Tag Archives: tssaa

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

Winter sports upcoming

Monday
Basketball

Grace Chr. boys at Columbia Acad.
Hampshire boys at Richland

Tuesday
Basketball

Columbia Acad. at Grace Chr.*
Columbia Central at Lincoln Co.*
Frank Hughes at Summertown*
Independence girls at Franklin*
McEwen at Santa Fe
Mt. Pleasant at Culleoka*
Richland at Hampshire*
Summit boys at Ravenwood*

Thursday
Basketball

Valor Collegiate boys at Columbia Acad.

Friday
Basketball

Columbia Acad. boys at Battle Ground Acad.*
Culleoka at Santa Fe*
Hampshire at Houston Co.
Independence boys at Summit*
Mt. Pleasant at Richland*
Page at Spring Hill*
Summertown at Loretto*
Tullahoma at Columbia Central*
Zion Chr. girls at Columbia Acad.*

Saturday
Basketball

Cascade at Richland
Houston Co. at Santa Fe

Wrestling

Class AAA state duals tournament at Centennial, Independence

Quarterfinals, 12 noon; semifinals, consolations, 2 p.m.; championship, consolation final, 5:30 p.m. (Independence)

Summit, Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill, Cleveland, Bradley Central, Wilson Central, Oakland, Collierville

*district game
all basketball games 6 p.m. start unless otherwise noted
schedule subject to change without prior notice

Attendance guidelines for high school events relaxed

By Maurice Patton

With Governor Bill Lee’s announcement Thursday that Executive Order 74 will be suspended Monday, attendance at statewide high school athletic events will revert to the pandemic restrictions put in place by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association leading up to the start of winter sports.

Local officials can’t wait.

“Tickets will be sold to any and everybody that wants to attend, as long as bleacher capacity does not exceed 30 percent,” Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter said. “We’ll go away from the four-ticket allocation (per participant) to 30 percent attendance for all schools.

Effective Monday, schools are encouraged to limit fan attendance to one-fourth to one-third of facility seating capacity, with bleachers marked to facilitate safe social distancing. Cheerleaders and dance teams will be allowed to attend and perform at games.

“Cheerleaders being able to return is huge,” Poynter said. “I’m ecstatic for all those cheerleaders, especially those seniors that have worked so hard. They’ll be able to complete their senior year, barring a spike. Individual schools will have slight modifications they may apply, but for home games, cheerleaders will get to cheer. I’m excited about that.”

The lifting of the more strenuous restrictions resulted from improved COVID-19 statistics across the state.

“We’re proud that our member schools have been taking steps to follow the Governor’s orders and limit the spread of the virus,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said Thursday. “It is vitally important that we continue to be smart and safe in our activities, wear a mask, wash our hands and practice social distancing at every athletic contest.”

Gov. Lee’s previous executive order, which went into effect on Jan. 20, had limited basketball and wrestling event attendance to parents, grandparents, teachers, school administrators, medical personnel and working media.

“Our case counts have dropped around 60 percent (and) our hospitalization counts have fallen about 40 percent,” Lee said during a 97-second video posted Thursday on Twitter.

“By making smart decisions like wearing a mask, keeping your distance and limiting gatherings around the holidays, your efforts have made a significant difference in fighting COVID-19. We’ve worked to follow the data in every decision we’ve made … The data now reflects rapidly falling numbers. Now, because of that data, we’re lifting those restrictions on Monday.”

Pernell Knox, athletics director at Columbia Academy, said 450 tickets will be sold for basketball games at Anderson Fieldhouse, which holds 1,250.

“I’ve talked to my principal and my president, and we’re in agreement that (since) the TSSAA is allowing it, we can go about our business as we have,” Knox said. “We’re going to get back to like we were, with cheerleaders and students admitted.”

Childress also said an announcement regarding state basketball tournament sites will likely be made within the next week. Sites for wrestling state tournaments were set earlier this month, with duals to be held Feb. 6 at Centennial, Independence and Nolensville high schools and Mill Creek Middle School in Williamson County and individual championships scheduled for Feb. 18-20 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Commentary: TSSAA spring sports decisions defy logic

By Chris Yow

Make it make sense, TSSAA.

What, you ask? All of it — heck, any of it.

Recently, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association alerted spring sports — baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track — coaches there would not be any preseason scrimmages allowed prior to their regular seasons. Football coaches were told there would be no scrimmages allowed against other schools to culminate their spring practices.

