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Keeping up with tradition

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Sikeston High School Year in Review

Missouri's high school sports season ended on the first Saturday in June with the final day of the state baseball championships.

Before things start back up in late August, we here at the Standard Democrat figured we would take time to look back on Sikeston's 2002-2003 season. In many sports, it was a season to remember.

On the gridiron, the Bulldogs posted a 7-2 record which was the best mark Sikeston has had since 1995 when the team went 9-2.

The Bulldogs opened the season on the road with a 21-14 win at Jackson. It was the first time Sikeston had beaten the Indians since 1998.

But it took a goal line stand in the closing seconds to do it. Sikeston led by as much as 14-0 before the Indians rallied to tie the score.

Bulldog junior quarterback Blake DeWitt had the game-winning touchdown when he scored on an option keeper from 51 yards out midway through the fourth quarter.

Jackson got as close as the 1-yard line, but the Bulldogs kept the Indians out of the end zone and held them on downs with 47 seconds left.

DeWitt finished the game with 151 yards rushing on 19 carries, the most rushing yards by a Bulldog quarterback in several years.

Sikeston followed up their thrilling victory in Week 1 with a dominating performance against Charleston, winning the 117th game 24-6.

The game marked the return of the gold pants, which were a staple for Sikeston's football teams in the 1950s and 1960s.

After the Charleston game, the Bulldogs broke into the state rankings at No. 10 in Class 4, but it was short-lived as a fired up Dexter Bearcat team came into SPS Stadium and left with a 29-3 upset win.

It was the first time Dexter had beaten Sikeston since 1994.

The Bulldogs defeated Kennett 27-7 and had another goal line stand with eight seconds left to hold off Farmington 14-7, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Knights.

Week 6 saw the Bulldogs win with yet another goal line stand to defeat New Madrid County Central 24-23 in overtime.

NMCC tried for the win in overtime with a two-point conversion but the center-quarterback exchange was fumbled and the Bulldogs pounced on quarterback Sherman Newsome before he could reach the end zone.

It was the first overtime game Sikeston had played since 1995.

After a bye week, Sikeston prepared for district favorite Cape Central.

The Tigers proved to be too much as they defeated the Bulldogs 30-13.

Cape Central star Monroe Hicks put on a show as he ran for 180 yards with two TD runs. He also had 54 yards receiving on four catches with a TD. He intercepted two passes and he had a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, but had it called back due to a holding penalty.

Sikeston bounced back the following week to pound Poplar Bluff 33-16, marking the Bulldogs' first victory against the Mules since 1996.

It was Sikeston's most complete game of the year as they staked a 33-0 lead in the fourth quarter. Poplar Bluff scored two late touchdowns to make the score respectable.

The Bulldog defense kept Poplar Bluff's pass-happy offense in check for most of the night and didn't allow any points until there was 4:37 left in the game.

DeWitt rushed for 145 yards on 15 carries with two TDs in the game. He broke the 100-yard barrier on just his fourth carry of the game in the first quarter.

Sikeston ended the year with a 33-6 victory against Perryville. DeWitt threw for 150 yards on 5-of-7 passing in the first half and didn't take a snap in the second half.

Perryville broke the shutout with six seconds left in the game.

Sikeston piled up a season high in yardage with 367.

It was the fifth straight year Sikeston won its final game on the schedule.

DeWitt did it all for the Bulldogs. He led the team with 547 rushing yards with nine touchdowns. He totaled 78 points, including 15 extra points and three field goals. He punted and he was third on the team with 81 tackles and first with seven sacks.

Junior Jacob Priday was chosen as a first team all-state linebacker after recording 176 tackles with three quarterback sacks and a team-leading three interceptions.

Lavar Morgan finished with 537 yards rushing with seven touchdowns.

Michael Colon led the team with 284 receiving yards and 23 receptions.

Scotty Keenan followed up with 230 yards receiving on 11 catches.

Lawrence Davis led the team with three touchdown receptions. He hauled in four passes for 125 yards.

Tori Rose was second on the team with 88 tackles and one interception.

Colon, Rose, Daniel Dial, Priday and DeWitt were first team all-conference defensive players while Tyler Holt was a first team offensive lineman.

