By JUSTIN RAINS
With 2012 coming to a close and 2013 looming on the horizon, it’s only natural to reflect back on the year that was.
In local sports, 2012 saw plenty of highlights. Among them were inspiring comebacks, returns to postseason glory and a dramatic shift in the local sports landscape.
Below are moments 10 through six from the local sports scene in 2012.
NO. 10: PHS BASEBALL MAKES POSTSEASON RETURN — In what proved to be his swan-song at the helm of the Palestine baseball program, Joey Mason took his team back to the postseason for the first time in almost a decade.
With a play-in game victory over Fairfield, Mason — now an assistant principal at PHS — and his team clinched the program’s first playoff berth since 2005.
The playoff appearance was a culmination of something started in 2011, when Palestine almost made the postseason but failed to win its final game to stay alive. In 2012, they took the opportunity.
The Wildcats went on to lose to state-ranked China Spring in the playoffs first round, but a lot of people will say that getting there is the hardest part.
NO. 9: UIL REALIGNMENT DROPS WESTWOOD — For most, UIL realignment day is a lot of build-up to not a lot of change, and that was the case locally, for the most part.
Except on the west-side of Palestine, where Westwood found itself dropped down to Class 2A from Class 3A, where it had resided for years.
The move also split up Westwood and Palestine from the same district for the first time in eight years, and the teams didn’t even meet on the football field.
But, the Panthers were put into a district with Elkhart, rekindling that old rivalry despite the loss of the crosstown feud with Palestine.
NO. 8: NATIVE-SON PETERSON MAKES ASTOUNDING COMEBACK — While it, technically, didn’t happen locally, it happened to a local hero.
Less than a year removed from major knee surgery, Palestine alum Adrian Peterson suited up for the Minnesota Vikings on opening day of the NFL season.
In that game, a win over Jacksonville in overtime, he ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Since, he’s only gotten better. A lot better.
Peterson had run for 1,814 yards since and has an outside chance to break the single-season rushing record currently held by Eric Dickerson. The former Wildcat star needs 207 yards to break the record, a number he surpassed twice in the month of December.
The fact that he’s even in the same neighborhood as Dickerson is startling after he tore both his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments on last Christmas Eve.
For some running backs, that type of injury is at least career-altering, if not career-ending. For Peterson, it seems the best may be yet to come.
NO. 7: AREA OWNS 1A BASKETBALL — When it comes to dominance, nobody was (and is) much more dominating than the area’s Class 1A basketball schools.
For the third-straight year, Neches captured the girls’ state championship (more on them later). Also, for the second-straight year, Cayuga and Grapeland made up half of the field at the Class 1A, Region III tournament in February.
Both the Slocum boys and girls had strong seasons, with the former falling to Grapeland in the regional quarterfinals and the latter losing to state-bound Martin’s Mill in the regional semifinals.
It’s continued late in the year as the next basketball season has gotten underway, with the Slocum girls, Cayuga boys and Oakwood boys all occupying top-10 spots in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll.
NO. 6: WESTWOOD MAKES BIG POSTSEASON SPLASH — It had been close to four years since the Westwood athletic department had a playoff team prior to 2012.
In the year since, the Panthers have had three.
Westwood broke its postseason drought in a big way in 2012, led by the Westwood boys’ basketball team breaking its almost two decade postseason drought by finishing second in 20-3A.
The Panthers got bounced in the first round by Waco Connally in heartbreaking fashion, as Courtney Anderson’s potential game-winner went just wide at the buzzer.
After the basketball team came Lady Panther softball, which finished third in 20-3A to return to the playoffs
The Westwood volleyball team provided the biggest spark to the 2012 campaign, however, as the Lady Panthers rank through District 19-2A to an undefeated district title.
The Lady Panthers then defeated Troup in the area round of the playoffs to advance to the regional quarterfinals, where they fell to state tournament-bound White Oak.
Editor’s Note: The year’s top-five can be found in the Jan. 1 edition of the Herald-Press
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org