If Saturday was any indication, Neosho High School’s Wildcat Pride Night might be here to stay.
Large crowds full of black and gold clad spectators turned out all day as the NHS fall sports teams put on a series of showcases for their fans, and the turnout had the coaches raving about the support shown by the community.
“It was a great job by Coach (Corey) Roy and everyone responsible for putting it on, it’s awesome,” Neosho head football coach Dustin Baldwin said at the conclusion of the events. “I liked it.”
Said softball coach Brandi Arthur, “We had a huge turnout today at the softball scrimmage. It was pretty neat to see all of the kids and parents and even the community members who don’t have kids or grandkids playing out there showing their support.”
They weren’t alone in their assessment.
“I love it,” volleyball coach Kerri Roy said. “I think it’s great that we all support each other. Just the community coming out today, it’s just exciting because it makes us all feel like we’re important. A lot of times women athletes don’t feel that way, and it’s important to get that support. It was great to have the crowd.”
Soccer coach Steve Schnackenberg agreed. “It’s nice to be out here and get over in the parking lot and mingle around,” he said. “This way people get to see us a little bit and they get to know the boys. We always talk about the boys being good citizens in the community, and this way people get to come out here and watch and see who is working for them.”
So it’s unanimous.
The events of the day were staggered with start times spread out to allow fans enough time to commute from one complex to the next so that nothing was missed. The softball team scrimmaged from 2-3 p.m. at the brand new Carver Sports Complex, followed by the volleyball team’s scrimmage beginning at 3:30 at the NHS gym. The soccer team scrimmaged at Bob Anderson Stadium at 4:45, the NHS band performed at 6:30, the dance and cheer team at 6:35 and all fall sports teams were introduced at 6:45.
The football team made its grand entrance to the field in front of a packed house at 7 p.m. and put on its display after Superintendent Dan Decker thanked the crowd for their support. Baldwin closed it out by thanking the fans one more time.
In the end, all of the coaches seemed pleased with the progress being made by their teams, though all cautioned that their work is far from complete.
Page 2 of 3 - “Things have been going really well,” Arthur said. “We had a good turnout for tryouts. I asked the girls to control the things that are controllable like their attitude, and their effort and their focus. They did that today and I expect them to do that all season. Things are looking up for us.
“The girls are working hard, they’re hustling and they’re buying into what myself and the other two coaches are telling them to do. They’re getting better every day.”
After losing five seniors to graduation last season, Neosho’s volleyball team is relying heavily on junior leadership this season, according to Roy. Their youth showed at times on Saturday, she felt, but the team is getting better.
“They were a little shaky, I think they were nervous, but we’re better,” Roy said. “We’re solid. My junior class that we have right now is a big class. Leadership wise, that’s who we look to. We’re going to be competitive.”
After watching his split-squad play to a 2-2 tie, Schnackenberg said some new additions to the team should help as the season progresses.
“We’ve got some new kids,” he said. “We’ve had some kids show up that are trying to get back into soccer, and we’ve had some kids who’ve never played together. So I definitely see where things are going to work out. We’re going to get everybody playing together and those skills are going to come back.
“We have a lot of athleticism. We’ve got good numbers — we’re almost up to 40 kids — and that gives us some good competition in practice. We’ve got a lot of kids this year that are capable of stepping up really doing some stuff on the varsity level. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out.”
After not winning a game in 2012, all eyes seemed to be on the football team when they took the field in the night’s main event. Their night was highlighted with a long run by Justin McKee that helped set up a touchdown run a few plays later, a long touchdown catch by McKee on a pass from junior Austin Hailey, and a defensive touchdown by Ben Elledge.
Baldwin said the results were mixed — some good and a lot to work on — but that there were plenty of positives to build upon in their jamboree at Springfield Parkview High School next week.
“We certainly have a lot of work to do, there’s no doubt,” he said. “We had a split-squad tonight so a lot of those guys hadn’t had a lot of reps (in practice) together, but that’s fine. We got a lot of guys some action and that’s what we wanted to see — some guys on film and see how they did. I was pretty pleased with a lot of things the defense did. I thought they were running to the football and tackling better than I’d seen before. We’ve got a long ways to go, but we’ll keep working.”
Page 3 of 3 - Just as he summed up the night to the crowd, Baldwin perhaps summed up the words every coach had on the night perfectly.
“I know (the players) get tired of just going against each other in practice,” he said. “It was exciting to get out here. Next week will be an even bigger step in getting where we want to go.”