Sikeston returns the bulk of the team but they will have to replace 15 seniors that graduated, including two-year starting defensive backs Colon and Rose.

The Bulldogs went 4-0 in gold pants.

It was a roller coaster season for Sikeston's volleyball team this year. The Lady Bulldogs finished with a record of 14-14-2, experiencing several peaks and valleys along the way.

Sikeston opened the season on a high note with a road win over Bernie and a first place finish in the SEMO Conference Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs experienced a bit of a letdown midway through the season, but were still able to post quality wins over Cape Central and Bloomfield.

At the end of the regular season, Sikeston peaked at the right time, upsetting Poplar Bluff in the first round of the Class 4, District 1 Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs lost in the semifinal round to Jackson, ending the season. Sikeston will lose some key players to graduation, like Emily Slaten, the team's main setter for the last three years.

Also gone will be Joy Daniel, the top offensive player on the team.

Seniors Tara Shoemaker and Margo Allen will also be lost, but many key players return, like Rachael Vining, Paige Kaiser, Berneatress Hunt, Erin Box and Maggie Pfefferkorn.

Longtime girls tennis coach Lynne DeWitt stepped in as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs this season, taking the team back from Suzanne Hart after a five-year absence.

Sikeston finished the regular season with a record of 7-6, not bad considering only two players saw varsity action the year before.

Elizabeth Killion was the No. 1 player on the team, followed by Lindsay Leible, Charlie Richey, Jeri Nichols, Chelsea Gilliland and Jamie Davidson.

Considering the entire team will return this fall, the future looks bright for Sikeston tennis.

This year Sikeston produced its best softball team since moving to the fall season.

The Lady Bulldogs finished with a record of 7-9, competing against almost every team on the schedule.

Freshman Molly Brinkmeyer played a large role in Sikeston's success, batting .475. She was also the team's top pitcher, recording 67 strikeouts.

Senior Misti Clark also did her part, batting .255 with an on-base percentage of .375.

Brinkmeyer and Clark were named honorable mentions on the Class 4 all-district team. The were the first Sikeston players ever selected for the honor.

The Lady Bulldogs opened the season with a bang, toppling traditional power Twin Rivers 10-1.

After a tough loss to Poplar Bluff, Sikeston came back to blister East Carter 13-1 on the road, equaling the win total from the year before.

Sikeston's most impressive feat came later in the year, with a 5-2 loss to state power Kelly. The Lady Bulldogs actually held a lead going into the fourth inning.

Sikeston also gave area power Cape Central all it wanted in a 1-0 loss and played Illinois power Egyptian down to the wire. The Lady Bulldogs then ended the regular season on a high note, beating Delta 5-4.

In that game, Clark blasted a three-run homer over the left field fence to seal the win. Sikeston saw its season come to an end with an 8-0 loss to Poplar Bluff in the first round of the district tournament.

Along with Clark and Brinkmeyer, top players on the team were Jessica Owens, Allison Blurton, Paige Silverthorn, Julie Annesser, Sarah Reeves, Bethany Clayton, Whitney Wallace and Kayla Crocker.

Returning most of the team, Sikeston will be expected to put one of its best team ever on the field this fall.

Sikeston's soccer team was in a rebuilding phase this season, finishing with a record of 4-13-2. The Bulldogs were hit hard by graduation, losing 13 seniors from the year before.

It wasn't a memorable season from a win-loss standpoint, but there were a few highlights along the way.

The most memorable match was against Notre Dame, the eventual state champion. Sikeston gave a valiant effort, losing 3-2 in the final two minutes of regulation.

Another highlight came in Sikeston's first win. The Bulldogs defeated Kennett, outshooting the Indians 28 to 4. The team's other victories came over Farmington, Fredericktown, and Kennett again.

The team was led by senior Tanner Fritz and junior Brad Deere. Other key players were Lance Rhodes, Edward Pike and Ross Gelsheimer.

Longtime coach Gary Williams made his return to the cross country program this year, taking over for Beth Brunkhorst. The team took seventh place out of nine teams in the district race.

Individually, runners Dale Ham and Clay Lincoln had banner seasons, both qualifying for state.

Ham finished in 37th place at state against a field of 168 runners.

