December 30, 2011
Two state championships; countless conference, district and league titles; a couple of Cinderella stories; a slew of state medals and a pair of former local standouts breaking into the professional scene.
From individual milestones to team triumphs, 2011 captivated the local sports community with a diversity of success that extended from the gridiron to the links.
Like last year, the list of accolades couldnít be confined to just 10. With the Democrat sports staff split among its votes, a three-way tie for 10th expanded the† list to 12 success stories.
We hope you enjoy it.
1. Sacred Heart, David Baldwin win Class 1 state golf championships: With a nine-stroke lead on Tipton heading into day two of the Class 1 state championship, the Gremlins were all but assured of a second consecutive title.
Unlike 2010ís climactic, one-stroke state championship win over Marceline, the Gremlins† erased all drama with a second-day 307 on their home course and cruised to a 27-stroke win over runner-up Linn.
And the face of that title effort was David Baldwin, who started off the day three strokes off the pace of co-leaders Dalton Wolfe, of Linn, and Jacob Miller, of Silex.But the junior carded a front-side 36 and holed a pivotal 15-foot birdie putt on No. 17 on his way to a 75, which capped off a two-day 151 and gave him a stroke victory over teammate Jared Dey.
Along with fielding the top two finishers, Sacred Heart also added a third state medalist (top 15) in John Beykirch, who followed up an opening-round 82 with a 75 for a 157.
2. State Fair Lady Roadrunners win Region 16 title and first playoff game: For the entire season, State Fair went toe-to-toe with Iowa Western in the Region 16 standings.
But it wasnít the Reivers, whose 11-1 league mark bested State Fairís 10-2 record, who stood between the Lady Roadrunners and their first NJCAA D-I tournament since 1999. That honor went to Jefferson College, which routed Iowa Western to make the Region 16 championship.
Ebony Davis, who was selected as a first-team all-American last season, had a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds and State Fair, who was without former all-American Ciara Leak, built a 13-0 lead en route to an 81-71 win over the Lady Vikings.
Equipped with the No. 4 seed in the NJCAA womenís tournament, the Lady Roadrunners then pulled down the programís first playoff win with a 66-50 victory over Chattanooga State (Tenn.) in the opening round. They then lost the next two, capping off the transformative 29-6 season.
3. Smith-Cotton seniors cap off 40-0 West Central Conference record in girls soccer: Along with leading the program to its first-ever district title in 2010, Tiffany Wehmeyer, Tanaeia Smith, Kali Webb, Chelsey Muths and Mariah Alverson added another eye-popping statistic to their legacy last season: They became the first Smith-Cotton senior class to never lose a West Central Conference game.
Capped off by a 10-0 win over KC Center, the seniors went 40-0 in league play en route to four consecutive conference championships.
4. Sacred Heart football team has first winning season, makes playoffs: Just like its first three varsity campaigns, 2011 started out with a couple of lopsided losses for Sacred Heart.
But miraculously, whether it be because of the new head coach Ben Lyles or the maturity of his son, Chase, under center along with the weapons around him, the Gremlins quickly put the losing culture behind them.
Starting with a 24-6 win over Northwest, the Gremlins won six straight, including their first district contest, and matched their win total from the previous four years.
That led to a third-place finish in the Kaysinger Conference and a 6-4 record, their first time finishing above .500.
5. Johnny Eierman signs with Tampa Bay Rays: Dubbed a five-tool prospect by scouts, including ESPNís Keith Law, the Warsaw all-state shortstop batted .571 with 10 home runs, 25 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 54 runs scored during his senior year. He was also 24 for 24 on stolen-base attempts and had a .689 on-base percentage and a 1.286 slugging percentage for the 19-5 Wildcats.
That talent, along with his promise as a versatile utility player, caught the attention of Louisiana State University, which offered him a full-ride scholarship.
But it also garnered the attention of the Rays, who drafted Eierman with the 119th pick.
After a month of negotiations, Eierman accepted a $550,000 signing bonus and flew to Florida to join his teammates in the Gulf Coast League.
6. Smith-Cotton boys basketball team has first-winning campaign in 14 seasons: Ever since Rod Baxter led the program to back-to-back winning campaigns in the 1995-96, 1996-97 seasons, the Tigers basketball team has struggled.
