Our featured athlete of the week is Daniel Boone football’s Peyton Nickels. Nickels helped the Trailblazers to a conference win over Cocke County. Check back for our next featured athlete.
Our featured athlete of the week is Daniel Boone football’s Peyton Nickels. Nickels helped the Trailblazers to a conference win over Cocke County. Check back for our next featured athlete.
By MARINA WATERS
On Monday morning, the David Crockett High School football team had a big decision to make.
They could finish the rest of their season, starting with the county rivalry match up against Daniel Boone this Friday. Or they could opt to put the whirlwind season, following the suspension of their head football coach, to rest.
The Pioneers chose to finish.
Now they’ll do so with Pioneer head baseball coach, and now interim head football coach, Nick Lingerfelt leading the pack.
“I felt like it was my responsibility as a person to step up and say ‘hey, if these kids want to play, I’ll be there.’ And if they decide not to, I’ll support them in that too,” Lingerfelt said at a press conference held at the school on Monday.
“It’s not about me. It’s really not. It’s about these kids. They decided they want to play and they told me today I was going to be the coach. And here I am.”
Lingerfelt was hired in July to take over the baseball program at Crockett. He served as an assistant coach at Dobyns-Bennett for seven years and at his alma mater, Unicoi High School, for eight. He assisted with both the baseball and football programs at those schools.
The decision for Lingerfelt to take on his latest role as Pioneer football’s interim head coach came after head coach Gerald Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave last Tuesday. The letter of reprimand from Crockett head principal Peggy Wright to Sensabaugh lists practicing an injured player, verbal attacks and profanity from the coach as concerns from administration.
After the suspension of their coach, the football team was left divided between students who still wanted to compete in last Friday’s game against Tennessee High and those who opted not to play or attend the game, in support of Sensabaugh. The Pioneers lost 35-13 against the Tennessee High Vikings under the direction of assistant-coach-turned-interim-head-coach Brandon Qualls.
“It’s been an emotional week,” Lingerfelt said. “We were on fall break last week, and I think the lessons these young men have learned exceed any lesson in a classroom.
“The fact that these kids showed some resiliency and went in there this morning and voted to have a season, that speaks volumes. That speaks volumes for their character. I’m ready to take on this challenge.”
Lingerfelt didn’t confirm who would join his coaching staff for Friday’s game and the remainder of the season, but he did say he would be meeting with former Pioneer head coach Kent Green who resigned from the position in 2012.
“After I got word, I went straight to some of the people that I’ve assembled and I said, ‘Listen, we can’t reinvent the wheel. We’ve got two weeks left in the season and then we’ve got playoffs.’,” Lingerfelt said. “We’re going to get in the playoffs. What happens there, we’ll see.”
As for his roster, Lingerfelt said the student athletes present at Monday’s team meeting exceeded the number he had on his updated roster of 51 kids. He also said if players show up at practice, they’re going to play.
Lingerfelt isn’t the only one stepping into an interim position this week; Crockett head basketball coach John Good is currently serving as the school’s athletic director after Josh Kite was put on administrative leave following allegations from Sensabaugh who said Kite offered him prescription drugs. An investigation on the allegation is pending.
For Good and Lingerfelt who are taking on additional roles at Crockett, both say they are ready to concentrate on allowing the Pioneers a chance to take the field.
“Last week we picked up a kid on his way home from practice and took him to eat,” Lingerfelt said. “I said, ‘What do you think about all this stuff?’ He said, “Coach, I’m 15 years old. I just want to play football.’ And I thought, ’It’s really sad that this young man doesn’t get the opportunity to play a game that he loves.’”
Now that the team is officially back in action, the Pioneers will battle longtime rival Daniel Boone for a Musket Bowl victory on Friday night.
“It’s huge,” Good said. “Kids grow up wanting to be a part of this game. It’s bragging rights within the county.”
This year’s 47th annual Musket Bowl game comes after Boone defeated Crockett 14-10 at the Pioneer’s stadium, but Lingerfelt has confidence in the Pioneer squad.