He finished with a time of 18:05 on the hilly, 5,000 meter course, falling just 12 spots shy of all-state honors.

Lincoln was equally impressive at state, finishing 43rd with a time of 18:23. Only one other freshman finished with a better time in the race.

* Sikeston had a respectable season in basketball, finishing with a record of 13-13 against the strongest schedule in the area.

After opening the season with tough road losses at Blytheville, Ark., and Marion, Ill., the Bulldogs picked up an impressive win over Dexter in their home opener.

It was the first time Sikeston had beaten the Bearcats since January of 1999.

Do-everything forward Lontas McClinton scored 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the win, giving Sikeston fans a taste of the stellar season he was about to put together.

Sikeston followed up the Dexter win with another impressive victory, beating the DeSoto Dragons in convincing fashion. The team's momentum carried over into the Sikeston Invitational, where the Bulldogs waxed New Madrid County Central in the first round 55-36.

It was Sikeston's first win over NMCC since January of 1998 and the Eagles' first SIT loss in three years.

The Bulldogs then gave top-seeded Poplar Bluff all it wanted in a 52-48 semifinal loss.

Sikeston led 41-39 in the fourth quarter, but poor free throw shooting down the stretch contributed to the Bulldogs' demise.

In the third place game, Sikeston lost a 68-61 heartbreaker to Charleston, falling to 3-4 on the season.

The Bulldogs experienced a bit of a setback after the Sikeston Invitational, winning just two of their next eight games.

The team got back on the winning track Jan. 28, beating Jackson 62-57. The Bulldogs then went on to beat Kelly and Portageville convincingly, leading up to the team's highly-anticipated rematch with Poplar Bluff on Feb. 7.

The Mules were a little too much for Sikeston the second time around, coasting to a 77-58 victory.

Sikeston was able to regroup after the loss though, winning four of their final five games of the regular season.

That momentum carried over into the Class 4, District 1 Tournament where Sikeston dismantled Perryville 60-45 in the first round.

Up to that point, the Bulldogs had experienced several last-second losses and bad breaks on the road.

But none of them were as hard to swallow as a 59-56 season-ending loss to Notre Dame in the district semifinals. Trailing 57-56, Sikeston's Lavar Morgan hit the apparent game-winning basket on an offensive put-back with 0.2 seconds remaining.

But Morgan was whistled for going over the back. The basket was waved off and Notre Dame's Cory Beussink was awarded two free throws.

Just like that, Sikeston's season was over.

McClinton finished the year averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game, shooting 63 percent from the field.

He was first team all-conference, first team all-region, first team all-state and was a McDonald's All-American nominee.

At the B.A. Sports All-Star Extravaganza, he was named Southeast Missouri's Player of the Year.

Morgan also had a solid season for the Bulldogs, averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game.

Other key players were Michael Colon, Marcus McCaster, Lawrence Davis and Ben Anderson.

Following the best season in program history, expectations were sky high for Sikeston's girls basketball team this year. The Lady Bulldogs fell somewhat short of those lofty expectations, finishing with a record of 10-16.

One highlight came in a close loss to highly-touted Twin Rivers.

The Lady Royals came in as a heavy favorite with a record of 14-2.

But with four minutes left in regulation, Sikeston had the ball with a three-point lead.

Twin Rivers was able to squeak out a victory though, aided by five Sikeston turnovers down the stretch.

Another highlight came in the final home game of the regular season, when Sikeston nipped Charleston 52-48 in overtime. The Lady Bulldogs were able to force overtime with a huge 3-pointer from Jennifer Medlin, then freshman Paige Silverthorn hit four crucial free throws in the final seconds of the extra period to seal the win.

In the district tournament, Sikeston got its revenge on Fredericktown, the team that ended their season the year before.

The Lady Bulldogs returned the favor this season, beating the Lady Blackcats 58-52 in the first round of districts. Sikeston saw its season come to an end in the semifinals, when the Lady Bulldogs ran into Notre Dame, the eventual state champs.

On the year, Medlin was Sikeston's top scorer, averaging 13 points per game.

Center Joy Daniel was the team's second leading scorer at 10 a night, and the top defensive player was Stephanie Clark.

