New volleyball coach at Crockett gets ready to plant some roots

Marquis Clark

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

During David Crockett High School’s volleyball tryouts, the Lady Pioneers walked away with more than just a few new setters and middle blockers—this year they gained a new head volleyball coach as well.

“I got the job the day of tryouts,” Crockett volleyball coach Marquis Clark said just a few days after his team’s first practice. “So I showed up, found out I got the job at 11:30 and started tryouts at 1. I was kind of prepared for it. I figured if (Crockett Athletic Director Josh Kite) wasn’t going to give it to me, he would have told me.”

Clark, who’s originally from Dodge City, Kansas, has been an assistant volleyball coach at Brevard College, East Tennessee State University and Wichita State University. He’s also spent time as a head coach at Cloud County Community College and as an assistant at Manhattan High School. But for Clark, one of the major perks of his new position is the location in the place he now calls home.

“You can’t kick me out of here. Even after I left ETSU, there was no way. This is home now — I just had to figure some sort of way to hang around. Then the high school job opened up and I had been coaching club so I know some of the kids. And it was right around the corner from the house,” Clark said.

“It lets me be a head coach again. I’ve been an assistant for the past four or five years so I thought, ‘Hey, we’ll see what happens—this will be fun.’”

Fun is exactly what the new head coach is looking for after working in college volleyball; Clark told the Herald & Tribune after years of being an assistant coach, he’s ready to trade in the behind the scenes work for those head coach duties once again.

“The no. 1 reason I wanted to be here is because I’m tired of the grind of college volleyball. I’ve got a 5 year old and she starts kindergarten and this last spring I kinda got used to picking her up and taking her to school and kind of being at home. It just hit me I don’t want to do another college volleyball season. I don’t want to be on the road constantly,” Clark said.

“(As an assistant college volleyball coach) you’re driving all over the country every weekend, you’re constantly on your phone recruiting and most of the job is the part of volleyball I don’t like which is administration, recruiting and travel. I just want to coach. So I’ve been able to focus on the volleyball part—I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.”

Apart from the fun, Clark is also ready to get to work with the Lady Pioneers on their skills and mindsets on the court.

“We’ve got solid volleyball players. It’s nice to walk in and we’ve got some skill, we’ve got some decent size, we’ve got some good athletes,” Clark said. “So we’ll be able to compete. We’ll scout well, we’ll train well and I think we’ll be pretty tough to beat. The hope is that no matter what we maintain that attitude of wanting to enjoy this and not letting ourselves and our identities get too wrapped up in whether or not we won or lost a volleyball match.”

He’s also looking forward to instructing his players on technique; One of the differences Clark said he’s seen in high school players as opposed to college players is the amount of instruction he now gets to implement in his program.

“You have to teach more of the things. That’s kind of my favorite part of coaching is teaching the game and putting those things in there to help players grow,” Clark explained. “I’ve always enjoyed that process and with college kids, the growth is smaller. They come in very, very good and where they end up four years later is a very small difference. But in a high school player, if you can get a freshman and really coach them well, they can really blow up and explode.”

Now he’s ready to plant his roots, build a program, and finally stay put long enough to see growth and maturity from the players he hopes to form into bettered athletes.

“We’re even seeing that with our freshman, just the things they can do from day one to day two as they’re learning how to move and be on the volleyball court. They’re better now,” Clark said. “And it’s going to be fun three years from now to see them as juniors. And that’s kind of the process I haven’t been able to be around for. I’ve recruited a lot of classes and then you move on to the next job and you do the next thing. You see them for a little bit and then you move on.”

Clark is also ready to encourage his girls off the court; the new head volleyball coach said he will encourage his players to do multiple sports. And Clark, who was a high jumper at Kansas State and was a two-time regional championship qualifier, will even get back to his roots this spring and assist the Pioneer track program.

Though he’s spent countless hours driving across the country and recruiting volleyball players throughout the years, the Crockett volleyball coach was mostly filled with hope when he attended the school’s volleyball camp for upcoming Lady Pioneer volleyballers—and the potential of these upcoming classes only added to Clark’s excitement for the future.

“There’s talent in the area and that’s the beautiful thing about it. The kids that are just coming here already are pretty good,” Clark said. “And we saw some seventh and eighth graders that were really good. We have a kind of big athletic group of freshmen. There are a handful of freshmen that are going to play multiple sports that are pretty high level from the moment they walk in the gym and through the rest of their careers.”

Daniel Boone’s Ben Varghese signs with ETSU

Daniel Boone High School student athlete Ben Varghese stands on the track just before practice. Varghese officially signed to run at ETSU in April.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“Everybody deserves to get interviewed. Even the younger people because when I was a younger one, I had no idea how to be interviewed,” Daniel Boone High School senior runner Ben Varghese said just a month after signing to run at East Tennessee State University next year. “It’s a funny story, when I was at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, I won and it was the very first time I was interviewed in a big scene—and I froze up. They still have the video on a national running site everyone can see. Everyone made fun of me for that, but ever since, I’ve gotten much better at interviews over the time I’ve done it. And you know, it takes time to get better.”

Varghese has come a long way since his start as a young cross country and track runner with little to say. Today as an all-american, a national champion, a two-time state champion and now an ETSU Buccaneer, the Boone senior is ready to continue his success—and ETSU’s.

“We’re going to create a program at ETSU. We’re going to build that mens program. There are a lot of guys that want to become great. I think a lot of them are really ready to move forward with it,” Varghese said. “I’m savoring these last few meets with my coach Rachel and Len Jeffers, but I’m also so ready to go into summer and train for cross country. I’m always excited just to run. Shoot, it’s better than staying inside and playing your Xbox 360 and playing Call of Duty.”

Ben said that it took a bit of trial and error before he realized running was his passion. But once he did, he put his feet to the pavement and hasn’t looked back since.

