Nutter: Fall season wasn’t short on success
Tonganoxie High’s fall sports season is officially in the books, and what a season it was. Whether it was on the football field, the soccer field, the volleyball court or the cross country course, success wasn’t hard for Chieftain teams to find in 2012. I think I speak for the whole Tonganoxie community when I say the last few months have been a blast.
As far as expectations go, the outlook wasn’t too bright for the THS football team — at least not outside the Beatty Field locker room. With a new coach and a team that had won just two games in its previous two seasons, Al Troyer’s team didn’t garner much preseason attention.
But, as was made evident by their team shirts on the first day of practice, the Chieftains believed. Just before the team took the field for its 12:01 a.m. practice on Aug. 13, Troyer spoke to his players about November football. Less than three months later, they turned Troyer’s vision into reality by winning their first district title in seven years.
Statistically, it was a banner year for a Chieftain team led by a slew of juniors. Cole Holloway became the schools first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009 with 1,217 yards, Tyler Ford threw for 1,071 yards and Shane Levy racked up 974 yards of total offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Levy led the team with seven sacks while midseason transfer James Grizzle tallied 40 tackles and three sacks in just seven games.
With several key contributors returning and plenty of momentum in their favor, there’s no reason to think the Chieftains won’t duplicate this year’s success in 2013. Next time, though, it won’t be a surprise.
Unlike the football team, coach Brian Kroll’s soccer team entered the season with a senior-dominated roster — one that had come within arm’s reach of the state semifinals a year before. The Chieftains wouldn’t be denied in 2012, as they rode a nine-game win streak to a 12-3-1 regular season record and clawed their way through the regional tournament.
THS punched its state ticket with a quarterfinal win against De Soto, but the success didn’t stop there. Seniors Matt Saathoff and Keaton Truesdell led the team to a 3-1 win against McPherson in the semifinals, guaranteeing Tonganoxie its first state championship appearance in any head-to-head team sport.
Kroll will have several voids to fill next season, but plenty of underclassmen logged several varsity minutes in 2012, and the bar has officially been set for future teams.
The THS volleyball team had somewhat of a roller coaster season this year, but the Chieftains were at their best when it mattered most. After an up-and-down regular season, coach Tiffany Parker’s team caught fire in the sub-state tournament. Led by seniors Jenny Whitledge and Madee Walker, THS defeated two higher-seeded teams to reach the sub-state championship match.
The Chieftains will return plenty of experience to the court next season, as this year’s varsity team included seven underclassmen — three of them freshmen.
It was no secret that the 2012 cross country season would be a rebuilding year at THS. However, youth didn’t slow down the Chieftain girls, who received numerous strong performances from a group of freshmen and sophomores. THS missed the state cut in the team ranks, but freshman Sophia Wetta qualified individually with the third-fastest time in school history. Wetta headlines a list of six varsity runners who will return in 2013, so expect even more success from the Chieftains down the road.
With more than half of the last year’s boys’ state team gone, coach Phil Williams had some big shoes to fill. Sophomore Garrett French led THS all year, and several young runners gained valuable experience. The team’s run of three straight state appearances may have come to an end, but a new run could begin very soon.
If the fall was a sign of things to come for THS in 2012-13, Chieftain fans could still be in for plenty of good things. Congrats to all the fall teams on great seasons, and I look forward to seeing all of you continue to raise the bar next year.