Posts Tagged ‘football’

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Former NFL veteran Mike Pritchard, a graduate of North Las Vegas’ Rancho High School, believes Peyton Manning will have the game of his life.

By W.G. Ramirez

As I approached my 5th annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, I had a chance to catch up to former Rancho High School star Mike Pritchard, who went on to star at the University of Colorado and then in the NFL for three teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Pritchard, who is the color commentator for UNLV football and co-host of the Mitch and Pritch radio show in Las Vegas, has plenty of ties to some key components in this year’s game, as he played with John Elway and has been coached by both Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips.

Retired for 15 years, Pritchard said he still gets excited this time of the year, watching the pre-game festivities leading up to Super Sunday.

“You try to live vicariously through everyone involved in the game,” he said. “You have a rooting interest and you kind of get excited about that.”

Pritchard said he remembers a time when he questioned his retirement, something most veterans go through a year after retiring, as the itch to return to the field remains for the first couple of seasons you become a spectator.

“After a season goes by, you start training and you start to think you can still do it,” Pritchard said. “It takes a couple of years to realize it’s over. It’s not like any other sport where you can retire, and then come back after a few years. There is only one guy who I can think of who did that and that was Randall Cunningham.”

But that was then, in the early 2000s.

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Mike Pritchard, who won a national championship with Colorado, played for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks during his time in the NFL.

Now, Pritchard enjoys his time behind the mic, alongside his partner and co-host Mitch Moss, during one of the busiest times of the day. The two share their thoughts with Southern Nevada, speaking on the hottest topics in sports and daily breaking news. Most recently, that included the Oakland Raiders’ pending move to a new location. When Las Vegas entered the conversation, both Pritchard and Moss were two of the first to discuss the issue.

Pritchard isn’t sold this is the opportunity Las Vegas has been looking for, and isn’t sold the Raiders are coming to Sin City. But he does believe a top-notch stadium is the first step, and there is more important priority at hand, before landing an NFL franchise.

“If they’re going to build a stadium, it should be for our city and our university,” Pritchard said. “Can we attract an NFL franchise? Absolutely. But we need to build this for ourselves. If we don’t have that infrastructure, we’ll never have that option or decision to housing an NFL franchise.”

It’s not as if there isn’t talent spewing from Southern Nevada. Bishop Gorman High School recently completed its second straight undefeated season, and has been considered a national championship team by certain pundits the last two years. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez just announced a first-rate recruiting class in his second season in charge. And in Sunday’s Super Bowl, there will be two active players who went to high school in Las Vegas, and a third who is on a practice squad.

Brandon Marshall is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Ben Jacobs is a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers and Cam Jefferson is an offensive lineman on the Broncos’ practice squad.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” Pritchard said. “When I was at Rancho, there were 10 schools. If you made D-I or made it to the league, every one talked about it. Because of the growth in the valley, guys are getting more opportunities. Vegas is definitely on the map. And it speaks to the talent here and the guys making the most of their opportunities once they graduate high school.”

As for today’s game, Pritchard sees a defensive tussle ensuing early on, knowing how Kubiak and Phillips coach. He said watching the Broncos this year has been like reviewing a blueprint of teams he played on, while coached by both of them. It’s also why he believes the Broncos will send The Sheriff – Peyton Manning – off into the sunset with another Super Bowl ring.

“Coach Kubak has played and coached in Super Bowl games,” Pritchard said. “He understands what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and he certainly understands what it takes to win one.”

Pritchard said this year’s team is modeled after the 1998-99 Denver Broncos, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

“You have two great defenses, and any time that happens, you have an opportunity for a great game,” he said. Carolina will try to dictate this one early on, because they’re confident about their speed. They run the ball successfully. Carolina has done such a great job of getting turnovers. Their turnover margin is incredible. They are a read and react football. At some point the action will be fast and furious. I think these are the two best teams in the league.

“Denver will try to run, but Peyton will have to make throws to help the Broncos win. I expect Peyton Manning to have an excellent game. I don’t think he’s going to make a lot of mistakes out there.”

