Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year began, ended with success

Column: Off the Rim

December 27, 2007

It's been quite a rollercoaster ride in 2007.

Hidden behind all of the drama and scandals of the professional sports world, our small town of Baldwin City has experienced one heck of a year.

There have been ups and downs, too many to count for either. There have been close calls that create disappointment, but there have also been happy and exciting times.

I'm not going to look back at the professional side of sports - too gloomy and dark to be reminded of - so I will focus on our year here.

Several of the highlights came this fall, but not all. Here is a look back at what has transpired during the past year.

January and February were filled with basketball and wrestling all around the area. All three Baldwin High School teams were enjoying success last winter. The BHS boys' basketball team helped kick off the new year with its Baldwin Invitational Tournament championship. A grand total of 15 years lapsed since the last BIT title.

One week later, the BHS girls' basketball and wrestling team also tasted success. The girls' squad won its second straight Top Gun Tournament title in Wellsville.

On that very same January day, the Bulldog wrestlers finished second at their home tournament. The winner was nationally-ranked Oak Park (Mo.). Baldwin beat every other team that day, which was quite impressive.

The winter season continued for several more weeks with more wins by all three teams. The wrestlers were first to bring home postseason success as they won their second consecutive Class 4A regional team title and qualified eight for the state meet.

One of the best feel-good stories for the year came at the regional meet. Josh Wood, 2007 BHS graduate, battled through an incredible season to qualify for state several months after his mother succumbed to cancer. Wood began practice nearly two months into the season, but found the strength and determination to finish his senior season at the state meet in Salina.

Wood won two matches at state, which was one of the greatest sights for me to witness. I know it meant a lot to him and his family.

Success did come for the Bulldogs at the state meet. As a team, BHS placed seventh to tie its highest team placing ever. Three Bulldogs - Kevin Callahan, Nick Rockhold and Alan Callahan each placed in the top three to medal at the meet.

As the finals approached that weekend, it looked like BHS might come away with two state champions. It would have been the cherry on top of a great weekend. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the Bulldogs' cards.

K. Callahan and Rockhold both fought their heart out to win, but just came up short in two tough matches. They will be joining A. Callahan in a quest for gold this February.

The rollercoaster ride in Salina was fairly smooth, but it was full of highs and lows, too. Then came sub-state basketball.

As the boys' team advanced, the girls' team was knocked out. The BHS girls picked the wrong time to play their worst game of the season. It wasn't by choice, but their strong season came to a screeching halt in the sub-state semifinals.

Meanwhile, the BHS boys were finding ways to survive and advance. They rallied to beat Basehor-Linwood in the semifinal round, only to face heavily favored Piper two nights later.

The loud, crowded Tonganoxie gym was a great setting for the championship game. Baldwin couldn't ever get control of the contest, but also never let Piper run away with the game.

In the end, the Pirates missed a few free throws to give BHS a chance to win. The Bulldogs' last-second shot fell short. It was a tough way to end the season and the careers of the seniors, but their effort and heart were not to be forgotten.

Winter was now over and spring came soon enough. Spring highlights were few and far between at times. There were several softball wins and quite a few track and field successes.

It looked as if the softball squad might make a run at the state tournament, until it finished the season with three straight losses. The worst part of it was the Bulldogs failed to score in those three contests. The rollercoaster ride dipped during May, but flew back up at the state track meet.

Heather Garcia gave us a reason to smile again as she captured two gold medals and one silver. She propelled the BHS girls' team to a trophy, with the help of Courtney Harris' javelin toss and the 3,200-meter relay team.

Then came the summer. I'm sure many little league teams were successful during their baseball or softball seasons, but the summer months are fairly non-eventful to a sports writer. Like every August, I was itching for football to take the field. If only I would have known what was in store for me and Baldwin City this fall.

Successes were happening everywhere - football fields, cross country courses, soccer fields, tennis courts and volleyball courts. It wasn't just BHS winning, Baker University was too.

I think we all still remember the magical journey of the Bulldogs' football team. Those players worked hard during the summer and it showed this autumn. They ran that old-school single wing offense over teams left, right and up the middle.

Sadly, the season came to an end against a team that they were all too familiar with - the Louisburg Wildcats. Every team but one finishes the season short of the state championship. The BHS players should remember this season for many years. It's something to be proud of.

The other primary success story for BHS was the cross country teams. Garcia led the way again, but it was the girls' team title that captured her heart. The smiles on the Bulldogs' faces after the race told the story that chilly October day. It gave me goose bumps.

Not to be forgotten was the BHS boys' team that finished runner-up to a loaded Mulvane team. The Bulldogs have placed first or second at state for the past 11 years. That's something to be proud of.

Baker University also saw its share of success with several programs. Its men's soccer and women's volleyball teams were strong all season long. The BU football team had its first winning season since 2000, despite hopes of making the playoffs.

The one memory that sticks with me from a Baker football game was Derek Doerfler's incredible record-breaking 62-yard field goal. It curved between the goalposts like a pitcher's curveball. Then madness ensued.

The Wildcats' players rushed the field as the last-second field goal lifted BU over its rival William Jewell.

Sadly, the fall season flew by like a summertime storm. Now the winter season is upon us and the new year is just around the corner. Let's welcome in 2008 and hope it can one-up its predecessor.

Happy New Year!

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