The Frank Sinatra song “It Was a Very Good Year,” could certainly apply to De Smet High.
The year 2019 was a very good year for the Spartans. De Smet captured state titles in baseball, soccer and football.
The De Smet community – students, faculty, staff, parents, and even alumni – gathered in the school’s gym recently for a state championship celebration. The year 2019 will long be recalled as one for the ages in Spartan Country.
The occasion was title: Three Champions. One Tradition.
Frank Cusumano, sports director for KSDK TV and a 1980 De Smet graduate, served as emcee. He introduced each team, and players and coaches entered the gym to thunderous applause.
“It was amazing,” Cusumano said. “Right after they won the football championship, I wondered why wasn’t they a day for them. The school came up with for all three teams.
“It’s so hard to believe. It’s just unbelievable what these teams did. The drought they went through and to come back and to do it in swashbuckling fashion is so good for the school.
The baseball team won the Class 5 state title with a 6-4 win over Marquette.
“Beyond these championships in athletics, we’ve had a lot of great stories this year at De Smet,” baseball coach David Stewart said. “Athletics have the ability to bring people together for a common goal. It’s a great thing to watch people love each other and play for each other. There’s a quote I like that reads, ‘Bad teams have no leaders. Good teams are led by coaches. Great teams are led by players.’ “
After beating Marquette, the Spartans finished a 14-13-1 record.
“Everyone said we would have a rebuilding year,” a baseball team captain Josh Abel, who was home on break from first year at Boston College. “Thanks for believing in us all the way to the end.”
The De Smet soccer team defeated Lee’s Summit 1-0 on penalty kicks to claim the Class 4 state crown.
“I’ve dreamt of presenting a state championship to the students many times,” coach Josh Klein said. “It’s an honor to be part of a program with so much tradition and success. This was our third final in five years. We had the right team and the perfect combination of talent, heart, and leadership.
“Our guys set small goals and when they got knocked down, they got back up again. Why? Because they love the game and they love you guys (the students). De Smet is alive and well and it needs to stay this way. Don’t let this stop. With great support comes great results. This is a championship for all of us.”
Senior Henry Lawlor, a team co-captain, said the Spartans appreciated all the support they got.
“We have reclaimed the ‘D.’ I want to thank the students for their support all season.”
Lawlor then gave a shout out to the football team, who came straight from a playoff game in Kansas City to the soccer team’s semifinal game.
Cusumano then introduced the football team.
“The three most gratifying sporting events of the year were the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship, the Cardinals’ Central Division championship and De Smet beating CBC on national television,” Cusumano said. “I don’t think I’d ever seen a more dominant football team. I say we can do it again next year.”
Coach Robert Steeples spoke of how the football team has mastered trust – trusting one another on and off the field
“We are D-Block. Any award we accept is on behalf of you (the students),” Steeples said. “For me personally, De Smet is synonymous with support. We must not forget who we are at De Smet.”
In building a champion, Steeples had the football team learn standards and then transition to setting the standards. They adopted the MAAD (Mindset, Accountability, Action, Discipline) Men culture.
After the speeches, a video showing key moments in each team’s season played to the music of “We Will Rock You.”
Then the sparkler/fireworks segment began, “We are the Champions” started playing, and the three new state champion banners slowly rose from behind a curtain to the gym ceiling.
It was a day Cusumano said he won’t soon forget. He even donned his old No. 12 De Smet jersey although he acknowledged it was a new one and not the only he wore as a player.
“I did hide the jersey to the very end before I put it on,” Cusumano said. “It was such a great event. What I liked was the humility of the coaches in their speeches. They all said they would be there without the student body help and support of the entire community.”
And it was loud.
“Oh my gosh. This was as electric of an atmosphere as I’ve seen in a non actual sporting event,” Cusumano said. “It was just crazy. The applause was off the charts for the teams. I’m so happy for these kids. I just think those kids for maybe 11 out of 12 months sweated blood for that one moment to win that state title.
“Then to have the entire school there to acknowledge it was a great reward for them.”
Everyone in attendance received a rally towel commemorating the championships and stating: Three Championships. One Tradition.