The 2017 “Chase for the Bobby” turned out a big ole’ fat bust for the ambiguous, 4-time champs, Bryan Hewitt and Jeff Dillard, at this year’s Franklin County Fair “Horseshoe Smackdown Showdown”. To seed the brackets, the 21st season took on a whole new format playing a round robin approach. However, Hewitt/Dillard was only able to post a mere 8-7 record in the best of three matches (.533 winning %=5th seed). Maybe this is a sign there’s trouble brewing in their horseshoe marriage?? This year’s champs, the self-pro-claimed “Tom Brady of horseshoes” and now the only 5-time winner of the Bobby Eiland Cup, Darren Haney,,,,partnered this year with first-time winner and long-time smackdown journeyman, Jeremy Kengla. They were able to grab the 1st seed going 11-4 in round robin play (.733 winning %). They met the current #9 power ranked team of Justin Couthren and Ronnie “Junior” Becker in the finals. Couthren/Becker had a real shot at the number one seed until they slipped up losing 2 of 2 games to the notorious, “B I G” Brown and “Don’t Call Me A Hatfield” McCoy in the final round. Instead, they finished 10-6 (.667 winning %). The 2015 “Bobby Champs”, Larry Harris and Bobby Kaempfe, grabbed the 3 seed going 9-6 in round robin play and tied with the 2010 champs, Danny Brown and Kevin McCoy who lost the head-to-head battle knocking them to the 4 seed.

In bracket play, Haney cooled down a little just as Kengla started to heat up as they rolled 2-1 over Brown/McCoy in the semi-finals. Couthren/Becker was able to hold off Harris/Kaempfe 2-1 setting up the battle of the tops seeds in the finals. In the first game, Haney/Kengla came out hot and took it easily with Kengla leading the charge. The second game however, was a total flip flop. Couthren/Becker won easily tying the match. In the rubber match, Kengla would not be denied as he had ice in his veins at this point, continuing to apply pressure with each throw down. It was this game that sewed up Player of the Year honors for Kengla as he finally got his first win on tour. Afterward, in his own words, “I feel like a boxer who just won his first professional fight.” This was Haney’s first win since he and long-time partner, Shane Hobbs won it in 2009. They finished second in 2014 and again in 2016.

When asked what happened or what’s next for Hewitt and Dillard, they didn’t have a whole lot to say besides they would go back to the basics of what made their duo such a success from the very beginning. They wanted to thank their fans first and foremost. They’re gonna start by updating their blogs, instagrams and facebooks and twitter pages. Rumor had it they had already posted a few pics and listed themselves as the 2017 champions so this needs to be corrected. Then they said they “we’re gonna go back and watch some old videos, read some old newspaper articles, maybe even line up all our old trophies and take a few selfies together,,,,,you know,,,,see how many “likes” we can get,,,smiley faces,,,,try to gain some self-confidence back. …anything we can do to mend our egos at this point. Then we’ll go back and work on some basic fundamentals like throwing one-pointers and trying to knockdown the basic leaner,,,,maybe even practice keeping the shoes in the pits and trying not to hit my partner or opponent in the shinbone. Just the basics. You know,,,break it back down. We’ll probably go back to our blue uniforms next year like we wore in 2016. We looked pretty rad last year matching and all…maybe we just got too hot in the black uniforms this year.”

As for Haney/Kengla in 2018, if “Team Twinkie” (Levi and Chad Jones), and Kyler Curbow and Scott Sharpe pulls another no-show,,,,we just might have another back-to-back champion on our hands. With the aforementioned no-shows, one thing was blatantly obvious this year, there sure was a whole lot less smack talk around the pits,,,,which in reality, has always been about 75% of their game anyways. Couthren/Becker are setting some pretty lofty goals for the 2018 season. They hope to once again be a bridesmaid and shoot for that runner-up spot as usual. Good luck men!

By Darren Haney