On one hand, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that pads and helmets were being used and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils was in the air. On the other hand, try telling that to a high school senior. Here are a few moments caught in my mind from the sports year that was in 2007-08.
For the span of about two years the tide was rolling toward a classification change for Star Valley. It finally happened and now that the school year is coming to a close, I thought I’d recap some of my favorite moments in a year of change.
• Reversal of Fortune - an 0-3 start including a loss on the home field against Jackson had the Braves reeling as they made the trip to Cody to face the Park County Broncs. A mistake-laden first half and four-improbable missed extra points by the home team saw the Broncs lead 24-7 to begin the fourth quarter. The Braves woke up that day, rushing for over 200 yards in the second half and coming away with a thrilling 31-30 game that ended by snuffing out a two-point attempt by Cody. Although the Braves had several close contests, this reversal of fortune will likely stick in my mind as the reminder of the year.
• Ticket for Casper - The Lady Braves volleyball team was coming off five straight appearances in the 3A title game, with four championships when the season began. It didn’t take long for the doubter to concede that Star Valley’s chances for a trip to the state tournament were slim. However, with a group of raw sophomores and a mix of crafty veterans, the Lady Braves shocked both Rock Springs and Green River at the Regional tournament held at Kelly Walsh. The performance kept alive a streak of seven straight state appearances in the sport’s culminating event.
• The Makeshift Student Sections - So far as the win column was concerned, the Braves didn’t have a stellar season on the hardwood, but one of their wins will be a positive reminder of the season for me. Having lost a heart-breaker to Riverton the evening before, the Braves faced the Sheridan Broncs in the final hours of the Riverton Invitational. Despite threatening to run away with the game at several points, the Braves found themselves fighting for every point they could find as the Broncs, buoyed by their girls’ team and others, refused to go away. The Star Valley crowd reciprocated in kind and the two sections battled it out as their two teams fought to the very end, a 68-65 Star Valley victory. I’ve never seen two enthusiastic groups spontaneously appear on a neutral court for two struggling teams, and I may never see one again. But it certainly was memorable.
• The Burning Cross - No, not that kind. The Braves, fresh off the tragedy involving the Dana family, hosted the 4A West Regional wrestling tournament and needless to say, emotions were high. The Braves remained in control the entire time and pulled out a big team victory over rival Natrona overall. The capper was the heavyweight match in which Lynk Nield performed a technique usually not attributed to the style of heavyweight wrestlers as I sat calling the match with SVHS wresting legend, Richard Hoopes. The Burning Cross, which gave Nield the Regional crown and topped off a feel-good weekend for a community that desperately needed one, will always be remembered in my mind.
• The Hat Trick - For the considerable number of Star Valley seniors who play on the boys soccer team, success has been a measured response. In four years, they’ve had three head coaches, and just a handful of wins. Through those hard times however, they were able to find positives and it came to a head as the Braves hosted Evanston down the stretch of their second straight winless season to that point. The soccer gods were wearing their Crimson and Gold that day as the Braves dismantled the Devils, including a hat trick, or a three goal game, by Jon Scherbel, the first in school history. Despite the mounting losses and little interest, the soccer seniors finished their season with effort and grit and the Hat Trick game will signify this for yours truly.
• Ricks’ Kicks - The Braves and Lady Braves made their way to the 4A West Regional track meet at Natrona County High School, and while injuries, weather and apathy took an effect on the team’s numbers for this season, there were a lot of impressive standout performances from Star Valley athletes. Two in particular took place at this meet in the 3200 Meter and 1600 Meter events as Trevor Ricks battled with the crowd and a select few individuals and won both of these events with a final “kick” in the race’s last 100 meters, a new addition to Ricks’ considerable running skills. The 3200 Meter in particular will stand out to me as, despite running nearly two miles in ten minutes, Ricks pulled away from his nearest competitor with yardage to spare. Ricks’ uncommon work ethic and commitment to his craft is indicative of the Track team and is what I’ll remember most.
• The Catch - I know NFL fans will remember this phrase as Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, but for me, it will be Jordan Abrams to Tim Hokanson in a cold wet contest on the home field with Powell. Trailing late, Abrams was pressured and heaved the ball into the air where Hokanson was double covered by two taller defenders. Despite the odds, he came down with the ball in the rain, and then Abrams knocked through a 41-yard field goal in horrible conditions to force overtime where the Braves eventually won, 20-13. For over 20 years, Dan Dockstader has captured Star Valley on film, and he took the picture of Hokanson straining to catch this particular ball. I’ve looked at it nearly 50 times since that game in early October, and do you know what? I still don’t know how he got that ball. Definitely a memorable play in a very memorable game.
So, there are a few of my memories of this last sports school year, what are yours? Please use the comment section to fill in those that I may have missed.