After one academic year of coverage in Elmore County, I was treated to watching the best athletes this county has to offer. You could not go more than a few days without seeing me at a different sporting event and I promise it was more fun than it was work.

Every school provided its own memory from last-second victories on the court to heartbreaking defeats on the field. The summer may not provide enough time to go through every single one of those memories but it will not be hard to recount some of the big ones.

My time at The Herald started in August and football season was getting ready to be in full swing. Of course, the AISA season started a week earlier and it allowed me to make it to Edgewood for the Wildcats’ season opener.

I did not know much about the football program outside of what I learned in the three weeks of practice prior to kickoff. I knew it had not won a game in two years and had gone through three coaches during that time but you could not tell from the fans that night.

The stands were packed and the small team came out on fire. The Wildcats opened up a two-touchdown lead and finished off a 13-12 win to end their long losing streak and set the stage for a run to the AISA-AA semifinals.

Football season provided quite a bit of those first memories but no regular season moment was bigger than the one at Foshee-Henderson Stadium in October. I have written about this game so many times already but I still cannot get over that final play.

Stanhope Elmore battled with the No. 1 team in the state for four quarters but it appeared it would fall short as Wetumpka was driving in the final minute of the game. However, Marlon Hunt found a way to get the ball in his hands and he ran 85 yards for the Mustangs’ second defensive touchdown of the game to give Stanhope the upset victory.

Before we got to the postseason, I got to witness two of the best athletes in the entire state go head to head on the football field for one last time in their careers. Tallassee’s Kalvin Levett and Elmore County’s DJ Patrick combined for 477 yards of offense and seven touchdowns as the Tigers came away with a 42-21 win in the rivalry.

There were plenty of great moments during the football playoffs but the one that stands out the most may come from the final loss of the season.

I never got to watch JD Martin play at Wetumpka but when he came out in full pads as one of the captains for the semifinal game against Saraland, you could see what he meant to the community. I certainly got chills in the moment and I still get them whenever I go back to watch the video.

Once winter sports arrived, I thought the county would slow down because football was over. I don’t know if I have ever been more wrong about anything.

I got to see a lot of good basketball throughout the season but very little was as impressive as Tallassee’s 15-1 start to the year. If anything topped that, it was Tallassee’s 84-78 win over then-No. 5 Brewbaker Tech in easily the most entertaining basketball game I saw this year.

And even though the Tigers could not finish the year strong, that did not stop the sport in the county. Edgewood put together one of the most dominant defensive performances I have seen at the high school level to ease to a state championship in February.

While I will not pretend I was a wrestling expert when I got down here (or now either), I still got to enjoy Wetumpka’s run to the state tournament. The Indians finished second at the regional in Montgomery before taking their talents to Huntsville and grabbing the state runner-up trophy in Class 6A.

While those sports were wrapping up, the spring sports were gearing up for the busiest time of the year. There may not be anything like getting that first sunburn of the year when you’re at the ballpark for five hours.

We had a lot of good baseball across the county which involved four playoff teams including Wetumpka winning its first area championship since 2008. That is where I learned I have to see the Gatorade bath coming before the coach does or else I will get soaked.

Holtville may have combined for the best spring. The Bulldogs grabbed a playoff spot thanks to a win in Game 3 over Elmore County during the regular season and Holtville pushed into the second round of the 4A playoffs for the second consecutive season.

On the softball diamond, Holtville had the help of the winningest senior class in the history of the program. The Bulldogs set the goal of making it to the state tournament at Lagoon Park and the Bulldogs did just that with some big production from their seniors, led by Auburn signee KK Dismukes.

There were so many great memories in between these and it is going to be a long time before I start to forget any of them. I want to thank every school, coach, athlete and fanbase for making this first school year as special as it was.

Let’s run it back in August.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.