Posts Tagged ‘Nevada’

 

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Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez stands among his players after every game and sings the school song to the fans.

 

By W.G. Ramirez

“Now that we’ve won, we have the pleasure and the honor to practice this beautiful game of football on Thanksgiving morning,” Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez told his Gaels after dispatching Arbor View in last week’s Sunset Regional championship game.

So while you were preparing for your day filled with football, family and food – who doesn’t do that on Thanksgiving – Sanchez was where he feels most comfortable: Fertitta Field with his Gaels, getting ready for Saturday’s state semifinal against Sunrise Region champ Liberty.

“I got what I think is one of the greatest jobs in the world. I do what I love, I coach high school football, I’ve got an unbelievable staff, I work at the greatest school in the world with the greatest faculty and staff and administration and look where my office is, look where my classroom is – I’ve got the nicest classroom in the city,” Sanchez said, during a 1-on-1 interview last week, prior to his Gaels’ win over Arbor View.

It’s been a long ascension for Sanchez, resurrecting Bishop Gorman’s football program, which to some degree receives its fair share of criticism. A portion of the hate spewed toward the Gaels’ national powerhouse is from rivals, usually after they’ve been stomped into submission. But more of it is simply regurgitated comments from people who don’t know any better, and simply repeat what they hear.

But what many people don’t know is the man who was brought to Las Vegas from California, and who has led the Gaels to five straight state championships behind discipline, work ethic, values and good ol’ fashioned blue-collar football labor.

THE START

Sanchez took over in March of 2009, after building California High School into a dominant state program over a previous five-year span. Heeding the advice of a friend about a vacancy at Gorman, he took a shot and threw his name in the ring.

“I didn’t know how serious I was going to take it, but I saw the possibility,” Sanchez said. “You just saw a lot of real great possibilities. You saw the buy-in from the community, you saw the buy-in from the alumni. Gorman has a tradition like no other. The people that graduated from Gorman love the school and they give back to the school. They’re a part of the school.”

At the time, there was no Cadillac-like stadium. The Gaels were practicing on a small patch of grass behind where Fertitta Stadium now sits. There was no first-class weight room, as there might have been 10 racks to train on. There might have been just more than 100 kids in the entire program. It was a different culture, according to Sanchez, and most importantly – the first thing he pointed out – the Gaels were picked to lose to Palo Verde. After all, the Panthers won the year prior in blowout fashion.

Now, Fertitta Stadium has all the bells and whistles a high school football stadium could ask for, the 41,324-square-foot Fertitta Athletic Training Center includes a four-lane, 60-yard track, a 90-seat classroom and an athletic training room with a hydrotherapy pool and ice bath. There are now more than 170 kids in the program, and oh yeah, the Gaels are ranked No. 1 in the country.

“Gorman had a lot of talented kids so I knew there was gonna be a lot of heavy lifting involved in regards to creating a disciplined culture, getting kids to do the things the right way, buying into a year-round program, sacrificing a lot more time in the summer – just creating a sense of discipline,” Sanchez said.

And by doing his job of instilling the right mindset with his program, the parents and boosters followed suit. Let’s be frank, Bishop Gorman does have some wealthy alumni, and the campus didn’t move from Maryland Parkway because the private entity wasn’t receiving donations and because tuitions weren’t increasing. But they also weren’t just going to throw money around without the right guy in place, to build a nationally ranked program.

“How many people on a Friday night that don’t have any kids at a high school are coming back 40 years after they graduate – that’s pretty special,” Sanchez said. “That doesn’t happen many places in the country. But it happens at Gorman.”

THE RISE

It didn’t take long once Sanchez took over, as the Gaels went a perfect 15-0 on their way to the state title, with a 62-21 victory over Del Sol. The Gaels tallied 798 points in 2009 and led the nation in points scored. Some might say the competition Gorman faced wasn’t near as good as the teams in California, Texas or Florida, but they may be the same people who say their glass is half empty. Those with a glass half full, saw Gorman finish No. 25 in the nation, according to Prep Nation, and Sanchez being named a Max Preps National Coach of the Year finalist.

