Sunday, June 16, 2019

State Championships

Sometimes when I write I like to start out with something informative, clever or maybe even nostalgic. I really just want it to be entertaining and interesting in hopes of having people read more than just the first paragraph! As you can tell by the title of this blog, I'm writing about State Championships. With the Texas Cornhole League's State Tournament in Abilene looming this week, I figure it would be fitting to write about some of my past State Tournament experiences, including my first TCL State Tournament.

Many of you know that for the past few years I've been a regular in the Texas Cornhole scene. I love the game, competing and maybe more than anything, seeing the group of friends that this game has introduced me to. The game provides me with the ability to satisfy my competitive urges that I have in my blood! I've been playing organized sports for around 50 years...yep, I'm not a spring chicken! I started out with little league baseball and was fortunate to be a part of a really good team that included a friend that I still talk with a few times a month. He and I played many various sports together including our first Championship team, a Shreveport City Basketball title in basketball as 6th graders at Atkins Elementary. I scored 1 point all season...and it didn't even count as my foot crossed the line on a free throw. We had a couple of real tall guys, Jimmy Blackwell and Keith Grant and some guys that could handle and shoot the ball well making our team very strong. I got to play late after those guys had built up big leads...mop up duty or whatever you want to call it, I didn't care, I was on the team and we were good!

I went to Woodlawn High School which had a tremendous athletic tradition. In the 60's Terry Bradshaw led the Knights to the State title game losing to Sulphur and couple of years later Joe Ferguson led them to the State Title with a perfect 14-0 season. That same year the basketball team fueled by Melvin Russell won a basketball title. The Track team won the state title that following spring and in 1972 Robert Parish led the Knights to another State basketball title. As a sophomore I watched as our team lost in the state semifinals to Covington High on a last minute interception touchdown return. My senior year I thought we had a chance for a title as our basketball team lost in the State finals and a few months earlier our football team made another run losing in the semifinals. The 70's were filled with many sports memories but most of which were sports I wasn't participating. That would soon change!

In the 80's I played softball and flag football...a lot! I was lucky enough to be a part of a few state title softball teams as well as 3 flag football championship teams. The first is probably my favorite as I finally won one as a player. I remember the long drive home back from south Louisiana and being exhausted but inside I felt so proud. Our team was a close knit bunch of rag tag guys who simply outwilled most of our opponents that weekend.

In 1990 I was a part of a National Championship flag football team that was loaded with talent. I really don't even remember how I got to be on this team but Coach John Lewis gave me a spot on the team as a defensive rusher and I took it! Fun times, fun times.

Fast forward to a few years ago with a body that wouldn't allow me to play softball much less try to run, I bowled some to satisfy my competitive cravings. The beatings my wore out body took from playing sports most of my life were taking it's toll. Everything seemed to hurt so much that I wasn't able to compete like I felt I could. That's where cornhole came into play!

In late 2014 I went to a friend's birthday party where they had some boards set up. I didn't know much about the game but I liked it. A few weeks later I built some boards and started playing some. I found a guy in the Longview area named John Towery, who allowed me to play in his weekly random draw events. After a couple of weeks he asked me if I would want to play in a big event in Dallas called the Ryder Cup. Not sure what I was getting into, I eagerly said yes! Not ever having played in any type of event like this I really didn't know what to expect. Once I was there, I realized very quick that I was a long shot.

That was in January and I knew I wanted to play in more of those type of events against those type of players. I also knew that I wasn't good enough at that point to compete. Mission accepted. I practiced as much as I could and played locally when I could and felt as if I was somewhat ready to give it a try against the best that Texas had to offer. Being a new player I didn't really get to play against the best and that was a good thing at that point! I did however play in the Social Division winning a State Title in Doubles and it was on baby! Now I wanted to get even better and play more which I did. Starting that next season as a "newby" I played in the Open Division at my first Signature event in Mesquite. I won a game or two until being matched up with a guy I knew was really good. I really didn't even know him or why I thought he was good other than he was wearing one of those jerseys and when I watched him throw, his bags kept going in the hole! I lost that game to Jason Andrews by 21-12 or something like that but I can remember being very nervous. The next event I attended was the Houston Signature where I felt deja vu. I won a game or two then played Adam Utz who beat me but again, I was super nervous. I came home that weekend and told my wife, Betty that I had to try to do something to get over my nerves. I figured I had to play more and against the better players. I joined the Forney League and each week I went up against guys like Stuart Foster, Daniel Vinson, Jason Andrews and Joe Arrington. I got crushed… a lot...but I was getting better at tuning out my nerves. I still couldn't beat those guys but it wasn't because I was nervous, I just wasn't good enough. I had more work to do!

Fast forward to now as the State Tournament is upon us and I still can't beat most of those guys but now I can score a few here and there!

