From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 5, 1998

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 5, 1998

While South Louisianans were bracing themselves for Hurricane Georges, local sports teams were having quite a weekend.

First, there was the New Orleans Zephyrs capturing the city’s first professional championship since 1934, defeating Buffalo in the Triple A World Series in Las Vegas.

This was a team that proved themselves to be winners on the field as well as off throughout the season. Seemingly eliminated from the playoff race,the Zephyrs rallied in the final week to capture the division title. Thenbouncing back from a two games to one deficit in the Pacific Coast League playoffs against Calgary to advance to the World Series.

The dramatics continued in Las Vegas. With the series tied at one andBuffalo leading 2-1 in the eighth inning of the third game, Ken Ramos and Marc Ronan, two unlikely power sources, hit back to back home runs o put the Zephyrs ahead. Reggie Harris put the finishing touches on the victoryin the ninth. The Zephyrs would capture the title the following night witha 12-6 victory.

The Zephyrs won the title despite having many of its best players such as Russ Johnson and J.R. Philips called up to the Major Leagues at the end ofthe season. But players like Lance Berkman, the World Series mostvaluable player, stepped up in the playoffs.

If there was ever a franchise that deserved to win a title, this was it.

This was a team and organization that cared about its fans, even providing complementary tickets to fans who stuck out inclement weather down the stretch. Sometimes, the good guys do finish first.LSU and Tulane are trying to become the first Louisiana team since 1958 to capture a Division I-A college football national championship.

Kevin Faulk did his impression of a hurricane, ripping through the Idaho Vandals for 268 all-purpose yards, becoming the school’s career leader in that category. His best run of the night may not have been his career-best81-yard dash in the third quarter but his 11-yard touchdown at the start of the quarter in which he pinballed his way between defenders on the way to the endzone.

Herb Tyler was sharp for the second straight game, threading passes to Faulk and Abram Booty for first-half touchdowns. But unless the Tigers’defense can do a better job of tightening up against Georgia today than it did in allowing 410 yards to the Vandals, LSU’s title hopes could be blown away.

Tulane looked impressive in defeating Navy, 42-24, and improving to 3-0 on the season. But the Green Wave suffered a loss in that game that couldhurt more any of its many defeats in recent years before the Tommy Bowden era began. Shaun King, the best college quarterback in the state(sorry Louisiana Tech and LSU fans), broke his left wrist in the game and is questionable for today’s game against Southern Mississippi. The injurycould not have come at a worst time with Tulane hosting the Golden Eagles in one of the most important games the Green Wave has played in the last half century.

If Tulane can win today and King is able to continue playing, the Green Wave could be in line for a major bowl bid come December. Tulane has notplayed in any bowl in over a decade.

Where the Saints will be at the end of December is anybody’s guess. Whatteam will be there, the one that had 24 yards passing and six points heading into the final three minutes against the winless Colts Sunday? Or the one that drove 96 yards in those final minutes to tie the game and win it in overtime? Say what you will about Danny Wuerffel but so far all he has done is find a way to win two games the Saints could have easily have lost.

Wuerffel has been backed by a running game that had its second straight impressive game Sunday with Lamar Smith going over the 100-yard mark.

The defense is keeping the team in games, allowing 44 points through three games and intercepting three passes against the Colts, the last setting up the winning score in overtime.

The team’s fate will be decided in the upcoming weeks with games against New England, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Three victories in that string and the Saints could be looking at their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

If LSU, Tulane and the Saints can continue their winning ways, local residents who dodged a bullet with Georges, will have another reason to feel blessed this year.

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