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Eureka, Part 2

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Adrianne Stapleford captured this and several other images of the 2018 Eureka tornado touching down outside her workplace at Orscheln Farm and Home.

When we took the air June 26 for severe weather coverage on KVOE, there really wasn’t much thought we’d be dealing with any tornadic activity.

Boy, did that change.

Scattered storms developed south of Emporia and slid southeast that evening, developing rapidly enough to cause severe thunderstorm warnings for Greenwood and southern Lyon counties around 7 pm. Once we got rolling with our coverage, though, there was one storm rapidly intensifying near Eureka. Sean Thornton, who was running the board and hails from Eureka, and I immediately started thinking back to July 7, 2016, when the Greenwood County seat was hit by another tornado. We weren’t looking at a repeat, were we?

Unfortunately, we were.

In rapid succession, central Greenwood County went from a severe thunderstorm warning to a tornado warning to confirmation of a tornado on the ground to a radar debris signature.  Our hearts just sank.

Further confirmation was rather quick in coming. The 2016 twister hit the town from the northwest, causing some damage near the golf course and then rooting in northwest Eureka as it churned to the southeast near Greenwood County Hospital and Eureka Junior-Senior High School. Based on the storm’s motion, which was almost identical on radar, it appeared likely the tornado damage path would be parallel to the 2016 storm — if not almost directly on top of it.  Instead, we came to learn later the tornado formed in southwest Eureka and apparently cut across the path of the parent storm. That’s a rarity to say the least. Now there’s at least some evidence of a second, smaller, satellite tornado touching down around the same time of the original funnel.

Unlike the 2016 storm, this twister impacted downtown Eureka and also slammed into the southern half of the junior-senior high school campus. Unfortunately, there is now a big X on Eureka from the two damage paths, and it’s very close to the school grounds.

I was four when Omaha had its “big one,” so until I covered the Reading tornado I really didn’t have a personal sense of exactly what a tornado can do to a smaller community — even though I’ve seen the damage through our TV screen. It’s a lot different in person. Eureka already had a good jump on the cleanup by the time media was able to tour some of the worst damage areas the following afternoon, but the scope of the disaster — shifted homes, smashed homes, chewed-up tractor trailers, chairs in streets, mangled fencing, buckled bleachers and all those broken tree limbs — well, it gets to you as a reporter…who lives 45 miles away.

The thing (well, one of several things) I can’t imagine is living through a tornado — and in Eureka’s case, getting hit twice in a handful of years. Having talked with several city and county officials, the area had just finished its official 2016 tornado-related efforts about a month before the 2018 storm. Lives that were finally stitched back together were suddenly ripped apart again.

Because of that and because of the unlikelihood of federal reimbursement dollars, the emphasis on — and impact of — the recovery effort has been remarkable. As was the case with the ’16 tornado, volunteers were trying to mobilize before the 2018 tornado had even dissipated. Help from neighboring counties and the state came roaring in as well, so much so that the cleanup effort is well ahead of the 2016 pace and, if nothing else, the foundation for getting back to normal will be in place soon. And having the annual Party in the Park to look forward to probably helped as well through the sense of the familiar and routine that we come to underestimate until it’s blown away.

In the days following the storm, we learned last month’s tornado was at least the fourth to hit the community since National Weather Service records began in 1950. The ones in 2016 and 2018 were, by far, the worst to hit the town.

Thoughts and prayers have gone out to Eureka since the tornado. More importantly, so has action. So often these days, a response stops at thoughts and prayers. Community disasters are an exception, and it’s gratifying to see so many people linking arms to help. I’m also looking forward to returning in a few months and seeing the progress Eureka will make after its second tornado this decade.

 

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I’m a Reporter

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The past several months have been an amazing and enlightening experience for me and my family. Six months of serving as Emporia Public Schools’ director of community relations have shown me a great deal of what’s involved in a school district, from board meetings to special events to initiatives like the Kansans CAN! vision and the importance of consistent attendance.

I have enjoyed my time and my duties with USD 253, and I love the people I have worked with on a daily basis. I have also loved having a regular work schedule and spending evenings and weekends with my wife and children.

But when I left KVOE in May, I figured I was done with radio — and aside from a basketball game here or there, I believed I was done with media altogether. I honestly thought I would be able to set the reporter in me aside and switch seamlessly into a community relations mindset.

It never happened.

So on Monday I rejoin KVOE. Reason being: I am a reporter.

