A Night of Honors: Award winners provoke powerful emotions

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 8, 2007 - Character, faith and honor were the main topics of the SSHS All-Sports Banquet Monday night, and the main reaction was tears.

There were quite a few damp eyes in the SSHS cafeteria as the top four awards were handed out in front of a capacity crowd.

Seniors Graham Northcutt and Gayle Grand-Lienard, both of whom earned college scholarships and set school records, were named the Forrest Gregg MVP award winners for excellence in multiple sports and showing character and honor.

Seniors Jordan Anderson and Jacob Jenkins, who both suffered devastating injuries their senior years but were still the ultimate team players, were named the James Cameron Courage Award winners.

Both Anderson and Jenkins wiped away tears as their coaches praised their attitude before and after their injuries.

Jenkins, a three-year starter at center on the football team, suffered a broken leg in a ATV accident midway through the year. The squad's emotional leader, he spent the entire remainder of his senior year rehabbing the severe injury, but was able to throw the discus last month at the district track meet.

"He wasn't throwing the discus to win the district championship," said head track coach Steve Hale. "He was throwing it to leave his mark on this school."

Jenkins, he added, was "the type of role model I'm glad my son has."

Anderson was hit hard twice. She hurt her knee during volleyball season, though she finished the year with it braced and earned All-District honors. Then, in softball, she hurt the same knee even more severely and lost almost all of her senior season.

"She went through a lot of adversity this year," said head softball coach David Carrillo. "The year wasn't going the way she wanted it to. She was someone I laughed with, cried with and shared Jesus with."

Despite her injury, Anderson was "a cheerleader, she was a coach," Carrillo said.

Grand-Lienard and Northcutt were the top two honorees.

Northcutt, in fact, won every award possible. He participated in three sports and was named MVP in all three - cross country, soccer and track. He was then a shoo-in for the Forrest Gregg award.

Northcutt set the school record in the 1,600-meter run in track - an event he will try to win a gold medal in at the state meet on Friday, and was a three-time state qualifier in cross country, finished sixth this season. He was also the Defensive Player of the Year in District 16-4A soccer. He signed a letter of intent to run track and cross country at Texas A&M.

Andy Holt coached Northcutt in all three sports, and he got choked up as well when delivering the award.

"There's a lot of crying at sports banquet because there is so much heart and effort that goes into sports," Holt said.

Along with Northcutt's obvious athletic achievements, Holt said the senior "represents Sulphur Springs High School with class on and off the field. He displays great character and integrity."

Grand-Lienard was the female recipient of the MVP award, and for good reason. She was the top player not only on the girls soccer team, but in the entire district, winning the 16-4A MVP.

"There are some players that totally change a game by themselves. She is one of those players," said head girls soccer coach Martin Bryant. "Players like her don't come through programs like this very often. She's a once-in-a-decade player."

This season, she had seven hat tricks, a school record 32 goals and 19 assists. She also holds the SSHS record for career goals and assists.

Those awards wrapped up the evening, which featured 49 teams in 17 sports. The program started with recognition of SSHS principal and former head football coach Chuck King, who is retiring after 18 years with the SSISD. He gave a brief but powerful speech that set the tone for the evening.

MVPs in each individual sport are below:

Athletic trainer - Junior Emilee Spivey.

Volleyball - Senior Kristen McDonald. She was an All-District selection and one of the team's leaders in blocks, kills and digs.

Football - Seniors Colt Hooten, Jacob Jenkins, Kevin Rape, Tyler Rhoades and K.C. Smith. They were voted permanent captains by their teammates. Head coach Greg Owens said the team as a whole "persevered to the last ball game. They worked hard every week, showed a lot of character and a lot of heart."

Boys cross country - Senior Graham Northcutt and senior Kasie Carrell. "These two have left their mark on boys cross country," said coach Andy Holt. "They won three district championships in four years."

Girls cross country - Junior Kelsey Evans. "When I think of her, I think of guts. She's a great leader on and off the course," Holt said.

Girls basketball - Sophomore Mackenzie Cross. She was a First Team All-District pick and led the team in steals and assists.

Boys basketball - Senior Bradley Washington. He was a First Team All-District selection and led the team in scoring and rebounds.

Girls soccer - Senior Gayle Grand-Lienard.

Boys soccer - Senior Graham Northcutt.

Powerlifting - Junior Rodney Evans. He placed first or second in almost every meet, said coach Rodney Flowers.

Boys tennis - Senior Brant Small. He is a four-year letterman who is going to play tennis at Oauchita Baptist.

Girls tennis - Junior Tara Moore. She is a three-year letterman and the top-seeded girls player.

Girls golf - Senior Whitney McDaniel. She was unable to accept the plaque because she is at the state golf tournament. She is a two-time district medalist and placed fourth at regional this year.

Boys golf - Senior Dustin Gideon. He is a four-year letterman, a four-year All-District player and a four-year regional qualifier. He will play golf at UT-Arlington.

Girls track – Junior Kelsey Evans.

Boys track - Senior Graham Northcutt.

Softball - Junior Marci Womack. She was the team's top pitcher and one of their best hitters. She was voted First Team All-District.

Baseball - Junior Brittan Diamond. He was the ace of the pitching staff and led the team in batting average and RBI.

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