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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • LEVI PAYTON: Lucky to have witnessed this season

  • When I took this job back in September I guess I didn't really take the time, or have the time, to formally introduce myself.
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  • When I took this job back in September I guess I didn't really take the time, or have the time, to formally introduce myself.
    Don't fret; I'm not here to bore you with one of those columns, but for those of you that aren't familiar with my personal background, I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a Neosho boy.
    I bring this up simply because, well, heck, I love this town, I love this area and I sure as heck am having a blast covering sports here. As a kid I played on just about every ball field and played about every sport in this area. Our teams barnstormed Diamond, Seneca, McDonald County, East Newton, Neosho and just about every other town in the four states, it seemed. I grew up thinking Morse Park was my second home because, well, it kind of was.
    Like many of you, I remember the days of some of our greatest sports editors: Dean Keeling, Josh King, Gary Grimmett and my close personal friend, Cody Thorn. I only hope to be remembered among those guys some day. I've worked at quite a few newspapers in my time, too, including stints in Joplin and Carthage.
    Enough rambling, I'll get to the point.
    I can't believe how lucky I am. I honestly feel like I witnessed one of the greatest sports seasons this town and this area have seen in quite some time. Now, in full disclosure, I'm 27 years old. There quite possibly have been more memorable years, but in my recollection I cannot think of one that was more exciting for our area than the one I witnessed this year.
    My hair still wants to stand on end when I think of Christian Lopez and Jordan Moffett. For as long as I live, I'll never forget watching those two Goliaths go head to head at Mizzou Arena with it all on the line. Only on rare occasions do we realize in the heat of the moment that we're witnessing history, but I'll never forget the feeling I felt during that match. Sitting there on the edge of the mat, I knew in that moment that it was one that would go down in history.
    When Lopez lifted his right arm in victory, he lifted an entire town. It was one of the gutsiest performances I've ever witnessed.
    As impressive and well deserved a moment as that was for Lopez and the Neosho Wildcats, however, let's not take anything away from or forget about Moffett, either. He's one of the most impressive young men I've ever been around and had the privilege of covering. It was a shame anyone had to lose that match. They both deserved to win but in defeat, and though it was clearly an emotional moment for him, I saw a young man that handled it with as much class and professionalism as one could. That alone is something I'll never forget about that night, too.
    Page 2 of 2 - There are plenty of other memories from this season. Covering one of the top wrestlers in the nation, Nate Rodriguez, was a blast. Watching Jeremy Phillips, a coach I played for as a freshman in high school, getting the best out of each and every kid he coaches and leading that team to its third state title in four years was amazing.
    Crowder's baseball team earned the No. 1 ranking in the nation and wrapped the season 47-13, the basketball team made it to the NJCAA National Championship Tournament while finishing 29-6, and the softball team under Lori Videmschek went 38-18.
    Seneca High School loaded up on hardware this season. From conference and district titles in multiple sports to an individual state wrestling title by Will Roark, the Indians dominated the season. When the baseball team was in the midst of winning its district title, I joked with Seneca Athletic Director Tom Hodge that he might need to round up another trophy case. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the first one to bring it to his attention.
    Diamond baseball and basketball, East Newton baseball, McDonald County baseball, Neosho baseball, Neosho boys track and field, the list goes on and on. All of those teams did well. It was a blast to watch them all.
    There are so many teams and individuals unintentionally being slighted in this column. There are simply too many to list and that's a good thing, right?
    I can only hope to witness another season like this one in my lifetime.
    Glad I got to share it with you.

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