On August 1, 2018, this past athletic year began in earnest not knowing what the future held or what the outcome would be for the four area schools and their student-athletes during their 10-month ordeal on the fields and courts of interscholastic play.
It seemed like eons ago when this year's seniors suited up for the first time and it seems that way now for the youngsters who spent a year looking up to these seniors who have taken their last free throw, shot on goal, or at-bat.
It was a year wrought with ups and downs in the wins and losses column and one that ran the emotional gamut with close-but-not quite to over-the-top finishes.
The 2018-19 academic calendar brought the area only two state championships - Our Lady Academy volleyball and St. Stanislaus College sailing. One may wonder why an area that fields 69 varsity teams in 14 different interscholastic sports across four different high schools doesn't have more state titles than that.
Well, the answer lies definitively in those numbers just mentioned. That is a lot of varsity teams spread out over a finite demographic and population. While other counties enjoy a full range of radar amongst their population about half of Hancock County is not able to be utilized for development or residential living because of Stennis Space Center and the buffer zone. That limits what Hancock County can choose from, drastically. Not to mention, there is a state line bordering one side of our county and the Gulf of Mexico bordering the southern boundary. Those areas cannot be annexed or used for population growth. To make a long story short, that is a tough row to hoe.
However, in my humble opinion, which is touted from 27 years of sports coverage in the area, our high school student-athletes maxed out their potential this past year with outstanding success. Let's take a look back at what transpired on the fields and courts of play scattered throughout the area.
When volleyball tipped off in August, the OLA Crescents and the Hancock Lady Hawks dismantled the competition and stood holding division titles. The Crescents won their 20th consecutive division title and 13th overall Class I state championship in the sport while Hancock held aloft their Class III division title and advanced to the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year.
If you are looking to see what area dominates one sport, volleyball ends the discussion, but let look further.
On the gridiron, the area simply suffered across the board with just the Rock-a-chaws advancing to the state playoffs after a second place finish in Division 8-4A. The result of that was two head coaching changes at Bay High and Pass Christian. We will see what changes come on the gridiron in a matter of about 83 days.
On the trails, the area enjoyed top three finishes at the state meet from SSC and Pass Christian girls while OLA was fourth. Bay High will field a team next year to add more to the mix.
In the pool, OLA finished second in the Class I state championships while SSC was third.
On the hardwood, the Bay High Tigers won Division 8-4A and SSC was second while the Lady Pirates and the Lady Hawks both made the playoffs, too.
On the soccer field, the Bay High Lady Tigers and the Rocks both claimed the Division 8-4A titles while the Tigers also made the playoffs.
On the courts, the SSC/OLA team returned to the top of Division 8-4A and claimed their 20th title in the last 22 years. They advanced to the Class 4A South State title match. Individually, the SSC/OLA mixed doubles team of Jacob Estrada/Paige Palazzo won the state title.
On the links, the Hancock Lady Hawks won the division title and placed second in Class 6A by just eight strokes and Kaitlyn Altese was the individual state champion. OLA's Kati Albright was state runner-up in the Class I girls championship.
On the open seas, the sailing Rocks won the state title for the third consecutive season.
On the softball diamond, there were division champions but the Bay High Lady Tigers advanced to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs while the Lady Hawks advanced to the Class 6A playoffs.
On the baseball diamond, the Rocks win the Division 8-4A title and advanced to the third round of the Class 4A state playoffs while Pass Christian also advanced.
On the track, the Pass Christian boys and girls teams both won the Division 8-4A title while the Lady Pirates went on to win the Regional and South State titles and finish as state runner-up in Class 4A. The Rocks were Regional and South State runners-up and finished third in Class 4A. OLA was runner-up at Regional and South State and also placed third in Class 2A.
So, as you can see, there was a lot of success across the board with the many varsity teams. There was also some tremendous individual success, as well. With names like Olivia Gelpi, Brandon Bordelon, Marguerite Gelpi, Luke Ladner, Trace Rhodes and William Weber from SSC and OLA. Look no further than Damonta May, Haley Clark, and Kamdyn Skinner of Pass Christian. Or Maddie Ladner, Blake Comeaux, Bella Thoennes, Harleigh Lafontaine,Trenton Ladner, or Brooks Rayburn of Hancock. Then, there is Maxwell Lewis, Marion Pohl, Cade Compretta and Garrett Langrell of Bay High. And, the list could go on.
Some of these individuals will be back next year but the majority will not. All good runs come to an end and this school year is very much the same.
Outside of school, this year has seen the end of the Marvel Comic Universe's Avengers and the death of Iron Man. It has witnessed the end of the most watched television series in history with 'Game of Thrones' and the fall from grace of our great Khaleesi. And, deep down, we all knew nerds were cool but it took 12 seasons of 'The Big Bang Theory' to prove it to us and leave us wanting more.
As Tony Stark so eloquently reminded us at his demise, 'The end is part of the journey'.
This year had to come to an end because mankind cannot stop time and age is the only disease that humans will never defeat. For some, this weekend of graduation will mark the last time we see each other together like this again. To those making the final steps in this chapter, I leave you with the title of perhaps the greatest power ballad in rock and roll history sang at the end of my senior year some 31 years ago by Skid Row, 'I Remember You.'
Until we meet again on the fields of play, see you at the game!