“We’ve got to play Daniel Boone on the road at the Musket Bowl and we’ve got to be prepared to overcome a lot of adversity,” Lingerfelt said. “We know Daniel Boone’s a good team, but I have no doubt our kids can overcome this and they can win that football game.”
Just by looking at the number of kids on his roster and showing up for team meetings and practices, the interim head coach said it’s clear to him these kids are ready to be out on the field for another Friday night.
“The easiest thing to do would be to fold up tent and quit,” Lingerfelt said. “I don’t see that in these kids. I don’t. I see the drive and the initiative to go forward and I’m excited.”
Crockett will face Boone for the Musket Bowl competition on Friday Oct. 20 at Nathan Hale Stadium in Gray. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m.
This week’s player of the week is Crockett football’s Cade Larkins. Larkins has been a leader on the gridiron for the Pioneers this year. Check back for our next featured athlete.
This week’s featured player is CJ Carter of Daniel Boone football. Carter has been making the connection for the Blazers this season and helped bring his team to victory over Morristown East. Check back for our next player of the week.
Our featured athlete of the week is David Crockett volleyball’s Sydney Fox. Fox was instrumental in Crockett’s win against Unicoi last week and has been a leader for the Lady Pioneers on the court this season. Check back for our next featured athlete.
By Trey Williams
Daniel Boone’s football team was hamstrung by fate while its fans were at a fever pitch.
Quarterback Noah Shelton had a viral infection and a 102-degree fever and running back Charlie Cole was resting a pulled hamstring when the Trailblazers hosted the best team on their schedule Friday at Nathan Hale Stadium.
Cole and Shelton didn’t play in Boone’s 63-6 loss to Science Hill, a game that consequently had more of an exhibition feel. But both players should return for the entirety of the regular season’s more important second half. The Trailblazers (1-0, 2-2), picked by the majority of Region 1-5A coaches to win the Mountain East Conference, will finish the season with five straight league games.
As was the case last year, Boone was a drastically inferior team minus Shelton, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior. Mobile, strong-armed and smart (he made a 32 on the ACT), Shelton rushed for 370 yards, passed for 380 and accounted for 13 touchdowns during the Trailblazers’ 3-1 start.
“He’s a very head-smart kid that can do a lot of things,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “We ask a lot of him. He does a good job of getting us in and out of plays. He’s a playmaker. He can beat you with his legs or his arm.”
Cole, who became Boone’s first freshman to rush for at least 1,000 yards when he piled up 1,100 in 2016, has rushed for 460 yards in three games this season.
“He’s a beast,” Shelton said. “When he’s a hundred percent it’s scary to see what he can do. He’s had that nagging hamstring and I know it frustrates him more than it frustrates anybody in the stands or anybody else on the team. He wants to be out there more than anything. He’s got to stretch and keep it limber and I think he’ll be alright.”
Leading receiver C.J. Carter ended up quarterbacking Boone the majority of snaps against Science Hill after backup quarterback Easton Harrell left the game hurting. But all hands are expected to be on deck Friday at Morristown East.
Boone’s defense – prior to the Science Hill game, at least – has been a pleasant surprise during a season in which it had to replace nine of 11 starters. Tommy Kolb leads the team in tackles and fellow linebacker Logan Rivers has been similarly effective.
“Tommy and Logan have both been really good at inside linebacker,” Shelton said.
Shelton also praised defensive backs Colton Adams, Joe Jones and Harrell, as well as defensive linemen Austin Cox, Zach Taylor and two-way lineman Drew Thompson.
“I don’t know how he does it – playing both sides of the trenches,” Shelton said. “They’re all really jelling and it’s really nice to see. It takes a lot of pressure off your offense when your defense is shutting people out or holding them to three points, you know, like Tennessee High and Gate City.”
The offensive line has been productive despite having to replace Justin Turner and Christian Bowman from the 2016 team.
“This group is not quite as big as that bunch was last year,” Jenkins said. “But they’ve done a good job of really meshing together and really getting better each week out there.”
No one can appreciate an offensive line more than a quarterback.
