Nine days and three crushing defeats later, and here we are at the end of the fall sports season for our area teams.
It's hard to believe we've already reached this point, as it seems like just yesterday I wrote about the start of football season.
The final three teams from our area — East Union volleyball, Mount Ayr football and Murray football — each had tremendous seasons come to a crashing halt in three very different, but equally painful ways.
The Eagles took a 2-1 lead in sets over Grandview Park Baptist back on Oct. 31 before dropping the final two sets, needing only one of them to win the match and advance to state for the third straight season.
The Raiders went into Council Bluffs to take on St. Albert for the second straight year in the playoffs, and came in with a winning attitude, believing they could pull off the upset.
Even after falling behind 14-0 on a fluke defensive touchdown and a long touchdown run by the Falcons, the Raiders still looked like they believed in themselves and had some fight left.
But, a second defensive touchdown on the final play of the half proved to be too much for Mount Ayr to overcome, as the Raider season ended at Al Leber Field for the second straight season.
I only saw the final 4:30 of Murray's semifinal game against Gilbertville Don Bosco, but there were several times in those 4:30 that I thought one of the teams was going to deliver a crippling blow to the opponent.
I certainly did not expect that blow to come on Murray's 2-point conversion attempt in overtime when Austin Halls' pass for Sam Rockhold was deflected in the end zone.
Taking these season-ending defeats are especially difficult for the seniors on the team, some of whom may be playing that particular sport for the very last time.
I am sure Thursday's loss was hard for the Murray seniors to swallow, and I witnessed firsthand how difficult it was for the East Union and Mount Ayr seniors to say goodbye to their high school careers in their respective sports.
The moments just after someone has played his final snap on the football field or her final set on the volleyball court are some of the most raw, emotional moments in high school sports.
Mount Ayr co-head football coach Delwyn Showalter summed it up best.
"It's always difficult to see a good group of kids go," Showalter said following the Mount Ayr loss. "Every year you feel bad. You want to end with a win every year."
This year's group of Raider seniors really set the tone for an improved season this year, taking the team from 5-5 last season to 11-1 this season.
The Raider seniors embody hard work, something that did not go unnoticed by Showalter.
"We came a long way, and it was through hard work," Showalter said. "Sometimes people think just being a year older, you're better, and all you are is a year older if you don't put any effort into it. Our guys put a lot of effort into it, and we had really good leadership from our seniors this year. Small senior class, but just a tremendous amount of leadership from them."
Showalter's co-coach Derek Lambert took some time after the loss to talk to me about each of the seniors on the team.
• On Johnathan Triggs and Levi Martin — "We're going to miss those seniors," Lambert said. "John Triggs and Levi Martin are two guys up front who have led us all year long. Levis is a guy that really led us in the weight room. He's a guy who really did everything it took. It was a struggle for him his freshman and sophomore year, but really turned it on his junior years. He was our definite leader in the weight room."
• On Zane Sickels — "Zane, a small kid, again put his work in in the weight room and made himself bigger and faster," Lambert said. "A tremendous leader, and a great lead blocker for our guys back there."
• On Braydee Poore — "Braydee's stats speak for themselves," Lambert said. "Braydee's a tremendous athlete. I've talked to Braydee quite a bit, and I know basketball is his first love, but I tell him he's one heck of a football player. He's a great receiver and a great free safety. He does a great job of blocking, runs great routes and he's fast. He controls his body well in the air."
• On Dylan Doman — "Dylan Doman is a kid that gets to rotate at one of our wingback spots as a senior," Lambert said. "A lot of seniors wouldn't stick it out, but he's done a great job, worked hard and gave himself an opportunity to rotate through and did the best he could. When we've got seniors that give us all they have for all four year, they're going to get an opportunity. He did. He made a great catch for us last week against Ogden."
• On Shane Swank — "Shane Swank is another senior that is going to be missed," Lambert said. "He was opposite Braydee there, and Braydee got a lot of attention. Shane did a nice job, especially in these last two or three ballgames, getting some big catches for us. Shane's probably our best blocker at receiver. He does a tremendous job of getting low, and I think that's the wrestling coming out in him. I think he was our leading tackler defensively as our outside linebacker. Shane will be missed because of his work ethic. Anything you ask of him, he'd do it. That's a credit to our senior class. They did a great job of leading us, and we're really going to miss them."
Showalter and Lambert aren't the only ones who are going to miss the senior class.
Whether it's Mount Ayr football, Murray football, East Union volleyball or any of the other teams I covered this fall sports season, they all had fantastic seniors on their teams who were fun to watch.
I, too, will miss those senior classes.
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