Category Archives: high schools

TSSAA Board of Control reinstates scrimmages, jamborees for upcoming gridiron preseason

By Maurice Patton

News that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Board of Control voted during its two-day meeting that concluded Wednesday to allow “normal” preseason activities for the 2021-22 school year was of no surprise to local football coaches.

“We took some proactive steps and went ahead and scheduled our scrimmages, 7-on-7 dates, anticipating this decision,” Columbia Academy coach Charlie Lansdell said. “We didn’t want to be stuck. We knew as soon as they made that ruling, everybody would be calling and filling up their schedules pretty quick. We actually started that back in the spring, making plans for this coming summer.

“We didn’t want to be caught with the opportunity to do it and not have the opportunity to do it.”

Among the guidelines established last summer because of the pandemic were that athletic programs were unable to participate in any activities involving another team prior to regular-season competition. Wednesday’s vote clears the way for a return to passing tournaments, scrimmages and jamborees prior to the Aug. 20 start of the 2021 gridiron campaign.

“I’m just glad we have an opportunity to do a better job of preparing for the season,” Columbia Central coach Jason Hoath said. “Last year, going in and not seeing another team until Game 1 – that’s difficult.

“Seeing them in live competition against other schools really helps you determine a lot before Game 1.”

And there’s much to determine for most area football programs. Both Columbia Central and Spring Hill will debut new starting quarterbacks, while Kit Hartsfield at Mt. Pleasant is one of three new coaches locally.

“This gives us a chance to compete before the season actually starts, with 7-on-7 and scrimmages,” Hartsfield said. “We were concerned with that, basically starting from scratch and not being able to put the kids through a competitive environment.”

Spring Hill will host a 7-on-7 event on June 24, with a number of area teams participating. Columbia Central will hold a gathering two days prior, with various squads also set to compete at Shelbyville and at Giles County prior to the two-week dead period that begins June 28.

“Last year was the best reason why it’s a good thing,” Raiders coach Ben Martin said regarding the return of preseason work. “Our first scrimmage, seeing a team with a different jersey, was Game 1 when it counts. You’re trying to get two scrimmages and four or five 7-on-7s in one game, that’s going to count on our record.

“It seems like everything gets turned up a notch when you’ve got a different opponent going against you – not the same guys you see every day. You can practice, but you can’t simulate that going against another team, the speed, the timing with the receivers.”

The Board of Control also voted to remove restrictive probation for the Franklin County and Shelbyville football programs, making them eligible for postseason play. Both were sanctioned last fall following an unsportsmanlike incident during their Week 10 contest and were ineligible for the 2021 state playoffs as a result.

Minutes from the meeting also acknowledged Zion Christian Academy’s departure from the TSSAA. Zion Christian intends to participate in the Tennessee State Independent Athletic Association for at least the next two years.

In other board action:

● A request from members of Region 6-AAAA to hold their basketball tournament at a central site was approved, as the Region 6-AAA tourney has previously been conducted. The new region will consist of Brentwood, Centennial, Franklin, Hillsboro and Overton from District 11-AAAA and Columbia Central, Independence, Nolensville, Ravenwood and Summit of District 12-AAAA.

● A proposed two-year extension to contracts with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce for the Division I girls and boys basketball tournaments and Spring Fling was approved. Those events will remain at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center and at locations in and around Murfreesboro, respectively, through the 2022-23 school year.

A number of adjustments to the bowling competition and postseason formats were approved, including the addition of sectional tournaments as qualifiers for individual state tourneys.

Athletic concerns await new Columbia Central head man

By Maurice Patton

Officially set to assume duties as principal at Columbia Central on July 1, Kevin Eady has plenty to address in the three-plus weeks prior.

As he transitions to the helm of Maury County’s “flagship school” after three years at Hickman County, high on Eady’s list of priorities are a pair of athletic department openings – the girls basketball coaching position, vacant since Joshua Bugg’s March 5 dismissal after four seasons, and the softball coaching spot, which was filled on an interim basis by Hannah Cole after Shelby Burchell Tietgens’ mid-January resignation ended a three-game tenure.