“Can you believe I did football? Yeah, I was pretty bad. It was good I was doing something,” Varghese said, thinking back on his athletic career. “I was kind of a trouble maker. Then I started doing track and I don’t know what it was, but it kind of calmed me down.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t really take it super seriously. I just flew through, but Coach Ray Jones came up to me after my last race of that cross country season. I was one of the worst people on my JV team and he told me, ‘You have potential. But I need you to buy into what I’m giving you.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’”

But before he started winning races and even before a young Varghese decided to take his sisters advice and try cross country, the runner had an obstacle to overcome; He was run over by a lawn mower as a kid and was rushed to the hospital after his tibula and fibula were basically destroyed.

“Thankfully, the doctor fixed my leg but I do have range issues,” Varghese said. “I can bend my left leg but I can’t bend that one all the way up. I can wiggle my toes on the left and I can’t wiggle it on the right. There are weird things like that, but I’ve adjusted to that. My coaches have learned that if my ankle starts to bother me on a run to just slow me down. So I’ve learned to work with that.”

That never stopped Varghese who won the state title in the boys 3200 meter race for the second year in a row and also won the New Balance Indoor National race in New York. Now the senior runner has high hopes for the future; the word “olympics” might come up in conversation with Varghese as it did during the runner’s interview with the Herald & Tribune just before this year’s state competition. But for now, Varghese is just looking forward to enjoying the run.

“Whatever I do at state, I’m going to run to my best ability. I never go into state—or any other race—thinking, ‘Oh, I deserve that metal.’ I have to go out there and I have to earn it just as much as anybody,” Varghese said. “If my legs are burning and they’re hurting in that race, I still have to run. I have to work my butt off. I’m going to go out there and work to my best ability and be confident that I know I can do my best.

“For now I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m going to have fun with whatever my coaches give me, whatever I run. I’m going to be as fast as I can in all the other events. When I’m older, then we’ll see. But for now, I’m enjoying some of the shorter distances.”

Now that he’s gearing up to head to Johnson City to run for the Bucaneers, Varghese said he’s considering majoring in biology and possibly combining that with the physical obstacles he’s had to overcome in order to help others.

“I’m really interested in helping people that have been injured and helping them to get back to daily life because someone did that for me,” Varghese said. “I’d like to help out other people. But only time will tell, but I do want to do Biology.”

For Varghese, it hasn’t just been about the physical aspects of running; the Boone senior has also grown as a person and is ready to take those valuable life lessons with him to college.

“You can’t be a know it all at this. You can never be a know it all. If you overthink running then you’re not gonna be great. There’s no book you can read, “How to Run for Dummies” or something.” Varghese said. “You have to just be very patient with the sport. My coaches have taught me a lot of patience. I’ve been patient throughout these four years and I’ve seen it all come together. That’s because I’ve bought into what they’ve given me and I’ve used that to the best of my ability.

“I hope to the Lord that I don’t forget any of that when I’m in college because I have just as much of an aspiration to become just as good of a runner as I did in high school—and even better in college.”

Player of the week

This week’s feature player of the week is Daniel Boone’s Kristen Hall. Hall is a member of the Boone varsity softball team that recently won the Big 7 Conference title. Hall also recently signed to play softball at East Tennessee State University. Check back for our next featured athlete.

 

Track team blazes a trail to state tournament

From STAFF REPORTS

The Daniel Boone High School track team had eight athletes qualify for the state tournament on Saturday, May 13.

Junior runner Maria Chellah will compete in the 400-meter race while Sophomore Caitlin Cutshall will compete in the pole vault competition at the state tournament.

Senior Ryan Jacomet will also compete in the pole vault competition while junior Noah Shelton does the high jump and senior Ben Varghese competes in the 1600 and 3200-meter individual races.

Varghese will join senior Zac Branham, senior Caleb Sells and sophomore Matt Huff in the 4×800 relay.

Boone senior honors Blazer legacy

Daniel Johnson

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It will be a month on Thursday since Daniel Boone High School senior runner Daniel Johnson signed to continue his athletic career at Lincoln Memorial University. But on the track at Boone on a blazing hot, May afternoon, Johnson is still celebrating the day he officially committed to run in college and all that’s ahead for the Boone Blazer.

“It was just a day to celebrate and move on to the next accomplishment in my life,” Johnson said, thinking back to signing day. “I’m really looking forward to the next four years of being a Rail Splitter.”

Johnson is a two-time all-conference and a two-time all-region runner who recently won the Dale Jarrett Scholarship that is awarded to a Daniel Boone student athlete each year. But apart from Johnson’s accolades, Boone track and cross country coach Len Jeffers said he’s also an athlete who has come a long way since his start at Daniel Boone.

“It’s been great,” Jeffers said. “Daniel’s been here for three years. He transferred in the summer before his sophomore year so we’ve only had him for three years, but he’s made a tremendous amount of progress.”

Most signees claim their childhood dreams as the reason for wanting to continue their athletic career at the collegiate level, but for the senior runner, it’s that Daniel Boone pride that made him want to push forward and represent the Trailblazers at the next level.

“Keeping the Boone legacy (made him want to run in college). Having high school seniors running in college, that’s what everybody’s been doing,” Johnson said. “I wanted to keep the Boone legacy and show that it’s strong.”

Along with that legacy comes a list of teammates that have both been by his side through his high school career and also inspired him to seek a college program with a strong team comradery.

“The point of me wanting to go to college was the team atmosphere. That was probably the biggest thing for me,” Johnson explained. “I didn’t want to be too far away so I could still see some of my old teammates and still be really close to the team at LMU. They do a lot of stuff up there. It’s really team-oriented.”

