Ok, so I have high blood pressure. I recently went to the doctor and he couldn't believe how high it was. I was immediately put on medication and a work-out regime. He kept telling me I am too young to have blood pressure this high.
He started asking me questions about my life that might give him an indication on why it is so high and see if we can pinpoint the problem. Well, I think I have found it. It is called the "Battle of the Piney Woods." Nothing gets my blood pumping more than seeing SFA on the opposite sideline.
I have a serious distain for a lot of teams in sports (Yankees, Redskins, Giants, Eagles all come to mind), but nothing like SFA. On a day to day basis, they never really cross my mind. But on gameday there is no one I despise more then the Lumberjacks.
The thing is, I know and like a lot of people who went there, but on gameday that doesn't matter. Just like my anti-Oiler tendencies, my hatred for SFA was part of my upbringing. Long before I officially became a Bearkat, I had a deep dislike for the Jacks. My parents were Bearkats and they raised me right.
It wasn't until I got to school and realized how inherently evil Lumberjacks really are. It is like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. You have to see it and experience it for you to truly believe. There is nothing good about Nacogdoches. I am normally a calm mild-mannered guy, except on SFA gamedays.
Hating them is one thing, but what really causes the unhealthlyness about the whole situation is the deep fear I have of losing to them. Especially in football, because you have to wait a year before you see them again. And there is never a blowout in the rivalry. You never coast to a win. They are all nail-biters.
So my doctor wants to pinpoint my cause for high blood pressure. I offer him this time line:
October 12, 1996 - My first Battle of the Piney Woods in Nacogdoches. No. 4 SFA and their arrogant fans were up 10-7 . With 4:04 left to play Yohance Bree returned a punt 71-yards for a touchdown. The Bearkat defense then made a goal line stand in the final seconds for the win.
November 8, 1997 - Bennie Wylie breaks free on 4-and-1 with 1:22 left to play and sprints 48 yards for a touchdown to knock off the No. 7 jacks in Huntsville.
Nov. 7, 1998 - We got our asses kick in nac. That sucked pretty bad.
Oct. 16, 1999 - We had one of our better teams in years, and were feeling good about this one. But SFA came to Huntsville on Homecoming and won in a Shootout 45-31 despite 497 yards passing by Chris Chaloupka and an early 14-0 Bearkat lead. What really sucked about this one is I was on the air for it.
Jan. 20 and Feb. 19, 2000 - The first year basketball was meaningful again at Sam Houston was my senior year (the second one). And although SFA sucked that year (3-15) neither game was easy. We won by 12 at home, and squeaked out an eight-point win in nac. We went on to win the championship that year. (On a side note, the loss in the semifinals that year to Northwestern State didn't help much either. I got really drunk the next night.)
October 14, 2000 - We returned the favor. In another shootout, the Kats hung 52 on SFA in a 52-41 ball game. After trailing at the half, the Kats returned a kickoff to start the second half. Every time SFA score, the Kats answered. It was my second win in Nacogdoches.
Jan. 6, 2001 - Basketball heads over to Nacogdoches. Once again, another nail-biter. Kats pull out a tight 62-56 win over the Jacks.
October 18, 2001 - In the to-15 for the first time in 10 years, the No. 15 Kats took on No. 19 SFA on the Thursday night in Huntsville on TV. Like all games, this one was a tight one and the Kats pulled it out 24-21. They went on to win the SLC that year.
Oct. 19, 2002 - The Bearkats were down that year, but once again pulled out a big win in Nacogdoches. Maurice Harris scored with 6:43 to play to put the Kats up 10-7. The defense then stepped it up and got the ball back for the offense. On third down and the clock clicking down, Travis Tobaben ran a play-fake to Michael Darnell to seal the third-straight victory over the Jacks.
Jan. 18, 2003 - The first of three meetings between the two teams in basketball. Donald Cole hits a jumper with 27 seconds left to force overtime. In OT the Kats score just two points and fall for the first time in nine tries to the Lumberjacks.
Feb. 22, 2003 - The rematch, this time in Huntsville with first place in the Southland on the line. Trailing in the second half, Jason Stephenson hit a 3 to tie the game at 53 with 8 minutes to play. That sparked a 14-4 run and the Kats went on to win 69-62 and win the Southland Conference.
