By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Class of 2013 was a special group to cover. When I started at The Millington Star, this group was in the second grade. So I have literally watch them grow up.
This week and next week I will shine the spotlight on a few of the student/athletes from the class who made an impact on me and made my job a true joy.
McCallie Ruffin & Caleb Armour
Up the road at Brighton High School, there was a pair of good looking students. Caleb Armour has ragged, handsome features. And McCallie Ruffin is a beauty queen with a baby doll face. She looks like her mother. But passed the surface, this duo became the face of sports at BHS for 2012-13.
Armour was a standout linebacker and pitcher for the Cardinals. And McCallie was even busier with volleyball, basketball and softball. This year alone, I’ve witnessed McCallie slam a spike, drain a three-pointer and crush a homer.
Meanwhile Armour crushed opposing running backs and froze batters with his pitch selection. Both Armour and Ruffin are ambassadors for Brighton High and their hometown. Armour is a part of family who gives back to the community through his Mom’s medical practice and their volunteering in youth sports.
Ruffin is a former Miss Tipton and her family is active in youth education in Brighton. So the good-looking faces of Armour and Ruffin will be around for years to come making people smile.
Most School Spirit
Brandi Graves & Matt Owens
School pride is a big deal in small town America. And from Millington to Munford there were two students who seem to be in the middle of the good times celebrating the moments. Those same two students were also there during the bad times to lend support and lift the spirits of their peers. This year’s Most School Spirit winners are Brandi Graves of Millington and Matt Owens of Munford.
Graves played softball for the Lady Trojans and Owens was a member of the Munford Tennis team teaming up with fellow senior Michael Pugh. During the fall, Owens could be found in the stands cheering on Pugh for football. Owens was easy to spot because he was in body paint and the loudest.
Owens didn’t stop there, he was the main organizer of the cheer section at Lady Cougar and Cougar Basketball games in the winter. Prior to tip-off, he could be located in the back hallway with the loads of black, maroon and white paint for the rowdy crew. And once they raced into the gymnasium, it was show time. Owens and the guys had selected cheers and jeers for each game.
Now Graves’ style of cheering was more freestyle. She went with the moment. If she saw a bad call in football, basketball or baseball she let the official have it, of course in a tasteful way. And when her beloved Trojans were on the winning end, she was the world’s best cheerleader. Graves’ style of support was more one-on-one. She would come up to a Tiara Caldwell after a double-double and let her know she handled her business. And she would have a bear hug for a Antonio Webber after a successful running effort on the gridiron.
And yes, Graves did body paint as well. And she designed black and gold outfits for big games. Graves is Trojan Pride at its best. And Owens could be the mayor of Cougar Town.
Kendrick Carter and Tierra Ford
I have no style and I depend on the kindness of relatives and friends to dress me. But I do know high fashion when I see it. My “Aunt V” Verner Jones taught me real style is effortless and flows from the person. The two seniors who exemplify this are Kendrick Carter and Tierra Ford of Millington.
I can see these two hanging out with Joan Rivers and giving her some tips on how to look good in the 2010s. Ford had grace and athleticism on the volleyball court. Her contribution in that sport helped transform the Lady Trojans in winners. Carter had a similar role for the Trojan Basketball team as a power forward.
The traditional power forward is a gritty, grinder type (thanks Tony Allen). Carter would battle for rebounds and loose balls with the coolness of legendary NBA player George “Ice Man” Garvin.
Off the court, Carter dressed like Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Ford has a style that accents her natural beauty. She can do summer wear looking like a model and then pull off a winter goddess.
Stay fresh Ms. Ford and Mr. Carter.
Most Likely to Succeed
Sami Jo Schulz & Jonathan Stark
There has been a special era of girls’ sports at Munford High School. So many players have been responsible for the successful run of Tennis, Basketball, Softball and Volleyball at the school. One of the faces had been Sami Jo Schulz.
In contrast the Munford Basketball program was going through a transition when Jonathan Stark arrived from Brighton. But Stark is a winner wherever he goes and this past season proved it. Stark led the Cougars to a District 13-3A championship and was named MVP.
Schulz won an MVP this year as well in volleyball. Injuries limited her on-the-field contributions in softball. But Schulz stayed nearby to root on her teammates to another State appearance.
