John Riley Gunnels IV is the latest generation of his family to play football at Ocean City High School. (Photo courtesy of John Gunnels) By TIM KELLYCall it the Riley Gunnels effect.Longtime Ocean City resident Gunnels was a starting defensive tackle on the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles NFL championship team. As any formerly long-suffering Birds fan will tell you, that was the last time a Philadelphia squad laid claim to pro football’s ultimate prize – until backup quarterback Nick Foles and company snapped the drought by winning Super Bowl LII some 58 years later.In the intervening years, Gunnels, now 82, and his wife of 55 years, Kay, produced a championship pipeline to the Red Raiders that is now in its second generation.Their son, John Riley Gunnels III, who goes by John, was the starting quarterback on Ocean City’s 1984 South Jersey Group III title team. John engineered a thrilling 22-21 defeat of Willingboro to take the crown on the Chimeras home field.And now John Riley Gunnels IV is a promising freshman QB for the Raiders, the only freshman on the varsity, which attempts to improve its record to 3-0 Friday night at Bridgeton.“The interesting part is, I don’t really like quarterbacks very much,” the elder Gunnels chuckled, “but I have two pretty good ones in my family.”A pass rusher par excellence, the University of Georgia grad had a seven-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eagles.His career highlight was being on the Franklin Field gridiron in Philly on December 26, 1960, when the Birds handed a 17-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers for a pre-Super Bowl era NFL crown, the only playoff loss suffered by the Pack’s legendary former coach Vince Lombardi.Riley Gunnels (74) was part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the Birds’ title team at Lincoln Financial Field in 2010. (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Eagles)“That was a great time in my life,” said Gunnels. “Of all the teams I played on over the years, that one had the best comradery.”His grandson, who also uses Riley as his first name, was 4-for-5 passing, including TD passes of 50 and 74 yards, in his first jayvee game, a 14-12 win over Lower Cape May. He made his varsity debut last week in the second half of the Raiders’ home opener, as one of the sub QBs (with soph Charley Cossabone) seeing action in a 49-0 shellacking of Egg Harbor Township.Riley IV steered an offense consisting mostly of backups for a series that produced a first down and two completions totaling 19 yards. According to Tom Williams of Oceancitysports.com, Gunnels already owns a school record with the most passing yardage ever recorded by a frosh QB in the 100-plus-year history of the program.“I was a little bit nervous before my first high school game, but that didn’t last long,” said young Riley, 14, who is listed on the roster as 6-2 and 180 pounds. “The coaches and (starting QB) Joe Repetti have been great working with me and making me feel welcome.”A “school choice” student who resides in Galloway Township, there was no doubt where young Riley wanted to play his high school ball, his dad said.“He wants to play for the Georgia Bulldogs and the Eagles because of his Pop-Pop, and he wanted to play at Ocean City because of me and his uncle and his cousin,” John Gunnels said.Riley Gunnels’ 1963 football card as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.In addition to the three generations of football-playing Riley Gunnels, the legacy also includes John’s brother and former teammate, the 6-4, 290-pound Chris Gunnels, a 1986 Ocean City grad and All-South Jersey performer who went on to play at the University of Maryland. Another grandson, offensive lineman Joe “Chugger” LaCasse (Class of 2003), was another outstanding player for the Raiders.“Like most of his family, (young Riley) is a big, strong kid,” Red Raiders’ Head Coach Kevin Smith said. “His physical tools are beyond (most players his age). He can make any throw we would ask of any of our quarterbacks.”None of this is to suggest it’s been very easy.Attending high school for the first time can be daunting for any student, and the situation could’ve been tougher for young Riley, who was from out of town and not from one of the traditional sending districts.The daily commute can be difficult for both student and parents. John Gunnels and wife Bobbi are also parents to 17-year-old Abby and Ella, 8. Abby is a basketball and softball star and cheerleader at Cedar Creek High School.“Thank goodness Ocean City doesn’t play Cedar Creek this year,” John Gunnels said.Moreover, most of the students Riley knew were upper-class teammates, his dad said.Any trepidation was short-lived. When Riley walked into the cafeteria for his first lunch period, which is integrated with members of every class, senior co-captain Chris Armstrong showed his leadership.“I was a little nervous at first and there was (Armstrong) yelling ‘Gunnels! Over here,’ and he made sure there was a place at the lunch table for me.”In the days after that, Riley said he has become more comfortable in his classes and around school.On the field, Repetti, a junior in his first year as the starting quarterback, has been instrumental in helping Gunnels “learning my progressions, reading defenses and terminology and things like that,” he said.The bottom line: easing into Ocean City High School proved to be a natural thing for the youngest varsity Raider. After all, he’s a Gunnels.Freshman quarterback Riley Gunnels with teammates before last week’s game at Carey Stadium.
