E.A. Sports Today

City recognizes Cardinals

Mayor, city council honors Sacred Heart for Class 1A state title

Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart holds the road sign and a copy of the city resolution recognizing Sacred Heart's Class 1A boys basketball state championship.

Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart holds the road sign and a copy of the city resolution recognizing Sacred Heart’s Class 1A boys basketball state championship.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Ralph Graves still gets a charge whenever he drives into Anniston and sees the signs along the road that commemorate the two Anniston High School state championship teams he was part of as a player and an assistant coach.

He is confident his current Sacred Heart players will get that same feeling of pride whenever they see the sign of their own.

The Anniston City Council recognized the Cardinals in chambers Monday with a resolution and series of road signs commemorating their Class 1A state basketball championship.

City manager Brian Johnson said at least six signs are being prepared for display on the major roads that lead into the city.

“I don’t think the kids know the magnitude of it yet,” Graves said. “You don’t know that until it’s over — all over — when you can’t go back to it any more.

“Every time I come in to Anniston I read the sign that says ‘2002, 2009,’ and putting that (2015) one up I can now say I was on all three of them. That’ll be a huge thing just to see that.

“I remember when I was a teenager and we used to come into Anniston, right when I got out of high school, they had a sign up and I’d say, ‘Look, I was on that team.’ I’m not like that now as a coach, but the kids will be.

“One thing people don’t understand about championships is that’s forever. That doesn’t go anywhere. That’s in the book.”

The Cardinals went 26-8 this past season and defeated Sunshine in the state championship game at the BJCC; Kavarri Ross was the tournament MVP. Along the way, they became the smallest school in history to win the Calhoun County Tournament.

Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart and each of the four City Council members praised the Cardinals for their tenacity and teamwork.

“This is big,” Stewart said.

Ward 1 councilman Jay Jenkins said he saw the Cardinals play several times and called them “a joy to watch.”

Ward 2 councilman David Reddick and Ward 3 councilman Seyram Selase encouraged the players to maintain their team attitude and tenacity and carry it with them as they go forward with their lives.

The mayor later invited Graves and Sacred Heart seniors Bradley Mayfield and Keith Orlowski to address the council. Orlowski told the council he planned to attend Tennessee or Denver and take up business, while Mayfield said he planned to attend the Alabama Fire College to become a firefighter, and that got Anniston Fire Dept. assistant chief Chris Collins excited.

“It’s good to see people recognize what we’re doing at Sacred Heart and what we’re trying to build,” Cardinals sophomore D.J. Heath said. “I just thank God because where we come from a lot of people won’t recognize us because of our backgrounds or where we come from.

“It’s just a blessing to be looked at by people in the hierarchy in our city and have more power at the top in their field. It’s a humbling experience.”

The visit to the city council chambers isn’t the end of the Cardinals’ victory tour. Sometime soon they are expected to meet with state officials in Montgomery.

“I figured it would be like this, but I didn’t think it would be this big,” still-growing freshman post Diante Wood said. “I like the feeling. I’m pretty sure the rest of the team liked the feeling, too.”

And that recognition has gone beyond state lines. Since winning the state title, the Cardinals have been invited to play in the Kruel Classic in Miami during the Christmas holidays and the Hoopsgiving Classic showcase in Atlanta during Thanksgiving.

Graves said the Miami trip is “more on the yes side right now,” dependent on funding. The Atlanta event is expected to draw 24 teams, 20 of whom are state champions.

“The experience will be pretty good,” Graves said. “You’re looking at probably a few thousand dollars. To me, that’s not that expensive … to take your team to a national-level tournament — and that’s one thing you have to do if you have national players.

“I don’t see any difference of when they were in the sixth and seventh grade and we drove 12 hours to Indianapolis to a national camp. Why do it as sixth, seventh graders and not when they’re in high school? I think it’ll be pretty good.”

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