By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Genuine Article is ready to wrap up the look back at the 2015-16 TSSAA sports year.
After celebrating food, moments and the first round of seniors, her comes the Who’s Who Part 2. Many wonderful student/athletes come from Brighton, Munford, Tipton-Rosemark Academy and Millington.
With great support systems at home, in the school and around the community, each year it’s easy to select a few to shine a spotlight on with my superlatives. Let’s celebrate 13 more from the Class of 2016 who left an impression on this sports writer.
Sean Srock & Ally Hall
In order to win this honor, I must bump into the boy and girl a lot outside of sports. Whenever I got a call to Millington Central High School for academics, community involvement or even at a sporting event, I saw Sean Srock and Ally Hall.
Hall and her Lady Trojan Volleyball teammates got the school and community involved in their historic run to Sub-State last year. She was a vocal senior leader and provided the example needed to push the Lady Trojans to a District Tournament title.
Hall, who played softball during her time at Millington, still came to games in the spring to support her friends. She was a regular at football, baseball and basketball games.
She even took time to dress up to be on the Homecoming Court. She could be spotted cleaning up on Citywide Beautiful Cleanup days. Hall was involved in mentor programs and she seemed to be cool with her fellow athletes, the smart kids, band members, faculty, her peers on Yearbook and even the local paper.
Speaking of the paper, Srock was a regular in The Star, from finishing No. 6 in the class ranking to his involvement in academic programs. Srock was busy during his time at MCHS from reaching State on the mat in wrestling, to flying a plane at the Millington Regional Jetport.
The young man who was reaching new heights in so many endeavors had time to play soccer and become a vital part of the defense. Srock has a business-like approach when he is dedicated to a cause. But he can be the life of the party making sure everyone is having fun in the process.
Johnie Sanfratello & Glenda Garner
Most Talented goes to the duo who impresses me with style, creativity, flair and I would pay to see them. TRA’s Johnie “Basketball” Sanfratello and Glenda “GeGe” Garner of Millington have earned that honor this year.
Side note on Garner, she’s so talented, she would do her teammate’s hair before games. That explains why some of them would sport the same new color on the court.
No matter the hairstyle Garner was wearing for the Millington Lady Trojans, she was a solid post threat. She developed a true post game by her senior season. But for some reason Garner felt she has shooting guard skills.
So I’ve witnessed her running the fast break hitting a teammates with a sweet pass. Garner has stepped out to drain a three-pointer. She was the best shooter on the team.
With her natural ability and passion for the game, Garner has a bright future ahead of her in the game — as long as she keeps working on her talent.
Garner stepped on the court for Millington as a freshman and at the same time Sanfratello saw varsity action for the Rebels.
While everyone around the program hyped Sanfratello up as a “Pistol” Pete type guard, the young man maintained a creative style of play while working on the basics.
He had an accurate shot making several game-winners during his TRA career. He could dribble out a clock by himself. And by the time he was a junior, he was a true facilitator
While Sanfratello had moments of flamboyant plays on the court, you couldn’t question his heart and dedication to the game. He drove on the court, raced to the loose ball and was a leader of men like AJ Hightower, Ryan Duffy and Darien Weakley.
AJ Hightower & Kyla Taylor
Connection and a friend for life. When I thought on these things, I came up with Munford’s Kyla Taylor and TRA’s AJ Hightower. Years from now if I see either one in a store or in passing, I will exchange a hug and reminisce.
Taylor has known me since she was about 5 years old. Thanks to her grandmother “Mama Tena” Alexander, I’ve been adopted by the entire family. I could share stories about this wonderful family from Sherronda to little Corey Jr. But let me focus on the quite, dedicated backbone of the family with Kyla.
She always greeted you with a beautiful smile. While everyone else cheered loud, she was intense in a low-key matter.
Kyla worked hard to not let thing others. She suffered a knee injury and she couldn’t wait to get back to the court to be there for her teammates, coaches and her family. While she recovered, her family was still there at game cheering with 100 percent.
That dedication and love of the game Kyla learned from her family paid off in her senior season. She was in the regular rotation of the 2016 District 13-3A regular-season and tournament champions. She helped the Lady Cougars win the Region title in the process. Meanwhile she made the All-Academic team, which I’m sure her aunt LaToya is very proud of.
Kyla quietly earned her recognition and a spot in my heart. Good luck young Lady in your future…even if you’ll be wearing the wrong blue.
The future is bright for my other Best Friend, AJ Hightower. I can honestly say I love this young man. While Kyla slowly moved into my heart, Hightower set up shop and moved in.
