Tag Archives: centennial

Indy tabs young multi-sport coach to lead mat program

By Maurice Patton

A.J. Villarreal, who has coached four different sports since arriving at Centennial in February 2020, has been named wrestling coach at Independence.

The 25-year-old Illinois native is set to succeed Bryan Youngsma at the helm of the Eagles’ program, Youngsma having served on an interim basis following Jared Grindstaff’s resignation last summer.

“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” the Wisconsin-La Crosse graduate said. “I didn’t think I’d accelerate through the ranks this quickly, but I’m glad I did. I’m definitely excited about it.”

After playing football and wrestling through his high school career at Lyons Township (Ill.), Villarreal pursued both at the college level. However, injuries prevented him from getting on the mat at UW-La Crosse.

Upon his December 2019 graduation, his job search eventually brought him to Middle Tennessee.

“I was initially hired as a teacher, and worked my way into athletics,” he said. “I just showed up at stuff, and I got brought onto both (football and wrestling) staffs.”

Villarreal assisted with the Cougars’ defensive secondary last fall as well as with the wrestling program, which advanced 152-pounder Alex Ables to the state tournament earlier this year. Additionally, he established a bass fishing club at the school, and works with the sprinters on the Centennial track team.

“Coach Villarreal is going to be a great asset to the Independence community, not just the wrestling team,” Centennial wrestling coach Philip Pelkey said. “Not only does he have a ton of knowledge in wrestling, but also does a great job of forming relationships with his athletes.

“I have no doubt that he is going to do a great job over there and continue to build on the success that Indy has had over the years. We hate to see him go, but wish him all the best.”

Picking up where Youngsma — and Grindstaff before him – left off is the expectation awaiting Villarreal.

“He just loves working with kids,” Independence principal Niki Patton said. “I think he’s an ‘all-in’ guy, based on the people I’ve been talking to, willing to help whenever and wherever he can.”

Stepping in after Grindstaff accepted an administrative position at Mill Creek Middle School, Youngsma led Independence to the Class AAA state dual sectionals and coached three Eagles – Russell Ford, Tanner Willett and Gabriel Hall – to individual region titles.

“When Coach Grindstaff resigned last year, it was in mid-June,” Patton said. “Because of the timing, most of our teaching vacancies were already filled by that point. We approached Coach Youngsma to give us one year so that we could be able to find the right candidate once we had more teaching positions available.

“He’ll still be here teaching and will likely still be involved with the program. We’re very appreciative of him stepping into that for us temporarily.”

Villarreal compared the situation at Independence favorably to the climate in which he grew up.

“I gravitated toward it because of the culture that’s been built – from kids club, through middle school up into high school,” he said. “It reminded me a lot of what I had in Illinois, where the kids club is almost a direct feeder to the high school.

“For me, wrestling and football go hand-in-hand. I’m hoping I can get more athletes doing both sports and better both programs.”

Veteran high school, college coach to take Indy girls helm

By Maurice Patton

After achieving record-setting success during a previous Williamson County stint, Tony Hill is set to return as girls basketball coach at Independence.

Hill will be the fourth different coach at the helm of the Lady Eagles in as many seasons. He succeeds Mary Beth White, who led the program on an interim basis in 2020-21 after Bryan Glasner – who took over for Whitney Baird at the end of the ’18-19 campaign – was unavailable and eventually resigned in February.

“We are very excited to welcome Tony Hill to ‘Indy Nation’,” Independence principal Niki Patton said in a prepared statement. “Coach Hill brings a tremendous amount of basketball experience from both the high school and college levels, and we believe his coaching skillset brings our girls basketball program what it needs to take that next step in becoming a championship caliber team.

“He is passionate about the game of basketball, but more importantly, he is passionate about facilitating success for our girls in both athletics and academics. We are thrilled that Coach Hill will be joining our school community and look forward to the future success of our program.”

Most recently a member of the girls basketball coaching staff at Riverdale, Hill led Centennial to a four-year record of 55-48 from 2013-17, with the Lady Cougars posting their first winning record (18-8) in 2015-16 followed by a 19-win performance a year later. That season saw the program’s first district tournament victory, its first district finals appearance, first region tourney berth, first region finals and first state sectional.

Two months later, Hill resigned to take over the girls program at Portland. He’s since spent a season at Huntland and the last two at Riverdale.

Tony Hill, announced Wednesday as girls basketball coach at Independence, meets with his new team. (Courtesy photo)

“I’ve always had an eye on Independence,” Hill said. “I think that’s a job that’s a diamond in the rough, so to speak. I’ve always felt like you can win there. The pieces are in place – a great administration, a strong feeder program, … a lot of support from the community. I feel that’s a great place to coach girls basketball.

