Another school year is of course in the books - and with that, another sports saga has played out for Melissa and Anna. Before attention turns completely to the 2018-19 athletic slate, a quick look back at some of the recent local greatness is perhaps in order. So while relaxing by the pool, vacationing in Greenland or just kicking back with Forensic Files reruns, take a minute to relive some of the best sports moments by our local athletes from seasons just past.
They’re chronicled below, chosen by this humble scribe alone – which admittedly makes the list dubious and debatable.
Congratulations to all the athletes and coaches at these fine schools. You sacrificed much to compete and are all winners.
TOP 5 MELISSA SPORTS MOMENTS
No. 5: Lady Cards storm back, down Celina for volleyball district title
In District 11-4A’s game of the year, Melissa staged a dramatic come back from two sets down to thump Celina on Oct. 20 for the district championship. After narrowly dropping Sets 1 and 2, Melissa rolled to decisive 25-15 wins in the next two then prevailed, 15-13, in a nail-biting fifth-set classic. “I’ve got chill-bumps right now,” Lady Cards head coach Frank DePaolo said. “The win means everything to this program, it means everything to our kids. It took an entire team effort.” This was Melissa’s first outright volleyball district title since 2014. The Lady Cards tallied a season-high 101 digs in this one, with libero Brittany Melcher’s 31 leading the way and Caroline Kasson adding 24. Susan Blake collected a team-high 22 kills and Kasson followed with 14.
No. 4: Lady Cards’ soccer seniors finish careers without single district loss
On March 5, Melissa wrapped up its fourth-straight undefeated district title run, blanking Celina, 4-0, on its home pitch. The win also closed out perfect district-play careers for six Lady Cardinal seniors. “I don’t know of any other group that’s done that,” Melissa head coach Manuel Avila said. “They went through the halls of Melissa High School and never lost a single match to Celina or Argyle – ever.” These unbeaten-in-district seniors included Emma Schaeffer, Gillian Stopinski, Sarah Weideman, Erin Eichel, Lilly Hubbard and Kaitlynn Griffin. They were there when Melissa’s program started four years ago and since had a hand in 83 wins, with three trips to the regional tournament. Versus Celina in this benchmark district finale, Stopinski and Schaeffer posted first-half goals and Eichel and Hubbard added insurance scores in the second. Three-time district Goalkeeper of the Year Brittany Morgan notched the shutout.
No. 3: Two Melissa freshmen nab medal at state track meet
Distance-runner Judson Greer claimed a silver and a bronze medal and sprinter Kaylee Lewis earned bronze at the Class 4A state track meet, May 11-12, at Austin. Greer’s bronze came in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4 minutes, 27 seconds. His silver medal time in the 3,200 meters was 9 minutes, 47.64 seconds. “I hope to keep improving and move up each year,” Greer said. “I want to keep my goals high.” Lewis earned bronze in the 200-meter dash with a personal-best time of 24.2 seconds, just .03 seconds back of the silver medalist. She also narrowly missed claiming bronze in the 100 meters with a personal-best time of 11.83 seconds. The third-place finisher there came in at 11.79. “I like big meets like this,” Lewis said. “I feel like it makes me better. I love the atmosphere.”
No. 2: Cards slam East Texas nemesis Gilmer in football regional semi-finals
Melissa rallied from a 14-0 halftime hole to take down the vaunted Buckeyes, 35-23, on Dec. 1 in the third round of the playoffs. This was Melissa’s first-ever victory over Gilmer in four tries and with it the Cards extended their school-record win-streak for a single season to 12. “I’m so proud of our kids,” Cards head coach Seth Stinton said. “They’ve been working so hard to get over that Gilmer ‘mystique.’ Our guys responded so well. We got down early but there’s no quit in us.” Cards running back Ja’Bray Young erupted for four second-half touchdowns, including scoring sprints of 50 and 51 yards. Quarterback Brendon Lewis threw for 247 yards and added more shock value with an 80-yard touchdown strike to Kennedy Lewis in the third quarter.
