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.
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.
By MARINA WATERS
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.
“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.”
It 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.”
By TREY WILLIAMS
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.”
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.
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.
Congrats to Boone’s Ben Varghese on becoming the 5k national indoor champ (and our player of the week).
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!
By MARINA WATERS
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.”
By TREY WILLIAMS
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.
“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.”
By MARINA WATERS
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.
Isabella 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.
“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.”
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.”
By TREY WILLIAMS
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.
“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.
“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.
Congratulations to the Daniel Boone girls basketball team. These girls were undefeated until they landed second in regionals. These district champs stayed “Boone strong” throughout the year. Way to go, Lady Blazers!
David Crockett High School’s Paige Snapp earned the spot as this week’s player of the week. Snapp has led the Pioneer’s wrestling team on the mat this season. Look for next week’s winner in the following edition of the Herald & Tribune.
By TREY WILLIAMS
The Daniel Boone Lady Trailblazers completed a mission to improve on last season’s runner-up finish in the district basketball tournament while winning the program’s first district title in 10 years Saturday at Science Hill.
Top-seeded Boone got 16 points from tournament MVP Bayleigh Carmichel and junior combo guard Macie Culbertson was invaluable in the endgame of a 57-52 championship victory against the host Hilltoppers.
Boone and Science Hill also met for the boys’ title. The ‘Toppers won, 67-49, but Chris Brown’s Trailblazers advanced to the Region 1-AAA tournament and will host a first-round game Saturday.
John Good’s David Crockett Pioneers also clinched a regional berth with their district tournament win against Tennessee High. They will travel for a first-round regional game Saturday.
The Lady Trailblazers, who lost 45-30 to Dobyns-Bennett in last year’s district title game after beating it by 14 points 15 days earlier, were faced with the task of having to beat Science Hill for a third straight time in the championship game.
Science Hill led by two at halftime and the score was tied entering the fourth quarter – not that the Boone players appeared worried.
“They were kind of calm at halftime,” Boone coach Travis Mains said. “We hadn’t played real good, and I just told ‘em, ‘We’re 16 minutes away from winning this thing.’ And they kind of took over in the fourth quarter. We didn’t really defend or rebound very well, but we executed offensively and knocked down shots.”
Culbertson and fellow junior Sydney Pearce, a 6-foot-2 post, scored 15 and 12 points, respectively, for Boone (27-4), which won its 17th straight game.
The Lady ‘Blazers never trailed after Carmichel opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer. Carmichel has regained her groove after falling off briefly while dealing with an ailing rib down the stretch.
“She’s not scared to take the shot,” Mains said. “She went for about a week or two where she was in a shooting slump and she started taking the ball to the basket. And that opened her game back up.
“She’s getting healthy from that fall she took at Tennessee High. She’s got that look in her eyes. She’s aggressive and she wants to win.”
Several Lady ‘Blazers were dealing with flu-like symptoms during the tournament, and the limited depth/energy forced Mains to keep from applying his preferred full-court pressure.
But Boone’s depth prevailed. Seven Lady Trailblazers average between six and 11 points per game.
“They want to keep playing and they play for each other,” Mains said. “They don’t care about statistics. We don’t have a kid averaging 11 points a game on our team and we have two kids with multiple Division I offers (Culbertson and Pearce). When your best players are unselfish the whole team becomes unselfish.”
Culbertson, Pearce and Montana Riddle joined Carmichel on the all-tournament team from Boone, which will host Cherokee on Friday in a regional first-round game. Culbertson, who recently committed to Belmont, was also named the Big Seven Conference co-Player of the Year with Dobyns-Bennett’s Courtney Whitson.
“Cherokee’s got a real good point guard,” Mains said. “They’ve really improved. We played them last year at Christmas time and beat them pretty soundly. … They’re very physical.
“On paper it’ll look like a blowout, but I’m sure it’s gonna be a pretty good game. They’ll play hard and won’t quit.”
Daniel Boone’s boys defeated Dobyns-Bennett in the district semifinals to earn a first-round home game in the regional. Sophomore guard Chad Heglar scored 24 points in Boone’s 52-40 win against the Indians after senior forward Evan Scanlan had piled up 18 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists in a victory against Sullivan Central in the do-or-die district opener. Scanlan had 14 rebounds and seven points against D-B.
Scanlan and Heglar made the all-tournament team, as did senior point guard Jayden Stevens, who scored 13 points in the championship loss to Science Hill.
