By Kyle Daubs

It’s hard to believe Christmas is just a few days away. It’s equally difficult for this young guy to believe that I have been involved with sports in the area for more than a decade as an athlete, coach and writer. While we can’t afford to send you ten lords a leaping, six geese a laying or, especially, five golden rings, we can share seven stocking stuffers of local news stories that never made it into the sports pages.

No. 7: Sad times in Robinson

For years, I traveled with the Charleston High girls basketball team to Robinson for their Thanksgiving tournament. Right around that time, the IHSA state football finals were being played, as were critical conference games for college football. In the teacher’s lounge, Jeff Miller, Amy Jackson, Ceci Brinker and I would watch the state championship games on the television.  The 2012 football squad was likely the best team in Charleston history. It featured two of Miller’s sons (Ethan and Noah) as well as Jackson’s oldest (Ben). I’ll never forget Miller looking at the television and saying, “We should be there right now.”

No. 6: Emotional coach Doughty

Charleston coach Trevor Doughty was usually calm, collected and prepared to say the right things after games no matter the result. In what proved to be his final game, the Trojans lost the 2012 IHSA Regional Championship when Effingham’s Nick Gardewine layed in a basket as time expired. After the game, the coach and I did our post-game interview. As I left, I heard a thud coming from a locker, which I assumed was a strong punch from Doughty. The longtime coach accumulated 264 wins between CHS girls and boys basketball. That was the last time Charleston boys basketball team reached a regional championship.

No. 5: Schmitz’s quick response

Schmitz, the longtime Eastern Illinois baseball coach, had a solid team in 2013 on paper. But the team lost nine in a row, capped by a 5-2 defeat to Austin Peay. As Schmitz was in the middle of answering one of my questions afterward, all-conference first baseman Demetre Taylor walked by, saying, “Coach, I’m freaking tired of losing.” Without skipping a beat, Schmitz responded, “Then, quit losing.” Needless to say, Taylor wasn’t happy. The best part? Taylor had to go sign autographs with the team for the little kids that lined up after the game. 

No. 4: The Best Game Ever Played at Grimes Field

It was a clash between Coles County American Legion baseball foes, Charleston Post 93 led Mattoon Post 88 at Grimes Field by three runs in the bottom of the final inning. After two quick outs, Charleston looked poised to win. But three straight errors loaded the bases for slugger Vince Anello, who hit the next pitch out of the park. No doubt, that ball was gone. Nearly 10 years later, I learned that Anello had called the shot. Brian Hastings, the Mattoon assistant coach, said that Anello had told him that if Charleston loaded the bases, he was going to walk it off.

No. 3: Angry track champion

My first year coaching track was at Mattoon Middle School where I served as a student-teacher. Coach Sonya Wattles gave me the opportunity to coach middle/long distance squad that included Summerlyn Smith, Mariah Ball, Courtney Wilson, Flannery Sanders and Kylie Haacke. But I remember a moment with Quincy Collings most of all. The seventh-grader wanted to break a six-minute mile more than anything. The closest she ever came was at the Apollo Conference meet where she won the event. When she ran over, I gave her a huge hug. Quincy then asked for her time, which was around 6:05. She took her water bottle and chucked it across the football field and stormed away, forgetting that she was an all-conference athlete.

No. 2: Dave Johnson for the win

Lake Land women’s basketball coach Dave Johnson has always been great to work with, but one afternoon he was particularly clutch. The Lake Land basketball teams were scheduled to play Southeastern Illinois in a standard men-women doubleheader, which often started at 1 p.m. But the women’s game started at 11 a.m. I was startled when I arrived 12:30 p.m., only to see the final score of the women’s game on the scoreboard. I wasn’t going to lie to Dave, but I also didn’t want to tell my sports editor either. I told Dave what happened. He smiled, laughed and then sat next to me during halftime of the men’s game to share all the key points to write, gave me all the stats and gave me quality coaches quotes.

No. 1: ‘This is my house

In 2012-13, Lake Land had a 6-foot-10 freshman center on the team by the name of Aziz Thiandoum, who hailed from Senegal. While his English was good, it wasn’t great. In the middle of a tight game, an opposing team’s guard dribbled into the lane and fired up a tough shot that was instantly rejected by Thiandoum. The official, though, called a technical foul on Thiandoum, who put his hands up in confusion. LLC Coach Cedric Brown was puzzled. All four of us at the scorer’s table were puzzled since the referee did not explain the reason. Coach Brown later asked Aziz what happened: Thiandoum replied, in his thick African accent, “Coach, all I said was this is my house.”