“Offensively, up front, you know, you had Bailey (Presnell), Walker (Burleson) and Drew coming back (as returning regulars),” Shelton said. “Jeremiah (Sullivan) got some playing time last year. I think he’s stepped up. Isaiah Quaintance has stepped up big-time. Guys like James Richardson rolling in and AC (Cox) rolling in a little bit. They’ve really come together as a unit and they’re playing good football.”
Bowman (Austin Peay) and Turner (Union College) are playing in college, an option Shelton will have. But he isn’t certain he wants to play college football, although he’s heard from Eastern Kentucky, Chattanooga and Virginia Military Institute, among others. His suitors include Centre College, an NCAA Division III member near Lexington, Kentucky. Centre’s offensive coordinator, Ben Fox, was a quarterback and valedictorian at Daniel Boone.
“He came down (to a game),” Shelton said. “I got to talk to him for a while. He’s a great guy.”
Of course, Shelton is excited about the remainder of his high school career. Boone’s remaining home games are against Volunteer (Oct. 6) and David Crockett (Oct. 20). Challenging road games remain with Cocke County (Oct. 13) and Cherokee (Oct. 27).
“I think it’s not outlandish to think we could run the table,” Shelton said. “I think it’s extremely reasonable to think that we could go 5-0 and host a playoff game, hopefully host a couple and make a run in the playoffs. But I don’t wanna think about a playoff game when we’ve got Morristown East four days away. It’s about taking every game one game at a time, focusing on what we’ve got to do and staying healthy and being smart.”
By Breyanna Blackwell
It was football time in Jonesborough as David Crockett High School faced off against Cocke County High for a key Region 1-5A game on Friday night.
David Crockett celebrated its homecoming with a 38-33 win over Cocke County, bringing them to 2-0 in the region.
For spectators like Ruth Hyatt, tonight marks another season of football in Jonesborough as she has spent nearly 20 years in the cheering crowd during David Crockett’s crisp fall games.
“They are getting more support now, they’ve had good years and bad years but now they seem to have that support,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of good players”.
But this night was an important one for the Pioneers, changing their season to 3-2 after the 21-20 loss on the road at Knox Gibbs last week.
The Pioneers scored the first touchdown with nine minutes left in the first quarter. Cheers from the student section erupted as they celebrated the lead, dressed in Luau attire for the homecoming festivities.
Dakota Francis, a senior at David Crockett, said there was a lot of excitement at school leading up to this game and for new head coach Gerald Sensabaugh.
“With Coach Sensabaugh, we have a very good chance of getting through the playoffs,” Francis said. “He has put people in the right positions for their skills.”
After the half, Cocke County’s Joseph Jones scored a 34-yard touchdown bringing the score to 20-14 and earning the lead for Cocke County.
Tensions were high for both teams on Friday; Cocke County was undefeated 3-0 leading up to the game and a win against the Pioneers have been for their first regional contest win.
At the end of the third quarter, David Crockett pushed forward as the Pioneers’ Cade Larkins, passed to John Kollie for the touchdown bringing the score to 28-27.s
Both teams fought to the finish, and many of the fans expressed their positivity for the players and Coach Sensabaugh.
“They have played two of the best teams in the state with opportunities to beat them and Coach Sensabaugh has brought a lot of excitement to the program”, David Crockett’s baseball coach, Nick Lingerfelt, said. “As you can see tonight, the crowd it pretty good.”
After Cocke County gave up four turnovers and two muffed punts in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers held the lead at 38-33.
“They are a young team with a sophomore quarterback and a freshman running back,” Lingerfelt said. “They have a chance to get in the playoffs and make some noise with a young team.”
David Crockett is set to play a non-conference, home game against Hampton next Friday, Sept. 22.
Charlie Cole is one of our recent featured athletes. Cole as been a leader for the Boone Blazers on the grid iron this season. Check back for our next featured athlete.
Our featured athlete is David Crockett runner Breanna Roy. Roy recently broke a Crockett record for a 5K. She also helped to bring the girls cross country team to the second place spot at the Cherokee Classic. Check back for our next featured athlete.
Our first player of the week for the school year is Daniel Boone’s Noah Shelton. Shelton helped lead the Boone Blazers to victory over Sullivan South during their first game of the season. He also ran for four touchdowns, including a pair in the fourth quarter. The Blazers will host Tennessee High this Friday in Gray. Check back for our next featured athlete.
