualified on speed and did not have to use one of his two remaining championship provisionals to make the field.
Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann were the only two Toyota drivers that did not make the field. Waltrip has not started a race since the season-opening Daytona 500.
Rumors flew last week that Jeremy Mayfield’s No. 36 Bill Davis Racing team would be shutting down, because Mayfield failed to qualify for any of the first four races.
His 23rd-place qualifying effort at Bristol might have been good enough to save his ride.
ESPN.com reported that Tommy Baldwin, the team manager, is still focused on trying to make the races.
“By no means are we slowing down with that team,” Baldwin said. “But reality is reality. The reality of it is we've missed the first four races.
“It's been a hard thing to swallow as a race team. We've just got to keep working with the 36, figure out what Jeremy really wants [in the car].
“Mayfield's driving style is vastly different than that employed by Dave Blaney, driver of BDR's No. 22 Toyota. As a result, what he wants to feel at the wheel is also quite different. Jeremy's a finesse driver. He feels a lot of things in the steering wheel. Some things he doesn't like compared to Dave – Dave can just drive through the situation where Jeremy is feeling a lot of things and it's making him uncomfortable.
“The team is close. The people working on it are doing a really good job. The car is prepared really well. The car is built right. But I don't know if it's being built to Jeremy's liking. Being associated with Jeremy in the past [at Evernham Motorsports], there were some differences we had to do back then between the two drivers. It's pretty much the same here, we're finding out.”
To combat the situation, Baldwin said cars dedicated to Mayfield are being cut up and rebuilt. He said they went to the wind tunnel last week and will go twice more in the coming two weeks.
Dave Blaney, Mayfield’s teammate qualified seventh.
NASCAR’s qualifying process assured only the top-35 cars from 2006 a starting spot in the first five races of the season. Since most of the Toyota teams were new teams and had no points, they had to qualify on speed.
Starting next week at Martinsville, the current top-35 drivers will be insured a spot.
Martin Mentors Motocross Ace, Lake City, FL – Mark Martin took the weekend off from Nextel Cup racing to mentor Ricky Carmichael, a motocross standout, who made his stock car racing debut at Columbia Motorsports Park, Saturday night.
Under the watchful eye of Nextel Cup driver Mark Martin, Carmichael finished third in his heat race. In the main feature, he overcame a second lap incident, but on Lap 7 of 25 his right-front tire went flat, sending his No. 4 Monster Energy Chevy into the wall and a premature exit from the race.
Fellow Ginn Racing development driver Matt Martin (Mark’s son) finished fourth in his heat and seventh overall in the feature.
“Our goal for this event was to not focus on the result, but to focus on the things that we had to learn,” said Martin. “Ricky had to learn the lay of the land and he did well with that tonight. He does know how to get up to speed quickly. We learned a ton tonight. I think we got the car working well for him by the feature and he was really fast. He just had a couple of unfortunate incidents. Part of it is racing and part of it will be more avoidable as he gets more experience and a better feel for what the cars around him will do.”
Carmichael is expected to compete in a total of 15 late model races this season.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-1005, 2. Harvick-808, 3. Kyle Busch-757, 4. Blaney-714, 5. Kenseth-683, 6. Montoya-650, 7. Ambrose-642, 8. Biffle-635, 9. M. Wallace-623, 10. Hamilton Jr.-600.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Skinner-550, 2. T. Bodine-481, 3. Hornaday-451, 4. Sprague-449, 5. Musgrave-440, 6. Crafton-437, 7. Crawford-437, 8. Benson-409, 9. Kvapil-408, 10. Setzer-358.
The Nextel Cup and Craftsman Trucks are at Martinsville, the smallest track (0.52-mile) on the circuit. The Busch Series have an off weekend.
Saturday, March 31, Craftsman Trucks Kroger 250, race 4 of 25, 250 laps, 3 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, April, 1, Nextel Cup Goody’s Cool Orange 500, race 6 of 36, 500 laps, 1:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Which Cup team does Carl Edwards drive for?
Last Week’s Question: Jeff Gordon has 58 career poles. Who holds the all-time Cup Pole Record? Answer. Richard Petty’s 126 top’s the list.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at email@example.com.
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