PRITCHARD’S PREDICTION: I believe Peyton Manning will have his the game of his life. Broncos, 24-20


 

Here is my 5th Annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll for Super Bowl 50:

Laz Alonso, actor. Going to be a defense intensive game but Carolina and Cam are on fire and too much for Denver. Panthers, 35-14

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will help the Broncos cover, but not cover. Panthers 24-20

Paul Anka, singer/songwriter/entertainer. Panthers will win. I watched my friend Eddie DeBartolo get voted into the Hall of Fame, and now I’ll watch the MVP hoist the trophy. It’ll be close won. Panthers 24-20

R.J. Bell, Pregame.com. Carolina is the better team, but likely not as good as the Panthers have appeared so far in the playoffs. Denver likely better than they seem, and the Broncos big game experience should help them keep Super Bowl 50 close. Panthers 21-20

Kevin Bollinger, FOX-TV Las Vegas. While everybody would love the storybook ending for Peyton Manning, the diminished skills make it tough for Denver to come back after falling behind. Panthers 27-16

Bryce Brentz, MLB player. Logic says to go with Cam’s Panthers, but I would love nothing more than to see Manning go out on top (if he does call it a career) so screw logic! Broncos 35-28

Jared Brentz, long-drive golf champion. I have to believe Payton goes out on top. I mean he deserves this ending. Broncos 21-17

Cindy Brunson, Pac 12 Network. I’m going with the guy/team that has me trying Dannon Oikos yogurt and I don’t even really like yogurt. Call it the power of Cam Newton, the MVP who threw 35 TD passes and ran for 10 more this season. Carolina reminds me so much of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seahawks with a stifling defense and dual threat QB. The game will be close early, but I think the Panthers will prevail. Panthers 35-21

Chet Buchanan, KLUC-98.5 FM, Las Vegas. I like The Sheriff riding off into the sunset, mostly on the shoulders of the #OrangeCrush16. Pat/Caitlyn Bowlen is able to get his face to move enough to say, “And THIS one’s for PEYTON!” Broncos 27-20

Frank Caliendo, Comedian. Panthers 30 – Broncos 17 or flip that. Broncos 30 – Panthers 17. Can I do that? (In his own voice)

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal. Cam Newton backs up all the talk and Carolina closes out a magical season in style. Panthers 38-13

Freddie Coleman, ESPN. I think the Panthers defense makes the Broncos offense play one dimensional and their defense won’t be able to hold up. Panthers 27-16

Kevin Curry, founder Fit Men cook. I’m rooting for Cam Newton! He’s a beast. Any dude that can throw the ball and run it like a linebacker has my vote. He takes me back to the early Vince Young days, and of course he’s from Texas and I’m a Texas guy. Panthers 28-24.

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press. Peyton Manning falls one Super Bowl ring short of his brother, thanks to Josh Norman, who cements his place on Thieves Avenue with a last minute pick to seal the first SB win for the Panthers. Panthers 27-24

Dave DeNatale, ESPN 850 AM, Cleveland. Peyton Manning in his Nationwide voice: “Painful way to call it quits.” Panthers 31-20

Randy Faehnrich, UFC, I’ve been a big believer in Denver’s defense all year. If there is a way to stop Cam, it’s to put pressure on him, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two better at applying pressure than Ware and Miller. I think the game really depends on how those two perform, and I’m banking they perform well. Give me the Broncos and Peyton Manning w/ the storybook ending. Broncos 24-20

Royce Feour, Retired Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer. Cam Newton will be better than the old veteran Peyton Manning. Panthers 27-17

Chris Fedor, Cleveland.com. The Panthers proved to be the league’s best team during the regular season and will punctuate it Sunday, led by Cam Newton, who will show he belongs on the league’s biggest stage. Panthers, 27-17.

Marcus Fizer, retired NBA player. My pick is with the Carolina Panthers and with #SuperCam. They are playing on a level unmatched. Although you can never count out “The Sheriff” Peyton Manning, I think Cam is ready to change the dynamics of the NFL QB! Hoping for a close game, I love thrillers. Panthers 48-42

C.T. Fletcher, Powerlifter/Fitness, no score, just a mother fu*kin Broncos win! Manning and the Broncos. Admittedly not a huge fan of either team. But it’s probably Manning’s last game. He’s 40 and the underdog. I gotta pull for the “old man” cause I’m one. Gotta pick the underdog cause I’m one. I think Manning and I love to prove all the fu*kin experts wrong!

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player. While I would love to root for my Broncos and fellow Vegas Cimarron Memorial-alum Brandon Marshall, I have a hard time believing even with the stellar defense, that Denver slows down this high-powered Panther team! Panthers 28-17

Randy Gatewood, Retired AFL player. I like the Panthers because they have been very consistent all year and they have the league MVP in Cam Newton. As great as Denver’s defense is, I don’t think they completely shut down Newton. And I think Cam Newton will also be the Super Bowl MVP. Let’s get ready to rumble! Panthers, 24-20

Bud Geracie, San Jose Mercury News. Panthers too fast and too hot. Panthers 23-14

Mike Gillespie, ABC-TV Columbia, S.C. Despite it being Manning’s last game and a pro-Denver crowd, Von Miller won’t be dabbing. That Panthers secondary is far too fast and smart to allow Manning to throw like he did against the Pats. Plus Newton, unlike Brady, is a true threat with his legs. Manning’s last game is a loss to the Panthers in Santa Clara. Panthers, 27-13

Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal. I cover college sports in New Mexico so what do I know about big football games? I’ll take better story (Peyton rides off a winner) over better team for this one. Broncos 20-17

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal. If Peyton Manning can’t win this on his own, I’m sure his attorneys will send a few guys in black coats to do it for him. Panthers 24-20

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN, Panthers 27, Broncos 26.