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Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez has led the Gaels to five straight state championships.

Nothing has changed the past four seasons, either, as the Gaels have reeled off state titles each year, slowly climbing in the national polls and creeping their way into living rooms on national TV, including numerous appearances on ESPN. In 2010 the Gaels outscored opponents by a combined score of 692-101. In 2011 the Gaels took on three nationally ranked teams – beating then-No. 10 Chaparral (Ariz.) 42-22, knocking off then-No. 13 Servite (Calif.) 31-28, and suffering its only loss to the nation’s then second-ranked Armwood (Fla.) 20-17. They finished the season ranked fifth nationally by USA Today.

While averaging 55.5 points per game in 2012, they finished the season ranked ninth in the nation by USAT. Last year, in traveling as far as New Jersey and hosting the No. 1 team in the nation, the Gaels seemingly benched their mark thanks to arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. They finished 17th in the nation, but the foundation was laid for this year’s run to No. 1.

“Looking back six years, it’s just unbelievable to think about the places we’ve traveled, the teams that we’ve played, the games we’ve been in, building this program to a point where it’s nationally recognized. The deal we have with Nike and the relationship we have there, the way the alumni have really stepped up and supported us in so many different ways,” he said. “And as it’s gotten harder, the refreshing thing is that you have faith in kids because things are hard here. Every day we work, it’s a grind, they’re accountable, we’re in their face and the numbers keep growing and growing. It just shows the kids want to be a part of something like that.”

Sanchez said he’s exceeded his expectations from original goals, and isn’t done with what he’s started.

THE GRIND

With success comes adversity. Sanchez, his coaches and the Gaels don’t necessarily face much of that in terms of local competition. I mean, they haven’t lost to a local school since Sanchez got here. For his coaches, their adversity is living up to his expectations and fulfilling the model he brought to Las Vegas by executing it with each coach’s unit. For the players, it’s taking that model, perfecting it and then putting it on the field.

For Sanchez, well, he’s at the top. So his adversity is to make sure the vehicle continues to run smooth.

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Gaels coach Tony Sanchez talks about his love for reading books written by some of the greatest football coaches ever.

Gauging from the bookcase in his office, he’s been mentored by some of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. Books by Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson and Bear Bryant – to name a few – or quotes and anecdotes he shared with me, the ones that resonated and stuck with him. Sanchez is deeper than some might think, or see when he’s firing up and down the sidelines, screaming at someone. It doesn’t matter the score, Sanchez is a fiery guy. He summarized that to me in a post-game interview after beating Centennial two weeks ago, saying he is a perfectionist.

And if something goes wrong on the field, and you see him going off on a player or assistant coach, he’s probably not half as mad at them as he is himself. He’s the type of guy who takes things personal. And if a cog in the engine of his vehicle breaks down, he’s taking the blame. He may be yelling at the car he’s driving, but he knows it’s up to him to give it a tune up.

“Not everyone has first-hand knowledge of how we do things around here. The kids get out of school … they’re in film session from 2:30 ‘til 3, from 3 ‘til 5 something they’re on the football field, then they go right into the weight room and that’s a process that continues to go,” he said. “I don’t think anything is misconstrued (about us), but I wonder if everyone has the first-hand knowledge of the amount of time that our kids put in, and the time the coaches put in. It’s hard to be successful for this long amount of time, and our kids have done a good job of just buying into the work ethic it takes to be the best.”

Sanchez said the Gaels’ 17 consecutive days off during the summer is the longest break they get. They start hitting weights their first day back in January, after Winter break, and continue for eight months leading into the season. He’s quick to point out that many of the programs in the valley do the same thing, and he’s not taking anything away from the Libertys, Palo Verdes, Arbor Views, so on and so forth.

