Under the lights

The person who had the toughest Friday night had to be former Edison head football coach Mike McKenzie.

After being run out of Richmond, he was on the sidelines at Jimmy Carey Stadium as the offensive coordinator for the Weir Red Riders.

Across the field was first-year Wildcats head coach Derrick Stickles and the young men McKenzie had coached.

He had spent seven years as Edison’s head coach, stabilizing a program that had gone through years of hardships.

After giving up a position he loved with kids he loved and a community he loved, McKenzie landed on his feet at the Hancock County school as the vice principal.

He immediately went on head coach Tony Filberto’s staff and went to work.

There is no way that was easy Friday night going against young men you and great coaching staffs had trained do be more than football players.

Yet, there he was.

He is part of a program that is struggling and looking across the field at a program that was going to be good in 2013.

There is no way that was easy.

Yet, there he was.

Kudos to Stickles, the coaching staff and the support staff for their class in handling the situation because there was no way that was easy on those sidelines, either.

McKenzie is a class individual who only wants what is best for the kids.

Has he been liked by every player?

Not a chance.

No coach is.

But, you cannot deny his love for the game and his players.

Speaking of the Red Riders, the biggest challenge for the coaching staff is not really X’s and O’s.

It is teaching the young men how to win, how to believe in themselves and how to trust their teammates.

Once a sports program has hit the skids (the Red Riders are 3-40 in their last 43 games), learning how to win becomes the biggest hurdle. And, that hurdle is not easy to clear.

Weir has an excellent coaching staff.

I am on their sidelines weekly and listen to what they say to the kids and to each other.

They are coaching.

They are not just sitting on their hands watching a football game.

They coach and coach and coach some more.

I understand seeing the scoreboard after three games doesn’t give fans all warm, fuzzy feelings inside. But, I still bet this coaching staff eventually turns the corner with these kids.

I know patience is not a big thing in our society, but it is a must when dealing with teenagers.

I wonder if Harrison Central football coach Justin Kropka has received the phone call with an apology yet?

I also really like what is going on at Edison.

Stickles has brought a different vibe to the place and the Wildcats are feeing off of it.

Like I said, I firmly believed this team was going to be good this year. And, sans the first half of the Carrollton loss, Edison has played some really good football.

That will have to happen Saturday in the visit to Nelson Field to play Bellaire.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Mallory Blanton Sunday morning as her friends and family set up for the spaghetti dinner Sunday at Karaffa Middle School to help defray the medical costs for her and husband Jake.

Her hair is a bit shorter than the last time I saw her (the chemo thing), but it still looks great and so does she.

Her attitude, like always, is great and I look forward to coaching against her this season again.

Thank you to everyone who showed up or was a part of the day in any way.

Kinda guessing that when things get tough in practice (you know, sprints and all of that), it will be kind of hard for members of that program to complain.

The Pirates are eight wins from the magic number that manager Clint Hurdle said during spring training they would win – 95.

Remember everyone who laughed back then?

Yes, you did, too.

This “get back” from the football officials has to end.

And, now.

I am hearing those dreaded two words before the game has even begun.

Two weeks ago while I was at Edison taking photos in the Carrollton game, Edison scored and I was on the sidelines tweeting what just happened when a man with a whistle and in stripes came right in front of me and said “You have to be behind that line.”

Mind you, this is after the extra point and before the kickoff when no one is on the field.

My heels were on the line, but apparently, one-quarter of my size 13s had to move back in order to be in compliance.

Dear sir, if you have to make that statement at that time, what else are you looking at that doesn’t matter?

Look, I understand the whole situation, but the variance of each official is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.

For some officials, those two words are said ad infinitum until they finally throw the flag for a sideline warning.

Yet, on the other side of the field, the sideline referee has never said those two words and will never say those two words.

The worst is when the sideline official is yelling get back and the ball is on the opposite hash mark.

Have a great week.

“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.” – Proverbs 15:14

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)