Boone (17-13) will host Morristown East (22-10) on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the regional quarterfinals. The regional semifinals and championship game will be at Science Hill.
David Crockett senior point guard Josh Releford also made the all-tournament team. Releford scored 28 points in each of the Pioneers’ three tournament games – a win that ended Tennessee High’s season and respective losses to Science Hill (71-49) and Dobyns-Bennett (67-64) in the semifinals and consolation game.
The Pioneers (17-14) will visit Cocke County (20-10) in the first round of the region Saturday at 7 p.m
By MARINA WATERS
By signing their names to a single piece of paper on Feb. 3, four Daniel Boone High School athletes officially committed to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.
Ethan Harrell and Justin Clark signed to play football at the University of the Cumberlands and Justin Turner signed to play football at Union College. Meanwhile, Ian Weir signed to play baseball at Milligan College.
However, for two of these student athletes, their time as teammates didn’t end with their senior season; Harrell and Clark will continue their college careers side by side as Cumberland Patriots in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
“I have the opportunity to play with one of my best friends since I was five or six,” Harrell said. “That’s amazing. There’s no feeling like it, to play with one of my best friends. I’m looking forward to four more years to watch him grow as a person and as an athlete.”
Harrell is a defensive tackle who also spent some time as a linebacker and was second team all-conference for the Daniel Boone Blazers. Though the high school senior said he’s ready to be a Patriot, he took a moment on Friday to look back on his high school career.
“It’s been my home for four years,” Harrell said. “I grew up in elementary school and middle school just wanting to come here and it’s sad that it’s almost over. Hopefully the mark we left on the students and the campus in general—hopefully we’re remembered.”
In thanking his teammates, family and coaches, Clark, who is also a soon-to-be Patriot, spoke on a difficult part of his journey to signing day. The defensive end recalled his injuries throughout his time at Boone.
“Most importantly, I want to thank God. I’ve had multiple injuries, two knee surgeries where I had to start back at zero,” Clark, who was the defensive lineman of the year, said. “And I just want everyone to know that it’s all for His power. I give all the glory to Him. He’s blessed me with this opportunity. He’s given me all the abilities I’ve had. And He’s blessed me with people in this room who’ve helped me along the way.”
Meanwhile, Clark and Harrell’s teammate, Turner—who has been a right guard, defensive end and defensive tackle for the Blazers—will be heading to Barbourville, Kentucky in the fall of 2017. For Turner, the persistence he saw with the Union Bulldog coaching staff throughout the high school senior’s final season at Boone is what convinced him to choose the college.
“They offered me going into my senior year and they kept with me for the whole year,” Turner, the co-lineman of the year, said. “That was a really big thing for me. They gave me a really good offer and it’s just a blessing to have them.”
Harrell, Clark and Turner’s seasons ended in the fall, but Weir has one final season on the diamond this spring for the Blazers. Though the pitcher’s sights were set on becoming a Milligan Buffalo on his signing on Friday, he also kept his focus on landing the Boone squad at the top of the conference this season.
“We need to focus on beating Science Hill and D-B mainly,” Weir said. “We gotta get out of that third place spot and move into second or first to get to state.”
Friday was more than just a signing day for Weir; it was a day that represented a dream he has been chasing since he was a kid.
“Whenever I was little, my main objective was to go to college for baseball,” Weir said. “When I was 5 years old, the main thing my dad drilled into me was go hard in the classroom and you’re gonna get a baseball scholarship out of this.”
By MARINA WATERS
“My birthday is today also and I have a full scholarship,” David Crockett senior Tk Hill said just minutes before he signed his name on Feb. 6 to accept an athletic scholarship from Union College. “So today turned out well.”
Hill has been part of the Pioneer football team since he transferred from University High as a freshman. Since then, the running back has acquired 3,693 yards and 42 touch downs in his Crockett career. And now, he’s earned a spot with the Union College Bulldogs in Barbourville, Kentucky.
“My big brother, Chropee, he’s the one that introduced me to my sport,” Hill said. “I joined junior pioneers with Coach Brian over there and he taught me how to play running back. From there I went on to middle school with Coach Kenneth Wells and Coach Kevin Durham. And I just fell in love with the sport and went all through high school and ended up getting a scholarship. So it’s an honor to be here today and be able to play an extra four years.”
