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The ‘Big One’ is finally here

A Commentary

By DONN ADAMSONDaily Journal Sports Editor

As a member of the Pigskin Pickers, I have come to a deadlock in my choosing the winner of a game. The North County and Farmington football game should prove all its hyped up to be. The question is, which team do I choose? As Sports Editor, I do not favor one team over the other, for my loyalties are to both teams, since we give full coverage to both teams.

Any time one of the panel picks against a local team, it is not because they want them to lose, but instead they are just picking which team they honestly think will win the game.

The very first year (1999) that I was in a poll, which I was forced into by my sports editor, I agreed to be in it, but only if I could bow out of the pick between Farmington and North County if they should be pretty equal when their game came up. They were and I did, but this year I do not have that luxury. It would not be fair to my partner, Matt King, nor to the rest of the panel.

I told Matt that I was thinking of making a coin toss to decide for me , but I feel that is unfair to both teams. The only fair thing to do is to study closely what I know about each team and then make a choice based on what I come up with. Below is that study and also my selection. You can agree or disagree or even point out where I might be wrong. That’s your privilege, but it is my choice and I must be the one to make it.

As far as either team is concerned, I hope that they both play their best and I especially pray for neither team to suffer any injuries. I also hope that players, coaches, and fans alike will understand that my choice is not made because I like or dislike one team over the other, but that all my choice means to me is possibly one more point in my totals of win or loss columns and that in itself is no big thing.

From the very start of the season, the football game between the two schools has been looked upon by fans and players alike as the game of the year for the two schools and for the area. Being the last game of the regular season it was billed as the pathway to the state playoffs for the teams.

As the season progressed the game became even more looming as the ‘Big Game’. (Already the two schools have planned on maximum attendance with ticket sales being reported going very well by each school. Shuttle buses are planned by both schools to help with overflow parking.)

The game would most likely determine the district champion as well as the conference champion. North County, which has won those titles the past two years and was 11-1 in 2004, was seen as a team that would be back for a shot at doing it again, mainly because they sported a large returning cast for 2005.

Farmington, on the other hand, had lost some key seniors to their offensive abilities and was suspect of how well the team would do this season. As the season progressed, it was evident that the last game’s match-up between the two teams would again be a showdown.

Both teams have matching records, 8-1, with their losses being both ambiguous in nature. (The losses are not counted among any of the below statistics.) Both teams have dominated in all but one of their wins. North County’s average margin of win is 35 points, and Farmington’s is 24.5. The Raiders have averaged more points per game (45-31), but then the Knights have given up a lower average of points (6.5-10).

I have had the privilege of seeing both teams play, and there are things I saw that were good and things that I saw that weren’t so good. I’ll start with North County first.

This team is explosive. Every time they have the ball, they have the potential to score. Usually within the very first set of downs. Sustained drives are not their forte, but when needed they have been able to march the field, the fact is, they hardly ever need to.

The Raiders are very dangerous on kickoff and punt returns. Any team that can keep possession of the ball all 48 minutes of the game has nothing to worry about, however, that never happens.

The Raiders defense had been solid all year. Until last week against Festus, the Raiders had allowed only two teams to score more than one touchdown on them. Festus, however, made the Raiders’ defense suspect, by moving the ball easily and scoring three times on offense.

It is North County’s offense which most fans relate to the team. Two running backs, Jason Winckel and Levi Robison, have been making positive marks to an already star performance by Dan Harris and quarterback Nick Neeley. If any of these four are allowed to get loose, it is disastrous to other teams.

The passing game is a little suspect for North County, but only because its hardly ever used since its hardly ever needed, but receivers Dustin Hahn, Brandon Vickery and Kyle Moses can haul in a pass when called upon. North County’s front line must give Neeley time to throw, or he will be on the run, which isn’t a bad thing either.

Farmington, however, is a more ball-control type of team, and even though they have had some explosiveness at times with running back Travis Ribbing supplying most of the dynamite, they still are most times very self-contained and can march the ball down the field, mixing up a variety of running and passing to compliment the march.

Quarterback Josh Kimrey also has the ability to spot a sagging defense and be able to gain several yards on the scramble. When the pass does go up, wide receivers Parks Peterson, Eric Schweiss and Josh Boyer can make it happen as well as tight end Dwayne Glaspy.

One more area of strength that I give to Farmington is in their kicking game. Jordan Pannett can split the uprights consistently from the 30 yard line in, North County has no answer for that which gives the Knights a plus especially if the game should go into overtime, which I don’t think it will.

The big question for Farmington is can their defense get to North County’s runners and quarterback before they can break loose for big gains. The big question for North County is can they keep the yellow flags off of the ground, and can they stop the long, clock-controlling drives by Farmington.

Turnovers will be key in this game. Both teams can ill afford them. Injuries, of course, can deflate either team’s chances.

Well, I’ve made my choice. I choose the Raiders, solely on their ability to score on any given set of downs.

Which team do I hope wins? I hope the Raiders prove me right, and I hope the Knights prove me wrong. Whichever team wins I’ll root for and follow them on into the playoffs where I will not have to make such difficult choices.

Go Knights! Go Raiders! Let’s have a great game.

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