By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Class of 2016 has a sweet spot in my heart.
When I started at The Millington Star back in August 2003, the members of this year’s graduating class were entering Kindergarten. At the same time, we were taking a step forward in our lives. They were leaving the home and heading to “Big Kid” school. As for me, I was leaving The University of Memphis and heading into the “Big World.”
Since then I’ve matured from a sports writer into the editor of The Millington Star. During that time span I’ve watched most of these student/athletes grow into outstanding young men and young women. As they prepare to move onto the next chapter of their lives, I want to recognize a few of the Class of 2016 over the next two weeks with my annual Who’s Who.
Noah Graham & Ashley Freeze
Usually a handsome guy and an attractive girl wins this honor. This year is no different with Millington’s duo of Noah Graham and Ashley Freeze. Noah has his flowing blonde locks that shine from underneath his baseball cap. And Ms. Ashley was a graceful beauty on the volleyball court.
Once we put the physical features aside, both of this Trojans were flat out outstanding in 2015-16. Graham was the ace for Zane Adams’ Trojans on the diamond. He pitched the big games and always gave his team a chance to win.
Freeze helped the Lady Trojan Volleyball team make school history as the District 15-2A Tournament MVP. Millington reached Sub-State for the first time behind the leadership of Freeze.
Freeze was selected to Millington Class of 2016 Hall of Fame. And Graham was an active member in the community helping with programs like giving Millington Middle School student Cassy Colunga a prom. Both Noah and Ashley make anything they’re are involved in look better.
Most School Spirit
Hunter Beckham & Ally Naifeh
To win Most School Spirit, first I need to see you as sporting events outside of your uniform. Then I need to hear you cheering for your peers and I need you standout while you do it. Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s Ally Naifeh and Millington’s Hunter Beckham easily met this requirements.
Naifeh was a standout guard/forward/center for the Lady Rebel Basketball team. You get my point, she did it all this past season. When she wasn’t busy being the go-to player for TRA, Naifeh would sport her school colors with pride cheering on the football, boys’ basketball, softball and baseball teams.
She would travel wherever her Rebels were playing. It was fitting she was the one to officially announce the graduation of her class last month in the Millington First Baptist Church.
Speaking of MFB, Beckham is an active member there. He was just active when it came to school, his community, job, church and sports. Beckham was the goalie for Larry Dagen’s Trojan Soccer team in 2016. He had to keep an eye on the entire field.
Before soccer season arrived, Beckham kept an eye on all of Millington sports behind his camera. He was the photographer for the Millington Yearbook. When he wasn’t officially working, Beckham could be spotted in body paint yelling at a football game.
Beckham, No. 5 in his class’ ranking and Naifeh, the senior class president, both prove smart students can still have fun in the right spirit.
Paul Robinson & Jherkia Brown
As I get older, I realize my fashion sense is dying. I wear what is comfortable and affordable. So when I look out on teenagers and their style, I’m confused. The girls are wearing baggy clothes while the boys’ gear is getting tighter.
Around Millington I was able to spot two Trojan athletes with their own style and they made it work. Jherika Brown was a guard on the Lady Trojan Basketball team. Her hairstyle would change from game to game. And depending on her hair, Brown’s wardrobe would correspond with it.
Brown would look like a superstar singer about to head to the stage. Her makeup was flawless and she had classy glow when she walked into a room. I guess when you have overcome illnesses and injuries to be a leader on your team, you deserve a moment to shine.
“Big Paul” is a canvas an artist can use to get recognition. From his nickname, you can tell Robinson was a defensive lineman. He cause havoc on the line for the opposition and was the brightest star for the Trojans during last year’s M&M Bowl. JR Kirby made it a point to run away from Robinson’s side of the line.
But there was no running away from Robinson’s style. He adopted this 1980s, Eddie Murphy Raw look. He would have on slick pants and high-top sneakers that look like moon boots. He wasn’t afraid to wear a leather jacket with a bright shirt. After a few sightings, I was disappointed if I saw “Big Paul” in just jeans and a shirt.