Sikeston had a successful season in wrestling, qualifying six individuals for state and finishing ranked No. 25 as a team.

It was the largest number of state qualifiers Sikeston has had since 1991, when eight made it. It also tied for the second most qualifiers ever when the Bulldogs did it in 1984 and 1987.

In the regular season, the Bulldogs posted two dual wins over Poplar Bluff and one each over Murphysboro and New Madrid County Central.

Sikeston also fared well in tournaments, taking 10th place in the 16-team Tiger Classic, second in the 10-team Park Hills Invitational, fourth in the 10-team St. Charles Tournament, and fourth in the 10-team SEMO Conference Tournament.

The Bulldogs saved their best for the end of the season, placing fifth in the Class 2, District 1 meet at Ste. Genevieve. Sikeston was able to qualify six for the sectional meet in Farmington.

Joe Johnson, a sophomore heavyweight, took first place with a 3-0 record. He was the first Sikeston Bulldog to win a district championship since Andrew Felker did it in 1998.

Also qualifying were Adam Miller and Kyle Weeks, who both went 2-1 and took second place in the 119 and 135 classes respectively.

Lance Berry (152 pounds), Scott Keenan (171) and Andy Croxford (215) all took third place with 3-1 records to qualify.

The next week at Farmington, all six wrestlers were able to qualify for state.

Miller, Weeks, Johnson, Berry and Keenan all qualified first, then Croxford topped Sikeston's perfect day with the perfect ending.

Trailing Farmington's Kent Slinkard 13-3, Croxford was able to pull out a pin with just 12 seconds to spare and qualify for state.

At Columbia, Weeks and Johnson were able to beat their first round opponents and advance to the quarterfinal round.

Johnson pinned Carthage's Josh Baugh in the quarters, but lost to top-ranked B.J. Coslet of Marshall in the next round. Johnson went on to take fifth place at state.

The Bulldogs will lost just two seniors to graduation -- Miller and Ken Masegian. The rest of the team returns, giving Sikeston high hopes for the upcoming wrestling season.

Sikeston took a major step forward this spring in the second year of girls soccer. The Lady Bulldogs finished with a record of 4-13, winning their first district match ever. The team was led by a pair of freshman: center-midfielder Paige Silverthorn and forward Allison Blurton.

On the year, Silverthorn recorded five goals and six assists. Blurton provided nine goals and two assists.

Silverthorn was named first team All-SEMO Conference and Blurton was placed on the second team. No freshman made the list the year before, making the honor even more impressive for both players.

Other key players on the team were Keisha Presley, Flemming Silverthorn and Elizabeth Killion.

For most of the season, Sikeston was considered one of the best baseball teams in the state of Missouri.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the Class 3 state poll most of the year and put together the best win/loss record in school history, finishing 23-2.

After beating Notre Dame 4-2 in the season opener, the Bulldogs exploded, crushing Kelly 20-0, Scott City 11-0, Cape Central 20-5, St. Dominic 15-2 and Poplar Bluff 7-0.

The team then went 2-1 in the rugged McCracken County Wooden Bat Tournament, beating Heath, Ky., and Millington, Tenn., and losing to Lone Oak, Ky.

It was the only loss the Bulldogs would experience in the regular season as they put together an impressive 12-game winning streak.

Along the way, Sikeston won its third straight SEMO Conference Tournament championship, beating Cape Central and ace John Thies in the title game.

The Bulldogs beat Kennett 12-2 in the final game of the regular season, then pounded the Indians 15-0 in the first round of districts.

Sikeston's record-breaking season came to an abrupt end in the district semifinals though with a 7-3 loss to Notre Dame. Shortstop Blake DeWitt put together one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of Missouri high school baseball, batting .513 with 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, 15 doubles and scored 40 runs. He was also the team's most productive pitcher with a 9-0 record and a 0.87 ERA.

Catcher Jacob Priday also had an outstanding year, leading the team with a .519 average. He finished with eight home runs, 13 doubles, 31 RBIs and scored 30 runs. As a catcher, he also broke the state record for chances with 193.

Both DeWitt and Priday were named first team All-State. Behind DeWitt and Priday, other Sikeston players had spectacular seasons.