“I still have duties in Hickman County, but I’m hoping to get time to come in and maybe even begin interviewing,” said Eady, who resides in Columbia and previously held administrative roles at Whitthorne Middle, McDowell Elementary, Riverside Elementary, Mt. Pleasant Middle and E.A. Cox Middle – the last four as principal.

“I’d love to get something done before the ‘dead period’, but I can’t guarantee that.”

The 49-year-old Eady, who played football, basketball and baseball at Moore County, said he’ll lean on Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter as he works through the process to fill both positions.

“I think he has the information to get me so I can start looking at applications and resumes and start doing some reference checks,” Eady said. “I need to reach out and see who’s still interested. With my administration, my contacts across the state, I want to use those and try to bring in the best coach I possibly can, as quickly as I can.

“I know Carden (Virgo, assistant girls basketball coach) is doing a good job with them, getting them some work this summer, but I want to finalize that as soon as possible and get that taken care of.”

MCPS director Michael Hickman anticipates Eady reacting to the urgency of the coaching situations.

“We have to get those filled immediately, even though it may not be, per se, a fall sport,” Hickman said. “ … some of them will do summer practices. Some of them are allowed to do their tryouts and so forth in the summer. We need to get those people in position quickly.

“I want them quickly, but I do want to make sure we get the right person for those student-athletes.”

Eady’s athletic background was a factor, Hickman said, in his appointment as the successor to Roger White — a Central graduate who spent nine years in the role before he was suspended in late March and later reassigned to McDowell, which closed at the end of the school year.

“We made a list of what we were specifically looking for: We needed a culture builder, someone that knew about sports, someone that had high school experience, someone that was a strong instructional leader,” Hickman said. “It sounds almost cliché-ish, all these boxes I’m talking about checking off.

“At the end of the process, it was pretty unanimous that Kevin Eady was our guy. He’s really known as a culture builder, and that’s exactly what Central needs right now – someone to go in and help build the culture. It was a shocking ending for them at the end of the year, losing a principal. They needed someone that wasn’t going to be so much an iron fist, going in there (like) ‘my way or the highway’, (but) someone that was going to go in and build those relationships, keep the school moving forward in academics, athletics and all the other club areas.”

While the athletic issues provide immediate high-profile challenges, Eady is excited to take them on along with everything else that comes with his new role.

“What’s good, you want to make better. What’s struggling, you want to start making plans to address those areas and look for improvement,” he said. “There are a lot of students I know, a lot of teachers I know, but there’s going to be a lot I do not know. I want to build some relationships and let them know who I am, and I’m here for all of them.

“With a school like Columbia Central, you’re going to get a lot of qualified applicants, not just from Maury County, but probably statewide. Columbia Central is the flagship school of Maury County; tremendous honor and a lot of prestige comes with it. I’m honored.”

Columbia Central’s Woodson to jump at Lee

By Maurice Patton

Columbia Central graduate Roman Woodson signed scholarship papers Thursday with Lee University, as he will continue his track and field career with the NCAA Division II program in Cleveland, Tenn.

It’s a second chance, of sorts, for Woodson after missing out on this year’s Spring Fling. Woodson sustained a pulled right hamstring prior to the Region 4-Large Class track meet, preventing him from qualifying for a third state appearance in the long jump.

“It wasn’t that bad. I’d already been there,” said Woodson, who qualified both as a freshman – in his first year of track and field competition – and as a sophomore, before missing his junior year because of the pandemic.

“But I know I should have went.”

Joined by his parents, Richard (Doc) and Anita Woodson, Columbia Central graduate Roman Woodson signed a track and field scholarship with Lee University during a Thursday signing ceremony. (Photo by Maurice Patton / SM-Tn Sports)

Woodson, who won the prestigious Great 8 this spring with a jump of 23 feet, 8¾ inches, was eyeing 24 feet or more at Spring Fling. Prior to the Great 8, his best jump had been 22-9½.

