Even without any games taking place, it’s still one of the busiest times of the year in local sports.
Last week, we had the two-ring circus without even leaving the area. High school and college sports teams are busy practicing for the fall season. And, last week was the Washington Town and Country Fair.
For many of the local teams, that meant farm kids were showing livestock at the Fair while also being concerned with practicing. In some cases, those young athletes were also trying to make their teams.
The new MSHSAA practice schedules made life interesting for many, but now that the Fair’s over, it’s time to get back to work. Jamborees for football and other sports will take place starting Friday, so the fall season is coming faster than we would expect.
From conversation with coaches, reaction to the new MSHSAA practice schedule has been mixed. Some like getting to work earlier. Many don’t like the fact that the games also have been pushed up. All seemed to think having practice start on the same week of the Fair was a distraction.
I wish there had been some way to work out having the practices work around the Fair, as in past years. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this overlap. It made for a long week for many, but we’ve worked through it.
Speaking of the Fair, congratulations to Fair officials for getting through five days of events at the motor sports arena. I know heavy rain Thursday presented massive challenges and that delays took place prior to the Thursday and Friday competition. It took a lot of hard work to make things work. The venue had to be transformed from a small bull ring Wednesday to the massive winding, hilly course for Sunday.
You can find photos from all of the events at the Motor Sports Arena online at emissourian.com. Stories will appear in print as we receive the results.
The new motor sports building provided a wonderful photo platform this year. Thank you to Fair Board and officials for allowing us to shoot from the second floor this year.
The unfortunate side of things is that injuries happen in these competitions. Please keep those hurt during this weekend in your thoughts and prayers.
While you may have missed it, the St. Louis Rams opened their preseason Friday night at the Edward Jones Dome in a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Oddly, it was the first time the two teams had faced each other in the preseason in 46 years.
The Rams are back at it Saturday with a 3 p.m. home game against the Green Bay Packers. St. Louis then hits the road for the final two preseason games against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. The home opener is at noon Sept. 7 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Friday’s game brought a lot of questions and most of them really weren’t fully answered. The first preseason game really is a chance to see new rookies and players who are really trying to make it through the first round or two of cuts.
Three of the Rams rookies started in the game with two of them being first-round draft picks Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald. The third was Mizzou’s E.J. Gaines at cornerback.
Robinson saw action both at guard and tackle during the game. Conventional wisdom is that the second overall draft pick will settle in at left guard this season. The offensive line Friday night was quite different with three projected starters not playing.
Things were quite different on the defensive side, where the Rams fielded both starting ends along with Donald. He was able to pressure the New Orleans quarterbacks at times.
Gaines was one of the most impressive players on the night for the Rams, taking advantage of his opportunity to start with injuries in the secondary. He tied for the team lead in tackles with four.
With Sam Bradford not playing (and Drew Brees wasn’t in the lineup for the Saints), it was a good chance for the coaches to look at the backup quarterbacks.
Shaun Hill played for nearly a half and is everything the Rams expect in a No. 2 quarterback. He went 5-7 for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
The real competition is between rookie Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis for the No. 3 spot, if the Rams decide to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.
Both did good things although Davis had the better stats, going 10-16 for 134 yards. Both likely will be under heavy scrutiny this week.
Davis did take the Rams into field goal position twice in the fourth quarter, but the Rams couldn’t convert either. He did commit a grounding penalty which forced the Rams to hurry the last field goal attempt.
The fight for the reserve tight end spots is heating up. Alex Bayer made some good impressions in the fourth quarter. Cory Harkey caught a touchdown pass early in the game. Both would be favorites for the third and fourth tight end spots, especially after Mason Brodine was lost for the year with a broken ankle.
I would expect to see some tough competition at wide receiver, where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one veteran get released. It’s going to be much tougher to make the team this year than in the recent past. That’s why you’re seeing players like Chris Givens, Austin Ferguson and others return kicks so they can maximize their value.
Defensive line is going to be another tough area to make this team, especially with so much talent there. That’s going to make things tough for everyone’s favorite player, Michael Sam. He had an OK game, but is going to have to find a way to make plays like he has at every other level to make this team.
If you figure most of the players who saw action Friday won’t be on the final 53-man roster, the two-point loss is a little easier to take.