Review: Volume 12 - Football

Review: Volume 12 - Football

October 2007 is the 150th anniversary of the founding of Sheffield FC and there will be considerable celebrations both in England and among the wider footballing and sporting community, with Inter Milan, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona keen to be involved. Sheffield is the true birthplace of football, having had a huge influence on the Football Association. The Sheffield Football Association was once a rival to the game’s ruling body and had a large say in the forming of the Laws of the game. Unfortunately Sheffield decided not to embrace professionalism in the late 19th century and so allowed the rise and growth of Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. But they have kept going and in 2007 were promoted to the Unibond League Division One South.

Title: The Lads

Author: Alan Candlish


Publisher: Sports Books

Price: £14.99

Bookshop: Amazon

Website: Sunderland


Newcastle United and Sunderland football clubs generate a rivalry that assumes a greater importance than any other in English football. Perhaps in British football only that between Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow can match it and that is fuelled by sectarian bigotry. Newcastle and Sunderland are not even in the same city. Fifteen miles separates the rivers Tyne and the Wear but the rivalry is stronger than that which exists even in cities with more than one club like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. The most detailed history of Newcastle v Sunderland derbies ever produced; it includes match reports of every league and cup derby game between these old rivals with descriptions of every goal scored. Key players are profiled and every player who has played in Tyne-Wear derbies is assessed.

The definitive masterwork on what was the world’s most famous football stadium. All 386 of the big matches – internationals and FA and League Cup finals and replays etc from the very first ‘White Horse’ final of 1923 to the World Cup final of 1966 and the final defeat by Germany in 2000 – have a report in this ultimate reference book as well as the teams, scorers and attendance while the teams and attendances from all the other games - schoolboy internationals, lesser cup finals – have details only. A full list of clubs and their records, plus all the League players who played underneath the Twin Towers is also included in the book.

Beautifully designed, affectionately written, and lavishly illustrated, this is a football book for boys and girls of all ages, written and presented in the spirit and style of the annuals that adorned the game's golden age. "The Bumper Book of Football" delivers a feast of facts, feats and anecdotes relating to every conceivable aspect of the world's most popular game: how it began, and how its rules developed; the stories of the great clubs, legendary managers, epic games and great players (including today's top premiership stars); bizarre facts and records; origins of footballing words and phrases; famous football quotes; plus footballing nicknames and superstitions. But "The Bumper Book of Football" is not merely a rich source of football information and entertainment, it also provides practical guidance on such matters as how to become a footballer, how to start and manage a collection of footballing memorabilia, and how to become a demon autograph-hunter.

Here’s why 12 is the perfect number of teams for the College Football Playoff expansion

SEATTLE – This town likes the number 12. Its sports fandom reputation is defined by it.

You’ll see that number on the backs of jerseys on Blue Fridays or Seahawks game days, and hear broadcasters regularly laud the impact of the 12th Man.

But if this latest College Football Playoff proposal comes to pass, the rest of the country will have a similar reverence for 12. When it comes to playoff expansion, it’s the perfect number.

Last Thursday, a four-person subgroup of the CFP management committee recommended expanding the playoff field from four teams to 12. The proposal would give automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions, then six more at-large bids. This comes seven years after the first CFP tournament, which has always featured four teams.

Calls for expansion have rung out for years, with some pushing for eight teams, others 16, and former Washington State football coach Mike Leach recommending a 64-team tourney. But 12 makes sense. Here’s why.

1) It adds more intrigue to the regular season.

One could make the point that expanding the playoff actually devalues the regular season, as one or two losses once eliminated teams from the national-championship race. That Week 4 matchup between the top-ranked school and the third-ranked school often felt like a playoff game, because you knew the loser would likely be out of contention.

But this also took the wind out of almost every fan base by the halfway point in the season, as everyone knew their teams were done. But under this proposal, pretty much every team in the Top 25 will be relevant in mid-November.

That’s exciting for specific fan bases, but also the rest of the country. That 15 vs. 23 matchup doesn’t really matter under the current system. With the 12-team format, the whole nation would be intrigued.

2) There are still huge incentives for regular-season dominance.

As for that hypothetical No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup mentioned above, it will still matter. A lot. Under this proposal, the four highest-ranked teams will get byes in the first round. Nos. 5-8 will host their first-round games. Therefore, the difference between being No. 4 and No. 5 is enormous. Same goes for being No. 8 or No. 9. This is why every week will still have a playoff-like feel for those that are in contention. It will essentially mirror the NFL, where a single win or loss doesn’t necessarily define the season, but often has major implications for the postseason.

Hardcore college football fans will get up for just about any game its favorite team is playing. But this will keep droves of casual fans engaged for months on end.

3) It’s more fun for the players.

I’ve seen the argument that this proposal is all about money, and not about the student-athletes. That may be the case from the NCAA’s standpoint … but I’m not sure there’s a real victim here. To be an elite athlete, you generally have to be wired a certain way. And that wiring often translates into winning at (almost) all costs.

