Looking back at 2020's top local sports stories

Herald File Photo
Southridge football completed its first undefeated season in program history, and the Raiders went to semi-state for the third time in the last four years in 2020.

Through a tough year, local athletes and teams still managed to shine and do big things in the local preps scene in 2020. Here are some of the biggest stories from the past year.

COVID cancels basketball tournament, spring sports —The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the Indiana High School Athletic Association to cancel the remainder of the boys basketball tournament, and also the entire 2020 spring sports season.

Jasper cross country makes history — Jasper took its entire boys cross country team to state last year for the first time since 1952, and followed by taking more steps this year. It was the first time ever the boys and girls teams won a sectional championship and made it to state in the same year. Junior runner Abe Eckman finished 12th at state, the best place ever for a Jasper boys runner.

Raiders complete first undefeated regular season —Speaking of history, Southridge didn’t have the most size on the football field this year, but the Raiders still found their way when they went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in program history. Southridge football made it all the way to semi-state.

Schneider makes trip to state — This year has been an unprecedented year, but that doesn’t always have a negative connotation, such as with Dubois County sports. Baileigh Schneider concluded her prep golf career when she became the first girls golfer in Southridge history to qualify for state. She shot a 188 and finished 79th at state.

Pats finally break through in postseason play — Heritage Hills may have gotten its boys basketball season taken away last year, but one thing nobody will take away was that the Patriots finally won a sectional championship for the first time since 2003. Whether it was Murray Becher becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, Simon Scherry the all-time assist getter and scoring his 1,000th point or Blake Sisley scoring his 1,000th point, the Pats had many memories that ended with downing Evansville Bosse and Evansville Memorial for the sectional crown.

Sweeney swims way to state — Northeast Dubois enjoyed a banner year in the pool in 2020 with Lorenzo Vaiardi rewriting the record books and becoming just the second boys swimmer in program history to make it to state. It had never been done on the girls side, however, and the Jeeps got that from a swimmer who joined the team during the season. Sweeney set a new record in the 50 freestyle her junior year, and became the first girls swimmer in school history to qualify for state.

From sidelined to champions —Local soccer teams enjoyed a lot of success on the field this fall. Forest Park won a boys sectional championship, and Jasper and Heritage Hills did the same thing on the girls side. However, the Forest Park girls soccer team had to cancel many of their games due to the whole team being in quarantine. Yet, the Ranger girls were resilient, and went on to win both a sectional and regional championship on the soccer field after waiting to take the field.

An end of an era —All things must come to an end, and such was the case this year when Brett Bardwell stepped down as Southridge’s athletic director. The 1979 Southridge graduate took over as the athletic director of his alma mater in 1999, and served up until 2020. Bardwell was the AD when the Raiders won the Class 2A state football championship in 2017, and the coach of that team, Scott Buening, succeeded Bardwell this year.

Reds complete another undefeated season —In a return to local sports, the Jasper Reds took the field for nine games this summer, going a perfect 9-0. The Reds held tributes to some local alumni in Jasper’s Carter Stamm, and Reece Bauer of Northeast Dubois. They had Carter Stamm Day at Ruxer Field and Reece Bauer Day at Northeast Dubois. Manager Bill Alles also got the 300th win of his Reds career this summer.

Conference Shakeups —The local sports scene is different now than it was a year ago after the dissolution of the Big Eight Conference, which Jasper won the last-ever title of in boys basketball earlier this year. The Wildcats rejoined the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Southridge, Forest Park and Heritage Hills welcomed new members into the Pocket Athletic Conference. Boonville, Mount Vernon (Posey), Princeton all joined the fray as the PAC went from nine teams to 13 teams this year.

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