Herbstreit Challenge in review

The Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge has come and gone, and the football teams that came to the Buckeye State from around the country last week are now back at their schools and into their normal routines.

Me? I’m still trying to recover from being at Nippert Stadium for 14 hours on Saturday, followed by sitting in Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday to watch the Bengals-Browns game in 85 degree heat and 80 percent humidity. Poor me, right?

But it was a weekend to remember, especially the high school football. The Lakeland (Fla.)-St. Xavier game had as enjoyable an atmosphere as any sporting event, pro or amateur, I’ve been at in the last five years. St. Xavier had about 1,000 students at the game who were incredibly vocal, but it was the Lakeland fans cheering the hardest at the end as their team pulled out a 25-22 win. Lakeland (ranked no. 1 in the country) has an incredibly talented team with nine NCAA Division I players-to-be. St. Xavier (ranked fourth) is a more blue collar team, but just as good. It’ll be interesting to see how the national rankings shake out later this week, to see if St. Xavier drops one or two spots and De La Salle moves up from No. 5.

Earlier, an unranked Moeller-Cincinnati team had outplayed Byrnes (S.C.) for most of the game. But a late touchdown by the Rebels, ranked No. 6 in the country, helped them pull out the 21-20 win. Then in the nightcap, De La Salle showed it might be back close to where it was 3-4 years ago with a 56-38 win over Elder.

Some parts of De La Salle’s game has shined brighter than others in the first two games, but the offensive line has been solid as a rock. For QB Mike MacGillivray to run the veer option effectively, the o-line needs to clear some space. They did, and MacGillivray had the best game of his varsity career.

Sunday’s Bengals game was a day to relax and have fun. Let me say something about Bengals fans: they are just as intense as Raiders fans, it’s just that there’s more of them. Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson could run for political office judging by how many people wear their jerseys. And you can’t go 10 seconds without someone shouting, "Who Dey!" usually while holding a Marlboro red in their right hand, because just about everybody adult in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky smokes. Really, it’s ridiculous.

So after a 4 1/2 hour flight back to San Francisco and a 80-minute ride on BART, I finally got home around 1 a.m. I worked about 40-45 hours in four days, but it was one of those experiences you can’t forget.