Both Schulz and Stark are Division I caliber talents that have the intelligence, drive and right attitude to be successful. It has been a pleasure watching these two mature into top-level student/athletes. And I look forward to the headlines they’ll make in college.
Side Note: The successful run of Lady Cougar athletes has included four Sub-State appearances in Tennis, first Sub-State in Basketball, three straight appearances at State for Softball and six straight Sub-State appearances with two visits to State in Volleyball. All this since 2007.
Artez Harris & Mady Kate Gantt
Best Overall goes to a person who would win Most Athletic, Most School Spirit, Most Dependable or Most Intelligent. The Class of 2013 had so many candidates but I would only honor two. Brighton’s Artez Harris and Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s Mady Kate Gantt were selected to represent this class.
Harris followed the monster season of Ricky Foster for Brighton Football. And Harris made a name for himself as a clutch, go-to receiver. Harris talked the talk and walked the walk. He shared his confidence with his quarterback Brady Stewart and younger teammates like Colton Childress. Harris took his team on his back in a few games this past year and welled them to victory. He didn’t want to see the strong Brighton Football tradition take a step back on his watch.
Gantt is Best Overall because she makes things look so easy. But talk to her parents, she works hard at being one of the best softball players to ever suit up for the Lady Rebels. She will always be the winning run for the State Championship in 2011. But to me she’ll always be The Show because her great catches in centerfield, timely hitting and swagger.
Both Harris and Gantt are confident players who made their teams better. That is what it takes to be Best Overall.
George Odum & Alex Turner
George Odum of Millington is a freak of nature featuring speed, power and amazing leaping ability. Up the road at Munford, Alex Turner appears calm, cool and collected. But once the lights are on, her bat is a lightning rod and her jump shot is lethal.
Turner has a child-like grin with eyes that can melt a grandfather’s heart. And that expression doesn’t change much during a game. So her actions do the speaking for Turner. She is capable of lighting up a scoring column in basketball with her three-point shot. And as the years passed, her overall game improved on the court helping the Lady Cougars make history.
Her featured sport is softball and she’ll be playing at Southwest next year. Turner is a rock-solid outfielder but her bat was what attracted so many scouts. She can hit for power and average. But once again don’t look at her face to judge her success rate. That adorable poker mug doesn’t change.
Odum keeps a poker face while he’s in competition. But his hard hits on the gridiron and blazing speed on the track made many uph and ow the past three years.
Odum played free safety for the Trojans making sure nobody got passed him. And with 21 second 200m time, that wasn’t likely.
And being a linebacker trapped in a safety’s body, Odum was the second leading tackler on the Trojans. He will be a star in the making at Central Arkansas.
Most Likely to be a Comic
Casey Tarwater & Austin Rushing
Sometimes in sports you need a laugh. And around here, each year you can count on someone to bring the humor and joy to the games. This year the two best are Austin Rushing of TRA and Casey Tarwater of Millington.
To be funny you have to be smart, topical, abreast on current events, willing to mock yourself and observant. Rushing and Tarwater meet these requirements with flying colors.
Rushing, a football standout for the Rebels, was able to put his early season injury in a humorous prospective. He injured his leg after the best run of his career going for more than 80 yards. He said, “I guess my leg couldn’t handle a run that long, that’s why I didn’t do it so often.”
Rushing was one of TRA’s leading rushers the last two seasons and a defensive standout in the secondary. He contributed to his team with his spirit and keeping his teammates upbeat. Rushing also would dress in weird costumes and bright colors to support his peers in other sports throughout the year. And he was the leaders of the student section chanting. Tarwater was no stranger to a student section rooting on her Trojan peers. Although she wore creative outfits of black and gold, Tarwater knew good fashion. It was around her freshman and sophomore years she noted I sported a sweater that reminded her of a 1980s couch. I had to face the fact that sweater should be a dust rag. I have since retired the garment on behalf of Tarwater. But I will let her know her Alabama gear is hideous to me. My sweater was the only disagreement between me and the Southwest Tennessee signee. Tarwater and I have an unspoken language of friendship and humor. Every softball season began with her trademark photo bomb of the tongue poked out as I tried to get a dugout shot. If she was on defense in soccer and the ball was on the other end of the field, Tarwater would give me a quick hello followed by, “Looking good, anything is better than that sweater.”