“With the realignment as it is now, you hope you can put yourself in a position to get to region play and make a run in the region tournament. When the opportunity presented itself, I reached out and was very excited to get the opportunity to be there. I’ve known a lot of those coaches for a long time. I can’t wait to work with them.”

Independence will compete for the next two seasons in District 12-AAAA, a five-team league with Columbia Central, Summit, Ravenwood and Nolensville. Presumably, the top four district tourney finishers will advance to regional play.

Hill said he intends to speak with assistants Jack Harlow and Dominique St. Louis and gauge their interest in continuing in those roles.

“We’re going to have a conversation and see where everybody’s head is. Certainly that’s a consideration,” Hill said regarding the return of Harlow, a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee after winning 564 games at Franklin County, Columbia Central and Bradley Central. “I had the pleasure of meeting him at the State Farm Classic. He’s a great basketball guy, done a lot of great things.

“I would definitely want to sit down with him and Coach St. Louis and see if they’re interested in coming back.”.  

Prior to his 2013 arrival in Middle Tennessee, Hill had served as girls coach at Milan in West Tennessee, following collegiate head coaching stints at Lambuth University in Jackson – where he was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 — and at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, Ind.

Roundup: Baseball and softball recaps

Baseball

Middle Tennessee Chr. 5, Columbia Acad. 1: Middle Tennessee Christian was able to rough up Kavares Tears early, and held on for a win in Division II-A District 3 play. Tanner Ham had a pair of hits and scored a run for the Bulldogs in the only bright spot offensively in the game. Landon Prentice struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs — none earned — on three hits.

Mt. Pleasant 11, Hampshire 2: The Tigers plated six runs in the fourth inning to break open a 1-0 game at Hampshire on Monday. The Tigers got a 2-run single from Gaven Whitehead, RBI singles from Ryan Clark and Codell Gilliam, as well as doubles to score a run from Hayden Holt and Kobe Dowell in the inning. For Hampshire, Jed Page took the loss on the bump, but had an RBI on 2-of-3 hitting at the plate. Blake Morrow and Kennon Anderson each had hits for the Hawks. Whitehead was afforded the win, going five innings and giving up one run on three hits, striking out eight.

Spring Hill 5, Dickson Co. 2: Dawson Hargrove tossed a ‘Maddux’ on Monday, going the distance and throwing just 86 pitches. He struck out 12 and walked none in the win. Jackson Marbet led the Raiders on offense, going 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs in the fifth to give his team some insurance after Brantly Whitwell scored on a passed ball during Marbet’s at-bat to take the lead.

Summit 7, Centennial 5: Summit jumped out to a big lead, scoring five runs in the second inning, but had to hang on late as the Cougars got four in the fifth and another in the sixth. Brady Hendrix came on in relief following the fifth run and struck out four, including the final out with the bases loaded for Centennial. Alex Runk led the Spartans, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Six other Summit hitters added a hit each.

Grace Chr. 14, Zion Chr. 0: Luke Gill tossed a no-hitter on Monday to down Zion Christian in league play. Gill went five innings and struck out nine in the win. Blake Barton had five RBIs for the Lions, including a grand slam in a nine-run third inning.

Softball

Summit 4, Ravenwood 2: Morgan Woodside’s third-inning triple scored a pair of runs that would prove to be the difference for the Spartan women on Monday. Claudette Runk added a single later that would score Woodside for some insurance. That three-run third was the biggest blemish in an otherwise solid outing from Raptors’ pitcher Avery Weissmar. She sat down 14 Spartans on strikes, including all but one of the Summit starting nine at least once. Lily Kate Richards got the win in the circle, going seven full and giving up two runs on seven hits and five strikeouts.

Columbia Acad. 1, Ardmore (Ala.) 0: Averi Slaughter was dominant in the circle for the Lady ‘Dawgs. She struck out eight and scattered three hits in the win. A scoreless game saw its only run in the sixth on a Myleah Hardy single to score Karli Quillin. Hardy was 2-for-3 in the game to lead the Bulldogs.

Zion Chr. 12, Culleoka 0: A fourth-inning walk was all that stood between Ashleia Coble and a perfect game Monday. She threw a no-hitter, striking out 12 in a five-inning win over the host Lady Warriors. Becca Hazard continued her hot streak, going 4-for-4, including a home run and three doubles. Coble added three RBIs on two hits as well.

Summit’s Masters among ‘Dream Team’ honorees

SM-Tn Sports

Summit’s Jackson Masters was honored by the Middle Tennessee Wrestling Officials Association this week with selection to its annual Dream Team.

Masters, a 120-pound junior who placed third at this year’s Class AAA state tournament, was joined on the squad by fellow Region 7-AAA and Williamson County competitors Alex Ables from Centennial at 152 and Mitchell Lambert from Page at 220.

