Steve’s Ramblings: We still need to be aware….. In my opinion, Alonzo Young is long gone

by Steve Dunford

From the dealings of this case this brought back a lot of memories.

I have always had an interest in law enforcement.  I used to not believe when people would tell me you would shrink when you get older.  The last time I was at the doctor I was 5′ 10″, the same height I was in the 8th grade.

My senior year I was 5′ 11 1/2.  I still round it off and list myself at 6′ on my state ID card.  I was listed at 6′ 1″ on the basketball roster in high school.

I told my height for this reason.  I wanted to be a state cop.  The academy would have frowned on that 1/2 inch I failed to grow.

I changed to an education major because I wanted to be a high school basketball coach.  At 47, I am still undefeated.

I love picking the mind of policeman.  I have three that I can call good friends that are cops.  Scott Isaacs, a recently retired Illinois State trooper.  Steve Flowers, who is an Illinois Secretary of State Policemen.  And Jimmy Emberton, (no his name is not Sanchez) who is a Zeigler Patrolman.

I got to church with retried state trooper Kenny Jones.  He is a deacon at Calvary.  I love when he tells me about his law enforcement days.

He tells me stories about someone who inspired me to consider law enforcement as a career, the late Don “Frog” Eubanks.  He would let me ride shotgun at times in his patrol car.

I had this long introduction to say this, following this story was right down my alley.

I had a pretty intense seizure Friday afternoon.  I was mad.  I was having to miss the Friday Night Lights.  Because of logistics, I cover West Frankfort every week.  I am in the Big Red Army now, but I write my stories so teams in the River-to-River can read about the other team as well.

One of the official mugshot’s shared, from WSIL Carolyn Cerda’s Facebook page.

Around 7:00p.m., I began to see Rumors on Facebook that three convicts escaped in West City.  There were a few rumors that McDonald’s was robbed.   I was noticing listening to the scanner that around 6:00 p.m. that something was going on and I did not know what.

I began to hear familiar names from my burger flipping days when I was in high school and college.   They have went very far working for the Morelands.  Then I heard West City Police was checking the security cameras on the scanner.

Around 7:30, I called WSIL-TV.  When you want to get the word out in Southern Illinois, Channel 3 is the best place.  I asked what was going on.   They said they didn’t know, but a reporter is on the way.

It was around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. that I was either tagged or one of my friends from Hardin County shared the convicts came up missing in Crittenden County KY and they were claiming they escaped in Franklin County.

This left me shaking my head.  I don’t plan on going in the prison transport business, but I would had a headcount before I left McDonalds, and one on the Cave-in-Rock Ferry.  I was wondering why the bus did not have security cameras.

One thought I had was why there were female prisoners on the bus.  A prison bus is not the place for mixed company.  I could imagine there was a lot of ” hootin’ and hollerin’.”

When they lost the prisoners, said it happened in  Southern Illinois, and did not notify authorities up here three hours later left me shaking my head.

There were individuals that were questioning the authorities silence. I have been a sportswriter for two years.  I am still green, I have been a newsman for less than a year.  I have learned when the cops is not talking, it is a reason.  I do not want to say anything that will hurt their effort.

Their top priority was finding out the safety of the employees that work around the stores in the immediate area.  I have been a sportswriter for two years.  I am still green, I have been a newsman for less than a year.  I have learned when the cops are not talking, it is a reason.  I do not want to say anything that will hurt their effort.

I am going to use a few Dukes of Hazzard references.  I was wondering whether Enos and Cletus were driving the bus.

Then there was a follow up Charles Kelly was on the loose in Marion KY, the Crittenden County seat.

He was captured Friday night.  The Crittenden Press, which is the local paper did an outstanding job covering this.   He was asking customers and employees in a convenience store where a motel was.  I guess he was going to steal the cash to stay the night.   I found this out Saturday morning.

I tried to follow up with the Crittenden County jail and the transport company I did not get anywhere with them.  There were a lot of people that where saying why do you keep taking about Kentucky?  I was told by several there were three people on the loose here not two.

I rarely comment on things that I post on the Franklin County News Facebook page.  I will comment on things on my personal Facebook page though.   I have been given the permission by the administrators from Talk Benton to share emergency information on the page.  It was confusing for me as well.

Sunday I did a lot of investigation on Randall Napier.  Someone took a screenshot of some information linking him to Red Fox KY, his hometown.  I tried to thank her for the post.  I was able to run with the information.

Red Fox is a spot in the road in the Appellations near the West Virginia line.  One thing I had to chuckle was that one of the closest towns to Red Fox was Hazzard.

Napier reminded me of the Duke Boys.  He seemed “like a good ol boy.  Never meaning no harm, beats all you ever saw, been in trouble with the law, since the day he was born.”  Reading through some charges, he seemed like he liked to run from “Rosco.”

