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Bouncing around the pro, amateur sports world

November 23, 2009
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

If you were not sure of how far down the totem pole the Big East Conference is, Friday's Backyard Brawl should be a shining example.

Friday night is high school football in the fall.

Not college football.

So, all you people who are whining that you are going to miss the WVU-Pitt showdown should send all your anger toward the Big East Conference.

While the Big 10 and the SEC are telling television stations when their games are going to be, the Big East is so starved for attention they are playing games when television says so.

Don't think that is the case - check out the 11 a.m. start time on ABC on Dec. 5 when Cincinnati visits Pittsburgh in what should be the battle for the automatic BCS bid.

Really? 11 a.m.?

That's because Texas is taking on Nebraska eight hours later on ABC.

So, no, Madonna and Wheeling Central is not going to move their Friday night West Virginia Class A showdown to Saturday afternoon to appease the college football fans.

Just because the Backyard Brawl was played on a Friday last year doesn't mean it's a good idea and it isn't. From 2002-07 it was played on a Thursday or Saturday

Yale football coach Tom Williams has him beat.

His squad held a 10-7 lead Saturday with 2:25 left in the game with it had a fourth-and-22 from its 26 when Williams called a fake punt.

Really? A fake punt?

"The whole idea was to keep our foot on the pedal, and not play scared," said Williams in trying to explain the call. "If anyone is looking for somebody to blame, blame this guy right here."

Harvard won, 14-10, for the eighth time in the last nine games in the rivalry.

On Nov. 8, New England was hosting Miami and honored Veterans three days before Veterans Day.

''As the National Anthem came to a close, I told my son to watch to see which of the Patriot players approached the veterans being honored to thank them for their service,'' Patriots season ticket holder Chris Diehl wrote in an e-mail to the Dolphins organization.

The Veterans Day ceremony ended without any of Diehl's home-team players doing anything different than another Sunday before the game and after the National Anthem.

One person did, though - Miami and former West Virginia quarterback Pat White.

''As the veterans left the field, one Miami Dolphin, Pat White, jogged over to them and shook every one of their hands,'' Diehl said. ''It was the highlight of the game for me to see there is at least one player in the NFL that understands what these people have given up for us.''

''Whenever I have the opportunity to show respect, I show respect,'' White said. ''I don't know. That's just the way I was raised. You show respect where respect is earned.''

He weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces at birth. The doctors said he would never leave the hospital because he had cerebral palsy and damage to his optic nerve.

The 17-year-old enrolled at Jackson Christian School as a 10-year-old in the Harmony program, for special needs students.

His mom, Carol, said her son always loved sports but could not play them because of his vision problems and difficulty with depth perception.

Eagles football coach Brian Stewart said Sims would ask him for a team roster every year.

"I found out later it was because he would put the roster into NCAA Football every year on the Playstation and create a Jackson Christian School team on it," Stewart said. "He was constantly updating the guys on their stats after every game he played on it."

One day Sims walked into the coaches office wearing a helmet and shoulder pads.

"We were frustrated because we were 2-4 and trying to figure out what to do to win that week," Stewart said. "Then he comes in looking like that, and that put a smile on our faces and got us ready to go again that week."

Sims later led the team onto the field before a game.

"I told him that day that we were going to let him do it, and his eyes lit up," Stewart said.

Sims then asked Stewart if he could play in a game. The coach told him he needed to get a completed physical form before he could be eligible.

"He brought one back the next day that he had filled out, and I told him a doctor had to fill it out," Stewart said. "Then he came back the next day with one filled out by a doctor."

Sims was eligible, but could he handle being hit?

"I asked him, 'Aric, what if you get hit?'" Stewart said. "He told me, 'Well coach, I'll get up.' "

Sims got in near the end of a game against the Harding Academy.

Jackson Christian led 31-14 and it seemed like the right time. Stewart had talked to Harding Academy coach Ryan Derrick about the possibility of Sims playing.

Sims scored on a 25-yard run.

Jon David Johnson and Dillon Coplin stood up in chapel one day and talked about Sims as their hero.

"Every time I see him in the halls or anywhere he's smiling," Johnson said. "I said hey to him one time, and we've just been friends ever since."

Sims once told Coplin that he was his hero.

"I play safety, too, and that's what he's always wanted to play," Coplin said. "But he's my hero because of his attitude. He's always ready to do anything that's asked of him."

One week later Sims talked to the team before they played.

"He quoted Psalm 23, and then told the seniors this is their last time to play at home and to go out and glorify God one more time," said assistant coach Chuck Morris, who is Sims' Bible teacher. "That's what he does best is motivate us. He says he's our motivator and inspirator."

But, that doesn't mean some form of sportsmanship cannot be prevalent in that type of game, too.

You also have to give kudos to the players and coaching staff of the Harding Academy. Their willingness to play a positive part in someone's life.

Its mission statement is: "Harding Academy is dedicated to fostering each student's academic excellence and faith in God through a Christ-centered education, which emphasizes intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical development."

Your walk is louder than your talk.

Saying that is one thing.

Putting it as your mission statement on your web site is another.

Putting it into action is what matters.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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