Fairview coach Bubba Derrick was recognized by the MTWOA as the recipient of the Ralph Brewer Award, presented to its coach of the year.

The list of honorees in its entirety follows:

Girls Dream Team

103 — Ella-Lina Gonzalez, Clarksville, So.; 112 – Amanda Thompson, Cheatham Co., Fr.; 119 – Roseanna Vaughn, Northwest, Jr.; 125 – Monteria Bigsby, Riverdale, Sr.; 132 – Rontasia Payne, Dickson Co., Sr.; 140 – Bryce White, Cane Ridge, Jr.; 150 – Katy Champion, Tullahoma, Sr.; 160 – Brielle Bissonette, Clarksville, Sr.; 170 – Lily Chantler, Northwest, So.; 190 – Ariyanna Anderson, Creek Wood, Jr.; 215 – Valerie Smith, McGavock, Jr.

Boys Dream Team

106 – Joe Calvin, Father Ryan, Fr.; 113 – Justin Bradford, Blackman, Jr.; 120 – Jackson Master, Summit, Jr.; 126 – Trey Bates, Beech, Sr.; 132 – Sammy Shires, Rossview, Jr.; 138 – Mac Russ, Montgomery Bell Acad., So.; 145 – Cole Fort, Wilson Central, Sr.; 152 – Alex Ables, Centennial, Sr.; 160 – Justin Brown, Blackman, So.; 170 – Mason Smith, Beech, Sr.; 182 – Zachary Duessler, Rossview, Jr.; 195 – Donovan Rich, Beech, Sr.; 220 – Gabe Fisher, Montgomery Bell Acad., So.; Mitchell Lambert, Page, Sr.; 285 – Parker Petersen, Father Ryan, Sr.

Joe Wiggins Official of the Year – David Davenport; G.P. West Senior Leadership – Thomas Wesnofske, Father Ryan; Girls Wrestler of the Year – Shelby Zacharias, Creek Wood; Girls Coach of the Year – Chris Bedell, Northwest; Johnny Drennan Boys Wrestler of the Year – Hunter Borders, Wilson Central; Ralph Brewer Boys Coach of the Year – Bubba Derrick, Fairview

Lady Eagles look to improve with Hall of Famer on staff

By Maurice Patton

THOMPSONS STATION — No one at Independence expected the season that the girls basketball program has endured.

One of the few positives of the campaign, though, has been the addition of Hall of Fame coach Jack Harlow to the Lady Eagles’ staff.

“He’s a legend,” said Independence athletics director Mary Beth White, who took over the program last fall when Bryan Glasner stepped away (and subsequently resigned). “Every time we go into a gym, either a coach or an official is like, ‘Is that Jack Harlow?’

“We can’t go anywhere that somebody doesn’t know him or played for him at Columbia or Franklin County or Bradley (Central). It’s been a lot of fun.”

Coaching at Franklin County (1978-94), Columbia Central (1994-99) and Bradley Central (1999-2004), Harlow won 564 games and led each of those programs to TSSAA State Tournament berths, making five total appearances. He subsequently served as an assistant at Shelbyville, Franklin County, Giles County – his alma mater – and Ripley, Miss.

As Mary Beth White (center) took the reins of the Independence girls basketball program on an interim basis this season, she inherited first-year assistant Jack Harlow (upper right), who over 35 seasons as a head coach posted 564 career victories with five state tournament appearances. (Photo by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports)

Harlow’s arrival at Independence was a result of Glasner’s, as the two of them had worked together previously.

“He used to help me at Franklin County,” said Harlow, a 2013 Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee. “He took the Independence job, and he asked me over the summer (of 2020) if I’d come and help him. … He’s taken out of the picture, they bring Mary Beth out of the AD office, Dom St. Louis is the assistant coach.

“I bring experience. I do what (White) tells me to do. I make observations.”

In addition to the preseason coaching change, the Lady Eagles have dealt with some personnel issues – leaving a young roster that, in the midst of a pandemic, managed just two regular-season victories before Sunday’s 37-12 win over Centennial in the opening round of the District 11-AAA tournament.

Despite the struggles and the unsettled situation – the head coaching position has been posted for next year — Harlow has managed to make a mark.

“He was a steal to have here on our staff,” Independence principal Niki Patton said. “It’s a big win for us to have him over here. He’s seen it all, with his vast experience. We know he’s built programs from start to finish, taken young teams like this one that are struggling. He helps try to keep the mindset of ‘forget the scoreboard’.

“I don’t think a lot of the girls really knew him, knew that name in the coaching world. I think they Googled him.”

With the Lady Eagles set to travel Monday to fifth-ranked Brentwood in the district tournament quarterfinals, Harlow knows his time could be winding down. But the 70-year-old’s intention is to be on a sideline for the 2021-22 campaign.