There was nothing that was a major crime he committed.  He seemed like he could not stay out of jail.  He was a frequent customer of the county jails in Eastern Kentucky.

I came across he committed some crimes in Madisonville KY, which is 40 miles from Marion KY.  I wondered if he had a girlfriend there.  I wondered whether if it is where he was picked up.

I can’t understand the transport company not releasing the authorities where he was captured.  I tried make an attempt to get the magic question today.  They weren’t very nice to say the least.

I believe if it was in Franklin or the surrounding counties, the transport information would have coughed up the information immediately.

When Channel 3 dug up some information on Alonzo Young, he was the one that concerned me.  He has not been captured as far as I know.  We can’t let our guard down, but each day that goes by I seriously doubt he is in Franklin County.

Don’t think I am going to resort to a life of crime, especially have the experience of escaping.  This is a scenario. I would steal me a car, hotwire it, and get out of Dodge as fast as I could.

With no major crimes committed over the weekend here, I would say we can feel we are safe.  The incident in Whittington was definitely unrelated.

Other than calling the transport company today, I had a nice conversation with a Crittenden County Deputy.   I am wondering if the jail is a separate entity than the sheriff in Kentucky.  He described it as the same words that Scott Choisser did, “crazy and driving me nuts.”  He did not know Napier was captured.

I am dedicated to everyone to find out if Young is captured.  I have used Jim Rasor’s quote when severe weather happens, Don’t be afraid, be aware.

I just hope that if they never escaped in Franklin County, ever penny the West City and Benton Police departments, the Franklin County Sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police will be reimbursed by Prisoner Transport Company of the expenses occurred on this investigation.







Steve’s Ramblings: A Tirbute to Denny and Mike Steed

by Steve Dunford

When I was a kid when adults would tell me that time flies when I got older, I would never believe them.  There was something that happened ten years ago today that only seems like two or three years.  My hero of the faith passed away.  It was not a TV preacher or a professor of a bible college, it was a local preacher Denny Steed.

Denny Steed

Denny and his brother Mike passed away too soon.  They both left this life and went to their eternal home when both men were in their 50’s.  Denny had cancer, Mike had a fatal stroke.

I chose this title, because there is a Facebook page called A Tribute to Denny Steed, in which his son Derek is the administrator.  Several people were posting memories on there today.  Denny and Mike were inseparable, so I decided to tribute both of them today.

I am going to write this chronologically.  It was someone that I was around all my life.

In their early 20’s Denny and Mike helped their parents Bill and Irma run Steed’s Store in Thompsonville.  Denny was the butcher.  I think Mike’s role was a manager.  Denny’s wife Marsha, and Mike’s wife Jane were checkers along with long time employee Wanda Gunter.

Looking back I never wondered how they made any money.   They always opened up the soda machine for every kid in town when they were in the store.  The high school kids that worked there, anytime Bill and Irma was gone, (their parents) potato chips and cookies flew off the shelf.

I loved going to “the store” as a kid.  That is what it was referred to in Thompsonville.  Very few people called it Steeds.  Denny was quite the artist.  He knew I loved Peanuts.  He would draw me a personalized cartoon that was Charles Shultz quality. He was known for his on Christian Tracks, with the main character, Cannon Ball.

I used to have a security blanket when I was a toddler.  Denny and Mike would say, “Suck your thumb Linus.”  After I gave up the blanket, I would still fuss to bring it to the store so I could suck my thumb for them.

At the tender age of four they talked me into being a “country music star.”  The most requested songs were Behind Closed Doors and The Most Beautiful Girl by Charlie Rich, The Streak by Ray Stevens, and I Love by Tom T. Hall. Two Pepsi crates was my stage, and a 10 oz. soda bottle was my mic.

Denny and Mike being Denny and Mike

Every kid had to have a meat sticker.  When I was in kindergarten, a lot of us had our Steed’s Store stickers on.  I would sometimes fuss with my mom to let me go to the store and get a sticker from Denny.

Here is something else they pulled.  My great-grandma “Granny” (every person in Thompsonville called her that some would put Dunford after it) asked Mike or Denny if there was something she could get the men for Christmas.  There was a snow on and she did not want to go to town.  (Town meant you were going to Benton or West Frankfort, and once in a blue moon Harrisburg.)

They had a full case of Hai Karate aftershave and soap on a rope.  Those rascals cut her a good deal.  When I opened it, I felt like a man getting my first bottle of after shave.

My dad was on second shift.  After he left for work, mom my brother and I loaded up in the 1970 Nova we had at the time to go to town (Benton).  I had to go in the store to tell Denny and Mike what Santa Claus brought me.