965844_10201268741863257_404694615_oIt’s that simple. It’s how I’m wired.

Whether it’s the DNA (my mom can write amazing books on quilting, while my aunt spent years as an editor in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.), whether it’s something about the street I grew up on as a kid (my best friend and next-door neighbor growing up is now the lead sports writer for the Oklahoma Associated Press — and has covered Olympics, Final Fours, Super Bowls and the like), it doesn’t matter.

I am a reporter.

For two decades, I froze when people said that. I’ve repeatedly said my main media interests were sports play-by-play (more recently talk shows) and severe spring weather. Being a reporter? Sure, I did all right in high school at Omaha’s Burke Beat and the North Star. Got a couple awards while at North for my efforts. And, yes, I have always taken pride in both a well-written story and a hard news article that scooped my competition. But me? A reporter? That has never been my focus in media.

Turns out that was my calling after all.

It took me six months out of the field to realize the things I enjoyed — the breaking news, severe weather, play-by-play — were just different parts of the overall reporter picture. And then, as I went along, I realized I liked reporting on community events and legislative matters.

Some reporters gravitate to one discipline — whether it be breaking news, government affairs, features, opinion, weather, community activities or sports. I didn’t. My interests apparently wouldn’t let me.

I’ve had a lot of people question how I came to this realization. I’m not focusing on that, at least not now. What matters to me is that I found my greenest grass — even though I had to leave it behind for a few months to make that discovery. You know the saying, “Life is too short to (fill in the blank here)?” Well, it’s cliched as all get out. But it’s true. Life is too short to discover your true niche in life and then ignore the signs in front of you.

For that, I have to thank God and my wife. God has ways of directing traffic, and after a while it became clear the exit I took was fruitful — but it wasn’t my final career destination. Ginny, meanwhile, realized I was struggling and suggested that I make the call to my former employer. She suffered a lot with my crazy radio schedule the past 14 years, but she said she wanted to see me happy. As fried as I was in mid-May, I was still more satisfied, gratified and fulfilled as a reporter than at any other job I have had. Ginny’s support has meant the world to me, even though it means the schedule craziness returns soon and may never leave us again. We’re working to reduce the crazy, which means I will have to slow myself down as much as anything.

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I also have to thank my former/new bosses at KVOE, who were more than willing to have me back on board. And I have to thank USD 253 for entrusting me with the community relations department this year, even though my department was far more self-sufficient than I could have dreamed and didn’t really need my help that often.

So it’s back to the dark and early, the Morning Show banter, the scanner app toning out potential stories, the hurry-up-and-wait of potential severe weather…the chronicling of life in Emporia, Kansas. I’m ready for it. And I’m grateful that so many people locally have welcomed me back to the airwaves. I hope I can build on the trust developed over the past 14 years and continue the strong tradition of KVOE News. Thank you for the opportunity to come back into your homes and report all the happenings of the Flint Hills.

 

On the course for BBC


My GBLP is declining.

GBLP? What’s THAT?

Well, every year KVOE has our Brewers and Broadcasters Classic at the Emporia, Kan., Country Club. It’s a scramble-format tourney that uses a modified (maybe extra modified would be a better descriptor) Stableford scoring system.

It’s a two-day deal. It’s very popular, usually filling up a week or two before the tourney begins. And for us at the station, it’s all hands on deck.

ALL hands on deck.

We usually take a six-hour shift. For those of us who have a six-day week, we pick our day off. Which for means Sunday morning.

For the first few years, my job was to see which drives on a par-3 were closest to the pin. Closest got a prize. I’ve also spotted for closest approach shot for a separate prize.

The last several years, I’ve been on Hold No.5, spotting for balls leaving the fairway and heading into either “the deep spinach” or the row of trees currently behind me.


(Why spinach? Why not, oh, cabbage or Brussels sprouts or alfalfa? I digress. Actually, no, I don’t. We officially had to dig for a ball in the mushrooms today. The mushrooms!)


And here’s where GBLP comes into play.

It’s not an official statistic. At least, I don’t think it is for golf course workers. But GBLP is short, in my mind, for Golf Ball Location Percentage. And, as I said, mine is slipping fast.

Honestly, I have no idea why I’m on this assignment. My eyesight has never been good (some would say even with the thick or highly-adjusted lenses I’m currently using). Back when I used to live near a public 9-hole course in Omaha, my brother and I would return balls to golfers (and sell others left behind later). One of our unspoken contests, at least as I took it, was to see which one of us could find stray golf balls faster.  He won repeatedly. 

