Just to stay on the safe side, I need to start this column by expressing happy birthday wishes to my wife of 20 years, Lennie.
You see, I have three distinct memories of Oct. 1. This is Jimmy Carter's birthday. It's Lennie's birthday. And third, the Friday night I took Lennie out on her 30th birthday (let's just say sometime in the 1980s) for dinner at J.T.'s Basque restaurant in Gardnerville.
Not a bad way to celebrate an important date, but the part I've never been allowed to live down since that night, I followed up dinner by taking her to watch the Douglas-Churchill County high school football game. My best memory of the game? That would be watching the game with Lennie and long-time newspaper colleague (and now Sierra Pacific Power spokesman), Karl Walquist, from the westside bleachers at Douglas High -- and Karl suddenly asking, "Well, Lennie, how's it feel to be in the autumn of life?"
Ah, such is the life of being a prep sports writer.
Yet, here I am, 20-some years later and still following high school sports in Northern Nevada, which really is not a bad way to make a living. Friday night football remains one of the highlights, and one month into the season, good playoff races appear to be shaping up in the Northern 4A's Sierra and High Desert leagues.
Some key games are coming up the next four weeks, starting with noteworthy matchups this weekend. Among those, Douglas travels to South Tahoe on Saturday for a battle of teams that are unbeaten in the Sierra League. Hug, the Sierra League's other unbeaten team, hosts dangerous Wooster in what looks like a game-to-watch on Friday night. Reno, the defending league champion but now 0-2 after losing to South Tahoe and Hug the last two weeks, hosts Clayton Valley of Concord, Calif., in a nonleague game Friday night.
On the High Desert League schedule tonight, suddenly-hot Reed visits Spanish Springs in a game that should have a direct effect on the playoff picture, Galena plays Churchill County in Fallon, and McQueen travels east to Elko for a battle between perennial Northern 4A powers. McQueen is 4-0 and riding an 18-game win streak over the last two seasons but Elko, coming off a bye week, is 1-2 after losing back-to-back games against Douglas and Reed.
Galena (1-2), third in the High Desert League the last two seasons, is coming off an important 33-21 win at home against Spanish Springs last Friday and will be looking to start a win streak at Fallon.
Douglas (4-0 overall, 1-0 league) and South Tahoe (3-1, 2-0) should be the most significant and possibly the most entertaining Northern 4A game of the weekend. South Tahoe, which had lost 20 straight games dating to the end of the 2000 season, has now won three in a row, including back-to-back league victories against Reno (21-20) and Wooster (40-19). Douglas has been dominant in each of its four games to date, including a 62-12 homecoming blowout of North Valleys last week, and will be looking to continue its momentum the next two weeks against South Tahoe and then on Oct. 11 at home against Hug.
Statistics aside, the Tigers and Vikings have played some close and intense battles in a rivalry that dates back to the 1950s. For example, South Tahoe reigned as the Northern 3A champion in 1991, its only regular season loss coming at home against Douglas, 37-31.
Of course, there is one more Sierra League game on the schedule for Friday night -- Carson at North Valleys.
This is a vital game for the Senators (1-3, 0-1), who need to beat North Valleys (1-3, 0-2) to keep their playoff hopes alive. It's as simple as that. Just as important, the Senators need to play well and get on track for the rest of the season.
Despite struggling in a 33-7 nonleague loss at home against Reed, this team has shown signs of potential all season, only to self-destruct with untimely turnovers and penalties.
Carson has turned the ball over 23 times in four games, and you can't place all of the blame on its high-risk Veer offense. The Senators have lost the ball in various ways -- dropped punts, interceptions, bad pitches, among others -- but in between all the miscues, they've moved the football and they've played solid defense.
Carson is not a team that can be counted out of the playoff race, especially given the long list of injuries and illnesses the Senators have had to contend with early in the season. They have four big league games lined up and three of them are at home: South Tahoe, Wooster, at Reno, and Douglas (on Thursday night, Oct. 30).
There's some great games coming up that should be worth watching. Enjoy!
But, by the way, I've learned my lesson. I'm taking my wife out for coffee in Markleeville this morning, and fortunately, it's a Wednesday.
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal