Thank you, Jon Clark Giddings.
If the 2014-15 Stephenville High School year in sports ended with that stunning finish to game three in the area round of the base
ball playoffs Saturday, this column would be much more difficult to pen.
But Giddings rewrote the end to Stephenville’s year in sports, soaring to a personal record 15 feet and fifth place in the 4A boys pole vault at the UIL Track & Field State Meet.
It’s a fitting finish to a year that included a state quarterfinal appearance in football, district championship in boys cross country, area-round appearance in volleyball, fourth-place finish at regionals in boys golf, regional semifinal and quarterfinal appearances in girls and boys soccer, a regional quarterfinal run in girls basketball and playoff appearances in boys basketball and softball.
More fitting than say, allowing five runs in the bottom of the seventh to be eliminated in shocking fashion from the Region I-4A area baseball playoffs. The stage was set for a big run in baseball, too. Graham a team Stephenville split with in 6-4A play, upset Decatur to meet Venus in the regional quarterfinals, and Iowa Park and Abilene Wylie, the Region I teams everyone seems to want to stay away from, play each other next weekend.
Nobody wanted to end the year on that sad note, the Yellow Jackets going from almost certain victory to defeat and elimination in a matter of moments. That ending left me speechless. It took a few moments to digest what had just happened before returning to writing mode and getting the details online for the world to read.
But the year in sports didn’t have to end that way. Giddings wrote us the nice, feel good, overcoming injury to achieve great success-type story that makes for a much better final chapter to 2014-15.
Stephenville said goodbye to one of the greatest high school football players this sportswriter has ever seen. May Jarrett Stidham have a great career down in Waco, home of a Baylor team ranked No. 2 in the Sports Illustrated “post spring power rankings.”
Stidham and company, labeled by Texas Football Magazine executive editor Greg Tepper as “a flamethrower of an offense,” powered the Yellow Jackets to the state quarterfinals for the fifth straight year and sixth time in seven years under Stephenville head coach Joe Gillespie.
We said goodbye to Gillespie, too, and turned the page to a new era in Yellow Jacket football.
Gillespie is now coaching linebackers and recruiting for the University of Tulsa, while Greg Winder, the coordinator of that “flamethrower of an offense,” takes over a Stephenville program that has won five state titles since 1993. May the points keep piling up, and the wins, too.
While we’re saying goodbye, adios, Jonathan Normand.
Not that he’s going anywhere. Normand just won’t be coaching Yellow Jacket basketball any more, but will instead be working toward his doctoral degree at Tarleton with hopes of becoming a college professor. A bold step by a good man who was one heck of a basketball coach. He led Stephenville to its deepest playoff run in program history in 2013-14, reaching the regional final.
Tuesday, we’ll find out who the new Yellow Jacket basketball coach is. One thing we already know is he won’t be answering to a football coach doubling as an athletic director.
That’s another part of this new era in Stephenville athletics. Alan Haire was named athletic director on March 6, the same day Winder was promoted to head football coach. Haire will not be coaching a sport. He is the first non-coaching athletic director at Stephenville, a popular trend amongst bigger school districts but not so much in a one horse town with just under 1,000 high school students.
Haire will have time to be there in support of all sports, tackle Title IX complaints and handle other administrative duties. Winder will have more time to focus on football.
Back to the playing fields and courts.
The Stephenville girls soccer team made a run to the regional semifinals before falling to an undefeated Melissa team upset one day later by state champ Kennedale. The Stephenville boys lost to a San Elizario team that dominated throughout its run to the 4A boys state title.
The Stephenville boys golf team had its best year in school history, and look out, coach Alan Thorpe returns EVERYONE from that squad.
Thorpe also led the Honeybees to their sixth – yes sixth – consecutive area championship in girls basketball. The Honeybees reached the regional quarterfinals, falling one win short of their third consecutive regional tournament appearance.
The baseball team had its share of success, too. As disappointing as the end turned out to be, there was still the 8-2 bi-district win over Burkburnett to celebrate, and the program is sending Maddux Conger on to 2014 NCAA Division I World Series champ Vanderbilt and Ben Martin on to NJCAA powerhouse Nararro College.
Honeybee softball returned to the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Head coach Rus Mayes has been at the helm the last four years and loses just two seniors, only one of which played full time.
Track and field was represented by 16 kids at regionals, and of course, it’s from that sport where our fitting finish came from.
Giddings waltzed through district to the area round, but suffered from both a quad and ankle injury. He vaulted just until he was in the top four at area, being sure to advance to regionals before calling it a day.
At regionals, Giddings soared to second, earning his spot at state. He could have been satisfied. He had every reason to be. He overcame obstacles to achieve a dream. But he knew there was more out there.
Giddings showed what’s so great about athletics in Stephenville. He showed the drive, the motivation, the determination and the heart it takes to be a champion.
And he showed up in the clutch. Better than ever before.
A personal record at the state meet. A great finish. For him, and for Stephenville.
Seniors will move on and remember what was. Underclassmen will return excited for what’s to come. Coaches will go back to the drawing board, determined to lead their teams even more effectively the next year.
And 2014-15 will slowly fade into a smorgasbord of other historic years in Stephenville sports, some moments and accomplishments living on forever, others being recalled from time to time, perhaps with a smile, a laugh, maybe even a tear.
It was a good year in sports. One that will be remembered fondly.
One that ended on a positive note, less than two hours after it appeared the book on 2014-15 had been slammed shut in ugly fashion.
But a good story deserves a good ending, and thus we have come full circle.
Thank you, Jon Clark.
And thanks, Yellow Jackets, Honeybees, coaches, administrators, support groups, fans, readers and everyone out there for another fun year of SHS sports.
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.