Merril Hoge, ESPN. Teams win championships and the footers to a Champion football team are the Offensive and Defensive lines!! The Panthers win both of those match ups. Panthers 28-21

Jay Kornegay, Westgate LV SuperBook. Broncos start off on a good foot and puts the Panthers in an unfamiliar position. Denver’s D forces two critical 4th quarter turnovers and holds on. Broncos 24-20

T.J. Lavin, BMX Legend, Tom Brady 35-27!

Gilbert Manzano, LV Review Journal. The ferocious Broncos defense will give the Panthers fits early, but I see Cam Newton rallying in the fourth quarter and dabbing with the Lombardi. Panthers 27-24

Brian Mahoney, Associated Press. They’re Stephen Curry’s team, and Curry’s teams don’t lose in the Bay Area. Panthers 27-17

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette Journal. Cam Newton and the Panthers dance and dab their way to a Super Bowl title as a scourge of white Baby Boomers flood their local newspapers with letters to the editors title “What about the kids?!?!?” Oh, my, gosh, the kids! Panthers 27-17

Rock Newman, Retired Boxing Manager/Promoter. Owner Gibraltar Promotions LLC. It’s the year of Cam and the Panthers. Dab baby Dab! Panthers, 31-28.

David Purdum, ESPN. The best thing Peyton Manning has done this season: throw interceptions. Carolina’s D is a turnover machine. I feel like Manning’s good for two picks, which is just too much to overcome, at least for me to bet on the Broncos. I know all the sharps are Denver, but here’s a pro tip: Sharps lose, too. Panthers 27-16

Tim Reynolds, Associated Press. Peyton Manning gets the fairytale ending. Broncos 27-23

Anthony Rodriguez, KMET Online Radio, Denver. Broncos 23-20.

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations. Luke Kuechly and the Panther defense will turn the lights out on Peyton Manning’s storied career. Panthers 33-13

Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports. I’m a Raiders fan. Panthers 99, Broncos 0.

Danny Webster, Bleacher Report. The Broncos did well against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Denver’s defense hasn’t played a quarterback like Cam Newton. Not only will Carolina’s defense do enough to stifle Denver’s offense, but this year’s MVP will throw for 225 yards and run for another 100 as Carolina wins its first Super Bowl. Panthers 27-17

Jamieson Welsh, The Score 670-AM Las Vegas. It’s Cam’s league now. Panthers 24-20

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal. The Panthers pack more big-play firepower, but the Broncos’ top-ranked defense can do enough to contain Cam Newton. I like Carolina to win, but on a neutral field this line looks high. Panthers 24-20

FINAL TALLY: Panthers 31, Broncos 10, Caliendo 1, Lavin 1

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By W.G. Ramirez

Randy Gatewood will always be one of the greatest athletes to hail from UNLV.

He will also be one of my all-time favorite human beings. Great guy, fantastic football player and a personality most might think Marshawn Lynch could learn from.

I hadn’t spoken with Randy in a couple of decades, until last September, when I caught up with him for a story I wrote for UNLVRebels.com, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of his record-breaking performance while he was playing for the Rebels.

While UNLV lost a marathon on Sept. 17, 1994, 48-38 to Idaho, Gatewood set NCAA single-game records for receptions with a mind-boggling 23 and receiving yards with 363. He conceivably was the reason the Rebel offense stormed back from a 45-10 deficit to nearly defeat the Vandals. Gatewood, who played the slot position in UNLV’s three-wideout formation, caught 13 passes for 207 yards in the fourth quarter alone at Sam Boyd Stadium. The 6-foot senior from Wichita Falls, Texas, also contributed with 56 return yards, giving him 419 all-purpose yards – in one game.

And since I was covering the Rebels at the time, and covered the game for the now-defunct Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper at the time, I was delighted at the chance to catch up with him and talk about that game. Now, roughly four months later, I thought it was only fitting to catch up with my old friend for a second time.

Gatewood

Randy Gatewood starred at UNLV and went on to become one of the greatest players in Arena Football League history during a Hall of Fame career.

We spoke early in the week, so he could give me his pick for my annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, but given he resides in Scottsdale, and has been soaking up the Super Bowl atmosphere this past week, I couldn’t think of a better person I’d rather feature as the lead item for this year’s Super Bowl story.

