Everybody has a Top 5 highlight reel so here’s mine

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 31, 2019

Every paper and every television station that covers high school sports seems to always come out with their Top 5 to Top 10 plays of the year in various sports so I thought I would give it a lick or two and see if I could come up with the five most memorable high school sporting events from memory for the 2018-2019 school year.

No. 5 Unaka softball run to state.

The Unaka Lady Rangers come in at number five as Coach Kenneth Chambers’ squad dug deep to return to the Spring Fling Softball Championships for the third consecutive year.

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They had to win two very tough games over the up and coming Cloudland Lady Highlanders in the district and followed that up with a road win over Cosby to claim the region title on the strength of Tayla Potter’s three home runs.

Standing in the way was Tellico Plains, a team the Lady Rangers played in sectional action last season. After building a big lead early, the Lady Rangers had to fight to earn the trip to Murfreesboro after the visitors came roaring back to tie the game before Unaka put another sectional plaque in the softball showcase.

After taking it on the chin in the first game of Spring Fling against defending state champion Summertown, the Lady Rangers once again rose to the occasion in sending Gibson County packing to advance to their third game.

Even though the result was not what was hoped for, the Lady Rangers once again represented Carter County and Northeast Tennessee in splendid fashion.

No. 4 Elizabethton Lady Cyclones basketball run in district and region tournaments.

Coach Lucas Andrews and the Elizabethton Lady Cyclone basketball team’s run in the district and region tournament is a worthy number four after the Lady Cyclones turned a dismal regular season around at the right time as tournament time approached.

It started around the time that Unicoi County transfer Kaitlyn Bailey became eligible as the Lady Cyclones defeated Sullivan Central on the Lady Cougars home court to spoil a perfect run in the Three Rivers Conference.

Elizabethton wasn’t done there, however, as the Lady Cyclones stormed their way to a Class 1-AA district tournament championship and then gave the Grainger Lady Grizzlies all they wanted and more in the regional tournament.

The team gave fans a preview of what the next basketball season holds as the team has Kaylen Shell, Bailey, Torrie Roberts, McKendra Norris, Cheyenne VanHuss, and a host of talented incoming freshman that will be a favorite to win the conference.


No. 3 Elizabethton baseball overcomes adversity to reach state.

There is no way to leave the Elizabethton baseball team out of the Top 5 as the Cyclones had to travel the road of the Israelites leaving Egypt with all the adversity they faced along the way to their second consecutive Spring Fling appearance.

The adversity started way before the season got underway with the loss of Corey Russell to an injury on the last play of the last football game of the 2018 season costing the Cyclones a rock-solid pitcher, sure-handed infielder, and a tough out at the plate.

Coach Ryan Presnell and his coaching staff could have easily folded their tents but led by the tenacious leadership of their seniors—Matthew Dailey, Lawson Wagner, and Evan Perkins, the team continued to play the entire regular season solidly with Russell serving as an inspirational dugout coach.

Then in the district tournament, Perkins broke his leg sliding into second base to end what had been a banner senior campaign but the Cyclones slugged their way onward taking the district championship.

A controversial-filled region championship against Greeneville resulting in a loss forced the Cyclone to go on the road to Alcoa to face Mr. Baseball finalists Will Shelton in the sectionals.

Again, the Cyclones wouldn’t fold and came away with a 7-2 win to advance to the state championships.

The Cyclones went 1-2 defeating Pigeon Forge before being eliminated by Nolensville. The eventual state champion, Covington, came out of the Cyclones bracket as Nolensville and Covington were ranked high in the state baseball poll all season along with Pigeon Forge.


No. 2 Happy Valley’s Natalie Newsome capturing gold in the pole vault at

Spring Fling.

It was one of those moments that was made for a state championship as Happy Valley’s Natalie Newsome had lost the previous year’s pole vault competition by the slimmest of margins and was looking for redemption.

Newsome was the top dog during the track and field campaign ranked as the No. 1 girls’ pole vaulter for small schools but the pressure was still on the senior to not let her guard down based on what everyone was saying.

The Lady Warrior sat out the earlier jumps that started at 5’0, conserving her energy and feeling confident enough to wait until the bar was raised to 7’0.

It would only take two vaults to put the TSSAA State Championship medallion around her neck, but Newsome wanted more and so did head coach Matt Estep.

By the time that Newsome failed her third attempt at 10’0, she had recorded a school-record vault of 9’6 to become the first athlete to win a field event in the TSSAA-sanctioned state tournament for either boys or girls at Happy Valley.

Finally, her shining moment had come as a State Champion.

  No. 1 Elizabethton beating Science Hill in three boy’s major sports.

Without a doubt, the No. 1 spot belonged to the Elizabethton boys’ football, basketball, and baseball team that completed something that the school had never accomplished in a season and that was beating the Johnson City teams in all three sports.

The football team got it started with a rousing win that sent Citizens Bank Stadium into a frenzy as the final seconds ticked off the heart-pounding game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds of play.

Tears of sheer joy poured from players and coaches alike as the Cyclones had finally taken a win over the Hilltoppers on the gridiron after a long span of losing to their neighbors from JC.

Coach Lucas Honeycutt’s Cyclone basketball team followed up the football win with two on the basketball court to eventually lead to the Hilltoppers taking the Cyclones off their schedule for the new school year.

Led by Evan Perkins, Eric Wilson, and Nico Ashley the Cyclones were able to relish big wins over the always tough hardwood ‘Toppers.

Then when baseball season arrived, the hat trick was completed as the Cyclones took down the diamond ‘Toppers to make it a clean sweep for the school year.

Fitting enough, both baseball teams eventually qualified for the Spring Fling as the Cyclones managed to win a game while the ‘Toppers fell in two straight games.

I am sure there were many other worthy athletes and events, but these five seem to be the ones that jump out quickly.

My hat is off to every team at each school in the county for a fun-filled, fantastic season.

You can be reassured that I anxiously await the start of another prep season.

It will be here before you know it.