Ron Moshier - Sports

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.

 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Moshier: Defense doesn't win soccer championships

Defense wins championships? Yeah, right.

 

Try convincing a University of Akron men’s soccer team that pitched five straight shutouts in the recent NCAA Tournament and still didn’t win a national championship.

 

Soccer fan or not (OK, so I’m not), isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

 

Akron’s top-seeded Zips, 23-0-1 entering the NCAA championship game, played Virginia to a scoreless tie through 110 minutes before losing a penalty-kick shootout, 3-2.

 

“It’s tough to lose that way,” Akron coach Caleb Porter said. “What makes this one even more tough is that we didn’t give up a goal in the entire NCAA Tournament, and yet we don’t go home with any hardware.”

 

What a way to go is right. The Zips tied the NCAA single-season record with their 23-game winning streak, and set school records for wins, shutouts (19), fewest goals allowed (7) and lowest goals-against average (0.27). The only thing they didn’t do was win their first national championship. What a game? More like, what a shame.

 

The final ended in a tie, but the NCAA’s policy – exclusive for national championship games – requires that a winner be declared for all purposes. So previously-unbeaten Akron, despite not allowing a single goal in the tournament, finished a 23-1-1 season as a “loser.”

 

If playing 110 minutes of soccer isn’t enough, then declaring co-champions would have been a better way to go. If a winner is a must, then take a day off and let the two finalists go at it again.

 

When it comes to a championship game, there’s got to be a better way than an overtime penalty-kick shootout to determine a winner and a loser. Soccer fan or not, I would hope so.

 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moshier: Unbeaten Orange a joy to watch

OK, so now we know for sure that this Syracuse University men’s basketball team is for real. We also know why.

 

This year’s Orange may be missing its usual superstar or two (for now, let’s just call Wes Johnson a “rising” star), but this team is even more fun to watch and even more dangerous come tournament time because of that.

 

If you believe in the importance of team chemistry, a high basketball I.Q., a deeper bench, and most importantly, an all-for-one willingness to do what is best for the team, then it is easy to believe in this SU team.

 

No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, it is how this particular Syracuse team plays the game that is a joy to watch.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moshier: Jugglers' star shines on, off court

What Notre Dame High School’s Pat Moore did to help his basketball team beat Tri Valley League rival Whitesboro 62-53 this week – scoring 15 of his season-high 34 points in the fourth quarter -- was impressive enough.

 

Most impressive, though, was how the Colgate University recruit reacted to what some might have considered a hostile “Warrior Dome” environment.

 

Moore, a Notre Dame senior from Whitesboro who has attended the school since the seventh grade, wasn’t the least bit fazed by a vocal Whitesboro student section that at one time chanted, “Traitor. … Traitor. … Traitor. …” and another time labeled the all-state forward “Overrated.”

 

“Nah,” the soft-spoken Moore said when asked if that reception bothered him. “It’s part of the game. It’s all fun.”

 

That’s Pat Moore for you. The same kid who is on track to become Notre Dame’s all-time scoring leader -- rising two more spots Tuesday to No. 6 on that star-studded list with his 1,162 career points, just 29 behind former Syracuse University standout Dale Schackleford’s 1,191 – is a class act off the court, too.