Presents under the tree, wrapped in a team colors
SHEPHERDSTOWN — When Old St. Nicholas stops by deserving homes all across West Virginia, he will be leaving gifts wrapped in old gold and blue, Thundering Herd green and the blue and yellow of Shepherd before going up, up and away to Texas and north Florida.
Going down at least three chimneys in the hills of Morgantown, the jolly old elf will answer football coach Neal Brown’s list for three quality offensive linemen, a solid running back, two wide receivers of note, three highly recruited defensive backs, a trusted kicking specialist and at least one linebacker.
Before downing some of Coach Brown’s figgy pudding and brownies, he will check his bagful of goodies for a possible junior college quarterback.
At Bob Huggins residence, he will check with Rudolph to see if a point guard with more radar on his shots than misses from three-point range might be available in some form. The stringbean casserole left by the decorated tree with care will be consumed before it’s off to baseball coach Randy Mazey’s place.
Coach Mazey’s wishes will be directed to five more players from the state of Florida, four more from Texas and given a directory on how to find some sunny days with 60-degree temperatures in late April. Egg nog, gingerbread cookies and beef jerky will be on hand to fortify Santa’s need for energy.
In Huntington, Santa will put a finger aside his nose and hear the concerns of basketball coach Dan D’Antoni. Pointing his white glove at a rural area in West Virginia, Coach Claus will listen intently while D’Antoni tells of the energy, drive, loyalty and courage of the players who grew up in the coal fields and thrived at Mullens High School, the coach’s alma mater. D’Antoni will offer Santa some homemade fruit cake and mince pies as a way of saying “thank you” for any consideration.
The Thundering Herd football team has just played in its bowl game and Coach John “Doc” Holliday will have recruiting on his Christmas list. The native West Virginian will ask Coach Claus about any talent he’s seen while flying above in his sleigh. “There are no players at the North Pole and my elves can’t make any. But you check in south Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia and tell them I sent you.”
Shepherd’s Ernie McCook will see that Santa is well fed with Omaha Steaks, some filet mignon and Shepherdstown chestnuts roasted on an open fire. Santa will send Coach McCook more transfer wide receivers, a fleet running back and linebackers to go with Chrys Lane and Ponce Deleon.
Basketball coach Justin Namolik slips Santa a piece of paper with questions about a 6-foot-7 forward/center, a 6-foot-4 point guard and ways to beat West Chester, Indiana and Millersville. Namolik will direct Santa to Betty’s Restaurant, the Bavarian Inn and toward the red velvet cake at Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd in nearby Keedysville.
Baseball coach Matt McCarty has the longest wish list of all as he attempts to replace Brenton Doyle, Justin Smith, Syeed Mahdi, Eddie Nottingham, Ryan Potts and Nick Atkinson from his 2019 team. Hitters, more hitters and a pitcher with nine wins aren’t found under many Douglas fir trees, but Coach Claus often wears Shepherd blue-and-yellow and knows that “Shepherd students succeed.”
Out in Houston, near the oil fields and summer hurricanes, Cougar football coach Dana Holgorsen may have heard from the oil baron who loudly proclaimed, “We fire coaches who lose four games.” Dana was 4-8 in 2019. And that’s a few more than four losses.
Down in north Florida, about 20 miles from the Georgia border, the Florida State Seminoles may have just found Santa’s Golden Goose. Living with the brashness of Jimbo Fisher and the piled-high losses of Willie Taggart in the post-Bobby Bowden era has been like drinking poisoned Gatorade in Tallahassee. Here comes Coach Mike Norvell, last seen winning 11 games at Memphis. Could a heady whiff of fresh air and promises that are kept be far behind?