But before he made the decision to head to Harrogate, Tennessee and join the LMU squad, Johnson had a list of obstacles he had to overcome throughout his high school journey such as staying healthy throughout the season.

“This entire senior year, through cross country, track and indoor season, it was kind of like trying to battle through the sickness,” Johnson said. “There would be a week or two where I would just feel not really good for training but then I’d still keep going. Then battling with costochondritis and then having the flu in the winter. After I got back from that, everything just kept rolling.”

Boone’s track season is just about to wrap up as the team gears up for state, but for Johnson, who is already looking ahead at training for his college career, maintaining that work ethic is at the top of his list.

“I had a really good season this year. I was mainly focusing on the 400 and 800 group,” Johnson said. I had some pretty good workouts, had some really good races. And we were just trying to use that as our stepping stone to try to get the speed up for college.”

Though Johnson is nearly finished with his individual season, he’s also ready to keep rolling on his conditioning and the new training techniques at LMU that sparked his interest in the program—and an interest in potentially becoming a coach.

“The strength training program was really important. It really caught my eye because with the strength training, they usually focus on the muscles and joints that runners don’t usually use during races and the hip flexibility and all that,” Johnson said. “I was wanting to use those techniques to maybe coach in high school.”

Already gearing up for his new summer workouts, Johnson is looking ahead while also realizing how connected he is to his Trailblazer team mates and his soon-to-be alma mater.

“There are some days,” Johnson said, speaking on how grueling the sport could be at times. “But then there are some days like hanging out with your teammates and going out on a run and getting the joke and getting to laugh and make some memories.

“That’s what I’ll miss mostly. But I get to make some new memories going to LMU. And I’m really excited about that.”

Player of the week

Sydney Fox from David Crockett High School’s varsity softball team is one of our featured athletes. Fox has been leading the Lady Pioneers at the plate and also helped bring her team to victory over Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone and Sullivan Central in the conference tournament. Check back for our next featured Washington County athlete.

Player of the week

 

The David Crockett High School varsity softball teams’ Kara Weems is one of our featured athletes. Weems has led the Lady Pioneers in shutouts as they have topped Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone, Sullivan Central and Tennessee High in the past few weeks. Check back to see next week’s player of the week.

 

 

 

 

Crockett Pioneers take win against Boone Blazers

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From STAFF REPORTS

The David Crockett High School Pioneers overtook Daniel Boone High School 5-4 during the Friday May 5 game in Gray.

The Pioneers took the lead in the second inning when Ethan Burger scored his first of three runs for Crockett with Cade Larkins and Devin Foster later scoring one run each throughout the night.

Bo Britton took the “w” on the mound for the Pioneers with five strikeouts and giving up eight hits and one error while Boone’s Colt Campbell tallied one strike out and gave up six runs and four errors. Ian Weir also came in for the Blazers to earn seven strikeouts and give up one run and one error.

Boone, Crockett battle before conference tournament play

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By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Daniel Boone High School Lady Trailblazers met once again with the David Crockett High School Lady Pioneers on the diamond Monday May 1 for a Washington County match up.

Boone defeated Crockett 6-2 after Boone’s Rachel Vittetoe began the 11-hit run for the Lady Trailblazers in the second inning and went 3-3 with one RBI double for the night. Lexi McDowell, Ashley Starnes, Kristen Hall, Jaclyn Painter and Mckenzie Gibson all crossed the plate to overtake the Lady Pioneers.

Boone’s Savannah Russell got the win in the circle giving up six hits and earning three strikeouts. Kara Weems gave up 11 hits and earned five strikeouts for the Crockett squad.

However, now both Washington County teams are knee-deep in the conference tournament.

Boone took down Sullivan Central 11-2 at Dobyns-Bennett on Monday May 8 in the Big 7 Conference tournament. The Lady Blazers took over in the second inning 5-1 after Central gave up three errors and a walk. Jenkins (who went 2-3 at the plate) had a two-run single and Ashley Starnes’ sacrifice fly set the Boone squad on top. Jenkins led the team in RBIs with three followed by Russell with two for the night.

Crockett also represented Washington County by defeating Sullivan Central 10-0 on, Dobyns-Bennett 12-1, Tennessee High 10-0, and Dobyns-Bennett once again 1-0.

The Crockett squad’s latest matchup against D-B resulted in a shutout from Weems. Maggie Anderson scored the lone run from either team on a pass ball in in the bottom of the fifth inning. Anderson, Reagan Miller, Maddie Roy and Weems all tallied hits during throughout the night.

The Big 7 Conference tournament will continue this week.

Player of the week

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Logan Rivers from the Daniel Boone High School baseball team is this week’s player of the week. Rivers has been a dominant force for the Blazers at the plate. Check back to see next week’s player of the week.

Josh Releford signs with Florida Southern

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By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Donning a brand new Florida Southern t-shirt, David Crockett High School senior Josh Releford signed his name to a paper that will write his future on and off the basketball court. But for the star point guard, committing to Florida Southern College is a ticket to a lifelong dream as well as a weight off his shoulders.

dsc_9453-2“It was really a stress reliever because I didn’t know if I was going to play college ball,” Releford said to the Herald & Tribune at his signing on Thursday April 13 in the Crockett library. “From the beginning of the season to the middle of the season, I didn’t know if I was going to play at all. This is something I always wanted to do. No matter what level, as long as I got to play for free—and to do what I love.”

Along with landing a spot with the Lakeland, Florida squad, Releford finished his senior season shooting over 50 percent and shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. He also tallied 146 assists and 826 points in his senior season alone. Overall, the 5-foot-9 senior scored 1,210 points at Crockett.

