Carter County Sports Hall of Fame to induct more than a dozen new members
Published 2:01 pm Friday, June 17, 2022
The Carter County Sports Hall of Fame has reached its 10-year milestone.
Plenty of road remains ahead.
The organization will expand its membership with a ceremony set for next Saturday at Elizabethton’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology. This year’s banquet begins at 6 p.m. The following information touches on the careers of more than a dozen 2022 inductees. The rest of the class will be highlighted in the next edition.
Rick Carriger (baseball)
Underscored by a no-hitter he hurled against Dobyns-Bennett at J. Fred Johnson Stadium, Carriger recorded a 4-0 pitching mark as a sophomore in 1973. Carriger’s junior year yielded honorable mention all-conference status. That served as a prelude to a six-win senior campaign, when he gained a spot on the All-Big Nine team. He crafted a 21-inning scoreless streak, struck out 15 David Crockett batters in a 3-0 Region 1 tournament semifinal victory, hit an EHS-best .338 and scored a team-high 30 runs. Logging 13 and 11 strikeouts in triumphs over Watauga Conference champion Happy Valley in 1975, Carriger found himself pitching for the Appalachian League’s Kingsport Braves later that year. He was drafted in the 11th round.
Ron Carver (multi-sport)
In Carver’s senior year (1969-70) for the Cyclones, he earned All-Big 7 Conference accolades in football, basketball and baseball. Carver intercepted 11 passes and started at quarterback in helping Elizabethton finish as conference co-champs on the gridiron. He authored a stellar performance in a 26-14 conquest of Science Hill, which broke a 14-game Hilltoppers unbeaten streak in the series. Come basketball season, Carver averaged a team-best 16 points a game, erupted for a then-school record 38 against Morristown East and was named All-East Tennessee by the Knoxville News-Sentinel. In the spring, Carver topped the Cyclones in batting average at .380. A year later, he would letter in baseball at Wake Forest University.
Dennis McKesson (basketball)
McKesson was a highly relevant player in his final two high school schools, bringing skill and athleticism to 19-10 and 18-11 Cyclone seasons and a pair of District 2 finals appearances. A honorable mention all-conference performer as a junior, McKesson made the jump to All-Big Nine acclaim the following year — when he posted 26 double-digit scoring games (seven of 20 or more points), averaged 15.9 points a contest and ranked second in the conference scoring race with a 16.3 regular-season clip. Following a stint at Walters State Community College, McKesson emerged quite a standout for Johnson City’s Steed College. He totaled 23 points as the Broncos beat Brewton-Parker 82-75 for the 1976 National Little College Athletic Association’s Southeast East Regional championship, which locked up a national tournament berth.
Charles Peters III (multi-sport)
Lining up at safety or outside linebacker, Peters became a three-time All-Mountain Lakes Conference and two-time All-Carter/Johnson County defender in football. His best season occurred in his junior year (2004), where his all-conference accolade was accompanied by an all-state honorable mention, a place on the TSWA’s All-Northeast Tennessee team and the All-Carter/Johnson County team’s defensive player of the year award. On the baseball diamond, Peters landed All-Watauga Conference recognition for his sophomore and senior outputs. He filled a vacancy on the 2006 Johnson City Press All-Super 22 team, when the senior hit .365 with four home runs and 36 RBIs, and went on to play collegiately at King. In 2002-03, the All-Carter/Johnson County basketball list annointed Peters, a freshman, as its most promising underclassman.
Mariah Pietrowski (multi-sport)
Pietrowski twice achieved All-Watauga Conference status in both basketball and volleyball. On the hardwood, she was twice named All-Northeast Tennessee, collected District 1-AA and Region 1-AA tournament honors two times apiece, made the 2009 Class AA state all-tournament squad and produced more than 1,000 career points. As a volleyball player, Pietrowski ranks third in career blocks (251) and fourth in career kills (702) at Elizabethton. She was named conference hitter of the year as a senior in the fall of 2008. Pietrowski would play NCAA Division I basketball for Presbyterian College, starting all four years and coupling 1,293 points with 650 rebounds. For her career, she shot a program-record 53.9 percent from the field. Distinguishing herself early by claiming the Big South Conference’s freshman of the year award, Pietrowski later rose to all-conference heights.
Johnny Taylor (multi-sport)
Taylor was a four-time letter-winner and three-time all-conference player in each of his two main sports (baseball, basketball) for the Cyclones. He was a big reason why EHS made the 1958 state baseball finals, recording an 8-1 pitching mark and batting .324 as a junior. He no-hit Knox Fulton in the regional tournament and hurled a 1-hitter as the Cyclones knocked off state foe Clarksville. Both games ended in 2-0 shutouts. In basketball, Taylor graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with close to 1,450 points and was named first-team all-state at the end of his senior season. Taylor went on to earn four letters in baseball and three in basketball at East Tennessee State. He hit .385 and went 3-2 from the mound for the Bucs as a senior and twice ranked among the Ohio Valley Conference leaders in field-goal percentage.
Keith Turner (basketball)
Averaging 13.5 points a game, Turner paced the Cyclones in scoring during their 1982-83 state semifinal season. An all-state and All-East Tennessee honorable mention, he made two All-Upper East Tennessee squads, was All-Big 10, All-District 1-AAA, All-Region 1-AAA (tourney MVP) and King of the Bluegrass all-tournament. Turner moved on to play four years (2-year starter) of NCAA Division I basketball, contributing to an Ohio Valley Conference championship as well an NIT appearance while at Tennessee Tech. Moreover, he was selected to play for USA Athletes in Action in 1985 and garnered team MVP recognition in a pre-Olympic tournament in Seoul South Korea. Science Hill’s athletic director since 2006 and current vice president of the TSSAA legislative council, Turner enjoyed a successful 16 years coaching boys (Monterey, Unicoi County) or girls (Science Hill) high school basketball.
