Like the Mayans, I may be unable to predict the end of the world, but I can make a few predictions for local high school sports.
This time of year, hope flows eternally for all teams.
Soccer and basketball district tournaments are a few weeks away and every team, no matter how poorly it has played, thinks it can pull the upset and have a special run through the playoffs.
Softball practice starts Monday and baseball practice can start Jan. 14. Tennis, track and boys weightlifting also are cranking up.
I’m looking forward to this area’s 2013 high school baseball season.
It’ll be interesting to see what new Baker coach Scott Johnson can do with the Gators minus pitcher Bucky Locke, who is now at Northwest Florida State College.
Johnson has a history of winning and was the Big School Coach of the Year last season at Choctawhatchee. If the Baker players buy into Johnson’s system, the Gators could be the 2013 season’s surprise.
This season could be a special one for Crestview. I know it will be somewhat bittersweet for me and I would imagine Bulldog coach Tim Gillis feels the same way.
This year will be the last opportunity fans have to see Dakota Dean and Tyler Henderson in a Bulldog uniform.
Dean, the Bulldog shortstop, will play baseball at Louisiana State next year. And, if all goes as planned, Henderson will play football at Florida Atlantic University in the fall.
Dean and Henderson have been Bulldog lineup fixtures since their freshman year in 2010. Before either played their first varsity game, they were being hailed as two of the best prospects the Bulldogs had seen in years.
They’ve lived up to the hype, having made an effortless transition from Davidson Middle School to Class 6A high school ball.
Henderson is the best high school outfielder I’ve ever seen. He combines outstanding speed with a rare ability to judge a ball as it comes off the bat. He also tracks down balls in the gap that seemed destined to be doubles or triples as they left the bat.
Dean is the best left-handed hitter the Bulldogs have seen since his older brother, Blake. Like Blake, Dakota has power to all the park’s parts and he has more speed than his big brother, which makes him all the more dangerous.
Dean and Henderson will have plenty of help around them.
Seth Thomason will be back for his junior year. Tate Sweatt is set for a big year at the plate. And Dennis Gibbons has been lights out as the Bulldog closer and plays a mean third base.
As Dean and Henderson wrap up their careers, the talk turns to freshman Corey Armstrong as being the next great Bulldog baseball player.
So it goes as the Bulldogs try to keep up in an always tough District 2-6A.
In Laurel Hill, coach Ronnie Smith will worry about basketball a little longer before turning his full attention to baseball. Smith and the Hoboes should be in a bit of a rebuilding year. Last year’s top pitcher and starting shortstop, Kyle Slingerland, graduated, as did power hitting first baseman Tyler Zessin and speedy infielder Travon Calloway.
It might just be Jan. 2, but spring is in the air until a cold front moves through the area tomorrow.
In the meantime, there is still plenty of basketball to be played and winter sports to finish before the softball and baseball seasons open next month.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524