Retrospective: The year in sports

Our annual look back at the year that was begins with a retrospective on what 2014 brought for the Marengo County sports.

While numerous local teams performed exceptionally well, the year in sports for Marengo County was defined more by things that happened away from the field rather than things that happened on it. Most notably, 2014 was a year defined largely by coaching changes.

When the calendar turned nearly a year ago, the high school football teams of Marengo County had certain long-tenured names entrenched atop their respective programs.

As of this writing, only two of the six head football coaches in Marengo County held those same positions 365 days ago.

As we run down our list of the biggest stories in sports this year, note that we will not include the world record alligator taken by Mandy Stokes back in August. That story actually transcends the world of sports and outdoors and will be reserved for our biggest stories of the year that will release on New Year’s Eve.

pic - luker• Stacy Luker and Mose Jones retire: Long-time Sweet Water coach Stacy Luker started his year by retiring from his post at SWHS and subsequently accepting a job at Neshoba Central High in Mississippi. That story quickly became one of the most read in our site’s young history. Soon thereafter, Sweet Water tabbed Pat Thompson as the new head football coach and AD. In a loosely-related story, Sweet Water’s administrative changes would continue later in the year when principal Stan Stokley left his post for Saraland. The turnover for Marengo County Schools continued throughout the offseason as injuries sustained from a car accident forced Mose Jones to retire from A.L. Johnson High School after three decades. Johnney Ford got the call to step in for ALJ. The turnover for the county school system rounded out when Marengo High’s coaching vacancy was filled by Eberne Myrthil.

• Marengo Academy competes in five state championship games: They were stretched across two academic years, so most people probably did not even notice that the Longhorns competed in five state championship games in 2014. The Lady Longhorn basketball team downed Patrician in overtime to polish off a 27-0 record and win its first state title back in February. That same night, the Longhorn boys fell in the state finals when Chamber knocked down a three at the buzzer. Fast forward to the end of baseball and softball and the Longhorns and Lady Longhorns were left standing at the end again. The Longhorn baseball team lost to Edgewood Academy in the state championship series while the Lady Longhorn softball team saw its run of state championships end in the finals of the state tournament when it fell to Edgewood Academy. Marengo’s latest heartbreak came in November when the Longhorn football team lost to Edgewood in the state championship game in Troy.

Sweet Water 12U• Sweet Water 12U baseball goes to World Series: Youth baseball folks in Marengo County have long been pretty proud of their teams. And when folks on the south end of the county decided to combine the dwindling league from Sweet Water and the dwindling league from Linden, they were pretty confident they could put together some talent. They soon found out they were right when the Sweet Water 12U team went on a remarkable run through the district and state brackets before winning the South Regional in Virginia and punching its ticket to the World Series in Alachua, Fla.

• Causey leaves Demopolis for Pelham: Remember that coaching changes theme? Demopolis High football coach Tom Causey is the latest head man to leave his post. This story is probably higher on the list if it is not so fresh. As of now, DHS is still in the early stages of searching for Causey’s replacement. And Causey is still in the process of putting together his staff at Class 6A Pelham High. So the coming weeks could show this one to be even more impactful if the 2009 Class 5A state champion coach can lure some of his best assistants (and their families) to Pelham with him.

• National Signing Day: It has become an annual rite to see numerous Marengo County players ink football scholarship offers on National Signing Day. This year, nine such local players did just that. Demopolis headlined the day with five signees, including three that committed to ACC schools. Demetrius Kemp and Cortez Lewis signed with Wake Forest while Tyler Merriweather cemented his letter of intent with Georgia Tech. Two more DHS players signed with Division II schools as Hollis Bright signed with UWA and Peyton Pearson sent his letter to Mississippi College. Linden saw two players, Kynard Craig and Chris Rogers, sign with Division II Miles College. Sweet Water sent All-State running back Jakoby Aldridge to Jacksonville State and bruising fullback Demarcus Gamble to Tuskegee.

Williams_Ray• Demopolis native sets world records: Ray Williams left an indelible mark at Demopolis High School as a football player before signing with UT-Martin and then moving on to coach at his current post at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss. But Williams really found his niche in the powerlifting world, a competitive arena that saw him rewrite record books in 2014. We reported in June that Williams traveled to South Africa to compete in the world championships. Having previously shattered world records in squat and totals while competing in Melbourne, Australia, Williams bested himself when he squatted 909 pounds and set a totals mark of 2,144 pounds.

Gracie Boykin (Todd Thompson - RiverCat Photography)

Gracie Boykin (Todd Thompson – RiverCat Photography)

• Demopolis adds cross-country: Demopolis High School has long been able to take a lot of pride in the variety of athletic teams it boats. A fall and winter slate of football, volleyball, boys basketball and girls basketball annually gives way to boys and girls tennis, golf, soccer, baseball and softball as well as girls and boys track. This year, the Tiger athletics family welcomed cross-country to the mix, adding the sport to its fall schedule for the first time. And what a year it proved to be for the program as eight DHS runners qualified for the state meet.

• More collegiate signings: The athletic scholarships were getting doled out to Marengo County athletes well beyond football’s National Signing Day. Linden girls basketball standout Alexis Johnson inked with Miles College. Former Demopolis baseball player Devin Stroud signed with LBW. After having worked his way up the long-snapper depth chart as a walk-on, Demopolis alum Taylor Polk signed with Troy. Stud DHS golfer Braden Spiller signed with Mississippi College. And the list goes on as local kids are earning educational opportunities through athletic venues.

• Demopolis volleyball sets new wins mark: A season after former coach Blythe Smith led the Demopolis High volleyball program to a school record in wins (14) and a regional tournament berth, new coach Angela Sanders continued the progression as she led the Lady Tigers to a 21-6 mark and a narrow loss in the first round of the regional draw. Sweet Water volleyball also got a new look in 2014 when it hired former Mississippi State head coach Mike Tucker.

That is the year in sports as we remember it. Here is to hoping 2015 brings more good news for Marengo County’s athletes, coaches, families and fans.

Check back each day between now and New Year’s Eve to see the rest of our 2014 Retrospective. Danny Smith will continue the series tomorrow with his favorite stories of the year. Michael Clements will share the year in photos Monday before you get Jeremy Smith’s favorite stories Tuesday and the top stories of the year Wednesday.