But make no bones about it, Bishop Gorman does not boast a program chock full of talent that show up, put their pads on and dominate by accident. There’s work involved in sculpting the nation’s No. 1 program.

“When you watch film, you should see and feel energy, you should see execution, you should see crispness,” Sanchez said. “And I think if you watch us on film, we don’t look sloppy. We don’t jump offside, we don’t do a lot of silly things. Do we make mistakes? Yeah. And that’s what we do, we correct those things and we move on.”

Notice the word “WE.” Again, Sanchez takes everything personal, and is a guy who knows it starts at the top. It’s his responsibility to make sure the Gaels are firing on all pistons and remained a well-oiled machine.

Which is probably why they were practicing this morning, while many of you were trying to figure out the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.

THE FAMILY MAN

Away from the field, away from the game of football, Sanchez is a loving husband and doting father who is like any of us away from their job. He tries not to bring his job home, and is appreciative and thankful for his wife, who shelved her career with a major pharmaceutical company so he could fulfill his dream of building Gorman into a national power. His kids are his life. You can see it when he speaks of them.

You can see a twinkle in his eyes when he speaks about Bishop Gorman football, but you can see the apples in his eyes when he speaks about his children.

“I love spending time with my kids,” he said. “I’ve got a wonderful daughter, Alyssa, and watching her grow into this incredible young woman… I just love when I’m walking through the door and she’s just sitting in her room reading a novel, it’s like ‘wow, thank God my kids are smarter than me.’

“My son Jason, just being around him and watching him grow and develop different interests and different hobbies and loves, things like that, it’s just so fun being around him. Just praying with my kids before they go to bed at night, that means a lot. And my wife is wonderful. She’s sacrificed a lot. She gave up a career … she stays home with the kids now and it’s been a great thing.”

Sanchez said he isn’t worried about the criticism and rumors that swirl around the Gaels’ athletic program, and can’t be concerned what he, his family, his coaches or his family hears, because he’s too busy thinking positive every time he wakes up.

“I don’t think about it at all,” he said. “There are so many people that think we’re doing a great job. There are so many people who show up in the stands and who are cheering our kids on. We’ve got parents out there feeding our kids (after practice). I’ve got kids busting their tail to try to create opportunity later in life, just to keep this program going, to compete at a high level. I’ve got no time and energy for anything that’s not positive. We’re about moving forward, we’re about focusing on the things we can control. And what can we control: our attitude and our effort every single day.

“A lot of things in life you don’t control, but when you wake up in the morning, what’s your attitude for the day? Is it good or bad? What kind of effort are you gonna give? Those are the things I control. There’s a lot of things out there, we can bring that up, but I don’t know, I don’t worry about it. I don’t read that stuff.”

THE JOB, THE SPORT

In the end, Sanchez said he’s taken each coaching position with the same mentality based off a quote he was given by friend and coach Tony Samuel, and lived by that mantra ever since.

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After singing to the fans, and a post-game speech from Sanchez, the Gaels end each game is ended with a prayer.

“‘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.”

And from what I can tell, he’s not blowing smoke. I gave Sanchez a chance to fire back at his critics. Offered up a forum to discuss the public’s accusations. But not a negative word to say. He credits his coaches and his players, saying they’re the reason the Gaels are successful. He loves his job, he loves his staff and he loves the game of football. He loves Bishop Gorman High School.

“I am not here because I am some great guru, I’m here because I’m smart enough to hire smart people, to surround myself with positive people, to listen and to learn and continue growing. Those things are a must if you’re going to sustain success,” Sanchez said. “If every young man had an opportunity to play football, to be on a team and to be accountable, to create a work ethic in a year-round process, to understand what it’s like to be great in certain moments … the amount of care and love you develop for your teammates, the physicality of it all … the grind and the sweat and the hurt of football, that will serve you well the rest of your days in every single thing you do. I wish everybody in the country, at 3 o’clock after school, walked on to a football field and went to practice for two hours a day, what a great country we would have. And we still do – it would just be even tougher.”

