2017 IN REVIEW: MAKING MOVES
By BRANDON HURLEY
It was one heck of a year for sports inside Greene County. From snapped postseason droughts to broken records and high profile commitments, the athletes of Greene County High School and Paton-Churdan did not disappoint. Here are the Jefferson Herald’s top 10 sports moments of the year. Take a look back with us, if you will, and let us know what you think.
1. Trey Tucker breaks scoring record/named all-state
How can you make a year-end list and not include, in my opinion, the best basketball player in Greene County history?
It truly was a banner year for the decorated Trey Tucker, who broke the school’s all-time scoring record with a spectacular 39-point performance in a win Jan. 13. He holds the career mark with 1,811 points, also setting the all-time three-point mark (196).
The departed senior led 3A in scoring last season (24.5 points per game) and led the Rams to their first winning-record as the consolidated Greene County school district (14-8), the most wins for a Jefferson team in four years.
“It’s been a long road,” Tucker said following his record-setting night. “I’ve put in a lot of work and it’s nice to see. God gave me the ability to make it happen.”
2. Megan Durbin signs with ISU
The first athlete in nearly 25 years to bring Jefferson and Greene County a state title finally found a future home last month.
Megan Durbin signed a letter of intent to high jump at Iowa State University next year, becoming just the fourth female athlete in Jefferson history to earn a Division I college scholarship when she committed to the Cyclones. The 2016 3A high jump state champion has never finished worse than second at state in her high school career and she holds the Greene County record at 5’8”. The senior also captured the 2016 Drake Relays high jump championship and finished second at Drake and state this past spring.
“It’s the only school that I felt like I was home,” Durbin said following her announcement on Twitter. “I think that with the all year specific training and coaching, I can hopefully finish highly within the Big 12 conference somewhere within my college career.”
3. Mitch Moore hired as football coach
Usually, the hire of a new football coach at a rural high school isn’t big news, but this one in particular was. The town was a buzz when Mitch Moore, a former Iowa State University assistant, was hired by Greene County back in March, replacing Dean Lansman. He later took over as activities director as well The coach brought with him a new enthusiasm and the “Process.” Though he only led the Rams to one win on the gridiron this past fall, excitement was re-instilled in the program and a deep talent pool looks to be waiting in the wings.
4. GC baseball wins first postseason game
The Greene County baseball team captured it’s first postseason win in four years back on July 14, a dramatic 7-4 win over ADM in Harlan. The victory secured the Rams just their second overall winning record in the past nine years, a program-defining win.
The triumph was the first postseason win for the 2017 boys’ senior class and held significant importance in the athletes’ final attempt. After being shutout the year prior (15-0) in four innings to Boone in the first round of district play, redemption was certainly on the minds of the Greene County athletes.
“It’s a giant win. It’s crazy,” Chase Stoline (Class of 2017) said after the game. “Our seniors have never won a postseason game. We are excited. I was trembling out there, the last six outs. I was scared, I’m not going to lie.”
5. Kafer, Rams break football records vs. IF-A
What a way for the Rams to usher in the first victory of the Mitch Moore era back on Sept. 27.
Sophomore tailback Colby Kafer and Greene County ran wild on Iowa Falls-Alden, piling up 420 rush yards as Kafer broke the single-game school record with 285 yards of his own. The Rams poured it on for a 61-21 victory, ripping off 47 unanswered points after trailing 21-14.
Kafer scored four touchdowns and tallied a spectacular yards per carry average of 15 yards. The Rams, as a team, scored eight rushing touchdowns, as Clint Dennhardt added three as well.
“(That was) as good as a day from a back that I’ve been around in a long time. He was breaking tackles, he was finishing runs, he was running through contact, he was hitting the cutbacks and cutting at the right time,” Greene County head coach Mitch Moore said of Colby Kafer’s record-breaking night. “It was fun to see, and he has some special tendencies in him and it was fun to see him come full circle.”
6. Durbin places second at Drake Relays, state
A friendly rivalry intensified at Drake Stadium in Des Moines as Greene County’s Megan Durbin went toe-to-toe (almost literally) with North Polk’s Maria Goram. The pair duked it out in the girls’ high jump both at the 2017 Drake Relays and the state meet in Des Moines a few weeks later as Durbin grabbed silver in both events. Durbin was not at all disappointed that her fellow competitor and friend won, despite denying the then junior back-to-back state titles. Durbin has never finished worse than second at state in her three year career.
