By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Class of 2017 has walked the walk.
Some have even talked the talk over the years leading to this moment here. Over the past few years the members of this year’s graduating class from Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Brighton, Munford and Millington Central have made an impact on this reporter’s life.
It’s that time for the annual look back a few of the seniors who earned a spot on my Who’s Who list. I have to break the tribute down into two weeks. I will use my privilege as The Millington Star’s sports editor to shine one more spotlight on these student/athletes. Their amazing feats on the field, court, diamond and etc. have been documented through our pates and website www.millington-news.com.
But I want to reflect on some of the off-the-field moments that help me mature and grow as a person. These young men and women have knowledge, wisdom and timing beyond their years. So let’s take a look at the first seven categories.
Josh Hatfield & Marissa Moss
Both Munford’s Josh Hatfield and Brighton’s Marissa Moss are easy on the eyes. And in the field of play they are also a joy to watch. Hatfield, a Justin Timberlake look-alike, played baseball and golf at Munford.
The Cougar was a great teammate in baseball seeing time in the outfield. His inspired play sparked Munford Baseball to its first State appearance since 2004. But State was a regular thing for Hatfield courtesy of golf.
As an individual sport, Hatfield’s unselfishness to help teammates was refreshing. Even while he was an underclassmen he was a leader and coach on the course. Through coaching changes he remind consistent. As a Top 10 student in his class, he just remain dedicated to whatever challenge presented itself. And he made it all look easy.
Moss made things look smooth on the softball field. Either her delivery or swing, Moss was picture perfect. I would describe her approach in the batter’s box as a female version of Will Clarke (look it up youngsters).
And after three seasons of watching All-Time Brighton wins leader Seeley Layne do her thang, Moss was handed the ball to pitch and keep the championship streak alive. Moss did just that. And she did it with a dedication to her teammates and coaches that runs deep.
Even after a District 13-3A Tournament championship victory over Dyer County, Moss released tears of regret. Not because she shut down a lethal Lady Choctaw lineup. Moss was crying because she felt she didn’t do enough at the plate to make her teammates job easier. But her effort was fully appreciated by her teammates. Her fellow senior Haley Rider comforted her with these words, “Your pitching was the reason why we had a chance to win this game and win all season.”
Most School Spirit
TJ Klutts & Lindsey Morrissett
There are two basic ways to win Most School Spirit. Either show up to all your school’s athletic events when you’re not playing. Or simply play three sports all year long and stick around to cheer on your peers when they hit the field.
Both Brighton’s TJ Klutts and Lindsey Morrissett live up to these requirements respectively. Klutts was a infield wizard and solid pitcher for the Brighton Cardinals. He’s heading to CBU to play on the diamond.
Klutts and his ball cap not only frequent the Brighton Baseball Field over the years. His trademark look would pop up consistently in the gymnasium rooting on the Hoop Cardinals. He was a consistent leader of the student section and played a vital part in Brighton Basketball only losing one home game this past season.
Klutts was also cheering on Morrissett either in volleyball or basketball. While he was busy playing baseball, Morrissett was on her diamond contributing to the Lady Cardinals return back to State.
Morrissett can be described with one phrase in all three sports — hard working. She’s quiet and not flashy. But she can deliver a timely spike, clutch three-pointer or big blow to drive in a few runs. She doesn’t seek the glory but her hard work has had rewards like an All-Star appearance in softball. It’s it ironic Ms. Morrissett, don’t you think? I saw you putting in work. And Mr. Klutts, when you could have been anywhere else, you gave your time and heart to Brighton.
Chance Taylor & Bria Barnes
This year’s best dress goes to Millington’s Chance Taylor and Bria Barnes. Although they both look stylish on the gridiron and soccer field respectively, I was able to witness the duo gracefully float in the air in the legendary Peabody in Downtown Memphis.