About 4 years ago, a fresh face kid would come up to me with an electric smile and bubbling personality. He knew who I was. And Andrew James quickly told me who he was. After our first conversation in the TRA Gymnasium, AJ concluded the matter with, “I’m going to be your future quarterback.”
AJ kept his promise using a combination of natural abilities and studying. Don’t let his goofy sense of humor fool you, AJ is a student of the game whether it be basketball or football. He can give you a detail scouting report on his teammates and the opposition.
I can see a Coach Hightower in the future. AJ is preparing to head up North to play college football. He made that promise of reaching the college level this past August. That’s what I love about him, he sets a goal and goes to get it.
I can only think of two words to describe my boy AJ Hightower… Intense Swag. Not only will he give his all for the game, his teammates and coaches, but once AJ has a connection with you, you know you have a man of his word on your side.
Eldon Tyms & Taylor Beasley
This honor is dear to my heart because I try to be dependable. I know how important that characteristic is in sports, business, religion and in life. At TRA Taylor Beasley was Ms. Dependable and at Millington Eldon Tyms was Captain Reliable.
On a stormy October night in 2012, The Eldon Tyms Era began behind center for the Millington Trojans. He was a young, undersize quarterback wearing the No. 32 that night. By 2015, he was a stud, with a rocket arm, shaking the competition with his running back skills wearing the No. 8.
Tyms became the best ever to throw the ball at Millington. He was the man Head Coach Chris Michaels depended on to usher in the new style of offense for the Trojans. Tyms worked hours on learning the offense and perfecting his skills in the scheme.
When injuries hit his receiving corps. Tyms put his body on the line to help his team. He was the best running back on the team the past two seasons.
In 2014 when Tyms went down with an injury, the Trojans had to limp to the finish line. Then the signal caller returned in time to lead his team to victory in Lawrence County.
Tyms will go down as a revolutionary player in Trojan Football history. His work, accountability and dependable nature will be appreciated more in the years to come.
In the future, the name of Taylor Beasley will be held in the same regard on the TRA Campus like a Robyn Hornsby, Mady Kate Gantt, Roxy Kimes, Ashton Needham and the All-Time great Lyndsey Sterling.
Like Tyms, Beasley was on the big stage early for Lady Rebel Softball. She was a vital part of the 2014 State Championship team.
While she was a great leadoff hitter and played terrific all over the field, basketball was the sport that exemplified how dependable Beasley was.
The Lady Rebel Basketball team wasn’t a powerhouse like the Softball program. But those girls played hard every night following the example of a Beasley. I saw her cry one night after fouling out. That’s hard how she played the game and wanted to be out there for her team.
She improved her ball-handling because the guards ahead of her were graduating. She shot the ball less because her teammate Ally Naifeh was the focal point and Beasley was giving younger guards like Brittany Hall, Abby West and Megan Sanfratello a chance to build confidence.
Let me stop here, I’ll say more about the impact Taylor Beasley made on me in a few paragraphs…
Seeley Layne & Colby Butler/Tramanie Cooper
Let’s make a visit to the Brighton High School campus for a trio of hard workers. On the softball diamond Seeley Layne made history and led her team back to the State Tournament. Just a few yards away in the Brighton Gymnasium, a new standard was set for Cardinal Hoops by the backcourt duo of Colby Butler and Tramanie Cooper.
Butler and Cooper are heading to Bethel to continue their basketball careers. One of the main reasons they attracted the coaching staff’s attention up there was winning. Once Butler and Cooper joined forces, they were leaders of younger players like Taeylr Gatlin, Ashton Austin and Zach Lewis.
Butler and Cooper are a bit undersize but their hearts cannot be measured. Butler overcame adversity to be a crucial part of the Cardinals hosting a Region Tournament game. The All-Academic student put in the work in the gym to earn a starting spot and be a leader by example for his teammates. Facing obstacles that would make lesser young men quit, Butler used the challenges to become a better player and college-level talent.
Cooper was in the spotlight a couple of years before his friend Butler. Along side his brother Tyron, “The Hangin with the Coopers” backcourt was entertaining and skilled. But the results on the scoreboard were lacking.
Tyron pushed his younger brother to improve his game and get his mind right to learn in the new offense of Stan Gatlin when he arrived as Head Coach two years ago. Tramaine hit the weight room, the court and the film room to be the guard Gatlin needed. All the hard work has paid off with his college signing.
Now I’m sure several colleges would love to have Seeley Layne on their softball team. Brighton Head Softball Coach Robin Jacobs will be the first to testify how hard she works and what she brings to a team.
As a freshman, Layne was talked about in the same breathe as Munford’s Sam Scott. Her Lady Cougar counterpart got off to a quick start leading Munford to State.