A devoted football player will still want to compete if his team is 7-3 in the middle of November, but if he knows a shot at a national championship may still be at play if his team wins its next two games, that’s incessant motivation. That level of intrigue simply doesn’t exist for the overwhelming majority of schools late in the year. This proposal would change that.

This isn’t to say there won’t be some sacrifices. For Pac-12 schools not in the national championship hunt under the current format, going to the Rose Bowl is still a significant achievement. The prestige of making certain bowl games will be lost if the field expands to 12, but let’s be honest – that’s already lost much of its luster.

Former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott may have thought four was the perfect number, but I get the feeling he doesn’t speak for most of the Pac-12 schools or the country for that matter.

Twelve is the number. It’s been the case in Seattle forever. Let’s hope it’s the case for the NCAA, too.

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Review: Football tale ཈ Mighty Orphans' tackled by its own clichés

There's not a cliché that's not kicked through the goalposts in "12 Mighty Orphans," a sports drama that is so by-the-book that it can be recited without even looking at the page.

Luke Wilson plays Rusty Russell, who coaches a high school football team to glory in Depression-era Texas. Not just any team, mind you, but a group of orphans, whose road to the state championships inspires a down-on-its-luck nation. Cue the waterworks.

Luke Wilson in "12 Mighty Orphans." (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

Except in this telling, which seems to be based on other underdog sports tales as much as it is by the real life story of the Mighty Mites, very little registers beyond the near-parody of the storytelling and its reliance on overly familiar tropes. You can feel the moments when you're supposed to cry, but don't be surprised if the tears never arrive. Consider it a Kleenex-saver.

Wilson's Russell arrives at a Texas orphanage to coach a ragtag football team that can't even afford shoes for its players. But all they're in need of is some good old-fashioned inspiration (and shoes, which eventually arrive), which will teach them lessons about teamwork they can carry for the rest of their lives.

Since there's only 12 of them, they're forced to play both offense and defense. And what they lack in size they make up for in innovation their spread-out offense is said to have lead to the advent of the passing game, and various trick plays that are still used today.

Martin Sheen, who co-stars as the hard-drinking assistant coach known as Doc, also provides narration that sounds as if it was recorded for a greeting card commercial. Meanwhile, the Mites are pitted against not one but two sniveling bad guys: rival coach Luther Scarborough (Lane Garrison, sporting the worst haircut seen on screen in a long time) and crooked orphanage overseer Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight), both cartoonish in their villainy.

A lot of the story's overcooked sentimentality could be forgiven if at least the on-field action delivered, but that falls flat, too. "12 Mighty Orphans" tries so hard to be inspirational that it trips itself up on its way out to the field. Great story, but the telling is second-string.

'12 Mighty Orphans'

Rated PG-13: for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking

College Football Playoff committee reviews 12-team expansion recommendation

The College Football Playoff management committee announced Friday that it reviewed a working group's proposed 12-team expansion. As the proposal moves forward with a discussion among key constituent groups on deck, executive director Bill Hancock shared the following statement in a release.

"The management committee praised the working group for its proposal," said Hancock, who added Friday's meeting was the committee's first in person since January 2020. "The process will move forward, and the proposal will be discussed next week by the board of managers."

A board of managers meeting next Tuesday, June 22, is the next step.

"Vetting with everyone on campus will be an important element," Hancock said. "The working group's proposal was the first step in a long process. It's important to reach out and listen to a wide variety of people involved in college football.

"This is a very exciting time for college football," Hancock added. "The working group's proposal includes many details that must be carefully reviewed and discussed. We look forward to that review."

The bracket would see six highest-ranked conference champions and the same number of at-large teams, the remaining as the highest in the rankings.

"Under the proposal, the four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded one through four and each would receive a first-round bye, while teams seeded five through 12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team," the release said. "(The team ranked #5 would host #12 team #6 would meet team #11 team #7 would play team #10 and team #8 would meet #9.) The quarterfinals, Playoff Semifinals and national championship game would be played at neutral sites."

CBS Sports national college football writer Dennis Dodd reported last Tuesday that momentum was rapidly growing for expansion to eight or more teams, with the SEC as a motivating factor.

"Don't tell us to have patience &mdash we're as excited as we have ever been about college football," ESPN commentator Paul Finebaum said Friday morning on Get Up. "A guy like me is about to jump up and down and scream. They're going to tell us, 'Calm down. We've haven't had a chance.' Yes, you have. You've had a long time. You've had your whole life to look over this. With all due respect to the gentlemen upstairs, this is going to happen. This is a fait accompli. It's just a matter of when they sign off on it.

"But there is one thing I'm concerned about &mdash if these moguls of college football pass us along and then some time in September they tell us, 'Well, we really need more time, we're not ready to do it in two years,' there is going to be a revolt. College football fans are ready for change. We're not ready to sit around on our hands for the next four years waiting to see this thing finally take place."

