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It probably comes as no surprise that sports reporting has never been one of my strengths. I’ve learned and hopefully improved a little over the years, but am thankful for the help we have had at the Herald since I have been here. My time on the field was brief during my younger years. The story goes that my mom would drag me to the ball field where I played a few years starting with T-ball. Although the memories are a little fuzzy from decades ago, I have heard more than once that I spent more time playing in the dirt than paying attention to the game.
In seventh grade I made my debut for the South Panola Tigers junior high foot ball team. I remember getting one hand-off during the season. Let’s just say the play didn’t end with positive yardage and my football career was even more short-lived.
Experience, or lack thereof aside, I can attest that Monday night was one of the best baseball games I have ever watched or covered as the Water Valley Blue Devils faced the Booneville Blue Devils in the final game in round three of the playoffs. Water Valley won the first in the series Friday night at home, 4-3, and lost the second at Booneville Saturday, 9 – 2.
It came down to this final game on a perfect night for baseball at the Water Valley High School field. I was among over 500 attendees watching the action who experienced something special, even with the season-ending loss for Water Valley. It’s hard to describe, but head baseball coach Jeb Lee helped.
“It was one of the best atmospheres I have ever been around, as a fan, coach or player,” Lee told me. “That atmosphere and the way the game went is why we play high school sports and what makes it so special.”
The game could have gone either way and for much of the night the fans were on the edge of their seats. The coach noted the intense competition between the two teams and with that came strong emotions. But at the same time the sportsmanship displayed by athletes for both Blue Devil teams was outstanding. The fan talk may have been a little chippy at times, but that is to be expected in a strong rivalry with the season on the line.
It boiled down to two of the strongest teams in the north battling to advance to the north half. Booneville is the defending state champions in the division and Water Valley was hungry for a title. Only one team could win, but I’m thankful to have been there.