Top 10 local sports stories of 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Personnel moves and a conference volleyball title topped the list of local sports stories in 2014.

1. Departure leaves Large void at Cassville

David Large left Cassville to take the athletic director opening at Branson. He replaced Tony Berry, Branson activities director, who accepted a position as assistant superintendent at School of the Osage. During Large's 11 years as Cassville football coach, he compiled a 104-17 record. The Wildcats also won two state titles and the last four Big 8 Conference titles.

2. Southwest remains top dog in Ozark 7

The Lady Trojans won their third consecutive Ozark 7 Conference volleyball title, finishing the season with a perfect 6-0 record for the second straight year. Steve Voyak proved the road to conference glory runs through Washburn. Voyak also earned conference Coach of the Year honors for the third year in a row, and senior Shannon Mitchell was named conference Player of the Year.

3. Abramovitz fills Cassville athletic director post

The Cassville School District did not have to go very far to find its next athletic director. Administrators did not even need to leave the district, as they promoted Ben Abramovitz, former middle school principal, to the spot vacated by David Large. Abramovitz, who also coaches the Lady Wildcats softball team, described the transition as ideal and a dream come true.

4. Jett earns all-state honors despite injury

Cassville senior Dalton Jett was a difference-maker on the Cassville defense. Jett missed three games due to injury this season, but when he returned, he recorded 25 tackles for loss in the Wildcats' final five games, and he was named to the all-conference, all-district and all-region teams. Jett's stats also earned him the only all-state nod from a 6-5 Cassville team.

5. Wildcats roar with 2 upsets at districts

Cassville entered the district tournament at 8-14. No one, except those ardent Wildcat fans, believed they could make much noise. Cassville, a No. 4 seed, lost to the top three teams during the regular season. But, Cassville defeated East Newton and upset No. 1 Carl Junction with a final at-bat, 6-run rally. The streak ended with a loss in the district title game.

6. Exeter taps alumnus to replace Jason Cole

The Exeter School District solved a huge coaching vacancy by hiring Colt Higgs after Jason Cole departed from the school. Higgs, a 2006 graduate of Exeter High School jumped at the opportunity to come back to his alma mater. Not only was Higgs tabbed to take over the girls basketball team, he was promoted to the baseball head coach, as well.

7. Roller comes back to be closer to home

One of the best female basketball players in Barry County history moved closer to home to finish her career. Purdy alumna Addy Roller left Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., and enrolled at Drury University in Springfield. A 2012 graduate of Purdy, Roller etched her name in the top 25 of 19 state statistical categories and led the state in 3-pointers made (319).

8. Wildcat Nation packs house to support team

Wildcat Stadium increased gate revenue by 18.8 percent in 2014. The 2014 gate revenue combined from ninth-grade, junior varsity and varsity football games was $22,883, versus $17,093.56 in 2013. Gate proceeds are used to support costs for officials, ambulance services and supplemental services and equipment, such as electricity for lights, water and fertilizer for the field.

9. Gridiron youth forced into the field of service

The Cassville football team battled obstacles in 2014, but injuries to its upperclassmen was likely the largest. Coach Lance Parnell told his squad it was a next-man-up philosophy. The Wildcats saw a lot more action from underclassmen, such as sophomores Gilbert Medina and River Phelps. Juniors Dylan Klewer, Leigh Cox, Matt Popanz and Hunter Madison also stepped up to fill the void.

10. Wildcats honor those who came before

A total of 22 football players and graduates of Cassville High School, in the early- to mid-1960s, attended Alumni Night at the Wildcats' home opener against Mountain Grove. Along with being recognized prior to the game, the group was treated to a barbecue dinner and end-zone seating. Alumni Night Friday is an annual tradition at Cassville's first home football game each year.

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