After all, we’re talking about someone who was part of one of UNLV’s best football teams, he won a bowl game with the Rebels, he was an all-time great in the Arena Football League and is now in the organization’s Hall of Fame and he still holds an NCAA record. He epitomized what the sport of football stands for, and has always been a great representative of UNLV’s program.

Retired since 2007, Gatewood is now involved in the fine wine business, working with Quench Fine Wines, a division of Hensley Beverage Company. He is also a sideline reporter for the Arena Football League, so he keeps tabs on plenty of friends he’s played with or against.

“Football is one big fraternity, and being able to still talk to some of those guys, that’s been the most fun for me this week,” Gatewood said. “The Super Bowl undoubtedly is the biggest event in the world. And anytime it comes to your town, and you’re able to be a part of that – meeting up with some of the guys, having some drinks and dinner and sharing stories – that type of thing is what makes it fun.”

Gatewood came close to playing on Sundays, as he spent one camp with the Miami Dolphins, before being released in the final cut before the season started, in 2005. After a year off, he joined the Arizona Rattlers, and became one of the biggest stars the league had ever seen, right along with former UNLV standout Hunkie Cooper. And while he admits the NFL lingered in his head occasionally, the time off between the Dolphins’ camp and jumping to the AFL led him to a life of happiness as a family man, and playing for one of the AFL’s storied franchises.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I had the ability to play on Sundays,” he said. “Basically I chose to be a part of everything surrounding my family and chose to be with my wife and kids. I am happy and content with everything I was able to accomplish.

“And when I look back on my run, and when I chose to walk away from the game of football, I was one year removed from my second Ironman of the Year Award. I knew I was nearing the end of my career … the Rattlers were entering a new era and I felt I had accomplished everything I was going to accomplish in my career. I really felt like there was nothing left for me to accomplish.”

Gatewood was named first-team all-AFL three times, second team three times, he made the all-Ironman team thrice and was named one of the AFL’s all-time 20 greatest players (#17) in 2006. He was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

“I can honestly say I was one of few guys who walked away with no regrets,” Gatewood said.

Now, he enjoys the wine business, soaking up the sun on Scottsdale’s finest golf courses and, of course, entertaining friends, colleagues and clients when the Super Bowl happens to be in Glendale.

“It’s good for the city, good for football and it’s really been a great week,” he said. “The exposure has been amazing.”

And with that, we lead this year’s poll with Gatewood’s pick for the game, after he’s been to all the big events – media-wise and socially – leading up to Sunday’s game.

“The emotional side of it tells me Seattle, but when I look at it from a football sense, I see New England winning this game,” Gatewood said. “What the Pats did during the offseason for their defense, puts them in a good position to win this game. Because now it’s not on Tom Brady’s shoulders, and I think they’re in a good position to win. As I look at his game unfold, New England is the better team. This will come down to coaching, and as much as I respect Pete Carroll, I think Bill Belichick might be the best coach in the NFL today.

“It would be nice to see a back-to-back champion, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if Seattle won. But I think the Pats have the better team and as good as Russell Wilson is, I don’t think Tom Brady is going to lose three Super Bowls in a row.” RANDY’S PICK: Patriots 27, Seahawks 24

———-

As for me, well, I like the defending Super Bowl champs to get it done. We’ve seen tough battles in the NFC Championship the past several years, and to me, that shows the NFC team being battle-tested and better prepared to scrap in the Super Bowl. The NFC champion is on a 5-2 run in the big game, the Seahawks are the defending champs and I don’t think even the Patriots will deflate that this year. MY PICK: Seahawks 23, Patriots 20

———-

This year I separated the picks by team, rather than one long list in alphabetical order. I compiled the picks by either email, text message, phone call, direct message on Instagram or Twitter or some simply replied to my announcements on Twitter by directly tweeting to me. Some included a short blurb, other just a score. Thanks to all who participated!!!

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Mark Anthony, 2013 Men’s Physique Mr. Olympia – Seahawks, 28-14
Kevin Bolinger, Anchor/Reporter FOX TV Las Vegas – Seahawks, 27-20. Seattle establishes Marshawn Lynch early and wins the turnover battle for the repeat.
Cindy Brunson, Fox Sports/Pac 12 Network analyst – Seahawks, 35-31. Hoping for a “Re-Pete” for Seattle. Just like last year, AFC is favored but unlike SB48, this should be crazy close. Seahawks win.
Chet Buchanan, KLUC-FM, Las Vegas – Seahawks, 31-21. Seahawk D scores points and makes the difference! BACK TO BACK! Go Hawks!
Candace Buckner, Indiana Pacers beat writer, Indianapolis Star – Seahawks, 23-20.
Steve Carp, LV Review Journal Senior Writer – Seahawks, 38-24. Russell Wilson bounces back and Seattle goes back-to-back.
Freddie Coleman, ESPN Radio – Seahawks, 24-20
Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press – Seahawks, 22-19
Digital Underground, Hip Hop Group who brought us the Humpty Dance – Seahawks, 48-32
Randy Faehnrich, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Senior Staff Writer – Seahawks 27-23. When it comes to close games, I tend to go with who has the better rushing attack on both sides of the ball, and that’s the Hawks.