“He’s a competitor. He has drive. He wants to be good and he’s not afraid to be good. When you’re not afraid, you’re not afraid to fail,” Crockett boys basketball head coach John Good said. “He can hit shots because he’s not afraid to miss shots. That’s what people don’t understand. He’s in the gym everyday. He’s taking shots. He’s like, ‘If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I’ll take it the next time I get it.’ That’s what you’ve got to love about a guy like him. That’s why he’s going to be successful down there.”

DSC_0137It might have been a given that Releford would play high school basketball, but his choice to play at Crockett all those years ago came as a surprise to some. But for the guard who left Johnson City, Crockett was the way to get to his dream of playing college basketball.

“It was something that people said he was crazy for doing it, but he had a goal and he felt like this was the best place for him,” Good said. “And that proved to come true.”

“You know, he kind of took a chance on us and made a tremendous sacrifice to come over here and we obviously appreciate it, but he gave up something to get here,” Crockett boys basketball assistant coach Tony Gordon said just before Releford signed his name. “And we’re just hoping that sacrifice continues to pay off.”

Fast forward three years, and the Pioneers had reached the state tournament Releford’s junior season and for the first time in program history. However, the Crockett senior had to find a way to lead the squad to success the following year—after losing seven of the leading eight players on the school’s roster.

“As a leader and as a senior, really I just soaked in what we did last year and I brought it with me this year to go and give it to the young kids,” Releford said. “We made it far. And the group I had my senior season, I felt like I did good leading them and it just felt like a good legacy. Some people will remember me, I hope.”

For Good, Releford served as a leading scorer and team motivator, but he also refused to let the Pioneers settle, which is something Good certainly won’t forget.

“He took over a lot of leadership. Obviously we lost a lot of pieces from the previous year, but he stepped in there and didn’t let us go into places like we were supposed to take the backseat to anybody,” Good said. “He always tried to motivate our kids and let them know that, ‘Hey, there’s a standard here and we’re not going to let it down regardless of who’s on our team or not.’”

As Releford posed for pictures with his family, now all wearing their own Florida Southern t-shirts, Good stood a few feet from the young man he had coached for the past four years. The head coach looked back on all Releford had accomplished—and was accomplishing there on a Thursday afternoon at David Crockett High School.

“Josh came in as a young man and he matured,” Good said. “He set an example for other people and for other players to follow and he had the goal to play college basketball.

“And that dream is coming true today.”

Green turns to gold: Lady Trailblazers on a roll

By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

For a program that had a lot of holes to fill, Daniel Boone softball sure seems to be on solid ground.

Appearing as indomitable as they are inexperienced, coach Jeremy Jenkins’ Lady Trailblazers are off to a 19-3 start this season despite having to replace ace/slugger Jaclyn Jenkins (Milligan College). Also gone are all-conference shortstop Abbey Harrison and first baseman Rhetta Persinger, as well as honorable mention all-conference players Caroline Wilson and Macey Dance.

Jenkins chuckles when asked if he would’ve wagered on a 19-3 start from his green but gifted squad.

“I tell you what, there were a lot of question marks going in,” said Jenkins, now in his third year giving credit to predecessor Rick Wagner, who helped Boone to a state runner-up finish in 2012. “But they really play well together. They’re a group that gets along really well and they really pick each other up. If one’s struggling the others pick ‘em up. They’re always pulling for each other… We don’t have any superstars. It’s just really a good group.

“Coach Wagner, you know, kind of laid the foundation to what our softball program is. And hopefully we can just build on that and by tournament time we can get where we need to go.”

Pitching has been the Lady Trailblazers’ bell cow. Megan Ackerman is 4-0 with 0.94 ERA, fellow sophomore Savannah Russell is 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA and freshman Nickolette Ferguson is 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA.

“The key to us right now has been our pitching,” Jenkins said. “Savannah Russell, Nickolette Ferguson and Megan Ackerman have all three given us quality starts and done a really good job of making people earn their way on. Our defense has been pretty good all year long and the last two weeks we’ve hit the ball better than we have in a while.”

Freshman shortstop Jaycie Jenkins is hitting a blistering .528. She’s hit three of Boone’s four triples, leads the team with 22 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with three home runs. And Jenkins’ 12 doubles are as many as any two teammates’ combined total.

Ackerman is second on the team with 21 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with three home runs. Senior Kristen Hall (.444 batting average) also has three home runs.

“Our leadership has been really good,” Jeremy Jenkins said, “with Kristen Hall leading that group of seniors that we have – Lexi (McDowell), Rachel (Vittetoe) and Jaclyn Painter. Kristen’s played a really strong third base and Jaycie’s played a really strong shortstop for us. Jaclyn Painter’s played a strong second base. Lexi behind the plate has thrown out several runners. She’s already signed with Walters State…

“The great thing about this group is you never know who it’s gonna be. Top to bottom, all of ‘em are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and doing some positive things for us.”

Perhaps the young Lady Traiblazers, the nucleus of which has had a lot of success on summer teams, are too inexperienced to feel the pressure of expectations.

“Last year’s bunch – I mean, we won the league – but we really got hot at the right time in the tournament,” Jenkins said.

“This bunch is a totally different group than last year’s group – real loose and they just come to the park ready to go. They carry themselves well and they’ve played a lot of travel ball and been there and done that.

“They’re carrying it over from the practice field to the games. We’re really practicing hard and getting stuff done in practice and it’s carried over to the games. Right now, it’s just fun time watching our girls play.”

Still, Jenkins is still wary of the potential pitfalls of success, especially when youth is part of the equation.

“Like I’ve told our girls, we don’t need to be reading the paper or doing anything like that,” he said. “Keep focused on what’s there and hopefully we’ll get to where we want to get to. We all know there’s two seasons in softball – the regular season and tournament time. So we’re hoping we’re playing our best ball at tournament time.

“So far so good for us. And hopefully we can do better, because we can do better than we’re playing. We know there’s still a lot of season to go.”