Pitcher Lance Rhodes batted .402 with six homers, 10 doubles, 27 RBIs and scored 37 runs. He also went 5-2 on the mound with a 3.15 ERA.

Centerfielder Scotty Keenan batted .386 with two home runs, seven doubles, four triples, 18 RBIs and scored 29 runs.

Right fielder Nathan Eaves hit .424 with four homers, four doubles, 20 RBIs and scored 29 runs. Southpaw pitcher Cullen DeHart went 7-0 with a 0.95 ERA and batted .390 with six doubles and 17 RBIs.

Third baseman Drew Lawrence batted .351 with two homers, nine doubles, 16 RBIs and scored 36 runs. Second baseman Richard Landers hit .356 with 20 RBIs and scored 14 runs.

The Bulldogs will lose just one full-time starter to graduation in Lawrence. Adam Miller, Brandon Eldridge and Luke Jackson will also graduate.

Considering the rest of the team returns, Sikeston will have high hopes of getting back to Columbia for the third time in four years next season.

Sikeston had a successful year in tennis this spring, taking second place in the district tournament and qualifying three individuals for the state.

For the third time, senior Ryne Vickery and junior Peter Jones qualified for state as a doubles team.

The two took first place in the district tournament, compiling a season record of 14-4.

At state, they defeated a team from Lafayette County in the first round 6-2, 6-3.

In the second round they lost to John Burroughs, then were eliminated by Pembroke Hill in the consolation bracket. Marc Leible also qualified for state by placing second in the district as a singles player.

He entered the state competition with a record of 16-2, and lost in the first round to Springfield Catholic's Austin O'Reilly.

Leible came back to beat Sean Crawford of the Missouri Military Academy, but was then eliminated by Savannah's Andy Gordon.

As a team, Sikeston finished with a record of 8-3.

After tragedy struck in the off-season, Sikeston's golf team dedicated the 2003 season to fallen teammate Jonathan Spence.

The Bulldogs definitely had a year to remember, qualifying for state as a team.

After an up and down regular season, the team turned it on at the right time, placing second in the district meet. E.C. Atchison took second in the overall standings, followed by Tanner Fritz in fifth. Matt Bain and Martin Schaefer also posted scores good enough scores to qualify Sikeston for the state tournament.

The team struggled somewhat in the first round at Bolivar, standing in 11th place. Bain pulled through on the second day though, firing a 74. Added in with his first round score of 84, Bain finished in 19th place individually.

He led the Bulldogs up to the eighth spot in the final standings for a respectable showing in the two-day tournament.

Atchison shot a 79 and an 83 to tie for 23rd. Fritz placed 43rd overall with an 82 and an 83. Schaefer came in 90th place with an 85 and a 91. Matt Hon took 113th with an 87 and a 100.

Sikeston put together another outstanding track and field season, placing fifth in the Class 3 state meet.

Senior Michael Colon won the state triple jump with a leap of 45-feet, 10 1/2 inches, finishing a foot ahead of second place. With the extraordinary jump, Colon became Sikeston's first state champion since Marshaun West won the long jump in 1995.

Colon also ran a leg on the 4 x 100 meter relay team which took sixth at state with a time of 44.18. Other members of the relay were Tori Rose, Thomas Elery and Felante Larry.

The 4 x 200 team of Rose, Devonte Larry, Elery and Felante Larry took fourth at the state meet with a time of 1:32.36. The Bulldogs had several other all-staters.

Sophomore Tyler Woodson took seventh in the 110 meter high hurdles with a time of 16.21. Felante Larry took fourth in the long jump while freshman Clay Lincoln took sixth in the 1600 meter run.

Other athletes that competed but did not place at state were Devonte Larry (300 hurdles), Ryan Gibson (pole vault), Quinton Lamb (400 meter dash) and Paige Kaiser (pole vault).

It all, it was the largest number Sikeston had sent to state in several years.

During the regular season, the boys team placed high in several invitational meets, including a first place finish at the Meet of the South, second place finishes in the Murphysboro, Jackson and SEMO Conference meets and a third place finish in the Poplar Bluff Invitational.

To top it off, the Bulldogs successfully defended their Class 3, District 1 championship for the third straight year.