A high school sports year to remember…
Published 12:39 pm Thursday, May 20, 2021
It goes without saying that the 2020-2021 high school sports season was one that will sure to be remembered for ages to come and the stories that local athletes will have to share with their children and grandchildren.
I thought it would be good with school coming to a close to take a short look back at moments that will be etched in my mind as the sports editor of the Elizabethton Star.
Football season without fans, cheerleaders, and band
Football season was a coin toss going in as the TSSAA was looking at four different options for high school teams to offer at least the possibility of playing a football season.
While many weren’t exactly ecstatic about the choices, anything was going to be better than nothing.
Thankful Governor Bill Lee lifted his restrictions in time to allow for a full football season with teams starting their regular season on time.
However, the games had an entirely different look as stadiums were limited to fans while cheerleaders and bands were not allowed to go to away games for the most part.
If a team was to be quarantined due to COVID-19 they were forced to forfeit their contests and when playoffs rolled around if a team was quarantined their season was ended with their opponent getting the win and advancing.
Things were not too bad locally, however, as the Elizabethton Cyclones won their second consecutive state championship, the Unaka Rangers hosted a playoff game for the first time in a while, and the Hampton Bulldogs and Cloudland Highlanders went deep into the playoffs.
Parker Hughes and Bryson Rollins were named finalists in the Tennessee Titan Mr. Football awards with Hughes walking away with the trophy and later committing to play football for Middle Tennessee State University.
Devin Ramsey broke into the TSSAA record books with a big night filled with tons of yardage and several touchdowns and Eli Presswood became the first lineman in several years to sign to play collegiately from Cloudland.
Basketball season with empty gyms to begin the season
With most schools once again playing basketball before sparsely filled gyms, Carter County schools had to play their early-season games with parents, fans, and cheerleaders as a precaution against the COVID-19 spread.
Teams didn’t let that keep them down as several had good seasons allowing them to advance to post-season play.
The Lady Highlanders of Cloudland traveled to Oneida for sectional action and in a tough place to win came away with a victory that allowed them to advance to the TSSAA State Basketball Championships.
Unfortunately, the Lady Highlanders drew eventual champion, Loretto, in their first contest so their stay was short but nonetheless a trip to the state tournament anyway.
Hampton boys were also on the cusp of a state trip, one that was taken away in the 2019-2020 season but fell in heartbreaking fashion to Cosby on the road in a rugged contest.
Track and Field still afoot
At the time of the writing of this article, there are still five local prep athletes awaiting to make their marks at the state level after qualifying through sectional competition.
Kaiya Simmons and Conner Johnson from Elizabethton along with Happy Valley performers Cameron Cochran, Marcida Moore, and possibly Skyler McCurry will be making the trip to Murfreesboro next week for the Track and Field Spring Fling.
Baseball faced a tough year
The Elizabethton Cyclones were looking to make it three years in a row to the state however those hopes were dashed as the Cyclones fell to Unicoi County in winner’s bracket play before being eliminated from play by South.
Unicoi County went on to win the tournament before South rebounded to take the regional crown.
Hampton finished strong to win over 15 games on the season under the leadership of head coach Nicholas Perkins.
Softball could see a state qualifier
A young but confident Elizabethton Lady Cyclone softball team stands one game away from the state tournament after winning the regional title over Greeneville.
The Lady Cyclones host Knox Gibbs in a sectional contest with a trip to the ‘Boro on the line.
Unaka’s Lady Rangers were left heartbroken after making the long ride to Greenback and battling the Lady Cherokees tooth and nail forcing the game to eight innings and taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth on Alana Parsons home run.
The luck wouldn’t hold up as Greenback had two home runs in the bottom of the inning for the walk-off win to end Unaka’s season.
Yes, all in all, the 2020-2021 sports year wasn’t that bad and coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members, and fans are looking ahead to hopefully will be a truly normal sports year in 2021-2022.