Exciting area games highlight 2007-08 athletic seasons
WORTHINGTON -- With the completion of last week's state track and field meet, another year of high school sports -- with the exception of this week's state baseball tournament -- has been successfully "tucked into the past."
Yes, the events and memories of the '07-08 school year will be recalled months, years and decades from now, as fans, players, coaches and officials remember the highs and lows of another year of area competition.
Starting last August with the opening of cross country, volleyball, football and girls' tennis practices, the "new" high school sports year began -- and a few weeks later, the fall season began with meets, matches and games.
While this column will not attempt to highlight all of the accomplishments of area athletes and teams in their pursuit of success, I will recall some of the best memories that I have from the past year -- as a reporter, as a fan, and as a coach.
After many hours of working on football previews for the paper's special football tab, my "on-the-scene" reporting year began with the chance to "cover" the Little Sioux Conference football season-opener between rivals Fulda and Murray County Central. On a warm night in Fulda, the Rebels broke open a close game with a strong second half rushing attack.
Enthusiasm was high at Fulda, as the Raiders looked to improve after not winning a game in '06. That improvement was evident throughout the season, as "football fever" struck the Raiders when the team qualified for the playoffs and a fan bus was needed for the trip to Wabasso.
Among the other highlight football games that I had the chance to cover was the Sibley-Ocheyedan vs. Sheldon contest, at Sibley in mid-September. Riding a two-game winning streak, the Generals scored first and the local fans were wild with excitement. Eventually, the Orabs took control and won the rivalry game, but the colors of orange and black were prominent on both sides of the field.
Two top-notch, high-caliber Saturday afternoon playoff games that I had the chance to cover were the Jackson County Central vs.Tracy-Milroy-Balaton showdown at Jackson and the Adrian vs. Mankato Loyola match-up at Mankato. Both were well-played games, full of hard-hitting action and exciting plays all the way until the final gun.
The best game that I saw as a fan was Luverne's victory over defending state champion Triton at Mankato on an early November Friday evening.
I was able to cover some volleyball games, including Westbrook-Walnut Grove's opening round, five-game, playoff victory over Edgerton at Luverne.
As a fan, I enjoyed watching Southwest Star Concept's sub-sectional championship victory over Southwest Christian.
I was able to cover many cross country meets, including the Worthington Turkey Trot, both the Red Rock Conference and Southwest Conference meets, as well as the Section 3A meet at Adrian, and the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The exceptional depth and balance of the Adrian program, allowed the Dragons (girls and boys) to win a pair of sectional team titles, before the Adrian girls won their third straight state championship and the boys improved from third to second at the state meet.
In the winter, I was busy coaching, so my coverage duties were reduced, but I still had the chance to report on two of the games of the Trojan Holiday Classic boys' basketball tournament, which is always a highlight for me. Later, I was able to cover boys' tournament games at Slayton, Worthington and Windom and had the chance to see lots of drama, including a dramatic finish by Pipestone Area in its victory over Martin County West.
The best game that I saw as a fan was Ellsworth's come-from-behind win over Dawson-Boyd in the Section 3A finals at Marshall.
As a coach, I was able to see lots of games from a front-row seat (when I was sitting), including SSC's tournament victories over MCC, Fulda, Adrian, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey. Those were thrilling moments, as was our Southwestern United's softball team's first victory (after 10 losses) over eventual conference champion Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, 8-7, at Sanborn May 1.
Which leads me to a point -- while tournament competition always draws the fancy of fans, all the regular-season games are meaningful too and games between conference cellar-dwellers can be every bit as fun, interesting and exciting as the game for the sectional title. There are thrills at every level of competition.
This past spring, my coverage highlights included the Sub-Section 10, Section 3A and Minnesota State track and field meets, along with some very entertaining baseball games played by the Adrian Dragons. A dramatic victory by the Adrian Area (Adrian/Ellsworth) softball team over T-M-B in the sectional playoffs at Windom was a memorable game too, as was Pipestone Area's sectional baseball championship last week at Marshall.
So, there are some of the memories that I have about the year in high school sports that began at the end of last summer -- and here it is already a new summer. But, another high school sports year is "lurking" right around the corner.
Enjoy the summer -- it may be the middle of August before you realize it.