Sideline View by Dale McKee

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The National Football League Conference championships are set as the four best teams made the games this year. The New Orleans Saints held off the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles while the L.A. Rams dropped the Dallas Cowboys to set up the NFC Championship game Sunday in New Orleans between the Saints and the Rams. They met earlier in the year in the Crescent City with the Saints winning, 45-35. The AFC title game will feature the upstart Kansas City Chiefs hosting the New England Patriots. This is only the second time in the last dozen years that the top two seeds from each conference advanced to the conference title games. The winners will advance to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.

Pascagoula native and Brandon resident Sarah Thomas became the first female to officiate an NFL playoff game Sunday in New England. She started officiating in the MHSAA in 1999 and Conference USA in 2006 before making the leap to the NFL. She is the league's first full-time female official.

The Ole Miss Rebels are proving to a lot of the basketball experts that they are not the last place team in the SEC. The Rebels were picked to finish 14th in the preseason standings but last week beat No. 11 Auburn in Oxford, then traveled 93 miles to the south and upset No. 14 Mississippi State. The Rebels (13-2, 3-0), winners of ten straight games, will host both LSU and Arkansas this week. State (12-3, 0-2) had a bad week losing to both South Carolina and Ole Miss. They will host Florida and travel to Vanderbilt on Saturday night. Tennessee, South Carolina and Ole Miss are all tied for the SEC lead with 3-0 records.

In women’s play Ole Miss upset No. 16 Kentucky to record their first conference win of the season. Mississippi State downed a pesky Georgia team at home to improve to 15-1 entering Monday’s game at Auburn. The Lady Bulldogs (3-0) host South Carolina, who is 4-0 in the SEC, on Thursday in Starkville.

Meridian native Joni Crenshaw Taylor coaches the Georgia Lady Bulldogs. She was the 1997 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year playing for the Meridian High Lady Wildcats. Taylor played her college basketball at Alabama playing in two NCAA tourneys and two NIT’s during her four years.

The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (10-8, 2-3) won both their conference home games last week as they downed Middle Tennessee and UAB. The Eagles will travel to both Charlotte and Old Dominion this week. The Lady Eagles' losing streak reached five games as they fell on the road to both UAB and Middle Tennessee. The Lady Eagles (8-9) will be at home this week against both Charlotte and Old Dominion.

Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament and Century Club Charities gave a $1.25 million check to Batson Children's Hospital this past week. The total amount donated to Mississippi charities for the year from the Sanderson Farms tournament was $2.235 million. Since 2013, the tournament has raised $6.3 million for the children’s hospital.

Odds & Ends

Former USM baseball great Brian Dozier signed a one-year free agent contract with the Washington Nationals worth $9 million. Dozier must pass a physical before the contract can be official.

Alabama’s famous backup quarterback Jalen Hurts intends to transfer. His name was entered in the NCAA portal for transfer athletes. He has visited or will visit Oklahoma, Miami and Maryland. He will be eligible to play immediately since he graduated from the University of Alabama.

Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens has hired former USM head football coach Todd Monken to be the Browns' offensive coordinator.

The USM football Golden Eagles will play only five home games next year. They will host Alcorn in the home opener before traveling to Mississippi State, Troy and Alabama in succession. They will host four C-USA games and travel for four other games.

Contact Dale at ddmckee18@yahoo.com