Making headlines: The top 10 sports stories of 2005
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Some people measure the year by nature's appearance- winter means snow on the ground, summer green grass, autumn the colorful spectrum of fallen leaves. Still others measure the year by the movies in theaters at the time – summer is the time for all the explosive eye-candy blockbusters, while Christmas is when the studios put out their Oscar-worthy tear-jerking dramas.
There's one other way to measure the year, and that's by the sports calendar. During 2005, our local athletes made their mark on the football gridiron in autumn, the rubber running track in spring, the basketball hardwood in winter and the dusty diamond in summer. These are those stories.
10. Danville's Roberts sets national career stolen base record (May 5 issue)
The 2005 Lady Hawks softball team was built on speed, and nobody better represented that speed than senior centerfielder Kristy Roberts. But perhaps none of Roberts' steals was more important than her second stolen base in Danville's April 26 game against Vinemont.
That stolen base gave Roberts 236 stolen bases for her career, which the National Federation of State High School Associations record book recognized as a new national record. By the time her career at Danville was over, Roberts also had entries in that record book for career hits (second with 353) and career triples (third with 38).
Following her high school career, Roberts hung up her softball cleats and decided to attend Calhoun Community College to pursue nursing.
9. Hartselle football misses playoffs because of complex tiebreaker (Nov. 3 issue)
The Tigers finished with a 6-4 record and a 4-3 mark in region play, by far the best of the five area high schools. Yet Hartselle was left out of the playoffs because of a little-used tiebreaker rule in the Alabama High School Athletic Association's official football rules.
Hartselle, Cullman and Walker each ended the season with 4-3 region marks and each defeated one of its two opponents but lost to the other. The third playoff spot was awarded to the team whose defeated opponents had the most victories during the 2005 season. That team was Walker, whose defeated opponents had 18 victories, compared to Hartselle's 14 and Cullman's 13.
Walker then received the third spot, and the fourth spot was determined by a simple head-to-head tiebreaker – Cullman defeated Hartselle during the regular season, so Cullman got the final berth.
Hartselle's omission from the playoffs serves as a sobering reminder that every game during the regular season means something.
8. Corder resigns from wrestling coach duties (Apr. 28 issue)
Keith Corder, who coached Hartselle's wrestling program for 11 years and led the Tigers to their first state title in wrestling, turned in a letter of resignation to the school Apr. 21. He cited concerns that he was not spending enough time with his family as his reasons for the resignation, but agreed to remain with the school as a teacher and an assistant coach on the Hartselle football team.
Former Sparkman wrestling coach Dan Styles was named the successor to Corder in July.
7. Hartselle baseball coach William Booth wins Game No. 600 (March 31 issue)
In his 18th season as Tiger skipper, Hartselle head coach William Booth picked up his milestone 600th win when the Tigers defeated Minor 5-1 at the Hoover Buccaneer Classic Mar. 24.
His Tiger team surprised their coach with T-shirts commemorating the win as Booth became just the second coach in Alabama history to win at least 600 games at an AHSAA member school. Next on the list is Vestavia Hills' Sammy Dunn, who finished his career with 647 wins.
Booth, who currently has 623 victories, should have an excellent chance to match Dunn's mark during Hartselle's 2006 season.
6. Falkville boys and girls track each finish as state runner-up (May 12 issue)
Falkville has a tradition of excellence in track-and-field, and they continued their streak of good fortune in 2005 when both the boys and girls teams finished in second place at the state meet in Oak Mountain.
Both teams finished behind Altamont. Krystal Gibb took the gold medal in the 800-meter run for the girls team and Cody Sewell won the high jump for the boys team. In addition, the Falkville girls won three silver and three bronze medals while the boys won a gold medal in the 1,600-meter relay, two silver and four bronze medals.
The second-place finish was the highest ever for the boys team and the second highest for the girls team, who captured the title in 2001.
5. Stover gets a second chance at Alabama (Aug. 11 issue)
Nikita Stover, who graduated from Hartselle in 2004 in hopes of playing football for the Alabama Crimson Tide, saw that dream slip away when he was declared academically ineligible.
Stover did not give up his dream, instead enrolling in Itawamba Community College where he played football for two seasons and worked to improve his grades. The wide receiver graduated from ICC and will enroll at Alabama and be ready to play starting in the 2006 season. Because he redshirted his first season at ICC, Stover will have three years of eligibility remaining when he suits up for the Crimson Tide.
4. Falkville football makes playoffs (Oct. 20 issue)
On Sept. 9, Falkville broke a 15-game losing streak with a 13-7 win over Cold Springs. A little more than a month later, the Blue Devils broke an even more impressive streak as they because the first Falkville team to qualify for the playoffs since 1998.
Falkville and Priceville finished the regular season tied for fourth place in the Region 7 standings with identical 3-4 records, but the Blue Devils' 28-14 win over Priceville Oct. 7 gave Falkville the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs.
Although the Blue Devils would lose their first-round playoff game to Lexington by the score of 56-20, 2005 was still an impressive year for a team that had gone 0-10 in 2004 and was led by a first-year head coach in Neil Estes.
3. Danville volleyball finishes second at Elite Eight (Nov. 3 issue)
The Lady Hawks had a season to remember in 2005, sweeping through its Regional D tournament foes to Danville's first-ever berth to the Elite Eight.
Once they got to Pelham, the Lady Hawks didn't falter until reaching the championship match against Montgomery Academy, where Danville fell in straight sets.
Although the Lady Hawks came up short in 2005, they return all but one member of this year's team – senior libero Haley Hensley – and appear ready to make another run at the state title in 2006.
2. Danville boys basketball reaches Final Four (March 3 issue)
For the first time since 1992, Danville's boys basketball team advanced to the AHSAA Final Four in Birmingham. The Hawks defeated Madison Academy in the finals of the Northwest Regional in Hanceville to advance to the Final Four.
In Birmingham, Danville came up short of its goal of its first state title since 1963, losing in the semifinal game to eventual champion Sumter County by the score of 59-54. Although the Hawks did not finish 2005 as the state 3A champions, they still had a season to remember, finishing with a record of 28-3.
1. Hartselle wins wrestling state title (Feb. 3 issue)
Although it's the least recent of the stories on this year's list, that doesn't make it any less remarkable.
After missing on that state title by just 4.5 points in 2004, the Tigers left no doubt who was the best wrestling team in Class 1A-5A in 2005, as they defeated second-place Scottsboro by 59.5 points. It was the first wrestling title for Hartselle since 2000.
Because of the unique way in which wrestling is scored, Hartselle actually wrapped up the title before its final round of competition. Instead, individual honors were the order of the day as Luke Mize took home the state title in the 140-pound weight class, Kurt Hamilton won the 171-pound title and Adam Faulk won the state final in the 189-pound class.
Hartselle seniors Mize, Faulk, Hamilton, Brett Bidwell, JD Glenn, Hunter Brasher, Travis Lightle, Dennis Smith and Corey Farmer were able to experience the excitement of a state championship on their fourth and final try at the title. Unknown at the time, it would also be the final try for Hartselle coach Keith Corder, who resigned shortly after to spend time with his family after 11 years of leading the Tiger wrestling program.
The importance of the story is obvious – it was the only sports story in the 2005 calendar year to completely dominate the front page of the Enquirer's sports section. Although there was tough competition, Hartselle's wrestling title is the story of the year.