Player of the week

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Congratulations to our player of the week, Nickolette Ferguson. Ferguson has been leading the Lady Trailblazer softball team in the circle. They overcame Dobyns-Bennett and Central this week in conference play thanks in part to Ferguson’s leadership. Check back for next week’s player of the week.

Player of the week

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Congratulations to David Crockett High School baseball’s Bo Britton on being this week’s player of the week. Britton recently helped earn the win for the Pioneers against conference opponent Tennessee High. Check back for next week’s player of the week.

Player of the week

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Congrats to Camara Bradley on earning player of the week! Bradley has been a top scorer on the hardwood for the Pioneers up until the end of their post season success. Check back for next week’s featured Washington County athlete!

Ferguson signs with Milligan

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Jacob Ferguson, with parents Johnny and Tammy Ferguson, signs with Milligan College.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

On Thursday, David Crockett High School senior Jacob Ferguson took the mound as the Pioneers’ starting pitcher against Morristown East. But his journey to the mound—and to officially signing on with Milligan College—is part of what has made Ferguson the athlete he is.

“First and foremost, Jacob is a great kid,” Crockett baseball head coach Scott Hagy said. “He deserves anything good that happens to him. He has had a really tough high school career from a standpoint. He was hurt and didn’t get to play much his freshman year and he got to play a full season as a sophomore. Then last year he played about a week and a half and then hurt his knee for most of the year last year as a junior.

“So we’re hoping we can keep him healthy.”

Though a knee injury robbed Ferguson of playtime for the Pioneers, the pitcher/infielder is ready to hit the field for his senior year—and to continue his career on the mound for the Milligan Buffaloes.

“Ever since I was little. I always thought I’d be doing this,” Ferguson said, sporting an orange bowtie in honor of his soon-to-be college home during his signing. “I’ve been looking at Milligan for a while. Coach Meade and Coach McMillian just made it feel like home.”

This lifelong dream of Ferguson’s was one the Pioneer baseballer made evident to Hagy from the beginning. But ultimately—just like overcoming a knee injury near the start of his junior season—Ferguson kept seeking his chance to continue his athletic career.

“He had expressed the desire to go to college and we certainly try to help any of our student athletes get to the next level if that’s what they wanna do,” Hagy said. “I kind of advised him on what to look for, things like that. But he kind of sought it out himself and he took a pretty mature approach about it.”

The senior only got to play a handful of games his junior year, but the student athlete has made quite the impression both on and off the field.

“Oh, he’s a coach’s dream,” Hagy said. “He’ll do anything you think to ask him to do. You don’t have to tell him twice. He’s going to give you his best effort any time. Whoever he plays for, he’s going to give them his best effort.”

Before Ferguson heads off to Milligan, however, the Pioneer pitcher will get to put his best efforts to work this season. With the meat of the Crockett squad’s schedule on the horizon, Hagy is hoping Ferguson will be another weapon in his conference-play arsenal.

“He’s probably right now our number two or three in the rotation which means he’s going to be seeing a lot of conference people,” Crockett’s head baseball coach said. “That’s the hope. He’s earned it. He’s pitched awfully well this spring. Hopefully he’s going to be able to take advantage of it because he certainly deserves it.”

Ferguson went from the disabled list to the top three in pitching rotation for the Pioneers. And now the upcoming college athlete’s perseverance has been rewarded with his accomplishment of signing to play at the collegiate level—which is something Hagy said the high school senior deserves.

“(Going from being injured to landing a baseball scholarship) It’s a testament to him. He works hard and he’s going to do everything that’s asked of him. I can’t ask any more from him. He gives me everything he’s got.”

Ferguson has his sights set on hitting the mound for the Buffs, but he’s also prepared to continue his work on the field and in the classroom, which he’s hoping will once again, pay off.

“I felt like it would be a great opportunity to go and further my education and keep playing baseball,” Ferguson said. “I’m working on getting mental, stronger—but education is the main thing.

“And I feel like I’ll get a lot of opportunities pitching, hopefully.”

Boone alum finds his way onto ETSU court

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By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

East Tennessee State assistant basketball coach Brian “Penny” Collins wanted to invite Daniel Boone alumnus Dillon Reppart to walk on to the Buccaneers basketball team.

Trouble was, Collins wasn’t sure who he was or if he’d ever see him again. Reppart had been a vaguely familiar presence when Collins, fellow ETSU assistant Brooks Savage and ETSU president Dr. Brian Noland won two straight back-to-school 3-on-3 tournaments the past two summers. It was clear Reppart was a good basketball player.

“I had to guard him,” said Collins, who played for Rick Byrd at Belmont. “I was like, ‘Man, this kid can play.’”

Collins decided to invite Reppart to walk on Steve Forbes’ ETSU program – provided, of course, he ever saw him again. As luck would have it, Collins and Reppart ran into one another near the Culp Center last summer.

“I was like, ‘Man, I’ve been looking for you a whole year,’” Collins said. “He was like, ‘Really?’ And I said, ‘I think you’re a really good ballplayer and we’re trying to find somebody who can come be a walk-on on our team. If this is something you’d really love to do I’d love to have you.’

“I mean I was literally walking to the cafeteria and Dillon was walking toward me and I saw him and said, ‘Hey, I’ve been looking for you.’”

Turns out, Reppart had played as a freshman at Roane State when Collins was coaching JUCO conference foe Columbia State.

Reppart1“He looked familiar,” Collins said, “but at that time I did not know it was him.”

Reppart, who scored well in excess of 1,000 points at Boone, transferred to ETSU after a year just to be a student. So Collins’ invitation seemed heaven sent.

“I’m beyond thankful for coach Collins and all he’s done for me to put me on the team,” said Reppart, a 6-foot-3 junior guard. “It’s been a blessing.”