“I’m aiming for 25,” he said, regarding his collegiate goal.

“He’d have gone 24 at state,” Central coach Thalas Steele said. “It will be fun to see him in college. He’ll be a 24-, 25-foot guy. He still has a lot of upside.”

With other offers from Shorter and Talladega, Woodson said the Cleveland campus was a more comfortable environment for him.

“It just felt like Lee fit best for me and my family,” he said.

“I think the academic aspect – their kids are academically oriented,” Steele said. “They’ve got a great track facility, just built last year. It’s basically brand new. He’s stepping in, really, at the right time.”

A dual-sport athlete at Central – he played defensive back and returner for the Lion football team – Woodson will benefit from focusing on a single sport collegiately, according to his coach.

“He won’t have football, he won’t have spring practice,” Steele said. “He’ll be able to dedicate himself completely to the sport. It’ll have his undivided attention.”

TSSAA recognizes prep multi-sport athletes

SM-Tn Sports

More than 3,400 Tennessee high school athletes participated in three or more TSSAA-sanctioned sports during the 2020-21 school year, with nearly 100 of those hailing from the Southern Middle Tennessee Sports coverage area.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association recently recognized those athletes, providing schools with printable certificates for presentation to each of them.

“So many things have been put into a different perspective over the past year and a half due to the pandemic,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “School administrators and coaches continue to recognize that every opportunity a student-athlete has to compete in education-based athletics is invaluable.

“We continue to encourage coaches and administrators to allow student-athletes every opportunity to participate in the sports they desire to, whether that’s just one, or two, or three, or more.”

While the total number of TSSAA athletes from the just-completed school year was more than 75,000 – down from the reported 83,000-plus from the 2019-20 school year – those participating in three or more sports totaled 3,437 this year, an increase of 401 from last year’s 3,036.

“Our athletic programs do not exist to serve college sports programs,” Childress said, “but it is worth reminding coaches and parents that college recruiters are looking for students that display a great attitude, work ethic and leadership qualities.

“Those are traits that you develop through participating in a variety of activities.”

Of the 14 athletic programs in the SM-Tn Sports coverage area, 13 had at least one three-sport athlete. Columbia Academy, with 14, led the way.

Eight athletes, including Zion Christian’s Madison Hayes, Becca Hazard and Dillan Runions, participated in four sports; so did Mt. Pleasant’s Baleigh Gray, Santa Fe’s Elise Adkison and Josh Martin, Summertown’s Hailey Jones and Summit’s Veronika Whitten.

The full list of area three-sport (or more) athletes, based on eligibility reports submitted by each school for each sport, follows:

Columbia Acad.: Anna Claire Butt — Cross Country, Soccer, Tennis; Drew Butt — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; Hallie Butterfield – Basketball, Tennis, Volleyball; Kennedy Chatman — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Tori Duval — Bowling, Softball, Volleyball; Andrew Fleming — Bowling, Soccer, Track and Field; Jaelyn Hickerson — Basketball, Cross Country, Track and Field; Collins Malone — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Gavin Morgan — Basketball, Cross Country, Track and Field; Hayden Morgan — Basketball, Cross Country, Soccer; Ian Pulse — Bowling, Football, Soccer; Ian Pulse — Bowling, Football, Soccer; Parker Shirley — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Averi Slaughter — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Nathan Thomas — Football, Tennis, Track and Field

Columbia Central: Justin Buchmann — Basketball, Football, Track and Field

Culleoka: Maci McKennon — Basketball, Cross Country, Volleyball

Hampshire: Craig Delk — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; Errette Delk — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; Kadence Stoner — Basketball, Cross Country, Volleyball