Mar. 14, 2003 - "He hit the shot." The Southland Conference Championship game in Huntsville. I think I said before the game if we lost to the Jacks with a trip to the dance on the line I would throw myself off the top of the coliseum. The Kats let a 14-point second-half lead slip away and watched the Jacks tie the game at the end of regulation. In overtime, with the Kats trailing by one, Cole hit a three from the corner with 17 seconds left to send the Kats to the Dance. (BTW - pretty much the entire 2003 basketball season was like this. I had nightmares the night before game that we were going to lose the next day. It was pretty bad, and probably wasn't good for my health.)
Oct. 16, 2003 - Playing on TV again it was SFA's turn to put a dagger in the Kats' hearts. We jumped out to a big lead in the first half but watched as SFA chipped away at it. A fumble and a blocked punt allowed the Jacks to score 10 fourth-quarter points including a 54-yard field goal by Ryan Rossner with 1 second left to give SFA a 34-31 win.
Jan. 29, 2004 - Back in Nacogdoches. First meeting since the SLC Championship game and this one was on TV. Another back-and-forth basketball game. Othello Alford went off for 26 points, unfortunately that was mostly in the first half and SFA squeaked out a 68-67 win.
Feb. 28, 2004 - The rematch in Huntsville, and things got worse for the Kats. In a game that could have decided a hoe court advantage in the first round of the postseason, the Lumberjacks put a 10-point beating on the Kats.
Mar. 8, 2004 - Rock bottom. This is not supposed to happen in basketball, but in the first-round of the Southland tournament, SFA put an 85-53 ass kicking on the Kats. Once again, that really sucked.
Oct. 30, 2004 - Maybe one of the most memorable games in the series history, the Kats were once again in the hunt for a conference championship, but would have to get past SFA. In the second half, the lead changed four times. With 8:59 left to play, Dustin Long hit Bernard Campbell to put the Kats up 31-28. Then with 30 seconds left, Steven Hagler blocked a field goal to preserve the win. Following the game a bench clearing brawl broke out and I just happened to be in the middle of it.
Jan. 15, 2005 - Carrying a one-point lead into the half, the Bearkats pull out a six-point win over SFA.
Feb. 14, 2005 - On Fox TV, the Kats finally win in Nacogdoches and falling in their previous tries, 78-64.
Oct. 20, 2005 - This one was fun. The Kats were just 1-4 on the season, but we throttled SFA 52-24 on TV. Not much pressure on this one, but still got the blood pumping pretty good.
March 4, 2006 - The only regular season meeting between the two teams in the regular season finale. The Jacks built a 70-56 lead with 4:17 left on the clock before the Kats rallied back. SHSU went on a 16-0 run to take a 72-70 lead with seconds remaining. But Josh Alexander hit a 3 with 10 seconds left for the win.
Mar. 9, 2006 - The rematch didn't take long. After pulling out a thrilling double-OT game over Texas Arlington in the first round of the tournament, the Kats and Jacks were meeting again in the Southland semis. Once again, SFA built a big lead, going up by 12 in the first half. They led most of the second until Shamir McDaniel (remember that name, it will come up again) scored to tie the game at 58. He then hit a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to seal the win. We lost three days later in the SLC championship game.
Nov. 4, 2006 - A rare game under the lights in Nacogdoches. The first time back since the brawl and emotions were high for this one. SFA jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The Kats tied it in the third and early in the fourth score to take a 21-17 lead. The defense held the rest of the way, including a big defensive stand inside the 10-yard line with 2 minutes to play.
Jan. 18, 2007 - SFA built a 13-point lead in the second half and with 4:12 remaining led by 10. Then the Kats went on a run, scoring the final 13 points of the game to pull out a 55-52 victory.
This brings us to Thursday night. At 2-2 in SLC play it was pretty much a must-win game because if they lost they would fall two games back of SFA with a trip to Nacogdoches still to come. The Lumberjacks controlled the game most of the way. The Kats tied it up with 12:40 to play and the game was back-and-forth from there. With 17 seconds McDaniel hit a 3-pointer to take a 2-point lead. A last shot by SFA failed and the Kats pulled it out 58-56.
Now keep in mind this is just a sampling of games against SFA over the past 12 years or so. Sprinkle in the occasional nail-biters against Southwest Texas, Lamar, Northwestern State, McNeese, San Antonio, UTA and Southeastern Louisiana and you can start to see where this is not that healthy for me.