Reppart experienced March Madness this season thanks to ETSU winning a Southern Conference tournament title in Asheville. And although the Bucs lost to Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the game was played in Orlando, where Reppart’s father lives.

“I’m blessed to be part of something like this,” Reppart said. “The SoCon Tournament in Asheville – the fan support to me alone has been incredible this year. Over half of that stadium was blue and gold cheering us on. I can’t even explain that. Rushing the court and playing in the confetti and cutting down nets – that’s something I’ve never really been a part of since eighth grade at Ridgeview.”

Collins said Reppart was instrumental in ETSU’s success as a member of the scout team during game preparation.

“Dillon will probably tell you his first couple of days of practice he was nowhere near where he was at the end of the season,” Collins said. “It took him about two or three weeks to get adjusted to the strength and the speed of the guys. But once he kind of got used to it, man, he was great.

“I told him after we won the championship that he had a lot to do with it, because he prepared our guys every day. He was the five man on scouting reports sometimes. And sometimes he was the four man, sometimes he was the two guard. But he was a scout team legend every day at practice. Some days he would give guys fits; he would make all kinds of shots. So I really feel like he was a huge part of us winning this year.”

Forbes doesn’t require a walk-on to do all of the weightlifting, conditioning and other time-constraining activities players on scholarship must do. But Reppart has always done everything asked of the scholarship players.

“He told me, ‘If I’m gonna do it I need to be all in. If I’m gonna earn the respect of my teammates, then they need to see me going through the same struggles they go through,’” Collins said. “And he was right. Boy, those players love Dillon.”

Collins said Reppart initially wasn’t expected to get to travel with the team. Heck, a jersey wasn’t a given when he began practice.

“I told him, ‘You’re gonna have to earn your jersey,’” Collins said. “After probably 2-3 weeks of practice, Coach (Forbes) said, ‘Oh, he’s gonna dress out and I’m letting him travel every trip.’”

Reppart’s glory wasn’t limited to practice. He scored seven points against VMI in four minutes of a 102-75 Bucs victory in their SoCon opener. He made both of his shots from the field, including a 3-pointer that gave ETSU an even 100 points.

“I had seven points,” Reppart said. “I hit the three to give us a hundred points. I don’t know if I missed a shot. It was my night, that’s for sure. And being on the D-I level in the first conference game in front of all my friends and family at home – it was a moment I’ll never forget.”

Williams’ 3-pointer came via a snazzy pass from Jason Williams.

“It was a dime pass from Jason Williams, behind his back,” Reppart said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Collins was all smiles after Reppart’s game against VMI.

“I was so proud,” Collins said. “It was like a validation, like, ‘Told y’all he could play.’ But I wasn’t surprised.”

Things began awkwardly enough for Reppart. Forbes initially called him Stetson. The Bucs had a walk-on named Stetson Moore last year.

“I didn’t know Dillon’s name when he started practicing,” Forbes said.  “So I just started calling him ‘Stetson,’ and he’d look at me funny. So I told him, ‘I’ll start calling you by your name when you do something good.’

“So like the second week of practice we’re doing a drill and we’re flying up and down the court and he catches the ball in transition and he bangs a three. And I go, ‘Nice shot, Dillon,’ and he looked at me like, ‘Okay, now you know my name.’ … Being a walk-on is a tough job and it’s one I have a lot of respect for.”

Having former Daniel Boone multi-sport standout Austin Reppart for an older brother has been invaluable in his development.

“He was a senior when I was a freshman in high school,” Dillon said. “He’s had beyond a lot to do with my basketball skill and confidence and toughness. We had (a goal) set up in the living room. We’d get to playing and we end up fighting by the end of the night because of how competitive we both were. That carried on through the years to out in the driveway. We’d always have to be separated sooner or later.”

Reppart is leaning toward getting into coaching – and getting into more games next season.

“I’d have to put on a couple of pounds and make my first step a little quicker to give me a chance to have a role on this team,” Reppart said. “Of course, I’ll be blessed with anything. Personally, I’m just gonna give it all I can. If it works out, then that’ll be amazing. And if not, I can say I tried.”

Collins is excited to see what the future holds for Reppart.

“Stetson actually ended up playing some very meaningful minutes for us last year,” Collins said. “Had we had some injuries, Dillon might have had a chance to play some meaningful minutes. Coach Forbes respects him. And that’s a good thing for Dillon. Now, all he has to do is continue to work and just have that go-getter attitude next year and you never know what’ll happen.

“I’m telling you, he had a lot to do with us winning this year. And that’s something he’ll always remember. … I’m just so happy for him, because if he’d went a different direction that day I probably would’ve never saw him – never found him. I was looking for him and it was meant to be.”

Local athletes tackle struggles in girls wrestling

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By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The halls of Daniel Boone High School and David Crockett High School couldn’t look more different. But as each school’s lone girl wrestler peered into her school’s trophy case, there was a similar vacancy of wrestling trophies—and they’re both looking to change that.

IDSC_1063croplevelssabella Badon is Boone’s two-time state champion girls wrestler for the 112-pound weight class and Paige Snapp is Crockett’s regional champion who placed fourth at the state tournament in the 155-pound weight class this year. Both girls have been dominant forces on the mat for the Blazers and Pioneers, but their success has also come with its own set of battles.

“The very first year I started, I had to shadow wrestle by myself because the boys would not practice with me,” Badon said, thinking back on her pre-high school wrestling days. “I was on an all boys team and it was me, the only girl. I had to wrestle boys at that time because with AAU it’s mixed. Then finally the coach had to force the boys to practice with me.”

From there, Badon, who comes from a family of Hall of Fame wrestlers and state champions, learned not only the basics of wrestling, but also how to assess the dynamics of wrestling boys.