The problem with this is there is absolutely nothing about it that makes any logical sense.

Can the TSSAA Board of Control give any logical reason for restricting competition between two teams who are about to embark on 18-game regular seasons? If so, I’d love to hear it.

What about football teams, who will have practiced with each other for two weeks playing against another school’s players who have practiced without incident for two weeks? Sorry, no go. No matter that it’s the last thing those kids will do regarding football until summer workouts.

It isn’t like they’re going to be any safer playing an intrasquad game than against an opponent without any cases among their team. Certainly not any safer than they will be in August.

It seems at every turn the TSSAA has made illogical decisions while also making sound decisions regarding regular-season play.

But if the regular season is OK to play, why wouldn’t a scrimmage be OK? It’s as controlled as any form of competition in which the student-athletes will take part.

COVID-19 is certainly an issue across our state, but throughout the 2020-21 school year, the TSSAA has done some of its best work. Working with Governor Bill Lee’s office to make sure parents can attend games was good work. Getting an entire football season played was even more impressive, especially as the season drew to a close and cases were going up across Tennessee.

As basketball season has continued through game and tournament cancellations and postponements, at least the governing body has stuck with their original plan to leave it up to local school systems. What the Governor’s office has done, though, with regard to cheerleaders and dance teams is a little disheartening. Those two entities are not allowed in the gyms, and I understand that adding parents of those kids can lead to larger crowds, but we’re letting in players’ grandparents — which could theoretically be as many as eight people — and more faculty. Get the cheerleaders off the end lines and socially distance them in the bleachers in an area specifically designated for them.

I know the TSSAA wasn’t really the culprit in those situations, it’s the Governor’s office.

Spring sports nonsense, however, is all on the TSSAA… and I just can’t make it make sense.

Chris Yow is the multi-media editor of SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at sports@sm-tnsports.com or on Twitter @ChrisYow14.

Lighter pockets for area officials after fee reductions

By Maurice Patton

High school sports haven’t been spared by the financial implications of the ongoing pandemic – as basketball officials recently learned.

Soon after Governor Bill Lee’s announcement of Executive Order No. 70 on Dec. 20, addressing attendance restrictions for the next month, concerns were expressed by various schools regarding officials’ game fees.

Those concerns resulted in the Jan. 1 announcement by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association that varsity game fees would be reduced, beginning on Jan. 4 and continuing through the end of regular-season play, by $25 dollars – from $105 to $80 for doubleheaders and from $75 to $50 for single games, based on the standard three-person crews.

“When the Governor’s order came down, there was … a good reduction of the number of people that could come into the gym to watch games,” said Gene Menees, assistant executive director of the TSSAA in charge of basketball. “We started getting some communication from schools about, ‘our gates have already been cut a lot; could we work two-person crews?’. For two, the fee is $115 per, which would be a savings of $80 per night, but the way the kids are playing, going up and down, it would be hard for two to keep up any more.

“The consensus was, if we could stay at three and possibly reduce the rate a little, that would help schools out.”

Following a recent decision by the TSSAA, officials game fees have been reduced by $25 for the remainder of the regular season, although a number of area schools are continuing to honor the originally set fees. (Courtesy photo by Buffy Holt)

Menees said he spoke to representatives from each of the state’s 12 high school basketball officials associations – including the South Central, which serves Maury County and most of the surrounding schools – before any decision was made.

Whether those association supervisors or assignors made the officials aware of the development is up for debate, however.

“I had no idea, no clue that they had even talked about it,” said Corey Massey, a veteran official of nearly 20 years from Columbia. “We get an e-mail from (South Central supervisor Thomas Ray Frierson) that the rate had been changed. We had no indication at all that they were having a meeting, never gave us any type of word that they were even talking about knocking our pay (down).

“Before the Governor’s order came out, TSSAA had made recommendations of half-capacity, limiting attendance to two family members per player. Schools were already doing that. They knew from the start of the season that they were going to be limited in guests anyway. We signed a contract at the beginning of the year as independent contractors … stating our fees were going to be $105 a night, then out of nowhere we get an e-mail stating we’ve been bumped to $80.”

In response, though, a number of schools – including Columbia Academy and Zion Christian Academy – have compensated officials at the originally agreed-upon rate and intend to continue to do so.

“We’re going to lose money. It’s not anybody’s fault; it is what it is,” Zion boys basketball coach and athletics director Derek Boyd said. “But we felt like on our end, it’s the right thing to do and what our school stands behind. They come out in a pandemic and do this nightly, taking time away from their families, and we feel like it’s the right thing for us to do.”

