Kyle's Corner: Moving forward, but looking back
While just over six months isn’t a large chunk of time in the big picture, it is enough time to learn, grow and make impressions. The six months I have spent in Graham as the Sports Editor have not only been a formative experience, but also a ton of fun. The athletes, events and graciousness of the community have made the experience all the better.
Soon, I will take over as Editor at The Olney Enterprise. The opportunity is a great chance for me to gain experience putting out the whole newspaper. I have a passion for sports, and that passion will never die.
My time with sports in Graham started with the basketball season. The Lady Blues started a new era this past season with the addition of coach Ky Graham and the Steers went on a great run throughout the district basketball season. Watching both teams grow and triumph was a wonderful opportunity.
The Lady Blues finished the season with a loss in the bi-district round against Burkburnett, but came a long ways to even qualify for the playoffs. The Lady Blues captured victory in a thrilling play-in game against Mineral Wells, 54-47. The Blues play-in game victory was a great ride for any fan of the game. The excitement was great, between the pageantry of a rivalry game and the spirit of a do or die playoff game.
The Steers also finished the season with a loss in the bi-district round. They were defeated by Hirschi. The Steers basketball team played some exciting games of their own. Their final game of the season against Wylie in Graham was pretty spectacular. I arrived in the third quarter from the Blues playoff game in Windthorst to the Steers trailing by nearly 30 points. On the heels of Steven Kimberling, the Steers came back. Graham lost to Abilene Wylie 65-60, but played with tremendous heart in their final district game of 2015-16. The Steers also had a dramatic win over Mineral Wells, 44-43 at home, that was pretty unforgettable and quite intense. The Steers fell in the first round of the playoffs, but gained a ton of experience that will help them next season.
Next up was the spring sports season. I had a blast covering baseball and softball from the beginning to the end, and the story lines from both teams were never dull.
For the Lady Blues softball season, Lexie Allen returned for her senior year looking to best her marks made in 2015. The rest of the district was bound and determined to find a way to hit Allen in 2016.
The Blues struggled in 2016, but played with tremendous heart. Most of their losses were extremely tight, and the girls never quit trying and never gave up. Errors plagued the girls for most of the season but they fought through the miscues and gained experience.
The Blues only district win came in dramatic fashion against district rival Mineral Wells. On their home field, in extra innings, with a close call at the plate, the Lady Blues triumphed with a 2-1 victory. The Blues didn’t make the playoffs, but they never quit fighting and learning through the struggles.
The Steers baseball season was a true joy to cover. The team was young and relatively inexperienced, but they left it all the field every game. Graham alumnus Jim Bob Williams returned to Graham to coach the Steers in 2016. The team grew exponentially as the season progressed and their playoff run was marvelous and full of suspense.
The Steers got on a run toward the end of the district season, and the momentum was building at the perfect time. Graham had to face off against Iowa Park in the bi-district round of the playoffs and the Iowa Park Hawks were a solid team.
The Steers came back from a 1-0 hole in the three game series to capture the bi-district championship in dramatic fashion. It all started in game two. The Steers were down and out in game two, but they fought back with and scored five runs in the final inning to walk off with a victory, thus stealing the momentum in the series. When it was time for game three in Graham, the Steers were ready to complete the comeback.
Game three against Iowa Park was a back-and-forth affair. It went all the way to the final inning, again. The winning run scored after a Kimberling RBI, and Graham captured the bi-district baseball championship. The Hawks were stunned.
The area round of the playoffs against Midlothian Heritage provided the same drama. Graham jumped out to a 1-0 series lead over the Jaguars. In game two, the Steers had the advantage until the Jaguars mounted their own final inning comeback. The Steers led 7-3 going to the seventh and were three outs away from clinching the area title. Instead, the Jaguars mounted a five run seventh and tied the series with a 8-7 win.
In game three, Midlothian Heritage had the momentum. The Steers fought hard but the Jaguars did the same thing to the Steers that they had done to Iowa Park the week prior. The baseball team’s extraordinary post-season came to an end, but the thrill of the game will live on in everyone who experienced this year’s post-season roller coaster.
The individual sport’s athletes competed at a great level this spring, as well. The doubles duo of Alex Smith and Dallas Elmore were (presumably) the first from Graham to go to the individual tennis tournament. There was a possibility coach Matt Birdwell mentioned that Graham had sent someone 50 years ago, but it was not confirmed.
Graham track and field had medalists this spring at state. Connor Smith took home the gold in the discus and Bradlee Little took the bronze in the pole vault. Newcastle’s Grady Shields won two bronze medals at state and Bryson’s Caleigh Forbus took the bronze in the long jump at state.
The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series was toward the end of an exciting run in local sports. The chance to cover international athletes and being able to watch their amazing dives was a treat. My experience at Possum Kingdom Lake will be one I will never forget.
The people of Young County that make up this community are fantastic, and have really shown me the passion that this area has for sports. Sports are a metaphor for life. The competitive spirit is what drives us to accomplish the unheard of and to do the amazing.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be a sports writer, but I am also grateful for the chance to do more. Journalism serves a great purpose in society and still can be the great purveyor of the first amendment.
It is my hope that one community at a time we can continue to build stronger communities and to move forward with great faith. Graham and the surrounding region has shown me that this dream is still very much alive.