By MIKE HUTCHENS
and KEVIN WEAKS
Messenger Sports Staff
Obion County — a hotbed for good teams, good players and good stories — continued that tradition in 2012 with a plethora of headline-grabbing events and performances.
The Messenger sports staff and editorial board took an inventory of the past 12 months and compiled the following list of the top stories from that period.
Enjoy looking back on the final day of the year.
OC girls’ hoops 2A state runner-up
The Obion Central Lady Rebels matched the program’s best-ever finish and set a school record with 35 wins while advancing all the way to the Class 2A championship game before falling just short of the ultimate prize in a close loss to Christ Presbyterian Academy. Directed by third-year head coach Lyle LaRue, OC won both the district and regional championships behind the stellar all-around play of point-guard Macy Wright and rugged Brandi Goodman in the middle. Central earned a No. 1 state ranking late in the regular season and knocked off reigning state champion McMinn Central and two-time Miss Basketball finalist Elizabeth Masengil in the quarterfinals — thanks to the defensive efforts of Shannon Wiggins, and then beat Stone Memorial in the semis before dropping its final game. The state runner-up status was the same as the 1984-85 Lady Rebels and capped the tradition-rich program’s 14th trip to the state tournament in the 51-year history of the school.
Lady Tornadoes make history
Though they made it one round less in the state tournament than did Obion Central, it would be hard to say the story of the amazing season of the Union City girls’ basketball team ranks second to anything. Void of much tradition and generally a laughing stock of rural West Tennessee for several decades, the Lady Tornadoes made it all the way to the Class 1A semifinals with a stunning run. Head coach Eddie Suiter and an unproven squad upset No. 1-ranked Lake County in the regionals and then beat Wartburg in its first-ever TSSAA-sanctioned state tournament game before losing to perennial power Jackson County in the semifinals. Behind the play of super sophomores Amber Fair and Jackie Hudson, Gibson County transfer Tory Reedy and the leadership skills of senior Anna Moore, the Twister girls won 22 games — second-most in the modern era — in their magical run.
Central, SF have brief grid vacancies
The head football coaching landscape in Obion County was changed drastically over a pair of days in November when Kelly Spivey resigned his duties at South Fulton and Obion Central’s Shawn Jackson did the same the very next day. Both had been at their respective positions for five years, Spivey leading the Red Devils to three state playoff berths and a 25-29 record during that time while OC was 22-32 with three postseason berths from 2008-12 with the Rebels. Those vacancies didn’t last long as former Central defensive coordinator Kevin Goltra was hired in Troy on Dec. 17, with South Fulton assistant Eric Knott elevated to Spivey’s post the very next day. Goltra was headed to the area from Kenwood High School, where he was head coach for one year and defensive coordinator for two. Knott had one season head coaching experience at Dresden before coming to SFHS to aid Spivey.
UC-Rebs won’t play for awhile
After a 40-13 win over Obion Central in the season opener for both teams, school officials at Union City announced they would be discontinuing the football series between the two schools. Citing dissatisfaction with the practices and approaches of some members of the Rebel coaching staffs, UCHS Principal Wes Kennedy said the Tornadoes would not schedule Central in football for the next two-year contract. Twister head football coach Darren Bowling also was adamant with the same reasoning. The two schools had met on the gridiron for 52 years — or every season beginning the year after OCCHS opened its doors in 1961 — with Union City holding a commanding 38-14 advantage in those meetings. The two schools were already not playing in either girls’ or boys’ basketball in 2012-13 and reportedly wouldn’t in baseball or softball, either.
Spring Fling: Tennis to track
The Union City girls’ team and four members of the Golden Tornadoes’ track squads gave the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro a Purple and Gold tint. Tennis players Maddie King, Anna Moore, Ellen Bearden, Tara Elam and Jenna Miller advanced to the Class A-AA state team tourney, posting a 17-0 team record en route to winning the Region 7A-AA team match and girls’ doubles title. The squad dropped a 4-0 decision to Christian Academy of Knoxville in the state team semifinals, and then King and Moore lost 6-0, 6-3 to CAK’s Barbara Smith and Haleigh Chastain in the state doubles tourney. Later in the week, UC boys’ 400-meter sprinter DeAndrez Williams placed third with a time of 49.91 and shot put thrower Jasmine Dysart was third in the girls’ event with a toss of 33 feet. Xavier Gilliam closed her first season as a 100-meter hurdle runner with an eighth-place time of 17.61 seconds, and Jackie Hudson was seventh in both the discus (86 feet) and shot (30 feet, 11 inches).
