But 2010 has a lot to live up to when it comes to sports in the Cherokee County area.
Each of the past 12 months held something special, from championship celebrations to milestone moments.
With that in mind, and with Auld Lang Syne stuck in my head, I thought I’d devote this week’s column to just a few moments that made 2009 a very special year.
The Sand Rock Wildcat boys basketball team broke Cherokee County’s eight-year streak of county basketball titles with a thrilling 67-61 victory over the Warriors. The victory clinched Sand Rock’s eighth county title since 1959.
The Spring Garden Lady Panthers won their sixth straight Cherokee County title with a 46-30 victory over Sand Rock. It was Spring Garden’s 12th girls county crown since 1982.
In another memorable basketball game of last season, Sand Rock’s Brannon Burt connected on a layup at the buzzer to seal a 64-62 victory over Fyffe. The victory clinched the Class 2A Northeast Regional title at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
The win also sealed Sand Rock’s first trip to Birmingham and the Final Four, where the Wildcats ultimately fell to Barbour County.
Sand Rock’s basketball success carried over into baseball. The Wildcats won the 2009 Cherokee County Baseball Tournament with a 9-4 victory over the Warriors.
In softball, Cherokee County earned its third straight county softball title with a 7-0 victory over Spring Garden.
Cedar Bluff has always been known for strong track and field athletes, and 2009 was no different.
Both Tiger squads won their fifth straight county championships. They also went on to claim sectional titles in Guntersville and earned a trip to the Class 1A state championship meet in Gulf Shores.
Cedar Bluff concluded the track and field season with their third straight Class 1A state titles. The Lady Tigers won six gold medals, while the Tiger boys earned two golds.
In softball, Cherokee County, Sand Rock and Spring Garden all clinched area championships and advanced to the North Central Softball Regional at Liberty Park in Vestavia Hills. Spring Garden went on to advance to the Class 1A state tournament.
Former Gaylesville pitcher Dustin Crane got the call to the big leagues. He was drafted with the 712th pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Washington Nationals.
The Cherokee County Hall of Fame welcomed three new members to its ranks in a formal ceremony on July 18. Those comprising the class of 2009 were John Miller, Brad Johnson and Bob Wheeling.
Also in July, Sand Rock safety Jake Thompson, Cherokee County coach Tripp Curry, Cedar Bluff designated hitter Jim Nelson and Cedar Bluff coach Taylor Talbot were all chosen to represent the area during the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s All-Star Sports Week.
Thompson and Curry helped guide the North football team to a 14-7 victory over the South. Nelson and Talbot played roles for the North in a series split with the South (4-3, 5-7).
After several grueling weeks of practice, the 2009 football season got underway the final weekend of August. One of the premier games on the slate was Class 3A, No. 5 Piedmont at Class 4A, No. 2 Cherokee County.
The Warriors defeated the Bulldogs 42-13 in the season-opener. Both teams’ paths would come full circle in December at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Several memorable football games of the month included: Cherokee County’s 36-25 comeback victory at Alexandria (Sept. 4); Sand Rock’s 23-21 last-second comeback win at West End (Sept. 11); Cherokee County’s 42-14 demolishing of Oneonta (Sept. 18) in a battle of Class 4A top 10 teams; and Sand Rock’s 42-7 thrashing of Class 1A, No. 2 Gaston (Sept. 25).
The Sand Rock volleyball team captured its second consecutive Cherokee County volleyball title with a 26-24, 19-25, 15-6 victory over the Lady Warriors.
Sand Rock, along with Spring Garden, would go on to represent Cherokee County at the Elite Eight in Pelham.
In football, 27-year Sand Rock coaching veteran Russell Jacoway captured his 200th victory with a 30-0 win over Spring Garden on Oct. 29. Ironically, Jacoway’s first victory also came over the Panthers, a 14-6 triumph on Aug. 30, 1984.
Spring Garden softball coach and former pitcher Ann Welsh was inducted into the Jacksonville State University Athletic Hall of Fame on Nov. 21. Welsh was inducted by her JSU coach, Jana McGinnis.
Five area football teams (Cherokee County, Piedmont, Cedar Bluff, Spring Garden and Gaylesville) earned postseason berths. All but Gaylesville advanced to the second round.
Cherokee County and Piedmont went further by clinching Super 6 championship appearances following wins over Deshler (37-20) and Leeds (13-7) respectively.
Cherokee County and Piedmont claimed their first football state championships in dramatic fashion. The Warriors’ Coty Blanchard scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with just 26 remaining in a 31-27 Class 4A championship victory over Jackson on Dec. 4. The win capped a perfect 15-0 season by the Warriors.
A day earlier, Class 3A Piedmont (13-2) won the first high school football state championship in Bryant-Denny Stadium with a dramatic 35-27 overtime victory against Cordova. The Bulldogs’ Luke Smith recovered a fumble on the game’s final play.
That’s 2009 in a nutshell. I can’t wait to see what this coming year brings.