Hill wasn’t the only one who witnessed his transformation from a transfer student to an up-and-coming college athlete; Former Pioneer head coach Jeremy Bosken looks back on Hill’s work ethic and growth throughout his time at Crockett in light of the running back’s commitment.
“Tk’s one that is near and dear to my heart because we’ve been through a lot together,” Bosken said. “He’s really part of the first class that I’ve ever been a part of from freshman to senior. So to see him grow as a person and as a man—I mean, he grew leaps and bounds. He’s a young man that owns his own business, he works a job, he’s always training for football and he’s a great teammate.”
While at Crockett, Hill was a part of the Bosken era that lasted from the 2013 season through the 2016 season. But for Hill, the rebuilding years at Crockett are part of what he enjoyed most about the program—and Hill will get to continue this rebuilding experience at Union College.
“When I came to Crockett, I transferred and it was a rebuilding process here with Coach Bosken coming in,” Hill explained. “So with me playing as a freshman, it was a big translation trying to change the name of Crockett. And we did.
“Union talked to me and they just got a new head coach also. So it’s kinda like in a building process also. So I felt like that was my home. There’s no favorites; I still get to work my way in. They’re talking about me playing too. I felt like that was a good home.”
As Hill gears up to head across the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, the running back is prepared to grow with the Bulldogs’ program. But he’s also still rooting for that Pioneer team that is about to enter another rebuilding phase.
“I see we got a new head coach with Coach Sensabaugh. I’ve talked to him a little bit and I’ve got faith in what he’s about to do with this team,” Hill said. “We’re about to be on extra other level than we were on. I think Crockett’s even more on a build-up than what I left behind. I hope.
“I respect and I honor him for coming up here and taking over and that he’ll keep rebuilding the process—keep building it up and not let it break down.”
By TREY WILLIAMS
Daniel Boone junior basketball player Macie Culbertson has a rare ability to spot opportunities in advance on the court, and she quickly seized a chance to score a career goal, too.
Culbertson committed last week to play at Belmont University in Nashville. Belmont has an impressive young coach and is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance. So with a number of other schools also interested, including Middle Tennessee, there was no need, Culbertson suggested, to overthink it.
“Belmont was my top school from the very first time I visited there,” said Culbertson, whose father Chad played football at Sullivan North. “It’s a great university and the coaching staff and players are very cool and fun people to be around. I know freshman Maddie Wright from AAU and school ball some. I got to spend some time with her and the players outside of basketball, and they were just girls that I wanted to be around and play with.”
Belmont had the best season in program history last year in coach Cameron Newbauer’s third season. The Bruins went 24-9, beat Wake Forest and offered much resistance against fourth-seeded Michigan State in an NCAA Tournament loss.
“And the coach at Belmont was just elated that she’d committed,” Boone coach Travis Mains said. “He didn’t think he could get Macie. … They’re on the uptick. They’re getting highly rated players that would rather go there and play and live in Nashville and play in that environment. They’ve got a girl there that played at Stanford. They’ve got a girl there that played at Vanderbilt.
“He’s a difference maker. That guy will be your next big-time coach somewhere. I just hope he doesn’t leave before she leaves. …. Out of all the coaches I met, there’s a bunch of really impressive coaches, but that guy’s just got an ‘it’ factor.”
Culbertson, a 5-foot-11 guard who missed her freshman season due to an ACL tear, is averaging approximately 11.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game for the Big 7 Conference-leading Lady Trailblazers. Those averages have come in a relatively low amount of minutes, as the Lady Trailblazers have won plenty of games by comfortable margins. Unselfishness also stunts Culbertson’s stats.
“She plays reserved,” Mains said. “She still wants to please her teammates a lot of times, I think, instead of just taking over. That’s her next step in development – just taking over games. And we’ve seen that here down the stretch.
“She took over against Sullivan Central, scored the last 10 points of the game. She kind of took over at Science Hill late, rebounding the ball and handling ball. Her rebounding’s went up from, like, five a game to 10 a game here recently. If we need a rebound she goes and gets it.”
A higher level of play, such as AAU, has generally elevated Culbertson’s play.
“She’s just scratching the surface,” Mains said. “She sees the game two or three passes ahead. We’ve got really good players, but sometimes they don’t actually see what she sees. She’ll get a couple of turnovers a game where, if they would make the right cut or see what she saw, they’d be points instead of turnovers. She loves to pass. She’s a pass-first shooting guard.