Perhaps, maybe, as tough as the No. 1 ranked Bishop Gorman Gaels, and the man driving the vehicle – coach Tony Sanchez.

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Arbor View’s Haley Vicente (12) overcame two ACL tears in both knees to shine for the Aggies in her senior season.

By W.G. Ramirez

“We wanted it for her, but she wanted it for everybody else.”

Those were the sentiments of Arbor View coach Jay Howard after his Aggies won their third straight girls soccer state championship Saturday, with a 6-0 win over Coronado. A valiant team effort, after a dominating run through the postseason, but for one player it was a title that was long overdue, and that easily wrapped up what should be considered the comeback story of the year.

Howard was referring to senior Haley Vicente, a dynamo forward with cat-like quickness and shocking agility considering what she’s overcome.

Put it this way, if this were a story about a women’s national team, or some NCAA squad that had a feel-good ending, we’d see it on ESPN with veteran reporter Tom Rinaldi narrating it with that slow, sappy music playing in the background. You know, the ones that have even the biggest and strongest of men reaching for tissue paper to dry their eyes, because it’s too touching not to tear up about?

See, while Vicente has been a part of the varsity program her entire high-school career, she only played for the Aggies during her freshman and senior seasons.

In between, she watched on crutches, with torn anterior cruciate ligaments. That’s not a typo; that’s plural.

After tearing her right ACL her sophomore campaign, and then being cleared to play during the offseason, she tore her left ACL two months into her club season. It takes quite an athlete to overcome one torn ACL, so you can imagine how big a deal it is to see someone recover from two, and then lead a team to a championship title. It’s even more special when all that person wants to do is deflect praise, and shower her teammates with all the glory.

“We wanted this in our hearts, and I just did it for the team,” said Vicente, who capped her senior year with 11 goals and three assists in the postseason to lead the Aggies offensively. “I just wanted the team to win. I’ve really just tried my hardest and I’ve tried to do everything for the team as a team player.”

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Haley Vicente scored 11 goals and had 3 assists in the postseason to lead Arbor View offensively.

Vicente, who recorded three hat tricks during the playoffs, opened the scoring in Saturday’s state championship by giving Arbor a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute of the first half. The goal got the motivation flowing, and sparked her teammates to feed off that momentum, including her younger sister, Sierra, who promptly gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead with their second goal of the game, in the 25th minute of the first half.

“It was so amazing, it was so cool, I love playing with her and it’s really been an honor to play with her,” Haley Vicente said about seeing her freshman sister score in the title game.

It’s been a long ascension back to the field for Vicente, and both her mother and father – Margie and Gary – say they’re personally inspired by their daughter’s indomitable spirit, and drive to return to the field for the Aggies.

“To have two major setbacks like that was really, really hard for her,” Margie Vicente said. “The second one she came out more determined and she was not going to let anything stop her. Her senior year, she said ‘I’ve got to give it my all’ so she’s been giving everything she has and she’s leaving it all on the field.”

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Arbor View sisters Sierra and Haley Vicente pose with the state championship trophy. Each scored a goal in the title game.

Gary Vicente said his eldest daughter, who is verbally committed to Cal State Bakersfield, provides inspiration to him daily after overcoming her injuries and performing the way she has during her final high school season.

“Her work ethic, what she’s accomplished is absolutely incredible to me,” he said. “She is a huge role model for her sister and other girls to follow, a total team player. She’s an amazing girl and an amazing soccer player.”

That’s not news to her club coach, Robert Andrade, who has coached Vicente since she was 6 years old. Andrade, who heads the ECNL Las Vegas Premier team, said what’s always impressed him has been Vicente’s work ethic off the field. Whether it was rehabilitation, personal training, going to the gym and then following one of those by showing up at practice, he says he never saw her break down to the point she wanted to give in. On the contrary, every obstacle provided motivation.

