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A LOOK BACK AT A DECADE OF SPORTS: PART 1

The Stars-News sifted through Google Analytics data to look at which sports stories were at the top of the list for the decade. The top 5 are below. In Saturday’s paper, six through 10 will be posted.

No. 1: Andalusia High School baseball wins state championship

By: Josh Dutton

The Andalusia Bulldogs claimed their first-ever AHSAA baseball state championship in 2018, after knocking off the Hokes Bluff Eagles in two games at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

ANDALUSIA 2,

HOKES BLUFF 1

Facing elimination in the second game of the best-of-three series, the Bulldogs fought their way to a 2-1 victory behind a dominant performance on the mound from Ethan Wilson.

Wilson started the top of the first inning with a scorching line drive, but it found the glove of the Eagles’ right fielder for the first out.

Garrett Davis reached first next after an error, and moved to second on fielder’s choice from Hogan Nichols.

That was as far as Davis would get in the opening frame.

Wilson got the got the first batter in the bottom of the first inning to ground out to Ayden Amis for the first out of the inning before getting a strikeout for the second out.

Another ground ball to Amos finished off the opening inning.

In the bottom of the second inning, Wilson struck out a pair of batters in a 1-2-3 inning.

Andalusia got one-out runner when Gill Morgan was hit by a pitch, but was then erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Wilson.

Wilson then stole second and moved to third when the catcher’s throw went into center field.

The Bulldogs then grabbed the lead when Davis drove a double into the gap to score Wilson with ease.

Davis then moved to third on a wild pitch and advanced home on another wild pitch to put Andalusia up 2-0.

Hokes Bluff came back with a couple of base hits and a walk to score one run.

On the play that the runner scored, Wilson tripped over the catcher’s mask and appeared to roll his ankle.

After a brief delay to allow Wilson to tape and test his ankle, he got back on the mound and finished out the game.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilson got the first batter to pop out to Sebaskin Stallworth in right field and then struck out the next two batters to finish of the victory and force a deciding game three.

ANDALUSIA 10,

HOKES BLUFF 6

The Bulldogs claimed the state title win with a 10-6 victory in the final game of the state championship.

Wilson led off the top of the first inning with a triple and then came around to score a sacrifice fly from Nichols.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Eagles took advantage off two wild pitches to take a 2-1 lead.

Davis started the top of the third inning with a one-out single and moved around to second when Nichols was hit by a pitch.

Walks to Stallworth and Will Clark allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game.

The Bulldogs took the lead when Chip Morgan drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Hokes Bluff came right back and the tied the game in the bottom of the third inning.

Jacob Cravey drew a one-out walk in the top of the third inning and came around to score on double from Gill Morgan.

Nichols then came through with an RBI single to put Andalusia on top 5-3.

The Bulldogs then took advantage of a couple of wild pitches to take a 7-3 lead.

Hokes Bluff scratched their way back into the game and forced the Bulldogs to make a pitching change.

Morgan came in for his brother C. Morgan and picked up pair of outs to leave the Bulldogs on top 7-6 heading into the sixth inning.

Wilson walked to start the top of the sixth inning and then came around to score on a scorching double from Nichols.

Hokes Bluff got a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the sixth inning, but C. Morgan and Amis teamed up for a double play up the middle to stifle the threat.

In the top of the seventh inning, Hokes Bluff elected to intentionally walk Wilson to load the bases, and Davis made the Eagles pay dearly.

With the bases juiced, Davis laced a ball down the third-base line to give the Bulldogs a 10-6 lead.

Hokes Bluff got a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh, but Amis turned another double play to seal the Bulldogs’ state championship victory.

“First of all, I said last week that was gutsiest performances that I’ve ever been a part of as a head coach and tonight matches that,” Andalusia head coach Tyler Dent said. “We had a tough one last night. We didn’t play very well. We didn’t pitch very well, we didn’t field well and we didn’t hit well. Today we came back and refocused. Hats off to Ethan Wilson in the first game. He twisted his ankle on a freak play. He grinds out after that and finishes the game for us in a 2-1 ball game. There in the third game I told them this morning that anything could happen in game three and it did. We battled, battled and battled and scored enough runs to win. Hats off to Chip Morgan and his brother Gill coming in and slamming the door there at the end. That’s not easy to do. I’m extremely proud of these guys. Ayden Amis, an eighth grader, turns two double plays in game three of the state championship. What an unbelievable baseball player that he is.”

No. 2: Pleasant Home School volleyball team wins state championship

By: Josh Dutton

The Pleasant Home Lady Eagles picked up their first ever state championship in any girls sport when the swept the Athens Bible Lady Trojans 3-0 on Thursday at the Class 1A volleyball state championship in Birmingham.