So, as you can see, I may not be cut out for this task.

As I write this, it’s 9:15 am. I’ve been spotting now for 90 minutes and I’m on my sixth (seventh?) group of the front nine. I have had my fourth close call (not quite a near-miss) from incoming missile attacks. And up until this sixsome approached, my GBLP went from 67 percent to 16 percent. I saw four of the six balls land with my first group and just one with my last group.

It seems like this happens every year. It’s normally a high sky, which doesn’t help, and today has minimal cloud cover. 

As mentioned before, I haven’t had the dump-out-of-the-Gator scramble to avoid incoming attacks yet. But it’s coming. 

Honestly, all of us volunteer spotters should eschew the orange vests and be outfitted with these T-shirts, courtesy of The Far Side:


And next year I’ll tell you about the GTVTR.

The Golf Tournament Volunteer Target Rate.  Which just went up…

To be or not to be: Dramatic news writing is the question

News writing is a lot harder than it looks.

Part of that is just the nature of news. We have to get a lot of information out, and for broadcast — radio and TV — we typically don’t have a lot of regurgitation time (insert your own visual here). I’m fortunate in my current position because upper levels of management have given my department the leeway to give a 15-minute news hole for our featured newscasts. This means our staffers have the unmentioned go-ahead to flesh out stories with all the necessary details so our listeners and Web site readers get more details than other broadcast media outlets can provide. It’s not to the level of print journalism — again, the time factor rears its ugly head, especially with the number of stories we’re generating — but it’s one of the things I really like about small-town journalism in general and our station policy in particular.

But part of that is also a desire to, well, spice up the news. And, in some cases, that’s being kind.

I remember a TV news anchor in Omaha from the late 1980s who relayed all information — all information — in the most dramatic terms possible. Car crash? Disastrous, even if it was a fender-bender. Fire? Always destructive — which technically was true, but obviously there are different levels of destruction from such incidents.

It didn’t take long for said anchor to depart the TV station for greener pastures and more mundane news writing (and news delivering) to return to that station’s airwaves.

The problems with dramatic news writing, especially for basic and breaking news, are severalfold. First, it’s distracting to the listener and to the Web site reader. Second, it’s numbing to the audience, especially when people eventually figure out the adjectives and the actions don’t match.

Problems don’t stop there on the broadcast side because a dramatically-written story automatically causes an anchor to change his delivery emphasis — and in some cases to leave what’s actually important underemphasized.

News stories written with a lot of flowery language may generate more online clicks for a certain period of time. However, once readers realize there’s much ado about very little, they will find other news sources that focus on the truth, regardless of how boring the details may be. And your news operation will suffer a damaged reputation as a result.

As far as I’m concerned, a news department’s focus should be in the following order.

  1. Truth in all aspects
  2. Engage with details
  3. Entertain if dictated by content

As you can see, embellishment of details is nowhere on this list. However, go back to the paragraph about online traffic. Once grandiose language is allowed and online traffic seems to increase, a news reporter can be easily tempted to either write things out of context, blow things out of proportion or write things that simply can’t happen just so more people come on board the Web site. Many have taken to the temptation…to the detriment of the profession.

After having seen dramatic language — both elsewhere and, unfortunately, in my department — and after hearing from people over the course of time, it’s my experience that the story content drives readership and listenership far more than how dramatically it’s presented.

Basic is boring when it comes to news writing, especially for hard news. There’s no doubt about that. But given the choice between dramatic and dry, basic is also best.

Royals Keep Steamrolling to a Title (First Takes and Second Helpings: Oct. 29, 2015)

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Various and sundry thoughts while mulling the end of a vacation week…

  1. The Kansas City Royals are primed to win the World Series. That’s something I didn’t expect at the start of the regular season, and it’s certainly something I didn’t expect after the Royals dug themselves a massive hole in the American League Division Series Game 4 against Houston. One thing that has highlighted this season is an ability to get big at-bats at big times, and that trend has been in full evidence against the New York Mets in the first two World Series games. The Mets rotation is designed to miss bats. The Royals hitters are now designed not to miss pitches, especially those in the strike zone. Mets pitchers are losing this battle in a big way. The other thing in the Royals’ favor has been underrated starting pitching. Edinson Volquez was every bit the equal of Matt Harvey in Game 1, and Johnny Cueto (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) simply outpitched Jacob deGrom in Game 2.It just has to be the nails.