“She’s very advanced. You don’t see many kids like that – and to have the selflessness to make those passes. She’d rather throw a half-court bounce pass than to shoot a game-winning 3-point shot, I’m afraid. She’s fun to watch.”
Mains anticipates the killer instinct surfacing down the stretch, particularly in the postseason. Certainly, Culbertson has a good role model as a closer.
“My favorite player when I was a kid was definitely Kobe (Bryant),” Culbertson said. “I liked how easy he made everything look and how he saw the floor and
found his players when they were open. Growing up, I really looked up to Angie Bjorklund, who played for the Lady Vols a while back ago, and just the whole Lady Vol basketball program.”
Culbertson could still conceivably be courted by a number of other college programs, though commitments are generally respected much more than they are in college football or men’s basketball.
“MTSU was really, really involved,” Mains said. “They told her during one of her visits she was the No. 1 freshman on the board at the one, two and three positions, and that had never happened before. They had her at three different positions and that was the No. 1 want out of the summer evaluation.
“She loved Belmont that much. Her mom told me she wanted to commit as she was coming back from the first visit, that she just fell in love with it. They’ve got a nice living situation. It’s almost like a $250,000 scholarship after four years. They do overseas trips. It’s pretty legit. They’ve got a nice facility to play at. It’s a good situation. …
“They got four kids that were Top 100 kids coming out of high school. This guy’s picking up studs. I’m excited for her.”
Congratulations to our co-players of the week, Daniel Boone High School basketball players Chad Heglar and Eric Rigsby. The two were leading scorers for the Boone Blazers and combined their efforts to defeat David Crockett’s squad.
By MARINA WATERS
Austin Peay State University will gain Daniel Boone offensive lineman Christian Bowman starting in the fall of 2017. Bowman signed to continue his football career with the Governors on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Boone.
The high school senior has been the impact offensive player of the year, all-conference for two years and the impact lineman of the year for two years. But when the Boone Blazer visited one of the schools that gave him a college football scholarship offer, the feeling he got from Austin Peay convinced him.
“I feel I really connected with them (the coaching staff),” Bowman said. “They’re really young, upbeat. I went last Friday for my official visit and I just fell in love with it so I decided to commit and sign the papers.”
Bowman said his family wanted him to find a family-like atmosphere. The high school senior’s father Brad Bowman also said Clarksville will be a fitting home away from home for his son after the family spent time at Fort Campbell while Bowman’s father was stationed there.
When asked about his son’s accomplishments, Bowman’s father connected the future Austin Peay Governor’s success to his family ties, specifically to his mother.
“His biggest accolade and stat is his heart,” Bowman’s father said. “He is one of the most compassionate, caring young men I have met—thanks to his mom.
“She is where his success comes from. I spent most of his early life in the Army and in Iraq so he gained his strength and learned what is important in life through her.”
But Bowman says his father was also an inspiration. His father was a football scout as well as a former college football player and he motivated Bowman to play the game and continue to the next level.
“Dad played at the next level. It’s just always been a dream,” Bowman said. “It’s just always made me work because I’ve just always wanted to do it. And I think God played a major role in that too. I feel like I’ve been led to play at the next level and keep on going.”
By MARINA WATERS
David Crockett High School senior Ievan Martin signed Thursday to play football for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Martin is an offensive guard and offensive tackle as part of the Pioneer football team.
For Crockett’s assistant football coach Stephen Jackson, it wasn’t just Martin’s size and strength that stuck out in the coach’s mind—it was his reaction to pressure.
“This is one of the first guys I met when I got here. I thought, ‘My lord, I hope everybody’s that big at Crockett’,” Jackson said. “But this guy right here, I challenged him one of the first days I got here. And he stood up to the challenge. I would put Ievan Martin in front of anybody right now.”
Though Martin said the money he will receive for his athletic scholarship is part of what motivated him to sign with UVA Wise, he also said a similarity to Crockett’s squad convinced him to join the Cavaliers.
“They have a nice campus,” Martin said. “And their football team is really close, like we are here.”
Martin has hung up his cleats for the Pioneers, but for Martin and Coach Jackson, the excitement of the high school senior becoming a Cavalier and forever being a Pioneer is an accomplishment that continues.
“This kid is going to do great things with his life,” Jackson said. “And we just look forward to having him come out there and represent Crockett for the rest of his future.”