As of Thursday, Calhoun County no longer has a team in the Northeast Regional, marking the first time since 2001 that no team from our county made the finals.
That means 2013 also will go down as the first time since 2007 that no Calhoun County team made the Final 48 in Birmingham.
This comes months after no team from Calhoun County made it past the second round of the state football playoffs.
If it seems shocking Calhoun County teams would have such a tough year in major sports postseason play, it should. Just a year ago, our county had Oxford and Anniston in the football semifinals, and Jacksonville became the first team from the county to win a state title in girls basketball.
Oxford won the 6A state title in baseball, and Piedmont made the 3A finals. Saks won a 3A state title in softball.
This school year hasn’t been a total loss for the area. Woodland’s, Spring Garden’s and Cherokee County’s girls made it to the Northeast Regional finals in their classifications, as did Ragland’s boys.
Woodland’s girls, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, beat Lanett 69-43 on Thursday to reach the Final 48 for the second time in three years.
Woodland also carried the area’s banner furthest in football, reaching the third round before losing to Reeltown.
Let’s go ahead and crown Larry Strain, head coach for Woodland’s football and girls’ basketball teams, as The Star coverage area’s coach of the school year. Meanwhile, let’s ponder what happened to Calhoun County-based teams.
In football, Oxford lost a lot of great players from the 2011 team that went further than any Oxford team ever had in 6A football. There was a glorious signing day, with eight players at the table and high drama as top prospects Kwon Alexander and Trae Elston announced their college decisions on television.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t make the playoffs in 2012.
Anniston, of course, lost running back Troymaine Pope, now a rising sophomore at Jacksonville State.
Piedmont, who had reached at least the third round of the football playoffs five straight years and carried 3A’s top ranking much of this past season, suffered a second-round upset against Deshler, a power in its first year down from 4A.
In basketball, Jacksonville’s girls returned four starters from their state-title team and won the Calhoun County Tournament, but the Golden Eagles suffered a first-round loss in area play. Turns out they really did miss departed point guard Lacey Buchanon, MVP of the 2012 Final 48.
Usually strong Anniston’s boys and girls lost to Madison County in the 4A regional semifinals Tuesday night. The boys’ team, in particular, was young, returning just one playing-time regular from a year ago, so making the regional was an accomplishment.
Piedmont’s girls, making their first regional appearance since 2008, rallied from a 23-12 halftime deficit to tie Holly Pond during Thursday’s 3A regional semifinals but lost 41-34.
Weaver’s boys, also making their first regional appearance since 2008, needed some height in their 3A regional semifinal loss to Holly Pond 72-65.
Is there a common denominator in all of this? Maybe key player losses in some cases, inexperience this deep in postseason play in other cases.
In still other cases, the teams from Calhoun County just ran up against better teams. Those who didn’t see Madison County’s boys missed the Northeast Regional’s version of Showtime.
These things come in cycles and remind us all to enjoy a year like 2011-12.
For that matter, it reminds us to enjoy most years, because we usually have county teams playing into the weekend of the Northeast Regional.
Still, it felt odd to have our county teams done so early in the football playoffs.
For those who remember the classic, Anniston-Jacksonville regional final in 2010, it feels odd to think none will play in The Pete past Thursday this year.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.