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Top 10 sports stories of 2009

How do you determine what is most important over the course of a calendar year? David Snow and I sat up for quite some time one night this week, debating the biggest events of the year. Once we’d settled on a list, I went home and disagreed with about half of it. And that was just for the news side. Things have been even more difficult for sports.

It truly has been a remarkable year for sports in the area. The Top 10 list as we have offered it speaks for itself. But what of the events that didn’t quite make the list? There were so many from which to choose.

There was Demopolis baseball’s playoff appearance. We had to give some credence to the DHS track team. That group’s 4-by-400-meter relay team consisting of Bryan Taylor, Larry Cobb, Greg Irvin and Kevin Norman took the bronze medal at state. And you can’t acknowledge their accomplishments without looking at Sunshine’s Jermarkis Teacher, Shaun McAlpine, Quincy Bryant and Kevin Young, who collectively brought one team and two individual medals, including McAlpine’s gold in the 200.

Former Linden High standout Shawn Richardson led all SEC defensive backs in tackles. Demopolis’ Greg Irvin (UAB) and Rick Boone (UWA) inked offers on Signing Day as did Linden’s Maurice Tate (Alabama State). A pair of county backs, DaMarcus James (DHS) and Kendarius Fritts (LHS) won Back of the Year honors in their respective class and finished as the top two rushers in the state for all classes.

And then there is Tate Luker. The former Sweet Water standout won the Bryant-Jordan Scholar Athlete of the Year Award for Class 1A, an accomplishment as noteworthy as anything else.

So how do you quantify? We’ll probably ask ourselves that question for the few days as we look back on 2009 and look forward to 2010. But one things is unquestionably true: You can’t spend a moment assessing where a moment ranks as it is happening, time must sort those things out. It is ours just to enjoy and celebrate.

Here are our top 10 sports stories of 2009. Enjoy!

No. 1: Tigers take title: Demopolis would not be denied in 2009, pulling out a handful of heart-stopping playoff wins before walking into Bryant-Denny on Dec. 3 and downing Russellville 27-14 to win the Class 5A crown. The run included otherworldly numbers from DaMarcus James (1,238 yards and 11 TDs in the playoffs).

No. 2: James steps in: After the departures of headmaster John Holley and football coach Jesse Little in March, well-renowned AISA coach Robby James stepped in to fill both positions, leading an undermanned Longhorn team to the playoffs in his first season.

No. 3: Opened with a bang: August saw the finishing touches placed on the much-anticipated Tiger Stadium, which opened to the public with the first ever DHS Fan Day. The event saw introductions, fireworks and the unveiling of a life-size bronze Tiger that now looks over the field for each Demopolis home game.

No. 4: Sweet Water doesn’t win state: The Bulldogs’ annual hoisting of the Class 1A Blue Map had become all but a foregone conclusion. But 2009 saw the Purple and Gold’s majestic reign end at the hands of Loachapoka in the third round of the playoffs.

No. 5: Long time coming: Picked by GSC coaches to finish eighth in conference, the West Alabama Tigers not only made their first playoff appearance in 30 years, but advanced to second round before losing to Carson-Newman.

No. 6: Marengo’s finest: February saw the induction of the inaugural Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame class, a group that includes David Beverly, Tommy Brooker, Walter Henders, Robert Jones and Nolan Atkins and Ed “Chink” Lott.

No. 7: Fearless ‘Dawgs: The spring announcement that Sweet Water would host nationally-prominent Bastrop (La.) raised more than a couple of eyebrows statewide. But the perennial Class 1A favorites overcame their internal struggles and dropped the visiting Rams 24-12 in the October meeting.

No. 8: Sunshine girls visit Final Four: Head coach Phillip Wagner and the Sunshine Lady Tigers rattled off a string of victories that saw them go all the way to the Final Four before falling to McIntosh to end their campaign.

No. 9: Baseball playoffs: While Sweet Water was running to the state semi-finals, Marengo Academy was watching its bid for a second consecutive state championship end in the semis against Edgewood.

No. 10: Queens of the diamond: Three Marengo County teams made significant postseason runs during the spring. Marengo Academy’s Lady Longhorns ran all the way to the state finals before finally succumbing to Lakeside while Sweet Water and Demopolis each made regional tournament runs.