It appeared the magic had run out. The Houston Tigers baseball team trailed undefeated and defending champion Blair Oaks by five runs with six outs remaining in the state championship game.
But this wasn’t any ordinary team.
Stirring up the bravado that led them on a history-making run, the Tigers scored seven times in the bottom of the sixth inning and were three outs away from the state title.
Although the championship eluded Houston when the Falcons rallied with five runs of their own, it didn’t take away from a magical run that was easily the top sports story of 2007.
Led by homegrown coach Brent Hall, the Tigers took the entire town on a journey that will never be forgotten. After ending a 15-year district title drought, Houston won the first sectional, quarterfinal and semifinal games in program history. They left one final mark by taking Blair Oaks to the brink of elimination with a gritty rally before losing 13-10.
“I’m glad that other people and the town folk in Houston got to see what kind of character these kids have,” Hall said. “I’m proud of what they’ve done for the program.”
Behind the all-state trio of Gus Durst, Kirk Pierce and Justin Stringer, the 2007 baseball team was just three outs away from joining the 1938 boys’ basketball team as Houston’s only state champions. Still, the Tigers enjoyed easily the most successful baseball season in program history.
Speaking of success, girls’ basketball coach Brent Kell and volleyball coach Debbie James each established new milestones to their legacies by surpassing 300 career victories.
Mizzou fever made its way to town as Jeff Gettys and the University of Missouri football team won the Big XII North championship and were ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in nearly five decades. Gettys, who starts on the kickoff return team, was named Mizzou’s “walk-on of the year.”
Also away from Houston High School, Dalton Wilson again staked his claim as Missouri’s top teenage fisherman by winning another state championship.
There were plenty of new faces in 2007. Chris Edwards took the reigns of the football program, and Wayne Jessen was hired as boys’ basketball coach following the sudden resignation of Aaron Griffin. An entire team of new faces presented itself as the girls’ softball team played its inaugural season in the spring.
Kell’s Lady Tigers opened the year by giving their coach his 300th win as part of a 16-10 season. They were the SCA tri-champions and advanced to the district finals.
Junior Michael Buckner set a new single-season 3-point record for the boys’ basketball team, which finished 6-18.
Two stories not lost during the baseball team’s memorable run in the spring was the debut of softball in Houston and Dustin Blackburn’s 25th place finish at the state tournament. The Lady Tigers made their own history March 22 when they played the high school’s first sanctioned softball game.
The football season began with a sense of renewed optimism under Edwards, who was hired after Josh Gettler resigned. The Tigers had three straight weeks of close calls, including two losses in the final moments of an 0-10 season.
It wasn’t all bad news on the gridiron. Gettys, who redshirted last year at Missouri, cracked the lineup in the first game of the season and never left. His season full of highlights will end Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas.
James joined Kell in the 300 club when the volleyball team defeated Ava 25-21, 25-23 on Oct. 9. The Lady Tigers finished their season 13-16-3.
Wilson won his second state championship in three years in October, qualifying him for the Junior Bassmaster World Championship against the best anglers from around the world. It will be his second appearance in the event.Wilson won the points race in his 15-18 year old division to qualify for the state championship.
The boys’ basketball team has made great strides under Jessen. Playing at a slower pace with an emphasis on shot selection, the Tigers are 4-3 entering the break. Two of those losses were in double overtime.
The girls’ basketball team entered the break with an important SCA victory against rival Mountain Grove. The Lady Tigers are 3-4 against a challenging schedule.