“The work rate that she put in, to come back, because of the way she loves this game … to me there’s few and far between girls that have the whole package like Haley,” Andrade said. “I can’t say enough about her personality. I’ve never seen a kid work as hard as she did in the gym three, four times a week, just putting in every ounce of effort that she had.”

And it finally paid off. After watching the Aggies win the state title the past two years, she was able to celebrate with her teammates thanks to the effort she put in while participating and contributing in the games.

“The whole time she was always fully supportive and never was down, even when we won state the last two years, she was in it with us,” senior Jessica Longhurst said. “She’s such a big team person, she’s not selfish at all, and that’s why I think she deserves this. This year she wanted it ‘cause she had never experienced a state championship and we had, so this year’s title was hers to take.”

Said Gary Vicente: “Her goal from the beginning of this season was to win at all costs. The scoring doesn’t make a difference to her. I ask her how many goals or assists she has, and she says she doesn’t know or care – she just wants to win. Her focus has been on this team from the beginning. She wanted everyone on the team to do well and she just wanted to be a part of the whole experience with that team.”

She certainly got that experience, feel-good story and all.

And even if ESPN and Rinaldi weren’t there to narrate her tale and tell their viewers about her, there were plenty of tears at Heritage Park for what is easily the comeback story of the year.

By W.G. Ramirez

There is something about the rivalry between Arbor View and Centennial High Schools.

It’s healthy, and at times – it ain’t good.

It’s on the same level of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

They truly don’t like one another. There is no love loss, and there’s barely any respect. If there is, it lasts for about 49 seconds, or however long it takes for the teams to walk by one another and shake each other’s hands. Other than that, it’s a heated rivalry. And if there is respect, it’s toward ‘it’ being okay to not like one another, unlike all secondary dislikes toward other schools, where they’re friendly rivalries.

 

So when the two meet tonight at Centennial, both undefeated at 8-0, for the Northwest Division title, it might be the biggest game of the schools’ annual series, and most certainly should be considered the Game of the Year in Southern Nevada prep football.

Those in sport of Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman might argue otherwise. But uhm, yeah…

Quick disclaimer: I have personal ties to both schools. My son graduated from Arbor View, and obviously many of his friends still go there. But I also know a host of kids and staff at Centennial, including a teacher and member of administration for more than 15 years.

So how do I pick a winner here? Or do I?

Just as I did earlier this season, when Gorman met St. John Bosco, I ran each team’s numbers through a spreadsheet program that I use during the NFL and college football seasons to see predicted outcomes for particular games. I came up with four final scores.

Based on the season, Centennial is poised to win this game, 28-25. After all, the Bulldogs have stymied their opponents, so after factoring in what Arbor View’s defense has given up yards and point wise, it’s not surprising Centennial was picked to win. If we were to base this on the teams’ last four games, the Bulldogs win handedly, 36-24. Considering how the teams perform at home and on the road, go figure, Arbor View is supposed to win this one by a healthy 27-20.

Add up all the finals on my spreadsheet, and you have a composite prediction of Centennial 27.9, Arbor View 26.4. In Vegas’ terms, that’s a point spread of Centennial -1.5.

So, what do I think will actually happen? I honestly couldn’t tell you, like I correctly did with Gorman, saying it would beat Bosco, 35-31, and then watching the Gaels win, 34-31. I saw every single game the Gaels played leading up to that point. With Arbor and Centennial, I’ve seen the Aggies once, and Bulldogs twice. That’s three times out of 16 games.

I can tell you this much, if Arbor plans on going over there with the same ol’ double-wing, and coach Dan Barnson doesn’t have any tricks up his sleeve, the Aggies are in trouble against Centennial’s staunch defense. The Bulldogs plug holes, they hit hard and they’re athletic all-around. Nevertheless, if the Aggies can establish their running game early, behind Herman Gray, it’ll be a shootout and it’ll be Arbor’s game to lose.

