Man, how a year flies by

Published 9:37 pm Friday, April 3, 2020

Since most of the staff at the STAR are attempting to practice the Safer at Home guidelines as much as possible only getting out to shoot an occasional photo as we are allowed per Governor Bill Lee’s directive, I have been sitting at my kitchen table doing most of my writing.
Yesterday, I was looking at the calendar and it hit me that April 15th will be the one-year anniversary of me coming back home to the STAR as the full-time Sports Editor and I began to ponder on where almost 365 days have passed since that day.
Honestly, the time has flown by so fast I don’t know where it has gone so quickly and I guess it fulfills the prophetic word my father gave me as a child when he said the time would come that I would wake up one morning wondering how time seems to be on a rocket ship zooming past faster than I could ever imagine.
And here I am.
So, I was thinking I would share my top ten best memories from the past year in covering sports and news as the Sports Editor to celebrate my one-year anniversary. I will be doing so in reverse order working my way to number one.
#10 Covering Gov. Bill Lee’s visits to the area.
Now I know that Gov. Lee is not a sporting event, but part of my job also requires me to cover news events and the opportunity to cover the Governor of Tennessee visiting our area was a memory that I have to list.
It’s not too many times that one has the opportunity to get close enough to a state’s governor to rub elbows and ask questions. What makes covering our governor extra special is that he is a down to earth individual who has a close relationship with God and that shows when talking to him.
#9 Providing coverage of spring and fall race from Bristol Motor Speedway
If you had told me 10 years ago that I would enjoy covering NASCAR racing live, I would have told you that you were crazy.
But thanks in part to my son, Michael, I have developed a great appreciation for the sport. From rubbing elbows with top-named drivers to standing in the pits and taking photos of a crash coming out of a turn is an unbelievable, exhilarating feeling.
Victory Lane is also a crazy time that as drivers celebrate making it through 500 laps at the fastest half-mile and being in front at the end.
#8 Watching Natalie Newsome win the state pole vault championship
Going into the Girls Small Schools Pole Vault championship, it was felt that Happy Valley’s Natalie Newsome was a front-runner to take the championship.
Newsome didn’t disappoint as she not only won the title but also set a school record in the process becoming the only female field athlete to win a state championship at the school.
#7 Covering the UT Vols in football
Anyone that knows anything about me realizes how much of a fan I am of the Tennessee Volunteers. It was an awesome experience to once again secure media credentials and cover from endzone to endzone the home games played at Neyland Stadium in the fall.
There’s nothing like being able to stand along the checkboard endzone as a Vol burst across the goal line and hearing the enormous crowd erupt in cheers.
From the Vol Walk to post-game interviews, it is everything a fan and a sportswriter could imagine and more. (I just hope we can experience the same heading into year two).
#6 Hampton Middle School playing for a middle school state title
It was the second year for the TMSAA to host a middle school championship and for the second year in a row, the Hampton Middle School Junior Bulldogs qualified to play for the title.
Hampton left everything they had on the court at Stewart Creek Middle School in the Nashville area and came home as the third-best boy’s middle school basketball team in the state for 2019-2020.
#5 Deuce Morton winning back-to-back state wrestling championships
Wrestling has quickly become one of my favorite high school sports because of the fact that the sport is a one-on-one contest where the athlete cannot blame anyone but themselves for their success or failure.
One of those athletes was Deuce Morton who like a well-oiled machine worked his way through the region and state brackets to once again defend his 195-pound title in convincing fashion.
Morton often took less than one two-minute period to take care of business and obviously will be a threat for a three-peat in his senior season.
#4 Unaka girls in the state softball championship.
The Unaka girls softball team under the direction of head coach Kenneth Chambers once again advanced to the TSSAA Spring Fling in 2019 in Murfreesboro and picked up a win at the state tournament.
The Lady Rangers played with a lot of heart and hustle before being eliminated but proved they belonged with the state’s best.
#3 Hampton qualifying for the TSSAA Boy’s Class A Basketball championship
This one hasn’t been completed finished as of yet with COVID-19 forcing a suspension of the tournament and hopefully, the Bulldogs will gain a shot at the title.
It was refreshing to see how that Ned Smith used his bench during the Hampton run to the Regional Championship and when called upon each player responded with either a key bucket, a big rebound, or terrific defense on an opposing player.
The depth allowed the Bulldogs to wear their opponents down by the fourth quarter which proved key especially in the Cosby game when some key free throws were missed by the Eagles due to tired legs.
Hopefully, the virus will blow past and the Bulldogs can finish what they started.
#2 Elizabethton baseball reaching TSSAA Spring Fling.
One of the first big things that I was able to dive into when starting as the full-time Sports Editor was the tail-end of the Cyclones 2019 run to the TSSAA Spring Fling State Baseball championship.
I had covered some games as a correspondent but followed the team more in-depth thanks to the help of our great sports correspondents that picked up other games.
The Cyclones were always inspiring to watch as there are not too many teams around that can get on and off a field as quickly as Coach Ryan Presnell’s team and that same hustle transpires to their play as well.
After losing to the Greeneville Greene Devils in the Region Championship, the Cyclones traveled to Alcoa for their sub-state game and what a game it was going against one of the best pitchers in the state.
But there was no denying the Cyclones in this game as the boys from ‘Betsy took a big road-win to advance. After losing in their first game to Nolensville, the Cyclones came back in a loser’s bracket game and defeated a strong Pigeon Forge team to stay alive.
The road came to an end in another close loss to the same Nolensville team that defeated Elizabethton in the first game.
It was the second consecutive visit to the Spring Fling for the Cyclones who were in the hunt to return for a third time when spring sports were recently suspended.
#1 Elizabethton football winning state championship.
The number one memory wasn’t hard to figure out as the Elizabethton Cyclones winning the Class 4-A Bluecross Bowl Championship easily won out.
One could tell it was going to be a special season with each passing game as the Cyclones continued to win one big game after another during the regular season including a big win over Greeneville and a come-from-behind victory on the road at Class 6-A William Blount.
Finishing out the regular season at 10-0, the Cyclones continued their storied march toward Cookeville with big wins over two teams they played in regular-season in Sullivan South and Greeneville and then fighting to a tough win over Nolensville in the state semifinals.
At Cookeville, the Cyclones wasted little time in getting the upper hand on Springfield before a Cyclone-heavy crowd estimated at over 6,000- one of the biggest crowds to watch one team in the state playoff history.
Topping things off, the Cyclones saw a number of players named All-State while head coach Shawn Witten was selected as the Tennessee Titans Coach of the Year.
I have to honestly say that as the STAR Sports Editor that I truly enjoy every time that I can cover one of the county’s many sporting events from Roan Mountain to Stoney Creek to Warrior Hill.
It’s truly a blessing that I am thankful for every day and with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it reminds me how blessed that I truly am to sit in rough stands or stand on my feet the entire game to take photos.
I miss seeing the kids play the sports they love and I, along with a lot more, can’t wait until life can get back to normalcy and once again baseballs, soccer balls, footballs, tennis balls and much more find their way back to the fields and courts they belong on.
Thank you Boone Newspapers for making this old boy’s memories special and to the STAR’s Delaney Scalf for believing in me. Can’t wait to see what the upcoming years hold.

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