What a fall season it was for area sports teams.
The fall officially ended Saturday with the Washington Blue Jays finishing second in the MSHSAA Class 3 Championships, falling to Parkway Central in a close game, 1-0.
The Blue Jays made their inaugural trip to the state level a memorable one, coming from behind twice Friday to beat Harrisonville in double overtime to advance to the championship. Washington played shorthanded for over 80 minutes after a red card in the first half and once trailed by two goals.
That was one of the greatest comebacks and soccer fans will be talking about it for many years.
Washington’s success this season was a combination of several things which made 2017 the perfect season. Head Coach Derek Schriewer had a good returning crew from last year’s district championship team. The Blue Jays added some key players to the roster in Ottmar Escalante and Jeremiah Collins and everything just came together.
In the end, Washington tied the 2002 Borgia Knights for the best MSHSAA finish by an area team.
It was fun to watch the Blue Jays play. Schriewer, in his second coaching position, has found a home with the blue and white. It was impressive to see the Flock supporting the team during the playoffs as well. It was nice to see a student section keep things classy. Maybe student groups like that from Parkway Central can learn a few things from watching you.
We had state champions this fall. New Haven’s boys cross country and the Crosspoint boys soccer squad both won state titles in their respective state events. New Haven pulled a double with second-place finishes on the girls side with the volleyball and cross country teams both earning runner-up status.
Washington’s Mikayla Reed finished her amazing prep cross country career with a third-place finish at the state meet. She earned state medals all four years with the Blue Jays with one state title and three top-five finishes. I can’t wait to see how she does in track this spring and in her college career with the University of Missouri.
Borgia’s football Knights fell in the district championship round to Rolla at home, 28-14. Borgia, under Head Coach Dale Gildehaus, played valiantly. I heard it pointed out several times Rolla has more boys enrolled in its school than Borgia has students. If it wasn’t for the 1.35 multiplier for nonpublic schools, we wouldn’t have even talked about this matchup. Borgia would have been playing in Class 3. There are 11 fewer students at Borgia than at Owensville, yet the multiplier pushes Borgia’s 580 up to 783.
I would have liked to have seen a Borgia-Owensville game this season. Borgia had a strong defense and the Dutchmen had an offense that didn’t quit. I think that matchup would have been entertaining.
There might be a later column about 1.35 and public-nonpublic issues. Word is there’s a push among some small MSHSAA members to try and separate championships.
Save some room for the main course because Turkey time is almost here.
Locally, Thanksgiving Week means the start of basketball, particularly the annual Borgia Turkey Tournament.
This year’s event has eight teams, the same as last year. There has been a little movement though.
St. Louis Christian is sending its “Blue” squad to play in this year’s tournament. The school has said its “Gold” team is the national traveling team and the Blue team will play games closer to home. How this will affect the Turkey Tournament remains to be seen as how good the team will be. The initial roster has two players who were on the Turkey Tournament roster last year.
The other change is the return of the St. Louis Homeschool Blue Knights. That team played here two seasons ago and finished third in its division, beating Carnahan and Union in the tournament. This year’s roster has two veterans from that team, but has a lot of youth. They get Borgia right off the bat, which should be interesting.
It’s too bad the organizers couldn’t get Crosspoint Christian School in this year. I’m told they tried when one team tried to pull out late. The Cougars won the MCSAA state title in their class last year and have several key returners.
We have three local teams in the event, top-seeded Pacific, No. 2 Borgia and sixth-seeded Washington.
The first interesting matchup could happen if Washington and Borgia have the same result in the opening round. That would bring us a town showdown next Friday night and that would surely pack the Ray DeGreeff Memorial Gymnasium.
If the tournament goes to the seeds and we have the top two playing for the championship, that would be the first Pacific-Borgia showdown of the season and we could see that multiple times this year.
Both Pacific’s John VanLeer and Borgia’s Dave Neier are celebrating milestones this season. VanLeer is in his 25th year in charge of Pacific. Neier started as Borgia’s head coach 30 years ago. Neier also is seven wins short of 700 for his career, a milestone he’s likely to make this season. He’s also 10 wins short of Ray DeGreeff’s overall win total. DeGreeff won 545 of those games at Borgia and the rest came at several other coaching stops.
Neier, as well as the other two coaches who started at the same time as him (Dale Gildehaus in football and Mike Tyree in volleyball) all should be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame some day. They certainly have the credentials as do many others in this area. That’s also another column for a different day.
Until jamborees this week, we won’t really have a good idea of what to expect. Borgia plays at Francis Howell Tuesday and Pacific is at Westminster Christian Academy Thursday.
About all I know right now is that Cameron VanLeer is healthy and it will be interesting to see how the Indians replace some key grit players, such as Lucas Vandaveer. It will be interesting to see who can replace the scoring punch of Jake Klenke. Matt Strong definitely has the ability to do so from his play off the bench last year.
I’m looking forward to seeing freshman guards Don’TA Harris and Jacob Sauvage take the court. You don’t make the varsity for VanLeer unless you’re good enough to play with the older kids. These two should be special.
I know Borgia is going to be tall this season, even with 6-8 Alex Movila moving on to Kaskaskia College. He’s averaging 4.5 points per game there with one start in two games.
With height at all positions, the Knights are going to make for matchup problems for teams this season. It also will be interesting to see Jacob Unnerstall and Spencer Hunter back on the court after both missed last year with knee injuries.
As for Washington, the other area team in the Turkey Tournament, Grant Young has a lot of experience coming back. I expect the Blue Jays to overachieve again, especially early in the season. It wouldn’t shock me to see them playing for the title on the final night.
The Turkey Tournament has a new director this season in Chris Arand. Through discussion, Arand would like to see more local teams come back to the tournament. When I started here, most of the Four Rivers Conference teams were in the event and it had 16 schools in two brackets. The FRC teams had to be split up.
Over the years, most have left for various reasons. They didn’t want to play the same schools multiple times in a season and some started their own tournaments.
The schools which have moved into the Turkey Tournament spots have brought good competition, but not a lot of fans. For a tournament surviving from the gate, and Pepsi sponsorship, getting people into the stands is a must.
I don’t think making it a full eight-team bracket of local teams is the best thing either. If there could be a balance struck between having a couple of traditionally strong teams (McCluer North has earned its spot to stay as long as it wants with good play on the court and good fans in the stands) come with the rest being local, that should work.
If I were running things, the first school I would want is New Haven. The Shamrocks don’t play football or soccer, so the fall season is done with the end of cross country. While New Haven has struggled in recent years, the down cycle doesn’t last forever in that sports-hungry town and I think they’ll be surging forward again soon.
I think adding the Turkey Tournament and dropping either Montgomery County or South Callaway would help New Haven find something different than playing the same teams over and over again.
The next team I would want would be Sullivan. Dino McKinney always finds a way to mold his talent into a competitive team. Sullivan always was competitive in the Turkey Tournament. All that would be missing would be a brown suit.
I think the Eagles would be competitive right off the bat and renew some local rivalries.
The third school I would want to add is Union. The Wildcats have been in most of the Turkey Tournaments, give or take a stint here or there. I know Union wasn’t competitive in its most recent Turkey Tournament appearances.
I think Chris Simmons has the program turned back into the right direction and it wouldn’t be beyond the Wildcats to pull an upset here or there. Also, it would be a heck of a lot easier for fans to come to Borgia than to go to the Branson Tournament.
Again, we don’t need an all-area tournament. There has to be balance where different teams are playing here with two or three teams from outside the area. That should make everyone happy.