By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
By Dave Ruthenberg
There were championships, record-setting performances, near misses and new faces that headlined another exciting sports year in 2012 in northwest Oklahoma.
With so many memorable moments, it was difficult to limit the list to only 10 for the Enid News & Eagle’s annual list of top local and area sports stories. Everybody likely has their own favorite sports moment or story and hopefully yours is on our list as well.
So, let’s get to it. Here are the Top 10 local and area sports stories for 2012, as determined by Enid News & Eagle editors and writers.
1. Popeye makes all-state and etches his name in record book: While many stories were debated, our top story was a unanimous choice for No.1.
Enid Plainsmen tailback Seth “Popeye” Handley ran through, around and past defenders with lightning-quick speed, and faster than you can say “4.4 speed” left defenders grasping at air while notching several marks in the Plainsmen record book.
Handley rushed for 1,240 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season on his way to being named All-State by the Oklahoma Coaches Associ-ation. His rushing total for this season was the fifth-highest in school history and he finished fourth all-time with over 2,200 yards rushing in his career. But it was his single-game performances that truly were jaw-dropping ... and record-setting.
Handley owns four of the top 10 spots on Enid’s all-time single-game rushing list. This season he rushed for 336 yards against Stillwater (second all-time); 243 yards (fifth all-time) against Choctaw in the season-opening win and 213 yards (10th all-time) against Guthrie and along the way had several dazzling long-distance touchdown runs. Along with his all-time single-game record of 377 yards set last season against Bixby, Handley has etched his name in the record books above former Enid standouts such as Lydell Carr, Austin Box and Jonathan Burton.
For good measure, Handley also led the team with 31 catches for 427 yards in 2012, cementing his season as one of the most exciting individual campaigns in Plainsmen history.
2. Steve Chard named
Enid High School’s
head football coach
After an extended search following the resignation of Plainsmen head coach Tommy Parker after four seasons, former Yukon defensive
coordinator Steve Chard
was named Plainsmen head coach in March.
Chard took over a team that went 2-8 and did not return a wealth of experience. He introduced a new defensive scheme and got the players to buy into his system early on. Enid won its first two games, 41-12 over Choctaw and 19-14 over Edmond Memorial before encountering a six-game losing skid, which included heartbreaking last-minute losses to Bartlesville (44-42) and Ponca City (21-20) streak and finishing 3-7, but he never lost the team.
Chard also brought in several new coaches, including bringing former Enid stars Kareem Sears and Shawn Mills back into the fold as assistant coaches. The team improved its scoring defense significantly, allowing 13 fewer points per game than last season.
3. LSU-Eunice wins 2012
NJCAA Division II
Over 15,000 fans attended the National Junior College Division II World Series held at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in June. The 10-team field was narrowed down to top-seed LSU-Eunice and defending champion Western Oklahoma State for the finale.
The Bengals downed the defending champs 7-3, earning their fourth national championship, and second in the past three seasons. The live Internet stream provided by Chisholm Trail Broadcasting drew an impressive 130,000 views.
4. Laverne wins
Class B football title
It was an all-northwest finale in the Class B state championship game as Laverne completed its first-ever undefeated season by defeating Pond Creek-Hunter 50-19 for the Class B gold ball. The Tigers dealt the Panthers their only two losses of the season.
It was a close contest at halftime with Pond Creek-Hunter trailing only 14-7 until Laverne scored 30 points in the second half to win going away. Laverne’s Dalton Birch rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
5. Fairview Lady Jackets
win 2A basketball crown
Avenging a loss just one week earlier in the winner’s bracket area final at Chisholm Trail Expo Center, the Fairview Lady Jackets (29-2) upset favored Northeast Academy 38-36 in comeback fashion to claim the 2A girls basketball crown at State Fair Arena.
The Jackets rallied back from a 35-28 deficit midway through the fourth quarter for the dramatic win. It was Fairview’s third gold ball, but first since 1974 (the other was in 1967). Kori Fast led Fairview with 12 points and would later sign to play for Northern Oklahoma College Enid.
6. Kingfisher makes third
football championship game appearance in four years
Kingfisher finished the regular season undefeated and ranked No. 1 in 3A and appeared primed to claim a state championship, but Blanchard spoiled those plans with a 28-21 upset victory in the 3A title game.
It was the Yellowjackets’ third appearance in the state championship in the past four seasons. The Jackets rallied from a 14 point deficit to tie the game at 21-21, but a 58-yard rushing touchdown just 14 seconds after Kingfisher had tied the game, sealed the title for Blanchard.
7. Lomega Lady Raiders win
Class B basketball crown.
Overcoming an 11-0 deficit to start the game, Lomega rallied to defeat top-ranked Harmon 49-44 to win the Class B girls basketball title in 2012.
The Lady Raiders, who finished 30-1 on the season, did not take the lead until the third quarter and still trailed 33-32 heading into the final stanza before junior Ashley LaGasse took over, scoring 11 of her game-high 25 points in the decisive fourth quarter. It was the 11th gold ball for Lomega, tying Byng for most by any program in Oklahoma girls basketball history.
8. NOC Enid Lady Jets
upset in regional final
Coming off an appearance in the Final Four of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association national tournament in 2011, Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets were derailed in their quest for a return visit to the national tournament in 2012
Ranked No. 8 nationally, and sporting an impressive 29-3 record entering the game, NOC Enid was upset 58-57 in the Region 2 finals by Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a team the Lady Jets had narrowly defeated twice earlier in the season by scores of 59-58 and 59-57. However, the Lady Jets did claim the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference crown with a 17-1 league mark.
9. Hennessey makes
2A state semifinals
The Eagles had not made it to state since 1989, but nearly made the most of their first appearance in 23 years, advancing to the boys basketball 2A semifinals.
After defeating Watonga in the quarterfinals, Hennessey (25-3) came up short in the semifinals against Haworth 67-58, snapping an 11-game winning streak. It was Haworth’s 17th straight win, but their streak would end with a 71-45 loss to Northeast Academy in the finals. Haworth earned its spot in the semifinals by defeating Pioneer in the quarterfinals.
The Mustangs came within three outs of advancing to the Class A baseball finals in 2012, but eventual champion, top-ranked Rattan, crushed Pioneer’s hopes when Jonathan Samuels hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning — his second round-tripper of the contest — to defeat Pioneer 7-6 after Pioneer had rallied for a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on Tanner Leon’s double.
Pioneer finished the season 32-4.
Noteworthy: No list would be complete without at least a mention of Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf. The redshirt junior from Enid persevered this season after not getting the nod as starting quarterback. After injuries to J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt, Chelf has started the last four games and has a team-leading 12 touchdown passes. Chelf will be the starting quarterback when the Cowboys play Purdue on Jan. 1 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl ... Finally, local golfer Paul Schepperley made news in April and earns a mention here for his 350-yard hole-in-one on the first hole at Pheasant Run. The 14-handicap golfer aced the par four dogleg right hole with his first shot of the day. It also was his first-ever hole-in-one.