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By Roger Hornback / Special to the Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
I wrote a short item for this morning's paper about this, but I thought I'd use the blog to go into a little more detail. The headline here is that Ridgeview and Hanford, the consensus top two teams in the section (though Division I teams Clovis, Fresno-Bullard, Clovis West and Stockdale might have something to say about the Hanford part of that statement), were at least in talks to play a second game on Saturday at an MLK showcase at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.
That game isn't going to happen, as you might have heard. The popular narrative from other media reports has been that Ridgeview backed out of the already-scheduled game because of a school dance, though none of those reports that I've seen actually included any comment from Ridgeview. It took me a couple of days, but I got a hold of Wolf Pack coach Michael Martin, who unsurprisingly had his own side to the story.
Here's the background: Ridgeview had defeated Hanford 73-47 on Nov. 30, but LeRohn Dodson, the showcase organizer, thought he could provide his event with a marquee matchup by pitting the two schools against each other again. Hanford coach Tom Parrish told Dodson his team would participate, but only if the Bullpups got to play Ridgeview. The Wolf Pack's November victory had snapped Hanford's 97-game in-section winning streak.
So with the OK from Parrish, Dodson approached Martin (according to Martin, this was right around the New Year) and asked if he was interested in bringing his team. Intially, Martin said, he told Dodson the Wolf Pack didn't have a game scheduled on Jan. 26 and that he was interested but needed to check with his athletic director.
A week or so later — still more than two weeks before the event — Martin, who is an off-campus coach, realized that Ridgeview's winter formal dance was that night. When Dodson texted him on Jan. 8, Martin replied that he wasn't sure his team could make it but that if he could bring most of his top players, he would still play. Two days later, Martin realized that several more players, including star Erica McCall, had committed to the formal and wouldn't be able to play. He texted Dodson and told him he couldn't make it.
Martin said he briefly considered accepting an early game against Hanford, but the event's earliest time slot was 2:30 p.m., and that would leave very little time for his players to get back to Bakersfield from Visalia and get ready for the dance. Martin said Ridgeview athletic director Kevin Sneed also told him he believed it was important that the team's seniors were allowed to participate in the formal.
Dodson's story is different in one important way: He says his feeling was that Martin had fully committed to the game a month ago, though Dodson also said he holds no hard feelings towards Martin, whom he believes was genuinely caught off-guard by the dance. Whatever the case, Dodson began to publicize the event with Hanford-Ridgeview as the primetime matchup.
Martin said he again texted Dodson on Jan. 16, last Wednesday, to confirm that Ridgeview wouldn't play, at which point Dodson replied, "You kind of messed up our main game, but what can you do?"
What Dodson did is pit Fresno-Edison against Tulare Western in the 7:30 p.m. time slot. Two good teams, to be sure, but hardly the marquee matchup that could have been.
As a final note: Martin said he was in no way dodging Hanford, even though the Wolf Pack had won the teams' first meeting. He said he'd welcome a game against the Bullpups — on the condition that Hanford comes to Bakersfield to play.
"We already played them in Fresno, where it was mostly their fans, and beat them," Martin said. "But I'll challenge anybody. If (Parrish) wants a game at Ridgeview before the end of the year, we'll find a date and I'll give him a game."