“I’ll have to sit down and talk with the new coach,” he said. “I’m going to try to coach and help somebody next year.”

If it’s up to Patton, a change won’t be necessary.

“We’ll keep him as long as he’ll let us,” she said.

Independence girls 37, Centennial 12

I 3 14 11 9 – 37
C 0 3 5 4 – 12

Independence (37) – Jayla Miller 2, Evy Nichols 6, Lilian Passé 2, Trinity Love 2, Chaise Bethmann 1, Ryan Brown 11, Cristy Martinez 13
Centennial (12) – A.J. Lein 6, Addison Gorday 2, Catherine Ligon 1, Andie Kelley 3
3-pointers – Independence 2 (Nichols), Centennial 0

Postseason plans paused for District 8-AAA, District 11-AAA

SM-Tn Sports

Basketball tournament schedules for District 11-AAA and District 8-AAA have been set and reset, respectively, in consideration of the current and upcoming weather conditions.

In District 11-AAA, brackets were established at Wednesday’s seeding meeting after the majority of teams in the nine-team league were unable to complete their pandemic-interrupted schedules because of this week’s snow and ice.

“The agreement we came up with at the beginning of the season was that, if we couldn’t get all our games in, we’d (seed) on win percentage rather than total wins,” Ravenwood boys coach Patrick Whitlock said. “At that time, it was because of COVID, but now it’s because of weather.”

Page, which earned home games for both the boys and girls quarterfinals, was the only program to get in 16 district games. Franklin, ranked fourth in the Associated Press Class AAA statewide poll, was the clearcut No. 1 seed on the boys side, while fifth-ranked Brentwood is the girls top seed – just ahead of the Lady Patriots by virtue of the Lady Bruins’ one less loss.

The tournament will open Sunday with 3 p.m. play-in games – Spring Hill boys at Dickson County, Independence girls at Centennial – followed by boys and girls quarterfinals on Monday, semifinals on Tuesday and championships and consolations on Wednesday. All games will be played at higher seeds.

“That was really the only time you could do it,” Whitlock said. “We’re thinking Saturday is going to be the first day we could get back to practice. No one really wanted to play with no practice.”

Sunday

Boys play-in, Spring Hill (9) at Dickson Co. (8), 3 p.m.
Girls play-in, Independence (9) at Centennial (8), 3 p.m.

Monday

Girls quarterfinal, Independence/Centennial winner at Brentwood (1), 5:30 p.m.
Girls quarterfinal, Dickson Co. (7) at Page (2), 5:30 p.m.
Girls quarterfinal, Ravenwood (5) at Summit (4), 7 p.m.
Girls quarterfinal, Franklin (6) at Spring Hill (3), 7 p.m.
Boys quarterfinal, Spring Hill/Dickson Co. winner at Franklin (1), 7 p.m.
Boys quarterfinal, Centennial (6) at Ravenwood (3), 7 p.m.
Boys quarterfinal, Independence (5) at Page (4), 7:30 p.m.
Boys quarterfinal, Summit (7) at Brentwood (2), 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday

Girls semifinals at higher seeds
Boys semifinals at higher seeds
*5:30 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys) tips if higher seed hosts both; 7 p.m. tip for single game

Wednesday

Girls championship at higher seed
Girls consolation at higher seed
Boys championship at higher seed
Boys consolation at higher seed
*5:30 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys) tips if higher seed hosts both; 7 p.m. tip for single game

● District 8-AAA, which held its play-in games on Feb. 13, intends to resume tourney action Friday with boys and girls quarterfinals at higher seeds. Saturday and Sunday are set as alternate dates if the games cannot be played Friday, with semifinals scheduled for Monday and championship and consolation games Tuesday.

Friday

Girls quarterfinal, Shelbyville (6) at Lawrence Co. (3)
Girls quarterfinal, Lincoln Co. (5) at Columbia Central (4)
Boys quarterfinal, Shelbyville (7) at Lincoln Co. (3)
Boys quarterfinal, Lawrence Co. (5) at Tullahoma (4)
*game times to be determined; makeup dates Saturday or Sunday if needed

Monday

Girls semifinal, Shelbyville/Lawrence Co. winner at Tullahoma (2)
Girls semifinal, Lincoln Co./Columbia Central winner at Coffee Co. (1)
Boys semifinal, Shelbyville/Lincoln Co. winner at Coffee Co. (2)
Boys semifinal, Lawrence Co./Tullahoma winner at Columbia Central (1)
*game times to be determined

Tuesday

Girls championship at higher seed
Girls consolation at higher seed
Boys championship at higher seed
Boys consolation at higher seed
*game times to be determined; makeup date Wednesday if needed