Fall state events draw locals
Union City standout golfer Mollie Stone capped her brilliant prep career with a third consecutive appearance in the Class A-AA state golf tournament in a fall sports highlight. Stone, who later signed with Milligan College to become the first such female golfer in school history to ink a college scholarship, improved every year she advanced to the state level, capped by a sixth-place finish at the Willowbrook course in Manchester. South Fulton’s McKenzee Pane made it to the highest level for the second year in a row and placed 37th — a drastic improvement from her sophomore year, while Pane’s Devilette teammate Sydney Easterwood also qualified and finished 48th after a good second day in the 36-hole event. Meanwhile, both Obion Central teams and Union City’s Daniel Williamson ended their successful cross country seasons at the final meet of the season in Nashville. After winning the Region 7A-AA meet in Troy, the Lady Rebels placed third overall at the state meet with Rachel Jones’ 21st-place individual spot leading the way. Williamson, the boys’ regional champion, placed 10th at the state meet. The Rebel boys were 21st overall
All-State lists include several locals
A handful of local athletes earned All-State designation by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association while a select few more signed college scholarships to continue their respective careers on the next level. Obion Central girls’ basketballers Macy Wright and Brandi Goodman were both named to the Class 2A All-State team at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season after helping the Lady Rebels to the state title game, with Wright then signing to play at Three Rivers Community College in Missouri and Goodman inking with the University of Memphis in November prior to her senior season at OCCHS. South Fulton star softball pitcher Haley McKinney earned all-state designation in the spring for a third straight season, while teammate Kacie Daugherty — bound for Tennessee State University — also was chosen for Class 1A accolades. Union City’s Amber Fair was picked for the Class 1A girls’ basketball glitter unit after a standout sophomore campaign. In February, three Obion Central football players signed grant-in-aid papers after the Rebels’ record-setting season with running back LaDevin Fair (UT Martin) and both quarterback Trey Phipps and receiver Mason McGrew putting their names on the dotted line at start-up program Lindenwood-Bellevue. Union City standout baseball outfielder Drake Parker meanwhile, was headed to Vanderbilt after signing a financial aid package in November with the Commodore program.
More individual accolades
All-State honors were not the only ones handed out nor earned by local athletes. Former OCCHS prep standout and current University of Texas sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell was named an All-Big 12 first-team selection after averaging 17.1 points-per-game for the Longhorns. Fussell’s scoring average was second-best in the league. Central’s Macy Wright was named the Messenger Basketball Player of Year in April after her playmaking skills helped the Lady Rebels to a state runner-up finish. In the fall, versatility was the calling card for UC’s Joseph Shanks after he played a capably played a variety of positions to earn the newspaper’s Prep Football Player of the Year honors. Another Tornado gridder — fullback Keylon Hyde — etched his name in the school record book during the regular season as he became the school’s all-time leading rusher, finishing his illustrious but injury-plagued senior season with 3,972 career yards. A two-time rusher of more than 1,200 yards in a season, Hyde replaced Mario McElrath as the leading rusher on the Purple and Gold all-time list.
UCMS football again among elite
The Union City Middle School football team equaled its best-ever postseason run by reaching the TMSAA West Sectional championship game, falling 58-14 to unbeaten (12-0) Memphis Lanier. The Golden Tornadoes were perfect through nine games entering the title game, having knocked off Martin and Paris Inman in the playoffs. UC looked good to start the title game, Cooper Hurt’s 14-yard TD pass to Kaleb Dowell capping a 56-yard scoring drive for a 6-0 lead. The series also included a 27-yard run by Taeshawn Allen. Union City also finished as West runner-up in 2004.
More coaching changes
As has been the case in recent years, musical chairs in the coaching ranks continued among the three Obion County schools — in addition to the two aforementioned football jobs at Obion Central and South Fulton, respectively. Obion Central fired head baseball coach Chris Smith — for “no one reason,” according to athletic director Craig Rogers — with two weeks left in the season. Assistant coach Justin Truett filled the role for the remainder of the season before Joe Graves was hired for the job in the late spring. Graves played in the New York Mets organization and previously gave individual instruction as owner of the Strike Zone, a local business that included batting cages. Union City assistant football coach Morgan Cruce left the Tornado program for his first head coaching gig — at Gibson County, which hadn’t won a game since the 2008 season. The addition of two sports — volleyball and boys’ soccer — at Union City, brought about the hiring of Angie Searcy and John Graham respectively, as head coaches for those teams.
Published in The Messenger 12.31.12