Categorized | Opinion, Sports


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

The Genuine Article concludes the look back at 2017-18 TSSAA Sports year Who’s Who Part 2. These seniors from our area schools have left a lasting mark on the heart, mind and in some cases, soul of this reporter.

Most Talented
Mac Coulter & Haley Ramsey
Hard work goes into being talented. Class of 2018 members Mac Coulter of Millington and Haley Ramsey of Tipton-Rosemark Academy are examples of this.
Mac is blessed with good looks, height and friendly personality. While at Millington he played basketball four years and went out for football his senior season. His talent was on display through positions like power forward, center, wide receiver, tight end, defensive end and linebacker. Mac could adjust to any role coaches needed. He even was the punter during parts of the season.
Coulter’s intelligence and natural physical gifts made him a valuable asset. Mac was the ideal choice if you needed strength, size or power. He even came in handy if coach lacked leadership. Mac played to the end of the whistle or until the final horn. He endured tough love from his basketball coach Jewell Gates. Gates saw a young man capable of more than he realized.
Gates once shared with me, ‘When Mac is doing well, we’re doing well as a team.’ For two years, Gates pushed Coulter and groomed him to be a leader for the Trojans. By the end of his time with Millington, Mac was an unquestionable leader on the court, classroom and in the halls of Millington Central High School.
A leader by example is Haley Ramsey. At Tipton-Rosemark Academy Ramsey became a legend quietly and without flashiness. She will go down as the best volleyball player in TRA history. The Lady Rebel led her team to a pair of Sub-State appearances with the team hosting her senior season.
Ramsey was the go-to player for Wendy Porter. If TRA needed a timely kill, they called on No. 19.
Ramsey would protect the net with timely blocks. She could assist to her capable teammates and Ramsey wasn’t afraid to dive to the floor for a point.
That work ethic made Ramsey a leader to all those a part of TRA Volleyball. Lady Rebels Assistant Coach Bethany Berger noted how much she has learned from Haley.
Both of this year’s Most Talented have one thing in common, terrific parents. Mac’s Mom and Dad are fixtures in Millington and have a huge impact on the children of Flag City through their work. Haley’s parents were guaranteed to be at all games whether in causal gear or work clothes. They invested in the game with their time, money and hearts for Haley.
With foundations like that, Mac and Haley will grow their talents to greater heights.

Best Friend
Addison Coulter & Kaylee Bone
Just like last year the Best Friend category goes to a pair of young ladies. At Millington Central High School, I was blessed to connect with the duo of Addison Coulter and Kaylee Bone. Bone was my ace pitcher for the Lady Trojans and Coulter served up aces in volleyball.
Now both girls have a family connection with me. Bone’s sister Ashlee was MCHS Homecoming Queen, solid catcher and all-around sweetheart. Their grandmother Cheryl is well-known throughout Millington as a champion for those less fortunate. So Kaylee introduced herself to me at a very young age and validated the family’s legacy of being loving, caring people.
I heard about Addison’s potential in volleyball from her parents Allen and Melinda before she entered high school. All three of us would agree she surpassed those expectations in many ways.
Let’s get the stats out of the way. Bone led Millington in strikeouts and wins the past two seasons. Addison, 2017 District 15-2A MVP, has multiple honors similar to that while leading the Lady Trojans in points.
Bone was vital to getting the Lady Trojans back to the top half of District 15-2A softball. Coulter was a spark to a pair of Sub-State appearances in her career.
It was a pleasure covering these girls but what puts them in this category was them continuing the family bond.
No matter where Addison saw me, she was going to stop whatever she was doing to come and speak. Not only would she say hello, but we would have a chat. Addison genuinely asked about me and would even pick my brain for knowledge on class projects, her plans for the future or how to handle failures and successes.
My interactions with Bone were very similar. Whether she was coming off a victory in the circle or had her arm in a sling, Bone was going to make a minute for Thomas. She would update me about Ashlee and the family. Then she would inquire about my new marriage.
Bone just had a way of making me feel special. I will miss the chant of ‘K-Bone.’ I will miss the sight of Addison flying toward the net for a spike. But I know I won’t have to miss the connection with them because whenever we see each other, it will be like old times.

