By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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This was my first full year covering preps on the North Olympic Peninsula, and it never ceased to be interesting and never failed to be fun.
When fall sports ended, I thought that the rest of the year would be a letdown, but there was never a drop-off during the winter and spring seasons.
To mark the completion of my first full year on the prep sports beat, I will take a page from my predecessor Matt Schubert’s notebook by handing out awards for this high school sports year.
I have kept the categories but changed the name of these awards from the Schubies to the Horties, because I believe it has a more modern feel.
Also eligible for these awards are athletes and events that happened the last month-and-a-half of the 2012 sports season, since they weren’t recognized a year ago.
Take a shower and put on your best clothes, because this awards show is a black-tie affair.
■ Top team performance — This goes to the Neah Bay football and boys basketball teams, which are made up in large part by the same kids.
Both Red Devils teams were state runners-up, and both overcame large deficits in the championship game before falling just short.
I still think, based on what I saw in the 1B football championship game won by Liberty Christian, that Neah Bay wins the football title eight or nine times out of 10.
The Red Devils made some uncharacteristic mistakes early in the game, and Liberty Christian was good enough to hold off the comeback.
Before my first time seeing the Neah Bay boys basketball team play, at the Crush in the Slush tournament at Port Townsend High School, I didn’t know what to expect.
The Red Devils put on an amazing display of relentless defensive pressure combined with an uptempo and unselfish offense from a team that went nine or 10 deep.
Those kids were basketball players, not athletic football players playing basketball.
I wasn’t the only one impressed.
Throughout the rest of the day, while big schools like Auburn Mountainview and Jackson played, I kept overhearing spectators say to each other, “Were you here when Neah Bay played?”
The smallest school had become the talk of the tournament.
The exciting news is that most of the Red Devils return next year to attempt to turn a pair of runner-up finishes into a pair of state championships.
Runner up: Sequim softball. First, for the run through the consolation bracket to claim fourth at the 2012 state tournament.
Second, for the offensive tear they went on this April.
■ Game of the year — Easy. The five-overtime Quimper Quarrel between the Port Townsend and Chimacum football teams in late October.
The Cowboys 27-25 after running back Mel Thornton ran in a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the 12-yard line to tie the score, and Derek Ajax scored on the ensuing two-point conversion.
Defense and mud dominated the game, especially the second half when it seemed neither offense was able to advance beyond the other team’s 40-yard line.
The score was 7-7 at the end of regulation, and neither team scored in the first to overtime periods.
The game might have gone on for days if not for the overtime rules that put the ball at the 10-yard line starting in the third overtime.
Runner up: The Port Townsend girls basketball team’s 52-49 overtime win over Charles Wright in the 1A tri-district play-in game. More on this game later.
■ Most surprising team — This is a tough one, since I didn’t have enough prior knowledge to have expectations, but I’ll go with the Port Townsend football team.
The Redskins carried a 20-game losing streak into the season, but finished the season with a competitive 4-6 record.
Runner up: Port Townsend boys basketball for slowly improving throughout the season, to the point where they went three games deep into the postseason.
■ Top individual performance — Sequim’s Jayson Brocklesby had an incredible year on the track, in the field and on the court.
Brocklesby won a state title in the high jump, and a district title in the 400-meter dash.
He broke or tied district meet records in both events, and set new school records in both (high jump: 6 feet, 6 inches; 400: 40.67 seconds).
The senior also recorded the top 200 time, and third-best 100 time.
In basketball, he helped lead the Wolves to a sixth-place state finish, averaging 20.4 points on the season.
He finished his career as Sequim’s second all-time leading scorer, and broke the school record for most games with 30 or more points (six).
He was named to the All-State Second Team, and I’m still trying to figure out why he didn’t win the Olympic League MVP.
Runner up, Part 1: Neah Bay’s Tyler McCaulley setting a new 1B state tournament record by sinking eight 3-pointers in the Red Devils’ 77-60 win over LaCrosse-Washtucna-Kahlotus in the 1B semifinal.
Runner up, Part 2: Port Townsend’s Daniel Charlton and Port Angeles’ Miki Andrus scoring four goals each in the Redskins’ 6-5 overtime win in March.
It was the first-ever high school soccer game for both players.
■ Best example of why Peninsula prep sports are great — Port Townsend’s 52-49 overtime win over Charles Wright in the 1A tri-district play-in game.
Redskins post Codi Hallinan’s shot and free throw with 26 seconds remaining in the overtime period that gave Port Townsend a 51-49 lead, and essentially, the game.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Hallinan looked completely devastated as she sat on the bench after picking up her third and fourth fouls.
Her teammates stepped up to help the Redskins survive Hallinan’s absence.
Jewel Johnson hit big shots and kept the team calm. Gabbi Hossack, in foul trouble herself, held down the post. Enani Rubio made a big steal and layup.
Patricia Reeves and Megan Lee slowed Charles’ Wright’s Shoni Pritchett, who still finished with 26 points, but most came earlier in the game.
When Hallinan returned, she put her disappointment from earlier in the game behind her and help Port Townsend grind out a victory.
That included making the shot, which the entire gym seemed to give up on, until it bounced on the rim a few times and dropped through the net.
Runner up: The dramatic relationship between Port Townsend sports and myself.
It seemed that every time I attended a Redskins game, it either went into overtime or down to the wire.
The aforementioned five-OT football game.
The girls basketball team’s overtime win over Charles Wright. That same team’s two-point loss to Olympic on a layup at the buzzer.
There also was the baseball team’s 6-5 nine-inning loss to Sequim.
■ Best example of sportsmanship — Sequim track and field coach Brad Moore, who reported a scoring error that turned a meet win by the Wolves’ boys into a second-place finish.
“Coach Moore told me about the error,” Port Angeles athletic director Dwayne Johnson said in an email.
“What he really told me was the integrity, truthfulness and responsibility for trust that encompasses his coaching standards.”
Runner up: Chimacum basketball coaches and players sitting in the stands for Port Townsend’s boys and girls play-in games in February.
Chimacum-Port Townsend was the best rivalry on the Peninsula this season, so it was cool to see some Cowboys show up to watch their rivals’ games.
And they weren’t rooting against the Redskins, at least not openly.
In fact, it appeared the Chimacum girls basketball players were rooting for their Port Townsend counterparts.
Sports reporter Lee Horton can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.