Thursday, January 03, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-01-03 14:00:34)
 
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

As the year 2012 came to a close on Monday, so did a year full of sports news that made headlines locally and regionally.

Nearly every month of the past year featured big news for local teams, athletes and the sports scene. Victories, defeats, awards and changes were prevalent this year.

January

In January, the Carson-Newman mens' basketball team - under the direction of Newport-native Chuck Benson - found success. The team took a hot start to the month and has parlayed it into success for the 2012-13 season, which is Benson's third at the helm. Also in January, plans to name the football stadium at Cocke County High School in memory of the late Larry Williams were unveiled.

Newport Grammar School also made waves on the basketball court in January, playing for an TMSAA Area championship on the final day of the month.

February

The month of February was one of the busiest in the sports world this year as a number of stories made headlines.

On February 1, four Cocke County High School football players signed to play at the collegiate level on the heels of a 5-6 season in 2011. Krys Cates, Darion France, Brandon Davis and Bob Leffler each made their college choices known in a National Signing Day ceremony held at the school.

Cates' decision to attend Tennessee Tech University made him the first CCHS football player to sign with an NCAA Division I football program in nearly 30 years.

In swimming, Cocke County High School student athletes Garon Bateman and Bethany McNabb
qualified for the state meet and in wrestling, CCHS junior Jesse Cuddeback qualified for the TSSAA wrestling tournament.

February was also full of postseason basketball action. Newport Grammar School's girls' basketball team made it to the second round of the TMSAA Sectional tournament before facing elimination at the hands of Lenoir City Middle School. In elementary basketball, Bridgeport Elementary won the Cocke County Elementary Basketball boys title and Edgemont Elementary won its fourth consecutive girls title.

At the high school level, Cocke County High School's girls' and boys' basketball squads stay in the postseason was short, each being eliminated in the opening round of the District 2-AAA tournament.

The end of the high school season for CCHS marked a change in leadership as Wade Wester resigned his head coaching position of the Lady Red, a post he held for four seasons.

Cosby High School once again swept the District 2-A tournament titles, cruising over Hancock County High School in the championship game.

The Lady Eagles closed the month on a high note, taking a Region 1-A semifinal showdown over Hampton.

March

The month of March, which started full of promise and hopes of a second consecutive TSSAA State Tournament berth for the Lady Eagles ended in heartbreak. Two days after falling short of the Region 1-A title to Cloudland, Cosby was upended in a TSSAA Class A Sectional at Wartburg High School in triple overtime.

Local college basketball standout Shannon Depew had a highlight moment for Carson-Newman in the South Atlantic Conference tournament quarterfinals as her three-point basket helped solidify a run to the semifinals for the Lady Eagles.

While spring sports were beginning to heat up for local high schools, Cosby High made an announcement in regards to its football program. Longtime assistant Kevin Hall, who led the program for much of 2011 in an interim role, was named as head coach. Hall replaced Tyler Shelton, whom he had assisted for numerous seasons.

In baseball, the Cocke County High School Fighting Cocks had a solid start to the season, reeling off a four-game win streak at the end of the month, before having injuries derail a once promising campaign.

April

The CCHS baseball team again made headlines in April, when their home game with Volunteer High School was halted due to a bench-clearing brawl between the two teams. The incident, which saw a Volunteer fan enter the playing field, was the third incident of the night - which featured the ejection of two Volunteer High players and one coach.

The middle of the month saw another pair of coaching changes in the basketball world.

Legendary longtime University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt announced she was stepping aside due to health concerns related to her August 2011 diagnosis of early on-set dementia. Summitt was replaced by her longtime assistant Holly Warlick.

Cocke County High School announced Wester's replacement in the form of Jeremy Byrd, who came to CCHS via Centerview Elementary School.

Lady Eagles point guard Lexi Lowery was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class A All-State squad for her efforts in leading Cosby to a Class A sectional game in a 25-5 season.

Cosby High School also clinched regular season District 2-A championships in both baseball and
softball before the month closed.

Cocke County High School also announced self-imposed penalties for its boys basketball program, after practicing with an eighth grader during April practices. The school imposed summer practice restrictions after finding it was in violation of the rule. The TSSAA took no further action with the school's athletic program.

May

In the month of May, high school sports entered the postseason for spring athletics - however most teams saw their runs in the postseason quickly come to an end.

Cocke County High's soccer, baseball and softball teams were eliminated early in the District 2-AAA tournaments.

Cosby High School's soccer squad was eliminated after one match in its postseason tournament, while the baseball and softball teams were unable to equalize their regular season titles. The two teams finished runners up in their respective District 2-A tournaments. The two teams, which qualified for the Region 1-A tournaments, were eliminated in the opening round.

Later in the month, Cocke County and Cosby High School battled in the second annual Ruler of the Roost Spring Scrimmage at Hedrick Field.

Also, local golf products Chase Atkins and Zach Briggs helped lead Walters State Community College's team to a six place finish at the national tournament.

June

While June is naturally a slow month in the local sports scene, a number of stories did surface.
Former CCHS baseball coach Casey Taylor, who had led his high school alma mater at Clinton High School, returned to District 2-AAA when he was hired by Sevier County High School. Another product familiar with Newport was hired by another Sevier County school. Former Lady Red standout volleyball player Erin Biddle was named coach at Seymour High School.

CCHS Lady Red softball player Sydney Sneed was named as the District 2-AAA Defensive Player of the Year.

The ever-popular Hardtimes Street Rod Club held its 29th Annual Moonshine Rod Run in June at the Newport City Park.

