Recap: Closing out a great year in high school sports coverage

Courtney Collins

CULLMAN – We say goodbye to the 2016-17 sports season in the Alabama High School Athletic Association with plenty of great memories.

A majority of teams covered by The Cullman Tribune displayed tremendous efforts in making a run toward the goal that all teams in the AHSAA shoot for: a state championship.

Of the 10 sanctioned sports involving 11 schools in our coverage area, at least one team in each made a serious challenge for the top prize, which makes it fun handling assignments when postseason play approaches.

It started back in the fall with Addison volleyball claiming another state championship. Dropping down to Class 1A, the Lady Bulldogs and Decatur Heritage had a memorable five-game set at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham Oct. 27 that took two hours to be played.

Addison pulled it out, winning the tiebreaker 15-6 with the two best teams in this class, providing all out efforts that thrilled many.

Addison football followed a similar path. The Bulldogs enjoyed an undefeated regular season and stood out in three play-off wins against Shoals Christian, Spring Garden and Hubbertville.

But Pickens County kept the Bulldogs from earning a trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium when they knocked off Addison in a battle of undefeated teams 23-6 on Nov. 24 in the semifinals.

Two locals went toe to toe in the 1A/2A State Cross Country Meet in Oakville on the first Saturday in November. St. Bernard edged out Cold Springs by a mere six points, preventing the Eagles from a three-peat. Cullman had a solid run in the 6A division, finishing second to Homewood.

On the hardwood, the Holly Pond Broncos thrilled many by playing the game well in the category of fundamentals. Scoring, defense and tempo paved the way for the Broncos to earn 32 wins on the season and come within one game of playing for the 3A state crown. Midfield outlasted the Broncos 76-68 in the semifinals on Feb. 28 inside the BJCC.

The loss didn't take away the impressiveness of how this team started the season 16-0 and lost only once to an opponent in the AHSAA, that being in the Final Four to the eventual state champion.

Cold Springs' Lady Eagles and the Fairview Lady Aggies made plenty of noise in the postseason, getting to the Elite Eight before their quests to reach Birmingham were cut off in the Northwest Regional at Wallace State. Fairview won the county championship for the first time since 1982 while Cold Springs was in a regular routine, winning better than 20 games and making its usual appearance at Wallace for the regionals.

Holly Pond took home second in the state indoor track and field meet in Birmingham, led by its stellar athlete, Matt Cahoon.

Spring sports teams and athletes had plenty of reasons to celebrate success.

Once again, the Cullman Bearcats were the best in the North in 6A baseball, going through four grueling weeks of postseason play before the best out of the South, the Helena Huskies, edged them two games to one in a fight to the finish at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

Cullman soccer overcame some ups and downs in the regular season, strung together four impressive victories in the playoffs and almost repeated as the best in Class 6A. Pelham claimed a 2-0 win in the title match May 13 at John Hunt Park in Huntsville.

To the softball diamond, Cullman was in the mix, getting back to Montgomery, having to adjust its lineup after an injury to starting pitcher Olivia Schwaiger in game two of the North Regional.

Sierra Easterwood took over the pitching duties and got plenty of run support from her teammates for the Lady 'Cats to topple Oxford, Fort Payne and Athens on May 12; that got the No. 2 regional qualifier to Lagoon Park. Cullman suffered two hard fought losses to No. 1 Daphne and Helena that kept them from a deep run in the Elite Eight.

Cold Springs and West Point also earned regional berths with Cold Springs in the North Regional for the first time while West Point went to the North-Central for the first time as well.

Outdoor track had the small schools competing for the state title at Cullman's Oliver Woodard Stadium. It came down to the final event, the pole vault in Class 2A, with Cold Springs coming from third place to edge St. Bernard by one point and celebrate the dramatic finish.

Besides covering the AHSAA postseason, The Tribune was on hand for all county high school championships. The Tribune salutes the following for their excellence in county competition:

  • Volleyball champion – Fairview
  • Cross Country champion – Cold Springs girls, Cold Springs varsity
  • Basketball champion – Fairview girls, Holly Pond varsity
  • Baseball champion – Fairview
  • Softball champion – West Point
  • Golf champion – Fairview girls, Fairview varsity
  • Track champion – Cold Springs girls, Cold Springs varsity

Playoff qualifiers per sport:

  • Volleyball – Addison
  • Girls’ Cross Country – Cullman, Cold Springs, St. Bernard, Fairview
  • Varsity Cross Country – Cullman, Cold Springs, St. Bernard, Holly Pond, Fairview
  • Football – Addison, Cullman, West Point
  • Girls’ Basketball – Cold Springs, Fairview, West Point
  • Varsity Basketball – Cold Springs, Fairview, Hanceville, West Point
  • Baseball – Cullman, Fairview
  • Softball – Cullman, Cold Springs, West Point
  • Girls’ Soccer – Cullman, St. Bernard
  • Varsity Soccer – Cullman, St. Bernard 
  • Girls’ Track & Field – Cold Springs, Cullman, Fairview, St. Bernard, Good Hope, West Point, Hanceville, Holly Pond
  • Varsity Track & Field – Cold Springs, Cullman, Fairview, Holly Pond, St. Bernard, West Point, Hanceville.
  • Girls’ Golf – Fairview, Good Hope
  • Varsity Golf – Fairview

By the end of the week, all graduations will have taken place as Cullman and St. Bernard close out saying goodbye to the Class of 2017. When June rolls around, summer team camps will be going in basketball while volleyball and football wait for July to arrive so they can take part in team camp activities.

The 2017-18 AHSAA season is three months away from beginning. It will get here very quickly.

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Image courtesy of Courtney Collins/Good Hope Girls' Golf