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Let it fly: Cornhole goes big time

South Boston News
A large crowd gathered to participate in an ACL sanctioned event this past Saturday at the home of Gary and Jan Evans on Matthews Chapel Road, Lawrenceville. / September 23, 2020
The uniquely American game of Cornhole — or bag toss as it is also known — is rapidly growing in popularity in Southside Virginia. The American Cornhole League (ACL) has become a big part of the region’s sporting scene, also.

Most readers will be familiar with the game of cornhole: It is a favorite at tailgating parties, at barbcues, outdoor wedding receptions and the like. For those unfamiliar with the sport, a brief description is appropriate.

The game consists of either two (singles) or four players (doubles) tossing cloth bags filled with hard feed corn back and forth at boards that are spaced 27 feet apart on the inside and 35 feet to the back side. Boards are 24” x 48” and are generally made of plywood (for official play, only wood is accepted). The boards slope downward from back to front with the end furthest from the player being 12” high sloping downward to four inches on the end closest to the player. Each board has a six inch diameter hole, the object of the game being to toss the bags through the hole.

The area to either side of the “home” board where the contestant stands is designated as the “pitcher’s box.” If the player leaves the pitcher’s box during his throw, he or she commits a foul. Any time a foul is committed the bag tossed during the commission of the foul will be removed from play immediately.

Bags are approximately six inches square and are durable fabric filled with two cups of feed corn and should weigh between 14 and 16 ounces. Feed corn sheds dust which migrates through the fabric and coats the surface of the boards providing the necessary means of proper sliding of the bags.

Scoring is similar to horseshoes. Each player in either single play or doubles throws four bags, each round is known as an inning, alternately in turn. Bags that drop through the hole score three points and bags that end the inning resting on the board score one point. Each players score is tallied and only the difference is counted. The best possible throw consists of putting all four bags through the hole scoring potentially 12 points. This is known as a “four bagger”. Should each player complete a four bagger, there is no score and the game continues. Games are played to 21.

Holden Sykes, ACL regional director in the Atlantic Conference, said, “As regional director I’m certified to organize and hold regular ACL sanctioned events where players can accumulate points towards earning a bid to attend the ACL National Tournaments.” These national championship events have gained a nationwide audience in the past few years with broadcasts on ESPN’s suite of sports channels.

At a recent event held in Brunswick County, several ACL pro level players were on hand to compete. Frank Modlin, Matthew Morton, James Baldwin, Allison Heine, Mike Harvey, DJ Powell and Taylor Mustain participated in the event organized by Sykes.

“I’ve played cornhole for a long time,” said Sykes, “but when I was at a tournament a while back and saw the Frank Modlin walk in, well, I was a little star struck. After that I was hooked on competitive cornhole and that’s how my journey began.”

Sykes stays busy organizing two weekly events each week and then weekend tournaments nearly every weekend. On Monday nights, Sykes can be found at Gary Edwards shop at 755 Matthews Chapel Road, Lawrenceville and on Thursday nights tournaments are held at the Moose Lodge in South Hill.

This coming Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., there will be an important tournament held at the Matthews Chapel Road location and a large turnout is expected. This tournament will be the ACL Virginia State Championships and the winners in several different classifications will qualify to participate in the ACL National Championships to be held on Oct. 15-18 in Rock Hill, S.C.

Sykes finds it difficult to contain his enthusiasm for the sport. “I want everyone to know that we welcome players of all skill levels to come and compete and have some fun.” Of course, keeping up with such a rigorous schedule while holding down a full-time job (Sykes teaches and coaches at Park View High) requires help. Sykes’ team includes his wife Jackie. Sykes noted, “She keeps me straight on the paperwork and the financial side of things. I couldn’t do this without her.”

Sykes also recognized some other members of his team: Tyler Moore, Michelle Moore, Gary and Jan Edwards, Ryan Gittman and several others who have helped bring cornhole to the level it currently enjoys in our area.

For more information Sykes invites any interested parties to visit their Facebook page at “Southside Cornhole League” or to message Sykes directly on Facebook. Another option would be to just show up at an event pay your entry fee and play. It is a friendly atmosphere that can be enjoyed by all.

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