2009 in review

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There are a lot of folks who will be glad to see 2009 in the rearview mirror.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 There are a lot of folks who  will be glad to see 2009 in the rearview mirror.

The economy tanked and folks lost jobs and homes and businesses. But any year you get to see the end of can’t be all bad. Billy Mays, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Les Paul, Patrick Swayze, Dom DeLuise and Walter Cronkite – we wish you guys could have made it to this point with us. There were tough times, as in any year, although 2009 had more than its fair share. We all tightened our belts and did the best we could. Diversions were needed as much as ever, and it was sure nice to have a bunch of young folks willing to put in the time and effort to give us a diversion, if we wanted it, for nine months of the year. What it was, was 2009. Here’s a look back.   JANUARY The first month of the year didn’t bring any major stories, just several nice little ones to break us in to the new year slowly. A couple of Carroll County wrestlers took home individual championships from two of the more prestigious tournaments as Drew McCraw won the 275-pound title at Grundy’s Agie Skeens tournament, and Blake Bowman claimed the 130-pound championship at Christiansburg’s Big Blue Invitational. On the hardwood, Scott Alouf and Cameron Frazier of Galax rained terror on Narrows, combining for a dozen 3-pointers in a 30-point win.   FEBRUARY Kim Caudill of Carroll County and Jamie Cockerham of Galax were named to their respective all-state volleyball teams, and Grayson County High School dedicated its basketball court to Thomas Owens, a longtime coach at the school who was battling cancer. We would lose Coach Owens a few months later. Grayson County, nor any sports program at any school anywhere, could ever hope for a more loyal, more dedicated individual working with its young people. The brightest story of the month was the first individual state championship in wrestling for Galax High School. Edu Rojas was one of four wrestlers from the area to wrestle for a state title, joining McCraw and Grayson County’s Richard Pugh and Cody McGuire. Rojas, a 119-pounder in his first full season of varsity wrestling, used a late takedown to score an 8-6 win over Strasburg’s Sean Hall, a senior with more than 160 career wins.   MARCH It’s never a bad month when you can see championship basketball and the opening of baseball season within a couple of weeks of each other. March ushered in the debut of girls’ soccer at Galax, and Woodlawn’s Caleb Burris won the state Hoop Shoot championship. Galax again took the top sports story of the month by winning its first region basketball championship in more than 35 years. The Group AA, Region IV champion in 1972, the Maroon Tide claimed its second title by knocking off Eastern Montgomery to win the Group A, Region C Division 1 crown. Galax had lost a 13-point lead and the region title to the Mustangs a year before, and wasted most of a 13-point lead before holding on this time around.   APRIL The Grayson County Middle School baseball team continued to tear through the opposition, winning the Pulaski Middle School tournament with wins over Fort Chiswell, Blacksburg (twice) and Pulaski. The Blue Devils piled up 64 runs in just 16 innings in their four games. Grayson County’s varsity team got the most of its one hit, edging Fort Chiswell 1-0 on Jessup Lambert’s two-hitter, and Galax scored 23 runs in the third inning of a 36-8 win over Bland County. The eye-opening headline of the month was more due to its absurdity than anything, as PETA took on NASCAR because Talladega Superspeedway tried to break a world record for most people simultaneously doing the Chicken Dance, which is obviously detrimental to the self-esteem of chickens. The folks at PETA are passionate about their cause, and they put that passion to perfectly good use by butting heads with things like the Wienermobile and the Chicken Dance.   MAY Galax’s girls reached the Region C tournament in their first year of existence and battled George Wythe evenly in a 2-1 loss, Galax product Beth Walker of Virginia Tech capped her collegiate softball career by earning all-ACC Tournament honors, and Grayson County won its 18th straight Mountain Empire District baseball tournament. I always wondered how I would handle writing about my own son as a sports figure when he began playing high school-level sports, and that time came sooner than I expected. My youngest son had always looked forward to the day when he got to play a real game on the baseball field named for his grandfather, Bill Worrell. I had to wipe a tear from my eye when, in his first game, Jordan knocked the first pitch he saw out of the park.   