Monday, December 28, 2009

Moshier: Proctor produces story, athlete, team of the decade

When I look back at the teams and the athletes from the Greater Mohawk Valley area that I have been fortunate enough to cover over my last 10 years at the Observer-Dispatch, I realize as decades go, 2000-2009 will be hard to top.

 

I also realize I have Thomas R. Proctor High School’s Raiders to thank for that.

 

As far as my football-basketball-hockey-baseball beats are concerned, the “Story of the Decade” has to be Thomas R. Proctor High School star Will Smith going on to star at Ohio State University as a pass-rushing defensive end, and then getting drafted in the first round, No. 18 overall, by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints in 2004. He even made the Pro Bowl in 2006, and as team captain and their sacks leader, he has helped make the Saints Super Bowl contenders.

 

Will I ever cover another first-round, NFL draft pick or Pro Bowler from the Mohawk Valley? I think not.

 

Choosing my “Athlete of the Decade” isn’t as easy, but anybody who saw what former Thomas R. Proctor High School superstar Deandre Preaster could do on a football field or basketball court should understand why he is my pick. Smith and Josh Wright, the all-state guard who averaged 33.3 points per game as a senior and set Proctor and Utica city records for points in a game (56), a season (700), and a career (1,944) before moving on to Syracuse University were serious considerations, but Preaster’s overall skill set and his highlight-reel knack for making tacklers miss and making his way to the hoop made him my choice.

 

Proctor boys hadn’t won a Section III basketball title in 40 years until Preaster led the Raiders to back-to-back Class AA championships as a sophomore and a junior. He led them back to the section final as a senior, and he finished his career with 1,352 points.

 

Declaring a “Team of the Decade” was even more difficult. Clinton, Whitesboro and New Hartford ice hockey teams won Division II state championships – Clinton’s Warriors even went back-to-back in 2005-2006 – and Dolgeville’s football team capped a 13-0 season by winning a Class D state title in 2000. My “Team of the Decade,” though, has to be the Thomas R. Proctor High School baseball team that captured a Class AA state championship in 2007.

 

The Raiders were coached by the state’s Coach of the Year Dave Guido, and led by the state’s Player of the Year, outfielder Jason Simone (.598 batting average), and pitchers A.J. Bates (9-2) and Sean Redmond (6-1), Proctor did something no other large-school baseball team from this area had ever done. The Raiders rallied past West Genesee 3-2 in the Section III final and later capped a 23-5 season with 2-1 and 3-2 victories over perennial downstate powers Massapequa and North Rockland on a “Final Four” Saturday in Binghamton.

 

To Will Smith, Deandre Preaster, the 2007 Thomas R. Proctor baseball team, and countless other student athletes and high school teams from the Mohawk Valley that I have had the privilege of covering, thanks for the memories. You made 2000-2009 a decade for the ages, and I’m glad I wasn’t too old to enjoy it.

 

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