SSHS Athletes honored at Sports Banquet
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 2, 2006 - Sulphur Springs athletes heard the cheers of the crowd one final time - at least for most of them - on Monday.

A full house packed the SSHS cafeteria to honor the Wildcats and Lady Cats during the All-Sports Banquet in which their feats and accomplishments were recounted and awards winners were named.

It was naming the recipient of one of the top awards that was the most touching.

In describing James Cameron Fighting Heart Award winner Jeremy Potter, coach Andy Holt choked up as he told of a birth defect that left Potter with a small right hand, the off-the-field tragedies of losing his father to cancer and a good friend to an accident, and courage of playing half of his senior season with a torn knee cartilage.

Holt described Potter as a "person who sees the glass half full and has the heart of a champion."

"Through all of it, I never heard him complain," Holt said. "He just kept on being Potter."

Potter, a goalie on the soccer team, joined senior classmate Kaitlyn Black as Fighting Heart winners. Black played basketball and track for four years and softball for three years.

"She's an athlete who gives every ounce of talent she has to become better," said SSHS assistant principal John McCullough.

The other major award was the Forrest Gregg MVP, which goes to athletes who not only play multiple sports but excel in them. Seniors Bridgette Nash and Josh Riley fit that bill.

Nash was named the MVP of the girls basketball and track teams. She led the Lady Cats in scoring and rebounding in basketball, and on Saturday qualified for the state track meet in the shot put.

Riley is a two-sport All-State player. He was a First Team All-State second baseman as a junior and an Honorable Mention All-State wide receiver as a senior. He appears well on his way to another All-State award as he is batting over .500 for the Wildcats, who won the district baseball title and open the playoffs next week. Riley was also named one of the football MVPs along with Torrence Wright, Jose Vargas and Cole Strawn.

He was described by coach Rahn Smith as the "epitome of what an athlete should be. He always gives a great effort and takes his job as a role model very seriously."

Riley, Potter and Nash were three of five athletes who were multiple award winners. Potter shared the boys soccer MVP with his six fellow seniors.

Senior Tara Gibby was named MVP in both softball and volleyball, and junior Graham Northcutt won both the boys cross country and track MVP awards.

Northcutt was also a repeat winner in cross country, having won the award last year. Other repeat winners were Nash in track, Cynthia Sanchez in girls tennis, Dustin Gideon in boys golf, and Gayle Grand-Lienard in girls soccer.

Below are the award winners and notes:

Special Olympics - Catalina Torres and Drew Kemp. They both advanced to the state meet.

Athletic trainers - Whitney Mitchell and Joe Lawson.

Volleyball - Seniors Tara Gibby and Marlee Peugh. They were voted MVPs by the team that won 21 games (only the fifth team in school history to achieve that mark) and advanced to the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Football - Seniors Torrence Wright, Jose Vargas, Josh Riley and Cole Strawn. The team voted for the permanent captains who are considered MVPs.

Cross Country - Kelsey Evans, So., and Graham Northcutt, Jr. Evans "showed up at every practice and made everyone better," said Holt. Northcutt, meanwhile, put in 60-70 miles per week and advanced to the state meet where he placed 23rd.

Girls Basketball - Bridgette Nash, Sr. She led the team in rebounding and scoring.

Boys Basketball - Jay Pope, Sr. Coach Jeff Carroll described him as "maybe the guy that loves SS basketball the most." He also led the team in scoring. In a separate note, Carroll said one of the proudest moments he's had as a coach was when Jeff Kramer announced he had been awarded a $68,000 academic scholarship to the University of Texas.

Girls Soccer - Gayle Grand-Lienard, Jr., and Makenzie Kelty, Sr. Grand-Lienard was the team's offensive leader with 17 goals and 10 assists, while Kelty was a defensive mainstay at stopper.

Boys Soccer - Seniors Chris Rodgers, Blake Holly, Brent Holly, Spenser Daniel, Wilfredo Larios, Jeremy Potter and Daniel Santillan. After the most successful season in SSHS history, Holt was unable to single out one MVP. "We couldn't have done what we did without each of these young men," he said of the team's 25-4-1 record and trip to the regional finals.

Powerlifting - Zach Lewis, Sr. A regional champion and state qualifier, Lewis "really showed the way to the rest of rest of the guys," said coach Carl Hornback.

Tennis - Cynthia Sanchez, Sr., and Ryan Thompson, Sr. Sanchez won a girls single title for SSHS for the first time in 13 years, and they both were instrumental in winning the regional consolation title in team tennis in the fall. 

Girls Golf - Whitney McDaniel, Jr. She not only had the lowest average on the team, but she was the district medalist.

Boys Golf - Dustin Gideon, Jr. For the third time in three years, Gideon was a First Team All-District player and regional qualifier.

Track - Bridgette Nash, Sr., Whitney Roland, Sr., and Graham Northcutt, Jr. Nash and Northcutt both qualified for the state meet on Saturday in their respective events. Northcutt's award was because of "his character, his leadership and his hard work," said coach Steve Hale. Roland was "the hardest worker I had," said coach Jeff Riordan, while Nash has the fifth best shot put throw in the state.

Softball - Tara Gibby, Sr. On a vote of the team, Gibby was selected. She is a two-time First Team All-District performer.

Baseball - No MVP was named. Coach Jarrod Hammack's team is 21-5 overall and headed to the playoffs next week as the District 12-4A champions. "This the most talented team I've ever had the privilege to coach," Hammack said. "Not only that, they are the best team."

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