JUNE Usually a time when two or three area teams are battling for state championships, June was unique in that the Spring Jubilee at Radford University went on without a team representative from the Twin Counties. Grayson County came up a game short in baseball and softball, as did Galax in boys’ soccer.   JULY Billy Robinson won the PBR’s Bismarck Copenhagen Challenger Tour event in Bismarck, N.D., climbing to the top of the tour’s money list. In baseball, Carroll County’s 15-16-year-old team became the first area team in more than 20 years to advance past the state level, winning the Dixie Boys’ state championship in South Boston. The team advanced to the World Series in Dothan, Ala., an overall experience lessened only slightly by losses to Tennessee and North Carolina.   AUGUST High school football practice started. Nothing trumps that.   SEPTEMBER It took quite a while longer than expected, but Galax picked up its first win of the football season with a 13-0 defeat of Craig County. Carroll County produced probably the most dramatic win in the history of its program with a 28-27 win at Patrick County. Trailing 27-21, the Cavaliers stopped the Cougars on downs at the Carroll 29 with just 57 seconds left. Two quick passes to Tyler Reavis moved the ball to midfield with 10 seconds left, and Reavis made a juggling catch of a Blake Bowman pass at the 10, and was tackled while crossing the goal line as time expired. Mason King’s PAT with 0:00 showing was the winning point. But it’s not every month a coach wins her 300th career game. Rose Houk, who had stood at 299 wins since the previous October, joined the 300 club has her Maroon Tide bumped EastMont in three games. All of Houk’s wins have come at Galax, where she has been the Tide coach for 29 years.   OCTOBER Galax and Carroll County won regular season district volleyball championships and the Cavaliers played their way into a winner-take-all game with Richlands for the SWD football title. But two things in particular stood out about October – Galax golf and the end of Grayson County’s losing streak. Galax not only won the Region C golf championship, the Maroon Tide lapped the field. Posting the second-lowest team score in the tournament in more than a decade, Galax whipped runner-up Giles by 21 strokes. The top four Tide golfers – Brock Cox, Kyle Schaeffer, Matthew Downey and Dustin Thompson, each shot 77 or better. Grayson County hadn’t tasted victory on the football field in more than a season and a half, but kissed a 17-game slide goodbye with a 16-14 win over Galax. The Blue Devils got a pair of safeties, and Omar Larreta’s TD late in the third quarter put Grayson on top to stay.   NOVEMBER Jared Van Acker ended his stint as Galax’s head football coach after three seasons, and DeRon Brown ended his collegiate football career at MIT as the Engineers’ all-time leader in rushing yards, carries and touchdowns. The two-time New England Football Conference offensive player of the year was invited to and scored the first touchdown in the inaugural D3 Senior Classic all-star game in Salem. November’s headliner was Galax’s epic Region C volleyball semifinal loss to Radford. In two-hour, 223-point stretch of competition that would rival any game in any sport, anywhere, for intensity, drama, elation and heartbreak, Galax was seven separate times within a single point  of making its first state tournament appearance in the sport. Galax led two games to none, then saw Radford tie the match at two-all. Fifth games in volleyball are played to 15, win by two, and even that wasn’t enough as the Bobcats outlasted the Maroon Tide 23-21 in the fifth game. Said coach Rose Houk, “My blood pressure had to be sky-high. We were so close to going to state, it hurts.”   DECEMBER We’re going with a partial month here, and providing nothing earth-shattering happens this week, the two top stories of the month thus far have been honors bestowed upon a pair of women’s basketball players. Bailey Snyder of Emory & Henry College was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference player of the week. Snyder, a senior guard, averaged 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds as the Wasps posted their first three-game winning streak in four years. On the high school level, Carroll County guard Kayla Goins became just the third Cavalier to surpass 1,000 career points, hitting the magic number with a third-quarter free throw in Carroll County’s 57-52 win over Pulaski County. Goins reached P1K in just the fifth game of her senior season, finishing the night with 25 points and 12 rebounds. See ya in 2010.