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From a brawl to a bowl win

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Remembering 2008 in sports

By Jenna McKenna

This year in sports saw extraordinary achievement, obstacles overcome and once-in-a-lifetime luck. It also saw the saddest sports story we’ve ever had to print – the untimely death at age 54 of beloved Sports Editor Claude Lewis. Lewis was on his way to watch Chiefland football play Hamilton County, and never got to see that game. He was succeeded by veteran sportswriter Jenna McKenna, but he can never be replaced.

January

Chiefland football alum Cortez Gent finishes his sophomore year at Florida Atlantic University as the Owls’ top receiver, hauling down 64 catches for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns.

Chiefland girls’ volleyball banquet celebrates a 12-12 season as district runner-up.

Chiefland boys’ basketball’s brawl with district opponent Ft. White results in several varsity players suspended for three games, and the Indians play the JV. The team learns from the episode, and a year later, play Ft. White without incident, winning in the first half of the district series.

February

Bronson boys’ basketball enters regional play as district runner up, falling to Arlington Country Day 64-32. Bronson finishes 18-10.

Bronson football gets new head coach Al Cooksey to replace outgoing head coach Greg Brochetti. Brochetti finished his four-year tenure at Bronson with a record of 5-25. Cooksey had a record of 2-8 in his one year at Hilliard. Prior to that, he had a record of 25-7 in three years at St. Joseph Academy in St. Augustine, including the 2006 district championship.

Chiefland football standout Joey Harris signs a letter of intent to play football for Florida International University in Miami. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 235-pounder was recruited by receivers coach Frank Ponce to play tight end for the Golden Panthers.

Trenton QB Durrell Henry signs with Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C. The Tigers’ go-to will play QB in college.

March

Chiefland boys’ and girls’ basketball hold banquets honoring a pair of tough rebuilding seasons. Boys finish 8-17; girls, 1-18.

April

Bronson basketball head coach Kelly Beckham resigns after 24 years to take the head coach position at 5A Gainesville High School. Beckham leaves the Eagles with more than 550 career wins, more than 500 at Bronson.

CHS boys’ tennis coach Matt Flenner marries Newberry girls’ tennis coach Anne Powers.

CHS weightlifting fails in a bid to repeat at Tri-County Football Weightlifting Conference champs, finishing runner-up behind Dixie County. Jacob Merritt medaled for Chiefland with combined lifts of 415 pounds, 80 pounds over the second-place finisher.

CHS boys’ track sends a 4x100 team of Mark Cilo-Cilo, Jamantye Thompson, Zach Tyson and Chance Hall to regionals with a fourth place district finish of 46.46.

CHS softball finishes a rebuilding year 8-10, falling to eventual district winner P.K. Yonge in the tournament semifinal. Brittany Davis wins the Coaches’ Award.

CHS baseball, ranked as high as seventh statewide, falls to P.K. Yonge in the district semifinal and finishes 18-4. Ory Pitts is named season MVP.

Cedar Key’s Samantha Beckham places third in pole vaulting at the FHSAA state track and field final with a vault of 10 feet.

Trenton’s Brandon Mathis advances to FHSAA track and field regional meet from districts with a third place long jump of 18 feet, 11 inches. Durrell Henry advances to regionals with a first place shot put of 39 feet, one and a half inches.

May

Hunter Lowe of Bronson wins 9-18 age group of the Smallbore Rifle competition in the Florida 4-H finals, qualifying for the 4-H Nationals in Nebraska.

June

Ory Pitts, standout right-hander for Chiefland baseball, signs a letter of intent to play for Pensacola Junior College. Pitts went 8-2 on the season.

CHS shortstop Kory Hanchar, who batted .300 his senior season, announces he will try to walk on at Santa Fe Community College.

Rock ‘n’ roll legend and local benefactor Bo Diddley dies. Bronson City Commission votes to rename Bronson Youth League Park Bo Diddley Memorial Park.

July

Chiefland baseball alum Cedrick Bowers is called up from the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox to the Colorado Rockies. Bowers was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1996, pitching eight years in their farm system. He spent a year pitching in Korea before returning to the U.S. and signing with Colorado.

Former Bronson basketball player and Cedar Key basketball head coach Aaron Haldeman is selected to succeed outgoing Bronson head coach Kelly Beckham.

August

Chiefland All-Stars advance to the Babe Ruth League Southeast regional playoff in an at-large bid.

September

Beloved Citizen Sports Editor Claude Lewis dies on his way to report on the Chiefland football game at Hamilton County.

Bronson Motor Speedway is put up for sale, and announces it will cut short the 2008 racing season. The 1/3-mile high-bank short track casts about for ownership solutions, announcing in November that it will reopen in 2009.

CHS golfer Matt Tyson records a hole-in-one in a match against Branford, the first in Chiefland Golf history, according to Coach Don Stewart. Tyson scores 42 over nine holes in the match that Chiefland wins by 14 strokes.

October

CHS football, basketball and track standout Jamantye Thompson is chosen as a People to People Student Ambassador to China. The honor roll student maintains a 3.733 GPA in addition to his Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes memberships.

CHS athletic department is burglarized and thieves take footballs and basketballs, video equipment, all the football home jerseys and half of the pants, and all the JV and varsity home, away and practice uniforms.

November

Bronson volleyball head coach Sherrie Schuler takes over girls’ basketball and initiates rebuilding in the program.

Chiefland NIFL semi-pro football team Gulf Coast Panthers creates a local rivalry for itself when it spins off some 34 former players to form the Levy County Raiders, who practice and play in Bronson.

BHS football finishes 4-6, improving on the prior year’s 3-7 mark and earning a key win over Tallahassee Maclay in the home final.

CHS football finishes 5-5, improving over last year’s 4-6 and taking great pride in beating area rival Dixie County and district foe P.K. Yonge.

CHS volleyball finishes 5-5 in district play but fall in the district tournament semifinal to P.K. Yonge.

CHS cross country finishes eighth in a field of 13 at the district meet. JaRobyn Rome finishes first for CHS in 24:26.

Bronson basketball loses to Bell for the first time. New head coach Aaron Haldeman calls the loss “an embarrassing wakeup call.”

Pride of Chiefland Marching Band earns a rating of “Superior” in its fifth straight Florida Marching Band Championship appearance.

December

Local donors hand Chiefland basketball almost $5,000 in financial assistance to replace uniforms stolen in the October break-in. Assistance from the school district office enabled head coach Mark Lundy to buy practice uniforms as a stopgap.

Area coaches of spring sports, including baseball, softball, track and field and tennis, learn that school district budget cuts will hold them to playing only district contests and previously scheduled tournaments.

Cortez Gent again leads all receivers at FAU with a season total 53 catches for 837 yards and 8 touchdowns. Gent had seven catches for 98 yards and one TD in the Owls’ 24-21 Motor City Bowl win over Memphis.