They said, I see you got the cologne on that Granny got you.  Mike told me well in my adult life that I told them I would be shaving soon.   They busted out laughing telling me how “good” I smelled.

Around Pickle City my mom was hanging her head out the window my brother and I just put it plainly stunk.  We were allowed to go to Gibson’s to pick out some aftershave.  The Hai Karate bottles disappeared.

Reflecting back, I was in Kindergarten then.  The last day of school before Christmas my first grade year, their dad Bill came home for lunch.  We were having our school Christmas party and all the teachers were out in the hall crying.  Bill had a massive heart attack and passed away.  The funeral was on Christmas Eve.

At that time I think Denny might have been pastoring the Akin Baptist Church.  Mike was the song leader at Thompsonville First Baptist Church.  They both made a good evangelistic team as Denny would preach and Mike would lead the singing.

Mike went off to College at William Jewell, and might have gone on to seminary at Midwestern, both in Kansas City.  Denny soon would take the pastorate at Woodlawn First Baptist Church.  I am unsure that he went off to bible college or not.

Denny went on to pastor the Ten Mile Baptist Church of McLeansboro, East Benton Baptist Church, Dahlgren Baptist Church, Lebanon Baptist Church near Mt. Vernon, and he was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Galatia when he passed.

Mike was the music director and later the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wayne City, Director of Missions of Salem South Baptist Association, a staff ,ember of Logan Street Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, and was the pastor of  the New Hope Baptist Church northwest of Mount Vernon.  I might have missed a few.

Mike also had a hand in the inception of 90.9 The Vine, a Contemporary Christian station in Wayne City.  He was part of the morning show crew.  He had to ad-lib most of it and he was hilarious.

When I was the pastor of East Side Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, Mike would do stand up comedy at the association pastor Christmas parties.  Compared to Denny he was the straight one.  There was nothing greater in my adult life to run into them when they were both together.

Mike was hilarious when he preached, Denny was to, but he was more of a “Hell fire and brimstone” preacher.  Mike always said oh glory, Denny well glory.

Denny Called himself a “Bapticost.”  He would cut loose and preach for over an hour at times and it seemed like ten minutes.  It was hard, pulpit pounding, preaching.  He wasted his time taking his King James Bible to the pulpit because he could quote most of it,

The “Bapticost holding a revival in Savannah GA in 2004.

Both of them were my heroes of the faith.  This is why, they were for real, and they lived it.  Because of that, they lived it.  When I first started preaching, I used to say if only I could be like Denny.  I realized Denny was Denny, and Steve is Steve.  I have been accused myself of being a “Bapticost” at times.

One of the reasons I am a Southern Baptist, is I heard Denny Preach on the doctrine of the security of the believer out of Ephesians 1.  He took a home made jar of pickles to the pulpit.  He was showing how hard it was to get it off.  He said that Christ went to the cross to die for our sins one time. As a 16 year old, I dug into the Word of God, and that is why I believe that way.

As Denny passed from death unto life ten years ago today,  it was a bittersweet day.  I hated to lose him, but I know he was in a place where there was no more pain and suffering.

At both Denny and Mike’s funereal, the ones that went through the line was in the thousands.

Ten years later, after his death, there are people still talking about Denny.  That is the legacy you want to leave behind.

From the things that I have been through in life, I probably wont have a lot of goods in this world.   I have came to the realization the most important thing, is how many lives you have touched.

Both of these men had a great impact on mine.  I will see them again some day.





Max Lucado: Las Vegas shooting – After this tragedy, can we still find calm in chaos?

(Max Lucado – Fox News.  Please click on the link for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.

Our nation is reeling from yet another national crisis. On Sunday more than 50 innocent lives were taken and thousands were put in danger while attending a country music concert in Las Vegas.

As we watch the horrifying images on television news reports with our hearts breaking, what if we stopped and asked ourselves a question? What can I do to make a difference? So many of these situations are out of my control, but are they out of God’s control? Does he want me to panic or ask me to pray? Is there a way to find calm in the chaos, strength in the strife?

One thing is sure: It is not God’s will that you lead a life of perpetual anxiety. It is not his will that you face every day with dread and trepidation. He made you for more than a life of breath-stealing angst and mind-splitting fear. And he made you to be a voice of peace in a wild, worry-wart world.

Steve’s Ramblings: Hug The Ones You Love Tighter Today

by Steve Dunford

I woke up around 4:00 a.m. this morning.  It was probably a quarter till five that was online for the first time this morning.

One of the first things that I do when I get on line in the morning is go to Facebook and Twitter.  I have nearly a hundred news sources in my feed.

I began to see reports of the tragedy in Las Vegas this morning.  I went to their local paper to provide a link.  I don’t remember what the national media outlets told what the death toll was but they were reporting 20 people dead and 100 injured.