Review: Volume 12 - Football - History

Texas filmmaker Ty Roberts, whose “The Iron Orchard” was a period piece about the post-Depression Era boom in the Texas oil industry, takes on another piece of Texas lore with 󈫼 Mighty Orphans,” about a scrappy, undersized football team of the 1930s.

He takes care to get the dust, blood and hardscrabble grit right in this story, and attracted a “name” cast this time, with Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen, Vinessa Shaw, Wayne Knight, Treat Williams and no less than Robert Duvall showing up for a cameo. It’s a somewhat fictionalized, sentimental, old-fashioned “Big Game” football tale aiming for the heartstrings and occasionally hitting them as it tells a familiar story of pluck, deprivation and “heart.”

No, it’s not a huge improvement on “Iron Orchard.” But it should play in Texas, where football is one of the icons of the state religion, right up there with cattle, cowboys, The Alamo and oil harvested in “Iron Orchards.”

As the title says, they were orphans, players for the Fort Worth Masonic Home, “perennial underdogs in their tattered uniforms,” as Sheen’s folksy, tippling medic and assistant coach “Doc” narrates. The movie depicts them as Seabiscuits of the gridiron, a media phenomenon inspiring a weary, downtrodden America as it climbed out of the hard times via Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Wilson plays a very successful Texas high school coach who drags his wife (Shaw) and two little girls to Fort Worth for a teaching job at a school which didn’t even have a football team. He and his wife would teach multiple subjects, and on the side, he’d give the boys “self respect” through the game he knew so well. His wife would teach the girls to be “young ladies.”

The kids were older orphans, the teens “that no one ever takes home,” and the film (based on journalist Jim Dent’s book) gives us little bits of the trauma some of the boys experienced before arriving there. Many were abandoned by their families, but Hardy Brown (Jake Austin Walker of TV’s “Stargirl”) is dropped off by the sheriff (comic Ron White) covered in his father’s blood. The old man was killed by shotgun, something the movie doesn’t go into much detail about.

The experience made Hardy furious and broken, with that rage eventually focused on football, where he became “the toughest sumbitch” coaches and players on every team he met had ever seen.

Wilson’s Russell experiences World War I flashbacks watching the “combat” on the football field. But the actor gets some nice scenes inspiring the players and sticking up for the kids, defending them from the sadistic manager (Wayne Knight) of the home and its for-profit printshop business, rallying them against “the city boys” who made up their foes in that storied 1938 season.

“It’s tough to get you to believe when all you’ve known is hurt, loss and abandonment.”

The movie suggests this huge career step backward for Rusty Russell was because he himself was an orphan. As the movie has him arriving at the school in 1938, when Russell actually came on board in 1927, our buy-in to the story includes accepting that this is “the Hollywood version.”

The players — Hardy, Snoggs (Jacob Lofland), Wheatie (Slade Monroe), Chicken (Sampley Barinaga) and Fairbanks (Levi Dylan) et al, were real. As was the Fort Worth newspaper tycoon Amon Carter (Treat Williams) who championed them.

But little touches like having the “Doc” a “Hoosiers” style boozer and letting Coach Russell, after a season-opening beatdown, invent the “spread offense” thanks to a drawing by his daughter encourages eye-rolling. Profanity in the dialogue aside, the film feels sanitized and borderline whitewashed — “Texas history” as Texans like to remember it.

There’s a big cast, and hints in the closing credits of much that was cut out in editing — orphanage romances, Hispanic players on the team, etc. Good actors are cast and kind of left in the lurch with nothing much to play.

When you’re bringing in a second villain, a rival coach (a hammy Lane Garrison of “Iron Orchard”) hellbent on stopping these “orphans” by hook or by crook, a rich Masonic benefactor (Duvall, in one scene) and no less than FDR (Larry Pine) enlisted as a fan, “kid in the candy store” casting hurts the movie.

As a director, Roberts comes off as more of a producer. He can get a movie made, he’s just damned artless in making it.

A few jokes dress up some seriously dull dialogue, topped with the colorless “Seabiscuit” imitating voice-over narration by Sheen — “Rusty knew that life inside the orphanage held little promise…”

The script lets few of the player characters stand out, and the film has an “assembled” rather than written and directed feel. The simple story has no flow to it beyond the inexorable march through that “magic” season.

Leave this one to Texas, because even if you’re starved for football this summer, 󈫼 Mighty Orphans” don’t quite fill the bill.