Centennial is awfully talented on offense, led by quarterback Juan Rodriguez, who can run and pass. He makes smart decisions and isn’t afraid to get hit. If gets the Bulldogs in front early, Arbor may not be able to catch up simply because of homefield momentum.

I don’t foresee a blowout, and think this one could go back and forth. I’d be shocked to see a double-digit lead, and wouldn’t be surprised one bit if this comes down to the last team holding the ball.

Arbor is a dangerous team – end of story. This might be coach Leon Evans’ best Centennial team – end of story.

My biggest problem here, I have been assigned the Cheyenne-Desert Pines game, so that’s my focus. And that’s the TV game, unfortunately, so I can’t even DVR the Aggies and Bulldogs clash.

So which is the last team holding the ball?

Let’s put it this way, following the back-and-forth affair and time draining, Centennial could be up by that predicted final — 27-26 — while Arbor will be driving in an attempt to win it as time expires.

In a perfect world, it’d be 27-27, and a deadlock would be acceptable, given all those ties of mine. But, I’ll ride out what I see as being that close, and find out later if the Aggies could pull it out.

 

By W.G. Ramirez

Enough. ENOUGH!

I’ve seen and heard too much whining and crying during the Little League World Series.

Remember – there’s no crying in baseball.

Now if I could just get the Mountain Ridge Little League All-Star team to teach that philosophy to its supporters back here in Las Vegas.

You didn’t think I was talking about the kids, did you?

The kids who shied away from talking smack as they pulverized their opponents in the West Regional in San Bernadino, while remaining humble en route to Williamsport – one of just 16 teams in the world to do so?

The kids who continually talked about taking it one game at a time, and the team aspect, as they opened the Little League World Series with an impressive 3-0 start that saw them outscore their opponents 33-5?

The kids who whenever being interviewed, simply said they hoped they could play good enough to get to the next round?

All week, Las Vegas shined bright in the shadow of Chicago’s remarkable Jackie Robinson West Little League and Philadelphia’s Mo’ne Davis. Our boys representing the Silver State were ambassadors like we’ve never had before. I know Las Vegas Review Journal columnist Ed Graney wrote a story describing Mountain Ridge as Vegas’ second-most successful team behind the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of the 1990s, and that may be true – based on success.

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Photo courtesy: Ed Graney

But it’s going to be hard to compare a better group of athletes to be labeled ambassadors for our city. For my city.

The Rebels were grown men. These are 12 and 13 year olds who showed the type of dignity and poise in front of a national audience I’m sure UNLV coach Dave Rice would hope his Rebels display. They displayed the type of personalities and grace most parents dream their kids have walking into McDonalds. Okay, at this age, maybe Starbucks.

But you get the point.

It was the type of sportsmanship you’d hope Johnny Manziel may have watched and learned from at some point the past week.

And along with their spirited play, jovial personalities, brilliant smiles and laughter came the overwhelming support from Southern Nevada. In droves. Politicians, business owners, professional athletes like Bryce Harper and Greg Maddux and what seemed like Clark County’s entire population embraced what was taking place in Little Town America, a place with an apt-named motto: “The Will Is In Us.”

Heck, for most of the week, Las Vegas embraced everyone in the most watched youth tournament annually. From Cumberland Little League manager David Belisle, to Mo’ne-mania and yes, even Jackie Robinson Little League West.

Then Mountain Ridge lost. And that’s when you got ugly Las Vegas.

Shame on you.

You took to social media and literally tattered the very fabric of youth athletics – sportsmanship.

In true Southern Nevada-fashion, a loss brought out your fair-weathered ways. Forget for a moment the joke of a TV rule that eliminates the double-elimination factor, that’s a side note to what I saw on the Internet. Comments about kids choking. Remarks about a VOUNTEER coach who sacrificed work hours as a firefighter. And simply a blatant disregard for all the positive things you praised these kids for the previous two weeks, since they were in San Bernadino.