“Knowing that they’re always strong upper-body and lower-body wise, I have to know not to get in head ties,” Badon said. “Because I’m very likely to be head-thrown. And I’ve been pinned and head-thrown twice last year and I wasn’t pinned this year with that.”

For Snapp, wrestling the guys on Crockett’s wrestling team is just another way for her to get better.

“Whenever I wrestle Mikey, he helps me work on speed. Whenever I wrestle Ryan, he helps me work on flexibility. And they’re both smaller than me. But when I wrestle the bigger guys like Justin, it helps me learn to take in shots closer because he’s really long. No matter what guy I wrestle, they always help me on different things.”

“It’s different. If I wrestle a guy that’s smaller than me, he’s still going to be better than me because guys are naturally stronger and they’re built different. Their hips are different and everything and a lot of the guys can actually use their hips better than the girls can. So I would say that wrestling even the smaller guys makes you better.”

Badon and Snapp—who are now both captains of their teams—only challenge the boys during practice due to the TSSAA girls wrestling rules which disqualify any girl who competes against a male wrestler in a match. But this doesn’t alleviate the struggles they face; Crockett’s head wrestling coach Tod Parker explained that many teams have girls of different weight classes from that of Snapp’s and even finding opponents can be difficult.

DSC_1093levels“Sometimes it gets aggravating because I want her to wrestle as many times as she can because that’s how you get better,” Parker said. “We may go three weeks and the guys wrestle every time you turn around and not have a match for her because no one has the girls. Even last year when I had two girls, it was difficult because Paige was 138 then and the other girl was 105. So it’s hard to put them against each other and either of them get any better because Paige was stronger than her obviously. So it’s difficult.”

Even among their own gender, Snapp and Badon have to readjust their techniques in order to take on girls of different weight classes.

“It’s not easy. You’ve gotta really work for it because my freshman year, every match was really close,” Badon explained. “And I had to be very perfect in all my technique because all the girl wrestlers are stronger than me because they’re shorter and more compact. I’m pretty long and lanky. So I learned I needed to build up my muscle and be perfect on everything.”

Meanwhile, Snapp not only had to assess the change she endured going from 138 pounds to 155 pounds between last year and this year, but she also has had to consider her mindset when wrestling girls that belong in lower weight classes.

“It wouldn’t be smart at all (to wrestle a smaller girl) because I could hurt her just landing on her leg wrong or her arm,” Snapp said. “The mindset you get into is, ‘Okay, I don’t have to be as strong. I don’t have to work as hard.’ And that’s totally wrong.”

Coach Parker has had girl wrestlers during his time with the program and said that having girls on the wrestling team has made him reassess the way in which he operates as the wrestling coach—especially when it comes to weigh-ins.

“I don’t have any girl’s coaches on my team, so basically it’s slide the scale under the door and tell me what you weigh.” Parker said. “And I’m just hoping you tell me the truth. When we go to weigh-ins, sometimes I have to get my wife out of the stands or another woman—which isn’t an official because the official’s are all men.”

Now both coaches hope to add more girls to their wrestling roster. Badon said she’s hoping to add her sister who will be an upcoming freshman to the team. Meanwhile, the Crockett coach is hoping Snapp’s hallway recruitment will encourage new faces.

“I’ve been taught since I was a little fella that you don’t ever ask a girl how much they weigh or how old they are,” Coach Parker said, laughing. “And I catch myself going through the hall all the time trying to recruit some more girls saying, how much do you weigh?”

The athletes and coaches also want to see continued growth throughout the region for the sport. Blazer wrestling coach Blake Shropshire said he felt the community has been very supportive. That support was evident right before Bella went back to Murfreesboro to win what would be her second state title.

“People in this region want this region to be successful,” Shropshire said. “I thought it was really cool that this year before state, all the state placers were invited up to Tennessee High’s facility. I thought that was pretty neat.”

Shropshire—who started the job at Boone the year Badon came in as a freshman—also hopes girls wrestling athletes receive recognition along with the sport.

“For some reason, it seems like there’s a stigma towards wrestling in this area. It’s funny, the first thing they think is like WWF jumping off top ropes and things like that,” Shropshire said. “I just wish that wrestling was more respected in the area. Like with what Bella did, that’s unreal. That’s so hard to do. Just to place twice is hard, but to win a state championship twice, that doesn’t happen.

It’s hard to get through a season, much less to be successful.”

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Snapp and Badon have their own goals, however. Badon has two more years of high school and Snapp still has her senior year ahead of her, but both girls have set their sights on returning to state and wrestling in college. To do so, they’re also working on the mental aspects of the sport.

“I need to be more aggressive,” Snapp said. “Girls don’t really like to be physical, but I’m still more aggressive than a lot of girls that walk around in the hallway. It gets frustrating because the boys can flip (their aggression on) like that, but for me it’s honestly really hard to do that. I’m aggressive, but I’m not as aggressive as they are and it literally takes me forever. My switch didn’t get flipped until regional tournament when my coach chewed me out. I got mad and started winning more. It helped me place at state. It took me all year to flip the switch. And it’s still hard.”

For Badon, confidence was in her corner this season, which is something she wants to keep working on.

“Because I always had really close matches and the girls were always bigger than me by a lot, I was always very nerve-wracked before the matches,” Badon said, “especially my semi-finals match because I was going up against the girl that was supposed to win state. So I was like, ‘I’ve never wrestled her before. I don’t know how this is gonna go.” Right before the match I was shaking I was so scared. My dad just comes and hugs me and he’s like, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Just wrestle.’ So always before my matches now, I’ll be like, “let’s just wrestle.’”

From facing boys who didn’t want to practice with them to wrestling girls of different weight classes, the wrestling captains are still working towards their goals while also spreading the word on what the sport can do for a young girl.

