By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
It's a pretty safe assumption that there aren't many Eastern Washington University fans in Havre. Obviously with the Grizzlies playing the Eagles this Saturday in Cheney, Wash., there are a few more than usual.
Still, we decided to go out and get one of the two true EWU fans in Havre as this week's guest picker.
There's an added bonus, this week's guest picker also coached the 1988 juggernaut Havre Central boys basketball team that featured George and I, and a bunch of other people to short to ride on the Zipper at the fair.
Havre High history teacher Barry Kato, not only had the pleasure of attending school in the burgeoning metropolis that is Cheney - playing for the now defunct Eastern baseball team for two and half years - but he also got to teach and coach me and George.
Life just doesn't get any better than that.
Besides trying to outpick a pair of his former players, Barry will also be trying to outpick one of his cousins (Jimmy).
Barry seemed fairly confident about the prospect.
"I would hope I win," he said.
The reason for his Barry's confidence is his extensive football background, including 16 years of coaching in the Havre High football program and three for MSU-Northern.
Barry's seen a few football games and coached a few football players. Some good (Jim), some bad (we won't name them) and some that are just coaches' dreams (me, of course).
So with his extensive coaching experience, we asked to him to rate where this year's top-ranked Blue Pony squad compared to years past.
Always diplomatic, he offered up this assessment.
"They're pretty legit," he said. "They have great team speed and a good defense. They definitely have a pretty good shot at winning it all. The only thing that could slow them down is if they get into a ball control game in the playoffs. Havre is such a quick-hitting team on offense that it can sometimes be a detriment when you have to be patient. But their defense is good enough to carry them through it."
I would ask him to assess Eastern's chances of beating the Griz. But why?
Barry traveled to Missoula for last year's game. He even sat in the Eagle cheering section. He was promptly rewarded with a 41-10 beatdown as UM rushed for a ridiculous 356 yards in the game.
"The Griz just ran right through them," he said."
However, Eastern comes into this week as the hottest team in the Big Sky, led by quarterback Erik Meyer, who threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 45-14 win over Northern Arizona.
"Their quarterback is much better this year," Kato said. "They definitely have a good shot of winning. The Griz are still pretty tough."
Still, the game is supposed to be so close that Wells and George both wanted it left off this week's picks.
Ahh, George. I begged Barry for some stories about George's exploits on the basketball court or the classroom. I even asked him to confirm that George had a rock-star type mullet in eighth grade.
But all Barry could remember is George hitting a pair of clutch free throws with seconds remaining to give us a win in the big Havre Central tournament. Funny, I don't remember that.
"I think we went .500 that year, which isn't bad considering we weren't the biggest team in basketball," he said sarcastically.
That's putting it nicely. It was basically like trotting out eight Ewoks and Luke Skywalker onto the floor in ridiculously short shorts. I know for a fact that he listed all of his players over 5-0 in the program. Nothing like giving kids an extra three inches of intimidation.
I really wanted to write about Barry's run in with a 22/250 rifle on Thanksgiving day in 1976, but he declined. The moral of his story that I will relay to you is this: "Don't call your parents from the emergency room on Thanksgiving with a major wound, it kind of ruins the meal."
As for his picks, Barry stayed with mostly favorites in high school. In college, he stayed loyal to Northern and EWU, but also took the Bobcats (BOOOOOOOO!!!).
In the pro games, he went with Seattle in an upset of New England; Buffalo in the battle of the teams without a win; Kansas City in a mild upset over the Jaguars and the Broncos over Oakland, because of his running bet with fellow teacher and HHS wrestling coach Scott Filius. Basically, Barry takes whoever plays the Raiders every week along with the point spread. That's a sure thing if I ever heard of one.
Last week was, well, I can't write it in the paper. Harvey and Julie tied for first at 14-7. George, Jim and guest picker Dave Fanning finished with 13-8 records, while I finished last with an 11-10 record.
I hate football. I hate the Yankees. I'm starting to hate this whole weekly picks thing. I am not lying when I tell you that if I finish last this year, there will be no Armchair QB's next year.
See what I mean, a coach's dream.