Local teams and athletes made plenty of great memories throughout the 2018-19 school year.
Let's be honest: It's difficult to say which memories from the last year stand out the most because everything that happens means a lot to the people involved. That's part of why high school athletics is special and why we enjoy it.
But just for fun, here are 10 good memories out of many — listed alphabetically — that stood out to us from the 2018-19 school year. We look forward to chronicling more of your great memories starting this fall.
Area title for Florence boys hoops
The high point of Florence’s landmark boys basketball season came in the area tournament finals. The top seed in its first Class 7A, Area 8 tournament, Florence beat a good James Clemens team 65-51 to earn a program-best 29th win.
Hundreds of Falcon students celebrated with the team at midcourt, music blaring through the gym, in a party-like atmosphere.
A disappointing showing in a Northwest Regional semifinal loss to Vestavia Hills took some shine off the postseason, but the Falcons still established a new standard for quality in 2018-19. As coach Anthony Reid said after the James Clemens win, “these special teams like this don’t come along very often.”
Brooks saves its season vs. Hokes Bluff
A state championship sweep of Sipsey Valley distinguishes the 2019 Brooks baseball team as the best in Class 4A, but the semifinal series against Hokes Bluff might have offered the season’s defining moment.
Tension was high entering a decisive third game – the only one Brooks needed all postseason – on Friday afternoon in Killen. A game two controversial pitch count discrepancy added to the friction, and Brooks was under pressure to make sure its Wednesday meltdown didn’t matter.
But reliever-turned-spot-starter Carson Daniel excelled in the biggest pitching performance of his career with six strong innings, Lake Spurgeon found his missing stroke with as three-run homer and two-run double, and Brooks took its penultimate step toward a blue map.
Deshler’s mud bowl win over Oneonta
It felt like Deshler’s night from the start when Channing Marmann found Hayden Stutts down the right sideline for a 60-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play, and neither Oneonta nor a mud-coated field at Howard Chappell Stadium could keep Deshler from another win in a thrilling postseason.
The Tigers beat Oneonta 35-20 in the Class 4A semifinals, and an appearance in the state finals was not the likeliest Deshler has ever had. And while Deshler was no match for UMS-Wright in the state championship game, the Tigers had suggested by then their time in the wilderness is over and they are back to being a local powerhouse.
Florence soccer’s best postseason ever
Florence boys soccer does not have the state championship tradition of many of the programs it plays every year, but 2019 represented significant progress for coach Glenn Harscheid's team.
The Falcons earned come-from-behind 2-1 wins over Grissom and Bob Jones in the first two rounds of the Class 7A playoffs, reaching a state semifinal for the first time. Florence lost 2-1 to Hoover in overtime but showed it can compete with the state’s top-flight programs.
Edi Alvarado, Miguel Adame, Daniel Morris, Tyrus Williams, along with many other Falcons past and present, have made Florence boys soccer a serious contender.
“It slowly built up to a program where we just go out and face anyone fearlessly,” Williams said.
Girls dominate track and field
There were some excellent performances from local boys in track and field in 2019, but locally this spring it was the girls who collectively shined brightest.
Muscle Shoals’ Kaylie Wright won the Class 6A long jump state title. Brooks, meanwhile, had THREE state champions in Class 4A — Jordon Tidwell in discus, Olivia Whitehead in shot put and Nissi Clingan in the javelin.
All four of those young women also placed in the top 8 in at least one other event, and numerous other local girls also earned points for their teams at the state meet.
Gracie Rogers’ first home run
An unexpected trip to the state tournament put Rogers High’s softball season firmly in the “success” category, but the Pirates did not settle for that.
Arguably Rogers’ best moment of the 4A state tourney came in a winners’ bracket game against Alabama Christian Academy and future Florida Gators pitcher Haley Pittman.
Gracie Rogers, whose previous home run was in Dixie Youth for heaven's sake, hit a two-run blast to left that turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 win.
“Honestly, adrenaline kicked in when I hit first and I don’t remember any of it until I got in that (celebration) huddle,” Rogers said. “I was just zoomin’ around the bases!”
Safe bet she’ll remember that moment for a while.
Great day of golf
May 14 was a great day of golf for the Shoals.
Muscle Shoals not only won its third straight boys golf state title but cruised, beating Homewood by a whopping 36 strokes to show what kind of golf talent the school has had over the years and what kind of program coach Derrick Gargis has built.
Brooks’ boys won with drama, edging Providence Christian by one stroke to win the Class 4A title. Just think - A single putt that lipped out could have changed the entire complexion of Brooks’ season, but the Lions got their work done and won their first golf title in 19 years.
Madie Krieger’s buzzer-beater
Balance was a virtue for the Rogers girls basketball team this winter, as numerous complementary players — most of whom will return next year — expanded their contributions.
Sometimes, though, you just need your star to make a play.
With Rogers down two to Priceville and only a few seconds left in the Northwest Regional semifinals, freshman guard Madie Krieger banked in a shot from the left with to force overtime. Rogers won 56-52, and then beat Deshler, Childersburg and Anniston to win the program’s first state title.
“I’m just proud of our girls,” coach Blake Prestage said. “They don’t know how to lose.”
Red Bay’s overtime playoff thriller
Red Bay’s absence from the 2017 football playoffs broke an 18-year streak of playoff qualification.
The Tigers made it back in 2018 and played one of the Shoals’ more dramatic games of the year.
After Winston County took a 14-8 lead in overtime of a Class 2A first round playoff game, Cam McKinney disrupted the two-point conversion try.
Colbie King scored on Red Bay’s first offensive play of overtime, and Kolby Bragwell ran to the right for a game-winning two-point conversion.
“We barely got out of here with a win,” coach Michael Jackson said. “But we did.”
Title trio for Mars Hill
The 2018-19 school year is when Mars Hill turned “not quite” into “right now.”
The Panthers won three Class 1A state titles this past school year, in football, baseball and softball, but as the Panthers competed in Class 2A in prior years success had been building in each sport.
Mars Hill football was the big surprise, as its first-round game in 2017 was its only playoff game ever until the Panthers won all five playoff games in 2018.
The baseball team won its fifth state championship and first since 2012. Swept in the 2018 Class 2A finals by G.W. Long, the Panthers swept Brantley in this year’s 1A finals to cap a 10-0 postseason.
The softball team also beat Brantley, finally dispatching the Bulldogs a second time late on a Saturday night at Lagoon Park. Mars Hill’s last game of the season completed AHSAA competition for the school year and got the softball team its first state title.