Several coaches have stepped in to turn around the program, but all have failed.
That is until Kevin Schnicker stepped in.
Even with the Tigers losing Dominique Smith, Lucas McMullin and Kyle Nickel to injuries, Schnicker found a way to lead the team to a historic 14-13 record last season.
7. Sacred Heartís Lakin Kehde scores 100th career goal: While he didnít do it on his own, the all-state senior forward was the face behind a program that turned into a Kaysinger Conference juggernaut. Spanning three years, the Gremlins extended their win streak to 34 games against league foes. In the process, they hauled in three Kaysinger Conference tournament and regular-season crowns, won three district titles and earned the programís first playoff victory in 2010.
Already in possession of the programís single-season and career scoring mark, along with the career assists mark, the 5-foot-7, 145-pound multisport athlete ó who starts at point guard on the Gremlins basketball team ó further cemented his legacy by scoring his 100th goal in a 9-0 conference win over Green Ridge on Sept. 29.
8. Tim Barnes added to St. Louis Rams practice squad: The all-conference center from Mizzou, who previously shined as an all-stater for the Northwest football team, was projected to be drafted in the fifth to seventh round in last Aprilís NFL draft. But the 6-foot-4, 300-pounderís name was never called.
But that didnít stop his dream of playing in the NFL. Barnes found a brief home with the Baltimore Ravens, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent after the lockout was lifted. But he was cut in the final round of roster chopdowns. The Rams swooped in on Sept. 13 and signed Barnes to their practice squad, and heís currently the lone backup to starting center Jason Brown.
9. Dallas Peoples becomes first back to rush for 2,000 yards: On Oct. 27,† Peoples forever etched his name into Tipton folklore: The 5-9, 180-pounder became the first running back in the history of the program to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing milestone.
Peoples, who ended the season with 2,292 yards on 279 carries (8.22 yards per carry) for the 11-1 Kaysinger Conference and district champion Cardinals, hit the mark in just the 10th game with a 57-yard touchdown run against Sacred Heart, one of his 38 rushing touchdowns on the year.
10t. Sacred Heart boys basketball team wins fourth consecutive district title: Led by a backcourt of Lakin Kehde, Jared Dey, Chris Pottorff and Stefan Cox, a towering frontcourt made up of 6-7 center Jared Drum and Democrat All-Area Player of the Year Caleb Morrison, and sixth man Wes Register, the Gremlins cruised to 25-3 record and their third consecutive Kaysinger Conference regular-season and tournament crowns.
And in districts, they once again delivered. They routed a 20-win Windsor team by 23 points in the semifinals and then, against a team that had dispatched† 2009-10 Class 1 state runner up Pilot Grove in a 72-56 win in the other semifinal, the Gremlins coasted to a 74-56 victory over Tipton to win their fourth consecutive district title and head coach Steve Goodwinís seventh in his 13 seasons at Sacred Heart.
10t. Stover volleyball reaches Class 2 state quarterfinals: It was a historic campaign for the Lady Bulldogs, who more than filled up the trophy case in 2011.
The Lady Bulldogs navigated a treacherous schedule of Sacred Heart, Green Ridge and Cole Camp to finish 9-0 and win their first regular-season Kaysinger conference title since 1983.
The perfect mark ended the Gremlinsí reign of six consecutive regular-season titles.
En route to a 32-5 mark, the Lady Bulldogs overcame a 1-0 set deficit to California to capture the programís first district title since 1992.
And then Stover almost made it to the final four. The Lady Bulldogs once again shook off an early deficit to defeat Leeís Summit Christian in three sets in sectional play, but they were swept in the quarterfinals by St. Paul Lutheran, which went on to finish fourth in state.
10t. Megan Keck finishes second in Class 1 state golf tournament: In 2011, the 5-3, 112-pound junior won seven of the 10 tournaments she competed in, finishing as the runner-up twice and placing third in the William Woods Invitational tournament in the other three competitions.
Keck, who found a home in the mid-to-high 30s in nine-hole matches and mid-to-high 70s in 18-hole tournaments, wound up second with a two-day total of 166.