Independence: Chaise Bethmann — Basketball, Soccer, Tennis

Lawrence Co.: Sam Bradley — Baseball, Football, Wrestling; Carley Fields — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; T.J. Gobble — Baseball, Basketball, Tennis; Andrew Honn — Cross Country, Soccer, Track and Field; M’kala Kerr — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Luke Mattox — Baseball, Basketball, Golf; Emily Moore — Bowling, Golf, Tennis; Luke Nichols — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Madison Tidwell — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball

Loretto: Emily Cozart — Basketball, Soccer, Softball; Carter Daniel — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Shelby Fisher — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Savannah Qualman — Cross Country, Soccer, Tennis; Clint Seymore — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Carlee Urban — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball

Mt. Pleasant: Chris Andrews — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Gracie Boyd — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Demarkus Brown — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Keevan Cooper — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Baleigh Gray — Basketball, Cross Country, Softball, Volleyball; Ben Hirsch — Baseball, Cross Country, Track and Field; Hayden Holt — Baseball, Basketball, Golf; Landen Manning — Cross Country, Tennis, Track and Field

Santa Fe: Elise Adkison — Basketball, Cross Country, Softball, Volleyball; Chloe Anderson — Basketball, Cross Country, Softball; Josh Martin — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Golf; Lexi McEwen — Basketball, Bowling, Softball; Terralyn Pemberton — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Bowman Ruch — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; Aniston Slaughter — Basketball, Cross Country, Volleyball; Shane West — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; Logan Wilkins — Baseball, Basketball, Golf

Spring Hill: Kevin Caraballo — Cross Country, Track and Field, Wrestling; Kat Carter — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Kemonta Fry — Football, Track and Field, Wrestling; Nicolette Harper — Bowling, Softball; Dakota Jackson — Cross Country, Soccer, Wrestling; Wesley Jones — Basketball, Cross Country, Track and Field; Tyson Peters — Cross Country, Football, Soccer; Elijah Smith — Football, Golf, Soccer

Summertown: Isaac Barker — Basketball, Cross Country, Tennis; Kaley Campbell — Basketball, Golf, Softball; Mia Dinwiddie — Basketball, Cross Country, Volleyball; Harrison Gobble — Baseball, Basketball, Golf; Hailey Jones — Basketball, Cross Country, Softball, Volleyball; Weston Pigg — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country; McKenzie Runnels — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Skyler Trousdale — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country

Summit: Ben Bawcum — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Elijah Castro-Harris — Cross Country, Football, Soccer; Ryan Crane — Cross Country, Football, Soccer; Garet Dean — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Jadon Hickman — Basketball, Football, Track and Field; Tre Hunter — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Claudette Runk — Basketball, Golf, Softball; Graham Schneider — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Sam Sloan — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Veronika Whitten — Basketball, Cross Country, Soccer, Track and Field

Zion Chr.: Halle Adcox — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball; Max Brown — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Becca Hazard — Basketball, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball; Madison Hayes — Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball; Jackson Hughes — Baseball, Basketball, Golf; Jaron Keyser — Baseball, Basketball, Football; Zachary Knowles — Basketball, Football, Soccer; Connor Matheny — Basketball, Football, Soccer; Emily Mesko — Basketball, Soccer, Softball; Wesley Riggins — Basketball, Football, Soccer; Dillan Runions — Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football; Peyton White — Basketball, Softball, Volleyball

Konig, Kelly carry torch for tennis Eagles

By Chris Yow

MURFREESBORO — Alexis Perry and Haley Caperton never got the chance to defend their 2019 Small Class State Girls’ Tennis doubles state championship due to COVID-19, so Ella Konig and Gracie Kelly defended it for them with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Madison Magnet’s Mitzi Castro and Sarah Wilson on Friday.

“We are very close to those girls who won two years ago, and I feel like we needed to win because they didn’t get to play last year,” Kelly said.

Continuing to carry the torch of successful girls athletics at Summertown is something players and coaches strive to do, no matter the sport. The tennis torch was first lifted 23 years ago when coach Andrea Kelly — then Andrea Mabry — and Michelle McCormack won the school’s first doubles title in 1998. 

