We at the Chronicle Times appreciate all the kind words regarding our "EXTRA!" edition we handed out near the end of the Cherokee girls' Regional Final basketball victory over one very tough Sioux Center team in Le Mars Saturday night.
Now considered a stroke of genius because Cherokee won the game to make state, we had to print the "Extra!" celebrating a Cherokee win before the game was played. Since then, I've been asked many times, "How did you know?"
Obviously, I didn't.
But what I did know was that this 2004-2005 Cherokee team, at the time 24-0, Lakes Conference champs, district champs, victors over highly regarded teams in and out of conference, and loaded with some superb athletes and experienced varsity players, had a pretty darn good chance!
Couple that with a steely resolve the team has played with all season (We refuse to lose!) after what they considered a disappointing last season (17-7), and that makes this 25-0 state-bound band of Cherokee sweetie-pies one very special squad.
The idea began to form in this crusty old noggin' after I received a phone call Thursday from Tony Dilla, whose daughter Kylie is a vital cog on the team. Tony works in graphic arts in Des Moines and asked me if he could e-mail a "poster" he worked up on the team. Of course I agreed and when I saw the eye-catching, comprehensive graphic, I e-mailed Tony and told him I would use it some place, some how.
My first thought was to run it on Monday's front page if Cherokee won the game. I offered to pay Tony for his work and he quickly refused.
With the girls' varsity team photo back-dropped with the Des Moines skyline and an inflamed "Back to State" arrow highlighting Veterans Auditorium, the graphic was captivating. It also read "05 Braves Hoops - 25-0," anticipating we would beat Sioux Center.
As I pondered the graphic, knowing Ben Carstens and I would have plenty of photos for Monday's edition come Saturday night, the idea hit me - How about an "Extra!" edition that assumes we won the game? We could use Tony's graphic with that fine Pierson Photography photo, print 'em up Friday, hide 'em, and hand them out free at the point Cherokee clinches the game. The additional cost was not in our budget, I realized, but, hey, God hates a coward.
Ben, Troy and I also had a Plan B - if Cherokee loses, we burn those "Dewey Beats Truman" babies real quick, the downside being nobody ever gets to see Tony's fine graphic.
And, one other thing, not a word of this could get to Sioux Center before the game. Do you realize what bulletin board material that would make in the Warriors' locker room?
We printed them up and concealed them in Troy's van. Troy recruited daughter Alanna and some of her friends to be signaled when the time was right at Saturday's game to help us hand out the more than 1,000 "Extra!" copies to the Cherokee faithful.
When a time-out was called and Cherokee up 10 points with about 45 seconds left to go, we hit the ground running.
The reaction was priceless as the newspaper reached hundreds of fans, the crescendo grew and word spread. When the Cherokee student body and many other fans held the newspaper up and the team and coaches saw it all as they broke the huddle, the goose bumps and tears of joy welled in many eyes, including these squinty blue-greens.
"When we broke the huddle and saw everybody standing and cheering and holding up those newspapers, we all got the chills," said Cherokee assistant coach Kylee Boettcher, a former prep all-stater in basketball and softball who has seen and played in her share of big games and state tournament games. "You couldn't describe the scene from our side of the gym."
The back of the "Extra!" contains game stories of Cherokee's other tournament games this season to get to this point. There also is a reference at the bottom of how to subscribe to the Chronicle Times. I hope you read everything word for word, especially you non-subscribers.
After finalizing the "Extra!" idea, I asked Troy about "selling it." That is, soliciting a few advertisers to help pay the freight, as is normally done in such ventures.
We decided in a pretty big hurry that this was Tony's graphic, Pierson Photography's photo, our idea, our product, and should remain our product strictly to show our support and love for our school, our community, and the incredible kids we raise around here.