Every high school team has up and down years.
Some years, records are broken, state champions are crowned and awards are handed out. Some years, seasons end too early, too many games are lost and athletes are passed over.
Fortunately for Cass County, there are eight high schools full of outstanding athletes that do something amazing every year. And 2012 was no different. Here is the list of the top 10 sports stories:
The match that counts
Pleasant Hill wrestler Tully Byrne went up against Missouri River Valley West Conference rival Travis Britz of Harrisonville five times in the season. Both seniors in the 285-pound weight class, Byrne lost the first four times he saw Britz on the mat. But the fifth time, in the Class 2 MSHSAA state wrestling championship bout, Byrne won.
Britz had an advantage through most of the match, but in the third period, at the 5:45 mark, Byrne pulled off a pin for the victory.
The heavyweight title was Byrne’s first, as he placed sixth his junior year and qualified but did not place his freshman year. He ended the season with a 42-7 record. Britz had an undefeated 45-0 record going into the championship bout, after taking fourth his sophomore and junior years and qualifying as a freshman.
Harrisonville also took third place as a team with four other medalists, the first time the Wildcats earned a team trophy since 1986.
Earning respect at state
In their highest-ever finish for boys’ basketball at the Class 1 MSHSAA state championships, the Drexel Bobcats feel they gained the respect they deserve and now teams know they too can compete.
The Bobcats lost the championship game 79-72 to Scott County Central, who earned their fourth title in a row. Drexel started out the game with an 18-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter, thanks to junior forward CJ Bolton, who sunk three three-pointers and two other baskets.
But in the second quarter, Drexel was holding on to that slim lead when Bolton was knocked down on a rebound and stepped on, his head slammed into the floor. Shaken up, Bolton sat out the rest of the quarter. The Braves went on a 14-0 run after that point to gain a 38-27 lead at halftime. Bolton came back into the game after halftime, helping Drexel outscore Scott County Central in the third quarter, but the Bobcats just couldn’t recover from their shake-up to win the game.
Still, it was the first time since 1976 that Drexel made it to the state arena for boys’ basketball. The Bobcats ended the season with a 26-5 record.
Fighting to second
After a disappointing fourth place finish in 2011, the Pleasant Hill volleyball team was determined to do better in 2012.
And by returning every single player from that team, it was expected that the Chicks would do better. So, they did, taking home a second-place trophy.
Pleasant Hill lost the Class 3 state championship match to Westminster Christian Academy 25-16 and 25-22.
To get to state, Pleasant Hill first earned their second straight district, sectional and quarterfinal title. The Chicks took down Carl Junction 25-22 and 25-18 to capture the Class 3, Distinct 12 trophy, then went on to defeat Reeds Spring 25-16 and 25-11 in sectionals and Logan-Rogersville 28-26, 21-25 and 26-24 in quarterfinals.
The Archie girls’ track and field team may have only placed 30th at the Class 2 state championships, but their 4x800-meter relay team broke a school record.
The team of KC James, Mary Kurzweil, Kendyl Thomas and Jordan Schulte finished fifth in a time of 9 minutes, 53.77 seconds, shattering the record set in 2011 of 10:04.63.
But the Midway girls’ track and field team finished second in the Class 1 state championships. They were led by senior Mackenzie Weis, who finished first in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:48.48. She also took second in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:25.82.
The Harrisonville Wildcats have been so close to making it to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and the chance to compete for a Class 4 state title.
But since moving up to Class 4 in 2008, that trip has so far eluded them and in 2012, it was no different. Jefferson City Helias came to town and took advantage of some costly mistakes to capture a 17-7 victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Crusaders scored in the second quarter to lead 7-0, taking that advantage into halftime. Helias scored a field goal in the third quarter to lead 10-0 before Harrisonville finally saw the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter as junior quarterback Zach Davidson made his way five yards into the end zone for a touchdown to close the gap to 10-7.
But mistakes cost Harrisonville their good field position and an overthrown pass did not lead to a touchdown. The Crusaders took advantage of their possession and scored to seal the victory.
The Wildcats made it to sectionals in 2008, quarterfinals in 2009, semifinals in 2010 and quarterfinals in 2011.
The start of a tradition
They may not exactly still be high school athletes, but the 12 members of the 1951 Harrisonville football team that gathered to relive the memories of winning the Mineral Water Bowl were the team that started a winning Wildcat tradition.
The team members talked about how cold it was, how they had a 10-0 undefeated season, capped by that bowl victory, held in Excelsior Springs on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 2, 1951. It was the last bowl game played at the high school level in the state. It is now a Division II bowl game for the MIAA Conference.
At the game, the Wildcats were ahead 14-7 in the final minutes when Higginsville scored a touchdown, making the score 14-13. But the Cornhuskers didn’t get that extra point, as then-junior fullback Gene Roll broke through on the left side to block the ball and tackle the kicker. Harrisonville held on to win the game.
The team members gathered because their old trophy was found and restored by the Harrisonville Booster Club. It was presented to the team before the football game Oct. 5.
Tough way to end
It happened somewhere in the second quarter. Archie just couldn’t keep up with Wellington-Napoleon anymore, as the Tigers ran to a 53-4 victory in the Class 2 sectional game.
Wellington-Napoleon had only a 14-13 lead but then went on a 20-0 run that lasted into the third quarter. The Winds responded with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 34-26, but the Tigers still had a 42-27 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Archie ended its season with a 25-3 record.
Two in a row
For the second time in a row, the Midway volleyball team clinched a Class 1, District 13 championship.
The team had a hyped up season from the start, staying undefeated for most of the season and expecting to win that district trophy. The Vikings defeated Lone Jack 20-25, 25-18 and 25-15 in semifinals before taking down Lutheran 25-21 and 25-14 in the championship match.
But Midway lost in sectionals to Santa Fe 18-25, 27-25 and 25-9. The Vikings ended the season with a 29-3-1 record.
On the Raymore-Peculiar gymnasium wall is a banner for every team, except for girls’ soccer. Until this season.
For the first time in school history, the Panthers captured a Class 3, District 13 championship trophy with a 5-1 victory over Lee’s Summit West.
The Panthers led 2-0 at halftime with goals from senior forward Courtney Dickerson and freshman midfielder Brooke Renshaw. They kept it up in the second half, as sophomore midfielder Vanessa Mann scored to give Raymore-Peculiar a 3-0 advantage. The Titans scored then, but the Panthers weren’t finished as Renshaw head in another goal, followed by another from Dickerson to make the final score 5-1.
Raymore-Peculiar, 16-10, ended the season in sectionals with a 3-0 loss to Lee’s Summit North.
Two local athletes were honored alongside the best in the Kansas City Metro area.
As part of the 2012 Simone Awards, Harrisonville senior linebacker Max Galeassi was honored with the second annual Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award.
The award, honoring the memory of the Spring Hill standout football player who died in 2010 after collapsing on the field, was presented to Galeassi, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in June. Galeassi missed the first month of the season due to a rigorous chemotherapy regiment, but returned in October, despite losing over 30 pounds, to help anchor a defense that led the Wildcats to the Class 4 semifinals.
Raymore-Peculiar senior volleyball player Cheyanne Lyons was presented with the Evelyn Gates Award, presented to the best volleyball player in the Kansas City metro area. The other finalists were Lee’s Summit West’s Taylor Sandbothe, Bishop Miege’s Jordan Tucker and Gardner-Edgerton’s Cassie Wait.