1999 provided many sports memories
By By Lori Dann
What is your favorite sports memory of 1999?
If you're a fan of our local teams, you have a lot to choose from this year.
If you're an Escambia Academy supporter, a second straight softball state championship would have to top the list. But there were other highlights, such as a run at the boys basketball and baseball state titles.
Fans of Escambia County High School also had plenty to cheer about, starting with a record-setting basketball season, a trip to the sub-state softball playoffs and the best football season in many years.
Throw in a spectacular summer in which Atmore hosted the Babe Ruth State Championship, and 1999 truly was a year to remember. Here's a look back at the year.
The first months of 1999 were filled with victories on the hardwood for local boys and girls teams.
The ECHS and EA boys both set school records for victories n ECHS with 27 and EA with 26 n and the Lady Blue Devils captured the Class 5A, Area 2 state championship with a thrilling two-point win over Jackson in the Lady Aggies' own gym.
The ECHS girls went on to the regional finals, missing the Final Four by a single game, and finished with a 19-7 record. The Blue Devil boys also advanced to the regionals.
Jeremy Hall became the first EA player in the 1990s to score 1,000 points in his career while helping lead the Cougars to the finals of the state basketball tournament. EA led the entire championship game, only to see Coosa Valley battle back and steal victory late in the contest.
The Lady Cougars also made it to the state playoffs but fell a step shy of the Final Four.
The good news wasn't limited to varsity action. The EA junior varsity girls posted a perfect 10-0 regular season and then finished third in the state tournament.
Spring brought a number of coaching changes as Bryant Smith resigned as head football coach and athletic director at ECHS and Ken Rollins was hired to replace Gene Ellison at Northview, who accepted the head coaching job at Crestview.
Longtime defensive coordinator Frankie Bell was eventually hired to replace Smith, and Rollins stepped down from his position before the year ended.
On the field, the Lady Cougars softball team toyed with their competition in the regular season, winning some and losing some before peaking at just the right time. In the postseason, they were simply unbeatable, rolling to the Class 1A state slow-pitch championship. EA defeated rival Grove Hill twice, both times by one run, to come away with the win as Jennifer Lassiter was named tournament MVP.
In fast-pitch action, the ECHS girls won two of their last three games to finish the regular season with a 15-15 record and advanced to the sectional tournament.
On the baseball diamond, EA also made it a rare spring sweep of the 1A state titles. The "Cardiac Cougars," as they became known, lost their first game but battled back to win three straight, including two by a single run, in their run to the finals. The magic didn't last there as they lost 6-4 in the final game. It was only EA's second appearance in a Final Four baseball tournament.
The EA tennis team also posted a successful season, finishing second in their district. No. 1 singles player Kristen Madison and No. 5 Anna Beech both won their district divisions and advanced to the state tournament.
But that wasn't the only highlight at EA. The boys basketball team and the baseball team both turned in stellar seasons and both were painfully close to capturing state titles of their own.
Summer is always a busy time on the baseball and softball fields of Atmore, and last year was no exception. The Bambino and Babe Ruth seasons provided the usual highs and lows as teams battled for league championships and all-stars were selected for the postseason.
In softball action, the Atmore Clippers and Atmore Homers both came out on top in the first Babe Ruth state championship series ever to be played in Atmore. The Clippers lost their first game before winning the next two 22-11 and 15-4, and the Homers dominated both of their contests, scoring more than 30 runs in each victory.
Two weeks later, the Atmore Lady Blues won the 16-and-under ASA Championship B Division Girls state Fastpitch Softball Tournament in Pell City. The Lady Blues went on to finish third in the Babe Ruth Regional in North Carolina.
In addition, the Atmore Diamondbacks finished third in the 14-and-under state tournament. Several teams also won at the Alabama Sports Festival.
Another group of local softball players, the Atmore Diamond Debs, made a name for themselves at the National Sports Festival in St. Louis, Mo. Though the team did not bring home a medal, it proved to be competitive against some of the top teams in the nation and gained some experience for their next trip to a national tournament.
On the baseball diamond, Atmore teams were state runners-up at the Major League and 11-year-old state tournaments in Florence. The Atmore Rookies and Minors also captured wins in their respective divisions.
The highlight of the summer came when the city hosted the 13-year-old Babe Ruth State Baseball Tournament.
Sylacauga defeated Satsuma twice, battling back from a 6-0 deficit in the second game, to win the championship. The victory was a sweet one for several Atmore parents who hosted the Sylacauga players during the tournament.
Frankie Bell and Mickey Cannon began their first seasons as head football coach at Escambia County and Escambia Academy, respectively. Both coaches led their team to the playoffs.
The Blue Devils' season turned out to be their best in six years as they posted a winning record and advanced to the state playoffs. The season ended with a loss in the first round, but oh what a game it was. And what a game it almost was.
Trailing the Bobcats 29-8 after three quarters in that game, ECHS rallied furiously for three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Two of the scores came on passes from quarterback Terrell McNeil to his twin brother Terrence, including one on a fourth-and-16 play, as the Blue Devils pulled within a single point.
Bell went for two and the win, but the Blue Devils were stopped short as they suffered a 29-28 loss.
This year is already off to a great start with both the ECHS and EA girls being highly ranked in the state. Certainly 2000 promises just as many memories.
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