Shawn Witten (football)
On the playing field, Witten received All-American and All-South plaudits at the close of his senior year (1998) at EHS. Moreover, he received all-state validation for the second straight season. A four-time all-conference player, Witten landed on three Elite 11 (2-time player of the year), three All-Northeast Tennessee and three All-Carter/Johnson County teams. Totaling a school-record 28 interceptions, Witten amassed 7,156 all-purpose yards and 78 total touchdowns before going on to a noteworthy career at national power Virginia Tech. Getting set for his 16th season as Elizabethton’s head coach, Witten owns a 148-43 career record with 14 consecutive playoff berths. He’s taken the Cyclones to the last three Class 4A state championship games, collecting titles in 2019 and 2020. The 2019 Tennessee Titans coach of the year has been named the Elite 11’s top coach on five occasions.
Rick Birchfield (football)
A tough and talented runner for the Highlanders, Birchfield worked for 2,625 career yards on the ground in a four-year varsity career. Serving as a complementary back during his first two seasons at Cloudland, Birchfield cut loose for 1,125 rushing yards in his junior campaign (1977). He was voted All-Watauga Conference at cornerback and received an honorable mention on the Johnson City Press-Chronicle All-Watauga team. A second 1,000-yard season would follow. Birchfield ran for 1,075 and six touchdowns as a senior, good enough for honorable mention all-state and honorable mention All-Upper East Tennessee status. Doing much to spur the Highlanders to their first-ever league championship, he was named an All-Appalachian Conference halfback by the coaches and JC Press-Chronicle.
Brooke Johnson Julian (basketball)
Playing her way onto four All-Watauga Valley Conference teams, Johnson was named the league’s co-player of the year as a senior (2008-09). She added four District 1-A all-tournament (2-time MVP) and four Region 1-A all-tournament (2007 MVP) trophies to her collection. Capping her sophomore year with all-state acclaim, Johnson was twice selected to the Johnson City Press’ All-Northeast Tennessee team. Her high school career consisted of 1,376 points, 663 rebounds and 321 steals. In her sophomore through senior seasons, she topped Cloudland in scoring and steals all three years and twice showed the way in rebounds. From there came a very fine college career at King. After averaging a team-high 11.6 points as a junior, she doled out 3.5 assists per game in her senior year, ranking ninth in the Conference Carolinas.
Gary and Roger Stocton (basketball)
The Stocton brothers were senior standouts on the first-ever state tournament squad (1965-66) in Cloudland High history. As the top two scorers in a 29-8 season, Roger averaged 12.8 points and Gary 12.6 per game. Roger, who passed away this past December, was an All-Watauga Conference player as a junior and senior. An all-state honorable mention in his final season, he added All-Upper East Tennessee as well as Johnson City Invitational, District I and Region I all-tournament honors to his credit. An all-conference honorable mention and District 1 all-tournament selection in 1964-65, Gary parlayed his senior-year accomplishments into All-Watauga and All-Johnson City Invitational accreditation. Moreover, he landed on honorable mention lists for the All-East Tennessee and Region 1 all-tournament teams. Gary turned in a 29-point game at Cranberry while Roger tossed in 27 versus Jefferson City, both totals serving as career highs. In the Stoctons’ two years as upperclassmen, Cloudland captured its first two conference championships, won its first district crown (’65) and recorded a combined record of 59-12. The brothers also fared well in track with Roger specializing in the mile relay and Gary in the mile run.
Charles “Toonie” Cash (basketball)
There was no 3-point line back then and it’s been 50 years since his college career (1967-71) came to a halt. Nevertheless, Cash is still standing as the Buffaloes’ all-time leading scorer with 2,989 points. Cash was a four-time All-Volunteer State Athletic Conference choice who made VSAC all-tournament all four years he played. The Boones Creek product and longtime minister, who entered the Milligan Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996, continues to hold school records for most single-season points (878 as a senior), highest single-season scoring average (26.8 as a freshman) and most points by a freshman (830). Cash and former teammate Mark Berg share Milligan’s record for top career scoring average at 25.1. The 49 points Cash pumped in against Wofford during his freshman season represented a school record that stood for 34 years. Furthermore, he earned a spot on the 1970-71 NAIA All-District 24 team.
Gabe Goulds (basketball)
Goulds, who expertly played point guard for Milligan from 1997 till 2001, was a three-tim All-Tennessee-Virginia Athletics Conference luminary after being voted the league’s freshman of the year. He appeared on the NAIA All-American honorable mention list as a junior and senior, totaled 1,501 career points and remains the program’s single-single assists leader with 217 in 1998-99. His name is also etched in Milligan’s top 10 in the following categories: career assists (2nd, 793), single-season assists per game (2nd, 6.4 in 1998-99; 3rd, 6.2 in 2000-01), single-season steals (T5th, 70 in 1998-99), career free throws made (9th, 296) and single-season steals per game (9th, 2.1 in 1998-99). Part of 99 college wins, Goulds is linked to three straight conference titles, two national tournament appearances and a pair of top-10 national rankings. The 1998-99 Buffs set the school record for most victories (29).