GAME ONE

PLEASANT HOME 25, ATHENS BIBLE 17

Pleasant Home got things rolling in the opening set of the state championship match with a 25-17 win over Athens Bible.

Bella Worley got the Lady Eagles on the board first with a tip for the first point of the game.

Worley then got an ace to put Pleasant Home up 4-0.

Athens Bible got a few points back before a kill from River Baldwin put Pleasant Home up 5-3.

Athens Bible tied the set 5-5 and then Baldwin got a kill to go up 6-5.

Things went back-and-forth between the two squads for the next several points.

Sarah Kathryn Guilford picked up a kill to put the Lady Eagles up 12-11 and then a kill from Baldwin increased the lead.

Athens Bible took a lead midway through the set before a kill from Baldwin knotted the game 15-15.

The Lady Eagles then took the lead when Peyton Huckabaa picked up a block.

The lead went up to 17-15 with a kill from Baldwin.

Pleasant Home continued to add to their lead with when Baldwin added another kill.

Worley followed with an ace and then Baldwin got a kill to go up 23-15.

The Lady Eagles then held on for 25-17 win.

GAME TWO

PLEASANT HOME 25, ATHENS BIBLE 13

The Lady Eagles moved within one game of a state championship after knocking off Athens Bible 25-13 in set two of the championship match.

Athens Bible got then first points of the game before a kill from Baldwin tied the game 1-1.

The battle went back-and-forth for the early portion of the game.

Hope Gunter got an ace to put Pleasant Home up 9-6.

Guilford followed with a kill and then another ace from Gunter put Pleasant Home up 11-6.

Pleasant Home continued to pick up the pace and a kill from Baldwin helped the Lady Eagles take a 19-8 lead.

Baldwin stretched the Pleasant Home lead up to 22-8 and then Amy Kate Bulger tacked on an ace.

Pleasant Home held off a late rally to pick up a 25-13 win.

GAME THREE

PLEASANT HOME 25, ATHENS BIBLE 20

The Pleasant Home Lady Eagles secured their first ever state championship in any sport with a 25-20 win over Athens Bible in the third game of the series.

Pleasant Home came out strong in the third game and quickly went on top 4-0.

Athens Bible got on the board for a few points and then a kill from Guilford gave the Lady Eagles a 7-3 lead.

Athens Bible inched back into the contest, but then the Lady Eagles stretched the lead up to 12-7.

Then game then went back-and-forth for the next several minutes.

Athens Bible trimmed the Pleasant Home lead down to 16-15 before a surge from the Lady Eagles pushed their lead up to 21-15.

The Lady Eagles continued to push through as they came away with a 25-20 win to win the state title.

“We got a little flat there early,” Pleasant Home head coach Tony Wilson said. “I’m not trying to play the superstition thing, but all three matches this weekend we have gone receive, server and receive. It seemed to have worked for us. We play better when we receive and the girls did an outstanding job serving.”

Wilson said he was proud of the way his team battled.

“We got down there three or four points and all season we’ve said we have to set the tone and build a cushion,” Wilson said. “We got that cushion and built on it. We built off of that. The second match it was much of the same. After that first match, we had a lot of confidence. In the third one, we swapped a few points here and there. When we get to 16 (points) that’s our number. When we get to single digits and we are ahead, I like our chances. I felt confident and I have two great girls that know how to hit the ball. It was awesome.”

Pleasant Home’s Baldwin, Huckabaa, Guilford and Worley were all named to the All-Tournament team. Baldwin was named MVP for the tournament.

“It means the world to me,” Baldwin said of winning a state championship. “We always knew that we could do it. We’ve had the same potential every year, but when got to this point this year it has never felt so real. I was overwhelmed with emotion (prior to the match). The second we touched the floor our nerves were calmed. We knew that we could just play our game like we have all season. If we did that, we knew we could win a state championship.”

No. 3: Taylor moves from Straughn to Andalusia

By: Josh Dutton

A new era began in 2014 for the Andalusia High School football team, when Trent Taylor was named head football coach.

The Andalusia Board of Education made the hiring official in a special called meeting on a Tuesday in December of 2014.

“We got exactly who we wanted,” Andalusia superintendent Ted Watson said. “Trent is from Andalusia, he knows the genetic makeup and the desire of the community. He is a guy who can best pull us together as a community, and that is something I want to stress. Everything we do, we are in the process of building a community, and trying to get everybody to pull together. I see him being able to bring cohesiveness in this Andalusia City Schools’ environment, and this community that maybe we haven’t had in quite some time.”