Most Dependable
Alex Langford & Kelsey Frizzell
This category is my annual tear-jerker. All student/athletes recognized make emotions well up inside.  Most Dependable, is the category I wanted to win when I was in high school. It’s special when people can count on you. They know through your personal ups or downs, you will be where you are needed stepping up to the occasion.
TRA’s Alex Langford and Munford’s Kelsey Frizzell exemplify Most Dependable. They can be called overachievers with Langford signing to Arkansas Little-Rock and Frizzell heading to Memphis.
Both would instruct and guide teammates like veteran coaches. Brad Smith would place tons of responsibilities on Langford and he rose to the challenges.
Glenn Goulder’s veteran wisdom led him to trusting Frizzell with leadership in and out of the dugout.
Frizzell and Langford played as freshmen and made the opposition ecstatic to see 2018 finally come.
But for those at TRA and Munford, they will be deeply missed.
So what will I remember most about them? Let’s start with Langford. The youngest child of Mary and Jim Langford took all the lessons he learned at home to create a family atmosphere with Rebel Baseball.
The catcher was clearly the leader on the diamond, but Langford left no doubts he ran that dugout as well. He was a fair leader who encouraged fun and a supportive culture. Then when accountability was needed, Langford wasn’t afraid to get on a teammates. But he would be the first to acknowledge where he needed to get better.
No matter how focused he was or how big the game was, Alex was going to make his way over to me to say hello. He thanked me for the coverage of his big brother Paul in soccer. He expressed gratitude for our coverage of TRA Athletes and he would note teammates who deserved a mention in the paper.
To be dependable means being unselfish like Langford. Frizzell was team-first each time she stepped on the softball field.
She was great in the middle infield and phenomenal at the plate. But her senior season was in jeopardy suffering an offseason injury. Goulder told me it was an 80 percent chance she wouldn’t see the field in 2018.
I shouldn’t have been shocked to see No. 27 in uniform and in the batting order. Frizzell was limited to the plate in her final campaign for the Lady Cougars. That didn’t stop her cheering. Frizzell was next to the coaches to suggest placement for teammates on defense and lock down the tendencies of the opposing pitchers and defense.
Making her own adjustments, Frizzell heated up late in games. Including a walk-off homer against the rival Brighton Lady Cardinals, Frizzell was the player you wanted on your side in clutch moments.
She did it in volleyball as well. Liberos have to do the little things and get very little print or recognition.
Frizzell never competed for the headlines or a spotlight. She competed for those she shared the field and court with.

Hardest Worker
Jonathan Faulkner & Shelby Clifton
What do you do when nobody is watching? How hard do you work when its rehabilitation? What is your approach to your job when there might be changes?
For Millington’s Jonathan Faulkner and TRA’s Shelby Clifton the answer is two words — ‘Go harder.’ Clifton was a four-year starter for Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello at catcher. She had that position on lock. But with such a high batting average, Shelby might leadoff one game and bat third the next contest. She wasn’t going below the fourth slot, but she had to stay prepared to do what was best for the team. Her sacrifices and adjustments helped the Lady Rebels win the Region title and reach the State title game.
I bet Shelby plays about 200 softball games a year. She does it because she loves the game. Add to that a love for her coaches and teammates, there is no stopping Shelby Clifton.
Clifton impressed me because after hours in the cage and working on fielding drills, she put in just as much dedication cheering for her teammates. Shelby was there to celebrate the football team going 7-3, volleyball hosting Sub-State, the basketball teams reaching Sectionals and even the baseball team in the State title game.
In the middle of so many hard workers, one of the brightest to shine was Shelby.
Shelby is a familiar name to Jonathan Faulkner. His older brother Shelby who was a member of the 2007 Trojan Football team that went 13-1.
While big brother’s time in the black and gold was one for the history books, Jonathan endured some tougher times.
He loss a chunk of playing time because of an ACL tear. But Jonathan didn’t allow that to get him down. He worked and followed his rehab assignments. Meanwhile No. 77 was on the sideline keeping teammates encouraged, just waiting for his chance to get back out there.
Finally his senior year comes and Jonathan is back in action. But the damage to the knee took away a step and wearing a brace limited his mobility.
Eventually younger teammates would move into the lineup and Faulkner found his way back to the bench he was all too familiar with from his junior campaign. Dejected, Faulkner had two choices. He could quit like some of his teammates did in 2017, or he could finish the journey.
Faulkner told me quitting was not an option. He proved to me he will be a man of his word and a great teammate in the game of life. Faulkner put team ahead of himself. He thought of his parents, brother’s legacy and all the times he worked to get back to the action.
Faulkner got his moment in the spotlight when he earned the No. 5 ranking in the class of 2018 for MCHS. He proves hard work does pay off — every time.

