Zac is a graduate of West Jones High School (2011) and the University of Southern Mississippi (2015). This is his fourth year covering sports at The Impact.

Hello, 2019. Here’s to hoping we’re in for a great year of sports in Hattiesburg and Covington County. Before we get too invested, though, let’s take a quick look back at 2018. Here’s what will stick with me the most.

Sacred Heart Lady ‘Saders do it again

We’ve gotten to a point now where Sacred Heart’s girls soccer program is expected to win state each and every year. I think they compare favorably to the New England Patriots in that anything less than hoisting the championship trophy is a major disappointment. It’s been a little while since the Lady ‘Saders experienced that. Under coach Joe Falla Sr., the team has won three straight Class 1A/2A/3A State Championships, with the most recent coming in February 2018 against St. Andrew’s. Can winning over and over and over again get boring? No. Well, not to Falla at least. “It gets better and better and better and better,” he said.

Hattiesburg Diamond Tigers get back on top

You’d be hard-pressed to script a better ending for Hattiesburg’s senior class. After coming up short at state as sophomores in 2016 and failing to make state the year after, the Tigers broke through in 2018 and won the school’s first state baseball title since 1998. Some said it would never be done again. I, on the other hand, knew this was a special group hell-bent on finishing the job. They did just that but not without living on the edge in postseason play. In the second round of the 5A playoffs, South Jones came oh-so-close to scoring the game-winning run in walk-off fashion and sending Hattiesburg home early with a sweep. But Tiger outfielder and senior Kam Wells was not prepared to let that happen. In a 7-7 ballgame in the bottom of the eighth inning, Wells delivered a pinpoint, laser throw to catcher Brandon Knox, cutting down the Brave baserunner at home plate and keeping the Tigers’ hopes alive.

Hattiesburg proceeded to score four runs in the ninth inning to win, 11-8, and force a game three, which the Tigers won, 13-1, at Smokie Harrington Park. The Tigers went on to sweep West Jones in 5A South State and Lewisburg in the 5A State Championship series. A day after hoisting the trophy, Hattiesburg’s seniors walked across the stage and received their diplomas. Absolutely incredible.

Seminary “does it for 2”

Five weeks into the 2018 football season, Dalvon Martin, a senior football player at Seminary High School, was involved in a serious car wreck. Surgery and a stay in ICU followed for Martin.

Meanwhile at the school, the accident brought his team closer and motivated them to win for him or “do it for 2”. Ten straight wins ensued, including a victory over Jefferson Davis County for the Class 3A South State Championship. Martin happened to be on the sideline for that one.

Once the final buzzer sounded, his teammates made a bee-line for him, and they celebrated together holding the No. 2 (Martin’s number) in the air. Though Seminary came up short against Water Valley a week later in the title game, it was certainly a magical season for the Bulldogs.

Oak Grove is back Mississippi high school football is at its best when programs like Oak Grove are in the thick of things. “Oak Grove” and “missed the playoffs” just doesn’t quite go together, but that’s exactly what happened in 2016 and 2017. But, the Warriors enjoyed a return to relevancy in 2018, winning 12 games on the way to playing for a state championship. Graduation will hit the team hard in a few months, but the expectation of success will be alive and well after what the program accomplished this past season.

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