Top sports stories of 2012
We're five days into the new year. Since I finally have a moment and I'm terrible at predicting the future, I'll look back at the previous year and the top [number to be determined] sports stories of 2012:
1. Friendship Christian's continued dominance of Class A: The school on Coles Ferry Pike repeated as state volleyball and football champions. It also snagged its first-ever boys' basketball title last March.
As part of the story are two prime-time athletes. Volleyball star Kaitlyn Teeter became one of the nation's most sought-after players before the two-time State Tournament Most Valuable Player [and four-time All-State performer] signed with Lipscomb University.
Quarterback A.J. Long made news in two states with his summer relocation to Possum Town. He left Pennsylvania after accumulating 4,600 total yards and 63 touchdowns as a sophomore. With Steven Hollis running for over 1,000 yards at Friendship, the Commanders did just fine with just 3,000 total yards and 49 scores from Long in going 13-1.
One prediction I will make, when he's not playing basketball this winter, Long will continue to be heavily recruited by BCS schools.
2. Cumberland football moves to Nokes-Lasater Field: After over two decades at rickety Lindsey Donnell Stadium, CU officials and the Wilson County School Board drew up an agreement for the Bulldogs to use Lebanon High's former field for home games.
The Bulldogs get free use and control of the facility in exchange for maintaining it and allowing area middle schools to use it.
For the first time in modern memory, Cumberland can play home games at night, though only one contest was played under the lights in 2012 due to the late date in securing the facility.
I predict more night games are in store for the fall of 2013.
3. Lebanon High School moves into new digs: After 57 years on Harding Drive, LHS made its long-awaited move to the new state-of-the-art campus on South Hartmann Drive.
Of course, this is really a news story, but in the process, Blue Devil athletes get to play and practice in new gymnasiums and fields. Both football's Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium and basketball's Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court have live video screens.
And after years of playing on city-owned facilities, the school's baseball, softball and soccer teams have their own fields on which to play. The tennis team, which through the seasons had played everywhere from city-owned Baird Park to Cumberland University to privately-held Coles Ferry Recreation Center, also has its on-campus courts.
4. Mt. Juliet football plays in its second straight state semifinal: For the second straight year, Whitehaven kept the Golden Bears from possibly moving up to join Friendship Christian at No. 1 on this chart.
But Roger Perry has built a powerhouse in his seven seasons in West Wilson, going 25-3 over the past two years. All three losses were to teams which reached the BlueCross Bowl. Both 2012 setbacks came to eventual state champions Beech and Whitehaven.
Senior fullback Contrez McCathern earned All-State honors after racking up 1,684 yards and 21 touchdowns out of the wing-T offense.
5. Watertown basketball comes of age: During the years I've covered Wilson County sports, Watertown was a football community. Basketball was the season which followed football. The Purple Tigers have had around 10 winning seasons through the decades.
Arch-rival Friendship may be the state champion, but the Tigers kept the Commanders from claiming the District 8-A crown on their way to Murfreesboro with a pulse-pounding 49-47 upset of FCS for Watertown's first district boys' title since 1935.
Four nights later, fans were waiting like it was the pre-dawn hours of Black Friday for the gym to open before Watertown's Region 4-A opener against Pickett County. The Tigers treated their fans to a 54-45 win over longtime power Pickett County.
Watertown's season ended in the region semifinals against Clarkrange. But the Tigers' 25-6 season set the stage for the current season which saw WHS open with 13 straight victories, one of which was Coach Matt Bradshaw's 200th career triumph.
As for 2013, the Purple Tigers are favored to dethrone Friendship, not just as tournament champions, but as the league's power as they try to advance closer to their first-ever State Tournament berth.
6. New football coach for Lebanon High: The Blue Devils' first season in their new home was a forgettable 1-9. But out of the ashes might come a new era of dominance not seen since Mark Medley's seven-season playoff run from 1987-93. Kentucky coaching legend Sam Harp was hired last month after winning seven state championships north of the state line during a 32-year career.