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 20-17. Brady won’t hold up in this one. He will crack. The extra focus and attention by a tandem of good safeties will make it an underperforming day for Gronk. The run will never get going for the Pats and Wilson will only be required to do enough to win the game with Lynch doing what he does.
Mike Gillespie, Sports Anchor ABC Columbia, SC – Seahawks, 27-24
Joe Grande, NBC Sports Radio – Seahawks, 31-17
Ed Graney, LV Review Journal columnist – Seahawks, 27-20. Given their level of trash talking, it doesn’t appear as if the Seahawks need anyone to inflate their balls.
Paul Gutierrez, ESPN NFL Reporter – Seahawks, 31-27. #YouMadBro
Jay Harris, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Seahawks, 31-27
Robert “DJ R.O.B.” Hathcock, Music Producer – Seahawks, 41-24
Matt Jacob, Editor of Vegas Seven magazine – Seahawks, 24-17
Jay Kornegay, Westgate sportsbook – Seahawks, 23-17

Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press – Seahawks, 27-21
Steve Lavin, Head Coach St. John’s Men’s Basketball – Seahawks 24-20.
Allen Leiker, LV Review Journal Assistant Sports Editor – Seahawks, 26- 20. The Giants beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl because they were able to get pressure on Tom Brady, who threw for less than 300 yards in each game despite 48 and 41 attempts. Seattle’s defensive line isn’t as good as those New York lines, but its defense is far superior overall and will deny Brady his fourth ring.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press – Seahawks, 26-24
Tracy Murray, Retired NBA player/Pac 12 Analyst – Seahawks, 31-24
Kathrine Narducci, Actress from Starz’s Power and HBO’s The Sopranos – Seahawks, 34-27.
Mike Pritchard, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 21-16. Back-to-back.
Crystina Poncher, NFL Network – Seahawks 31-28
Jason Poston, Four-time IFBB physique champion and Top-3 Mr. Olympian – Seahawks 27-24. Repeat champs, led by the man Russell Wilson.
Mike Sando, ESPN NFL reporter – Seahawks, 27-17

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations – Seahawks, 23-21
Marc Spears, Yahoo Sports NBA reporter – Seahawks, 31-28
Sage Steele, ESPN NBA Anchor – Seahawks, 31-28
Danny Webster, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Managing Editor – Seahawks 27-24. Russell Wilson gets the MVP, then gets paid.
Jamieson Welsh, NBA radio analyst – Seahawks, 27-19. MVP Marshawn Lynch.
Roy Wood Jr., comedian – Seahawks, 30-22

Anthony Rodriguez, Sports Director KMET Radio Denver, Seahawks 24-20

———-

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal Writer – Patriots, 27-21
Paul Anka, Legendary Singer/Songwriter – Patriots, 31-28
RJ Bell, Pregame.com/ESPN contributor – Patriots, 23-16
Bryce Brentz, Boston Red Sox outfielder – Patriots, 35-28. The Patriots, this team has been here before, and they have the mindset that they’ll treat this like just another week.
Jared Brentz, 2013 World ParaLong Drive Champion – Patriots, 31-21
Frank Caliendo, Comedian/Impressionist – Patriots, 24-18
Jay Crawford, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Patriots, 27-24
Jay Cutler, 4X Mr. Olympia Bodybuilder – Patriots, 28-25
Dave DeNatale, ESPN Cleveland – Patriots, 26-24
Tyler Farr, Country Music Artist/ACM New Artist of the Year candidate – Patriots 34-21

Jay Feely, NFL placekicker, Chicago Bears – Patriots, 24-20
Royce Feour, retired Las Vegas Review-Journal – Patriots 28-20. The Patriots have it in the (deflated ball) bag.
Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman & CEO UFC – Patriots, 31-28.
Randy Gatewood, Former UNLV standout/AFL Hall of Famer/Sideline reporter – Patriots, 27-24.
Jesse Granger, Editor UNLV’s Virtual-Rebel.com – Patriots, 27-21. MVP – Rob Gronkowski.
Jake Hager, Major League Baseball player, Rays organization – Patriots, 35-21
Merril Hoge, ESPN NFL analyst – Patriots, 28-13
Jemele Hill, ESPN His and Her’s co-host – Patriots, 33-31
Lacey Jones, Spokes model/professional poker player – Patriots, 27-24. What can I say, I’m a sucker for those pretty-boy looks of Tom Brady, not to mention his gorgeous wife – that has to amount for something. I do know a guy who sports Ugg boots won’t lose three straight Super Bowls. Why, that would be downright deflating.
TJ Lavin, Retired BMX star/TV Host – Patriots, 27-24. The Patriots and Tom Brady have a lot of distractions but they will overcome it to win the Super Bowl

