The end of a season is good for two reasons. The first is teams are typically vying for state — or in some cases national — championships, and the other is those who have put in a ton of hard work start to be recognized.
That held true throughout the area in history as many teams and individuals racked up accolades over the years.
Most recently, on May 23, 2014, Benjamin Russell’s Zac Rogers was named the Alexander City Sports Foundation’s Male Athlete of the Year. Rogers was a huge asset for the Wildcats throughout his years there and eventually committed to play Division I baseball for Alabama. As a senior, Rogers fired 83 strikeouts and finished the season with a staggering 1.20 ERA. He had a 7-2 record in 14 starts and allowed only 10 earned runs all season.
Another big individual recognition came for Central Alabama Community College’s Josh Forbus years earlier. This week in 2003, Forbus earned the title of AJCC Region XXII Baseball Player of the Year after finishing his season with a .382 batting average.
“Josh made more improvement than any player I’ve seen,” then-CACC coach Don Ingram said at the time. “He went from batting .248 last year to batting .382 this year. A portion of that can be attributed to weight training. Also, some of it had to do with a few changes to his swing. It also had a lot to do with him just wanting to get better.”
Also in 2003, Benjamin Russell got to experience a bit of the big stage as members of the soccer team traveled to Birmingham to see the USA National Women’s soccer team go head-to-head with England.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for the girls to see some high-quality soccer,” said then-girls coach Chad Kison, who is now the boys basketball coach at Horseshoe Bend. “It also might give them some role models to look up to.”
As for some team accomplishments, there were plenty of those to go around as well.
In 1989, Central Coosa’s softball team was competing in its first year as a program and the Cougars found a ton of success. They went all the way to the state tournament, ultimately finishing fourth and ended the inaugural season with a 16-8-1 record.
The Cougars were coached then by Pam Robinson, who is now the athletic director at Benjamin Russell.
“There were probably about 40 other teams that didn’t make it that wish they had,” she said at the time. “I knew when we started off the season that we wouldn’t look like the same team. … It’s important to see where you finish at the end of the year and see how much you have improved. Form that aspect, I was pleased with our season.”
Less than a decade later, the area got a spot on the national stage once again as on May 26, 1997, CACC’s golf team claimed its second straight NJCAA Division I national championship. Fast forward to today, and the Trojans are still the defending national champ as they won it last year.
This week that same year, the Benjamin Russell football team also said goodbye to one of its most beloved coaches as Steve Savarese was leaving. He spent 12 seasons as the head football coach and led the Wildcats to a 96-38 record and nine playoff appearances.
“Life is like a book; it’s made up of chapters,” Savarese said at the time. “And I’ve spent 12 beautiful chapters here I’ll never forget. I’ve got a lot of maroon in this blood, and I’ll never forget that.”
Savarese is now the executive director of the AHSAA and the stadium at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex is named in his and Willie Carl Martin’s honor.
State — May 19, 1996
After falling to Florida on May 18, Alabama reeled off two wins in the next 24 hours to set up a rematch with the Gators in the first-ever SEC Baseball Tournament Championship held at the Hoover Met. The Crimson Tide made the most of their second chance, racking up 19 hits in a 15-5 win to claim their second title in the midst of a three-peat.
Joe Caruso was named the Tournament MVP after setting a record for most hits in a single tournament with 14 in 26 at bats, a record that still holds today. Andy Bernard was called on for his first ever start in conference play and he delivered a complete-game victory.
National — May 17, 1998
Three days before his 35th birthday, David Wells took the mound against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Less than three hours later, Wells would go down in the record books as he delivered the franchise’s second perfect game in New York Yankees history and 15th ever in the MLB in a 4-0 victory.
It was his first complete game of the season as he needed 120 pitches to finish the job. Wells recorded 11 strikeouts while retiring the rest of Minnesota’s hitters with six groundouts and 10 fly outs.
Wells went on to be named an all-star and he finished third in Cy Young voting. He also recorded a win in Game 1 of the World Series, helping the Yankees win their second title in three years.
International — May 13, 2012
Manchester City was set to win its first league title since 1968 as it sat at the top of the table entering its final match against QPR, a club fighting for safety in the relegation zone. However, QPR put up a fight and held a one-goal lead heading into stoppage time.
Meanwhile, Manchester United was closing off an easy victory and was seemingly swooping in to steal City’s title at the last second. Then came the drama.
In just three minutes, Manchester City scored two goals including a stunner from Sergio Aguero to take the lead against QPR. The goal sent the Citizen fans into a flurry of celebrations. Manchester City claimed the title and went on to win three more in the next eight seasons.