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2018 in Review: Top 5 Moments of 2018

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, December 29, 2018
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GANTT OVERCOMES TRAGEDY, WINS STATE MVP

Makenna Gantt

Two days after turning 16 Oct. 22, Decatur sophomore Makenna Gantt was struck with tragedy.

A heart attack left her grandfather, Bill Gantt, hospitalized. Makenna went and saw Bill in the emergency room, but she did not know that would be the last time she got to see him.

“We didn’t know he was going to pass,” said Makenna’s mother, Dalene. “It was very sudden.”

During Makenna’s hospital visit with Bill, he gave his granddaughter a message he wanted her to carry out.

“The last thing he said to her was to win,” Dalene Gantt said. “She carries a little picture of her and Papa and kisses it before they play. For her, this one is for him. It’s all for him.”

Against Needville in the 4A final, Makenna fulfilled her grandfather’s request.

The Lady Eagles knocked off the defending 4A champions, claiming their first state title since 2014. In the 4A final, Makenna buried nine kills, dished out 16 assists and made three blocks.

Her performance earned her MVP honors for the 4A title game.

“When we won last week against Glen Rose, the fact that we got here was pretty emotional,” said Decatur coach Clark Oberle. “But to actually win like her Papa said and for her to win the MVP – He poured it on thick up there, is all I can say.

“She’s come a long way. To be a state MVP in a position like that is pretty special.”

Regiona Champs

REGION CHAMPS – The Decatur Eagles celebrate their victory over Hereford in the 4A Division I Region I final. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

DECATUR WINS 4A REGION I TITLE

When Decatur’s regular season ended Nov. 9 with a loss to Gainesville, the Eagles dropped to 4-6, entering the playoffs as the fourth seed from District 4-4A I.

“If you had asked me week three or week four, there is no way I’d tell you – we wouldn’t even be in the playoffs,” said senior receiver Beau Bedford.

Determined to make something of its season, Decatur turned in a dominant performance against District 3-4AI champion Dumas in the bi-district round. The Eagles followed that up by dispatching Andrews to claim an area title and then took down 4-4AI nemesis Hirschi in the regional round.

What started as an unimaginable playoff run quickly morphed into a storybook season. On a frigid night at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, the Eagles wrote their next chapter.

For the first time since 1988, Decatur advanced to the state semifinals, knocking off Hereford 38-28 to claim the 4A Division I Region I crown. The Eagles joined the 1975 and 1988 teams as the only squads in Decatur history to reach the state semifinal.

“I couldn’t be happier for these kids,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller. “Not only do they have a story for themselves with how it all happened this year, they can build and draw on this when they’re 50 or when they’re 30, when things are going rough. They can draw on this and know it’s never over. You can always show up the next day and get a little better. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Career Comes to Close

CAREER COMES TO CLOSE – Bridgeport’s Eric Aguilar hoists the Bulls’ trophy after falling to San Elizario in the region final. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

BULLS DROP OT THRILLER IN REGION FINAL

With neither side able to find a goal in the first 80 minutes, Bridgeport and San Elizario went to overtime in the 4A Region I final.

Fighting for a spot in the state tournament for the second straight year, the Bulls had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless deadlock in the 89th minute. After a throw-in from the corner, Bridgeport tracked down the ball and fired a shot on net.

It ricocheted off the crossbar and out of play.

Six minutes later, the Eagles scored the lone goal of the match in the 95th minute, breaking through the Bulls’ back line. Bridgeport keeper Jason Espinoza sprawled out to try and make the save but was unable to get a hand to it, as San Elizario escaped with a 1-0 overtime win at Birdville ISD’s Fine Arts and Athletics Complex.

The Bulls ended their season at 21-4-1. Bridgeport won their third straight district title and advanced to the regional tournament for the second straight year.

“They have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Bridgeport coach C.J. Cartwright. “It’s been such a great year. Not many teams get this far. [San Elizario] won the state championship two years ago. They’re top-notch and the best of the best.”

YELLOWJACKETS RALLY TO WIN REGION TITLE

Before the results of the 3A Region I championships were announced, Boyd’s Connor Richardson sat near the finish line catching his breath.

The senior who had been the Yellowjackets’ top runner the past two years was gassed. One by one, his teammates came over to console him and offer words of encouragement. Richardson finished 27th with a 17:27.50, posting one of his slowest times of the year.

“I told Connor he did all he could,” Boyd senior Gauge Fahlin said. “He’s still recovering, but he was here for us and he ran for us. And he didn’t have to. Just having him and seeing him there gave us a jolt.”

After missing the District 7-3A meet 10 days before with an illness that hospitalized him, Richardson returned to the course at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

His time was not where he wanted, but it didn’t matter.

Richardson’s teammates gave him a lift when it mattered most, as Boyd won the 3A Region I title to advance to the 3A state championships in Round Rock. The Yellowjackets scored 89 points, edging second-place Tornilla who had 91.

“They stepped up and did what they had to do. I couldn’t be prouder of those guys,” Richardson said. “I did the best I could and was thinking of them the whole time. I was definitely not 100 percent.”

Standing as One

STANDING AS ONE – Bridgeport senior Savannah Tuggle stands with her teammates. The Sissies and Mineral Wells joined forces to play a match with all proceeds going towards Savannah’s mother, Tracey, who is battling brain cancer. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

COMMUNITY RALLIES AROUND SOCCER PLAYER’S FAMILY

Tracey Tuggle never thought twice about her persistent headaches.

But after being rushed to the emergency room one day, doctors eventually discovered an aggressive form of brain cancer – Stage IV glioblastoma.

“Fear. [I was] scared,” Tracey said of her emotions when she was diagnosed. “But the community has been praying for us. Everybody has been helping us. You just gotta have faith.

“I’ve got to be around for my kids.”

Her daughter, Savannah, was a senior on the Bridgeport Sissies’ soccer team last year. In a match against Mineral Wells, both schools came together with all proceeds going towards the Tuggles.

Even though plenty remains unsettled for the Tuggle family, one thing is certain – Tracey will never stop fighting, and the entire community is behind her.

“She is a stubborn, stubborn person,” Savannah said of her mother’s determination to beat cancer. “She’s my best friend, pretty much. I tell her everything – and I couldn’t live without her.”

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