MPA Rating: PG-13, violence, alcohol abuse, profanity

Cast: Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen, Vinessa Shaw, Jake Austin Walker, Wayne Knight, Treat Williams, Ron White, Larry Pine and Robert Duvall

Credits: Directed by Ty Roberts, script by Lane Garrison and Kevin Meyer and Ty Roberts, based on book by Jim Dent. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

NCAA Football 12 Review

The on-field action is as exciting as ever, but off-the-field problems drag NCAA Football 12 down to the turf.

on July 15, 2011 at 6:21PM PDT

There's a beautiful symmetry that ties NCAA Football 12 to its real-life counterpart. The collegiate football organization has been hesitant to make major changes to commonly derided aspects--such as how a champion is determined--and their digital facsimile replicates the same stick-in-the-mud approach. The latest entry in this long-running series feels virtually identical to last year's offering, adding so few noteworthy features and tweaks that you'll be assaulted with a blast of deja vu that never fades away. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because the on-field action is as lifelike as you would expect. But the myriad modes surrounding the core experience waver between tedious and boring, burying the appeal of amateur football under an impenetrable sea of menus. If you want your athletes salary-free and spitting with pride, there's still a top-notch simulator here, but there's little reason to jump into NCAA Football 12 if you already own last year's game.

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The most important aspect of a sports sim is the gameplay, and NCAA Football 12 shines in that regard. The core action has been iterated upon for a number of years, and that refinement leads to the most realistic portrayal of the college game yet. This is especially apparent in nonglamorous aspects, such as blocking and artificial intelligence. You may take these basic features for granted, but when you look closer, you see tiny details that mirror what you find on television every autumn Saturday. Your offensive line smartly hunts down blitzing defenders and halts their progress before they can make a tackle, which gives you confidence whether you're dropping back to pass or trying to bust a big one on the ground. Even running backs aren't scared to get their jerseys dirty to give you a split second more to get off a pass. On the defensive side of the ball, it's clear the secondary has been putting in work in the film room. Quick reactions ensure cornerbacks don't give up easy passes, which makes it all the more exciting when you burn them for a deep play.

Unfortunately, although that refinement leads to an impressive representation of the real thing, the stagnant visuals are showing their age. This is especially noticeable in regard to the animations. For instance, when a safety crashes into the knee of a hurdling wide receiver, the offensive player meekly falls to the ground with barely a whimper. Backbreaker was released more than a year ago, and the advanced animation in that game are far beyond that in NCAA Football 12. A lot of the joy of football is derived from the brutal clash of two powerful athletes, and that force is largely absent in this game. Furthermore, there are visual glitches that offer even more distractions from the exciting action. For instance, remodeled grass has a hazy, shimmering look that's woefully out of place. None of these problems destroy the fun of running a perfect option play, but they do take you out of what should be an immersive experience.

Unfortunately for the Boilmakers, Drew Brees doesn't have any eligibility left.

Dynasty mode returns as the chance to turn a woebegone school into a national power or take the reins of a BCS big boy, and see how you hold up when the pressure is weighing you down. A coaching carousel is the biggest addition from last year's game, giving you more flexibility in how your career plays out. When you're first signed by a program, you can decide to be a coordinator instead of the head man. If you take charge of just the offense, you don't have to worry a lick about the defensive side of the ball during the course of the game, which is a relief if you enjoy one side more than the other. There's also constant pressure to perform. Metrics gauge how well you're doing, and if you don't accumulate the expected wins or statistics total, you could find yourself out of a job. But if you do take your program to new heights, you could land a cushy role in any school you want. This is a good idea in theory, but in practice, it falls flat. Because you can choose to coach any school from the onset, there's little incentive to build up your credentials to get your dream job. Coaching carousel gives determined players something to strive for, but doesn't add much to the overall experience.

Bigger problems blossom when you recruit players. As in previous games in the series, you contact high school players from around the country to convince them to join your program. This is a time-consuming process that's bogged down in layers of menus, and even after you figure out what you're supposed to do, it doesn't make much sense. The most troubling aspect is that the logic is all out of whack. You may talk to a player who says that coaching pedigree is a very important thing to him, but when you try to sell him on how awesome you are, he might respond, "More talk about you? Boring!" This flaw crops up all the time, and it destroys the idea that you're trying to convince a thoughtful being to join your team. Even if you can look past the busted logic, there's little enjoyment to be found in this process. It's a tedious ordeal that requires you to spend between 10 and 20 minutes every virtual week to land the best recruits. And the entire process boils down to selecting each player individually, clicking a few buttons to make your school seem great, and hoping he commits. You can promise him certain things, such as playing time or conference championships, but it doesn't even matter if you're lying. Once they sign with you, they're pretty much stuck (unless they decide to transfer, which is rare), so there's a strong disconnect from reality. The recruiting tool is dull busywork that buries you in menus instead of letting you have fun on the field, so you're better off just automating the process and getting back to the good stuff.

The other major mode in NCAA 12 is Road to Glory. In this mode, you create a high school player and try to land a major role in a collegiate program. The first sign that something's wrong crops up in the creation process. The menus lag horribly. Every time you change a visual option, the game stalls for a second or two, which makes cycling through your choices grueling. Thankfully, once you get on the field, things run a lot more smoothly. You can choose to play both sides of the ball now. If you're a quarterback who likes to get dirty, you can also roam the field as a linebacker. Depending on your performance, schools offer you scholarships, and since two-way players in college are rare, each position is recruited separately. Unfortunately, this process isn't as realistic as it first appears. In one season, our quarterback was lousy and subsequently didn't receive any scholarship offers. Still, we were able to walk on as a freshman at the University of Texas and start the first game of the season. This isn't possible in all programs. Sometimes you land a role as a backup and have to work for a starting job. But it's still ridiculous that one of the most prestigious universities in the nation would allow an unwanted player to start immediately.