This State Tournament is loaded...I mean loaded with talent. The field is as deep with good players as I've ever seen. Let me see...Josh Groce, Eddie Grinderslev, Stuart Foster, Daniel Vinson, Todd Bridgeman, A J Sims, Brandon Gregor, Eric Weathers, Christina Esopinosa, Jason Andrews, J C Nekuza, Adam Utz, Chad Jacobson, Justin Fowler, Joe Arrington...whew. Then we have guys like Earnest Herrera, Greg Kilmer, Mark Rubio, Mark Bitner, Nik Gemmiti, Kenneth Wright, Justin Gore, Justin Bennett, Justin Winschel, Nick Knabe, Jeremy O'Connell, Steve Stowe, Dallas Berthuime, Buddy Gotee...I mean Beaird, Frank Stockton, J D Thompson...the stinking list goes on and on with people that are really good!

That's not including the Senior's with guys like Tom Allen, Steve Wendling and Ken Wright. The Women's field will be super competitive as well with Espinosa, Betty Seymour, Jennifer Young, Trista Zonker, Veronica Vinson, Allison Appleton, Taylor De Leon, Amy Sledge, Ashley Conway...easy Rogge...Brittney Arrington, Amber Groce, Tracey Chamberlain and Caroline Johnston. This will be fun to watch!

All the years of playing sports has allowed me to compete but it has also introduced me to many wonderful people, some who have become life long friends that I consider family. I look forward to every event as I get to see my TCL family!

If you like competition, and I do, then you will love this year's State Championship in Abeline. It's going to be a great time and like many of us, we are on a mission to grab the title and hoist the hardware proclaiming ourselves as State Champions!!

Good luck everyone and be safe in your travels.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


 A few short years ago I attended my first TCL event which was the Ryder Cup. I was blown away by not only how good everyone was at playing the game but also at how smooth the event was being ran. People behind the score table were super busy calling out matches, tending to people who were reporting results and various other things that I really didn't understand. Organized chaos was a thought that came to mind and I realized that it must take great effort to run these things and especially large events like the Signature Series and State Events. Someone was responsible for coordinating it all including setting up all the boards and score towers and all the electrical equipment. Then there was the registration process which took time and effort keeping up with who all had signed up and paid. Entering all the names of the players and getting the brackets ready was another daunting task. The easy part, if any, may have been calling out the matches and after I had the opportunity to run some events, I realized that wasn't a cake walk either! What I'm getting at folks is the Texas Cornhole League has a lot of people who do a ton of work to allow us the chance to play this game. They do it so well it seems as if it magically just... happens! These people are what TCL calls Regional Directors and they are the backbone along with Chad Jacobson, Jason Andrews, Justin Fowler, Adam Utz and J D Thompson. They are simply put, awesome. Id like to mention them and hopefully I won't leave any of them out.

When I initially considered doing a blog about all the directors I intended to write a sentence or two about all of them, however, I got a list and realized it may be a short book! Instead I will mention as many as I can and may share a brief story on a few.

Out in West Texas we have Anthony Elliott leading the growth in the Abilene area. Southeast Oklahoma is led by Jason Gambill and Allison Appleton is the Director for the Midwest Oklahoma Baggers while Adam Acton runs the Oklahoma City Region. Anthony is a new Director and I look forward to seeing him in a week or so! Adam, Allison and Jason have done a great job growing the sport in Oklahoma and I hope to be able to attend some of their events soon, also.

Rob Mikalonis heads up the Alamo City Region, Eric Weathers is the 979 Director and in Austin Chase Hunter runs the Austin Airmail Region. These guys have done great work in these Regions and I've enjoyed playing in their events.

Jeff Robinson heads up the Midlothian Region and James Sledge is the 35/45 Director. I've played in several of their events and they do a great job.

J D Thompson when he isn't helping TCL with the Signature Events and keeping up with points and leagues this guy is amazing, he also runs C4C in the Mansfield area. J D has ran several events at Mansfield's Field of Dreams and as a veteran of TCL, he simply is one of the best!

Fort Worth is ran by Chad Jacobson including a massive league at the Mule Barn. Chad. Does. A. Lot. Chad gets help from Adam Utz and these guys are huge with all the things they do for us regarding leagues, Tournaments, equipment sales and basically all things TCL!

Rolando Rios and John Henderson lead RoRo's Cornhole Express out of Johnson County and Ray Roberts Region respectively. I haven't had the privilege of playing in any of their events but both of these guys are top notch men and I'm certain they do great work.

Nick Knabe is the Denton Region Director and Nick is always helping out and a seemingly tireless worker who not only creates awesome barn doors and such, but has put on a couple of awesome Big Money events. North Texas Region is run by Taylor Stone and I've enjoy playing in his events which are always well ran.

Rob Ochoa leads the Dallas Region while veteran Jason Andrews heads up the East Dallas Region. Jason is highly involved in everything regarding TCL including running the Forney League and tournaments in the East Dallas area.

East Texas Region is led by Holly Saxon and Craig Conser runs Rose City Cornhole. In their first year of being Directors, these two have done fantastic work growing cornhole here in East Texas. They ran several events including multiple leagues this year and are always doing what they can to provide a fun, successful experience for everyone.

I think this is all of them! Big respect to all of them and all they do and the next time you see them, give them a handshake or a hug and tell them thanks, they deserve it!

Till next time, throw em' straight y'all!