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    After the All-Star break, while Ginny and Bella were getting their nails painted, my foster son asked whether I’d get my nails done. I said I’d get mine painted blue if the Royals got back to the World Series. Lo and behold, they did. And I had to remind the ladies of the home about this. Typically, I’m the one having to field the reminder on just about everything. Anyways, Bella was pretty giddy about getting to paint Daddy’s nails. As far as the on-field results, so far, so good. Just waiting to see what happens when I chip a nail.

  2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything. Therefore, this will be the only mention of Joe Buck’s broadcasting, um, style, excellence, high-priced waste of air space in this blog post. I gladly utilized the six to eight seconds of delay between KVOE’s feed of the ESPN Radio coverage and the Fox TV picture for Game 2. It hurts the brain somewhat with that approach, but it sure eases the mind when you know you have an unbiased broadcast at the national level.joe

    I just love how, according to Mr. Buck, Harvey was the perfect pitcher for the Mets to start the World Series…and then how deGrom was the perfect guy to get a win for the Mets in Game 2 after they lost in crushing fashion in Game 1. Well, obviously they weren’t because the Mets are down 2-0 for the aforementioned reasons. There weren’t any perfect Royals starters to be part of the World Series, the way it appears. Funny how that works out. And it’s funny how the backhanded compliments — “and those Royals, nobody knows how they do it” — just enhance the fact that they, not the other team are doing it in emphatic fashion.

  3. Man, does Emporia State football have a big one coming up. And not against Northwest Missouri on Nov. 7. Archrival Washburn comes calling — on Halloween Day, mind you.10895870235_452fc42ba9_b

    If you wanted an example of inconsistency, the Ichabods would be about as good an example as you could get this season. Defeat Pittsburg State, ranked in the top 15 at the time, lose to bottom-dweller Lindenwood. Defeat Missouri Western, a longtime powerhouse in the conference before quarterback injuries hamstrung the offense over the past four weeks, lose to Central Oklahoma, a team finding its way after being the pleasant surprise in the MIAA last year. A ton is at stake for the Hornets, who at 7-1 can still get into the playoffs with two losses — and just about everybody expects ESU to lose at Northwest Missouri. Losing to Washburn and to NWMSU, though, and it’s just about curtains for any postseason hopes.

    It’s your archrival. Weird things happen against your archrival, especially in games where you should win — as Emporia State should on Saturday. It’s Halloween Day, the day of weird things. Hopefully the Hornets take all the strangeness out of the game early on, take care of business and move to 8-1 before a national broadcast in Maryville.

  4. Mike Riley isn’t in trouble, but the Huskers are. Let me rephrase that: Mike Riley isn’t in trouble yet. There’s a big difference, but regardless, there’s no way NU should lose to Northwestern at home. It shouldn’t have lost to BYU, Wisconsin or Illinois, either. And there’s no business losing the way they have this season, whether through bad defensive positioning or shoddy play-calling or bad communication or, apparently against Northwestern, just a poor effort. For a team allegedly hungry to prove it can win two straight, it sure sounded full of itself until it was way too late.Oct 24, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; The Northwestern Wildcats sign their fight song after a win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    What does this mean? Well, on the field it means this team had better cinch up the fundamentals and at least play solid football. Win or lose. That’s now the best we can expect as fans for this season. Which isn’t nearly enough for this program or its fans. We have come to expect more because we have seen it’s possible. And we were told solid football would be the basic common denominator of this program. So far, it hasn’t been.

    Going into Riley Stardate 2.0, it should mean a purge of all the players who are demonstrating any unwillingness to buy into what Riley and his coaching staff are selling. If you’re not on board, find some place where you’re comfortable. It’s as simple as that.

    Off the field, it means this can’t continue or else Riley’s seat will get extremely hot extremely quickly. So will the seat under his coaches, especially defensive coordinator Mark Banker. And so will the seat underneath Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The Riley regime didn’t have the talent of other Big Ten teams to start, so struggles were anticipated. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s skill set didn’t fit what Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had in mind, and at times they have melded the separate approaches into something quite nice. Injuries haven’t helped. But the sheer sloppiness of things…it’s unacceptable. In all phases of football. And that should have been communicated to the coaching staff from somebody — Eichorst, football god Tom Osborne, an outgoing chancellor, anybody — well before now. Even after the mess of the Bo Pelini era, NU football has taken a significant step backward in the first year of the Mike Riley regime. It’s a step backward I didn’t expect. And it’s a step backward that I hope doesn’t mean leads to backing into the mud of mediocrity. If the program isn’t already there.

