Let’s start our look back at the 2012-13 TSSAA Sports year with the annual Best Sellers’ List. Her are 10 moments that stood out among all the memorable happenings since August.
Maggie Johnson All-Heart
As a person who suffers from consistent knee pain, I literally feel Maggie Johnson’s pain. With a surgery in her near future, the Munford Lady Cougar put aside her aches and soreness to help her team reach its third straight State Tournament with great defense in the Regional Semifinals. Facing elimination against the Arlington Lady Tigers on the road, Johnson stepped up time and time again making crucial, rally saving plays at second base. With stars like Jodie Duncan and Sami Jo Schulz out of the lineup, Johnson became the clear leader in the infield. During this special era of Lady Cougar Softball featuring standouts like Tara Comer, Alex Stanford, Alex Turner and Jessyca Baker, Johnson has been that quiet, consistent and dignified piece in Glenn Goulder’s machine. Against Arlington, Johnson’s hustle, quickness and determination finally shined the spotlight on her skills and importance to the team. The public finally got a chance to see what her teammates and coaches have known for years.
Work of Artez
Entering the 2012 football season, many experts around the area openly wondered who the high-powered Brighton Cardinal offense could replace Ricky Foster. Brighton Head Coach Will Wolfe wasn’t too worried. He knew the special receiver he had on the other side complimenting Foster. With Foster off at Tennessee State, it was time for Artez Harris to shine. And the senior wide out had one of his best performances in a late September match up with the Millington Trojans. With his team trailing twice late in the game, Harris made big catches including a TD reception giving the Cardinals a thrilling 28-27 victory. That win sparked a winning streak for Brighton and put Harris on the map as a big-time wide receiver.
Brighton Softball 500
Brighton Softball is about winning and tradition. And in early May those core values were on display when the 2013 squad signed the fifth home plate in program history to symbolize 500 victories. The one consistent presence in all those wins has been Head Coach Robin Jacobs. The Lady Cardinals have produces several All-State players over the years like Leanna Coulston, Caroline Jacobs and Amber Hayes. Many have signed college scholarships like Morgan Shaver, Haley Craig, Bri McBride, Laura Judy and Lulu Smith, just to name the crew from this year. Behind all that success has been Jacobs.
The school recognized Coach Jacobs on Senior Night and the veteran Skipper fought back tears as Principal Christi Huffman started to talk about all the girls he has had an impact on over the years. That’s what it is all about for Jacobs, making his players better on the field and give them life lessons.
Jacobs is an living example of dedication and hard work paying off. He bounced back after gallbladder surgery years ago to guide the program he started. So don’t ever question Jacobs’ toughest or his players. Cardinal Power.
MKG to the Rescue
Sports the last few years at Tipton-Rosemark Academy has been special with players like Roxanna Kimes, JT Moody, Jordan Whitley, David Owen, Julanne McCommon and Cale Alexander passing through the halls. But the official face of this special era might have to be Mady Kate Gantt. Known as “The Show,” Gantt is a combination of confidence, swagger, skill and intelligence on the field or court. She makes routine plays look cool and the difficult look scripted. This was proven on a cold, rainy day during the 2013 softball season at ECS. With everyone in a hurry to leave to avoid the miserable conditions, Gantt left the Lady Rebel dugout declaring she was ready to get this game over. When Head Coach Joe Layton called on her to shut down the Lady Eagles from the pitching circle, Gantt took some encouragement from her father David and struck out the last ECS batter. Now needing three runs to enforce the run rule, Gantt calmly stepped up to the plate and crushed a homer to end the game. From being the winning run in the State championship game in 2011 to being a senior leader, TRA will always remember “The Show.”
Lady Cougars Best Season
Basketball was special in Munford this year. The Cougars were winning. Meanwhile the Lady Cougars were making history. Led by Steve Poindexter the Munford Lady Cougars reached Sub-State for the first time in school history. The senior corps of Robneisha “Bird” Lee, Shaliyah Wiggins, Laura Zvolanek and Alex Turner took the lessons they first learned under former Head Coach Mike Anderson as freshmen and the three years in the system of Poindexter matured into championships.
Lee grew into a on and off the court leader with her natural skills. Wiggins came into the program as a unconscious shooter. She graduated as an MVP unconscious shooter. Zvolanek improved her outside shot and battled much larger girls in the post helping her team win. And Alex Turner could go for 20 points in a heartbeat with her three-point shooting. Turner did the little things to help the Lady Cougars win.
Expect more success from the Lady Cougars with key pieces like Precious Mills, Kierra Richardson and Lindsey Owen coming back. But let’s remember the group that helped a talented young coach get things started.