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal – Patriots, 27-21. Belichick hoists trophy, yells “Yep, we deflated those balls,” gives crowd Marshawn Lynch crotch grab, drops mic.
David Payne Purdum, ESPN sports betting reporter – Patriots, 28-24
Michael Pittman, Retired NFL player/Bodybuilder – Patriots, 34-17
Tim Reynolds, Associated Press – Patriots, 33-24
Jon Saraceno, former USA Today columnist, freelance writer – Deflated Balls 27, Seanags 20
Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal Columnist – Patriots, 23-20. The Seahawks are not as strong as last season, and I’ll bet Belichick and Brady don’t lose a third straight Super Bowl.

FINAL TALLY: Seahawks 37 votes, Patriots 26 votes

Carter1

Canyon Springs-graduate Isiah Carter (42) lost his mother, April, to cancer on Sept. 16, 2013. He’s dedicated every game he’s played in to her since then, and Friday will be playing for the NAIA National Championship with Southern Oregon. PHOTO: Southern Oregon Sports Information

By W.G. Ramirez

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in the sports world, you tend to see teams accentuating uniforms with pink accessories.

So it made sense when former Canyon Springs standout Isiah Carter asked Southern Oregon coach Craig Howard if the Raiders were going to be donning pink anywhere.

Then Howard learned why he was approached by his freshman linebacker.

“He had tears in his eyes when he told me about his mom,” Howard said this past week during a phone interview from Daytona Beach, Fla., where the eighth-ranked Raiders will take on seventh-ranked Marian University (Ind.) for the NAIA Football Championship on Friday.

Last year, on Sept. 16, when Carter was a senior playing for Canyon Springs, he lost his mother, April, to cancer.

He’s been playing for her ever since.

“I said my final good bye to my mother and told her that she had nothing to worry about and I was going to make her proud,” Carter said, holding back emotions during a phone interview. “After losing her, it’s turned into every game being dedicated to her. After every game I realize that she’s been through so much more pain than me. I know she is looking down at me, and I want to do everything I can to make her proud of me.”

SONY DSC

Isiah Carter started his first game the same week he approached Southern Oregon coach Craig Howard about wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Carter lost his mother to cancer while he was still a senior at Canyon Springs High School.

Carter’s done a good job of making her proud this season, as he started his first game the same week he approached Howard about wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and hasn’t relinquished his role since. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound who graduated from Canyon Springs with a 3.7 grade point average and is majoring in business at SOU, finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles, after playing in 11 of the team’s 14 games. He recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranked third on the team, and his 52 yards-for-loss ranked second-most on the team.

“It was like a light switch going on when we saw Isiah at the linebacker spot, he was so fast and so good at his position, and I’m just so pleased with this young man,” Howard said. “Some guys are homesick, or find it tough to adapt to college. This guy lost his mom, and he’s always stayed dedicated. It keeps me highly motivated to be a better coach for these young man.”

Carter’s high school coach, Hunkie Cooper, had identical thoughts of Howard, saying he was one of the finest players and young men he’s ever coached.

“I’ve been at every level, and now I coach high school football, this is a young man you can put in any circumstance and he will be successful and he will bring positivity all around him,” Cooper said. “This is a kid who is physical, he’s fast; he has a football IQ out of this world. He will play in the NFL on Sundays. He is a purpose-driven kid. He is a big, violent kid on the field. His ability and will to prepare and to be successful is unmatched, no matter what obstacles are in his way. His work ethic, his approach for the game and the way he carries himself off the field – this is an honorable man.”

Cooper said he’s always told his players to remember the game is not always about them, and to find a way to play football for someone. It’s exactly what he told Carter after his mom passed, and to remind himself when he felt he couldn’t go any more, to think of someone who is on a respirator or isn’t going to make it and do it for them.

For Carter, that’s been one person ever since. That’s why after having his wrists taped for each game, he has his mother’s birthdate and the date she passed written on the tape, along with “R.I.P Mom.”

“Isiah is a strong individual. He is one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever seen,” said former Centennial standout and Southern Oregon running back Lantz Worthington. “Any man who can go through that, in losing his mom and still playing the sport he loves. I respect and look up to him as a brother. I’ve learned that he is a hard worker and he never gives up. He is an athlete you can learn from and he will be an awesome role model for me all four years.”