  5. You can make a buffet out of anything. Ginny made the point abundantly clear this morning when I asked her what’s for supper tonight and she said, “We’re gonna have a leftover buffet.” Now that’s craziness. An all-you-can-eat buffet? Awesome. A pie buffet? Heavenly. But a leftover buffet?Now that you mention it, that pot roast from Tuesday night does sound pretty tasty.

Until the next plate of mental goulash…

Aftermath of a Football Road Trip

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I think it was 2:17 am when we pulled into Emporia State’s HPER parking lot this morning. Fitting, because I think I had 217 seat adjustments from when we left Joplin, Mo., following the Hornets’ 38-20 win over Missouri Southern, back to the Flint Hills.

Honestly, as much as I was looking forward to watching ESU open the football season (and, hopefully, have a much better season than what I witnessed last year), I was dreading the impact Friday. The Day After. We had left around 1:30 pm to make sure we got to Joplin in way more than enough time to get set up, test the equipment, get interviews if we wanted to and settle into the broadcast instead of scrambling into it — and trust me, there is a difference in the finished product if you’re scrambling. Leaving when we did also gave me another rather large window to plan how I’d attack Friday’s schedule.

The plan: Get in around 2:30. Skip sleep (because I knew I’d snooze right through every alarm known to man outside of a tornado siren directly in my ear). Shower and be back out the door by 3 am. Write up my morning’s self-assignments by 9 am. Hope the Morning Show doesn’t sound like Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

Oh yeah — Record midday, plop stuff on the website and be unconscious by 10 am. Sleep until I wake up or when Ginny comes home, whichever comes first.

Well, it’s 2:20 am and I can already tell I’m going to be off schedule and not in a good way. I’ll leave it to your imagination what happened. Anyways, by the time I’ve gotten showered, let the dog out and given hugs, it’s 3:10 am. Ten minutes is an eternity in broadcasting, but I’m still in pretty good shape.

Writing goes up to just shy of 5 am before I take a break for caffeine. I’m at the same time impressed and a bit worried, thinking I’ve waited too long to start gulping down the Coke. At least short-term, that worry turns out to be unfounded. I’m still conscious and alert (something you hear on the scanner all the time) — right up until I take a quick break to pause. That’s when nice, peaceful darkness lurks until I snap back to the land of the conscious.

Surprisingly, the Morning Show goes fairly well. I don’t stumble much more than normal during the newscasts and my train of thought doesn’t derail in spectacular fashion. By 9 am, though, I can tell the three cans of Coke just ain’t cutting it.

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I still have one more story to write, another to update with sound, two calls to make on a weekend story and the web to update. And the yawns have started. In fact, they can’t stop. I’m actually thinking I could fall asleep sitting bolt upright…or get whiplash if I lean back…thinking….skngxxxxxxxx…

I’m resigning myself to the fact I’ll have to adjust my schedule. And I’m needing something — anything — to get my motivation back to where it was six hours earlier.

What’s In Outdoors ends and I have to walk up and down the hall a few times, doing some strategic air drumming in the process to get the blood going and caffeine redistributed.

9:30 am: Ron comes back and orders Greg and I to find some time to take a nap. No problem there. So long as I get these stories done and posted.

10:10 am: Stories written but putting one thought in front of the other is now getting reeeeeally hard. Listening to Pat Metheny, while relaxing, isn’t helping.

10:20 am: Change of music will have to happen. Time for Dire Straits’ Alchemy. Maybe that will help.

10:25 am: The more air drumming I do, the less work I do. Grrrr.

10:35: Singing helps to keep me awake — and I can type at the same time. I can hear Greg and AJ getting annoyed.

11 am: Web almost done. But I’m missing one picture I wanted for the front — because I blitzed that out two weeks ago. Lengthy bleep.

11:02 am: Now realizing I have ingested enough caffeine to likely keep me awake the rest of the afternoon. Looooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggg bleeeeep.

11:20: Time to resume recording. So much for 10 am. Now the goal is noon. And I have 18 minutes of news loaded for the midday AM cast. And I’m leaving stuff out. Cannot remember what I was doing 10 seconds ago.

