When our fall sports schedules were released this past summer my eyes instantly were drawn to the last weekend in October.
Not that I have anything against homecoming. Not at all. You can't work at a place like ETBU and not feel the excitement in the air when you know you'll get to see old friends and colleagues, or feel the nostalgia that oozes from every event scheduled for that very special weekend. And there's something quite American about ending the festivities with a football game, too.
No, homecoming itself didn't catch my eye, because you know its going to happen every year. What did cross my mind, however, was the fact that I saw a combined four soccer games, two volleyball games and the football game all set to occur over a little bit more than 24 hours.
Those are what's called nightmare weekends in the S.I.D. business -- not because of the games themselves, but just the sheer manpower and time it takes to pull off them off without a hitch. I will probably blog sometime about what it takes to get one game in the books from my perspective, but let me just say that there's more to it than just the final score.
Anyway, the first thought I get during these types of weekends as what we'll have next week is: how am I going to cover all these games going on at the same time and still have some sanity left by Sunday? And yes, that was the very first thought I got when I saw this year's soccer, football and volleyball schedules.
Want to know how to make a ton of money in a hurry? Develop a way for SIDs to be in about three different places at the same time. Until that happens, though, I will forever be grateful for the dependable help I have here. Jason Soles, Jason Havner, Allison Ratcliff, Nathan Jones, etc., those are just a few of my trusty "assistants" who help keep things going smoothly. Were it not for these people, there is no way I could cover a Tiger football game out in Abilene at the same time as hosting a soccer doubleheader here at Cornish Field. Or a volleyball match up in Ornelas Gym. It's people and friends like that who help me get through the stress and strain of a Nightmare Weekend.
But those thoughts -- the ones that made me dread the upcoming series of games on homecoming -- pretty much fade away now thanks to the performance of our fall sports teams. Really, now I could say it's not so much a Nightmare Weekend as it is a Showdown Weekend.
As of this morning, our men's soccer team found itself in a tie for second place in the ASC. The Tigers were only a game out of first place in the conference with a week to go in the regular season. Now, ETBU has a very tough schedule over the final week or so, including Saturday's very critical game over at UT Tyler. In case you're counting, we've never beaten the Patriots in men's soccer. UT Tyler was picked to win this year's title in the preseason poll, and rightly so -- but the Patriots enter Saturday night's game needing desperately to win just to stay in the race for the six-team conference playoff field.
Should the Tigers win out, however, there's a very good possibility that ETBU could host the conference tournament. No matter what happens in Tyler Saturday, the Tigers could still also be fighting for the playoffs themselves when they return home and host UT Dallas next Friday night. Regardless of what happens before then, next Friday night's game here at Cornish Field will have playoff implications, which means a playoff atmosphere. The Tigers will then turn around on Saturday after the homecoming football game and need to find a way to defeat nemesis Ozarks, which is also cruising toward a high seed in the conference race.
Let's put it this way -- with just a week of games left in the conference schedule, the Tigers are still very much in the hunt for ETBU's first ASC regular season soccer championship. Or, the Tigers could very conceivably miss out on the playoffs altogether, still. That's a drop of about seven places in the standings in a week's time. Talk about parity.
But they'll still be in the race come next weekend, which will be at the height of homecoming festivities, which should also guarantee one of the largest crowds this season at Cornish Field. That's Showdown I.
Then there's the action that will be going on at the same time up in Ornelas Gym. The Lady Tigers most likely will enter Friday's game against ASC East rival UT Dallas in a dead heat with the Comets for the division championship. The slight advantage ETBU now holds is the race is that the Lady Tigers can clinch the right to host the conference tournament with a win next Friday night because ETBU already has a win over UT Dallas earlier this season. Another win, with just one match left on Saturday against Mary Hardin-Baylor, would ensure that the conference volleyball tournament will be held in Ornelas Gym the following weekend for the first time since 2001.
And that's Showdown II.
Finally, lost in all the disappointment of last week's two-point loss to Hardin-Simmons is the fact the Tigers are still very much in the ASC football race. ETBU is just a game behind conference leader Mary Hardin-Baylor, and the Crusaders are looming on the schedule in about two weeks. If the Tigers can take care of business the next two weeks, ETBU could go into the game at UMHB on Nov. 3 needing an upset win over the Crusaders to create a tie atop the league standings. The league's playoff rep would then be determined by a coin flip if there's a three-way tie with, say, HSU.
If HSU were to stumble the rest of the way, then that game in Belton would be for all the marbles in the ASC. But the only way any of that happens is if ETBU goes down to Pineville this Saturday and takes care of Louisiana College. Then, that sets up next week's homecoming game against Mississippi College in what could be a very pivotal game for both teams. MC is getting its shot at UMHB this weekend over in Clinton, Miss., so there's still a whole lot to be decided in the ASC football race.
Showdown III right there.
So yes, homecoming will be a very exciting weekend at ETBU next week -- it always is. But put these athletic events on your calendars when you come home to ETBU. It's time to get loud, rowdy and proud.