Plenty of prep moments to remember


Cornelius Ingram, former Hawthorne player, named best athelete.

Sun file photo
Published: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 12:54 a.m.

When in Lakeland covering the state volleyball championships, I asked FHSAA director of communications Jack Watford if he thought there was any chance the football finals might have to be moved to a later date because the four hurricanes that ravaged the state early in the season had caused a ton of postponements and cancellations.

His response (and I'm paraphrasing here) was "I don't know about that, but this year, nothing would surprise me."

Along those lines, let's take a look back at the surprises, biggest and bests of 2004 local high school sports.

  • BEST MOMENT:

    Buchholz's Danzel Issac running down the Miami Northwestern anchor in the final event of the Class 4A state track championships. Issac's sprint broke a deadlock between the two schools and gave the Bobcats their first state championship since the mid-1990s.

  • BEST GAME:

    I'd go with Pensacola's 77-76 overtime victory at Gainesville High School in the 4A boys basketball regional finals on March 6. Not only was it hard-fought between two talented teams, this game proved to anyone with questions just how talented then-GHS point guard Ron Larris is.

  • BEST SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE:

    Bronson senior tailback Daren Atalig ran for an area-record 407 yards and the game-preserving interception in the Eagles' 43-40 win against Trenton on Oct. 22. That wasn't and isn't a typo.

  • BEST RUN:

    The GHS volleyball team won its second straight 4A title and has lost just two matches in the last two years combined. Fellow Hurricane Nick Davis won his second consecutive state wrestling championship (going undefeated as a junior and senior) and became the first grappler from Florida ever to sign with national power Minnesota.

  • BEST ATHLETE:

    Cornelius Ingram, a former all-state football and basketball player at Hawthorne, may be the highest regarded double-threat in those sports Florida has ever produced.

  • BURSTING ON THE SCENE:

    Lafayette's Natalie Land won The Sun's small-school girls basketball and softball player-of-the-year awards. Oh yeah, she was an eighth-grader. Keep those stat books updated, Hornets' coaches, as by the time she is done, Land could challenge for the state's all-time scoring and hits records.

  • BEST 4.37 SECONDS:

    Union County's human blur, running back C.J. Spiller, (with sprinting shoes loaned to him by Buchholz quarterback Alex Thompson) ran a 4.37 40-yard dash on grass (and on videotape) at the MSL Combine on UF's practice field in April. I'd love to see Spiller's time on a track.

  • BEST RIVALRY (TIE):

    P.K. Yonge verus Oak Hall in volleyball and girls track and Santa Fe versus Keystone Heights in softball were about the most evenly matched district contests the area produced.

  • BIGGEST STUNNER:

    Name one person outside of the Panhandle who predicted Union County's loss to Pensacola Catholic in the 2B state semifinals. A close second might be Eastside's district-title clinching football victory against Columbia in a game played at Santa Fe.

    Here are a few small wishes for 2005.

  • A state football title ... for any area team. There hasn't been a local champ since Chiefland in 1997, a decade that also brought titles to Buchholz, Suwannee, Santa Fe and Union County.

  • Far-advancing teams in baseball ... Since the turn of the century, only P.K. Yonge (2001 and '02) and Santa Fe ('03) have reached the baseball final four. This year's local senior class is considered among the area's best ever. Let's see if that translates to some lengthy playoff runs.

  • An enjoyable retirement ... for outgoing FHSAA commissioner Robert Hughes. A lover of golf, here's hoping rains, bunkers and ponds stay away when Hughes is playing 18.

  • Healthy knees ... for P.K. Yonge's Elyse Cusack, one of the area's top volleyball players (and a good shortstop, to boot), who has gone through ACL reconstruction on each of her knees the last two years. Numerous Division I colleges that had interest in Cusack, a junior this year, are taking a wait-and-see approach to her recovery. Hopefully, she'll give them answers to their questions.

  • Understanding parents ... Coaches want good things for your kids and work hundreds of hours for far less pay than they deserve. Remember that when you curse their substitution patterns and question their intelligence.

  • No hurricanes ... for all of us.

    John Patton is The Sun's high school sports editor. You can reach him by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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