By MARINA WATERS
It’s football time in Tennessee — and at David Crockett High School, it’s time for new stadium seats.
Crockett Athletic Director Josh Kite presented his plans to the Washington County Board of Education to install 100 stadium bucket seats to the Pioneer football stadium. Kite said he plans to install these seats for the upcoming season.
“If you look around — Daniel Boone High School, Science Hill, Elizabethton — those seats always sell. Everyone wants a seat back. Everyone wants to be comfortable,” Kite said. “Every stadium’s going to it. We’re playing catch-up a little bit, but it adds a good scenery there. It’s something we needed to do and we’ll recoup that investment on the first year.”
The brown, gold and white Maximus 28 seats from Seating Solutions are quoted at $2,351. The seats will be sold between $80 to $100 per seat for the entire season which could turn a profit for Crockett athletics beyond paying for the newly added seats.
“If this is reoccurring money, residual income, we’re going to make upwards of $40,000 to $45,000 over a five-year span as opposed to $15,000. That’s a $30,000 difference to the better,” Kite said. “We can start focusing on that and we could start saving. It could be applied to other things that are needed — not just for athletics, but on the curriculum side of things.”
Kite said he is looking including a parking pass and a voucher to the concession stand with each seat purchase—and he’s also thinking these seats will pay for themselves the first year; The seats could bring in $8,000 in ticket sales per those 100 seats (priced at $80 for the season) verses the $3,000 in ticket sales those 100 spots historically bring in (priced at $6 per game per season). The new chairs would bring in a profit of over $5,000 if each seat sells—which is a problem Kite doesn’t think the school will have to face.
“I really feel like these are going to sell. We have a lot of hype down there at the football stadium and Crockett athletics and it’s a great opportunity,” Kite said.
“I’ve had at least 100 people ask me for seat backs.”
During Kite’s request to make facility changes to the Jonesborough stadium, BOE Chairman Jack Leonard mentioned that the school system is planning to remodel the stadium in the future. Kite said the seats are removable should such a renovation take place.
“Let’s say it’s five years before we can do any type of renovation. (By adding and selling the seats) we have made $30,000,” Kite explained. “This is something we can afford and everyone wants a seat back. They’re going to pay it.”
By MARINA WATERS
Since becoming David Crockett High School’s new head baseball coach, Nick Lingerfelt hasn’t spent much time away from his new home away from home off of Old State Rte. 34 in Jonesborough.
“I’ve actually been here everyday since I got the job — doing inventory, assessing the facilities, meeting with the former staff and trying to complete our schedule and trying to complete the preseason workout routine. I’ve been busy. My wife told me just the other night, ‘I know this is your dream, but don’t forget to come home every now and then too.’”
Lingerfelt will be leading the Pioneer program after serving as an assistant baseball coach at Dobyns-Bennett High School for the past seven years. He was also an assistant coach at his alma mater, Unicoi High School, for the first eight years of his coaching career. Now for the new head coach, it’s those experiences that have given him the tools he needs for his new role.
“Everybody knows who Dobyns-Bennett is. They’re a first class program. Their school system is a first class school system,” Lingerfelt said. “That’s the winningest program in the country. To be able to work with Coach (Ryan) Wagner and to learn from him was a great opportunity for me.”
“I was fortunate enough to work with Coach (Charlie) Baxter who has over 1,000 wins and has several state championship rings. To be able to see the things that the man for excellence on and off the field, the commitment to the little things, just the passion he has for the game and the passion he has for people—it was just a privilege and an honor to even be mentioned and associated with his program.”
Lingerfelt has also as been finalizing his preseason schedule and picking the brain of Scott Hagy, the Pioneer baseball coach who recently stepped down from his role as head coach. Hagy served as only the second head baseball coach in Crockett history.
“He’s got answers that I need,” Lingerfelt said. “I’m working with him to make the transition smoother. He’s a great man and I think highly of him. I’ve known him ever since I got into the coaching world. I told him the other day, I said, ‘Coach, you’ve done this. You remember what it was like years ago when you took over? Now I’m you. And I’m going to need your help.’ And I hope we can develop a good relationship and get things accomplished.”