This picture really moved me today. This girl I assumed was a teenager was hugging either a dog or a stuffed animal after the tragedy last night. (John Locker, AP Photo)

Fox News has been on in the background all day.  I had to shut it off for a few minutes and I turned it back on.   We as a nation are facing the biggest tragedy since 9/11.  At the last count fifty-eight people did not come back to their loved ones.  At this time there are 515 injured.

At this time, no one has any motive why the  sniper Stephen Paddock to snap.  There have been claims and even an AP report the hideous action was caused by terrorism.  There are reports that he is squeaky clean.  No matter the motive, it will not bring back lives.

It takes months and even years to get a Suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel.  It blows my mind how someone could take several lives like that.

With every tragedy, you hear acts of heroism.  One that stick out is from the LA Paramedic that was treating individuals, the off duty cops who came to the rescue and individuals who stepped up to help.  There were police that lost their lives serving as human shields.  There was a man from Tennessee who shielded his wife and took bullets for her.

These passages of  scripture came to my mind today:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13)

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (James 4:17)

There were people who laid down their lives that did not know the individuals they died for.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan,  our neighbor is everyone.

I did not know anyone who was injured who lost their life last night.  I have all kinds of emotions from sadness to anger.

I watched a news story about an hour ago.  It was from a District Attorney from a county in Nevada.  He was in the VIP section of the concert.

He was talking about his escape and how life was flashing before his eyes, thinking about his girls.  He was saying just five minutes before there were police that were joking and kidding with them all.  He said seeing them go into action in short time was great to see.

This is a time in this country we put our political feelings aside.

We never know what tomorrow brings.  I am sure that all of those that went to the concert, it was the last thing they thought would happen.  That is why we need to tell our love ones that we love them, and hug them tight tonight.  In addition, we need to live every day to the fullest.




Steve’s Ramblings: In defense of Murphysboro High School

by Steve Dunford

MURPHYSBORO, IL – Those who know me well, know that I feel strongly about the National Anthem situation in the NFL.  I have watched my last game until things change.  This is coming from someone the world would stop on 16 Sunday afternoons per year.

I did not realize the Red Devils did not come out for the Anthem until after the game was over.

There is a strong possibility it was played by the band early.  It caught Rick Westemeyer by surprise.  If you noticed there was not a starting lineup either.

Murphysboro AD Len Novora, had everything drawn out to a T.  One thing that was going on WINI was having trouble getting the broadcast on the air.  There were school officials that were checking into it, as they rely totally on internet streaming for their broadcast.

I think with them not taking the field tonight was a logistics issue, instead of a protest.

After Coach Gary Carter met with his team tonight, the entire Murphysboro coaching staff knelt and repeated the Lord’s Prayer together in unison.  Afterwards, on of the assistants thanked God for a hard fought game and no one was hurt.

After I asked Coach Carter a couple questions, I was able to talk to him about the staff praying.  He told me there was ridicule, but they will keep doing it.  I told him the Lord will protect them, and keep doing it.  It is something that we need more in our society than less of it.

From the conversations and the posts from West Frankfort fans on Social Media, I totally understand what it appeared like tonight.  If I felt it was a protest, I would be the first one to be upset.  This is not a scolding, I just don’t think things were as they appeared.

I got home at midnight.  I could not wait to get home to put together the story of one of the most bizarre high school football games that I ever witnessed, and I have been to a lot of them over the years.  It might just have to wait until morning.   I forgot to set my DVR for Sports Extra, and I will be digging scores up on Twitter.

I just hope this cleared some things up.  Please share this.





Steve’s Ramblings: One phone call caused havoc for a lot of people today

by Steve Dunford

This morning, I realized the callinh for this stage of my life is to be a “newsman.”  I have always been a news, weather, and sports hound, but English was my weak academic area in school, so journalism was not a high priority life choice for me.  I have a long way to go, but I see improvement in my writing everyday.

I had a rough night physically.  When I woke up this morning and looked at the clock and it said 9:21, I went into a panic.  Half asleep still, I get online.  The first few posts were about a bomb threat at the Franklin County Courthouse.

I began to piece a few things together.   When there is an emergency situation like this, the first source I go to is WSIL-TV’s website.  There was nothing as of yet.  I troll around and piece some information together.   I call the newsroom at Channel 3 and share the information that I have.  I was talking to Kevin Hunspberger, and he then said we have crews heading to Marion and Benton.  He told me there is something going on at the Williamson County Courthouse as well.

I began to piece information from other sources.  One of the biggest surprises since I have started this is how media sources talk among ourselves.  One of my favorite all time movies is Anchorman.  I figured it would be like Ron Burgundy and Wes Mantooth trying to beat the other to the scene.   Soon I will enter my third year of covering high school basketball.  I was also amazed how much coaches talk among themselves.

