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Story Archives: 'Hoosiers' in the making
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|'Hoosiers' in the making|
Images of the movie "Hoosiers" came to mind as I hit the Frogmore curve as Saturday was turning into Sunday.
Ahead of me in the curve was a line of headlights, no doubt most heading home from Lafayette after watching Vidalia High face Richwood High of Monroe in the Class 3A state championship game.
But there would be no Jimmy Chitwood heroics this night for the Vikings, who lost to Richwood 75-61, trailing only 62-58 with 3:01 remaining in the game.
And while Vidalia could not be considered as big an underdog as Hickory was, it was obvious Richwood was the bigger school with a whole lot of playoff experience and a swagger that came across as cocky.
The final outcome may not have been a "Hoosiers" ending, but there were so many subplots that would make a Hollywood director drool.
Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders and assistant coach Damus Smith are much more comfortable wearing sweatsuits on the bench than the coats and ties which seemed to be a regular for most of the coaches at the Top 28.
Sanders and Smith both sported ties for the semifinal win over Patterson and the championship game.
No, they weren't trying to stay with the fashion. The ties Sanders and Smith were had much more meaning.
Beloved Vidalia High teacher Kenneth Hathaway, who died of a heart attack on October 4, 2006 while still teaching at the school, gave the ties to Sanders and Smith, not long before his passing.
But there was one requirement Hathaway made to the coaches, who guided the 2002-03 Vidalia team to the Top 28 Tournament.
"He told us he didn't want us to wear the ties until we got back to the Top 28 Tournament," Sanders said. "He gave us those ties as a token of his appreciation. It was a gift out of nowhere."
Wearing the ties was a token of appreciation back to Hathaway.
"Mr Hathaway would have enjoyed being at that tournament," Sanders said. "I'm sure he was smiling down on us."
Speaking of Sanders, last year the Vidalia coach missed the final four games of the regular season before returning for Vidalia's first round loss to Winnsboro.
Sanders was dealing with a blood clot near his brain.
Sanders said the clot was possibly brought on by a couple of incidents. One was a car accident last summer when the tire blew on his way to St. Louis. The Blazer he was in was involved in an accident in Cape Giraudo and flipped three times. Then in the middle of last January he was hit in the head by a basketball being thrown a long way.
"I was there physically for the Winnfield game, but not mentally," Sanders said.
The 18-year Vidalia coach has recovered fully from the blood clot.
"I'm blessed to be here coaching at all, much less in a state title game," he said.
Which is probably the feeling of senior Viking Jacob McGraw, who scored 10 points in the state championship game, hitting 6-of-8 free throws.
On January 15, 2007, McGraw was running his ninth lap around the gym with his teammates before practice when he stopped and leaned against the wall.
An ambulance was called and McGraw stayed two days at Natchez Regional.
McGraw was cleared three weeks later to return to practice.
Just before Vidalia's playoff game in mid-February at Lakeside High, McGraw was once again running laps when he leaned over on the bleachers and went to sit down.
"I walked over to him and asked him if he stumbled or if he was having trouble," Sanders said. "He didn't say anything. I knew to rub the middle of his sternum and we called the EMTs."
McGraw underwent testing at a Jackson hospital where it was discovered the artery of his heart was on the wrong side.
McGraw underwent surgery in New Orleans on September 16, 2007, one day before his birthday, where the artery was moved to the right side of his heart.
McGraw sat out his junior year and returned to play for his senior season.
"I had never had a heart problem," McGraw said. "I was really scared at first. I was terrified. But now I feel like I never had a heart problem. I'm not scared anymore, I'm happy to be playing."
And you can bet Sanders and Smith were happy to have him back for a special year.
Vidalia's appearance in the Top 28 Tournament was its third, having played six games now with one championship in 1979 and now a runner-up trophy.
Vidalia's loss in the state championship came one year after Ferriday lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Clas 2A finals.
Ferriday has four Top 28 appearances, with two state titles and one runner-up trophy.
Richwood has made six appearances at the Top 28. This year's championship was the school's fourth.
Sanders said he is very appreciative of the unbelievable support from the school and community.
"I don't think I have ever seen a crowd any bigger than the one Saturday night," he said. "And these folks have been with us all the way. It makes a special year even more special to see that kind of support."
Gene Hackman could not have said it any better.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|