Chance donned a tuxedo with the frame of an offensive lineman at the 27th Annual Holiday Cotillion 2016 presented by The Memphis Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. He was the proud escort of his friend Ms. Barnes. He was happy to be a part of her big night to showcase her past accomplishment and inspiring path for the future.
Barnes, a natural beauty already, had her makeup done flawlessly. Her white dress made was so beautiful, I heard wedding bells for only a second. The best part of her outfit was her amazing smile. The same smile that inspired teammates for four season in Lady Trojans Soccer.
Barnes was all over the field during her tenure with Millington. Soccer became Barnes’ signature sport. And supporting her peers became her way of life. Barnes was there as a softball team manager. And despite playing just one season of basketball, Barnes was still nearby in the stands rooting them on. And Barnes could even be heard some night at the football stadium cheering on Taylor and the crew.
Taylor took a page from Barnes and took on multiple roles for Trojan Football. All that hard work earned him a Best of the Preps selection. The No. 64 worked across the offensive line going where he was needed. On defense, Taylor dropped his hand in the dirt on a few snaps. And he even dropped back in coverage making big plays.
Taylor has faced some of the biggest and baddest on the gridiron. But he told me dance practice for the Cotillion was harder. Barnes agreed. But the pair pulled off a wonderful dance that night looking Instagram perfect.
Most Likely to Succeed
Brayden Helton & Aubree Jones
Brighton High School hosted many signings this past school year with a pair standing out. Brayden Helton is heading to Bethel and Aubree Jones is taking her talents to Mississippi State. College is a big step to succeeding in the future. But both Helton and Jones have a solid foundation to build.
Both have a strong family support system as was evident at each signing. And both athletes know what hard work is all about and its rewards. Let’s start with Helton. Brighton Head Football Coach Robin Jacobs described him as the most vital part of the offensive line. Jacobs also noted what kind of teammates he was off the field. Helton kept his teammates accountable by doing his work and giving his all.
Helton didn’t mind Malik Mathews, Andre Golden, Malik Jackson and others getting the headlines. He did the dirty work to make Brighton a championship level team. Big Red got his reward on signing day and will continue to take his work ethic, family support and intelligent mind to even higher levels.
A high level is common ground for Jones. She is the best golfer in Tipton County history. A pair of State championships goes a long way in proving that. Traveling across this country for years with her parents by her side, Jones validated their time and investment in her game. The Lady Bulldogs are going to get a superstar.
But a pair of things impressed me most about Jones. She’s very athletic and she’s a great teammate. Her time in basketball this past season proved that. Jones can play!
She has a nice outside shot and can put the ball on the floor. Well her Dad is the leader of a successful Brighton Middle Basketball program.
And Jones stayed accountable helping the Lady Cardinal Basketball team have a big turnaround. Brighton finally won a league game after 6 years. Jones “chipped in” with big shots and timely defense.
More positive headlines are to come for both Jones and Helton down the line.
D’Monte Kemp & De’Asha Banks
My two selections for Best Overall have something in common — great public relations department. Millington’s D’Monte Kemp mother told me about his potential as a freshman as a student first. Then she mention his speed that would come in handy for football and track.
Up a Munford, the proud Mama of Deon and De’Asha Banks would be in the stands for volleyball and basketball games cheering. Then she would make sure the guy with the camera got good pictures of No. 14, No. 30, No. 2…
She also would talk about her babies in their overall abilities. As time would prove both mothers were right. And I was blessed to have moments alone with both D’Monte and De’Asha. I learned how to properly spell both of their names because they did so much positive for their schools.
De’Asha hit the “Bank Shot” that clinched the Lady Cougars basketball team a district title in 2016. And volleyball became her main sport as the helped this year’s team reach Regionals. Her combination of intelligence and being a quick learner will help her achieve great things down the road. I’m sure her Mom will be in contact with me to get the news to the public.