The Crockett baseball program has seen everything from state-sectional appearances to regular season upets in years past, but Lingerfelt cites his past experiences — as a coach and player— as another tool in his baseball tool belt to take on whatever the future might hold.
“I’m originally from Unicoi. I was on the ’95 state championship team, but I was also the losing pitcher in the 1997 state championship game,” he said. “So I’ve been on the mountain top and the valley And I’ve many experiences in life that are very similar to being on the mountain top and being in the valley. Hopefully those experiences have prepared me for what I’m about to take on.”
Taking on challenges is what Lingerfelt constantly strives to overcome; two years ago, the teacher and coach was named teacher of the year in the Kingsport City School District. Lingerfelt, who teaches special education math, is now ready to bring his talents and his motivation to keep getting better at every task he takes on in his life to Washington County.
“(winning teacher of the year) is just like anything you do. If you’re just going to settle for average, then there’s really no need to do it. Everything that I take on in life, I try to be the best that I can be,”Lingerfelt said. “In baseball it’s state championships and in the classroom it’s teacher of the year recognition. At home it’s being the best husband and father. It’s just the challenge that I’ve placed on myself.”
Now the Unicoi native is ready to set his goals and get to work. Lingerfelt said his next step is to name the rest of the Pioneer baseball coaching staff. Though he’s yet to sit down with his team, he’s already striving to make it to one game in particular on his newly finished schedule.
“The state tournament is going to be held on May 2, 2018. I just added that to the calendar because that’s our goal. That’s going to be our goal every year, to get to the state tournament and we’re going to keep working towards that goal.”
Not only does the coach want to get his team focused on this goal, but he also wants to get the community behind the program.
“We’ve got to get into our fundraisers. We’ve got to get out into the community,” he said. “We’ve got to spread the excitement and let them know that we might not win a game, but by golly, we’re going to be one of the hardest working teams in this area. That’s a huge task because everybody says that, but coming from the programs that I came from, I feel like that I’ve got a lot to offer.
“I’m just a coach. I’m just the guy that’s got the key. For this machine to work, it’s going to take every part, everybody in this community buying into what we want to achieve.”
Lingerfelt is no stranger to setting goals, and he’s also no stranger to Crockett; before his role in Kingsport, he got his start as a teacher in Washington County.
“I actually worked at Crockett eight years ago. So I know the kids. I know the type of kids that I’m going to have here and to be honest, I’m excited about that because they’re eager. They’re hungry. They’re ready to work,” Lingerfelt said. “There’s talent. There’s talent in the classroom. There’s talent in the athletic field.
“You’ve got Gerald Sensabaugh, the football coach, and everybody knows that name. You’ve got Coach Good, the basketball coach, and everybody knows that name. I’ve got to make a name for myself now because I’ve kind of flown under the radar for a couple years. But I’m eager to be a part of it.”
Lingerfelt said he’s ready to work and be the best head coach he can be. He also said he feels as if he’s exactly where he was meant to be—even if it took some patience.
“It has been a dream but I’ve also been very patient in pursuing that dream, wanting to make sure it was God’s will for my life,” he said. “A lot of people rush in and take any job just to get that title of being a head coach. I tried to learn more in my 15 years of being an assistant to where that I was truly ready when the opportunity became available.
“The fact that they’ve only had two coaches here, it’s not my vision to already be thinking about leaving. It’s my vision to come here and to do everything I can to make this program one of the top programs in the state. A lot of things that I can envision, it takes resources, it takes people and it takes everybody working together to achieve that. I’m going to enjoy the process a little bit and work hard.”
By MARINA WATERS
After the David Crockett High School baseball team went 8-26 during their 2016 season, the Pioneers’ third baseman and Tusculum baseball signee Will Leonard was a bit disappointed. But little did Leonard know the Pioneers would turn their next season — and Leonard’s final at Crockett — around.