I had a previously-scheduled day off the day he was introduced to the Blue Devil players. But at least one person I saw afterward was impressed by Harp's speech to compare him to Medley and Louis Thompson, a legendary Blue Devil player who coached one season at LHS before winning two Tennessee state titles during a long run at Lincoln County.
I'm not ready to predict a state championship for the Blue Devils in 2013, or even beyond. But I won't be surprised if LHS football becomes a hot ticket like it hasn't been in years.
7. Not sleepless in Seattle, Wilson Countians reach big leagues: Stephen Pryor and Alysha Clark once walked the halls of the old Mt. Juliet High School. During the summer of 2012, they both worked for Seattle's big-league teams.
Pryor, who attended MJHS before transferring to Friendship for his final two years, including the Commanders' 2007 state championship baseball season, became this county's first home-grown major-leaguer when the Mariners called him up June 1. The next day he introduced himself to big-league hitters by striking out Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko on 100-mph gas. A week later, he made history by picking up his first MLB win as part of a six-pitcher no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite a trip to the disabled list and a temporary return to the minors, the right-hander finished his rookie season with a 3-1 record.
Clark, who led Mt. Juliet to the 2005 girls' state basketball championship, finally cracked a WNBA roster on her third try, this time with the WNBA's Seattle Storm after playing a couple of seasons in Israel.
Also, though not home grown, former Cumberland catcher Luis Martinez spent his second partial season in The Show as a backup catcher with the Texas Rangers, who acquired him last winter from the San Diego Padres, with whom he broke in during the 2011 season. But with the Rangers acquiring A.J. Pierzynski from the White Sox, Martinez was placed on assignment late last month and his status for '13 is unclear.
8. Friendship Christian to move to Division II: School officials announced on the eve of the football playoff run that FCS will move to Division II next school year. DII schools are allowed to offer need-based financial aid to student-athletes whereas in DI, their families have to come up with the full tuition.
The move most likely will end the longstanding rivalry with Watertown, though another with Mt. Juliet Christian, which made the move four years ago, will resume.
Replacing Friendship in 8-A will be another longtime private school power Goodpasture.
9. Ashley Roby, Zac Anderson break into lineups after overcoming cancer: These stories weren’t reported much on my page, but was covered extensively in the news hole of this newspaper. Ashley Roby won a battle with breast cancer last spring and is now the starting point guard for Mt. Juliet. Anderson is also starting at the point for Friendship after missing all but the opener of last year’s championship season.
And there are many more which deserves some mention, including Wilson Central's return to the football playoffs... Watertown hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1985... Mt. Juliet's baseball and softball teams returning to the Spring Fling, along with Friendship... Longtime MJ baseball coach Mark Purvis stepping down after taking the Golden Bears to six state tourneys in 13 years... Mt. Juliet girls and Wilson Central boys basketball teams reaching the State Tournament... Caya Williams becoming leading scorer in Lady Bear hoops history... Golden Bear relief pitcher Conner Sugg set a state high school record with 15 saves in a season... Wilson Central wrestling breaking into the state polls... Cumberland's women's soccer team advancing to NAIA nationals, women's golf winning TranSouth Conference........
No doubt there are noteworthy stories I've forgotten about and not included in this space. To you, I apologize in advance.
A much bigger apology is due to the family of Jackie Hays, who I mentioned in this space last week while writing about new Lebanon High Sports Hall of Famer Jim Andrews.
Hays, who played for Mt. Juliet, and Andrews got into an altercation during a basketball game in 1949. Their grandchildren [Mr. Hays' granddaughter Channing Vail and Andrews' grandson Ben Dudley] were married in Dec. 2011. I quoted Jim indirectly last week saying that he and Mr. Hays got along well at the wedding.
Apparently, I didn't hear him quite right. I received an email earlier this week from Mr. Hays' daughter informing me that he passed away in 2006.
"Mr. Andrews is a very nice person and from all the stories I've heard my family tell, he was an outstanding athlete," Medina Vail wrote in the email.
To her and her family, my sincerest apologies.