The Front Row with MARK NELKE Sept. 23, 2012

Seeing the good through smoky skies

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Outlined against a, well, bronze late-September sky, we offer these thoughts on a Seahawk-less Sunday ...

* Back in 1986, Sandpoint High's football team played a Mountain Home squad in the playoffs that featured a quarterback headed to Stanford and a running back bound for UCLA.

Being it was long before the Internet came around, it wasn't easy to keep up with those players once they got into college. I remember seeing the running back play a little bit at UCLA, but never heard what happened to the QB once he went off to Stanford.

In 2008, quarterback Taysom Hill, a Stanford commit, almost single-handedly led Highland of Pocatello to the state 5A championship. Years later, I wondered how he would do down on The Farm after Andrew Luck moved on to the NFL.

Turns out, after Hill returned from his two-year LDS church mission in Australia, he surfaced at BYU, not Stanford.

As he told the Salt Lake Tribune, he learned while on his mission that Stanford does not allow incoming freshmen to join the team until June each year. Hill returned from his mission last December.

He said his options were to return home early from his mission, so he could join the Cardinal last June, or hang out in Pocatello until this June, then enroll.

He didn't like either of those options, so he enrolled at BYU in January, and received a scholarship. BYU also recruited him in high school.

Hill, a freshman in eligibility, is now the Cougars' backup quarterback, behind Riley Nelson. He has seen action in all four games for BYU (2-2), including against Washington State and Boise State.

* As much as the PGA Tour tries to promote its playoffs - playoffs?!? - as a big deal, I don't see it. I'm a golf fan, and watch a fair amount of it, but once the majors are over, it's time for football season.

This week's Ryder Cup will be must-see TV, however, because the Europeans enjoy kicking our you-know-whats, and sadly they have done quite a bit of that lately.

But I’ll still be keeping tabs on the college and pro football games this weekend.

• I heard whispers that the Cowboys took the Seahawks lightly last week and I thought, the Cowboys? Really?

One of the most under-achieving NFL teams in the past decade and a half, with only one more playoff victory than the Baltimore Colts over that time. And the Baltimore Colts haven’t been around since the 1985 season.

Hopefully, at least for the sake of a good Monday night game, the Packers don’t make that same mistake this week.

• Over the course of several decades, it’s easy to take for granted the intensity and emotion of a high school football game. But when you hear the excitement in a parent’s voice after they hear their kid’s name announced over the loudspeakers for making a tackle, you’re reminded it’s not just another game along the way.

And that explains why certain announcers will go out of their way to mention some players’ names, even if they weren’t necessarily the ball carrier or pass receiver — because they know there’s someone in the crowd that appreciates it very much.

Barlow Stadium in Sandpoint, with its covered wooden bleachers almost right on top of the field, its lakeside setting and the boisterous Bulldog fans, remains the top high school football setting in the area.

The P.A. announcer at Sandpoint High football games, Ron Hanson, is a big part of that environment. When I was up there in the 1980s and 90s, Ron got so pumped up introducing the home team that the names of the last couple of starters and the head coach eventually ran together, as in “ ... andheadcoachSatiniPuailoaandtherestoftheSANDPOINTBULLOGS!!!”

That’s when you knew it was time for football.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter at CdAPressSports.

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