Most Intelligent
Jennifer McCullough & Zach Lewis
Displaying courage can strengthen a person mental resolve. Brighton’s Zach Lewis and Millington Jennifer McCullough are two of the smartest student/athletes I’ve had the pleasure of covering. They are also two of the most courageous people I have encountered. Lewis’ mother passed away a few years ago leaving his world upside down. While his tragedy hit during high school, McCullough was born with hearing issues.
When you watch McCullough be active in school activities including softball, you couldn’t tell all the adversity she had to overcome. She was full of energy and pumped life into any situation she was around. Armed with a great season of humor, McCullough was able to transform her disability into an asset. She is a great public speaker and is not afraid to engage others. Jennifer had to endure years of silence and fear growing up taking speech classes. People thought she was either dumb or slow. But how does 2018 MCHS Valedictorian sounds?
McCullough will head off to Mississippi State and use that university as her next launching pad. She will go on to knock down more barriers and make all those who know her very proud.
Lewis wanted to make his mother proud. The unsung Cardinal entered Head Coach Stan Gatlin’s program as a project. Gatlin saw potential in the forward as a freshman. By the time Lewis graduated he was a lethal shooting guard who became the third Brighton Basketball player to score 1,000 points in a career.
Lewis joined forces with teammates like Ethan Bell, Alex Malone, Aaron Alston and Tae’lyr Gatlin to make history at Brighton. Lewis was vital to the Cardinals reaching Sub-State in 2017. He battled the talented East Mustangs by taking his shots. Lewis launched three-pointers and even drove to the rim against the trees coached by Penny Hardaway.
Lewis could study the court and apply adjustments on the fly. He could play four of the five positions on the court. He was not able to be guarded some nights. He was the perfect compliment to T. Gatlin all four years. He matured from a post player project to a guard Coach Gatlin designed plays.
He’s reached his dream of signing a college basketball scholarship and can continue to make his mother proud. In addition Lewis is making Brighton Basketball, the Gatlin family, several teachers, administrator and the Class of 2018 proud.

Mr. and Ms. Millington Star
Carter Weakley & Paige Hall
Now we conclude The Genuine Article’s tribute to the Class of 2018 with Mr. and Ms. Millington Star. Ms. Millington Star 2018 is Paige Hall of Millington Central High School. And the Mr. Millington Star is Carter Weakley from Tipton-Rosemark Academy.
Who are the appropriate faces for this ultra-talented class of athletes from MCHS, TRA, Brighton and Munford. Weakley and Hall are the ideal choices because they exhibit so many of the superlatives outlined the past two weeks.
Hall is graceful, winning MCHS 2018 Winterfest Queen. She is giving and caring. But Hall is not afraid to keep herself and teammates accountable. Her dedication to volleyball and softball made her a candidate to sign for both sports in college. Hall decided to play volleyball at Williams Baptist, but I’m sure the softball coach over in Arkansas will keep an eye on her.
Hall has faced adversity and trials to overcome them and make her school proud. She would stand up for what she believes in and support her peers when she felt they were mistreated. Hall is a leader and put in the work in the classroom taking No. 7 in her class.
Hall followed her big sister Ally and had to live up to high standards. Now, the Hall sisters are iconic at Millington. Just look at the volleyball banners on the wall in the gym.
I admire Hall for her athleticism. But I’m blessed that I had access to her humanity.
Gaining access to Carter Weakley came as a surprise to this reporter. His first two years of high school were spent in Memphis at Christian Brothers High School. Then one night while I was snapping pictures on the far end of the TRA Gymnasium, a young man approached me kind of looking like a smaller version of Darren Weakley.
“Oh, that’s my brother. I’m much better than he is,” are the first words I hear from the mouth of Carter. “I’m Carter Weakley. You’re going to be writing about me. I play basketball too.”
Carter was kind of wrong in his prediction. I would also cover his records in football. Carter leaves TRA as a champion and trendsetter. He was the spark that ignited the offensive explosion of TRA Football the past two seasons. He was one of the best in the nation at kick returns.
Then the sport of his heart basketball gave him a canvas to create. He was groomed to be the do-it-all point guard his senior season. But an opportunity presented itself for Rebel Basketball with new Head Coach Cedric Anderson and a few new arrivals.
Carter gladly accepted a new role to see the program grow. Many might think Carter is cocky. And his opening statement to me might make you think that also.
As our first meeting progressed, Carter started to breakdown his future teammates and their strengths. He talked about how he could compliment them and add a boost to the program. He wanted to take what he had learned at CBHS and apply it to TRA. I knew then this kid was confident and smart. Carter was smart enough to take on a new role and lead the Rebels to Sub-State in hoops.
Carter’s swagger was transcendent. He represented the school in a pair of All-Star games and handle himself to class and dignity. That’s the kind of young man I want representing my program, school and family.
I guess that is why Hendrix signed him for both football and basketball. Plus if anybody is smart enough to take on the task, his name is Carter Weakley.
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