The duo has proceeded to one-up each other, raising the literal bar with each jump.
“I don’t see her as an opponent, I see her as a friend,” Durbin said following the 2017 state meet. “I wouldn’t want anyone else to win except her.”
Each meet is their own game of one-up manship. They push each other while also dolling out sincere words of encouragement. Watching the two compete is like witnessing a pair of friends dare one another to in their backyard.
“I like having the support there, and I think she does too,” Durbin said. “She gets really nervous and I think the support we give to each other helps a lot.”
They each have one year left in track and field, I’m excited to see where this rivalry goes next.
7. Nelson leads alma mater to winning record in first year
They are off to another hot start this winter, and that’s a credit to coach Chris Nelson. The Greene County boys’ basketball team produced its first winning record as a consolidated school, trotting out to a 14-8 record in Nelson’s first year leading his alma matter. The Rams finished second in the HOIC, including an upset win at 2017 state-qualifier South Hamilton and broke several school records.
This year’s Greene County squad is 6-2 through the first half of the winter season and looks poised to take last year’s success a notch further.
“First and foremost, I am very proud of this group of young gentlemen for the many accomplishments they had this year. It was a group that was easy to coach, fun to coach, and most importantly willing to learn and get better,” Nelson said following the Rams’ loss to DC-G in the first round of district play las February. “For having a mixture of some experience and new guys stepping into new roles, I thought our kids did a great job. Obviously the winning record is very nice but I think there are many small things all year kids got better at and did well that really made it a good first year for me.
I couldn’t have asked for a better group to start out with and I think we can chalk this up to a successful season.”
8. Girls’ beat Perry, first time in 10 years
It had been a long time coming, and, boy, was the victory ever so sweet. The Greene County girls’ basketball team charged back from a 13-point deficit for their first victory over the long-time rival since 2007. The Rams pulled off a 63-52 victory over the Bluejays Nov. 28, outscoring Perry 57-34 over the final three quarters.
The triumph avenged a string of embarrassing losses over the last decade, including the three previous defeats by a total of 85 points. The early season win was a confidence builder for a program that won just four games the year prior. The 63 points were the most a Greene County team had scored in nearly two years.
“I’ll tell you, it’s amazing. I will not sleep tonight. I’m so happy for the girls,” Greene County head coach Dean Lyons said following the win. “They’ve bought into what we are trying to teach. Perry has been a thorn in our side and they could’ve given up. It feels great.”
9. Kelly Simpson retires
Simpson was a mainstay in the Greene County track and cross country programs for 30 years but finally hung it up this spring. He helped lead more than 20 events to the state meet and was even an instrumental part of the girls team state title in 1994. Simpson’s legacy will resonate for years to come and will leave big shoes to fill, especially in the shuttle hurdle relay, his bread and butter event.
Simpson retired at the end of the 2017 track season.
His calling card was coaching up his girls and motivating them beyond their natural abilities. Simpson was the king of development and finding their best event, usually the hurdles.
“We haven’t always had great sprinters, but the ability to take good sprinters and turn them into hurdlers, that was the difference. We’ve had years where we qualified in the shuttle hurdle but couldn’t make it in the 4x100-meter. Same four girls. Simpson said in a Jefferson Herald profile in April. “We run our race, we use the right technique, we’ll beat you and let them make the mistakes.”
10. Greene County awarded soccer programs
This was a watershed moment for the Greene County school district. The Rams were awarded varsity boys’ and girls’ soccer at an early 2017 school board meeting and the 2018 spring schedule will signify the inaugural Ram soccer season.
Greene County athletes had been traveling to Boone the last several years in a sports sharing agreement, but now have a program of their own. The new soccer teams also arrive just in time for the 2018 World Cup next summer in Russia, which may in turn give the program an extra boost in popularity. The World Cup is the most viewed and attended sporting event in the world and lasts for several weeks. Soccer is insanely popular worldwide and has been for decades. It’s been growing fast in the United States for years – some of the world’s best professional soccer players continue to make the jump to the MLS. Minnesota just added a professional franchise this year and Sporting Kansas City is enjoyed a breakout year.
Here’s to many, many more memories in 2018. Cheers!