Said Howard: “Here we have a freshman linebacker from Las Vegas, being able to dedicate a national championship game to his mom, that’s just something. I’m going to be a better coach because of players like Isiah. He is so dedicated he is so loyal, he is such an incredible young man.”

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Seven Las Vegas-based football players are on Southern Oregon’s football team, including Lantz Worthington (third from left). The Raiders play for the NAIA National Championship on Friday. PHOTO: Courtesy of Sports Information.

 

By W.G. Ramirez

If UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez (it’s okay to say that now, right?) needs proof it’s okay to recruit locally, and build a nucleus around Las Vegas talent, he should direct his attention to Ashland, Oregon – population 20,000. That’s an approximate number.

A more precise number is seven. How apropos, as Vegas’ winningest number on The Strip is the same number of Southern Nevada football players who attend Southern Oregon.

Why does this all matter? Because Friday at Noon pacific, the eighth-ranked Raiders will take on seventh-ranked Marian University (Ind.) for the NAIA Football Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Yep, while the Rebels are licking their wounds after another two-win season, seven Las Vegas products may be donning national championship rings at the collegiate level. Southern Oregon, which was No. 22 in the preseason poll, knocked off third-ranked Saint Xavier, 62-37, two weeks ago to get to the final game. And history is on the Raiders’ side, as the lower seed has won the last four championships and seven of the last eight.

Coach Craig Howard has a wealth of talent he can brag about, but said he has been pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with how well his Las Vegas contingent has worked out for his team during its championship run.

“It really was an untapped recruiting area,” Howard said from Daytona Beach, during a phone interview on Tuesday. “These guys have been a joy to coach. And we’re going to continue to recruit Las Vegas, no matter what, as it’s been a huge benefit for us.”

Linebacker Isiah Carter (Canyon Springs), running back Lantz Worthington (Centennial) and defensive back A.J. Cooper (Canyon Springs) made the trip with the Raiders, while defensive back Ray Robinson (Las Vegas), defensive back RaeQuan Bascombe (Canyon Springs), offensive lineman Terry Dodd (Cheyenne) and running back Malik Davis(Desert Pines) have been an integral part of getting the team prepared throughout the season, during practices.

“These kids played together for many years and they stayed together to build a pipeline from Las Vegas,” Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper said. “We have a pretty good group of kids there.”

Cooper, who starred at UNLV and went on to become one of the biggest stars in the history of the Arena Football League, said he’s confident Sanchez will begin his recruiting process in Southern Nevada, as he knows the coaches and players, and respects what many of his now-former high school colleagues do at their respective schools.

The trio who made the trip to Daytona Beach agreed wholeheartedly.

“I think that a lot of Las Vegas talent is overlooked by a lot of schools because we’re small, speedy guys,” Carter said. “Nobody is willing to look into it and recruit from it because most schools are looking for prototypical football players, size wise.”

(TOMORROW: Read Isiah Carter’s touching story on who he’s dedicated the season to)

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Former Canyon Springs standout Isiah Carter, who played in 11 of 14 games for Southern Oregon, finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles. PHOTO: Sports Information

Carter finished fourth on the team with 75 tackles, after playing in 11 of the team’s 14 games. He recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranked third on the team, and his 52 yards-for-loss ranked second-most on the team.

“I think that having guys from Vegas, it would make the transition to college much better if they went to UNLV,” said Carter, who also recorded four sacks this season. “I know our Vegas guys up here now have made this team more dynamic and more diverse on offense and defense.”

Worthington, who was one of the best running backs out of the Sunset Region last year, said former UNLV coach Bobby Hauck sat down with him and told him he could walk-on and make the team, but that he would not be offered a scholarship, mainly because they had been used up for out-of-town recruits and there simply was no more money left.

“Honestly, I think it’ll help the program if he brings in locals,” said Worthington, who has seen limited time, but is the fastest player on the Raiders, according to Howard. “It’s the way Sanchez runs his program, I mean, Gorman was phenomenal and I feel college athletes need that kind of leader and role model as a coach. He’s the type of coach that college athletes would love to play for, and I feel it will make a big difference if he can keep kids home.

“Kids will feel more appreciative being recruited by UNLV, knowing they can stay home. UNLV’s recruiting should always start with Las Vegas football players.”

In six games, Worthington rushed for just 31 yards on five carries. Nevertheless, Howard wasn’t afraid to say he’s shocked to this day he has Worthington, given how talented he is, and that he’s looking forward to him playing a lead role next season.

“Lantz hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time, but he’s the fastest player on the team,” Howard said. “He will definitely be a full-time starter next year. I don’t know why he is at Southern Oregon, because he is a Division I player. But hey, he’s an impact player for us, so everyone else’s loss is our gain.”

