Monday, September 21, 2009

Another Local Icon Passes On

Before we get to Saturday night's ISU football game with Weber State, I have to pass on my thoughts and prayers to the family of Jim Garchow (right), the Idaho Falls radio broadcaster who passed away Sunday morning after a battle with leukemia. Jim was one of the truly professional sports announcers I have met on any level. He broadcast minor league baseball and high school football and basketball in this area for 38 years, and was the general manager at KUPI radio station for 37 years. He was also a great friend.

I got to know Jim through his friendship with my former broadcast partner, Jim Fox. Fox and Garchow were good friends in Flagstaff, where Fox succeeded Garchow as the voice of the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Those two had some great stories to tell about those days together, and Fox later followed his good friend to Idaho when he purchased KWIK in Pocatello.

Garchow's daughter, Gina, was later my next door neighbor in Pocatello, after she married former Bengal linebacker Scott Berger. Berger, now the head football coach at Skyline High School, played on the Bengals' 1981 national championship team, and had a big interception against South Carolina State in the playoffs. Berger was an assistant coach at Poky when Fox and I broadcast the Indians' games in the 1980s, while Gina worked for Fox as traffic manager at his radio stations. Athletics frequently creates close-knit groups of friends, and we all enjoyed watching the Indians' play, then gathering together at a local watering hole to rehash the action. When the Indians were playing Skyline, Garchow was typically part of the conversation.

Garchow was also a close friend of country-western legend Waylon Jennings from their days working together in Arizona radio. It was not uncommon for Jennings to do a show in Jackson or Sun Valley, and then spend the weekend at the Garchow home in Idaho Falls. Finally, Garchow was also one of the longest surviving heart transplant patients in the country, having received a new heart back in the 1980s.

Despite losing a leg to the leukemia and seeing his health degenerate over the past several months, Garchow had a blessed ending to his life. He was able to complete broadcasting his last minor league season with the Idaho Falls Chukars on Labor Day, then listened as his grandson, quarterback Michael Berger, led the Grizzlies to a big win over Hillcrest Friday night before he passed away early Sunday morning. We'll miss you, Jim, the eastern Idaho sports scene won't be the same without you.

The Big Disappointment

For a game that started out so promising, there were so many disappointments in Idaho State's loss to Weber State in Ogden Saturday night: the lack of discipline that led to 15 Bengal penalties; the terrible special teams play that included another blocked punt, two long Weber State punt returns and no blocking to speak of for Bengal returners; and the key turnovers, especially Kyle Blum's interception and Stew Tracy's fumble, which led to key Wildcat scores.

Probably the biggest concern I left with Saturday night, however, was the continuing poor play of the Bengal offensive line, particularly in the running game. ISU came into the game averaging -13.5 yards per game in rushing, but we all knew a lot of that could be attributed to the competition in the first two games of the season: Arizona State and Oklahoma. Saturday night, however, ISU was lining up against a Weber State team that started two true freshmen at defensive tackle, then lost its best defensive end, Kevin Linehan, to injury in the second quarter. Ben Laporta was finally able to break off a couple of big runs during "garbage time" at the end of the game, but when Idaho State really needed to make Weber State honor the running game, they were unable to make it happen. ISU had just 29 yards rushing on 13 carries in the first half.

I'm frankly surprised by ISU's lack of production up front, because the Bengals return four starters from what was a serviceable offensive line last season. A lot of folks blamed ISU's poor run production last season on play calling or the lack of great speed in the backfield, and those certainly have to be considered factors. But the offensive coordinator is gone and the Bengals have added some weapons in the backfield, so those factors have been minimized. The offensive line is definitely going to have to pick up its play if Idaho State is going to be able to mount a consistent running threat.

Coaches Show Tonight

Jerry Miller and I will discuss the Weber game and the upcoming contest with Central Washington with ISU head coach John Zamberlin tonight at 6 p.m. on AM 930. Bengal kick returner JD Ponciano will also be our guest, and, as always, you can call in your questions to the coach during the show, or e-mail them to Jerry at Hope to hear from you all tonight.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.

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