This list is not comprehensive but rather a peek at some impressive moments that stayed with me throughout the course of the school year.
Daniel Boone surprise
It was a dandy Friday in September for the Trailblazers.
Charlie Cole carried the football 26 times for 321 yards and scored three touchdowns, and Boone needed all of those stats for a surprising 35-28 win over Science Hill. Peyton Nickles had a pair of key blocks during two long touchdown runs by Cole while quarterback Easton Harrell went 99 yards for a touchdown he will likely be telling his grandkids about one day.
Elizabethton played eventual state champion Greeneville as tough as anybody, and Carter Everett’s 72-yard bomb to Parker Hughes that tied the game in the first quarter was a shock to the Greene Devils’ defense. And it brought a new level of excitement to a packed Greeneville stadium in October. Still, the Greene Devils won 35-20 and found no other serious challengers the rest of the season.
Putting the state on notice
Cade Larkins burst into the statewide spotlight with a tremendous junior season. And the David Crockett quarterback’s honor as a TSSAA Mr. Football semifinalist was part of a changing perception of Pioneers’ program.
Alasia Smith and Jeila Greenlee were big parts of Science Hill’s success, and one of their best moments came in the Class AAA sectional round against Maryville in March. They combined to score 46 of their team’s 55 points in a three-point win that sent the Lady Hilltoppers to Murfreesboro.
Effort and discipline
Dobyns-Bennett’s players checked their egos at the door and entered Bearden’s gym with a team-first attitude, buying into every minute of coach Chris Poore’s game plan. The Indians led by a point midway through the fourth quarter before taking a tough six-point loss. At the state tournament, Bearden won by scores of 30, 16 and 15 to claim the Class AAA title.
The Tribe laid claim to a measure of state runner-up respect, proving the mountain isn’t as tall when five work as one.
Elizabethton’s baseball season started in November with an injury to its unquestioned leader, Corey Russell. When postseason play began, the new leader, Evan Perkins went down.
A team with state title aspirations seemed questionable to get out of the region. But the Cyclones not only made the state tournament, they were two or three runs away from playing in the bracket championship for the second straight season.
This program — blessed with athletes like Evan Carter and Bryson Rollins and guided by a man of integrity who happens to be a baseball coach in Ryan Presnell — continued to soar despite wounded wings.
At one point of the diamond, Elizabethton entered nearly every game with an advantage. Karson Dillard emerged as one of the best catchers in the state. He gunned down 5 of 7 would-be base-stealers at the state tournament with a strong and accurate arm. The best news for the Cyclones is Dillard has another year remaining in high school.
Lady Patriots’ shining season
Although it ended in the sectional round, a few precious runs short of a state tournament berth, Sullivan East’s year was one to remember.
It’s unlikely these girls will ever forget their first-ever win over Unicoi County, a 13-1 conquering on East’s home field that put the Lady Patriots in the regional tournament.
Katelyn Loudy smacked two homers, including a grand slam, in that game. Kylee Wolfe and Chelsea Sams also went yard, and Sullivan East had a new item on its softball resume.
Three Indians are moving to the next level for basketball, including Marae Foreman signing with Walters State. Also signing were Brody Potter (Milligan) and Jared Strickland (Alice Lloyd).
King was the choice for Grady Cash to continue his baseball career.
Eli Milhorn will move on to Emory & Henry to play baseball and Hannah Daniel will continue her volleyball career at Walters State.
Ethan Muncy made his choice with Emory & Henry, signing to play football. In softball, Elizabeth Ray joined up with Guilford.
Contact Douglas Fritz via email at [email protected]