So I have the honor of writing the first true “column” to be published on The Flash.
I could choose a time specific topic – the recently completed national semifinal run by the Tarleton State men’s basketball team, the success of Stephenville’s soccer program, some of the performances by Stephenville athletes at the District 6-4A track and field meet or the effort by Dubliner London Jones in a 3A area competition. And of course, there is always the 16-strikeout masterpiece pitched by Stephenville senior Maddux Conger just more than a week ago.
There is never a shortage of sports topics in and around Erath County. Even if the traditional sports slow down, there is always a local cowboy or cowgirl dominating as rodeo athletes. After all, this really, truly is the one and only Cowboy Capital of the World.
It’s also the City of Champions, and champions do about indeed. If you tried to list off everyone in Stephenville who in some fashion or another has earned the title of “champion,” you would no doubt leave someone out. I would, so I won’t go there.
Instead, I’ll make my first sports column on The Flash about games and moments. Favorite games and moments. Mine. As in my favorite sports games moments since starting with The Flash last summer.
I’ve selected 10. I’m sure you would re-arrange them, leave some out in lieu of others you no doubt feel I have wrongly left out. But it’s an opinion, and here are mine – Brad’s 10 Favorite Sports Moments through my first 10 months with The Flash Today.
10. Conger strikes out 16 – If Maddux Conger is on the mound, you never know when you will see something special. Friday, April 10, at James T. Young Baseball Field was something special indeed. The Vanderbilt pledge struck out 16 batters including a stretch of seven straight and nine out of 10. He also had the game-winning hit in a 3-2 victory over arch-rival Brownwood.
9.. The fastest miles – The mile relay is track’s version of prime time. The main event. The granddaddy of them all. It’s the last even of a track and field meet for a reason. And Stephenville closed out the District 6-4A meet at Graham last Tuesday in grand fashion. Freshman Payton Wall came from behind on the anchor leg to lift the Honeybees to the district title in the 4×400, before Dawson Gray took the lead for good on leg three and Ben Martin brought the Yellow Jackets home in first in the boys race. A fantastic finish to the grueling two-day meet.
8. Rathke wins national title – Chase Rathke won Tarleton’s fifth individual national championship since the school joined NCAA Division II when he captured the title in the 1,500 meter run. Rathke is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation and is fresh off a victory in the open 1,500 at the Mt. Sac Relays in California as he prepares to defend his title.
7. On to the Final Four – Mount Olive started strong, leading Tarleton State 19-9 in the early stages of a national quarterfinal game in the 2015 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana. But it was just that. A strong start. Nothing more. Tarleton amped up it’s defense, that led to easy offense, and by halftime the Texans led by a bucket. They cruised from there, winning 77-59 to claim a spot in the Final Four for the second time in school history, the first in 10 years.
6. FAITH makes it four – How do you spell dynasty in the Texas Christian Athletic League? How about F-A-I-T-H. The homeschool Knights won their fourth consecutive TCAL Six-Man Division II title in 2014 behind Shadd Cole, a two-time All-American who knew nothing but state championships during his esteemed high school career. Also a star on the hardwood, Cole recently decided to play basketball at NCAA Division III Howard Payne University in Brownwood.
5. Stidham returns in beast mode – As returns from injury go, this one was meteoric. Jarrett Stidham returned from a broken bone that required surgery on his throwing hand and instantly took over in an area playoff game. Stidham accounted for nine touchdowns, including rushing for the last three Stephenville TDs, in a wild 69-60 area-playoff win over Lubbock Estacado. Stidham, an Under Armour All-American and Elite 11 fraternity member, met his graduation requirements early and has already gone through spring ball while attending Baylor.
4. Marty Yates wins first go-round – Huckabay graduate and Erath County cowboy Marty Yates was bred to rope and ride, but few have predicted this. In his first ever go-round at the National Finals Rodeo, Yates won the tie-down roping in 7.4 seconds, instantly going from local favorite to nationwide star. Yates went on to win three rounds at the NFR and is off to a strong start this year.
3. Oh what a thriller – After scoring seven touchdowns rushing and receiving, sophomore running back Kaegun Williams turned to his arm to lift Stephenville to a dramatic 66-64 four-overtime bi-district playoff victory over Decatur. Williams took a pitch to the right side and connected with Darian Brown on a halfback pass for the winning two-point conversion, moments after saving the Jackets with a leaping touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal from the 22. Stephenville survived without starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham as backup Anthony Chavarria passed for 368 of Stephenville’s 621 yards.
2. Playoffs? Yes, playoffs! – Dublin had not been to the playoffs since 2003, and the Lions found themselves facing a must-win season-finale against upstart Clifton – which had already punched its playoff ticket – if they hoped to change that. Dublin trailed at intermission, but led by quarterback Brady Holleman, running back Travis Blazi and defensive back Abel Aguilar dominated the second half before a wild celebration on the grass at Memorial Stadium. The victory set the stage for an even more historic moment, as Dublin won a playoff game for the first time in 50 years the following Friday, drubbing Corsicana Mildred 54-0.
1. “Goodbye Stephenville, Hello Evansville” – Tarleton State men’s basketball radio broadcaster Casey Hogan coined that phrase when the Texans held off Angelo State 66-64 in the South Central Region championship game in front of a raucous standing-room only crowd at Wisdom Gym. It was the most intense atmosphere I’ve ever covered a game in, followed by an epic celebration that was well deserved. It was a historic moment in Tarleton State athletics, and the best sports moment of the last 10 months for me.
Brad Keith, a 2008 Tarleton State grad, is the 2013-14 Lone Star Conference Sportswriter of the Year in addition to past awards. He is a previous sports editor of The Stephenville Empire-Tribune, sports director for KCUB-FM radio and Tarleton sports radio broadcaster, the Dublin native brings 15 years experience to local sports coverage to The Flash. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole. To contact Brad, do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.