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By Mindy Crandall
– as told by lifetime coach and mentor, Larry Silvey
The Reflections column the past few weeks with the exception of last week has been a continuing series – History of Ava Bear Football. It is my hopes to finalize the last remaining football seasons with a quick summary. Many things will be left out due to space, however, it doesn’t take away from its importance.
One thing I’ve learned and come to appreciate in reflecting on this series is this: Ava has a strong community, one that comes together every Friday night to cheer on generation after generation of football boys. People that may not ordinarily talk during the week find themselves making the same pilgrimage down Y Highway, turning left towards a stadium embraced by lights. The line of cars is long, the moral is always high and regardless of what happens on the field, they continue to show support. The colors of blue and gold reign supreme and the clamoring sound of footsteps echo against the hollow sound of aluminum bleachers as our community of Ava bands together.
It stands to reason that history is always in the making especially when it comes to football stats, but the one thing in history that will remain the same is Ava Bear Pride and the support in which our community has to offer.
Now to go back in time – The year is 1996, the Ava Bears had a 5-5 season and were 4-3 in the SCA. Larry Silvey resigned the football coaching duties after serving as Head Football Coach for 21 years. During his career the Bears won 137 games and lost 73. They won 6 SCA Championships and 5 District Champions while under his direction.
In 1997 Larry Silvey was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Head Coach Rex Sawyer stepped in to replace Silvey in 1997. The Bears ended with a 5-5 season and a 3-5 SCA record. Five players were part of the SCA selection: Willie Howard, Off Tackle; Brett Mitchell, Quarterback; Zach Uhing, Punter; Jacob Moffett, Receiver and Todd Givans, Defensive Tackle. Coach Rex Sawyer resigned after one year.
The 1998 Ava Football Bears returned under Head Coach Joe Spurlin and became District Champions with a 7-5 record and 4-3 SCA record. The Bears won the District Championship by defeating Mountain Grove 7-6 and defeating Cassville in the State Sectional before falling to Harrisonville in the State Quarterfinals.
Those selected for First Team All Conference were: Todd Givans, Defensive Tackle; Ty DeGase, Linebacker and Jacob Moffettt, Wide Receiver.
Todd Givans was selected First Team Class 3 All-State as Defensive Tackle and the SCA Lineman of the Year. Brett Mitchell was named to the 2nd Team Class 3 All-State Team as a Defensive Back.
In 1999 Joe Spurlin again led the Ave Bears to a District Championship. They won the District title and were defeated by Aurora in the State Sectional game. They ended the season with a 6-5 record and 4-3 record in the SCA. Those receiving 1st Team All-SCA honors were: Ty DeGase, Linebacker and Luke Semro, End.
In 2000 Joe Spurlin led the Ava Bears to a 4-6 season and a 3-4 record in the SCA. He resigned at the end of the season.
Mike Thompson began as Head Coach in 2001. The Bears were 3-7 for the season and 3-4 in the SCA. Mike Thompson left after one season.
In 2002 The Ava Bears improved their record to 5-5 and 4-2 in the SCA under direction of Head Coach, Greg Purdum. Those selected to the 1st Team All-SCA were: Colton Sallee, Offensive Tackle; Caleb Berger, End; Mark Barnum, Linebacker and Tyler Klineline, Defensive Back.
Greg Purdum returned for a second season as Head Coach in 2003. The Ava Bears held a 5-5 regular season record and with a SCA record of 3-3. 1st Team All-SCA selections were: Heath Gray, End; Robert Jones, Defensive Back; Chase Dry, Runningback; Travis Ewing, Linebacker and Cody Harley, Punter. Heath Gray was selected to the 2nd Team Class 3 All-State Team.
Greg Purdum coached his final Ava Bear football season in 2004. He led the Bears to a 4-6 season and 2-4 SCA record. Chance Dry, Runningback; Stephen Johnson, End and Lance King, Defensive Back all were 1st Team All-SCA selections. Chance Dry was also named to the 2nd Team Class 3 All-State Team.
After Purdum’s resignation, David Williams stepped in as Head Coach and led the 2005 Ava Bears to an impressive 7-3 regular season record and were 3-3 in the SCA. Those selected to 1st Team All-Conference were: Chance Dry, Runningback and Eli McDowell, Offensive Back. Senior, Chance Dry was also named to the 2nd Team Class 3 All-State Team. He set several Ava rushing records and holds the career rushing record.
In 2006 David Williams and the Ava Bears were able to become District Champions once again. They had a 8-3 season and 5-1 record in the SCA. Ava was defeated by Mt. Vernon in the State Sectional game. The Bears scored 367 points that year, which is the most points scored in the school’s history. Quarterback Jonathan Batcheller set a school record by throwing for 1,971 yards completing 151 of 239 attempts. Senior, Chase Delp also set a school record by receiving 60 passes for 922 yards. 1st Team All-SCA selections were: Chance Davis, Runningback; Chase Delp, Wide Receiver and Jonathan Batcheller, Quarterback. Chance Davis and Chase Delp were both selected 2nd Team Class 3 All-State.
The Ava Bears had a back-to-back District Championship win as they won Districts in 2007 as well as 2006. David Williams led this mighty team to a 7-4 season and 5-1 SCA record. Batcheller set several school passing records including the most career passing yards completing 341 of 573 attempts for 4,656 yards.
During 2008, David Williams last season with the Ava Bears, they went 4-6 for the season and 2-4 in the SCA. Josh Wendler was selected 1st Team All-SCA Runningback.
Under the direction of first year Head Coach, Dan Swofford, in 2009, the Bears were 7-3 and 5-1 in the SCA and were SCA Champions. They had impressive wins over strong Salem and Liberty teams. The only SCA loss was to arch rival, Mtn. Grove, who with Liberty were Tri-Champions. Those receiving 1st Team All-SCA honors were: Josh Wendler, Defensive Back; Garrett Baird, Defensive Back; Pete Leonard, Defensive Line and Matt Jenkins, Offensive Line. Matt Jenkins was named to the 2nd Team Class 3 All-State Defensive Line. Josh Wendler was chosen as the SCA Back of the Year and was selected to the 3rd Team Class 3 All-State Team as a Defensive Back. Dan Swofford was nominated as the SCA Coach of the Year.
In 2010, the Bears under second year Head Coach, Dan Swofford, continued to demonstrate a strong running game and an aggressive defensive unit ending the season with a 6-5 record and 4-3 record in the SCA. Senior, Brock Mitchell made 24 of 32 extra point attempts and finished his career with a school record of 42 successful kicks in 56 attempts. Garrett Baird, Defensive Back; Charles Burton, Linebacker; Pete Leonard, Defensive End and Dillon Adams, Offensive Tackle all drew honors of All-Conference selections.
The 2011 Ava Bears football boys are undefeated so far. We hope they continue their success.
History, no matter in what form is worth remembering! I am certain that the Ava community will continue to show their support, keeping Ava Bear Pride a tradition.
As a proud Ava Middle School Bear Mom, I can’t wait! I will someday watch my son play High School Football. I hope he has just as much success as those he looks up to now!
I also hope that all past, present and future football stars will hold dear their time at Ava High. It should be time cherished! Please return to your alma mater and display your support and pride.
And to the coaches, never think for a moment that you don’t impact lives – you do! I see the enthusiasm on my child’s face as he already speaks of his coaches. You make a difference and that is what should make your job worthwhile!
And to the Ava Bear Fans – Keep the Blue and Gold Alive!