I was waiting to do this until my end-of-the-year column was out — it’s in today’s paper and at Kansas.com right now.
There were a lot of great stories on my beat in 2009. Some sad, some triumphant. Away we go:
1. Chuck Broyles – The King is dead. Long live the King.
2. Hornet hysteria — The Emporia State baseball team put together one of the best postseason runs I can remember, taking it all the way to the NCAA Division II national title game, where they lost to Lynn (Fla.) … make no mistake, ESU is the team to beat in the country in 2010, and hopefully it means a shot at a DI job for Bob Fornelli.
3. Steve Eck to Hutch — Did anyone except for a few people in Ark City think Steve Eck coaching at Cowley was going to be a permanent thing? Hutchinson had always seemed like the perfect fit for Eck, and after Ryan Swanson couldn’t get it done and the Blue Dragon fan base started to rumble … the two finally came together. When Eck wins his first Region VI title (yes, when) it’s going to be something to see.
4. Lamar James, RIP – At 31 years old, Independence football coach Lamar James died suddenly while visiting his hometown in Mississippi, right after the end of his first season as the Pirates’ head coach. A good man. Rest in peace, coach.
5. Heartbreaker for Greyhounds — Up by two points with just a shade over 30 seconds left in the national championship game, Fort Scott CC punted the ball to Blinn’s Chad Froechtenicht, who didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to take it 84 yards to the house in the national championship game. One of the more amazing finishes I have ever seen.
6. Friends dethroned/Clarence comes home – The KCAC schedule-makers knew exactly what they were doing when they put the Ottawa-Friends game in the final week of the regular season in what amounted to the KCAC title game. And on a drizzly, cold day in Wichita, it was all about Clarence Anderson, the diminutive wide receiver for the Braves. Playing in his hometown, CA almost single-handedly took the league title from the three-time defending champs to cap Ottawa’s undefeated season. The Braves went on to win an NAIA playoff game and then lost to eventual runner-up Lindenwood in the second round. Anderson? He’s only a sophomore, people.
7. Are you in love with Jack? – I wrote about Southeast/Cowley and now-Southern Illinois forward Jack Crowder a lot last season, both in the paper and on the blog, so much so that one time Coach Eck asked me if I was in love with him. My answer? I told him I was in love with ihs game, most definitely. Crowder was a warrior who built his game from the ground up. My favorite JuCo player, ever, hands down. Is that love? Who can really say?
8. Region VI basketball tourney – On the women’s side, we had the upstarts from Hutchinson winning Region VI for the first time since 1978. Which was great, until you consider Kris Baumann’s Garden City team, which won it for the first time since 1956, upsetting Cowley in the finals. I keep telling people that KB can coach with anybody. They never believe me until his team beats theirs.
9. Hello, Newman – There’s something going on over at Newman. It’s tangible and it’s real and it’s all about men’s basketball. The Jets were respectable last season in their first year as a full-fledged NCAA Division II school and they’re more than that this year. Senior forward Jaray Mathews had a big year last year and is playing like an All-American right now, and coach Mark Potter has figured out how to recruit at the D2 level and is only getting better. You heard it hear first. Oh yeah, and they played WSU tough.
10. (Tie, and yes, this is cheating) Washburn LB Zach Watkins named MIAA defensive POY, Cowley volleyball makes NJCAA DII title game, Cowley softball, Friends volleyball goes to NAIA tournament, Sterling and Southwestern women’s hoops, Butler football gets Jayhawk streak broken, Butler’s Zac Clark helps Oregon to Pac 10 football title. Did I miss something? Just e-mail me and let me know.
That’s all I got. Are you ready for 2010? I am.
As always, thanks for coming to Sunflower Slate.
Adios — TA.