11:27: Almost said “partly chucky” in the headlines forecast. If you want to know what partly chucky is, don’t ask. I have no idea. Apparently I’m not totally chucky today, though.

11:28: Puberty returns. That was weird.

11:34: In an effort to maintain a clean working space, AJ starts to dismantle my Coke tower. Said tower falls apart. Chuck’s rendition of Dr. Giggles (hey, we all have one) breaks out.

11:50: Final check of recorded material. Brain alternately hyper and crashy. Saved midday ag report to the wrong cart, but otherwise everything is clear.

11:55 am: Scanner….nooooo….OK. Patient transfer. We’re good.

So I’m out around noon. A busier day than I thought and, frankly, hoped, but there was some worthy news this morning. Accessibility concerns, blue-green algae impact, United Way starting its general fundraising drive and other stories. All told, seven stories today — including two rather hefty pieces — with three of those needing updates as the morning progressed.

Another #bya #sggd day. Now it’s time for pizza and nap..and to tear down this Coke tower. Chat with you guys again when its #darkandearly tomorrow.

2015 ESU MSSU

Game preview: Emporia State at Missouri Southern

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Game 1: Emporia State at Missouri Southern
Time: 7 pm Thursday, Fred G. Hughes Stadium
Coverage: 6 pm, Mix 104.9 FM and Mix 104.9-TV on KVOE.com

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s go time. Time for football season, and another pivotal season for the Emporia State Hornets.

The 2015 season begins with a battle of the known versus the unknown as ESU travels to Joplin, Mo., to take on Missouri Southern. Emporia State has the stability in the coaching staff and quarterback, while Missouri Southern is all new. New head coach, new staff, new quarterback, new schemes both offensively and defensively.

There are some knowns for the Lions. Head coach Denver Johnson had decent success at FCS schools Illinois State and Murray State before a dismal 2-10 record and spiraling attendance at the end of the 2014 campaign spelled the end of the Johnson era at Tulsa. Defensive coordinator Kenny Evans, who had decent success at Northeastern State as a head coach, may have done better as Southern’s defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1997.

The questions for the Lions, though, are legion, including how the coaching staff melds together, how the offense adjusts to a spread formation with a former quarterback-turned-running back as quarterback and how the defense does with a 4-2-5 setup.

Things to listen to Thursday night:

Can the Emporia State offensive line keep Brent Wilson upright? Wilson got through most of the magical playoff run in 2013 clean before suffering a broken collarbone. No offense to Wilson’s replacement, but the Hornets’ playoff chances died on the spot. The Hornets were already scuffling when Wilson’s collarbone snapped again during the Northeastern State victory last year, and the team looked lost, disillusioned and frankly uncaring afterward. ESU should have a dynamic offense with a stacked receiver corps and a solid stable of running backs, but none of that matters if No. 15 is flat repeatedly or on the shelf again. If, however, Wilson has time to survey the field, look out. Kavaski Ervin, Mitchell Foote and Justin Brown should all have really good years, and one of them should have a big game Thursday night if Wilson is kept clean.

Does Emporia State’s glass jaw from 2014 extend to 2015? Last year, if the Hornets got hit in the mouth or had a case of the dropsies, you could guarantee a snowball effect. Guarantee it. And if it happened in the first half, there was no hope of a comeback. The only exception was the Nebraska-Kearney season closer, when the Hornets roared back from a 28-point deficit and overcame several miscues to lose by two (no second-half miscues, no loss, but that’s beside the point here). The hope is that loss to the Lopers, which saw the emotional emergence of Eddie Vinson as a team leader, reestablished the fight the Hornets have been known for the prior two seasons.

Can ESU’s defense harass Missouri Southern’s new quarterback? ESU fared poorly defensively last year, and that’s one of the bigger understatements of MIAA football from 2014: last in total defense, 10th in scoring defense, last in pass defense, 10th in third-down conversions against and dead last in sacks (32 behind No. 11 on the list). In general, the Hornets have to get after the quarterback better this year, and there’s no time like the present. Southern QB Ty’Quan Hayes has a feel for the offense, according to Johnson, but he was a reserve running back and return man last year — throwing all of one pass in the process. Hayes was an accomplished quarterback in high school, but rust can be expected. With the right attack, the Hornets should take advantage of this.

