Eudora makes a lifelong Cardinal fan
When I arrived in Kansas almost four years ago, I never thought twice about Eudora. It was just another town between Kansas City and Lawrence.
Luckily for me, my experience at The Eudora News duirng the past year and a half made me feel differently. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Eudora -- a town where parents, teachers, coaches, and student-athletes understand the importance of education through competition.
I remember telling Eudora High School principal Dale Sample that I considered Eudora High School my honorary alma mater. It's amazing that teachers who live out of the district and parents whose kids may not be involved in a particular sport still back the Cardinals.
Sure, football and had the biggest crowds, fueled by Andrew Pyle's electrifying runs, a tireless offensive line, and a ruthless defense.
But Eudora fans arrive in droves for girls volleyball games, home cross country meets and the inaugural Eudora soccer team.
I started with the World Company in January 2001, during my junior year at Kansas University. I covered the De Soto High School sports beat as a stringer. Then-De Soto Explorer/Eudora News editor Jackie Hosey offered me an internship that summer covering Eudora and De Soto events.
During that time I had the opportunity to meet several people in town who were involved in the high school sports scene and those that weren't. Former publisher Dan Simon promoted me to sports reporter for the Eudora News in August 2001.
This was the beginning of an exciting season in Cardinals athletics.
The football team qualified for the playoffs for the second year in a row. Then-sophomore cross country runner Tighe Van Anne qualified for the state meet in Wamego.
That winter, coach Scott Stein's boys basketball team won its second straight Tonganoxie tournament.
Then-sophomore softball pitcher Kelly Spence had a perfect game that spring against Louisburg. And of course, the Eudora track and field team qualified several state meet competitors, including state placer Jenny Durkin in coach Dave Durkin's final season.
And there were plenty of things off the field that grabbed our attention. Eudora's Zac Tyler and Jason Marmon signed with Pittsburg State and Beloit College, respectively. Coach Aaron Barnett shocked many of us when he left for class 6A Washburn Rural but then we all got acquainted with legendary coach Gregg Webb.
Former athletic director Larry McPherson, a legend in his own right, resigned from his post after 30-plus years. You could still find Larry at Cardinals sporting events. It's just too hard to leave a good thing behind.
The 2002-03 season brought even more excitement. Webb's exciting brand of running the football down opponents' throats gave Pyle 15 touchdowns through the first three games. Who could forget the homecoming loss to Baldwin and the intensity-filled rematch?
Junior quarterback Tyler Cleveland and junior Joey Donahue forever etched their names into Eudora High School history with a pass that gave Eudora favorable field position.
Only a couple of weeks later, Pyle and his reliable offensive line also appeared in that same history book with the game-winning two point conversion in overtime.
Was it just me or did it seem like everyone in Eudora left Douglas County for Paola that night?
And the football team wasn't the only group to excel this fall. Jill Stutler's girls volleyball team won 19 games, and with junior Lauren Kracl returning the Cards could be a team on the rise. Cross country coach Paul Boone is rebuilding the proud Eudora programs with a solid group of boys and a young corps of girls. Freshman Megan Ballock qualified for the state meet while fellow frosh Tori Tunget was just seconds away from a ticket to Wamego. The soccer program, headed by eternal optimists Erik Peltzman and Jaclyn Naster, is also on the upswing.
I'll never forget when the Cards defeated the Turner junior varsity in its first-ever game. The soccer kids played hard and didn't always get the most attention. But they all know they are in the process of building something very special.
There have been times when I have to pinch myself just so I can remember I'm a sports reporter -- not a spectator. But that isn't easy to do with the spirit, camaraderie, and friendliness exhibited by Eudora fans.
Heck, Superintendent Marty Kobza and principals Dale Sample and Rod Moyer rarely miss a Eudora sporting event. There are very few schools where the administration supports every sport from football to cross country to softball with such fervor.
Now, the Eudora boys and girls basketball teams are on the brink of sub-state tournaments. The fan in me wants to watch Coach Stein's antics on the sidelines, Kaleb Niedens drain three pointers and Chris Gabriel dominate the paint. The fan within me wants to watch Kracl get a double-double night after night and watch freshman phenom Michelle Deluna improve her already-amazing point guard skills.
But the journalist in me tells me I have to move on.
I'll be the sports editor at The Carthage Press in Carthage, Mo., near Joplin. The Press is a six-day-a-week paper, and I'll cover three high schools, Missouri Southern State College, and occasionally professional sporting events. It's a full-time position. Career-wise, it's a step in the right direction.
I truly appreciate everything the coaches, admininstrators, student-athletes and parents have done to make my time in Eudora an enjoyable one. No matter where my journalism career takes me, I'll always be a Eudora Cardinals fan.