During any type of emergency situation, there is a lot of adrenaline flowing in me.  When there is loss of life, the sadness will crash upon you after all the information is shared .  I have covered a few bomb threats now, and after the adrenaline wears off, I am flaming mad.

It was not as bad as the stormy Sunday night a few months ago the idiot called in a bomb threat at Franklin Hospital  a few months ago, but when anytime taxpayer resources and manpower or wasted on stupidity, it gets under my skin.  I know idiot and stupid are words that are not politically correct by some, but I have never had an accusation of being PC in my lifetime.

In situations like today, there is a greater than a 99% chance it is a hoax.  The times when the chance is less than one percent is why you have to take things seriously.

Until the seriousness of the other allegations that were brought against the one that called the threats into Sesser-Valier School,  I was thinking it would be someone that wanted to get out of going to school, work or in this instance today court.

The employees of every county office in two counties was affected today.  From comments on social media, it sounds like both counties had court today.

Police, fire and EMS from several departments were tied up.  The resources that were unnecessarily used went all the way up to the department of defense.  There were several individuals that were tired from working a wreck on I 57 last night.   What if there was another accident, a major fire, or some other type of emergency in the county?  Resources would have been tied up by one caller’s needless nonsense.

When the local economy hurts, we all hurt.  Consider the teller that works at Peoples National Bank that might have lost a few hours pay.  What about the local businessmen and his employees that runs an antique shop on the square and his employees?  What about the waitress at one of the three restaurants on the square that might have lost needed tip money today for their family?

I am sure businesses suffered in a few block perimeter of the square because of this.  To the caller, or the ones on social media that made smart comments or hit the ha ha button on the posts, I have a sense of humor, and it is a warped one at times.  I don’t think it is very funny.  As one of the administrators of’s Facebook page, that is a quick way to do a disappearing act.

I just hope the caller knows what type of fear he or she caused.  I have pinch hit in the classroom over my life to supplement my income from a full time job, or there have been times even that was my only source of income.  I have never been through a bomb threat in a leadership position, but I have been through severe weather events and lockdowns in the classroom.

You might be saying Steve, today it was adults.  As a supervisor in past positions, I have been trough severe weather events and two minor fires in my places of employment.  After the building was evacuated, I checked my employee roster over and over to make sure everyone was out.  It is stressful to say the least.

When I found out the call was a 911 that came into the West Frankfort Police Department that caused the evacuations, I was thinking to myself, unbelievable.  Then I thought of when the late Paul Harvey told a story about someone who held up a bank, and wrote the note on one of his deposit slips.

If it was someone that wanted to miss court today, I was thinking the charges you will be facing now will be much steeper.

This was one that I had to get off my chest.  There was going to be some ramblings today on a different subject.  You will have the opportunity to read them in a few days.  It has been a busy day so far for me, and I have a long way to go.  I have nine coaches to contact and some other things to do as well.

Thank you all for placing confidence in me as a source of information in events like today.






Guest Editorial: Bryant Urges Governor to Veto HB 40

by Terri Bryant, State Representative, 115th District (R-Murphysboro)

Toward the end of last April, as the budget impasse was dragging through its second full year, I rose on the House floor to voice my total opposition to a bill that would vastly expand access to elective, taxpayer-funded abortions. The bill in question was HB 40, sponsored by Democrat State Representative Sara Feigenholtz of Chicago. During a more than hour-long debate on the bill, many of my House Republican colleagues joined me in speaking forcefully against the bill. We cited our faith in God, our love and compassion for the unborn, and the potential burdensome financial cost to the taxpayers of the State of Illinois as our main reasons for opposing the bill.

My opposition to HB 40 also goes to the core of my faith. I believe a life begins at conception and no one has a right to take that life. The sponsors of HB 40 routinely introduce legislation and support bills to use Medicaid dollars to help the most vulnerable among us. The same value set that drives those votes does not square with using Medicaid dollars to terminate the lives of the weakest, most helpless, and vulnerable of those among us, the unborn.

Under questioning from House Republicans on the House Floor that day, Representative Feigenholtz confirmed that HB 40 does in fact seek to expand the use of Medicaid to pay for elective abortions. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) has estimated that if the bill is signed into law, it could result in an extra $60 million of Medicaid spending to cover the costs related to abortive procedures per year. This added cost would come at a time when Illinois has its first budget in more than two and a half years, and while we currently still have $16 billion in unpaid bills.

The bill’s sponsor also admitted that the measure allows women to choose abortions for any reason, during any stage of pregnancy. If they happened to be a Medicaid recipient or a State employee covered under the state’s group health insurance plan, that would mean HB 40 would make taxpayer funded abortions available on demand. The sponsor also admitted that the bill would allow for taxpayer funding of partial birth abortions as well.  I cannot in good conscience support this attempt to expand Illinois taxpayers’ already heavy financial burden to fund this barbaric practice.