There are other quirks that clash with reality as well. In Road to Glory, you take part in practices to build your overall skill level. These are 11-on-11 scrimmages in which you're graded on how many yards you gain per play. But what's most striking is that the quarterback can be lit up. In real college practices, QBs wear different-colored jerseys so they aren't touched, but that level of realism doesn't carry over to the video game. After so many years and iterations, these imperfections become more and more grating. There are also features from previous games that have been removed from the package. In earlier editions of NCAA Football, you could create your own school right in the game. But now you have to go to a separate website. The process is easy, and naming all the players after your friends or favorite players is a lot of fun, but it's strange having such a core component relocated to an outside source. There are still some neat options to let you tinker with NCAA 12, though. You can now build a custom playbook, removing those lame plays that just took up space. And you can customize conferences and decide who gets automatic bids to bowl games. These features are certainly nice, but they're bandages on the many problems in the rest of the experience.

Bevo combines Texas' love of football and steaks.

If you focus on the on-field action, NCAA Football 12 is a great experience. Whether you play against the computer or challenge friends, it's incredibly fun to pull off a successful Hail Mary or sack the quarterback on a critical third down. Sadly, the other modes and features are riddled with problems, and the dusty visuals lag behind the other current football games on the market. Although NCAA 12 is far from a complete experience, it's worth putting up with the off-field problems to get to the exciting action. NCAA Football 12 is a disappointing entry in this venerable franchise, but it's still a fine game if you're itching for some amateur action.

Who's No. 1 in Westmoreland football history? A debate for the ages

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With more than 100 years of high school football in the books, Westmoreland County has nurtured its fair share of champions, Cinderellas and dynasties.

Picking the best of them is anything but easy.

&ldquoIn this day and age, there were some great teams,&rdquo said Howard &ldquoHuddie&rdquo Kaufman, 91, of Greensburg.

There were great ones back in the day, too &mdash like Kaufman&rsquos alma mater Greensburg (now Greensburg Salem), which he spent decades covering as a high school sports writer for the Tribune-Review.

It&rsquos difficult to judge teams over the decades, Kaufman and others said.

Still, one thing most agree on is that Jeannette likely fields several entries in the debate over the county&rsquos best teams ever, with the 2007 Jayhawks led by standout quarterback Terrelle Pryor staking a strong claim to the top spot &mdash or certainly one of them.

&ldquoThat was a very good football team,&rdquo said longtime Jeannette coach Joseph Mucci Sr., 85, of Greensburg.

The 2007 Jeannette team set a state record for points (860) in a season, scoring more than 49 points in 12 games and ending 14 of 16 games early through the mercy rule.

The Jayhawks pounded Aliquippa, 70-48, in the WPIAL semifinals before destroying Beaver Falls, 61-12, in the district final. For the state championship, Jeannette manhandled Dunmore 49-21 &mdash earning the school&rsquos first PIAA crown.

In all, Jeannette has won nine WPIAL titles &mdash 1932, 1939, 1956, 1970, 1981, 1983, 2006, 2007 and 2017.

&ldquoI&rsquod put my &rsquo56 team in there,&rdquo former Jayhawk, Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Dick Hoak said of any discussion of the county&rsquos best teams ever. &ldquoWe had six Division I players on there.&rdquo

Under those criteria, the 1938 Mt. Pleasant Hurst squad deserves a place in the discussion. It beat Wilmerding for the WPIAL title that year and sent three players to the National Football League: Joe Cibulas, Joe Glamp and Walt Gorinski. All three played for the Steelers.

The 1956 Jeannette team gave up three touchdowns during the regular season, with two of those coming against the second-team defense, Hoak said. For the WPIAL championship, Jeannette defeated Charleroi 16-13 on a late &mdash and in those days rare &mdash field goal.

&ldquoWe had a great defense,&rdquo said Hoak, who was a Steelers running back for 10 seasons and coach for 35 more. &ldquoDefenses were tougher back then.&rdquo

And even decades before his Jayhawk days.

The 1914 Greensburg Lions went 10-0 and didn&rsquot give up a single point all season &mdash and didn&rsquot lose a game in the next two seasons, finally dropping one in 1917. The 1914 team beat the Pitt freshmen squad 14-0 after crushing Tarentum 46-0, California Normal 57-0, Connellsville 74-0 and Johnstown 97-0.

The 1927 Hurst team went 11-0, steamrolling teams 615-0 &mdash setting a state record for most points that Jeannette finally smashed in 2007.