Overtime over Dyer County
I did mention the Munford Cougars were in the middle of a special season as well. The arrival of Jonathan Stark and Kameron Foster from Brighton gave the Cougars hope. The knowledge of Head Coach Butch Hopkins was the key to turn over the engine to get the Cougars rolling. Compiling victories set up a District 13-3A showdown against the regular season champions Dyer County Choctaws. The contest was also build as Stark vs. Robert Hubbs. The University of Tennessee signee has been ranked as one of the best players in America for three years. Both Hubbs’ and Stark’s names could be found on ESPN.com and Rivals.com rankings. But by the end of the night it was the name of a freshman everyone was talking about leaving the Munford Gymnasium. Cougar youngster Reggie Holmes had to play point guard in the absence of Foster. The freshman got into a groove in the fourth quarter and overtime hitting big buckets before fouling out.
His effort was enough to help the Cougars win the district tournament. Holmes had arrived.
Malcolm Terry pair of silver
The face of Cardinal Track the last three years has been hard to see because Malcolm Terry has been too busy flying high in the sky. Using pure athleticism and the instructions of Coach Nick Buford, Terry kept progressing into one of the best long and triple jumpers in Tennessee. Also reaching State in the High Jump his junior year, Terry has been a decorated athlete. Next to Lady Cardinal Kimi Jennings, Terry is the most celebrated Brighton Track standout in school history. To put a bow on his career, Terry brought home two silver medals from the Class 3A State Track Meet last month. Terry should go down as the best Brighton Track athlete ever. And it was take someone really special putting on the black and red to leap up there with him.
Webber the Warrior
There have been many great running backs to wear the black and gold of Millington. But the toughest Trojan to ever carry the ball might be Antonio Webber. He submitted his name for that honor this season being the feature guy in a new Spread offense. When it came to the running game this year, everyone in the stadium knew 90 percent of the time Webber was getting the ball. And he delivered through nagging injuries and defenses designed to stop him. Webber’s natural ability and unrivaled determination helped him be a leader on the field for Chris Michael’s Trojans in 2012. Webber while battling a deep thigh bruise almost carried Millington to the third round of the playoffs. But his heroic effort in the Second Round contest at Germantown came up short in overtime.
Fans on both sides of the stadium left impressed by the heart and effort of No. 28. Webber lived up to the old cliché of leaving it all out on the field.
Me, Myself and Dupree
Stats are a good way to determine who is the best of all-time. Then other factors like impact play a part. In that case Katlyn Dupree is the greatest Millington Lady Trojan Soccer player ever. Before Dupree, there were greats like Tabitha “Nikki” Burau, Samantha Medina, Ashley Benbow and Katelyn Dagen. That quartet of Lady Trojans was special but Dupree embodied all there best qualities into one package to become the all-time leading scorer in school history.
Like Burau, Dupree was lightning quick up and down the soccer field without the ball giving defenses a headache of trying to keep up with her. Medina was known for being unselfish setting up goals for Burau and Benbow. For two years Dupree assisted on several goal for her K2 partner Dagen. It was always team-first with Medina and Dupree.
Benbow set the single season scoring record with 27 goals breaking Burau’s mark of 19. Benbow had amazing shot-making skills. The only Lady Trojan to do it better was Dupree scoring 31 goals this past season.
And working along side Dagen for a couple of seasons, Dupree learned off the field leadership skills from one of the best. Dagen was a leader by example and always was encouraging to teammates. Dupree became a vocal leader while displaying how to do it on the field.
I’ve covered the retirements of Millington Football jerseys No. 20, 22 and 33 for former Trojans and NFL players Marlon Barnes, Ahmaad Galloway and Tyrone Calico respectively. But this spring I had the privilege of documenting the number retirement of 87 for the late Dana Payne.
After his tragic death Aug. 21, Payne’s legacy quickly became the driving force for Trojan Football. His trademark smile and youthful zeal were comfort for teammates and Head Coach Chris Michael. And his love of the game was on display with every play during Millington’s 6-6 season.
That record of .500 was fitting for the 2012 Trojans because the lows balanced out the highs. Throughout the entire campaign, the Trojans had reminders of Dana from the white dove flying over the field during a game to the Bartlett fans joining hands with the Millington faithful on the track forming a huge circle in honor of Dana.
People visited from around the nation including representatives from the Taylor Haugen Foundation in Florida. Haugen lost his life from a tackle on the football field similar to Payne’s situation. The memory of Dana had impact from Northaven to the gridirons across the United States.
And in order to make sure his memory lives on forever at MCHS, the football coaches, team and administrators retired the No. 87 from any further use. Payne’s 87 joins Mario Reed’s No. 29 as the only other Millington Football number that will never be used again.
But in reality the spirit and determination of Reed and Payne is in every Millington football player who steps on the field. Those number live on every Friday night the black and gold steps on the field.
This past sports year ended with Dana on my mind and it begin with his smile. The only time I had the pleasure of talking to Payne was for team pictures in August.
Wearing No. 84 at the time, he was so excited to have his first varsity picture made. He was just smiling and his shiny white teeth glowed in the dim back gymnasium. Finally it was his turn for his picture, before I would tell him, ‘Look like a football player.’ Payne gave his game face and stood tall. With a snap of the camera, I took his first and only varsity football picture. Payne is a reminder to me to have a love for the game and appreciate every moment in life. Because we never know when it might be our first, last or even only.