Despite our objections, HB 40 passed both the House and Senate. During that time, a spokesperson for Governor Rauner publicly declared that the Governor intended to veto the bill. After that statement was made, an immediate hold was placed on the bill by the Senate sponsor.
On Monday of this week, State Senator Don Harmon released the parliamentary hold that had been placed on HB 40. The bill has now been sent to the Governor. The Governor has 60 days to either sign the bill or veto it.

I have implored Governor Rauner to veto HB 40 in its entirety. He had previously assured me and my House Republican colleagues that oppose the bill that he would in fact veto the measure. The purpose of this editorial is to both educate the people of my district on the moral and financial pitfalls of HB 40, and to once again publicly call on Governor Rauner to issue a total and complete veto of this bill.

Steve’s Ramblings: Let some Franklin County men lead us by example

by Steve Dunford

From the West Frankfort Fellowship of Christian Athletes Facebook page.


This morning I wanted to say something, and prayed very hard about how to say it.  I know I posted a near identical picture on Saturday from Tabor Field last year, but this one from Johnson Field is, more timely than ever.

If I ever get carpal tunnel it probably will not be sitting at the keyboard.  It will be from my behavior on Sunday afternoons.  Yesterday, I had plans of flipping from the Steelers-Bears, Cardinals-Pirates, and the NASCAR race.

When I read on the crawl on NBC Sports Network, stating  the Steelers stayed in the locker room, I had a sick feeling in my stomach.  I watched one drive of their game.  Immediately that was the last.  It could be the last time I watch a drive in the National Football League.

Pittsburgh OT Alejandro Villanueva in the tunnel at Soldier Field yesterday, was the only Steeler on the field for the National Anthem. (AP photo)

God bless Army Veteran Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburg Steelers, for going out of the locker room and standing in the tunnel for the National Anthem.

I was going to see what the Packers did, it was the locking arms on the sideline.  I am done with them too.  Until some things change, Football only exists on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Watching the NFL on fall and winter Sunday afternoons is something that I have spent over 40 years doing.  This is coming from someone when they were about in the third grade, that I was only allowed to wear my Terry Bradshaw jersey to school only once a week.  My mom was afraid the other mothers and teachers would talk that it was not washed.  That Christmas I had my picture taken in our laundry room with a Nerf football rolling out of the pocket.

We are a nation that is divided like never before in all areas.  I am a conservative without apology.  With the way we are fighting each other, we are playing into the hands of North Korea and our other enemies.

We are a nation of free speech, yes.  What gripes me is the lack of respect that is shown.  These are men that have the opportunity to make seven figures for an average player, and eight for a superstar, a game 16 Sunday’s a week not counting the playoffs and preseason to play a game.

There is very few families in this country that in their ancestory, that some where down the line, that someone has not given their life for this country.  Mine is James Dunford, who would have been my great uncle.  He was shot down and gave his life in World War II.

It is with great pride the American Legion post in Thompsonville is named after him.  Men will travel from all over Southern Illinois to join the post, because it does not have a bar.

What offends me is the men like my great uncle, and the men and women that friends of mine that have served, showing disrespect for a flag that blood was shed for them to have an unimaginable life style to play a game.

After the game Saturday I was tallying up stats etc., and I missed the men, and yes they showed they were men and not boys praying on the field again this year.

It is an honor each for me to write about each young man that took the field, as I cover both Benton and West Frankfort.  I wish that I can make more trips to Benton, but there will be a day that I will.

I had a few ask me at church last night that what I thought.  I said Benton played their best game of the year, and it just was not the Redbirds day.  I also said when you play a lot of sophomores and juniors at the skill positions, there will be growing pains.  I said if both teams played ten times, they would likely be 5-5 each.

Yes it is a big time rivalry.  Things were a little chippy at times, there were personal fouls each way.  That is just part of competition.

Kneeling for the National Anthem only divides, kneeling in prayer heals.

Being on our knees and having an almighty God be merciful on us will heal the divide, will heal the anger, and will heal the broken hearts of individuals.

I know the term “snowflake” gets passed around a lot.  There are sometimes an old geezer “get off my lawn” mentality rises up in me at times.  I said in my last column, this generation is special because of their hunger and thirst for spiritual things.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

I said earlier these were men.  As I am on the 50 side of 40 now, in my eyes high school kids now look like 12 year olds, from what I saw ten years ago. never understood over the years how grandparents could pinch the cheeks of teenagers and call them their babies.  As days go by, I more than understand now.  There might be a day that I look at my grandchildren through a 70 year old’s eyes and see them as a baby.

