You just gotta love playoff fever. As any true sports fan knows, the postseason is where the real fun begins.
And, luckily for the locals, we had the pleasure of watching two more Hood River Valley High School teams reach the promised land this spring.
The HRV softball and lacrosse programs equaled the success of the football and girls soccer teams by winning their first-round playoff matchups. The only HRV team to perform better in 2002-03 was the boys soccer team, which reached the state quarterfinals for the second straight year. But that isn’t to say that any of these teams is better than the other.
By battling through the regular season and placing in the top four in their league (top three in lacrosse), each of these teams is worthy of equal praise.
By winning in the playoffs, these programs proved that they have what it takes to compete on a statewide level. Not only that, but they demonstrated to future varsity players what they must do to compete at the same level.
Three of the five standout programs were led by a hearty group of seniors: 15 for football, 15 for lacrosse and 10 for girls soccer. The other two, boys soccer and softball, benefitted from significant contributions by their underclassmen as well as their seniors.
And all five owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to their coaches — many of whom have been serving HRV athletics for years. Mitch Sanders has been diagramming plays on the football sidelines for the better part of four years. Sue Farro has been calling the shots for the girls soccer team the past five years. And Phil Hukari has been coaching HRV softball since most of his players were in T-ball.
Doug Beveridge helped the boys soccer team reach the state round of eight in his first two years of service, while Mac Jackson led the lacrosse team to its second-ever playoff berth during his first tour of duty, after taking over for long-time head coach Chris Kelly.
But it doesn’t matter how you get there or who is leading the charge. What’s important is how you do when you get there. And each of these teams excelled when the pressure was on.
Who could forget the soccer girls’ amazing shootout victory over Westview? Or the football team’s 84-50 stomping of Lakeridge? Or the softball team’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over Aloha on Memorial Day?
These playoff memories are what define a high-school career for many athletes, and when so many teams from one school have success in the same year, these playoff memories often help define a school in the state’s eyes.
Few soccer fans in Oregon will ever ignore the name “Hood River Valley” on their schedules after last year. Even fewer football fans will look past the Eagles, whether they play them in the playoffs or the preseason.
The HRV softball team is returning most of its core next year, and could be one of the state favorites this time next year. And, while the HRV lacrosse team is graduating 15 seniors, they, too, will be among the state’s elite programs for years to come.
Which makes me want to “stick” around.