Final score: ESU 31, Missouri Southern 21

Trying to Make Sense of the WDBJ Shooting

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say domestic broadcast journalism lost its innocence or sense of invincibility Wednesday.

The live on-air murders of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward looked like something you could expect in the war-ravaged Middle East. But it happened on our soil. Before 7 am. In what apparently was a relatively safe, peaceful area.

What happened Wednesday near Roanoke, Va., was on one level about as incomprehensible an act as you can imagine. On another level, though, this is a thoroughly unnerving sign of our times, from the shooter’s live social media feed to the rambling manifesto claiming the perpetrator was really the victim to the suicide.

Being in news for almost 20 years and leading KVOE’s news department for almost five years now, this really has me shaken. The shooter was a disgruntled former employee. That statement alone should be enough for anybody in management to review his or her dealings with current or past employees to make sure those interactions were fair and honorable.

Besides that, though, we as journalists are out and about in our respective communities a lot. We cover everything, from murders and standoffs to zoning meetings and Chamber of Commerce features. We have our guard up when we go to certain events but we may not have it up with others like the features we do. This may force us as reporters, photographers, cameramen and others “in the field” to be on constant alert at all times.

And because we are coming to you in your cars, your cubicles or your showers, we aren’t off the job just because we are off the air. Talking about a story we wrote earlier in the day or what we said about our favorite sports teams last week with acquaintances or total strangers comes with the job. It’s a part of the job we accept, some of us willingly, others grudgingly.

Overseas journalists, especially those in the aforementioned “hot spots” on our globe, accept the personal safety risks that come with making sure people know what happened. They also know in general terms what subjects could put them in the crosshairs.

Honestly, I never thought I’d have to think those risks would be in place in America. They officially are, and to a degree they are more insidious because, as was blasted into our consciousness Wednesday, we have no idea who may be approaching us with bad intent, waiting like a predatory cat, gun in one hand, cell phone in the other.

#WeStandWithWDBJ

Stingers Up as Austin Willis Latches On With Raiders

austin images

Helmets off to Austin Willis, the former Emporia State wideout who is on an NFL team. How good does it feel to say that?

Willis, who scampered by defensive backs routinely for touchdowns and big plays the final three years of his career at ESU, was offered a deal by the Oakland Raiders over the weekend. Sub-4.4 speed helped to gain the Riders coaching staff’s attention, but Willis also must have demonstrated an acuity for picking up on things quickly for them to maintain interest.

After spot duty on special teams his freshman year, Willis gradually added playing time and by his junior year he couldn’t be rooted out of the starting lineup, catching 10 touchdown passes as a junior and accumulating over 2,000 receiving yards in his career.

Numbers like that would get instant notice if Willis was in a Division I Power 5 conference. Even though Willis played in the toughest football conference in Division II, his name wasn’t mentioned all that much — if at all — leading up to the NFL Draft.

Such is life if you play football in any other level than D-I.

On KVOE’s Morning Show earlier this week, Ron Thomas made a great point in that technology now has made it much easier for scouts to unearth talent. I wouldn’t go so far as to say things are tilting in favor of D-II athletes, however. Even with the stated goal of trying to find talent everywhere, there is a reason NFL rosters are so heavily stacked with D-1 players. It’s the best college competition and players have proven themselves at what is basically a minor league football level. So it makes sense to keep the attention on D-1, often — and unfortunately — at the expense of D-II players or other levels who just need a chance to show they can measure up.

Willis got his chance. And he measured up.

Besides being a big win for Willis, this is also a major recruiting coup for ESU. The Hornets now have had several players get more than a cursory look by NFL teams since Garin Higgins became coach, like Chris Poston and Adam Schiltz, who has been with Tennessee TItans’  and the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad during his career. It’s not being part of the 45-man roster, but at least the dream is still viable without going to Canada or Europe to play. If Willis can stick with the Raiders, Emporia State stands to benefit as impressionable teenagers look for a place to play college football.

Can Willis capture some of the magic that kept Rod Smith of Missouri Southern as one of the NFL’s elite receivers and that’s propelling John Brown, a Pittsburg State wideout, to stardom? Perhaps. There’s nothing he can do about his size, so he will have to be a precise route-runner, possess soft hands and a spongy brain, and make himself versatile — likely special teams — to make it hard for the Raiders to cut ties. Austin Willis has made it this far because of those qualities, and a door has opened as a result. He’s poised to walk through to stardom if everything works out in his favor.


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