Looking back at a great 2008 year in sports

Jeff Gettys called the moment ‘surreal.’ He was talking about himself. He could have easily been describing his family, community and all of southern Missouri.

Gettys put his tiny hometown on the map in mid September in the fourth quarter of a blowout victory for the Missouri Tigers. With 1:27 left in the fourth quarter of a romp of Nevada, Gettys picked off a pass and motored 27 yards into the end zone for the signature moment of his fairytale journey at Mizzou.

Gettys, who joined the team as a walk-on, earned a scholarship in the offseason, made his first career tackle in the team’s opener against Illinois and turned his first career interception into a touchdown.

Not to mention the Cotton Bowl ring he earned after the Tigers’ New Year’s Day thumping of Arkansas and the Alamo Bowl one that will be coming his way following Missouri’s overtime victory Monday against Northwestern.

“That’s a guy who grew up the state of Missouri, grew up watching Mizzou games,” MU linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said after Gettys’ touchdown. “He’s been waiting his whole life to score a touchdown like that. I bet he had family back home watching on TV just breaking out when they saw him make that play.”

Gettys’ pick-6 was one of the signature moments of the 2008 year in sports that was highlighted by the resurgence of football in Houston.

The varsity football team made its own history in the season opener when the Tigers blanked Cabool 12-0 to snap a 21-game losing skid. The victories didn’t stop there. Aided by the addition of Lebanon transfer Kyle Poynter, who earned all-state honors as a kick returner, Houston went 6-5 and earned a playoff berth – thanks to a new MSHSAA rule – by finishing second in its district.

Football success trickled down to the lower levels as well. The eighth grade Tigers went 4-2, and the fifth-sixth grade Mighty Mites were unbeaten.

The year began on the hardwood with the seventh grade boys’ basketball team going 12-0 en route to a perfect season. The Tigers won eight of their games by double digits and six by more than 15 points.

The varsity boys’ basketball team revived its program with a successful season under first-year coach Wayne Jessen. The Tigers were over .500 most of the season before finishing 11-14. Jessen resigned during the summer and was replaced by Brent Hall, the longtime Houston baseball coach.

The Lady Tigers’ basketball team won the Lady Panther Invitational and earned a district victory as part of a 10-15 season.

Kirk Pierce, who signed with Evangel College, and Caleb Smith earned all-state honors for the baseball team, which went 9-11 one year after finishing second in the state. Smith hit a robust .537.

In just its second year of existence, the Lady Tigers’ softball team was 6-3 under first-year coach Boulder McKinney. The school board voted later in the year to move the season to the fall, where the team can compete in conference and district play.

Golfer Dustin Blackburn was the first Tiger in 15 years to win districts. He also won the SCA title. Blackburn finished tied for 37th at the MSHSAA golf championships.

The tennis team had 21 players – its most under coach John Jordan – and behind No. 1 singles player Jonathan Page, went 6-3.

Freshman Kaitlyn Kell earned a spot at the sectional track meet by finishing third in the 800 at districts.

The summer months were highlighted by three first-place finishes by the Houston swim team, which finished second at the district meet.

A difficult season for the Lady Tigers’ volleyball team ended with an upset loss to Cabool in the first round of districts. A former HHS volleyball player, Ashley Kell, finished her career as the starting setter at Missouri State University. Another former Lady Tiger, Vicki Castleman, made a trip to the junior college national tournament with MSU-West Plains.

Dalton Wilson continued his path as one of the top anglers in the state by finishing 15th at the Junior Bassmaster World Championship in Syracuse, N.Y.

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