HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The 2019 calendar year began like every other – a fourth straight girls soccer state championship for Sacred Heart – the sixth under coach Joe “Poppa” Falla in seven years.
And for the first time since 2013, the boys team took home a gold ball as well.
The Pine Belt was treated to some good basketball in March. After 21 years of coaching, Calvin Brown finally led East Marion to its first state title. Bay Springs followed suit with its second state championship.
Three straight state and region titles for coach Missy Bilderback and company sent the Lady Bobcats back to the NJCAA tournament - while Chris Oney led the PRCC men to its first region 23 title and national tournament berth. Both schools fell in the second round.
The number 13 proved to be a lucky one for coach Steve Knight. His 13th appearance at the NAIA tournament turned into the school’s first semifinal appearance.
The Crusaders’ magical run ended against top-ranked Georgetown College.
The month of rebirth - April - brought about a changing of the guard at Southern Miss. After Jon Gilbert left his post as athletic director, USM president Dr. Rodney Bennett called upon Jeremy McClain.
And just a week after being hired, McClain was put in task of finding a new basketball coach.
Doc Sadler left for Nebraska after five seasons including a 20-win mark in his final campaign. Just six days later, Hattiesburg native Jay Ladner took the reigns of his alma mater.
Local high schools jump-started a string of postseason baseball in May. Five local schools advanced to the state championships, but West Jones the only school to come away with a crown. The Mustangs led by third-year coach Trey Sutton, USM’s all-time leader in hits.
Pearl River’s remarkable 41-win season came to a bitter end in the NJCAA World Series - its first berth since 2002.
A roller-coaster season for Southern Miss still found the Golden Eagles in a familiar place. Scott Berry’s crew captured its second straight Conference USA tournament, clinching a fourth straight NCAA regional.
It gave USM one more chance to put on a show. Facing elimination, the Eagles scored seven runs in the final two innings. Gabe Montenegro’s walk-off single the final dagger in a 13-12 win over Arizona State.
Southern battled LSU, but ultimately fell to the host-Tigers 6-4 in the regional championship.
A scorching summer gave way to a football season full of heated battles.
Jones College won five straight to reach the postseason, but came up just short of a second straight state title game - while Mississippi Gulf Coast grabbed its fifth national title with a perfect 12-0 season.
PRCC began a new era as former East Central coach Seth Smith returns to his alma mater.
One of the more competitive high school slates in the Pine Belt ended with six local schools competing for state championships at the Rock – juggernauts Taylorsville and Jefferson Davis walked away champions.
Saturday’s were scintillating with Laurel grad Omar Bayless wrecking Sun Belt records at Arkansas State. The Braves grabbed their second straight SWAC title but moved to 0-3 at the Celebration Bowl.
Oak Grove’s John Rhys Plumlee ran wild in Oxford, his 1,023 rushing yards a freshman record at Ole Miss.
The Rebels were rebellious in an Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Head coach Matt Luke would later be fired, opening the curtain for the Lane Kiffin era.
First-year offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner and quarterback Jack Abraham found some chemistry at Southern Miss, putting together Conference USA’s most prolific passing attack.
The Golden Eagles won five of their first six conference games, but a two-game stumble down the stretch relegated them to the Armed Forces Bowl on January 4.
However, the new year brings about an old rivalry. Southern Miss meets Tulane for the 31st time when the calendar turns to 2020.