Most Likely to Succeed
Joe Fulcher & Sam Scott
In the same day, Munford High School celebrated the signings of aces Joe Fulcher and Sam Scott. Fulcher is heading to Vanderbilt to play for the national baseball power. And Scott added her name to the Division I signees of Head Coach Glenn Goulder by inking her letter of intent to UT-Martin.
Both pitchers were champions and record-breakers at Munford. Scott helped the Lady Cougars reach State twice during her tenure and developed into a power at the plate for Munford.
Fulcher batted near the top of the Cougar lineup and he was a key contributor to this year’s District 13-3A Tournament title.
Besides pitching and skills on the field, Fulcher and Scott are intelligent students. They are hard workers in the classroom as well. They have the perfect opportunity to use their skills on the diamond and abilities in academics to have a bright future.
Aaron Peerey & Emily Montgomery
For this year’s selection, I went with a Hall of Famer and Salutatorian. Aaron Peerey was picked as a member of the Millington Central High School Class of 2016 Hall of Fame. And Montgomery finished second in the Munford High School Class of 2016 rankings.
Let’s move to the field of play. Montgomery was a key leader and player for the 2015 District 13-3A championship soccer team for the Lady Cougars. She even took on the challenge of wrestling while at Munford.
Now she heads to college to play soccer and continue to take on academic challenges.
Peerey wasn’t afraid to take on any obstacles. Standing 6’5, he went out for basketball and developed into a solid center for the Trojans. Baseball was his primary sport in high school and he was a standout pitcher his junior season.
Peerey seemed to step up where he was needed in baseball. His senior season he was needed for defense and leadership in the dugout.
What Peerey and Montgomery have in common to make them Best Overall, they are not scare of new endeavors and they usually succeed.
Kip Fleming & Shayna Johnson
You can plug Millington’s Kip Fleming and Brighton’s Shayna Johnson into any athletic situation and they will make good things happen.
Johnson was a Lady Cardinal standout in volleyball and basketball the past four years. Now Fleming took a stab for a year at basketball, track and baseball while at Millington. But his main sport was football.
Fleming was the go-to speedster for quarterback Eldon Tyms. He was the playmaker of the 2015 season. If Fleming caught the ball, he was usually the fastest player on the field and was going to the house.
Standing 5’7 and about a buck-40 in the rain, Fleming’s heart was an unmeasurable asset for the Trojans. He gave that same 100 percent in baseball and basketball giving his all for his coaches, teammates and the Black and Gold.
Up the road in Brighton, Johnson was a consistent for the Lady Cardinals. No matter if the coaches changed, or teammates left, Johnson was dependable. She is blessed with leaping ability.
Johnson has great hand and eye coordination. With her IQ for her sports, Johnson was usually in the right place at the right time. She go for 20 points in a basketball game or dropped several kills on a front line in volleyball.
I will miss watching Johnson and Fleming on a regular basis.
Most Likely to be a Comic
Ethan Dupree & Keyona Johnson
A good sense of humor is needed in sports. When things are going bad or get tough, a well-timed joke will ease the tension. And frankly, it will make this reporter’s day.
For years Millington’s Ethan Dupree and Keyona Johnson have managed to make me chuckle or simply shed a tear from laughter. Johnson has made me laugh in Flag City and in Tipton County during her one-year at Brighton.
She has a colorful humor. Johnson uses physical comedy not afraid to leap into her teammate’s arms or doing weird poses for photos. She will wear costumes and hit you with the verbal blasts.
Now to “The Show” Dupree, even before high school he had charisma. Later to be known as sagg. He uses a confident delivery to get his jokes and humor across. Then he will rav it up to cockiness to get the bigger laughs.
Then Dupree will use a pure type of humor like dressing up as an ESPN commentator with a cardboard broadcast table to brighten up others day.
Both Dupree and Johnson work with others to get laughs. That just shows you they are friendly and fun people to be around.