Men has tried to figure out answers and solutions to problems over the years.  We need to all take the example of between 50-100 Franklin County teenagers.  Here is the answer to all of life’s problems:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)










The Benton-West Frankfort rivalry from mostly an outsiders point of view

by Steve Dunford

When I was wondering what to say here, I thought of both teams with the some of the coaching staff on the outside, kneeling and having prayer after last year’s game at Tabor Field.

I have watched this rivalry from the outside most of my life.  Since I moved to West Frankfort, this will be the third Benton -West Frankfort football game that I will be as an “insider”.

I thought of this picture a lot this week.  I was thinking if only a few that are no longer in the area could see this picture.  I was in a group of pastors eating breakfast when I pastored the Logan Baptist Church.  Mainly it was pastors  from outside of the area, and a few locals were asking everyone to pray that either Benton and West Frankfort consolidate or be in different conferences, because the rivalries “were hampering the Great Commission.”

I spoke up and I did not use a lot of tact and said,  You all just don’t understand high school sports in this region.  It would be foolish for schools six miles apart to quit playing each other.  It is a hundred year old rivalry.  On top of that there have been aged old rivalries there from back in the South Seven days with Harrisburg and Herrin.

Someone them mumbled, sports is your God, but I had a lot of the naysayers listening.  I just hope 15 years later one of those that suggested their prayer request could see both teams kneeling at the 50 yard line, after Benton pulled out a nail biter last year.

In Franklin County there are three rivalries still alive.  Christopher/Sesser-Valier, Thompsonville/Galatia and the grand daddy of them all Benton/West Frankfort.

For several years now, which is starting to be called rivalry week across Southern Illinois now C-Z-R and S-V-W-W would play on Friday night, and Benton and West Frankfort play on Saturday.  I have partaken of watching all four teams in that weekend.

Pinckneyville and DuQuoin, Eldorado and Hamilton County, and Carmi-White County and Fairfield also meet on this weekend.

I still call this the Turkey Day game that both teams forfeited their chance to go to the IHSA playoffs for years to play on Thanksgiving.  Correct me if I am wrong, but the game ended in the 1980’s I believe.

I was always fascinated with the Turkey game.  I only had the opportunity to see the second half from Tabor Field once.  I would always have a radio on in my Grandpa’s den listening to it.  Sometimes I would flip between Ron Head and Art Smith.

Over time I settled listening at the time to Ron Head and his color man Bobby Blondi on, what was then, WQRX.  Over time I became fascinated with the Rangers.  (I just hope I get a udeman Stevie for mentioning Ron Head.)

There was one year in high school though I hung around West Frankfort a lot, because a girl was involved.  Most of the time though,  though the high school years, I would talk smack between the two.  My buddies and I would sat on the side that we thought were the favorites.  If an upset was brewing, we would switch sides at half time.

Even after I moved to the west side of the county, I would try to go to as many Benton/WF games in football and basketball as I could.

Rivalries, as a whole, are not as intense as they used to be.  When rival teams would meet there was some tension.  The record books could be thrown out, and they flat out did not like the opposition.  Things would get quite chippy at times.

I would always here the old timers say when there was a T’ville/Galatia game there was always a special train that ran that night.  When one team arrived at the depot, the other one was waiting on them to fight.

I have heard it was from the IHSA, or that it was an agreement between both schools, but I can remember when Galatia and Thompsonville started playing again in the late 70’s.  Crab Orchard took their place in the meantime and with Galatia, Thompsonville and Crab Orchard in the same conference things get interesting at times.

I have heard people over the years say that if two old men would play checkers, one from Benton and one from West Frankfort, it would draw a crowd.  I also heard the expression that if two tom cats, one from Benton and one from West Frankfort fought in 18 bottoms, there would be a crowd as well.

Over the years I never heard the late voice of the Redbirds, Bruce A. Fasol, utter the word Benton out of his mouth.  It was the team six miles to the north.

Tomorrow, as I used to in High School, I will be stirring it up a little bit both ways.  There was a lot of mouthing going on last year about having a Thompsonville shirt on, and a Christopher hat.

You will see me in a T’ville shirt again tomorrow.  I might just stick the Christopher hat on too.  I have less motivation though, since the kiddo graduated.

There were rumors the plate was being passed in the visitors bleachers last year to buy me a Redbird shirt.  Dave Severin also said I needed some Benton stuff.  I told him that he could go down the road two blocks and give me some if he wanted me to have some that bad.  He decided then I could go without the maroon things.  I did walk away with a Dave Severin for State Representative shirt.

A former Redbird, and now Benton girls basketball coach Andy Sloan grilled me an awesome cheeseburger last year.  Someone sent some polish sausage to the press box to Travis Severin and Justin Wyant, and I ended up swiping some.  They were very good as well  I need to sample some WF tailgate food to see whose is the best.  By the way, I will be sitting in my usual spot, top row,  north of the press box.

