SSHS players honored at banquet
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 4, 2004 -- Having watched Sulphur Springs High School sports teams excel on the courts and fields this school year, Wildcat fans and parents packed the SSHS cafeteria Monday night to honor them.

Coaches presented awards in 17 sports and the athletic training program before the biggest honors of the evening were bestowed on five SSHS seniors.

Sara Barrett and Brandon Skelton were named the James Cameron Fighting Heart Award winners, and the Forrest Gregg MVP Awards went to Danielle Smith, Hollie Watson and Kendall Wright.

In giving the Fighting Heart Award, coach John Albritton said talent alone is not the top quality coaches look for in athletes.

"The most important trait in a player coaches look for is commitment," Albritton said. "Anyone can work hard when a coach is breathing down your neck. It's the decisions kids make when the coaches' eyes aren't on them that make a difference."

He then presented the award to Skelton, who was a two-time state qualifier in powerlifting, an All-District linebacker and a track letterman. Barrett is a three-time regional qualifier in track, and a two-year letterman in volleyball and basketball.

In handing out the MVP Award, coach J.J. Williams said athletes need to possess dedication, love and desire, and the award winners showed those qualities to their coaches and teammates. Then then presented the trophy to Watson and Smith.

Watson is a three-year starter on the softball team, a volleyball letterman and a leader in the school and community. Smith is a

Wright, the boys' MVP winner, broke virtually all the single-season receiving records for SSHS in football and has qualified for state in the 110-meter high hurdles in track and owns the school record in that event, also.

Athletic director Dwayne McMeans summarized the school's sporting success by emphasizing that at least 15 athletes and trainers will be going to college on some type of scholarship, that the school had the MVP, Offensive Player of the Year or Defensive Player of the Year in five sports, won the district championship in four sports, sent four teams to the playoffs, had individuals from seven other sports advance past district competition, and were represented by literally dozens of Academic All-District athletes in the various sports.

"We have a great future and this is a great community," he said.

In recognizing the teams and the outstanding players from each sport, the coaches went in order of their seasons:

Special Olympic Athlete -- This went to Chris Allen. "He considers himself as much an athlete as anyone in the school," said coach Brad Turner.

Athletic Trainers -- The top awards went to seniors Lacy McCaig, who has been approved to enter the athletic training program at Oklahoma State, and Haleigh Hampton. "This the first group I had as freshman," said head trainer Chad McCune, "and it's the best group we've had in a while."

Volleyball -- Senior Panji Bounds was the MVP. "When she was on, we were on," said coach Shana McCune. "She came to practice every day and did everything I asked of her."

Football -- No MVPs were named, but the four seniors named by teammates as permanent captains were recognized: Ryan Henry, Brandon Skelton, Charlie Vaculik and Jonathan Lindley. "This senior class has set the tone for the younger kids and given them the steps to follow, and I think they're the right steps," said Coach Turner.

Girls Cross Country -- Junior Betsy Blount was the MVP as Coach Andy Holt noted her summer-long work ethic of running and lifting weights. "This group got up at 6:30 a.m. every morning running miles. That's something as a teenager, you don't look forward to. They have my respect for that," he said.

Boys Cross Country -- Senior Chris Bennett was the MVP. Coach Holt relayed an episode about another runner teasing Chris because he's thicker than most runners. "Chris kept his mouth shut and just kept running and left that guy in the dust," Holt said.

Girls Basketball -- Senior Brandi Crouch, the district Offensive Player of the Year, was the MVP. She led the team in scoring, assists, steals, free throw shooting and set the school record for most three-pointers. "Her commitment to the sport has paid off," said coach Carin Hoffman.

Boys Basketball -- Senior Tyler Thomas was voted MVP by his teammates. He is a three-year varsity letterman and Academic All-District. "I had a lot of guys who have seen a lot of basketball over the years stop me and comment that this was the most exciting basketball they'd seen in some time," coach Steve Glover said.

Girls Soccer -- Yorri Franklin, Ashley Petty and Danielle Smith shared the honor after coach J.J. Williams said he couldn't pick "just one absolute best or even two." The team won the first district championship in the program's history, going 13-9 on the season.

Boys Soccer -- Nick Kennon, the district MVP, was the award-winner. He was the core of the defense that put up 17 shutouts, eight of them during an 11-1 district campaign. Kennon will go on to play at UT-Tyler.

Powerlifting -- Leo Wisniewski, two-time state champion, was the obvious MVP. Leo won the state title in the 220-pound class in 2003 and the 275-pound class in 2004. Coach Dean Lasseter also recognized state qualifiers, freshman Bill Pryor and senior Brandon Skelton.

Girls Tennis -- Sophomore Cynthia Sanchez was voted MVP by her teammates. She represents the future of the program, which is losing just four total players from the lineup.

Boys Tennis -- Cody Moore, who won three individual tournaments this spring, was also voted by his teammates as MVP. The players were "committed to the sport and did a great job," said coach Mike Armstrong.

Girls Golf -- Junior Faith Harry was voted MVP as she improved steadily throughout the season for the district champions. "If she hadn't shot what she did on the first day of the district tournament, we might not have won," coach Kell Clopton said of team-leading 94 that round.

Boys Golf -- Freshman Dustin Gideon and sophomore Seth Northcutt shared the honor. Gideon placed third at district, qualifying him for regional, while Northcutt placed seventh, missing the regional tourney by one stroke. "They had great support for one another," coach Doug Evans said of the team as a whole. "This was one of the most fun bunch of guys I've ever had the pleasure of coaching."

Girls Track -- Senior Sara Barrett picked up another honor as she won the MVP. She qualified for regional in the high jump three consecutive years, including her senior season when she cleared a personal-best 5-feet, 8-inches at district.

Boys Track -- Senior Kendall Wright also grabbed another honor for his school-record time in the 110-meter high hurdles and his work on the school-record sprint relay. He qualified for regional in both hurdle events and will be going to state in the high hurdles.

Softball -- Senior Courtney Aguilar was voted MVP by her teammates. As catcher, she is one of 10 seniors on the team that won 33 consecutive district games this season. "They excel in the classroom as well as on the field," said coach John McCullough.

Baseball -- Senior Sam Smith was named by his teammates as MVP. A spark plug in center field and in the batting order, he led the team in homeruns.

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