July

Little League successes for local teams were the biggest mark in the month of July. The 10U Smoky Mountain Little League softball squad claimed the District 4 title in a game over Morristown National.

The squad later advanced deep into the state tournament before bowing out.

The 18U Smoky Mountain softball team claimed a District 4 title and then won the state championship  for the second consecutive year.

In a statewide story that affected local high schools, the TSSAA voted to keep its current classification system, which meant little changes for both Cocke County and Cosby High School.

Also, longtime Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks revealed his battle with prostate cancer a month before the 2012 season kicked off.

August

In August, football was the theme as both CCHS and Cosby kicked off the 2012 campaign with victories. In other activities surrounding football season, a pair of former CCHS coaches were honored.

Mike Proffitt was honored by the Inter Mountain Athletic Conference with a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to sports in the region. At the first home game of the 2012 season, Cocke County High School formally dedicated the stadium in memory of Larry Williams. The stadium was adorned with a plaque and signage that was placed on the back of the press box.

Sparks, a month after he publicly revealed his battle with cancer, won the 300th game of his college coaching career in the season opener on August 30.

In other sports news, the Cosby Lady Eagles soccer team embarked on a successful season by toppling District 2-AAA Morristown East in the season opener. A tennis player with local ties, Rhyne Williams, qualified for the U.S. Open.

September

September saw success on the links for CCHS golfer Cassidy Gibson. In her senior season, Gibson cruised through the regular season by winning each match she entered. That success upheld throughout the postseason as she claimed both the District 2-AAA and Region 1-AAA individual championships en route to qualifying for her third state tournament berth.

Football action however was not as successful as both CCHS and Cosby dropped their first three conference games.

October

October was full of good news for local athletes. The month started with success at the collegiate level for a pair of players. Hunter Dockery, a walk-on at UTC, earned a starting position on the Mocs' offensive line in his fourth season at Chattanooga. Cates caught his first collegiate touchdown pass for Tennessee Tech as well.

Legendary Carson-Newman basketball coach and Newport-native Chris Jones was announced as a 2013 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductee. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year.

Newport's Jimmy Owens was successful in his bid to repeat as champion of the Lucas Oil Dirt Series in October.

The Cosby girls soccer team also had one of its finest seasons in history, winning 13 games and advancing to the Region 1-A/AA semifinal round for the second consecutive season. Cosby had to endure an overtime battle with University High to advance to the semifinals.

October came to a close as both CCHS and Cosby fell shy of advancing to the TSSAA Football Playoffs. CCHS closed the season with a 3-7 season and Cosby finished 4-6.

November

The month of November was perhaps the biggest news of the month. The two biggest sports stories of the year, both off the field, broke weeks apart in the latter half of the month.

On November 26, Cocke County High School and football coach Greg Hacker parted ways after three years. Hacker, who compiled a 9-22 record and led the Fighting Cocks to their first playoff berth in nine seasons in 2011, resigned that afternoon. Hacker's resignation came after he won eight games over the previous two seasons.

While school officials said Hacker resigned, sources close to the situation indicated that Hacker's resignation was not of his choice. Sources said that Hacker resigned in the face of imminent termination of his coaching position in a meeting with school officials.

A search, which has not resulted in a head coach, began immediately - with the job posting by the school requiring prior head coaching experience.

Nearly eight days before, Tennessee parted ways with football coach Derek Dooley after a three-year stint leading the Volunteers program. Dooley compiled a 15-21 record in three years, all of which ended under the .500 mark.

Dooley was owed a $5 million buyout as a result of his termination and athletic director Dave Hart began a coaching search, which would not end until early December.

Also in November, Cosby High School senior Drew Schreder was named the Tennessee male winner and a national finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman Award. Sch0reder became the second Cosby High School state winner of the award,which highlights academics and community service.

Basketball season kicked off locally, with Cosby High making noise on the hardwood again. The Eagles claimed the Greene County Thanksgiving Tournament championship, while the Lady Eagles claimed runner-up in the event falling to North Greene 43-41 in the title game.

Also in basketball action, Steve Souder became the new coach for both squads at Newport Grammar School.

On November 10, two news items were made on the gridiron. During the day, a pair of Newport Roosters teams played in the English Mountain Football Conference Super Bowls. At night, an inaugural alumni game between Cosby High and Cocke County High was staged at Larry Williams Stadium.

Also, siblings Jordan and Kelsey Lloyd played in the NCAA Division III Soccer Tournament on the same weekend for rival schools Transylvania University and Centre College.

December

The headline news in December was the hiring of Butch Jones by Tennessee. Jones surfaced late in the coaching search, which had a flirtation with former Super Bowl champion coach Jon Gruden. Jones was hired after Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong both were interviewed earlier in the week. The former Cincinnati coach was introduced at a press conference on December 7.

Locally in basketball play, all four high school basketball teams opened the 2012-13 district portion of their schedules with victories. CCHS swept a pair of league games at Morristown East on December 4 and Cosby took its District 2-A games on December 14.

While the Cocke County Lady Red, with a 4-1 start, were the surprise of District 2-AAA - the Cosby Lady Eagles were making non-conference noise with a pair of road wins at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School and Pigeon Forge High School.

Eight local football players were also honored with the distinction of All-Conference awards.

The month closed with local basketball teams in holiday tournaments. The CCHS Lady Red played in its fifth consecutive LandAir Ladies' Classic, while Cosby successfully hosted their annual Christmas Classic round-robin event. In Roane County, the Fighting Cocks basketball squad ended the year by winning their second Midway Christmas Classic tournament title over Anderson County High School.

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