Meanwhile Layne was hitting rocky patches in her development as a varsity pitcher at Brighton. Trying to turn the table as a sophomore, the Lady Cardinals managed to win the district regular-season title. But another early exit in the district tournament forced Jacobs back to the drawing board.
He said it was time to go young and put the ball in Seeley’s hand full time. After a beat down courtesy of St. Benedict, Jacobs made the decision official. It became “The Seeley Layne Show.” The award-winning program produced District 13-3A titles, a Region championship and the return to State.
In the process, Seeley tied Leanna “Yao” Coulston for all-time wins at Brighton. She was named All-State as a junior. With her history in Brighton Softball complete, Seeley Layne has worked to become an All-Time Great.
Erin Detter & Christian Brooks
Munford High School made these two selections easy for the Class of 2016. One was the Valedictorian for her class and the other was No. 9 in the rankings.
And both Cougars Erin Detter and Christian Brooks earned my respect in the classroom and in the athletic fields.
Let’s start with the soccer captain and history-making wrestler Detter. She is a strong, physical style player on the soccer field. But she has enough speed and lateral movement to be a scoring threat. Her all-around play for first year Head Coach Dylan Burnett helped the Lady Cougars win the District 13-3A championship.
Then she focused her energy and natural physical gifts on reaching State in wrestling. Detter is not afraid to take on a challenge and dominant it. Detter is one of the rare student/athletes who can maximize her mental and physical gifts at the same time. And her heart is the muscle that brings it all together.
Onto my photographer role model Christian Brooks. Beside his offensive line mates, Brooks helped transformed Cougar Football into winners the past two seasons. That will be just a part of his legacy in the Class of 2016.
Most of Brooks classmates will remember him for his bunt honesty, well-timed sarcasm and nearly-perfect photos. Brooks is gifted behind the camera and has been published in area papers including The Star.
Brooks is a credit to anyone who has coached him in athletics or taught him in a classroom. And he brings pride to the Brooks name in photography. Christian’s father Fred has taught me a lot when it comes to using my camera. And the elder Brooks has even trusted me with expensive equipment helping me to get a better photo of our athletes.
But sorry Fred, Christian has us beat my friend. He took a picture of a flaming bat…flaming bat.
Mr. and Ms. Millington Star
Zack Camp & Taylor Beasley
This year’s Mr. and Ms. Millington Star is Brighton’s Zack Camp and TRA’s Taylor Beasley.
Now where was I… yes Taylor Beasley. An athlete who never quit on a game. Whether it was a cold December night in a gym in Memphis or a cloudy spring afternoon in Jackson, Beasley went “Beast Mode” each time. She played like it was a championship on the line on the hardwood or on the diamond.
She played like she was being watched for the first time and like she was setting an example for those coming behind her. And Beasley played with an accountability for her older teammates and the coaches who invested time in her. Taylor I’m proud to honor you as Ms. Millington Star 2016. You are a role model any year and for any generation.
And I want to express a similar sentiment to my boy Zack Camp. I will run out of space in this paper to describe the wonderful young man Camp is. I can try to summarize it by citing his All-American selection in football. I can pinpoint his community service and involvement in student activities while at Brighton. I could reference the 2015 District 13-3A championship he helped the Brighton Football win.
To honor my friend Zack, two moments stand out. My first memory goes back to Halle Stadium on a Friday night when the Cardinals took on the Wooddale Cardinals.
The Cardinals from Tipton County needed to win the game to set up a showdown against the rival Munford Cougars for the championship. Wooddale wouldn’t cooperate the entire night answering every Brighton score. Late in the contest, Head Coach Robin Jacobs, the offensive coordinator and the offensive line came up with a two-word strategy — Zack Camp.
Brighton went Camping in the fourth quarter handing the ball to Zack. He willed his team down the field for the winning score.
After the game I needed to interview the star of the game. As we made eye contact, Zack gave me a nod toward is senior lineman Drake Grimes.
Zack never took the credit and he always recognized football is a team sport. That leads me to my second lasting memory of Camp.
He would give credit to his teammates, coaches and family. Ultimately Camp is going to give credit to his Lord and Savior.
The Cardinals won the championship and earned a home playoff game. Brighton dropped a thrilling game to Northeast Clarksville. With the emotion building up in him, Camp called his fellow seniors for one more huddle on their field. The players took a knee in that huddle and bowed their heads to be led in prayer by their Captain.
Camp has All-American, handsome features. He is smart and hard working. He is the ideal Mr. Millington Star. But he is a humble young man and spiritually guided. That combination will lead to greatness.