“Senior year we really played as a team. Our chemistry was a lot better and it was just more fun to be out on the field because everyone wanted to be there,” Leonard said. “We did a lot better than the previous year, which I was happy about because that was our goal. We really based everything we did this year off of last year because we didn’t do too hot at all. We really struggled playing together. And then the year after, we were all just best friends. It was about going out and having fun.”
The turn around between his junior and senior seasons counts as an accolade in itself for Leonard along with the third-baseman’s 375 batting average, 41 RBIs, 40 hits and the Big 7 Player of the Year title that took the upcoming Tusculum Pioneer by surprise.
“I wasn’t really quite expecting it because, I mean, that’s a big honor,” Leonard said. “So to be able to be named that, it really kind of built self-confidence. It’s kind of overwhelming to be honest with you.”
But the road to such an honor wasn’t always a smooth one; when asked what obstacles Leonard overcame to earn his spot as a college baseball player for the Tusculum Pioneers, his comments immediately revolved around a chronic condition he’s been dealing with for most of his life.
“I’ve been juvenile diabetic since I was 1 year old. So that’s kind of a big obstacle playing sports and being active because of the way the disease works. But it’s just something to keep positive about and just keep moving forward on,” Leonard said.
“You’re out there playing and then your sugar drops, you can’t play as well as if before. You’re not as proficient. Or if your sugar’s high, you’re not at your most proficient level. You’ve got to maintain a level of steadiness with your blood sugars.”
Like with most obstacles, however, fighting that battle has only increased his drive to get on the field and play the game he’s loved since he was 3 years old.
“It makes me appreciate the game more,” Leonard explained. “Because knowing that I can do it with the disability, it makes me feel stronger in my game.”
Now that Leonard is headed to Greeneville to join yet another Pioneer squad, he said he’s most looking forward to the physical gains that come along with the Tusculum program.
“Building character and honestly, strength (are what he’s looking forward to). I’ve never really lifted weights or anything here at Crockett because we did CrossFit — which is more of like a cardio and stamina building,” Leonard said. “And in college I’ll get to actually be in a weight room.”
This summer, the upcoming college athlete is playing for the Tusculum-affiliated travel team, the Northeast Tennessee Pioneers who are led by Tusculum’s assistant coach Nick Rodriguez.
Leonard will also be joined by his high school teammate Bo Britton who ended up on the same college roster as the Big 7 Conference Player of the Year.
“It just kind of happened. He’d been wanting to play at the next level too and he hadn’t had any offers so I got him a tryout with our travel team,” Leonard explained. “He came and tried out and he basically went through the same process I did with Coach Rodriguez.”
Until Leonard officially hits the dirt for the Pioneers, he’s honing his skills on the field while also gearing up to build the kind of mentality it takes to make it in college baseball.
“With the character that they teach in college, it’s a lot different from high school,” He said. “I definitely want to step up my focus because it’s a lot more laid back in high school than it’s going to be in college.”
Whether it’s in Greenville or Jonesborough, Leonard said he simply enjoys the game he’s loved since t-ball and the passion he’s developed on the diamond.
“Probably just the love for the game (keeps him wanting to play). It just relaxes me,” Leonard said.
“It’s something to be passionate about.”
By MARINA WATERS
When recent Daniel Boone High School graduate and Lady Trailblazer softball player Kristen Hall stood up to thank those in attendance on the day she signed to play softball at East Tennessee State University, she could feel the nervousness hit her. She was about to speak in front of an auditorium full of people—and she wasn’t wearing her usual footwear.
“I was nervous more than anything else because we had been told we’re going to have to go up there and say something in this auditorium full of people,” Hall said. “And I was nervous because I was wearing heels. Normally I wear cleats or tennis shoes or whatever. But after I got through all that—and got back down from the stage and didn’t fall on my way up—I finally realized my dream was coming true.
“I looked out in the crowd and my family and everyone around me, my best friends and my teammates and my other family that helped me get there. There was a gratitude and a thankfulness for them.”
Hall was a member of the Lady Blazer softball team that earned the Big 7 Conference and District 1-AAA title for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The team reached substate in their 2016 season and ended their season in 2017 at the regional semifinals. Hall was also the District 1-AAA Softball Tournament MVP, a member of the district all-tournament team and the Big 7 Conference Player of the Ye
ar—that came as a pleasant surprise to Hall.
