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Looking back at the year in sports for 2012

Sadly, this look-back column from your local sports guy is once again laden with sadness and sorrow for 2012.

The death of Hall High School football player Daniel Lule during the first day of practice for the 2012 football season was most tragic. I can’t imagine the grief and loss his family has endured.

The way the Hall football and school community, along with many other area schools, including the LaSalle-Peru football team, rallied around the Lule family was most touching. I’m sure the Lule family found their loss was shared by many.

Also sadly missed: Brett Shepard (my former Little Leaguer), Tim Alter (one of the first Princeton Youth Soccer coaches), Tony Pease (former PHS football statistician, my dear friend), Brandon Putts (Special Olympics athlete), Mel Hult (Princeton Youth Baseball and Football, longtime Princeton/Bureau County Fair booster), Leroy Wirth (former owner of Hidden Lake Country Club), Betsy Morgan (cook/friend at Princeton Hunt and Game Club) and Father Kevin Gorman (longtime St. Bede Academy athletic director).

Notable national sports figures lost include catcher Gary Carter, Penn State coach Joe Paterno and footballer Junior Seau.

Feel-good stories: Hard for a better feel-good story than that of Connor Alter’s story. The Logan seventh-grader nearly lost his foot in an Easter Sunday accident, his parents signing off for amputation as he was wheeled into surgery. The doctors not only saved his foot, but Connor was back to playing sports just months later. The Princeton lad simply has a lot of heart and tackled his ordeal like a hero.

The competitive nature of sports often brings out the worst in sports, but this time, during a youth football game in Princeton, it brought out the best. A coach from Dixon asked Princeton’s players if they would allow Jacob Garland, a special-needs youth football player, to score a touchdown. Most importantly, they made it seem legit. Jacob’s reaction was priceless. I’ll call it a tie with the Connor Alter story.

Another a feel-good story I wrote this year was on golfer Dick Marshall, who scored his first hole-in-one. Dick was born with a handicap but has tackled golf and life with full gusto.

• The story(ies) that touched me the most: Again Connor Alter and Jacob Garland.

• My story(ies) that received the most reader response: I have to say my readers shared the same feeling as I about the Connor Alter and Jacob Garland stories.

• Most shocking moment(s): Daniel Lule’s passing. Too young, too soon.

• Most memorable moment: Another feel-good moment as well, filling the most memorable category, is watching how everyone rallied together to save the boat races at DePue when it appeared the summer drought and lack of water would bring them to a screeching halt.

• My best moment of the year: Being named the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Princeton High School. Quite the juggling job with a job already focused around high school sports, but one that allowed me to realize an experience I went to college to pursue.

• My biggest disappointment of the year: Cards losing final three games to the Giants in the NLCS. I knew if they didn’t wrap it up in St. Louis in Game 5, they’d be in trouble going out to the Bay.

• Strangest stories: The scandal involving the release of inside scouting information of the LaSalle-Peru football team is as strange as they come. Bureau Valley’s cross-country runner Regan Weidner winning the Oregon Open when race leader Victoria Clinton of Kaneland made a wrong turn.

• Best game(s) to cover: Two come to mind, both involving the same two schools. The first was the Hall-SBA girls’ regional championship. St. Bede was favored, but the Lady Devils made off with the hardware at Princeton 52-48, the Hall seniors’ first victory over St. Bede. The rivals also met on the gridiron for the first time in years, and the game lived up to the hype with the Bruins prevailing this time 20-6.

• Best quote: Hall basketball coach Mike Filippini seems to fill this category nearly every year and is going to get a nod again. After defeating Princeton, he referred to the Red Devils’ previous game against Mendota in which he said they laid a big turd. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in the paper before nor will likely again, unless it’s coach Fil, of course.

I have several favorite quotes from recent senior spotlights. One that stands out is from Princeton’s Aaron Ray, who replied to what they will say about him when he’s gone is that “I sure hope he doesn’t come back for reunions.”

• Most enjoyable person to interview: I’m going to go back to Connor Alter, whom I found mature more than his years, in part, I’m sure because of the experience he went through. He understood the enormity of his story and the realization of having a miracle to get him back on the playing field so quickly.

• Looking into my crystal ball for 2013: A year ago at this time, I wrote that my Cardinals would do just fine in the post-Pujols era, and they did, just one game from returning to the World Series. The Mayan calendar ran out, and the world still moves on. I’m gonna say if the Cubs ever win the World Series, that will be when the world ends.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR sports editor. He started his 27th year at the BCR on Jan. 1. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.

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