“We are fortunate in Summertown. We have athletes who want to work,” said the coach, who has also led the Lady Eagles’ volleyball team to consecutive state titles. “They may not be the best skill-wise, but they have so much heart and ‘want-to’ that in a close game it puts them over the top. 

“It’s Summertown; it’s win or die here.”

(L-R) Michelle McCormack, Steve Keeton, Andrea Kelly: Class A-AA Doubles Champions

Both coach and player Kelly noticeably share a surname, and that’s because Andrea is Gracie’s mother. As a young child, Gracie has had a photo of Andrea, Michelle and coach Steve Keeton in her room serving as motivation.

“This is very surreal. She told me she wanted to do this. She and her partner Ella have put in the work, and it paid off (Friday),” Andrea said.

“I’ve always wanted to win an individual championship and follow in her footsteps,” Gracie said.

The doubles team cruised early in the match, winning the first set 6-0, but dropped the first two games of the next set. Similarly, in the semifinals on Thursday they won five in a row before losing four straight in the first set. Andrea Kelly calmed her team down with a quick speech, and it was all Summertown from there.

“They just get a little bit relaxed. Like any sport, there is a lot of mental in tennis and a lot of momentum change,” she said. “I gave them a few pointers when they came over and told them they are in the driver’s seat and they have to drive, not let the other team control the game.”

Konig said the two losses may have helped her and Gracie find their groove in the set to take home their first doubles title.

“I think that may have made us more focused,” she said. “This is our first one together, and we want to come back next year. I think it’s important for us to keep going.”

Spring Fling roundup: Indy’s Halterman wins 1600; Lady Eagle pair to play for tennis title

SM-Tn Sports

Among the local participants in the Large Class track and field state championships Thursday at Rockvale, Independence’s Jayne Halterman turned in the biggest – and most dramatic – performance.

Halterman won the girls 1600 meters, running a four-minute, 56.62-second time to narrowly defeat Zoe Arrington of Tennessee High. Arrington ran a 4:56.93, just three-tenths of a second off Halterman’s winning pace.

Also in the girls running events, Columbia Central’s Lillian Moore posted a 45.73 in the 300-meter hurdles to place fourth, about a second and a half behind Franklin County’s Gracie Morse, who won with a 44.10.

Independence’s Sarah Tang finished second in the girls Large Class shot put and seventh in the discus during Thursday’s track and field champioships at Rockvale. (Carl Edmondson / ActionPix)

In the field events, Independence’s Sarah Tang placed second in the shot put and seventh in the discus. Tang’s 39-feet, three-inch shot put effort was within two feet of the winning throw of 41 feet by Ravenwood’s Reghan Grimes. In the discus, Tang’s 111 feet was outdistanced by Grimes’ winning toss of 135 feet.

At the net: Gracie Kelly and Ella Konig are set for the Small Class girls doubles championship match Friday after a pair of preliminary wins Thursday.

Gracie Kelly and Ella Konig look to become Summertown’s second girls doubles state champions in as many tournaments. The two will play in Friday’s Small Class finals at 11 a.m. at the Adams Tennis Complex in Murfreesboro. (Courtesy photo)

The Summertown tandem opened play with a 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinals victory over Bindi Patel and Grace Williams of Signal Mountain, then downed Annie Wade and Shelby Bondurant 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Kelly and Konig will face Mitzi Castro and Sarah Wilson from Madison Magnet in the 11 a.m. title match.

This marks the second straight Spring Fling that Summertown has been represented in the Small Class girls doubles finals. Alexis Perry and Haley Caperton won the 2019 doubles championship. The juniors were unable to defend their championship in 2020.

In the Small Class boys doubles quarterfinals, Summertown’s Turner Perry and Aniken Johnson fell in straight sets (6-0, 6-1) to Joshua and Joseph Rodriguez of Merrol Hyde.