Battersea-based gluten-free bakery Sugargrain has been awarded a prestigious bursary from MasterChef LIVE and the BBC Good Food Show Winter.As reported by yourlocalguardian.co.uk, founder Caroline Ahern entered the competition for the first time after opening her business a year ago.The winners of the bursaries are awarded the opportunity to exhibit for free at one of the shows.One of last year’s winners was Kate Jenkins from Gower Cottage Brownies. She commented: “Since winning the Producers Bursary Award at the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2010 I have seen a dramatic increase in both online sales and interest from wholesale stockists. “The award helped me, as an artisan producer, to take my products centre stage and direct to the customer on a scale I could never have achieved by myself.”Sugargrain produces gluten- and wheat-free cakes, and is due to showcase its products at MasterChef LIVE, which takes place at London Olympia this weekend (11-13 November).
In one of the final scenes of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” Darth Vader’s spacecraft is shot by Han Solo and spins out of control into the bleakness of space. Ohio State football was largely in that same situation of an out-of-control ride this past year, quickly trying to right ship after a year in which the school recorded its highest total of losses since 1897 and faced scrutiny amid NCAA investigations.The Buckeyes have answered the turmoil of the recent year with wrath, righting the ship like Vader did in “The Empire Strikes Back” to strike back at the rebels. All nerdy Star Wars references aside, one of the historical dominant powers in the Big Ten is very much basking in the sunlight after a year shrouded in darkness. Recovering from a 6-7 season in which the Buckeyes lost their last four games, including a Gator Bowl appearance against Florida, athletic director Gene Smith generated a whirlwind of change at Ohio State and in the conference with the hiring of Urban Meyer as the new head coach.If trends hold true, it looks certain that Meyer will lead the Buckeyes to success. Meyer took two lower-tier programs in Bowling Green and Utah at the start of his career and turned them around instantly. In a sport where winning is everything, Meyer’s combined 104-23 coaching record speaks for itself, including two wins in the national championship game and a 4-0 record in BCS bowls overall. Besides the stellar coaching record at different universities, an immeasurable part of Meyer’s aura as a recruiter and coach is the amount of NFL players he turns out every year. While Tim Tebow may be his most famous alum to date, Meyer has coached more than 30 players that currently play on Sundays.With a resume like that leading a program, it’s understandable why the Big Ten is recovering in shock from an odd set of recruiting circumstances. Meyer first played the role of vulture in his recruiting timeline after his hire, scooping up recruits out of the turmoil at Penn State, including one-time PSU commit defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (ranked No. 9 at his position by ESPN) and 5-star defensive end Noah Spence, who was once considered a lock to go to the Nittany Lions as well. Meyer ended up stealing away four potential PSU commits, but the Meyer effect wasn’t felt just in University Park, Pa.Wisconsin, unfortunately, felt the bumps and bruises of Ohio State’s new coaching addition with the de-commitment of four-star recruit Kyle Dodson. The 6-foot-6 offensive tackle originally gave a verbal commitment to Wisconsin, turning down an offer from Ohio State in June of 2011, before Meyer was announced as the new leader of the Buckeyes. Now, Dodson is just one of many recruits to spurn a former commitment to join the Meyer wagon train.The talk about Meyer violating some “gentlemen’s agreement” pertaining to recruiting in the Big Ten is irrelevant. Even if there is some unwritten rule in the conference about ceasing to pursue players after they verbally commit, it’s probably broken time and time again behind the scenes. It also doesn’t fit the situation of this year’s recruiting period. Many of the kids Meyer “recruited” had committed to other programs before major events occurred, i.e. Meyer’s signing as head coach. It’s hard to blame kids who didn’t want to play at Ohio State before he was hired; the Buckeyes had an interim head coach, ongoing NCAA investigations and a shabby record.Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was upset about the style of recruiting Meyer brought to the Big Ten this offseason, which is understandable. In a span where the Badgers looked to finally have a recruiting edge in the conference, Bielema endured a hectic recruiting stretch mired in uncertainty due to an exodus of assistant coaches and Meyer’s aggressive recruiting tactics. But eventually, far more aggressive recruiting tactics like that experienced in Meyer’s heyday in the SEC was bound to spill over into the Big Ten. The only reason it was so public was because of the large scale of commitment switches by recruits to Ohio State after Meyer’s signing and the media’s widespread publication of Bielema’s comments.Barry Alvarez went on record saying to ESPN, “Recruiting is recruiting until they sign. If we had somebody who changed their mind and came to us, that’s OK. Urban (Meyer) was very aggressive, but there is no pact within the conference not to continue to recruit. It’s open season until they sign.”It seems that any unspoken agreement on recruiting in the Big Ten has evaporated for the time being, especially since Bielema