Another year is almost gone, leaving us with plenty of fond memories.
Here are the Sun Herald’s Top 10 sports stories of 2016:
1. Brett Favre’s a Hall of Famer
Former Southern Miss and Hancock County legend Brett Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the first player from the Coast to join the Hall since Gulfport’s Lem Barney in 1992.
Among the NFL records Favre still hold include most career pass completions (6,300), career pass attempts (10,169) and most consecutive starts by a player (297). Favre also held the career passing yardage (71,838 yards) and touchdowns (336), but Peyton Manning set those marks last season.
2. HCHS three-peat
Harrison Central cruised to a third straight Class 6A state fast-pitch softball title, sweeping South Panola in the best-of-3 championship series.
The Red Rebelettes, led by Madison Burge and Simone McKinney, went 28-4 and lost only one playoff game. Harrison Central has won four state championships, all under coach Jimmy Parker.
“They’re all fun, but this one has been special,” Parker told the Sun Herald after the season. “We talked about how Madison Central was the only 6A team to win three in a row. We were able to match Madison Central and that’s a little goal we had.
“Each (of the champions) have been fun in their own way. There were different kids on the teams. What they all have in common is they worked together as a team. This team had a lot of fun together. They were able to mix business and pleasure. I’m just real proud of their effort. They’re all special.”
3. Coast recruiting
This year was a historic one for the Coast’s top senior football players. The Class of 2017 had more than 20 players earn at least one offer from a four-year school.
Heading into the holiday break, 13 of the players had already made college commitments, including D’Iberville’s Tyler Barnes (Southern Miss); St. Stanislaus’ Corbin Blanchard (Air Force), Myles Brennan (LSU) and Darius Pittman (Purdue); East Central’s Conner Estes (Louisiana Tech); Gulfport’s Cleveland Ford (Alcorn State); Gautier’s Paul Gainer (Mississippi State); Pascagoula’s James Jackson (MSU); St. Martin’s Wayne Overman III (Air Force) and Kalem Reddix (Colorado State); Long Beach’s J’arius Pittman (Navy); Biloxi’s Tim Jones (USM); and Ocean Springs’ Austin Williams (MSU).
SSC’s Chase Rogers committed to Tennessee before reopening his recruitment. He’ll visit Texas in mid-January.
4. Shuckers’ Woodruff triumphs
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff was impressive in his first season at Double-A. The former Mississippi State Bulldog was named the Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 10-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 20 starts for the Biloxi Shuckers this season.
He was great on the mound in a 1-0 victory at Pensacola despite dealing with the death of his brother, Blake, in a July ATV accident in their hometown of Wheeler.
5. A legend retires
You know you’re a legend when the field your team plays on is named after you.
In January, longtime D’Iberville football coach Buddy Singleton retired after 40 seasons in the high school ranks. The longtime Warrior, who also coached at St. John and is a member of the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame, finished his career with 298 wins. In 38 years as a head coach, Singleton amassed 30 winning seasons, 18 playoff berths and numerous conference and region titles.
“I never worked a day in my life,” Singleton told the Sun Herald after announcing his retirement. “Work is when you go over to Ingalls and you’re laid up under a ship with a welding torch. I never had to experience that.”
6. OLA makes it 5 for 5
Our Lady Academy had little trouble winning a fifth straight Class I state volleyball championship.
The Lady Crescents swept Resurrection in the finals. The Lady Crescents have now captured 11 state volleyball titles, a Mississippi record. All have come under coach Mike Meyers.
Two-time Sun Herald Player of the Year Emma Funk is the latest volleyball standout for OLA. The junior has already attracted Division I interest.
“The secret is the girls we have buy into our program, “ said Meyers. “They do everything they are asked to do. I feel like we got better all season long and peaked at the end.”
7. Record setters
“Brennan to Rogers” was heard quite a bit over the years in Bay St. Louis.
The SSC players lit Mississippi’s record books on fire during their careers, eventually eclipsing former Rockachaws Dylan Favre and Krisjon Wilkerson for a number of the state records. Among Brennan’s state records are career passing touchdowns (166) and yards (15,138). Rogers’ career receiving yards (3,719) and touchdowns (44) are also state records.
For the second year in a row, the Coast’s rushing record fell. One year after A.J. Davis (2,893) raced past former East Central running back Nate Cohen (2,436), another Hornet made his mark.
For much of the season, junior running back Tony Brown led the country in rushing. Brown finished fourth nationally according to MaxPreps.com, but during his run, he set the Coast’s rushing mark with 3,317 yards. He rushed for 41 touchdowns.
8. NFL Dak attack
Former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott emerged as the best NFL story in years, going from a fourth-round draft pick to an MVP candidate as Dallas Cowboys rookie. Earlier this week, Prescott was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Prescott is a main reason why the Cowboys are considered favorites to win the NFC championship and earn their first Super Bowl trip since the 1995 season. Entering Monday night’s game against the Detroit Lions, Prescott has thrown for 3,416 yards and 20 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
9. Hopson heads to Hattiesburg
Todd Monken made a stunning departure as the Southern Miss football coach in late January, forcing athletic director Bill McGillis to scramble and hire a new head coach just before signing day.
Hopson, who was the head coach at Alcorn State, proved to be the man. The Golden Eagles finished 7-6 with a New Orleans Bowl win under Hopson despite dealing with injuries to quarterback Nick Mullens. Monken is now the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
10. A first for Poplarville
The Poplarville Hornets made it look easy on their way to the program’s first Class 4A South State title. Poplarville (12-2) won its four playoff games by average margin of 35 points. Lafayette topped Poplarville 27-12 in the 4A state title game.