Neither was crowned champions in those respective dominant seasons, with Wilkinsburg edging Greensburg in 1914 and Greensburg being named No. 1 in 1927

Westmoreland County teams over the past 105 seasons claimed WPIAL championships more than 25 times, beginning with the 1927 Greensburg Lions.

&ldquoGreensburg&rsquos history goes back to the good ol&rsquo days,&rdquo Kaufman said. &ldquoJeannette had some great teams. Monessen had some great teams.&rdquo

Other county WPIAL champions included both Monessen and Derry Township in 1930, Hurst in 1938 and 1942, the 1946 and 1947 New Kensington teams, Greater Latrobe in 1968, Mt. Pleasant in 1986 and Greensburg Central Catholic in 2009.

Though Mucci won three WPIAL titles over 18 seasons at Jeannette, he fondly remembers building the Greensburg Central team from scratch &mdash coming back from Michigan in 1959 to take over as the new school&rsquos first athletic director and football coach. The team went undefeated for the first time in 1964. The 1966 Greensburg Central team won the Pittsburgh Catholic League title.

&ldquoI was very fortunate as a coach,&rdquo Mucci said.

Since the PIAA state playoffs began in 1988, Westmoreland County has fielded three championship teams: Jeannette in 2007 and 2017 and the 2005 Franklin Regional Panthers.

But winning championships has never been easy, either at the state level or in the WPIAL &mdash when early champions were decided by a formula, then a vote and then a one-off game for all the marbles.

&ldquoBack then, you had to go undefeated to get to the playoffs,&rdquo Hoak said, noting there were no rounds, just the two teams with the most points facing off for the WPIAL championship. &ldquoYou could be undefeated and not make it.&rdquo

In the battle for county supremacy, though, could his 1956 team have defeated the 2007 Jeannette squad?

&ldquoThat was a great team. Where it ranks all time, I don&rsquot know,&rdquo said Hoak, 79, of Hempfield. &ldquoIf we had played, would we have won? I don&rsquot know. It was a different game.

&ldquoNow, they can throw 25 to 30 passes a game. I don&rsquot know if I threw it that much in a season. … It&rsquos a different game. The rules have changed. Everything has changed.&rdquo

Kaufman wasn&rsquot as hesitant. Though he acknowledged Hoak&rsquos team was &ldquopretty good,&rdquo he believes the 2007 Jeannette team was better.

&ldquoI wouldn&rsquot tell Dick that,&rdquo Kaufman said. &ldquoHe might get upset.&rdquo

Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Jason at 724-850-1289, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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‘12 Mighty Orphans’ Is the Cornball Texas Football Movie We Need Right Now

The film, based on a true Fort Worth story and starring Dallas native Luke Wilson, is a welcome post-pandemic balm.

It&rsquos a true story so implausible that it had to be made into a movie. The triumph of the Mighty Mites, the Depression-era high school football team of the Masonic Widows and Orphans Home in Fort Worth, is one of the better sports tales in Texas history. Everything about it&mdashthe poor-as-dirt team of scrappy orphans, transformed under the innovative leadership of Rusty Russell, a World War I veteran from Fredonia&mdashscreams &ldquocinematic.&rdquo

The facts, as told in Dallas sportswriter Jim Dent&rsquos 2007 book 12 Mighty Orphans, are amazing: the team, without so much as a ball to call its own, once improvised a football by stuffing two socks together the boys rode to games in the bed of an old Dodge pickup, with wooden rails Russell installed so they wouldn&rsquot fall out the back and they put together a miraculous first season that saw them go from a ragtag bunch of unskilled, undersized kids to a competitive 8&ndash2 team that defeated bigger, better-equipped opponents. It&rsquos a story of heart, determination, and, for football history geeks, Russell&rsquos invention of the spread offense&mdashthe sort of thing that would border on unbelievable if you wrote it into a movie.

Which made actually adapting it into a movie something of a challenge. Just because something true and extraordinary happened doesn&rsquot mean that it makes for an engaging film narrative, and that&rsquos especially the case for the saturated genre of feel-good football movies. This was top of mind for filmmakers Ty Roberts, a West Texas native, and Houston Hill, who&rsquos based in East Texas, as they adapted Dent&rsquos book.

&ldquoYou&rsquove got to have your high points and your villains and your buildups and your drops, everything that composes a standard narrative, so you feel like if you&rsquove seen one football movie, you&rsquove seen them all,&rdquo Roberts told me recently. &ldquoWe really did our best to be cognizant of that, and to find the fresh elements to an age-old story&mdashand hopefully that works in a genre that&rsquos been done a lot.&rdquo

12 Mighty Orphans, which opens in theaters across Texas today and nationwide next weekend, draws its power from evoking the story&rsquos particulars. The film opens by depicting the bleak conditions in the orphanage, in which kids are worked to exhaustion on menial tasks by an overseer (played by Wayne Knight) who views them as a resource to exploit. The thirties setting comes to life thanks to the film&rsquos primary shooting location at the Texas Pythian Home, an orphanage in Weatherford&mdashjust thirty miles from the former Masonic Home&rsquos location&mdashthat opened its doors in 1909 and still has plenty of spaces that look like a period-appropriate home for the Mighty Mites. (The Masonic Home closed in 2005, but the structure still stands a 2006 renovation, however, made it a less plausible setting for a Depression-era orphanage.)