The mouthing and bantering back in forth is all in fun.  Politics, the Cubs-Cardinals, and a high school sports rivalry is nothing to lose friends over.

The reasons rivalries are not as intense anymore?  The lines are blurred.  From social media a lot of kids from other towns have made lasting friendships with each other.  Second, with travel ball, some of the kids are team mates in other sports.

In the county, I feel Sesser-Valier and Waltonville co-oping in a lot of sports as well as Christopher and Z-R, the rivalries between these schools have died down.

Also, this generation coming up is special.  They are a lot better kids than my generation.  That is why after a very hard fought football game, they could kneel and give all honor and praise to Jesus Christ together at the 50 yard line.




Coach Jerry Kill: One of my heroes in life

by Steve Dunford

I have struggled whether or not to write this or not.  I am going to get a little personal here.

If there was not Jerry Kill, I am confident that McAndrew Stadium would have succumbed to the wrecking ball.  Not because Saluki Stadium was built, it would have been SIU would have dropped football.

Coach Kill on the sidelines during his tenure at SIU.

During his nine year tenure, I kept a very close eye on Saluki Football.  I went to at least one game a year.  It was great to see the program at the top of the heap of the Gateway Conference (now the Missouri Valley football conference) as well as being one of the top programs in division 1-AA.  (I still call it that)

He is my hero not because of his rise from Emporia State, to Southern Illinois, then he landed his first D1 job at Northern Illinois then Minnesota, went to the athletic office at Kansas State, and now he is back in the Big 10 as Rutgers offensive coordinator.

As an alumnus, I take pride in the coaches that have advanced in their coaching careers after leaving Southern Illinois.  I root for Purdue in basketball because of Matt Painter.  It is still a sore spot after the Fighting Illini fired Bruce Webber.  I now root for K-State.

I shared his impressive résumé of his coaching career.  The reason why he is my hero?  We both suffer from seizures, only a different type.

He is diagnosed with epilepsy.  For a few years they thought I had it.  My seizures are migraine induced, from the result of a moderate stroke I had back in 2010.

Talking with a lot of men over the years, they tell me there is a time their heart gets softer.  This usually occurs after a mid life crisis, which I believe all men go through at a certain extent.

This could also be from all of the things that I have gone through neurologically, but I tear up at the drop of a hat.  On my walk here other day, I came up on a kitten that was ran over.  It brought tears to my eye immediately.  There was no one around in the houses I came up on.

The day he had his last seizure on the sidelines, I noticed it on the crawl below, as I was working on the website, and when the crowd would get loud, I would stop and watch a few plays.  I am secure in my manhood to admit it made me cry.

His latest seizure is not like anything in the past, and he was calling plays from the sidelines.  Here is a link from New Jersey Online with the story.

I have only shared this with my pastor Lloyd Whittaker and his wife Karen one Sunday night after church.   At one time they held season tickets for SIU football and basketball.  We got on the subject of when Coach Kill had the first seizure on the sidelines against ISU.  It was a blowout and they left early.  As soon as they got to their vehicle, they heard Mike Reis tell about it and the longtime voice of the Salukis was shook up.

I told them this story that night and I have not shared it with anyone else.

There was one Saturday afternoon, I was feeling very rough and just got out of the hospital.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was watching a Minnesota game on the Big 10 Network.  It hit me if Coach Kill can go on you can to.

That was one event in several that had me change my mindset.  I lost a vision for my life.  I thought this is it.  My life is going to consist of the only thing I can be is a couch potato watching TV.

The day my license was pulled I thought life was over.  I have adjusted.  I shared this in another column a few months ago.

Anything you face, the Apostle Paul said his (Jesus) grace is sufficient.  If you do not have a vision for the future, you are living and not existing.

I am going to share a couple of verses that talk about vision

Proverbs 29:18  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

Have you a vision, do not deter form what the truths are in God’s word.  This is were true happiness comes from, following God’s plan for your life.

When you have a vision write it down,

Habakkuk 2:2  And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.

You know who will be reading that vision, it is you.  I have wrote several down on yellow legal pads at first.

Here are a couple visions that I have.  First, is to have short podcasts that I would put online interviewing local coaches, which is a need around here.  The only coaches that are interviewed in the county on a weekly basis are Ron Winemiller and Bob Pankey.  It would not be a show, it is something that will be posted online 24-7.

The next is one day I plan on writing a book.  When you are limited on what you  accomplish, it robs you of your manhood.  It is something that is impossible to totally understand if you have not been there.

The basis of the book will be encouragement not to give up and don’t let it destroy you.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The turn around in my life started that afternoon by seeing Coach Kill on the sidelines.  That is the reason he is one of my heroes in life.