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Area teams put together a very memorable 2006 sports season

WORTHINGTON -- What a year it was for local high school athletics.

The 2006 sports season was filled with highlights and special moments for area high school teams, coaches, players, fans and communities.

As a part-time sports writer who was a high school athlete just two years ago, I enjoy following all the local teams compete throughout the entire sports year.

I was able to cover many of the area teams over the course of the past year, and I definitely saw my share of outstanding games and incredible performances.

Several area teams competed in state tournaments and events, with three Minnesota clubs coming home with state championship trophies.

Here is a recap of some of the most memorable moments the 2006 year brought to the area sports landscape.

March 2-4: The Adrian Area Dragons wrestling team finished its season by defeating Little Falls, 27-25, in the third-place event at the Class AA state tournament.

Jackson County Central's Torey Stewart (130 pounds) Windom/Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's Travis Elg (140), Fulda/Murray County Central's Nick Henning (189) and JCC's Jared Knips (heavyweight) each won individual state titles in Class AA.

March 16-18: After victories over Fosston (73-45) and Ada-Borup (54-50), the Fulda Raiders girls' basketball team capped an incredible season by winning the Class A state title with a 57-49 victory over Granada-Huntley-East Chain at Target Center.

The Raiders finished with a record of 26-4 and tied with Murray County Central for the Red Rock Conference title with a 15-1 league mark. Fulda defeated the Rebels (50-49 on March 3) in a Section 3A South title game many people will remember for a long time.

March 23-25: Following their thrilling come-from-behind victory against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the Section 3A championship game on March 16, the Ellsworth Panthers boys' basketball team wrapped up its season with a runner-up finish at the Class A state tournament.

After beating Stephen-Argyle Central (74-62) and Osakis (70-63) in the first two rounds, the Panthers lost to Rushford-Peterson (55-52) in the state title game to finish with a 28-5 record. But the game that will be talked about for many years to come was that classic with R-T-R.

Trailing by as much as 18 points with less than four minutes remaining, the Panthers rallied unbelievably to tie the game on Ben Herman's 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, where they ended up beating the two-time state champion Knights, 83-80.

June 6-7: Luverne's boys' tennis team advanced to the Class A state tournament, where they lost a pair of matches to Waseca (7-0) and Thief River Falls (6-1).

June 7-8: Luverne's girls and Jackson County Central's boys competed at the Class A state golf tournament, placing sixth and seventh, respectively.

June 8: The Pipestone Area Arrows softball team advanced to the Class AA state tournament, but was eliminated with a pair of first-day losses.

The Arrows lost to Maple River (3-1) and Saint Anthony Village (2-0) to finish with a 19-5 record.

June 9-10: Competing with the "Magnificent Seven", the Luverne Cardinals claimed the Class A state boys' track and field title with a one-point victory (36-35) over Fairmont at Hamline University in St. Paul.

June 15-16: Southwestern United made its first-ever trip to the Class A state baseball tournament a good one, as the Wildcats (20-6) won a pair of games to place third at Jordan's Mini-Met.

Also winning the Red Rock Conference title for the first time in program history, the Wildcats defeated Sacred Heart of East Grand Forks (4-1) and St. Agnes (8-1) to sandwich a loss to eventual state champion Sleepy Eye Saint Mary's (12-6) at Jordan.

The Pipestone Area Arrows also competed in the state tournament, as they won Section 3AA for the second straight season.

After a second-place finish in 2005's Class AA state tournament, the Arrows lost both games they played at St. Cloud in 2006. Losses to Winona Cotter (6-3) and Roseau (14-6) ended the Arrows' season with a record of 17-9.

November 4: The Adrian Dragons cross country program continued its recent two-year success at the Class A state meet by placing both the girls and boys in the top three in the team standings at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The Adrian girls repeated as state team champions with a low score of 60 points, while the Dragon boys improved from eighth the year before to third this year with 172 points.

Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's girls also competed well at the state meet, placing ninth with 232 points.

November 9-11: The Pipestone Area Arrows volleyball team placed third -- an improvement from fifth the year before -- at the Class AA state tournament, finishing with a record of 23-9.

The Arrows sandwiched victories over Montevideo (3-1) and LeSueur-Henderson (3-1) around a semifinal loss to eventual state champion Jordan (3-2) at Xcel Energy Center.

November 24: The Luverne Cardinals football team had its six-game winning streak snapped in the Class AA state title game by the Triton Cobras, who rolled to the 70-21 victory.

Luverne won 10 of its final 12 games to finish at 10-4 for the season, and had exciting 33-27 victories over Winona Cotter and Moose Lake/Willow River in the state quarterfinal and semifinal games, respectively.

That was a look at how some of the area teams fared in their respective state tournaments and events. There were many more memorable events not mentioned here, and 2007 will surely bring several more highlights to the area sports scene.