Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
It's been a year.
Has there ever been a time that such a sentence carried more weight than right now? The 2020-2021 high school sports year is over. Somehow we got through it with minimal interruptions, and thank goodness we did, because it was a year filled with a lot of impressive performances. That was evidenced by our top moments feature from May 20, which highlighted a handful of them.
I love watching those big wins, but I also love the human moments you find in sports. To that end, this will serve as a companion column to the top moments feature, showcasing some of my personal favorite moments and storylines of the year. They might not have all resulted in victories, but they were meaningful just the same.
Listening to Sarasota High baseball coach Clyde Metcalf is always a treat, but watching him perfectly diagnose his team's issue and then fix it is something else. I've only been a coach once before, and it didn't go well — some of you may remember the Observer's disastrous 2018 club softball season — but in watching Metcalf coach his team to a 2-1 walkoff win April 20 against Lakewood Ranch High, I feel like I learned things that would go a long way in making my coaching at least adequate. He has an uncanny ability to tell his team exactly what they need to hear, exactly how they need to hear it.
I'm glad the Booker High girls soccer team was able to get a win after three seasons without one, especially for the seniors. Losing takes a toll, even if you're just playing a sport for fun.
Writing about Riverview High senior Allison Kukanza was another highlight. Kukanza became the first female athlete to score for the Rams football team, as a kicker. Watching her kick was cool, but listening to her talk was even better. Kukanza said her confidence would occasionally stumble, but knowing there were other girls looking up to her helped her stay strong. That's courage. Kukanza's kicking career is now over, but I'm confident she'll succeed in whatever she chooses to do. She's got the right mindset.
Attending Cardinal Mooney High football coach Jared Clark's first game Sept. 11 was exciting, especially when I discovered Clark's nephew, junior Tayven Clark, would be the team's starting quarterback, his first start at the varsity level. The Cougars defeated North Port High 42-7 at home. Tayven Clark threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. It was a joy to watch, and I could tell the game meant a lot to both members of the Clark family.
It was just as fun to witness the rise of Lance Trippel, the Sarasota High junior who went from never playing football before to a varsity starting quarterback in a matter of months. First-year coach Brody Wiseman saw the natural baseball player throwing a football after class one day and recruited him to the gridiron. By midseason, Trippel had wrangled the starting job. He went 3-3 as a starter, including a first-round playoff loss to Lehigh High, 42-21. All things considered, that's a strong start to a career, and Wiseman has been vocal about his quarterback's potential. If this is what Trippel could do with only a few months to prepare, I'm excited to watch him after a full offseason. Is it August yet?
No, seriously, can someone knock me out until August arrives? As much fun as the summer can be, I'd rather get back to the high school sports season. There's nothing like it.
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