From bowling to basketball to the biggest football game on the planet, there’s lots to keep Springfield area sports fans busy this weekend.
We’ll begin with Super Bowl Sunday, which is always a big deal no matter who’s playing, because of the food and the commercials if not the game. With the Kansas City Chiefs involved for the third time in four years, it becomes a holiday weekend for those of us residing in Chiefs Kingdom.
So who do you have, Chiefs or Eagles? I’ll make my pick a bit later, but to help us break down the matchup I sought out arguably the greatest to ever play football at Missouri State for some analysis.
Smith’s first year with the Giants has been ‘awesome’
DeAndre Smith was an All-American quarterback for the Bears in 1989 and 1990. After a long college football coaching career, Smith just completed his first season in the National Football League as running backs coach for the New York Giants.
“I was hired one year ago (Thursday) and it’s been awesome,” Smith said of the NFL gig. He was part of one of football’s biggest turnarounds as the Giants, under first-year head coach Brian Dabol, went 9-7-1 to earn a wild-card playoff berth before getting a postseason victory over Minnesota. Smith’s star pupil, Saquon Barkley, rushed for 1,312 yards.
“Just to go through the whole experience, from the beginning of February to winning a playoff game, it was a lot of fun,” Smith said. “I was told I was going to hit a wall, but I was so excited every week because it’s a new challenge.”
The Giants played the Eagles three times. They split two regular-season meetings before Philadelphia dismantled the Giants 38-7 in the divisional playoff round.
“The Eagles are a tremendous team in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams,” Smith said. “Of course, we got a chance to see them up close several times. They’ve done a great job of building their team.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Smith said of Eagles-Chiefs. “It probably will come down to who has the least amount of turnovers, who makes the least amount of mistakes and who can execute in critical situations. I suspect the game will be close.”
‘I want to watch and just see a good game’
Asked what will be key for the Chiefs’ offense, Smith said running the ball will be important to keep pressure off quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“It’s probably safe to say the longer they are on the field offensively, the better it is for their defense,” Smith said. “Hold onto the ball, run it and then Patrick is gonna make his plays and the playmakers will have to step up.”
While he hopes to be able to watch the game as a fan, Smith said it’s impossible to take his coaching hat off completely. Specifically, he wants to see how Kansas City attacks the Eagles on offense and compare how the Giants might close the gap next season.
Asked for his pick, Smith said most active NFL players and coaches are indifferent.
“At the end of the day, we’re not playing in the game, so it’s safe to say that I don’t really care,” he said with a laugh. “I know the Eagles are favored and I know a lot of my friends are going with the Eagles.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City gets it done. But I don’t have a pick. I want to watch and just see a good game, see Patrick (Mahomes) play well and see Jalen (Hurts) play well.”
Scranton makes his pick
Philadelphia is favored by 1.5 points and logically, the Eagles seem like the pick with their strength on both the offensive and defensive lines. I’ve never been a big Chiefs fan, though I thoroughly enjoy watching them play in the Mahomes era.
That said, I’m picking Philadelphia to prevail 27-23. But if Mahomes is magical and the Chiefs win, I’ll be pleased. Either way, my chicken wings and nachos will taste great.
For Springfield sports fans, there are a couple of other notable events to consider viewing this weekend.
Bowling’s best are here for the Springfield Classic
The Professional Bowlers Association’s inaugural Springfield Classic continues throughout Friday, with the field cut from 64 to 22 for the 5 p.m. squad on Friday. A dozen of the world’s best return for match-play rounds at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday before the top four vie for $25,000 at 6 p.m. Saturday in a step-ladder finals format (No. 4 seed vs. No. 3, winner vs. No. 2, winner vs. No. 1).
All the action takes place at Enterprise Park Lanes (1625 S. Enterprise) and admission is free.
Through 12 games of qualifying on Thursday, Springfield’s Keven Williams was in second place, after averaging 236, just behind Anthony Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas.
Drury’s championship reunion
It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Drury’s magical run to the 2013 NCAA Division II basketball championship. The Panthers will commemorate the anniversary with a reunion on Saturday at the O’Reilly Family Events Center.
Many of the players from the title team will be honored between the Drury women’s game, which tips at 1 p.m., and the men’s game that follows. Drury will be taking on Missouri-St. Louis. A reception for the 2013 team is scheduled following the men’s game.
The 2013 Panthers went 31-4 and ended the season winning their final 23 games, including a 74-73 victory over Metro State for the national title in Atlanta.
The Lady Panthers have title hopes of their own and are worth a trip to the O’Reilly Family Events Center. Drury, ranked No. 2 nationally, is 22-1 overall with an 18-game winning streak, and 15-0 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.