The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Stephen McKay
Sports Writer 

Talking Sports - Fall is here: Let the high school games begin

 

I'm sure you've all felt it – that touch of fall that has been in the air for a few days this week.

Of course, it will be over 90 degrees on Friday – but that can't erase the recent warning by mother nature that the football, volleyball, cross country and girls' golf seasons are near at hand.

The cool mornings, the odor of decaying leaves, the beginning of school and wildly fluctuating temperatures are all signs summer is on the slow ride to fall. I love summer, but I'm ready for fall – at least the sports that come with it.

This is the time of year when the Sidney Sun-Telegraph puts together its Fall Sports Preview. We've been working on that project for the past 10 days or so. It'll be part of next Thursday's paper on Aug. 27.

Now is when we get the first inkling of what kind of a season the different teams in our coverage area are expecting. At this time of year, coaches and players are always the most optimistic.

So far, I haven't spoken to to anyone who doesn't believe they and their team won't have a good year. Defining a good year is relative, of course. But there are a few teams in our area whose definition of a good season is a trip to state.

I'm a little reluctant to mention teams that have the best chance to reach the state tournament. You never know what the future will bring. For example, as good as we all realized how good the Sidney boys' basketball team was last year, could anyone really have predicted the incredible ride they had?

Remember they were drubbed by Scottsbluff at the early-season Western Conference Tournament. A couple of months later Sidney fans were jumping for joy after the Red Raiders edged Scottsbluff and Beatrice at state before Elkhorn South slipped past them in the final.

But several teams clearly stick out as favorites to reach state at the conclusion of the fall season. Among the girls' teams, Sidney cross country and golf and Potter-Dix and Leyton volleyball come to mind. Maybe even Creek Valley volleyball too.

Among the boys squads, Peetz and Sidney football are no doubt looking for a return to the playoffs.

The Potter-Dix gridders also reached the postseason in 2014, and its grit always gives it a chance. But few teams outside of Sidney boys' cross country has been so hard hit by the graduation of its leading players. Declining enrollment at Potter-Dix doesn't help either.

On the reverse side of that coin, no team has been less harmed by the graduation bug than Sidney girls' cross country. The Lady Raiders return the entire group that finished third at state last season. Sidney golf lost a few of its players from the team that finished fourth at state, but it could prove even stronger with a solid stable of young players. The state tournament has eluded Sidney girls' golf only once in the last eight or nine years.

Football is always a hard call. There are so many moving pieces to a football team that have to work together to make it all happen. Sidney and Peetz have both lost key players at key positions. But both have become used to winning in recent years, so how can you look past either. Both will have a new quarterback.

The Potter-Dix volleyball squad returns all of its starters and moves from Class D1 to D2. It's hard to imagine the Coyotes will have much trouble with their new subdistrict foes South Platte, Minatare, Banner County and Garden County. But they'll still have to get through the district finals – where a potentially strong Crawford team may await. Staying healthy is also important for any team.

I added the Leyton Warriors volleyball team to the list because of its winning tradition. But the ladies of Dalton do have some added challenges in 2015.

Not only did they lose three starters to graduation, they also move up from Class D2 to D1. Nevertheless, they always find a way to have a good season.

Creek Valley also has to overcome the loss of several key players after a 20-win season in 2014. They're younger but they'll be competitive again. Of course, now they're joined by the Warriors in Class D1-12, so that rivalry could be interesting. Morrill and Dundy County-Stratton will have a say too.

The official beginning to the fall sports season begins on Tuesday as the Sidney Lady Raiders take on the competition at Hillside Golf Course at 9 a.m. Before next week is over, Creek Valley golf and football will also open their seasons as will Sidney and Peetz football.

Let the games begin.

 

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