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Year in Review: Seasons full of drama, great moments


Great performances come down to combination of good kids and good coaches, who are the backbone and strength of any excellent program

Looking back at the high school sports year, there are an awful lot of things to be proud of. Playoff runs, state champions and massive improvements from season to season cast an intriguing light on both high schools, something that money can’t buy and talent can’t beat.

We've seen it up and down the schedule: upsets and comebacks, building from the ashes to construct something worth remembering.

   Scappoose football rushed out of the gates, stomped a projected 5A contender and fought their way to the quarterfinals. The Lions stepped up and surprised a host of viewers, putting together a hodge-podge roster at times to set heavy favorites on their heels.

The Scappoose girls soccer team took on the mantle of their new coach, never giving up and believing that they were exactly as good as he suggested early in the year, and in fact before the season had even begun. Nicholas Heffernan was confident and clear about his intentions: he wanted to raise a team from winning league titles and turn them into state champions.

Behind the support of the community – several hundred people at the teams’ final few games – they reached the state final and knocked off the top seed, winning the first girls soccer championship in school history.

In the week prior, the Lady Lions challenged the giants in the Northwest Oregon Conference on the volleyball court, winning their first NWOC title and surviving a thrilling victory in the first round to make the championship tournament. The cast of characters on that team were strong: some of the best and biggest athletes in the school stepped out with a single goal in mind. Towering hitters Gabby Susee and Taylor Albertson, all-star athletes Madison Kaplan and Kylie Reinholdt and veteran experience from seniors like Kali Moore made for a gripping season.

Basketball became a struggle at times, but it had its moments. The 7-mile war contests were excellent. Both gyms were filled with fans and students from each school, and the level of hunger was evident.

The Scappoose boys went on a big mid-season run, led by heroics from clutch senior Mitch Davis, getting just enough to survive a late-season slump and knock off Seaside in a league play-off.

The Indian girls were undoubtedly the turn-around team of the year. They started off their season with a win over St. Helens, but struggled mightily for the first several weeks. A fresh system under new head coach David Spirlin made for difficulties in the early going, as Scappoose lost by a combined 74 points to Valley Catholic and La Salle on back-to-back occasions.

But the Tribe found their rhythm, winning five of their first seven games in the Cowapa League season and finishing third in the standings before beating Astoria in the league playoff and losing to Gladstone in the play-ins.

The wrestling season, too, saw its list of highlights grow. St. Helens freshman Myles Terry went undefeated before losing in the 152-pound finals at the NWOC championships, carrying his team to the best year in the last several seasons.

In Scappoose, it was the year of destiny for senior Isaiah Goodrich. He hardly lost a match the entirety of the season, and battled back from a massive deficit in the title bout to win a state championship at 182 pounds.

The reel continues too long to list every moment. The Lady Lions’ softball team weathered an early-season setback as Mariah Mulcahy worked to get healthy once again, and tied for the league title and advanced to the semifinals. Their Scappoose counterparts fought for a third-place finish in a league with the top-two seeds. Scappoose baseball rebounded from a tough 2013 season, and St. Helens missed the playoffs by an inch.

Both track programs were filled to the brim, catching attention from around the state as they set records, challenged giants and dominated their way to statewide prominence.

All of those things come in spite of the odds. Some of the schools around the state, Sherwood, Wilsonville, La Salle, Central being a few examples, have resources the Columbia County teams can only dream about.

Neither Scappoose or St. Helens are likely to find 90 million dollars in pocket change to build a monstrosity like Sandy, Central or Wilsonville, but they may not need it.

There’s a special element in each of the performances the local athletes have put up this year. Maybe it’s the time spent in the summer hayfields or underneath the old Nova in the garage, but students from both schools have shown a never-say-die attitude regardless of their chances.

Should there be changes made for next year? Of course. We need good, strong coaches to step into the boys’ soccer and basketball positions. Miranda Little should be hired to fill the semi-vacant spot in the St. Helens softball program. We’ll keep a close eye on the second-years Heffernan, JR Jackson and Spirlin, simply to see if they can replicate their strong first-season performances.

More than anything, though, there has to be a constant high-standard for these programs. This season alone has shown exactly what a group of athletes is capable of if all the pieces are put together in the perfect way.

It’s about far more than just coaching the team. There are fundraisers, uniforms, assistants, egos and boosters to manage, and it’s a task that requires a special individual.

I’ve heard complaints that I make too big a deal about the coaches, but those coaches are directly responsible for the level of success the kids have. They’re more than teachers or even mentors: the coach is the beginning and the end of a program. That’s where the buck stops, and it’s the coach that sets up the kids to use all that heart they’ve been born with, and it's the coach that can turn athletes into challengers and champions.