Sunday, January 7, 2018
I’m still thawing out from a winter freeze and watching a mind-numbing 12 hours of college football on New Year’s Day.
That’s my excuse, anyway, for a segmented version of our weekly Fires side chat.
My Yankee relatives in Michigan are pleased former Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos will join the Wolverines, where oddball head coach Jim Harbaugh is in danger of slipping into John L. Smith-type irrelevancy.
No one in Michigan is smiling after the Wolverines blew a lead and lost to South Carolina in a bowl game to finish 8-5 on the season. Harbaugh, who makes $7 million per year, hasn’t made the impact that was expected of him and he’s a combined 1-5 against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Being goofy is tolerable when a coach is winning, but it’s annoying when he’s losing.
The Great Lakes are home to Enos, who played quarterback at Michigan State and was a head coach at Central Michigan.
Former Shiloh Christian quarterback Rhett Lashlee is headed south from Connecticut after he was hired last week as offensive coordinator at Southern Methodist. It’s a good move for Lashlee, 34, who had mostly been forgotten at UConn, where women’s college basketball hogs the headlines.
Former Razorbacks Dow-ell Loggains and Jeremiah Ledbetter were hired by the Miami Dolphins after both were let go when John Fox was fired as the Chicago Bears’ head coach. Loggains spent two years with the Bears, one as offensive coordinator, after previously coaching with the Tennessee Titans.
The news was not so good for two former Arkansas assistants who worked under Bobby Petrino. Garrick Mc-Gee was fired as offensive coordinator at Illinois while Paul Haynes was dismissed at Kent State, where he was 14-45 in five years as head coach.
Brett Eibner is best remembered at Arkansas for his dramatic home run in the College World Series, but I like the game at Missouri State where Eibner pitched a shutout and hit a two-run home run in a 2-0 victory over the Bears.
Eibner has struggled to make contact during his professional career, but he’ll get another chance with the Texas Rangers after he was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll report as an outfielder after the Dodgers discussed converting him into a pitcher.
Eibner, 29, has battled injuries throughout his career, and he had Tommy John surgery in August. He hit 19 home runs at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. But he’s batting less than .200 during brief major league appearances with Kansas City, Oakland and the Dodgers.
What do Arkansas counties Pulaski, Sebastian, Little River, Clark and Mississippi have in common?
They’re home to your 2017 high school state football champions, Classes 7A through 2A. The title towns are widespread on the map, beginning in central Arkansas with North Little Rock (7A) and Pulaski Academy (5A), then on to Greenwood (6A), Arkadelphia (4A), Rivercrest (3A) and Foreman (2A). Each area of the state is represented, if you include Greenwood in Northwest Arkansas. And a diagonal line can be drawn from the Mississippi River in northeast Arkansas (Wilson/ Rivercrest) to the Texas border (Foreman) in southwest Arkansas.
This is a much different look from 1990 when Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff Dollarway, Fordyce, and Rison won state championships in what Arkansas preps historian Leland Barclay called “The Cotton Belt Sweep.”
I was covering a football game in Bentonville years ago when something scary happened I had never seen before.
Referee Doug Lowrey collapsed late in the game and the crowd watched quietly as emergency medical technicians pounded on Doug’s chest near midfield. I don’t know how close Doug came to dying that night, but he credited the EMT workers for saving his life when I spoke to him by phone the next day from his hospital bed.
Lowery recovered and worked a few more years as a high school official until he retired in 2011. He died last week and a memorial service was held in Van Buren on Saturday to celebrate his life.
Lowery was an offensive lineman who played football at Arkansas State and helped the Indians (now Red Wolves) to an 11-0 record in 1970. He also played on an undefeated team at Fort Smith Northside that won the state championship with a 12-0 record in 1967. He was named a Kodak All-American at ASU in 1973 and was drafted by the New York Jets before settling in with Chicago of the World Football League.
After football, Lowrey stayed active on the softball circuit and in weight-lifting competitions. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Arkansas State Hall of Honor in 2003.
Rick Fires can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@NWARick.
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