Looking back at '12-13 in local sports
With Wilson County Schools letting out for summer this week and commencement exercises this weekend, we've reached the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Since most of our local sports is built around the school calendar, the athletic year is finished as well, much like the fiscal year used by governments and some businesses to set their budgets.
As such, I like to look back on the year in local sports now, rather than the end of the calendar year in December which is actually a busy time of year in sports.
We won't know for sure for perhaps another year, but the end of the year may well mark the end of a remarkable run for Friendship Christian athletics. The school in Possum Town brought in another three TSSAA state championships, repeating in football and volleyball and taking a title in baseball last week to go with the plaque won by boys' basketball last year. A lot of seniors who were largely responsible for those six championships turned their tassels on May 19, and it will be up to the underclassmen to take the Commanders into the school's new phase in Division II.
The cupboard isn't completely bare. A year ago, the stage was changed for Friendship football when Pennsylvania all-state quarterback A.J. Long moved to Lebanon and enrolled at FCS. His presence helped turn a team which won the 2011 championship on the strength of strength and a running game into an explosive offense which repeated its BlueCross Bowl championship. Long, who will return to guide FCS in its first D-II season, committed to Syracuse in March.
Friendship's move to the TSSAA's financial aid division signaled a change in its rivalry with Watertown. But the Purple Tigers enjoyed a remarkable athletic year of its own. Led by junior quarterback Ty Jobe, the Tigers finished high enough to play host to a home playoff game for the first time in 27 seasons.
But the folks in Tigertown hadn't seen anything, yet. Basketball season was coming and Matt Bradshaw's bunch gave the Watertown community a thrill never before seen - a state tournament team. Led by Jobe and senior point guard Macieo Gaines, the Tigers rolled to a school-record 30 wins, a first-ever region championship and put the town name on the scoreboard of Murphy Center for the first time.
While the basketball team dethroned Friendship's state title team, the baseball team wasn't able to beat the Commanders for the first time in 16 seasons, but the Tigers did set a program record for wins.
Elsewhere, Friendship's run to the football final was almost matched by Mt. Juliet, which reached the Class 6A semifinals for the second straight season before losing to eventual state champion Whitehaven in Memphis. The Golden Bears, led by fullback Contrez McCathern, concluded a two-year 25-3 run, better even than the two-time champion Friendship's 25-4 mark. MJ coach Roger Perry underwent multiple heart bypass surgery in April, but was reportedly planning on being back on the field by the time fall practice begins in late July.
Mt. Juliet's arch-rival, Wilson Central, also enjoyed a renaissance season in football as the Wildcats returned to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Meanwhile, Lebanon moved into a new, state-of-the-art campus. But new digs couldn't help the Blue Devil football team, which was headed for its first winless season in 33 years before a Week 10 win over Hendersonville sent two-year coach Troy Crane out on a high note. Coming in to pick up the pieces is Kentucky high school coaching legend Sam Harp, whose arrival has Blue Devil Nation excited about the fall.
Lebanon and Wilson Central did enjoy big years in some low-profile sports. The Blue Devils went undefeated in boys' bowling and reached the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Columbia.
Central's wrestling program continued its surge under coach John Kramer, reaching the state dual final before losing to longtime power Cleveland. Four Wildcats were named all-state, and three will return next winter.
At Cumberland, the Bulldog football team put together another solid season before seven-year coach Dewayne Alexander departed for his alma mater, Tennessee Tech, to become offensive line coach. Defensive coordinator Donnie Suber was promoted to head coach.
In basketball, Cumberland's women put together a record-setting season under fourth-year coach Jeremy Lewis. The Lady Bulldogs went a school-record 33-3 and reached the Fab Four of the NAIA Women's Championships.
But the coach and sport most often associated with Cumberland and baseball and Woody Hunt, who wrote a book about his career in the fall, received the prestigious Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award and, following perhaps the worst season of his 32-year career in 2012, bounced back in the spring of 2013 with another conference championship, the Bulldogs' 20th during his tenure. Hunt picked up his 1,400th career victory along the way.
Across the parking lot, fifth-year softball coach Heather Stanfill guided the Lady Bulldogs past the conference tournament for the first time in well over a decade with a 37-22 mark.
Back at Lebanon, second-year coach April Harris led the Lady Devils to the District 9-AAA South Division championship and was named the league's softball Coach of the Year. She resigned just last week for family reasons.
I've left out some momentous achievements [like Mt. Juliet's run to the boys' soccer sectional, a first for this county]. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to remind me.
In the meantime, the 2013-14 year is bearing down faster than the Music City Star. Enjoy the summer.