Seriously. Shame on you.

As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, 208 comments on Ed Graney’s story about Mountain Ridge’s loss to Chicago. Now I didn’t go through all of them, but I’d say one of every seven or eight included “Great job Mountain Ridge,” while the rest littered my screen with something not worth the space on my Blog page. Talk about ugly.

People arguing with people about having an opinion, while others questioning the validity of Ed’s points in the aforementioned story about the team ranking No. 2 all time. Focus people. These are 12 and 13 year old kids.

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Photo courtesy: Ed Graney

Yes, ESPN and ABC does a good job to make you think you’re watching Mike Trout and Derek Jeter, and, this year, Jennie Finch. But they’re not. Sheesh, if you can predict five of these kids that played in Williamsport will go on to be professional baseball players, well more power to you. This was their time. This was their spotlight. This was their cup of coffee on their field of dreams.

In one fell swoop, you spilled their coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, there were so many of you who stayed positive throughout the week, and after both losses the past two days. You’re exceptional supporters of these young men, and I applaud you. But when it comes to social media, you just can’t hide ugly.

Now, let’s address the TV issue.

The rule sucks. Point blank. But get over it.

The rule has been in place, and the kids knew it. Coach Ashton Cave knew it. And when Chicago recorded that final double play, you saw tears of anguish, a hurt none of us will ever know because we’ve never been to Williamsport. They have. And they knew what came with participating in this event.

And as much as I agree with everyone’s disdain for the rule – it really doesn’t make sense to not have an ‘if’ game – I have to wonder what would have happened if the roles were reversed. If Las Vegas came through the losers’ bracket, and won the U.S. Championship, I am almost certain that not one person in Southern Nevada would have exclaimed: “This is an outrage! This is double elimination dammit. Chicago should get an ‘if’ game!” No, I believe you all would have said: “That’s the rules!”

It’s one thing to vent and say ‘hey, this rule isn’t fair,’ but Las Vegas, you know how to take ugly to a new level. Is that really the message you want to send to these kids, who epitomized the type of dignity and poise you’d hope they would have on social media? To come up with excuses for a loss? Blaming umpires and TV executives, when you knew going in you had one job to do. From the game I watched, those boys left it on the field. They did their best. And that’s what needs to be said.

One of the quotes in Ed Graney’s story from coach Cave talked of him losing his brother last year, that that is real loss. It put the game in perspective. For the record, a junior-to-be from Arbor View who knows many of the same kids and circles my son knew prior to graduating died over the weekend. Speculation across social media was suicide, but not confirmed. I feel for the pain she must have been going through, but also for her parents. That’s real loss. Last week I wrote about longtime coach Leon Doss and his battle with cancer. I was informed late Saturday night he was admitted to the hospital and his daughter, Hayley, is headed to Las Vegas to prepare for his departure. That’s real loss.

It puts the game in perspective – TV rules and all.

And if you can’t see that, well, shame on you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a team from Chicago to cheer for in the Little League World Series championship game.

By W.G. Ramirez

I had a chance to cover the Sunset Regional Division I Girls Golf Championship at Siena Golf Club this past week, for the Las Vegas Review Journal. And while I watched some pretty phenomenal athletes brave a rough course and chilly conditions, I was more impressed by something that had nothing to do with their golf games, yet everything to do with how the game should be played.

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Allison Weiderman (left) and Aspen Bryant after the Sunset Region Championship.

There were no Yasiel Puig-like bat flips with golf clubs off a booming tee shot. I didn’t see any LeBron James-like staredowns after a long putt. And I certainly didn’t see any Joseph Fauria-like touchdown dances every time someone new took the lead, or challenged to take over as leader.

What emerged from the final four competitors over the last nine holes was a display of sportsmanship plenty of pro athletes can take a page from.