But the heart and soul of the story is coach Rusty Russell, played by Luke Wilson. Russell was, then and now, an uncommon figure among Texas football coaches. Legend says Russell, himself an orphan, vowed to dedicate his life to children when he narrowly avoided going blind after a mustard gas attack during World War I. Wilson prepared for the role by studying tape of Russell and meeting with his grandchildren. The result is a refreshing change from the way football coaches are usually portrayed. Wilson eschews both the emotional, win-one-for-the-Gipper histrionics of many cinematic coaches, as well as the avuncular enthusiasm of Kyle Chandler&rsquos iconic Friday Night Lights character. Instead, Wilson&rsquos Russell has a quiet dignity. He&rsquos soft-spoken, wears glasses, and gets called Mister instead of Coach by his young charges. Wilson&rsquos Russell has far less interest in firing up his boys or winning football games than most on-screen coaches mostly it seems like he just wants them to know that someone cares about them.

Still, 12 Mighty Orphans hits most of the predictable beats you&rsquod expect. It&rsquos Inspirational with a capital I, and even if Roberts and Hill were attracted to the elements that aren&rsquot present in other scrappy underdog football tales, their film is by no means a postmodern deconstruction of the genre&rsquos tropes. Partly that&rsquos because the source material is, well, genuinely inspirational, but it&rsquos also because Roberts and Hill&rsquos filmmaking sensibility tends toward the old-fashioned.

College football weekend in review: Big 12 debuts no party for Texas' Tom Herman, Baylor's Matt Rhule

This wasn't exactly how the Big 12 wanted to start its season.

The league, which has added a title game and already started politicking for a place in the College Football playoff, didn't need an opening loss by Texas under new savior Tom Herman and its million-dollar locker room.

Texas' 51-41 loss to Maryland to start the day Saturday looked all too familiar to anyone who watched Charlie Strong's teams struggle the past three seasons. A defense that is prone to allowing the big play special teams miscues an offense that is searching for an identity - they've seen it before in Austin.

Nor did the Big 12 want to see what happened in its nightcap, Baylor and new coach Matt Rhule losing to Liberty, which won't be a full-time FBS school until 2019.

Liberty, where ousted Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw is in charge, rolled up 585 yards to hang on for a 48-45 win in Waco.

The Bears got another dose of bad news when running back JaMycal Hasty injured a knee and could be out at least a month.

"It's the first game of the season, we can't let it define us," quarterback Anu Solomon told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "We're better than that. This is not the team that I think that has put their heart and sweat and blood and tears in through the summer and spring. We're definitely a better team, but how can we bounce back? That's the question."

That's the question for the Big 12 as well. The league will find out soon as No. 7 Oklahoma travels to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday.

Alabama good, but will be better

The national championship game will be played in January at Atlanta's new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It's a good chance top-ranked Alabama, which opened the stadium with a 24-7 win over No. 3 Florida State, will be back.

"It's good to get a win, but we have a lot of work to do," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It's one game. We have a long season. The focus that we have right now is what's ahead, not what's behind."

The season could get a lot longer for the Seminoles after quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Tallahassee Democrat, citing sources, said Francois suffered a patella tendon injury in his left knee and is scheduled to have surgery as early as Tuesday.

Francois started all 13 games last season and threw for the fifth-most yards in school history (3,350). Of the four quarterbacks behind Francois on the depth chart, none of them have started a college game and have a combined 19 pass attempts.

James Blackman was in for the final series against Alabama and coach Jimbo Fisher said that the 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman would likely take over. Blackman would be FSU's first true freshman to start at quarterback since Dan Kendra in 1996.

As for Alabama, quarterback Jalen Hurts of Channelview did just enough (96 yards passing, 55 yards rushing) under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (formerly of the Patriots) although Saban rumbled that his team "didn't make a lot of explosive plays."

The defense (two interceptions) and special teams (blocked punt, blocked field goal, forced fumble on kickoff return) made up for it.

"This game tells us where we are and where we need to go &hellip We'll get better," Saban said of something college football knows by now.

A little bit of Texas from LSU

LSU's opener against BYU was supposed to be at NRG but was moved to the Superdome in New Orleans because of the fallout from Hurricane Harvey.

The "Texas Kickoff" logo was on the turf, and the LSU band played the state song, "Texas, Our Texas."

As for the game, Derrius Guice 120 yards rushing) looked comfortable for coach Ed Orgeron, and the defense looked pretty sharp, not allowing BYU past midfield in a 27-0 win.