Asked about expectations for the new coach, Watson, who is a former coach, quickly quipped, “Just win, baby!”

“No. Too much, I think coaches are judged on just wins and losses, and that is the ultimate goal. The truth of the matter is we want him to build relationships with these young kids, and teach them how to become men. If he can do that, and build character for our kids, then winning will take care of itself.”

Taylor, who has been head coach of Straughn’s Tigers for 25 years, has compiled a 183-121 record in his 27 years as a head coach. His teams have made appearances in 19 playoffs. In 2012, he was the 3A Coach of the Year

Taylor said he is excited about his new job.

“I’m very excited opportunity to come home, and coach were I played,” he said. “It should have been a very easy decision, but with the friendships and relationships I’ve built at Straughn, it made it a tough decision. It has been truly amazing how God has opened some doors, and allowed this time to be the right time.

“This isn’t the first time that the Andalusia job has been open since I’ve been at Straughn, but this is the first time that I can truly say that the timing was right,” he said. “Whether you have been at a school for five years or 25 years, it is never easy to leave, because you develop relationships with kids, as well as with other people. Those memories I have of Straughn no one can every take away.”

Taylor said he’s moving, but not far.

“The thing about it is I’m not moving three hours away,” he said. “I know about the Andalusia football program and I know the things that they have been able to do. I’m excited about getting in there and getting to work.”

No. 4: Coach Richard Robertson retires

By: Michele Gerlach

In July 2015, Richard Robertson, who had taught and coached in the Andalusia City School system for 50 years, retired.

Robertson served as athletic director and head basketball coach, and is a former football, track and baseball coach.

“I’ve got to have more time at home and with my family,” he said. “They’ve been real supportive of me. I love coaching, but I don’t want to stay too long.”

Robertson, whose contract expired in July of 2015, said he met with AHS principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare earlier that week. A press conference to discuss Robertson’s departure and the search for a successor is expected to be called on that Monday.

Robertson, who graduated from Ralph Bunche High School in 1961, returned to Andalusia after graduating from Alabama State in August of 1965. He’s worked in the school system ever since, but said he probably would have left a long time ago if former Superintendent Oscar Zeanah hadn’t told him to get certified in driver’s ed, which he’s taught since 1970.

“Mr. Zeanah didn’t ask you to do things, he told you,” Robertson said. “He told me he was going to send me to driver’s ed school because he was tired of hiring driver’s ed teachers and he knew I’d be here a long time.”

Robertson, who has a reputation as a tough coach, says otherwise.

“Everybody thinks I’m real tough, but I’m real tenderhearted,” he said. “I’ve got a sign up at the school, and over at the Coleman Center. It says ‘Just do right.’ If you do that, you won’t have no problems.”

Dr. Shakespeare, who as a teen worked with Robertson at the Coleman Center and was a member of a Robertson-coached track team, said the soon-to-be retired coach has been an inspiration for many.

“When I was the principal at Aliceville High School, he called me at least once a month to encourage me,” he said. “I’ve never forgotten it. When I see him in the hallway it school, it just picks me up.”

Robertson’s basketball team won the 5A state championship in 1996, and he was an assistant coach for Andalusia’s football championship teams in the 1970s.

He amassed more than 700 wins on the basketball court.

No. 5: Nico Johnson gets drafted to the Chiefs

By: Andrew Garner

Andrew Garner reported on April 27, 2013 that Nico Johnson didn’t get much sleep during the past three days, tonight, he can rest easy.

Johnson was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs today as the second pick in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The draft began on Thursday. Like so many other players, Johnson had two wait the first two full days of the draft for his phone to ring.

Johnson said it was a “frustrating” experience and is elated to be named a Chief.

Now, the Andalusia native said he feels great.

“I’m glad that the Chiefs chose me to give me and opportunity to get out there,” Johnson said. “I’m just ready to go and prove myself to them, and to the opponents who bypassed me and show them that they could’ve had a great linebacker.

“I’m going to Kansas City and going to do my best there,” he said.

The Kansas City Star’s website projects the former Alabama senior as an inside linebacker, the position he knows so well.

In fact, Kansas City runs a similar defense as the Crimson Tide, he said.

Johnson was drafted as the 99th overall pick, one behind former USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who went to Philadelphia.

Right now, Johnson is getting fit and training in Andalusia and Tuscaloosa in preparation for the Chiefs’ mini camp. Johnson reports to Missouri Western State University on May 9.

During the draft, the Chiefs signed veteran free agents Akeem Jordan and Zac Diles, who like Johnson, will compete for the starting spot.

“The only thing I’m sure of is that I’ve got to bust my butt and earn my keep,” Johnson said.