A look back at the year in high school sports

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Now that the 2007-08 school year is over, I decided to look back at some of the events I covered this year and come up with some superlatives.

There were many great performances and many great athletes this year, so picking some of these was not easy. I based these picks on games that I saw, and also from talking to Paul McFarlane and Will Hart, who also covered games for The Tidewater News this school year.

By picking these superlatives, I know I am setting myself up for a lot of negative e-mails. As a disclaimer, I could not possible see every game or event during the season. There is only one of me.

These awards include action from the following schools – Franklin, Southampton, Windsor, Isle of Wight Academy, and Southampton Academy. Although we sometimes cover Smithfield, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Tidewater Academy, I did not see enough of those teams to make any judgments.

* Boys Team of the Year – Isle of Academy football. The IWA football program has been a dominant force not only in the Virginia Commonwealth Conference but also in the state Division III ranks. The Chargers took their third straight state championship and looked like a machine most weeks on both offense and defense. The one blemish was a regular season 32-25 loss to Broadwater Academy in Exmore on a hot Saturday afternoon. It could be quite a while until we see another football team in these parts as dominant as the 2007 Chargers.

* Runner-up – Windsor High School baseball. Windsor was head and shoulders above the rest of the Tri-Rivers District this year; the Dukes practically had the entire roster on the All-District team. With four stud pitchers, a tight defense (especially at the end of the season) and an above-average hitting attack, the Dukes got better as the season progressed. The postseason run could have been longer, but Windsor ran into competition it had not seen all season. Still, a dominant force.

* Girls Team of the Year – Franklin girls basketball. It’s hard to put a state championship team (IWA softball) second, but the road for Franklin to get to the Group A, Division 1 finals was tougher. A distinct team effort with no superstars, the Lady Broncos believed they could get to the finals. Defense wins basketball games, and Franklin had it.

* Runner-up – Isle of Wight Academy softball. How does this team reload every year? I did not get to see the Lady Chargers play much this year, but what I did see impressed me. Just a well-coached, disciplined team that always has its eyes on the big picture. The Lady Chargers not only won the state championship for the fourth time in five years, they smashed Tidewater Academy 17-4 in the championship game. A true champion takes losing as a lesson and IWA did exactly that. After dropping the Metro Conference tournament championship game, the Lady Chargers picked up the pieces and completed the mission. &uot;I’m just on a cloud. I’m just so proud of them,&uot; IWA coach Jack Reynolds said after the state championship game. &uot;I can’t say enough good

things about them. They play with a lot of pride and enthusiasm. The seniors really wanted it and they just picked it up with the other ball players.&uot;

* Boys Coach of the Year – Dale Chapman, IWA football. Although Chapman does the best with whatever he is given, he is quick to give the credit to his athletes. The leader of the program since 1993, Chapman has created a culture of winning. &uot;Success breeds success. Every class that comes through now doesn’t want to be the class that isn’t successful,&uot; he said. &uot;My success isn’t anything that I’ve done. &uot;I’ve been lucky to have good athletes.&uot;

* Runner-up – Bruce Carroll, Windsor football. After a subpar 3-7 season in 2006, the Dukes came out of the gates like gangbusters in 2007. Although Windsor did not reach the postseason, it surprised a lot of people, including me. Carroll had his team in the playoff hunt right up to the final week of the season.

* Girls Coach of the Year – Mona Sumblin, Franklin girls basketball. Sumblin had been to the state championship before, but 2007-2008 was special. Sumblin molded the Lady Broncos into a tough defensive unit by applying a stranglehold full-court press. She taught these players right into a deep run into the postseason after a disappointing finish in 2006-07.

* Runner-up: Jack Reynolds, IWA softball. In the Lady Chargers’ 8-7 win over Southampton Academy in the first round of the state playoffs, Reynolds really showed me something. Needing at least one run to keep the game going, J.J. Edwards led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Katie Morris’ sacrifice bunt moved Edwards to third. Reynolds had his third-place hitter, Casey West, bunt, and the hunch worked. The speedster beat out the bunt and at the same time drove in Edwards with the tying run. Reynolds had noticed the SA third baseman playing deep. This is the kind of strategy that has kept this team on top for years.

* Girls Surprise of the Year – Windsor volleyball. The Lady Dukes won the Tri-Rivers District for the first time in 14 years and reached the postseason under first-year head coach Jeff Burchette. Honorable mention goes to Southampton Academy softball, which reached the postseason, despite an extremely young team.

* Boys Surprise of the Year – Windsor football. How about a 58-38 win over Sussex Central, including an incredible 44 points in the third quarter? Amazing since the Dukes were worked by the same team 54-8 in 2006.

* Best Male Athlete – Rusty Brake, quarterback, IWA. In helping the Chargers to the state championship, Brake made it look easy, almost like a man playing against boys. He could run the ball and also had a strong arm, making the IWA offense an unpredictable dual threat.

* Best Female Athlete – Timia Hobbs, Franklin girls basketball. There were several great female athletes this year, but Hobbs, a junior point guard, had a game for the ages in the state championship game against Buffalo Gap.

According to the official state box score, Hobbs played all 32 minutes. She scored 22 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. At times, Hobbs took the offensive load on her shoulders, driving to the hoop all game. Buffalo Gap could not stop her. This was Hobbs’ &uot;MO&uot; all season. Close seconds were Samantha Urquhart, who had an outstanding year in volleyball and basketball, and Franklin’s Jennifer Sing, who reached the state finals in singles and doubles tennis and also qualified for the state meet in wresting. Oh, I almost forgot Sarah McFarland, a top-notch three-sport athlete at Southampton Academy.

* Best boys event I covered this year – The Franklin-Colonial Beach regular season football game. Although Franklin came out on the short end of this game, 37-21, it was one of most intense, hard-hitting high school football games I have witnessed. Despite losing, the Broncos were not going down without a fight. The rematch in the playoffs was not quite the same intensity.

* Best girls event I covered this year – Franklin girls defeat Bland High School by 30 points in the Group A state semifinal. This was one of Franklin’s most dominating performances of the year, and it occurred in that pressure-packed atmosphere. The Lady Broncos forced Bland into 30 turnovers in the 72-42 win.

* Most unusual event of the year – Franklin and Southampton wrestling tie twice 42-42. It was like watching the same match twice. The battle came down to the last bout both times. Despite the even score, Franklin won both matches on the exact same tiebreaker. Just bizarre.