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Walk Talk: Here's a few gifts that I enjoyed prior to Christmas

December 28, 2010

Just as days and months pass, so do the four sports seasons in Punxsutawney. As the cold winter of basketball and wrestling brightens with the thought of spring's baseball and softball, cool spring weather becomes even warmer as summer provides even more baseball and softball.

Then, once the days again grow crisper and shorter, football, soccer and volleyball are the main feasts, as the holidays are soon to arrive.

When I first started working in Punxsutawney more than four years ago, I never knew how attached I would become to the athletes, coaches and parents who put so much time into sports.

Over time, I've had a hard time staying objective when I cover these athletes, considering it becomes so easy to root for each and every one of them.

Tomorrow, I will provide the Year in Review of Punxsutawney's greatest sports accomplishments in 2010, but first, I'll touch on the 2010 events that I enjoyed the most.

Spack wins district wrestling championship

During his freshman season, and even part of his sophomore campaign, it didn't look like Seth Spack could hang with the likes of DuBois' T.J. Stanton, who was two grades older.

Everything changed Feb. 28 at the District IX Class AAA Wrestling Individual Championships in Clarion, as Spack edged Stanton, 4-3, in the 112-pound final.

I'll never forget how excited Spack was when the clock ran out and the district championship was his as he pumped his fist in jubilation.

As much as experiencing Spack's big win was a joy, talking to him afterward was even better.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It's probably my favorite thing ever."

As for the fist pumps from a quiet kid who was never that emotional after a win that I've witnessed?

"I was just in a pumped-up moment," he said. "My blood was pumping. I had to give out a few fist pumps. I was really happy."

The win was a huge confidence-booster for the wrestler, as he then advanced to states after a second-place finish at regionals.

Chucks earn yet another district baseball title

A lot of hype surrounded the PAHS baseball team in 2010, considering it returned a number of players from a previous VFW title and still had much of the coaching staff that won the 2007 state title.

Prior to the season, the Chucks were the talk of the town after Collegiate Baseball, a publication out of Arizona, recognized Punxsy as one of Pennsylvania's teams to watch in 2010.

Things didn't look so good when Punxsy started the season with a 3-5 record, and I wasn't even sure the Chucks would make the playoffs in order to defend their reign as district champs. But the team kept building toward a shot at winning an amazing seventh-straight District IX Class AAA Championship.

Fast-forward to June 2 in Brockway, and Punxsy was behind 2-1 to St. Marys in the sixth inning of the title game, but it scored twice during that frame to win 3-2.

Much like everyone wearing red & white in attendance, I saw the comeback approaching, knowing that the Chucks were due at least one magical inning.

Dylan Kachmar, who drove in the tying run, knew that it was just a matter of time before his team went ahead.

"Once we get rolling, it's hard to stop us," said Kachmar, who scored the go-ahead run from second base on a Kyle Neal single. "Tearing from second to third, there was no way I was stopping."

A thriller for the county championship

The stats say it all: 27 runs, 29 hits, 16 walks and nine mind-tingling innings of baseball were played for the Jefferson County American Legion Championship between DuBois and Punxsutawney July 15, with home team DuBois walking off the field as a 14-13 victor.

Sure, it was a Punxsy loss, but neither team was a loser during this day — even if only one team could advance to the regional tournament.

Next to PAHS' state-title run in 2007, the 2010 legion title game served as the most action-packed and gut-wrenching baseball game I have been able to see here.

Punxsy led 6-1 in the second inning, only to fall behind 8-6 entering the fifth. After scoring three times, Punxsy was ahead 9-8, but the seesaw battle was far from over once DuBois went up 10-9. Punxsy jumped back ahead 11-10 and was four outs away from the title when a home run tied things at 13 in the eighth.

The game came down to a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the bottom of the ninth, as Jordan LaBue's single up the middle broke a 13-all tie and gave DuBois the crown.

Even after the nine-inning battle of wills, Punxsy manager Doug Mesoraco was able to put into words how proud he was of the team, considering how hard of a defeat it was to take.

"There's nothing we can hang our heads about," he said. "The bottom line is: We got beat, and we can walk home holding our heads high. It's not an easy thing to do, but we competed hard."

Punxsy football finishes regular season undefeated

Many fans outside of the area can downplay it due to the Punxsy football team's schedule, but finishing the regular season with a 10-0 record in 2010 was quite a feat.

To define Punxsy's season as dominant may be an understatement, considering the Chucks outscored their opponents by a 323-39 margin. Only one of Punxsy's opponents lost by fewer than three touchdowns — Moniteau.

Once Punxsy started 5-0 and was ravaging its competition, I felt good enough to predict a 10-0 regular season finish. That said, I admit becoming the least bit nervous about that declaration when the Chucks were tied with the Warriors at six entering the fourth quarter.

But then a switch was flicked and the Chucks broke through Moniteau's all-or-nothing defense, as Logan Weaver threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 72-yard catch and run by Ben Blazavich that sealed the victory.

The perfect regular season had to be even more memorable for head coach Alan Nichol, who played for the Chucks' previous undefeated group in 1977. Back then, he was a running back and defensive back, as his squad matched the 1963 team's unbeaten campaign.

"Whenever you complete a season undefeated, you feel that in a brief time and moment in life, you met your goal and accomplished a feat that all other teams wanted to do," Nichol said. "It's just something that goes with you, and it's really special. They knew that, and they wanted to be part of that."

Punxsy wound up losing to Clearfield in the District IX Class AAA Championship Game, but nothing can take away the team's perfect regular season.

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