With attracting and retaining game officials already a concern, the decision to reduce game fees nearly 25 percent – even for a relatively short period of time – would appear somewhat counterproductive.

“Referees, having a shortage, has been a concern the last three or four years,” Columbia Academy AD Pernell Knox said. “We budget for referees and what they make. I can’t say it’s hurting us.”

“I’m sure there’s concern about trying to be able to pay officials and break even on games. That’s why I’d guess there was a reduction,” Maury County Public Schools AD Chris Poynter said. “(But) if I’m an official, losing funds may cause some officials to reconsider officiating.”

Menees did stress that the previously established game fees will resume at the start of postseason play, and Massey expressed that the money, per se, isn’t the issue.

“They didn’t cut football officials, they didn’t cut volleyball officials. Why all of a sudden come hit the basketball officials?” he said. “Are they cutting security? Are they cutting custodians’ pay? Or are they just cutting the officials?”

In the end, Boyd said, all that matters is providing the athletes an opportunity to compete.

“We’re all trying to negotiate through these uncharted waters and trying to make it through the best we can,” he said. “These officials feel like they’re putting themselves on the line, masking up and coming out. We know if they hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be playing.”

In program’s 10th season, Spartans reach grid summit

By Maurice Patton

COOKEVILLE – Philip Sherry ran so Summit could win.

Sherry opened the Spartan football era in stellar fashion, fielding the team’s first kickoff in its inaugural contest and returning it 98 yards for a touchdown – albeit in an eventual 34-12 loss to visiting Northwest on Aug. 19, 2011.

Nearly a decade later, in their second state championship game in as many seasons, the Spartans capped their third double-digit victory campaign in four years with a 28-7 victory over Class 5A foe Oak Ridge in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

Philip Sherry (with ball) celebrates Summit’s first touchdown after a 98-yard kickoff return to open the Spartans’ first-ever game, against visiting Northwest on Aug. 19, 2011. (Photo by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports)

“I was thinking back this morning about those 10 years,” said Sarah Lamb, an assistant principal when the school opened who ascended to its helm seven years ago. “We went from 400 kids and 35 staff members, to this – 1700 students, 100-plus staff.

“We’ve built a championship football program. A lot of kids along the way have helped us become this success tonight. Those first couple of years we were competing with varsity teams and we’ve got freshmen and sophomores. To get to this point where baseball, basketball, wrestling, football competing (for) state championships, it’s just amazing for our kids.”  

Brian Coleman hasn’t been around quite as long as Lamb, but it may have felt like a longer climb to the top for the seventh-year coach.

“When (defensive coordinator Alex) Melton and I hugged, he said ‘that’s a long way from 0-10’,” said Coleman, who went winless in 2014, the program’s fourth season and his first. “We just believed in the process of doing the right thing in the weight room, building around kids that want to work hard. I think that’s what happened.

“We never knew how long it was going to take. It’s been a steady climb. I think that’s the way you have to do it.”

In his third season, Coleman led the Spartans to their first winning record and their first postseason berth, as they fell to Cane Ridge in the opening round of the 2016 Class 5A playoffs.

“The first year we went to the playoffs, we’re up 21-0 at the half (before suffering a 35-21 loss),” he said. “We’ve just got stories on stories of how our kids have grown.”

A year later, it was a quarterfinal loss to Beech that ended Summit’s campaign, followed by a first-round defeat at the hands of the Buccaneers. Then, in 2019, the program’s first title-game appearance ended with a 30-7 loss to Knoxville Central.

“Last year I think was just priceless for these kids, coming here and experiencing,” Coleman said. “We were big-eyed last year. I didn’t think we were this year. They were focused all week and the whole time here.

“You’ve got bumps and hills, ups and downs, (but) these kids are just great. We love ‘em and they respect that. We take care of ‘em, and they fight for us.”

For Lamb, the success is part of the effort to make the high school years enjoyable for her school’s students.

“We want them to have an amazing high school experience,” she said. “There are a lot of good teams at all the schools in Williamson County. It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on, and not just athletics, but academics, the arts.

“We’re all striving to get to those championship games. We feel like we’re well supported, whether it be in the community or at the central office. We’re just thankful to be here, and in the (school’s) 10th year, it makes it special.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: mopattonsports@gmail.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.