As we shift our focus toward 2016 and a new year in sports, it’s with great reverence that we take a look back at the best moments 2015 had to offer.
Like all great lists, some will disagree, but without any further delay, here’s my top five for 2015.
5. Bob Gray Day
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, the Lakeside Warriors hosted the Evangel Eagles on the baseball diamond for one of many spirited contests between the two perennial powers. Only this day was Bob Gray Day, and if you know anything about Bob, you would have thought the entire day was scripted by Gray himself.
Gray was honored by former Lakeside principle Johnny Rowland and mayor of Sibley, Jimmy Williams. Rowland, Williams, Gray’s dear friend and voice of Lakeside baseball Jack “Buddy” Slaid, Pete Brunson and Rita Bates shared heartfelt memories, gifted Gray with a customized wood bat and capped it all with a proclamation declaring April 25 as Bob Gray Day in Sibley.
On the field, Gray’s team dismantled Evangel using the same formula that Gray has won with for 30 years: Hitting for contact, precision bunting and applying pressure on the base paths. Gray called the game “a blueprint” for what he preaches.
Adding to the day, Gray’s son, Jake, got all of a first pitch fastball. The ball soared high and deep, a no-doubter to left field to give Lakeside a 6-1 lead that would only increase. The two exchanged brief smiles and a fist bump.
It was Bob Gray’s day, and no one was going to mess it up.
Gray turned the program over to his son and current Lakeside head coach Will Gray last season, but remains a fixture at Lakeside games and practices. Bob Gray sports an astonishing 609 career wins.
4. Police and Playoffs: North Webster duo arrested
Excitement was building to a fever-pitch in Springhill leading up to the biggest home game in school history. Amite, the team responsible for knocking North Webster out of the playoffs the past two seasons, was coming to town. With a strong senior class, led by Devin White on offense and Ke’Untra Gipson on defense, the Knights were poised to flip the script.
Then, things got crazy.
White and Gipson were arrested early Friday morning, but made bail mid-day and were allowed to suit up and play against Amite.
Reactions began pouring in immediately, some disgusted that the school and/or Webster schools superintendent Daniel Rawls would allow such a precedent to be set, and others offering the sentiment things were being blown out of proportion.
At any rate, White and Gipson played, but North Webster still lost a heartbreaker, 45-42.
Perhaps a blessing in disguise. The fallout and outrage from a Knights’ win on the back of two players who were arrested on game day may have proven costly.
3. State Championship Summer
Over the warm, summer months, Minden was captivated by the stellar play of our little league all star teams.
A banner summer for the city of champions, four teams brought home state championship trophies from tournaments all over the boot.
The Minden AA and AAA boys brought home baseball titles, while the Minden Dixie Darlings and Dixie Angels were state champs in softball. There was a seven day stretch where it seemed like everyday a new champion was being crowned from our city.
The city held a top-notch send off for our state championship softball teams, as they traveled in party buses to Monroe for their World Series. The boys travel arrangements were less luxurious, but the destination was well worth it, as the beautiful city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina played home to the baseball World Series.
None of our local teams were able to bring home a World Series championship, but they re-vitalized an otherwise dead time of year for athletics, all while making their parents and city proud.
A big thanks goes out to the boys and girls of summer for making 2015 special.
2. State Sweep: Lander & Greene run to individual titles
No program in Webster Parish has been more successful recently than Lakeside cross-country. The Warriors boast multiple state champions, starting with Enrique Soto (now at McNeese State University) and this year Lakeside swept the boys and girls individual titles with Alisa Lander and Eric Greene.
Lander, a junior, will return next season with a chance to win her third-straight state championship, while Greene currently has an offer to run at McNeese, but has yet to commit. In track, the Warriors are no slouch either, as Chris Lewis, a 2013 Lakeside alumni, recently signed to run track for the LSU Tigers out of Meridian Community College.
The man behind the success is a volunteer, Dan Grantham. Under Grantham’s leadership, the Warrior’s work tirelessly, year-round to maintain their edge, and the results are nothing short of unbelievable for a small, rural school in Sibley.
1. Remember the Tide
In Louisiana, football is king. In Minden, the Crimson Tide are beloved.
But the marriage was growing stale over the past few seasons as Minden couldn’t put together a winning season.
That changed in 2014 when the Tide finished 7-4 as co-district champions, but 2015 will go down as the year Minden rejoined the conversation as a contender in Class 4A.
Under the direction of Class 4A Coach of the Year Spencer Heard and led by a rare collection of talented Tiders, Minden went 8-2 in the regular season with banner wins over the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A North Webster and then the No. 5 ranked team in 4A North DeSoto, both wins coming on the road.
The Tide had a penchant for drama, playing six games decided by seven points or less this season.
On offense, the Tide had a deadly duo at receiver in L’Jarius Sneed and Tavarius Edwards. The guy throwing them the ball, Antonio Rivette, developed into the most dynamic signal-caller in the district. Rivette torched opponents through the air all season, but it was his legs that saved the day for Minden in their victory over North DeSoto.
The defense was fierce, led by Zi’Kerrion Baker up front, Cameron Morgan at linebacker and Dekeltric Freelon, Kenneth Francis, Patrick Heard and Leonardo McCarter made up a ballhawking back end.
The Tide earned a No. 7 seed in the playoffs, their highest since 2006’s No. 1 overall-seeded team.
It all came to a screeching halt when Franklinton defied the odds and earned a gut-wrenching victory over the Tide in round two.
The loss hurt, but amongst the tears, there was joy. The community is back behind the Tide, coming out in droves to support their boys, and it seems, for now at least, they’re here to stay. As long as Spencer Heard is at the helm, it appears the Tide will be a force to be reckoned with.
Mindenites may look back one day and point to the 2015 season as the start of special run.