Everyone who has ambition has an ultimate goal in life. To reach that goal, one has to take each step up the ladder, one at a time.

Coaches, corporate managers, and sports writers all have one thing in common: To advance in their respective professions, they have to learn the ropes at one level and move on to bigger things.

To that end, I must announce that I have accepted an editorial position at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and am leaving the Herald Democrat.

Much like the fireballing Kyle Crick, I am departing the low minors and making a move to Triple-A, a move I probably would've made a decade ago had I not gotten comfortable here. It's a massive opportunity that I just couldn't pass on. The Democrat-Gazette is a destination paper that very rarely has openings. They cart people out of there in hearses.

It's making me sad to go, because I've made a lot of friends and put down some roots here, and I'll have lots of memories of the triumphant moments of the last 17 years, almost 12 of which was spent as sports editor — the longest in the history of the Sherman Democrat, the Denison Herald or the two papers combined, I discovered.

In the meantime, our sports coverage at the Herald Democrat will transition seamlessly. Jason Della Rosa has been as big a reason as any why I've stuck around as long as I have, because he's made my job a lot easier.

Jason has assumed a ton of duties over the years and has spearheaded the All-Texomaland process, both in selection of teams and organization of our annual June banquet. That will continue as this event grows in the future. The sports department will be in excellent hands.

I've made it a regular practice to put stories “in the can” well in advance, just in case. But for a column like this, I never have done so, simply because I never figured I'd get to leave on my own account.

When I started here in September 2000, it was a different world. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no GameChanger and no wi-fi. There were no iPhones. You had to find a fax line to send stories from the road and often had to use a company long-distance card.

I was a very early BlackBerry adopter and thought my stuff didn't stink in the late winter of 2005 when I thumbed in a basketball playoff story for the first time from a Jack in the Box in Decatur.

These are some of the things that I will think back upon with a smile: The 17 total state championships, 19 total state runner-up finishes and innumerable gold medals won by local schools; getting to see 43 of Celina's state-record 68-straight victories and four of its eight total state titles; Van Alstyne's girls' string of 55-straight home wins in basketball (with Van Halen watching); the way Texomaland came together after 9/11 and how high school football helped the healing begin; G.A. Moore breaking Gordon Wood's record for wins and his record broken in turn by Phil Danaher; two deep Sherman football playoff runs in 2004 and 2011; Pilot Point football's descent into scandal and its rise from the ashes to a state title four years later; meeting some solid Cali dudes in Gainesville in 2005 and following Van Alstyne baseball across half of East Texas in one rainy Saturday that same year; four different Sherman head football coaching searches, some of which were better organized than others; Grayson College's 2011 JUCO World Series championship; researching Texoma's rich football history going back to the 1920s; the Dallas Mavericks' 2011 NBA championship which I celebrated, of all places, on a farm in Tennessee; the two American League pennants won by the Texas Rangers in 2010 and 2011; the aforementioned Crick's blossoming from Bearcat bullpen benchwarmer to supplemental-round pick; breaking the news of future NFLer Jordan Roos' college commitment to Purdue; interviewing Sean Lee onstage at the All-Texomaland Banquet; “The Catch” by Weston Hickman sending Whitesboro to state in baseball; and finally, the mother of all school years in 2016-17, in which Texoma sent teams to state in every sport but boys' basketball, took home nine gold medals from the state track and field meet, and claimed three titles — Gunter in football, Tioga in volleyball and Bells in softball.

And yes, Dez caught it.

There were some tough losses along the way, and the tragic passing of some that we knew and loved. But the rest of it was all good.

I want to thank all the coaches in Texomaland who have been helpful in giving us the information to publish. These men and women are as professional as it gets, and a big reason why this area is such a hotbed for college recruiting. That goes for not only Sherman High School, which has been my primary beat the last eight years, but also for all the 31 other high schools and three colleges that our paper covers.

I want to thank former Herald Democrat sports editor Todd Hutchinson for handing me the opportunity to work at the paper in the first place, and getting me out of trouble more than once.

Also, I want to thank former publisher John P. Wright III, former editor Don Eldredge and current executive editor Jonathan Cannon for being good bosses who let us do our work with minimal interference. I want to thank all our former full-time sports writers like Brett Vito, Kent Smith, Hap Fry, David Healy, J. David Barron, Tyler Clifton, Adam Boedeker and Adrian O'Hanlon III, all of whom have gone on to other, often bigger things; and also our massive crew of correspondents who've extended our reach and been a huge force multiplier in our coverage.

Finally, I want to thank all of you, the sports fans of Texomaland, the best high school sports region in the state, who have all supported your teams to the fullest extent. Where else but here can they draw 12,000 fans to a 5A high school regular-season football game? Hopefully, my presence has made it more enjoyable.

If there is any one positive thing about leaving, it is that I'm leaving on my terms, and on good terms. Very few people in the newspaper business are afforded that luxury nowadays.

In closing, it's been my experience over the years that people who have left the Herald Democrat have in large part tended to come back. So instead of saying goodbye, I'll just say see you later and leave it at that.