And D’Monte’s Mom will have me on speed dial as her son gets ready to head to MTSU for football. Last time I saw him, D’Monte was on the campus running the 100m at State. With some of the world’s biggest calve muscles, he will use his gifts to keep improving in sports. But D’Monte is a hard worker who is not afraid of sacrifice to better those around him.
He learned a lot from his big brother D’Anthony about being a team player and representing your school. Little sister Kiara is ready to carry the Millington torch next.
Garrett Baugh & Marquisha Sanders
The Class of 2017 has its share of great athletes from all four schools. What separated Munford’s Garrett Baugh and Millington’s Marquisha Sanders was I would pay money to watch them play. Baugh was a physical stud in football and baseball at Munford.
Down the road at Millington, Sanders used her God-given gifts to flow through basketball and softball. All-Star Teams — check
All-District — check
Team Leaders — check
Amazing plays — check
Clutch performances — check
Both Baugh and Sanders did their part to make their teams better. Baugh would deliver a big hit in the secondary or come up with a big turnover. He was a crucial part of two playoff runs for Cougar Football.
He wrapped up his baseball career at Munford going to State. The week leading up to the return to Murfreesboro, Baugh was the hottest bat in the lineup.
Sanders was key to the Lady Trojans moving up in the ranks in District 15-2A softball. The leadoff hitter and center fielder earned a scholarship to CBU.
Sanders is not flashy or flamboyant in any way. But her brain, which helped her finish third in her class, joined forces with her speed, giving heart and laser focus to make her a leader and star. Her star shined in softball. Her leadership was on full display through basketball. She never quit on her team and she was always encouraging.
I will miss watching the talents of Sanders and Baugh on a regular basis. Just want to say Thanks for the shows.
Most Likely to be a Comic
Kyle Kelly & Traci Clark/Trevona DeSouza
I like laughing. And when moments of laughter and joy come while at a sporting event, I embrace them. Munford’s Kyle Kelly is a combination of humbleness and humor. Earlier in the season he was a hot streak hitting the ball.
“I hope you getting all this on your camera?” he said to me.
“I don’t know how long this is going to last and I’ll need proof.”
Fast forward to the middle of the season at Brighton. Kelly spots me in the dugout before taking off his catching gear. “Hope you got those pics saves. Because you don’t need to take any of me tonight. I haven’t been hitting at all.”
Then he quickly tells me who I needed to watch on his team like Austin Cousar, Corey Simmons and more.
Kyle was vital to the success of Munford returning back to State as the catcher working with his staff. He did have timely hits and kept his team level headed with his sense of humor. Every time needs a talented and down-to-earth leader.
DeSouza and Clark were that for the Millington Lady Trojan Basketball team. Four years on the varsity team, she earned her spot as part of the senior trio of Sanders, Clark and DeSouza. Sounds like a law firm. Marquisha Sanders was the on-the-court leader while Clark and DeSouza handled practices and the locker room.
Clark and DeSouza appeared to be inseparable. The two best friends were like Millington’s Laverne and Shirley. Or more like the Odd Couple of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. DeSouza was your Oscar as the outgoing one. She would spark up the conversation and do it with a crazy joke. Clark, the Felix type, uses a quiet delivery with her humor. Coming for a fun family and a Dad who noticeable on the sideline, Traci has the ability to stop the show with a big joke as well.
But the duo timing up has made me laugh on a few occasions. I will miss walking into the gym before or after a Millington practice. I receive a tap on my back from either one and getting a “Hello Mr. Thomas. What are you doing up here?” from Traci.
That usually set DeSouza up for… “He’s up here to see me of course.”
I give her a crazy look. “And why don’t you come out to see us at tennis? Tennis is a sport too!”
Traci will stand there with her hand on her hip giving her approval to her best friends statement. Then she give me a motherly look as to say, “You hear her.”
Then DeSouza would narrow her eyes and mean mug me. “I better see you out there.”
That concluded my first week down memory lane with the Class of 2017. Next week I’ll complete the 2017 Who’s Who.