claiming the situation with Meyer was rectified.Meyer’s negative effect on recruiting for the rest of the Big Ten may yield fruits for the conference in the long haul. While the regional pull of Ohio State suddenly has become magnetic, the national recruiting appeal of a coach like Meyer could elevate the overall strength and prestige of the conference.For multiple years it has gone without question that the SEC is the dominant conference in college football. But if Meyer can rebuild Ohio State into the Ohio State University, the best players in the nation will come to play in the Big Ten, eventually bringing an exodus of talent away from the South and toward the Midwest and the conference as a whole. Conferences may rise and fall in power, but one of the best things for the Big Ten is the rebirth of Michigan and Ohio State from their ashes to solidify and increase the competition and overall strength of the conference. And playing the best players and coaches in the country can only make a team better.As for Wisconsin, the Badgers will have plenty of chances to prove their own prestige in the upcoming years against a premier coach like Meyer. The Badgers, and Bielema, need to focus on building their program to a level that will cast a large shadow on the Buckeyes and Meyer. The first step will come Nov. 17, when Meyer will get his first taste of Wisconsin and the Saturday hell-house that is Camp Randall. Is Wisconsin the new perennial power in the Big Ten, or will Ohio State unseat them to reclaim the throne and title it once held? Only time will tell, but it’s an offseason story line so thick and exciting that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could make a movie out of it … or at least a teaser for ESPN to play before the game.Nick is a senior majoring in history and english. Think Urban Meyer is a dirty, filthy, recruit-stealing mongrel who wants nothing more than to pillage Wisconsin recruits unfairly? Think Nick’s “Star Wars” references were terrible? Let him know at [email protected] or look for him in the sunless maze that is Humanities, where he usually writes his columns and has all his classes.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s prolonged poor form, successive ODI series defeats, a World T20 semifinal exit at home and Virat Kohli’s record-breaking run have sparked a hot debate in the country – should Kohli take over as captain of the limited-overs formats from Dhoni? (Virat Kohli forcing Mahendra Singh Dhoni into cricketing backwaters)Former team director Ravi Shastri had added fuel to the fire when he told India Today that Dhoni should now play under Kohli in one-day internationals and T20s. Dhoni has been found wanting with the bat and his tactics have, at times, seemed too defensive.But the selectors have decided to give Dhoni a long rope and gave him the option of going on the tour to Zimbabwe even as the other big stars were rested after a hectic, international schedule. Dhoni, for obvious reasons, said yes promptly and that decision found him answering several tricky questions ahead of the team’s departure. (Sourav Ganguly raises questions on MS Dhoni’s future as India captain)India play Zimbabwe in three ODIs and three T20s starting June 11. All six matches will be played in Harare. (Dhoni to lead India in Zimbabwe, uncapped Shardul Thakur in Test squad)TRICKY QUESTIONS FOR MSAsked for his opinion on the burning question of India’s ODI and T20 captaincy, Dhoni said it was a call that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had to take.”Any decision about captaincy is something that the BCCI will have to take,” he said at a pre-departure press conference in Mumbai today.advertisementDhoni had lost his cool with an Australian journalist, who had asked him what his future plans minutes after India had been knocked out of the World T20 by West Indies at the Wankhede.This time, perhaps humbled by a disastrous IPL campaign with he Rising Pune Supergiants, Dhoni was more poised and returned to his mundane, dry answers.The tour of Zimbabwe will be huge challenge for Dhoni, who is looking to reinvent himself after nearly a decade at the helm of Indian cricket. He remains the only captain in history to have won all three ICC events. But his recent failures have been cause for concern – Dhoni failed to get the team past the line in two back-to-back ICC events and oversaw series losses to Bangladesh, South Africa and Australia. POOR FORM HAUNTING DHONI Even when India snapped the losing streak with a historic triumph over Australia in the three-match T20 series, Dhoni’s own form continued to haunt him.Kohli meanwhile did his reputation no harm by leading India to Test series victories over Sri Lanka and South Africa.Many wondered how Dhoni would motivate himself for a low-profile series weeks after being involved in two high-octane tournaments. But the veteran saw no problems there and insisted that he was fit enough to deliver the results.”My biggest motivation is representing my country. I’m 35 now and I’ve to be very fit for the kind of work that I have to do,” he said.Dhoni will be the only regular in a squad of inexperienced players for the Zimbabwe tour. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kohli were rested so they could recuperate ahead of the Test series in West Indies next month.”I think the series will be a different experience for me, playing with some who will be playing for the first time,” Dhoni admitted.On prior tours of Zimbabwe, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were handed captaincy responsibilities while Dhoni took time off.