No. 1: Taylor Thomas’ 3 stuns Wilmer-Hutchins in basketball overtime for Area title
Down 2 points to the Lady Eagles with less than 10 seconds left in OT on Feb. 16, Thomas’ game-winner came from well beyond the top of the key. The shot, only her second field goal of the game, lifted the Lady Cards to a 41-40 win and an Area championship. “I’m so, so proud of Taylor for making that shot,” then-Melissa head coach Heather Lane said. “It took a lot of guts to take that shot. She could’ve penetrated, tied it up again, but she went for the win and it fell through.” The thrilling victory came on the heels of the Lady Cards’ second-straight district-championship season and a second-straight unbeaten run through district play. Thomas finished her MVP tenure at Melissa with 1,097 points. She’ll continue her playing career at Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
TOP 5 ANNA SPORTS MOMENTS
No. 5: In his first varsity game, Rawley Hector slaps walk-off RBI double after tying the contest with a 2-run homer
The freshman’s game-winner in this season-opener with Farmersville on Feb. 19 hit the left field wall at the Anna Sports Complex, sending Gabe Surdukan home from second for a 5-4 Coyotes victory. Hector’s 2-run shot to left in the seventh tied the game at 4-all. He went 3-for-4 at the plate and also pitched three innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out six. “Rawley will have some impact on the varsity,” Anna head coach Joey Hector had said two weeks prior to this game. Hector was the district Newcomer of the Year and is verbally committed to Texas A&M.
No. 4: Football’s Bubba Jones wrecks Quinlan Ford, Bonham
The senior defensive end - and sometimes fullback - posted seven tackles, two quarterback sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Coyotes’ 35-21 victory over Quinlan Ford on Oct. 20. In a 35-28 Homecoming win over Bonham on Sept. 22, Jones collected three sacks, a tackle-for-a-loss, a swatted pass and a crucial late-game onside-kick recovery. “Bubba is a player offenses have to account for and game-plan around,” Anna head coach Jason Heath said. “He’s a playmaker for us on the defensive line. It’s tough to block him with one guy.” Jones was the district’s Defensive Lineman MVP.
No. 3: Coyotes baseball tames Princeton ace, 1st-place Panthers on the road
Anna rose up and knocked off district-leader Princeton, 3-0, on April 4 - a crucial win that kept the Coyotes alive in the playoff hunt, one game back of first place at the midpoint of the district race. Designated-hitter Dylan Burr’s two-run double off Panther ace Austin Hitchcock in the fourth was the Coyotes’ hit of the night. On the mound, Rawley Hector struck out 12 and scattered six hits over 6.1 innings. “I thought our guys just competed well,” Anna head coach Joey Hector said. “We’ve had some tough times lately but we stay the course. We just keep trusting the process.” Said Burr, “It means a lot to us because it was a big game and most people didn’t expect us to come out here and win.”
No. 2: Isaac Nino’s PK downs Castleberry in soccer playoff thriller
After two intense overtime periods in the Area round of the playoffs on April 3, team captain Isaac Nino’s dagger penalty kick lifted Anna over the Lions. Nino faked right, sending the Lions’ goalkeeper diving that direction, before slotting the ball left for the 8-7 win. Coyote players and coaches stormed the field in wild celebration. “Castleberry is a great team,” Anna head coach Matt Ellis said. “They have skill players all over the place. For us to get that result, beat the nerves and go 5-for-5 in PKs, I couldn’t be more proud of this group right now.” Carlos Garrido goals gave the Coyotes an early 2-0 lead and Jose Flores booted in the crucial score to tie it at 3-3 with 30 minutes left in regulation. Goalkeeper David Joaquin went the all the way for Anna, recording seven saves.
No. 1: Tamaya Tutson claims silver at state meet
The senior sprinter claimed second place in the 400-meter dash at the Class 4A state meet in Austin on May 12 with a time of 57.59 seconds. “It really means a lot to me,” Tutson said. “I’ve worked really hard to make it this far. I had to leave it all on the track.” Anna’s school record holder in 400 as well, Tutson clocked a 57.73 for gold at the regional meet. “She has held together with poise unlike any young lady I have ever seen,” Lady Coyotes head coach Scott O’Connor said after that effort. “It’s a testament to her training, her commitment and her character. You can’t coach the character she has.” Tutson will attend Rogers State University on a track scholarship this fall.