By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Hokes Bluff High may be ready to be a contender again in varsity baseball.
I make this statement without having seen the Eagles play since 2007 – the fifth state championship year in a row for the team which went on to win its sixth.
Head coach Mike Robertson called out the names of this year’s seven seniors – Matthew Watkins, Jay Ponder, Chance Ford, Brad Robertson, Tanner Shields, Braden Hawk and Dylan McKee. And these are seniors who have been fully immersed in doing things the Hokes Bluff way.
You’ve got several coaches kids. And there is something about a coach’s kid – they tend to be fairly athletically gifted and they’re usually leaders, both on and off the field.
Note some of those last names. Every one of them is a well-known entity in the Land of the Green, where baseball rules.
Yes, there’s a football state title in there, too, but the Eagles have brought home the big baseball trophy a total of nine times, including a six-year run that ended in 2008. That year saw the retirement of legendary coach Mike Estes and the graduation of Tyler Stovall, Hokes Bluff’s only true superstar from that span.
There were definitely a ton of other good players, from sign-benders to grit players. But there was only one Tyler Stovall, whose name is littered all over the state record books. Stovall put off college to sign with the Atlanta Braves.
Replacing a legend such as Estes proved difficult for Robertson, but it appears he is ready. The Eagles won the area championship each of the past two years.
Not trying to be a trendsetter here, but I predict a big year for the Eagles.