Still giving back to the game

Coach Jeff Watts supervises a drill by the Scott County Middle School football team prior to a game last summer. Georgetown College recently honored Watts for his playing career with induction into the school’s athletic hall of fame.

Jeff Watts is best known in recent years as a major behind-the-scenes contributor to the success of the Scott County High School football program.

Watts’ two sons, Cooper and Berk, were multi-year defensive starters for the Cardinals, leading them to the 2016 semi-state and 2018 state championship games, respectively.

Countless other players have followed Watts’ lead through the feeder system in his role as head coach for Scott County Middle School.

His alma mater, Georgetown College, recently reminded everyone that Watts was a gridiron force with which to be reckoned in his own right. GC inducted Watts into its athletics hall of fame as part of its 22nd annual banquet at the school’s conference center.

Watts was recognized as defensive player of the game when Georgetown defeated Pacific Lutheran, 28-20, to win the NAIA Division II national championship on Dec. 14, 1991.

It was the final game of his career before he graduated in the spring with a political science degree and minors in history and physical education.

The Tigers had one of the most successful chapters in their history during Watts’ career, racking up a record of 37 wins, seven losses and one tie. They won three of the four Mid-South Conference championships in those years.

Watts remains on Georgetown’s career top-10 list in numerous defensive categories, including sacks, tackles, sacks for loss and tackles for loss.

Four other modern-era players, one distinguished alumnus and one team of distinction were selected this year for permanent induction, along with a host of special award winners.

Entering the hall along with Watts were Jalana Daeger Belding (volleyball and softball), Kim Graham (football), Tom Stewart (men’s basketball) and Kristin Bamberger Wilson (women’s soccer).

Jim Boyd, a former Tigers football player, Korean War veteran and later a founding father of the hall of fame as an original board member, was inducted posthumously.

Georgetown’s first-ever volleyball team to qualify for the NAIA national tournament (1988) was ushered into the hall for its pioneering accomplishments on the court.

Others celebrated as part of the festivities: Patrick Oakley (Jim Reid Memorial Scholarship); Jessica Mattingly (Reed-Allen Character in Sports Endowed Scholarship); Eddie Lam (Reed-Allen Character in Sports Endowed Scholarship); Dave Jacobs (Rick Crawford Philanthropy Award); Barrett Meyer (Donna Hawkins Coaching for Significance Award); Thomas Thornton (Brad Davis Game Administration Award); and Bobby Downs (Milton “Shorty” Price Award).

Daeger Belding was both a double major (psychology and sociology) and double varsity athlete (volleyball and softball) at Georgetown. With her on the court, the Tigers achieved a 158-47 record and a pair of national tournament appearances.

Graham, a 1976 graduate who also later received his Master’s in education from GC, left school as one of the top receivers in its history. His catches propelled the Tigers to a 23-14-1, highlighted by a combined 13-6-1 mark his junior and senior seasons.

Stewart bridged a gap in Georgetown men’s basketball history by taking the court under both of the legends, Bob Davis and Jim Reid, for whom Alumni Gym is named. A notoriuously tough rebounder, Stewart led the Tigers to an average of 21 wins over his four seasons. His 30 boards in a single game remain the second-most in school history, almost a half-century later, and he had three other performances of 22 or more.

Bamberger Wilson led an upstart women’s soccer program to 14 and 15 wins in her two best seasons. She also was the first player from the program named All-American, earning that recognition twice.

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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