I’ve made no secret in this column and my social media posts, I bleed orange and black. And, quite frankly, the 2016-2017 school year has — for the most part — been a great year to be a Tiger.
Thursday evening at Tuscola High School, the Paris Tiger baseball team charted into new territory. They defeated Tri-Valley Downs 6-0 to become the first PHS baseball team to win a sectional game and advance into the Sweet 16.
How can you not be excited?
These guys have been playing together for years, moving through our local Litton and Little League programs, Mayo and Crestwood baseball teams, Babe Ruth league, travel ball and Post 211 Legion ball. As eighth graders at Crestwood, these guys finished second in the IESA state, losing only their last game of the season in the title contest. And while this group is talented, they’ve worked hard year round. When I was leaving the high school Wednesday, the team members were walking to their vehicles after a workout in the gym. They’ve been working year round to be better and are motivated to be the best they can be.
The Tigers face a tough and state-ranked St. Joe-Ogden team at 11 a.m. today for the sectional title at Tuscola High School. A win would move the Tigers into the Elite 8. Two more wins after Saturday would put them in the state championship game.
It’s just not just been the baseball team this year. The boys golf team finished second in the Little Illini Conference by one point but had the medalist. The girls cross-country team won the LIC championship and the boys were one of the top teams. The girls volleyball team is improving and the girls tennis ust keeps getting better. The football team made huge strides this past season and are already working toward the fall kickoff. The girls basketball team was LIC champions and won the regional. The boys basketball team had their ups and downs, but brought home holiday tourney and NAL Thanksgiving Tourney championships.
And while our high school teams have done well, Mayo and Crestwood athletics have shined as well. Crestwood’s girls basketball team took third in the IESA Class 2A state tourney hosted by Mayo at PHS. The eighth grade Crestwood boys earned a trip to the state tourney as did the Crestwood eighth grade volleyball team.
I couldn’t be prouder to wear the orange and black — not just because we’re winning but we’re winning the right way. Our coaches are building winners and leaders, and that’s what we need.
There are those who argue we can’t be competitive because we’re a small school. That’s bull. Our kids can — and will — compete with anyone and any team.
The best motivation and example of this? Look no farther than the Tri-County eighth grade girls track team, who won the IESA Class 1A track meet earlier this month — with seven members. They worked hard and achieved their goal.
Good luck Saturday, Tigers. I’m superstitious as hell and afraid I might bring bad ju-ju if I come to the game toting my camera and big lens.
My only request: Kick ass and take names.