Okay boys and girls, it's time for a little Western Kansas love. Those schools in Wichita had some pretty amazing seasons, and it was fun to look back at what they did this year. But now it's the teams north of Great Bend and west if Salina's turn, cause the way I see it, there were some pretty amazing things done out west as well.
Plainville vs LaCrosse: Parts I and II
Don't tell me that 2 and 1A schools can't get fired up for a good football showdown. And when the schools are only about an hour apart from each other, the head coaches are good friends, and they are both unbeaten, it sets up for a some epic games.
It didn't hurt that the game lived up to the hype, with the Leopards squeaking out a 14-8 victory at home to complete an undefeated regular season. It also didn't hurt, that the two would meet for a rematch three weeks later, this time in Plainville, with a trip to the state championship on the line.
In front of a standing room only crowd, LaCrosse again got the best of their rivals, winning 13-6.
"My gut's still turning. This is the greatest night of my coaching life," said LaCrosse Head Coach Jon Webster. "I'm just so proud that we walk out of here with a win."
The Leopards would eventually fall in overtime to Centrailia in the 2-1A state title game. The Cardinals, who were 3-6 in 2010, lost just twice in 2011. Both times to LaCrosse.
Thunder Ridge brings the noise
Okay technically, I wasn't at the 8-Man Division II state title game when the Longhorns won the state championship. But I did spend some time in Kensington the week before the game and really got a feel for just how big a state title is to a small community and school like Thunder Ridge.
The Longhorns where dominate in the state title game, winning 46-14, heck at 13-0 on the season, I'd say it would be safe to say they were dominate all year long. It doesn't hurt when you have on of the most impressive players in the state. Senior running back Joel Struckoff rushed for more than 6,600 yards and 124 touchdowns for his career. Both are 8-man records and 2,150 of those yards and 41 one of those touchdowns came in 2011.
Ty gets his shot
It's not too often that as a sports reporter that you get to tell a story where who won, really doesn't matter. But this was that kind of story.
In case you are not familiar with the background, Ty Schultz is a junior high basketball player at Grinnell Middle School and he also happens to have Down's Syndrome. His coach and his team had been trying to get him a basket in a game for nearly two seasons. And even though he usually only got into games when the outcome was long since decided, that proved easier said than done.
Enter Ness City Junior High's Devin Brown. His coach had already talked with the team about Ty and told him if they could help the kid out, that's what they should do. So when a pass intended for Ty sailed past him and into Devin's hands, Brown gave the ball back to Ty and just let him have his moment.
"To show that kind of sportsmanship as a team and to come out and just hand him the ball and to basically just back away and say this is your one shot man we are going to give it to you," said Grinnell head coach Ed Mense. "And he (Ty) came through big time"
I still get a big smile on my face every time I watch the video. It was really a nice moment.
Ness City on a Mission to 'Shock the World'
I feel bad because this is the second story that involves Plainville coming up short in a game. But to me it just proves the power of social media. Ness City is a small town of about 1400 people, and yet the story on their Sub-State victory over Plainville in basketball was one of the most viewed stories on Catch It Kansas this school year. Mostly because of one little hash tag #shocktheworld.
Ofcouse the fact that it was a phenomenal game between two teams that probably both deserved to be headed to state didn't hurt.
Even though the Eagles came into the game with an impressive 19-3 record, they were considered every bit the underdog against the 20-1 Cards. The game was a battle, but some how Ness who had be proclaiming on twitter that they were on a mission to 'Shock the World,' did at least shock the Kansas basketball world, winning 64-63 over Plainville.
"We were the underdogs coming in," said junior Colin Foos. "We just played our hearts out. I mean everyone played great and came through for us."
Wallace County proves Cinderella prefers blue
Located about 20 miles from the Colorado boarder, you don't get much further into Western Kansas than Sharron Springs. The Lady Wildcats came into the 1A Division II state championship tournament, as the six seeded team. They had eight losses, not exactly championship credentials, but head coach Landon Steele would be quick to point out that several of their 8 losses came to teams that went deep into the 2A and 3A playoffs.
In route to the championship, Wallace County took out the top team in Class 1A Division II, and Class 1A Division II's top player in Central Christian's Jamie Patrick. An impressive run for any team, and one that truly put the madness into march.
"It's huge, it's huge," said Wallace County head coach Landon Steele. "I mean I looked around before the game and I don't think there's a person left in Sharron Springs. It's huge. We made history by getting to the championship game, now the next one's gotta match us."
Hays Soccer just keeps on winning
Speaking of history, the Hays High girls soccer team jut completely re-wrote the book this season. It really is amazing because with all the great programs in Hays during the spring (Track, Baseball, Boys Golf and Softball all where state qualifiers the past two seasons), soccer was always one of those sports that for me was an after thought.
Prior to this season, the Lady Indians had never advanced past the first round of the playoffs and they had never won more than 12 games. Both those marks were shattered in 2012, with Hays winning 16 games and finishing 4th in the state.
"Sixteen wins, no (Hays) program boys or girls have ever had that in a season," said Hays head coach Chris Michaelis. "I just cant say enough about this group of girls and their competitive spirit."
But was amazing about the run is that the Lady Indians just kept finding a way to win. By shootout in the regional finals over Andover Central, and then a come from behind two over time win over Bishop Carroll in the state quarterfinals.
And what made it even more fun, the support the school had for the team. The softball and baseball teams where among the students at all three home playoff games. It was really pretty cool to see how excited everyone was to see history made.
LaCrosse wins even as a tornado touches down back home
So can you imagine? You are about three hours from home, trying to win a state championship, when you hear that a tornado his just blown through the center of your hometown. Talk about a distraction.
Thankfully for the people of LaCrosse, the damage was limited to a few buildings downtown and no one was injured. And one that word got back to the Leopards boys track team, they finally got to take care of some unfinished business from football season, and bring back the 1A state championship. The title was just the season in school history.
"It's unexplainable kind of,"said junior Levi Morss, who also won an individual title in the long jump. "Finally no injuries for track and finally put everything together and show everybody what we are capable of doing."
And what is even more impressive about this team, is when they got back home to LaCrosse, many of them helped with the clean up of the tornado damage.
Of course that just really scratches the surface of what was a great season in Western Kansas sports. I didn't even get to the state titles won by the Plainville and Hays boys track teams, the Goodland boys golf team or the Hoxie girls basketball team. I didn't get to brag on the outstanding seasons by athletes like Andrew Casey (Plainville), Sean Newlan (Phillipsburg), Paige Lunsford (Hays) and many, many more.
With that in mind, it is now your turn. I would love to hear your favorite moments from the 2011-12 season. You can leave a comment on this story or come join the converation over on my Facebook Page.