The prep season is a special season for one reason — variety.
It isn’t just baseball season or football season or basketball season. It’s all those things — plus wrestling season, golf season, track and field season, cross country season, softball season, swimming and diving season, soccer season and weightlifting season.
Talk about bang for your buck. And somehow, someway, all those things are shoe-horned into nine months.
Yes, I am getting reflective, as I always do when the prep season comes to an end, as this one has. Hard to believe, but 2008-09 is history, and with it, its grab bag of surprises and moments.
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And that’s another key ingredient of the prep season — the plot twists. Sure, we make predictions and forecasts and have a hunch of how things are going to turn out before they actually get going. But nothing springs surprises as frequently as high school sports, mostly because the games are in the hands of wildly unpredictable teenagers.
Case in point: did anyone, outside of the coaches and players, expect Braden River’s football team to reach the regional semifinals in its second varsity season? Did anyone, outside of the guys in the singlets, expect Manatee’s wrestling team, which lost key pieces for last year’s squad and went through a midseason slump, to walk away from The Lakeland Center with a Class 2A state runner-up trophy in tow?
Or how about the Out-of-Door Academy baseball team’s run to the regional championship series? Manatee sending its baseball and softball teams into regional tournaments after neither team had made it that far since 2002? Soccer teams from Palmetto and Saint Stephen’s winning regional titles and trips to the state final four on the same day? Bradenton Christian’s boys hoops team making the Class 1A state final four without the presence of a bonafide big man?
It all happened. It was fun. And it only happens in the prep world.
Now the season is fading in the rearview mirror, leaving us and everyone else with memories — and, of course, plenty of promise for next year.
Another year full of surprise. Another year when some of the predictions come to fruition, and others simply don’t.
I, for one, have never before been pumped about a prep football season, where all the county teams will play each other, and long-time rivalries, such as Manatee and Riverview, will once again be about more than just bragging rights.
And this time next year, we’ll be documenting more plot twists and the exploits of athletes who we never saw coming.
That’s the prep sports season. And there’s nothing else like it.
John Lembo, prep sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.