Looking back on 2016-17 High School Sports

Dublin— Hello sports fans. Well, another high school sports season has come and gone. It won’t be long before high school football will be in full swing. This past high school season had it’s usual ups and down. Great wins and bitter defeats. I’m thankful for the support and patience of David Gravely, sports editor at the Southwest Times.
There are a lot of folks that I’d like to thank. I’ll start with Fort Chiswell High School’s athletic director Jeff Molinary. He has been so helpful in providing information on football, basketball and baseball at the school. I need to say thank you to their principal Rocky Baker and assistant principal B K Walker. Head football coach Todd Tiller and his staff, Derrick Jackson head basketball and baseball coach of the Pioneers and his staff of both teams.
Then at Pulaski Co. I need to recognize athletic director Scott Vest, head basketball coach Andrew Hart and his staff. Jared King and his baseball staff for all their help. I also need to say thank you to Radford High School athletic director Greg Wade, head football coach Matthew Saunders and his entire staff for allowing me to be around and putting up with me. Then there’s baseball coach Greg Ridpath and his baseball staff for all that they’ve done to support my column. I truly appreciate Radford head coach Matthew Saunders and Pioneer head coach Todd Tiller. You all really helped this old guy get through a very tough time back in September when my mom passed away. “Thank You” is no where near enough to say to them. It was a very, very tough time .
Let me go back to the football season. Fort Chiswell was coming off a winless season . Coach Tiller and his staff really went to work and the players truly put in the work in the off season . They finished with 9 wins and made it to the state quarterfinals . What a tremendous turnaround from the 2015 year. In those nine wins they beat the Galax Maroon Tide team on a Saturday that was something to behold. They had big wins against Radford, Grayson Co., Rural Retreat and James River. Then they beat Twin Valley and Chilhowie in the playoffs. Colby Rider had an unbelievable year for them not only on defense but on offense as well. The big senior tight end and linebacker seemed to take over games on both sides of the ball. The VMI bound player will be greatly missed as well as all those seniors . I wonder if the game against Galax at Galax in the state quarterfinals would have been closer or different with Rider playing ? You could bet it would have. He broke his collarbone in the second half of the Chilhowie playoff game and he was the difference in that game. They will have lot of playing time for guys that need to step up come August . They also lost their offensive coordinator to a school in California.
Radford football played well at times and struggled at times . For one thing they were very young and then they struggled offensively . A lot of credit needs to go to Coach Saunders and his staff for hanging in there and competing. They will be young and athletic , and it may just be a sleeper for the upcoming year.
This brings me to Pulaski Co. basketball. The Cougars won games they may not or should not have won and lost games that they shouldn’t have lost. Their losses to Christiansburg, Salem and Bassett on the road made you shake your head. They beat Patrick Henry and Wm. Byrd twice. The most memorable game was at Carroll Co. Down 25-54 with four minutes to go in the third quarter, and they cameback to win 79-72 in overtime. It was and is still unbelievable . Still one of the most “WOW” moments of the 2016-17 high school sports season. Biggest comeback in school history if I’m not mistaken ? They finished with a 14-10 record and lost in the second round of Conference 24 playoffs. Very good for a young team after four kids quit and only three seniors on the squad. Why did the kids quit? Playing time I assume , but the team got better as the year went on. They will hopefully be very competitive for the 2017-18 season. Coach Hart keep on keeping on.
Now the Fort Chiswell basketball season saw them go 13-8 with a young team. They had their ups and downs They had injuries to two of their seniors early on and had to use a freshman and couple sophomores. Was a fun team to watch . They will be very competitive this upcoming year. The Fort Chiswell girls basketball team was once again very good and very entertaining to watch. My hats off to Coach Kristen Williams and her staff. Fun team to watch.
Now on to the baseball campaign. The Cougars won 12 games. Made it to the second round of Conference 24 playoffs. They had 11 seniors. That’s a lot of experience to lose. Coach King had them doing lot of off season work. They will return some very good players. Hunter Shrewsbury, Braeden Blevins, Jon Osteen, Trent Blankenship , Alex Akers and Bailey Ayers to name a few. Some junior varsity kids will have to step up. Jared we need some pitching to replace some of those senior pitchers we lost.
I also saw and heard a couple things that happened at Cave Spring late in the year. Coach King uses a couple of his players to use a radar gun and clipboard during the game versus the team the Cougars are playing . Now they had played 18 games out of a 20 game schedule and then two umps at the Cave game tells Coach King he can’t have kids to do that unless he takes them off his roster because they need to stay in the dugout ! What ? Then if that’s the rule why wasn’t it enforced for the very first game ? Then when asked why one ump didn’t want to talk or discuss this with Coach King. In fact, he was short and hateful. The Cougars would go on and lose the game on a very close and perhaps controversial call at home plate to end that game. Then the P .A . announcer tells the fans and players (Cougars) to respect the umps .For the record the Cougar players and fans were respectful to the umps. The most disrespectful thing was the P. A. guy and his unwarranted announcement ! It was very uncalled for on his part. Welcome to Cave Spring I guess?
The Fort Chiswell baseball team had an outstanding year. They won 18 games and lost 4. They had only two seniors. Now one of those seniors was their winningest pitcher of the season -Dallas Beasley. Coach Jackson has a real good baseball program going on at Fort Chiswell as well as his basketball program.
Radford Bobcats baseball won 12 games and will have most of those players back. They lost in the playoffs in a game that lasted 14 innings. It started on a Monday at Radford and ended on Friday at Auburn. You got to love rain. Then there’s that Conference 45 decision that still makes me wonder what in the world. Two teams that had been rained out both times and one of those teams wanted to make the games up and there was three days to do it. But no, the one team says our regular season is done. We’re ready for the playoffs, and the conference allows them get away with that. Nice sportsmanship. Oh by the way the team that said our regular season is over with. lost their only game in the playoffs. Can you say “karma.”
Congratulations to the Radford basketball program, head coach Rick Cormany and his staff, players and fans on winning the state title. Also congratulations to the Auburn Eagles baseball team, head coach Eric Altizer and his staff, players and fans on winning the state title. It was great to see local teams win state titles and demonstrate quality sportsmanship.
Well, that about recaps the sports year and some of the stuff that goes on. I still don’t like it when an ump, referee or an official is from that school or lives in a school area and gets to officiate the game. I have dealt with a lot of these officials for the last 29 years. They are good people and really try to call a game as they see it. Most of them are all that, but it takes just one to make the others look bad. Hope you have a great summer and see you all at a football field , basketball court or baseball diamond . I will leave you with this, be loyal to the people that cover your teams. Be it a newspaper, sportswriter or photographer. Parents please let the coaches coach your kids ! I’m still looking for that coach that wants to lose. The coach gets paid to coach, teach and win with your kid. Is it high school football time, yet?