Friday flashbacks

Memories of a most interesting NorWOSSA playoff day last Friday in Kenora, featuring four Muskie teams with championship dreams and one bleary-eyed reporter who rolled his backside out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to join them on the trip:
•Fearing I was running late to catch the 7 a.m. bus containing cheerleaders, spectators, and FFHS athletic director Darren Johnson, I ignore my own sage advice of a few columns ago and travel faster than the posted 15 km/h speed limit on the roadway leading to Fort High.
The result? I didn’t quite make the left turn to head to the front of the school, and despite repeated tapping of my brakes, slid softly but decisively into the snowdrift adjacent to the roadway.
Thankfully, no damage, and I backed out easily enough, drove all the way around to the teachers’ parking lot to stash my beloved Buick, and then run to the bus—only to not have it pull out until 7:12 a.m.
The moral of the story? Follow your own driving advice.
•Not long into the departure, the realization occurs: between Fort Frances and Kenora sits the Sioux Narrows bridge—the same bridge that is under a weight restriction.
Translation? A crisp, chilly 9 a.m. November walk across the bridge, which saw all bus riders re-enter the vehicle with rosy cheeks and quivering bones.
•Three-quarters of the way to our destination, the hard-rock CD that had been playing is removed, replaced by a country music compilation. But that wasn’t the most shocking development—it was when a majority of the bus actually began singing along to the Nashville sounds shortly thereafter.
I was under the impression it wasn’t cool these days to be a teenager who listened to country. Obviously, and for the umpteenth time, I was wrong again.
•Any thoughts of sleep were quickly dispelled once entering the main gym at Beaver Brae High School. The site would turn into a three-pronged pep rally for the rest of the day, with raucous cheerleading and spectator contingents from Fort Frances, Dryden, and the host Kenora side duking it out verbally to try and top each other’s volume capacity.
Personally, I think the Bronco fans have the most enthusiasm in the league (nothing says hometown support like hundreds of rowdy backers clad in purple-and-white screaming “Squish the fish!” at the Muskies).
An interesting sidebar, though: Kenora clearly has earned the title of least-liked school in NorWOSSA. When the Muskies battled the Broncos in the junior girls’ hoops final, Dryden and Fort Frances supporters actually joined forces in trying to shout down the Bronco faithful.
Having a common enemy makes for strange bedfellows.
•The emotional comebacks of both the junior girls’ hoopsters and the junior boys’ volleyball squad were a joy to behold.
The final minute of the junior girls’ win over Dryden seemed to stretch out for an eternity. But when Dryden’s last shot thumped off the backboard wide of the hoop, and their follow-up shot found the net mere moments after the buzzer, the excitement emanating from the Muskies’ post-game celebration was off the charts.
Kenora made short work of them in the final, but there was no wiping the silver smiles off the local side’s faces.
•As revved up as the junior crews were, the senior boys’ volleyball team was just as disappointed as they watched a one-game lead fall by the wayside to lose the semi-final for the second-straight year and end their NorWOSSA campaign without a victory.
The loss capsulated Fort High’s whole season. For stretches of the match, they looked like world-beaters. But for others, including a 9-1 Kenora run to end the contest, they looked powerless to stop the Broncos.
With only three players leaving after this year, though, the bitter taste of the defeat should have the Muskies easily be the hungriest team in NorWOSSA next year.
•The senior girls’ basketball Muskies have been on a mission since day one of training camp: get back to the NWOSSAA finals against Thunder Bay’s finest and finish the job they couldn’t last year.
If they’re going to complete the quest, the depth they showed in disposing of a beaten-up Dryden squad in Friday’s title game will be the deciding factor.
There were the veterans, like Melanie Hyatt and Trish Smith, leading the scoring parade. And there were the first-year players, laying it all on the line alongside the soon-to-be graduates.
There was Rebecca Cornell, heavily-braced shin and all, putting aside the pain and showing hustle on both ends of the floor. There was Laura Busch, blocking shots and causing defenders fits by using her height to dominate the glass.
There was even Taylor Harnett, who started the season looking tentative and unsure of herself, coming through with two pretty jump shots in the fourth quarter Friday—and even showing some unexpected grit by tumbling to the hardwood a couple of times while wrestling an Eagles’ opponent for a loose ball.
Churchill won’t be a pushover, but it’s going to be a treat to watch the underdog Muskies waltz into the Trojans’ backyard and give them what I believe will be a serious test to their years of NWOSSAA dominance.
• • •
The annual “Rookie Round-up” ladies’ squash tournament is set for this Saturday at the Memorial Sports Centre. The one-day fun event is open to female players of all ages and skill levels, and will get underway at 9 a.m.
There is no entry fee, although non-members of the Sportsplex will have to pay the normal admission charge to use the facility.
All interested players can sign up on the bulletin board outside the squash courts until 5 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday).
• • •
Thumbs up to Devlin’s Kayla Caul, who finished as the high point youth rider at last weekend’s 50/50 Futurity quarterhorse event in Brandon, Man.
Caul, riding “Mandy’s Dolly,” completed the competition in ninth place overall. Mandy’s Dolly is owned by Circle S Ranch in Miscampbell.
• • •
Coincidences in life can be intriguing, amusing, or confusing. The one I experienced this past week was just plain disconcerting.
In the wee hours of last Wednesday morning, Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder Dernell Stenson was found dead in a Phoenix, Az. suburb—the victim of a shooting and then the added indignity of being run over by the truck he was thrown out of.
Stenson pinch hit in the eighth inning but struck out when the Reds played the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field back on Sept. 13—the game I so happened to be at during my Windy City excursion two months ago.
Two years ago on Opening Day of the 2001 season, I went to my only other major league game at Coors Field in Denver, Colo. between the hometown Colorado Rockies and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
The starting pitcher for the Cardinals that day was three-time all-star Darryl Kile—the same Darryl Kile who died in a hotel room in the middle of last season before a June game against the Cubs.
At this rate, I expect to get a call from special agents Mulder and Scully any time now.

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