The defense started four true freshmen - and without injured top pass rusher Arden Key - held BYU to fewer than 100 yards.

If Liberty's win over Baylor wasn't enough, the Howard Bison of FCS went one better.

A 45-point underdog to UNLV, the Bison won 43-40 in what is the biggest upset in college football history, at least according to point spreads.

A $100 bet on Howard to win the game would have paid $55,000, according to the service that supplies odds to the Associated Press.

The previous biggest point spread win was Stanford beating USC as a 39-point underdog in Jim Harbaugh's first season as coach.

Howard, which was picked ninth of 11 schools in the MEAC, has had one winning season in the last 11 years and was 3-19 the past two seasons.

"We're all ruled by the psychology of results," said Mike London, the former Virginia coach who took over at Howard this season. "In terms of culture, perception and being competitive this is huge.

"To go on the road, cross country and play these guys toe-to-toe with their allotment of 80-plus scholarship guys and with my 57 plus is big."

Howard is quarterbacked by Caylin Newton, Cam's little brother. He rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 140 and another touchdowns plus a two-point conversion.

Blind snapper sees big picture

But perhaps the best play of the weekend had nothing to with wins and losses.

It came after USC's final touchdown in a 49-31 win over Western Michigan.

Jake Olson, who lost his eyesight to a rare form of cancer when he as 12 and was adopted by the USC football program under coach Pete Carroll, snapped the final extra point.

Olson, who has been a walk-on with the USC program for three years, nailed it.

After Marvell Tell III returned an interception for the game's final touchdown, Olson jogged onto the field with one hand on the shoulder pads of holder Wyatt Schmidt. Olson crouched into position, then quickly hiked the ball to Schmidt, who put it in place for the kick by Chase McGrath.

When the ball sailed through the uprights, the USC sideline erupted in dancing and cheering, fans hugged and high-fived, and Trojans coach Clay Helton marveled.

"What a pressure player," said Helton, who had arranged with Western Michigan coach Tim Lester not to rush Western's first PAT if the Broncos wouldn't rush the Trojans' last. "Is that not a perfect snap at that moment? It's beyond words."

Leave it to Olson to find the words.

"There's a beauty in it," he said. "If you can't see how God works things out, then I think you're the blind one."

‘12 Mighty Orphans’ Review: A Team Effort

Based on a true story of Texas high school football in the Great Depression, this film treats viewers like children.

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Inspired by a true story of parentless teenagers whose tenacity on the gridiron raised spirits in the late 1930s, “12 Mighty Orphans” is a plodding football drama in which the characters talk to one another like folksy social workers. The condescending tone extends to a voice-over from Martin Sheen, who plays an orphanage physician. He brings viewers up to speed on American history (“It’s hard to remember which came first, the Dust Bowl, or the Great Depression”) and the movie’s message. The team’s coach, Sheen’s character narrates, “knew that football would inevitably bring self-respect to these boys.”

That coach, new to the Fort Worth, Texas, orphanage, is Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), who bears the scars of World War I and of having grown up an orphan himself. Here, with the help of a sketch his daughter draws, he will pioneer the spread offense. His players will develop into a swift and strategic team, with Hardy Brown (Jake Austin Walker) becoming the most fearsome among them. Hardy also delivers one of the purplest halftime pep talks in memory.

If the film’s version of events can be believed, F.D.R. himself (Larry Pine) intervened to help the team. But any hope that the movie, directed by Ty Roberts, might leave room for nuance is dashed by two cartoonish villains — a scheming rival coach (Lane Garrison, also one of the screenwriters) and an authority figure (Wayne Knight) who embezzles money and hits the students with a paddle. “12 Mighty Orphans” displays a similar lack of restraint when manipulating its audience.

12 Mighty Orphans
Rated PG-13. Football violence and corporal punishment. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes. In theaters.

There’s work to be done

To We Are Football‘s credit, it is better than most games that enter the football management circle. Generally, they release, fail to gain any traction, and then die out without accomplishing anything. This is already ahead of the curve just because it has gathered a decently sized player base from the get-go.

The problem is that We Are Football is playing a game of catch-up. Both Football Manager and FIFA have been around for a long time. In that time, the competing franchises have refined and tweaked just about every feature imaginable. As a newcomer, We Are Football lacks that opportunity and offers a raw experience that doesn’t provide enough complexity for my liking. If the counter-argument to that is that it’s targeting a more casual audience, then the lackluster match engine becomes even less excusable. This is a decent first attempt but it’s going to take years of work to even begin to close the gap on the frankly superior Football Manager.

We Are Football

We Are Football lays the foundations for future titles to prosper. But as a game, it isn't all that great. The primitive match engine in particular is just not good enough in this day and age. Regardless, there are some good ideas present and it looks far more promising than most of the Football Manager clones that have come and gone. Even if you don't want to wait, it's not like We Are Football is necessarily bad. Some may find the streamlined, faster experience a refreshing change from Football Manager's more complex offerings.

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