Cimarron-Memorial’s Aspen Bryant, Desert Oasis’ Allison Weiderman, Bishop Gorman’s Katie DeJesus and Palo Verde’s Allison Ryu were all within striking distance of one another at the turn. Bryant was competing as an individual, while the other competitors were part of their teams vying to earn a berth into next week’s state tournament on Wednesday and Thursday.

The top two teams in the region moved on, while the top five individuals from non-qualifying state teams earned a one-way ticket to Bear’s Best Golf Course.

But as much as each girl wanted to win, they seemingly put their personal wills and wants aside to extend support and praise to their competitors.

“I don’t dislike anybody because they’re playing the same game as me,” Bryant said. “They’re my competition, but it’s not like we’re in contact sports or something. We can still kind of be friendly.”

If anyone had a right to be salty on the back nine, as the sun was descending and the temperatures were dropping, it was the Cimarron senior, who dropped an 11 on the par-4, 10-hole to fall behind Weiderman by three strokes. After all, Bryant was the No. 1 seed based on season averages, and was a mere 3-over par after the front nine.

Instead, any bystander would have thought Bryant was there specifically to cheer her competitors on. The same can be said for Weiderman, the No. 2 seed. Both could be heard throughout the last several holes cheering for one another, not to mention DeJesus and Ryu. Whether it was off the tee box or after a beautifully played long putt by DeJesus on a couple of occasions, the girls’ graciousness was refreshing in a world where athleticism tends to rear its ugly head among competitors.

Don’t get them wrong, as Weiderman pointed out – they each want to win medalist honors.

“Golf is such an individual sport and you want everyone to be making their putts, you want the competition level to be higher, so that you think ‘if they put this in’ you want to put yours in right after them,” Weiderman said. “I just think cheering everyone else on just brings a better environment and everyone wants to do good if they have competitors saying ‘nice putt’ or ‘nice shot.’ ”

And as Desert Oasis coach Ken Gibson pointed out: “They want to win because they play well, not because somebody else plays bad.”

The positive vibes spilt into the “gallery,” which consisted of a couple of parents and coaches from each school, not to mention this amazed reporter who got to see an exciting finish to a regional golf championship. The coaches could be heard yelling “nice putt,” or “good shot,” or “atta girl” throughout the round to all the competitors. Parents knew one another and the golfers, because the girls had been competing against one another during divisional matches all season.

As Bryant’s 11 left her scrambling and challenging DeJesus just to stay near second at times, while both trailed Weiderman, staying positive with the others might have been the trick in keeping a certain poise that allowed her to shoot three pars and one birdie over the final five holes.

“I think when I don’t have any emotions toward it, I do better than if I’m happy when I start (well), or if I’m angry when I do bad,” Bryant said. “If I just don’t do anything, I usually play a lot better because I don’t think about anything but my next shot.”

And yet the one thing she continued to do, even if she stayed quiet while being shuttled from shot to shot, was cheer on her rivals.

Weiderman also stayed focused on her game, since she needed to finish strong for her team in order to get to next week. And she shot beautifully over the first five holes of the back nine, dropping three pars and a birdie.

“Showing no emotion sometimes does you better, so I felt bad and I didn’t really want to say anything,” Weiderman said. “But then I’m thinking ‘here’s my chance’. But I still don’t want her to get an 11.”

Nor did Bryant want her chief competitor to shoot 5-over over two crucial holes, including a 4-over 8 on the par-4 16.

“I truly feel bad when other people do bad, because it could just as easily be me,” Bryant said. “But I do think sometimes that just opens the door more for me. But I never wish bad things happen. I never want somebody’s ball to go into the water. (Because) the next hole it could be me in the water or something.”

When it was all said and done, the girls congratulated one another for a strong finish, and getting the round in before it became completely dark. I mean, they teed off at 12:48 p.m. and the final putt was dropped at 6:19 p.m. Nonetheless, they sat together to sign their scorecards and they converged to the final tote board for the announcements of who was going to state.

And the winners were…

Well, after all that sportsmanship several pro athletes could learn from, does it really matter?