One was a just graduated senior. The other was a senior citizen. They both were key fixtures in Houston athletics and are already terribly missed.
There were many moments to cherish in 2009. From back-to-back buzzer beaters in less than 24 hours to the first fall softball season in Houston High School history, it was a memorable year. But the 365 days that marked the final year of the decade will most be remembered for what we lost.
The year began with a painful blow as longtime HHS fan and supporter Larry Southern died Jan. 18. A staple of Houston athletics for three decades, Southern was known as an ambassador for youth throughout the region and for his unwavering support of athletics — both male and female.
“His passion for kids was absolutely sincere,” said former boys’ basketball coach Charlie Malam. “Whether it was good times or rough times, Larry was the same — supportive 100 percent of all the kids, players and coaches. He just wanted them to be successful.”
Just four months later, the community suffered another loss when David Foster, a senior football and baseball player, was killed in a May 31 automobile accident. Foster graduated from HHS two weeks earlier.
Known as a faithful friend and prankster who loved to laugh, Foster was a two-year member of the football team and four-year baseball player. He was laid to rest in his Tigers’ uniform.
“He loved the game,” Houston baseball coach Brent Hall said. “He exemplified everything I always told the kids about loving the game and being dedicated to it.”
Another wreck in September took the life of HHS student A’ndrea White and severely injured softball player Lyndsay Tarrants. The Lady Tigers, who were under the direction of coach Willy Walker in their first-ever fall season, lost their final four games after the accident and completed the year with an 8-7 mark.
There were exciting moments on the basketball court. Kyle Poynter established a new single-season scoring record for the Tigers and nearly eclipsed the single-game mark by scoring 47 in a January game against Naylor. The Tigers finished 12-15.
The girls’ basketball team got consecutive game-winning 3-pointers in a 24-hour span in February, including a halfcourt heave from Kendra Welch to beat state-ranked Laquey. The Lady Tigers were upset in the opening round of districts and finished 12-14.
Poynter, who earned all-state honors for the baseball team, led the Tigers into the district title game with a complete-game shutout of Rogersville. Houston lost to Ava in the championship to conclude a 14-11 season.
Senior Dustin Blackburn qualified for the state golf tournament for the third straight year. He finished 44th and later earned a spot on the MSU-West Plains golf team.
Freshman Kyle Jones was the only track member to qualify for sectionals by finishing fourth in the pole vault, triple jump and high jump at districts.
Samantha Jones proved girls can be just as good as boys. She earned the Houston tennis team’s lone district victory by beating her male competitor from Mexico, Mo.
The biggest volleyball news of 2009 came after the season, which ended with a loss to Liberty in the district championship match. Longtime coach Debbie James announced her retirement in late December. Her tenure included 329 victories, four district titles and a state runner-up finish in 2004.
A disappointing football season ended on a positive note as the Tigers thumped Cuba 28-8. Houston had a 2-8 record.
The future of the program appears to be in good hands as the fifth-sixth grade Mighty Mites went undefeated for the second year.
Former Tiger football player Jeff Gettys suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Mizzou’s second game. He managed to make good use of his healthy knee by proposing to his girlfriend, Jessica Neal, after the game.
A pair of former athletes with local ties were inducted into collegiate halls of fame. Licking native Trish Kissiar-Knight was inducted into the Grizzly Hall of Fame as the school’s winningest volleyball coach. HHS graduate Ron Cummins was notified that his 1962 Mizzou baseball team, which finished second in the nation, will be added to the University of Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame.
Knight later left West Plains for Texas Tech and hired HHS graduate Loran (Ichord) Richardson as an assistant.