“I was ecstatic. They had went through all the names and my teammates had gotten stuff and then they announced mine as player of the year. It came as a shock to me. But I was happy and thankful for it,” Hall recalled. “I told them when they asked me that I couldn’t be the player I am without the people playing with me in front and behind me and to my left and, well there’s nobody to my right because I’m on the line, but the people I’ve got. There are multiple times the first baseman has saved me because I’ve made a bad throw and they catch it and make me look good.”
For Hall, a big part of receiving that accolade and finding her success as well as the Lady Blazers’ recent victories has relied on a team-mentality.
“It’s a game of teamwork. My dad always said if it’s all about you, go find a singles game. Go play golf, go play tennis. If you don’t trust the person to your left to have your back, then you’re going to really struggle,” Hall said. “Even if you’re just playing a game with a team who asked you to come pick up with them over the weekend, you need to be able to trust that person and their ability just like they have to trust you and yours.”
Though the Lady Blazers saw an increase in underclassmen, Head Coach Jeremy Jenkins told the Herald & Tribune that Hall is a player who “leads by example and with great leadership”—even when doubts were surrounding the reigning conference and district champs.
“We had big shoes to fill and a lot to live up to from the previous season,” Hall said. “People were kind of worried about us going in. But to go in and put everybody’s doubts to rest and let them know we’re here and we’re a force to be reckoned with.
“Before every game, especially with the people you are across-town rivals with, your Crockett game and your D-B game, Coach Jenkins would always tell us before the game, ‘you know everyone’s wanting to knock you out of no. 1. You just have to show up and play the game and let them know that you’re no. 1 for a reason and you’re not going to be knocked out of that.’”
For Hall, who’s will soon enough join the Lady Bucaneers who won the Southern Conference title and reached the NCAA regional tournament, there’s an excitement in joining another successful squad in the region who will represent Northeast Tennessee.
“They came off of a really successful season. So I’m really excited to be a part of that,” Hall said, “I’m excited to be coming into a successful program, especially from the area. I think that’s so cool that ETSU’s starting to get the recognition that it has around here countrywide.”
Hall said from the age of 11 or 12 she knew she wanted to work towards her goal of playing college softball. And ETSU was the perfect fit after this third baseman decided she wanted to stay close to home.
“I just love the game of softball and the area at which I’m at in the country. So for them to come together at the same place is great,” she said. “The distance from home was a big thing for me. My senior year, I got a lot closer to my teammates that I’ve been growing up with, teachers, people in the community and my family. I realized it was going to be a lot harder to leave than I thought it was. So ETSU being 20 minutes away kind of worked out perfectly.”
But when Hall thinks back on her time as a Lady Blazer, it’s not just the time spent on the diamond that will most likely stick out in her mind; Hall said it was her school and the community’s responses to their loss of two students this year that she won’t forget.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world (being a Lady Blazer). The tragedy that we went through this past year and to see the way that we just banded together and the community came and banded with us—not everywhere is like that,” Hall said. “It’s mind blowing to me to see that one thing can happen and the whole community drops everything they’re doing and they’re there to help you.”
It’s that same mindset of working as a team and overcoming the unforeseen circumstances in life that Hall has implemented on the field. And now she’s ready to overcome the obstacles the game of softball presents one town over in Johnson City, Tennessee.
“Softball is a game of failure. The odds are always against you. Softball is a game where if you’re batting three out of 10 you’re really good,” Hall said. “Not just me in particular, but just softball players, I think they have to overcome just the odds. I mean, they’re in favor of the pitcher. And you’ve got all these things that you can’t control. That was a big thing at camps when I was younger, they’d always talk about controls and uncontrollables. You can’t control what the pitcher throws you or how the umpire calls it, but you can control how you react. If you know you’re bad at one pitch, you can control what you practice and work towards that and get better at it.”
By MARINA WATERS
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.”
By MARINA WATERS
“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.”
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.
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.
By MARINA WATERS
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.”
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.