A.J. Cooper said it’s come up often, as the season has progressed, whether or not the Vegas boys will be staying in Ashland, or if they’d like to return home to play for the Rebels and Sanchez, or elsewhere for that matter.

“We’ve decided we started here and we want to build here,” said Cooper, who is Hunkie’s son. “Even though I’m a redshirt, I came for the trip so I can experience the feeling of playing for a national championship and that means something to me, so I’m going to stay loyal to my team and my coaches. But, there are guys who would feel good playing for their hometown (in Las Vegas). There’s a sense of motivation to play in front of friends and family. It would feel good to play for your hometown.”

Howard said it’s been his first move, to recruit locally, as it’s created a solid fan base, including sponsorship money from business owners who support the local team. But after recruiting from Ashland and surrounding areas, he said he knows where one of his first moves will always be after this seeing the results from this season.

“I don’t know if we lucked out, but character-wise, these guys from Las Vegas have been great,” Howard said. “They’re just great examples for our program. The character of those kids and the work ethic of those kids makes me want to go out and recruit that area annually.”

Given his success with Southern Nevada preps, something tells me Sanchez will be doing the same.

(Friday’s NAIA National Championship will be televised on ESPNU)

 

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On Nov. 18, in an exclusive interview, Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez spoke about his six-year tenure there, how he’s built the program, this year’s postseason and what’s up next for him. Photo: W.G. Ramirez

By W.G. Ramirez

Well, that escalated quickly.

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck told Tina Kunzer-Murphy on Friday that he is resigning his position after coaching the team in Saturday’s season-ending game against UNR, at Sam Boyd Stadium.

And hours after the press release surfaced and Kunzer-Murphy answered additional questions, social media blew up with rumors that Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez was the leading candidate to replace Hauck, with tens of millions of dollars following him from the Fertitta family.

The Fertittas, big backers of Gorman’s athletic program, specifically football, will reportedly pay the$400,000 buyout for Hauck – tweeted first by the Review Journal’s Mark Anderson.

“We were given an opportunity to get it done here at UNLV and we simply did not win enough games,” said Hauck, who has two years left on a contract that was extended after he led the Rebels to a bowl game last season. “It’s my responsibility to push the program forward and I wish we would have produced better results.”

As he heads into Saturday’s Battle for the Fremont Cannon, Hauck will be finishing his fifth year at UNLV and 12th overall as a head coach. He was 15-48 with the Rebels, including 11-27 in the Mountain West Conference. Prior to becoming the 10th head coach in UNLV history, he compiled an 80-17 mark at the FCS-level University of Montana from 2003-09.

The Rebels go into Saturday’s finale with a record of 2-10 overall and 1-6 in league play.

“No one has worked harder in trying to achieve consistent success with our football program than Coach Hauck and we thank him for his dedication and leadership,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “He and his staff have worked tirelessly in trying to achieve the results we all want to see but it unfortunately has not happened.”

According to several sources, the Fertitta family is willing to inject enough money into UNLV’s program if in fact Sanchez wants the job.

The move would make sense, as Lorenzo Fertitta’s son, Nico, is a senior defensive back headed for Notre Dame next season. Sanchez and the Gaels are on the brink of another state title, not to mention capturing the mythical national championship for being ranked No. 1 in several polls. At this point, there might not be much more to achieve at Gorman, as the foundation has been laid for the next era of Gael football.

When I spoke with Sanchez last week, for my 1-on-1 interview I released on Thanksgiving, we spoke about his future and what was next for him. He didn’t shy away from the question, but he also didn’t necessarily give me a direct answer.

Coy smiles and slight head nods tend to speak in volumes.

“‘Take every job like it’s your last and you won’t screw it up’ was the greatest advice I ever received,” Sanchez said. “I’ve always felt if you treat people right, if you do the right thing and if you work hard, you don’t make excuses and you stand for something, there’s always going to be possibility and opportunity out there for ya.”

Well, the possibility is now there, and once the Rebels conclude their season Saturday, and the Gaels wrap up what should be their sixth-straight state championship next week, the opportunity would be waiting. Sanchez, who helped shape Northern California’s California High in a five-year span, would easily have a pipeline to local talent, as the city’s top prep players would obviously be familiar with what he’s done at Gorman. The Gaels have several unsigned seniors – including star running back Russell Booze – and talented underclassmen who undoubtedly would consider following their high school coach if he bolted for the Rebels.

“We’re going a million miles an hour (right now),” Sanchez said. “I’m trying to get my kids recruited right now, we’re trying to finish the football season and really, we just really want to finish this thing strong. I don’t take too much time to worry about what’s going to happen later.

“I always treat people right cause you never know who’s going to show up in your corner down the road.”

By the looks of it, Kunzer-Murphy, the Fertittas and the Rebels are waiting just down the road.