“With girls in general, when they start young, they just have to be knowing that even if they’re gonna get beat, they’ll be beat a lot,” Badon said, “but when they get to high school they’ll be able to wrestle their own gender and their own weight and have a very good chance.”

“I would say it’s made me a lot tougher mentally,” Snapp said. “Because when they decide that today’s going to be the day that they’re going to try to wear you down and break you down and make you go as far as you can, mentally you have to be there. You can’t do it if you’re not mentally there. And in a match, if you want to give up, it’s going to show. And you’re going to lose. But mentally if you’re tough and you know you can do it and push yourself, you may not win the match, but you’ll still get further and you’ll still do better.”

Boone, Crockett close out surprising seasons

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By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

It’s no secret that winning basketball games in Oak Ridge is quite a project this season, as the Daniel Boone Lady Trailblazers and David Crockett Pioneers learned during season-ending sectional losses.

Coach Travis Mains’ Lady ‘Blazers lost 61-44 at Oak Ridge on Saturday, concluding a 29-6 season that included an undefeated record in the Big Seven Conference and a district tournament title.

Coach John Good’s Pioneers weren’t expected to get anywhere near a sectional game this season without buying a ticket after losing six of the top seven players from a team that earned Crockett’s first state tournament berth in 2016. But senior guard Josh “Rico” Releford was exceptional while scoring 35 points and freshman McHale Bright’s buzzer-beating put-back pushed the Pioneers past Daniel Boone, 77-75, in the Region 1-AAA semifinals Tuesday at Science Hill, thus securing a sectional berth.

A loss to Science Hill in the regional championship forced the Pioneers to return to Oak Ridge, where they clinched the program’s first state tournament last year thanks to the likes of Patrick Good, Dustin Day and Brendan Coleman.

But none of those guys were around this season. Neither were Peyton Ford and Ian Martin, and the Pioneers never threatened Monday in a 90-60 loss to the Wildcats (30-2), who won their 18th straight game while sealing their fourth state tournament bid in five years.

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” said Good, whose Pioneers (19-16) reached the state’s Sweet 16 after being picked to finish sixth in the Big Seven Conference.

Camara Bradley scored 17 points for Crockett. Releford tallied 15 points and nine rebounds, while Bright added 11 points.XLady1

“Our kids competed, as they have all year,” Good said. “Love this team. Proud of their accomplishments and the leadership.”

Releford finished the season averaging approximately 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. He’s getting interest from Tennessee Wesleyan, Florida Southern and some junior colleges.

The Lady Trailblazer’s top gun, 5-foot-11 combo guard Macie Culbertson, limped down the homestretch of her junior season. The Belmont commitment sustained a bruised quadriceps injury in the regional semifinals win against Morristown East and wasn’t her explosive self in a regional championship loss to Morristown West or during the subsequent sectional loss at Oak Ridge (both losses were by a score of 61-44).

“No excuses, but she was probably 30 percent against Morristown West and 60 percent against Oak Ridge,” Mains said. “And you’ve seen how she affects our team. Instead of going and shooting layups she was settling for jump-shots when she would get space. … Instead of having five points she could’ve easily had 25 points if healthy, I think, at Oak Ridge.”

Fellow junior Sydney Pearce, a 6-foot-3 post also generating plenty of Division I college interest, scored consistently against Oak Ridge – when, that is, Boone was able to advance the ball up court and overcome perimeter pressure for post-entering passes.

“She was highly dominant against them,” Mains said, “but the ball pressure was good enough where we couldn’t get it in there real easily. And she was blocking shots and getting rebounds.”

Beating West in the regional final would’ve allowed Boone a better opportunity to qualify for the state tournament. The Lady Trojans, which Boone split with during the regular season, defeated Hardin Valley, 80-59, to clinch a state tournament berth.

“Not winning the region’s where we messed up,” Mains said. “But this time of year you have to be healthy and you have to have a little bit of luck. … And (West coach) Johnny Galyon schemed us well.”

Coming up one victory shy of the state-tournament goal was hardly cause for disappointment after the initial pain subsided.

Boone's Evan Scanlan goes up for a layup over the Crockett defense.

Boone’s Evan Scanlan goes up for a layup over the Crockett defense.

“The goal was to win the region so we could get a home game (in the sectional), and I think the injury had a little bit to do with not reaching it,” Mains said. “I don’t think we underachieved or overachieved either one. We had a tough schedule. The winning percentage of the teams we played was 63 percent. So to get 29 wins and six losses against that kind of competition, I would say, is a pretty good year.

“It’s tough to beat Bristol (Tennessee High), Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill all twice in the same year. And (Sullivan) Central had a dangerous team because of their length.”

Mains credited every player in the rotation for their role in the successful season. Freshman Jaycie Jenkins and sophomore Bayleigh Carmichel were invaluable. So were seniors Makenzy Bennett and Montana Riddle and junior Emily Sizemore.

“Bayleigh Carmichel had a great summer last year and really had a good season,” Mains said. “Jaycie kind of took us by storm to start the year and had an unbelievable freshman year. I think she had over 250 points and 150 rebounds. She’s well on her way to having a great career.

“Of course, you know what you get with Sydney and Macie… I think Makenzy Bennett’s emergence was huge, where she was able to run the show at the point for us. Sizemore would come in and hit a bunch of big threes for us in big games.”

Bennett will play at King University. Riddle is receiving interest from Milligan, Mains said.

Daniel Boone’s boys were within a basket of reaching the state’s Sweet 16.

Forward Evan Scanlan was a rebounding force in the heartbreaking, season-ending loss to Crockett, and fellow senior Jayden Stevens turned in his typical gutsy effort en route to 10 points.

Chris Brown’s Trailblazers (18-14) have proven pieces returning with backcourt mates Eric “Doc” Rigsby and Chad Heglar and forward Gunnar Norris.