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Shaking off the rust: Area football teams compete in passing camps

By Chris Yow

The goal of passing camps aren’t necessarily to win, but it sure helps to beat the heat.

Columbia Academy’s Collins Malone noted during his team’s matchup Tuesday against Cannon County, when asked if he was having fun, “It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning.”

To that point in the day, Columbia Academy had not won much, losing their first three pool play games of the Shelbyville tournament before advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing to Mt. Pleasant.

“We didn’t play very well early. We lost to Mt. Pleasant the first game and we lost our first three games, but then we played better after that,” Bulldogs’ coach Charlie Lansdell said. “Nobody’s going to remember who came out here and won or lost, but we competed. We worked hard.”

Competing — especially against other teams — was the name of the game for every team, considering there were no passing camps or scrimmages held last season due to COVID-19. Richland coach Nick Patterson said he and his team were just happy to be able to get reps in against an opponent.

“This is huge to get a chance to come out here and compete against people in different colored jerseys,” he said. “We didn’t get that last year, and it hurt, but it hurt everybody. I think we are all just happy to have this chance.”

Patterson’s team fell in the first round of the bracket play to eventual semifinalist East Robertson, but breaking in a new quarterback and continuing to install his system was the overall goal.

“We come out here to do what we do and get better at it,” he said. “We don’t have a special 7-on-7 playbook or anything. This is about helping our kids understand what we are going to do on August 19.”

Lawrence County coach David Marston, whose team competed in a round-robin event Tuesday at Columbia Central along with the host Lions, Spring Hill and Columbia Academy, agreed.

“I don’t think you win 7-on-7, you just try to get better, and I think we did that today,” he said.

The Wildcats were without rising senior and three-year starting quarterback Alex Carr, but Marston praised his team’s effort and noted the importance of having a backup quarterback capable of running the offense.

Mt. Pleasant didn’t have a backup quarterback in their run to the Shelbyville tournament finals because both of the Tigers’ quarterbacks swapped every other series for the duration of the day.

“We switched those guys (rising senior Te’Varius Strayhorn and sophomore transfer Nick Brown) in and out on every series,” first-year Mt. Pleasant coach Kit Hartsfield said. “They both did some good things, and they both bring something different. They’re competing, and they’ll continue to compete until one proves he should be the guy, or proves he shouldn’t be the guy.”

Hartsfield’s team earned their way into the finals with wins over Shelbyville’s junior varsity, Fairview and Columbia Academy. The Tigers lost to 2019 Class A state champion Lake County courtesy of a late interception in the finals.

All-in-all, though, Hartsfield was pleased with what he saw from his team.

“We had a good day. We got some good work in. For the first time we had really been together, it went well,” he said.

Nearly every coach interviewed remarked about how important and excited they were to be able to compete with summer workouts, noting the disadvantage of the 2020 offseason.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me and these kids to get out there and be able to do what they’re doing today,” Marston said.

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports

The Rundown: June 22, 2021

Weekend Results
Braves 9, Cardinals 1
Marlins 10, Cubs 2
Rockies 6, Brewers 5
Marlins 11, Cubs 1
Brewers 6, Rockies 5
Cardinals 9, Braves 1
Braves 1, Cardinals 0
Cubs 2, Marlins 0
Brewers 7, Rockies 6
Mets 4, Braves 2
Braves 1, Mets 0
Indians 4, Cubs 0
D-backs 5, Brewers 1

NBA Playoffs
Bucks 115, Nets 111, OT
Suns 120, Clippers 114 (PHX leads 1-0)
Hawks 103, 76ers 96 (Hawks win 4-3)

NY Red Bulls 2, Nashville 0

Stanley Cup Playoffs
Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2
Islanders 3, Lightning 2
Golden Knights 2, Canadiens 1 (Series Tied 2-2)
Lightning 8, Islanders 0 (TB leads 3-2)

NC State 10, Stanford 4
Vanderbilt 7, Arizona 6
Virginia 6, Tennessee 0
Mississippi State 2, Texas 1
Stanford 14, Arizona 5
NC State 1, Vanderbilt 0

Post 19 at Troy
Gauthier-Amedee 17, Post 19 5
Post 19 3, Tupelo 1

Tuesday Schedule
Braves at Mets, 6:10 p.m., Bally Sports South

NBA Playoffs
Clippers at Suns, 8pm, ESPN

Stanley Cup Playoffs
Canadiens at Golden Knights 8 p.m., NBCSN

Tennessee vs. Texas 1 p.m., ESPNU
Mississippi State vs. Virginia 6 p.m. ESPN2

Mathis steps down after one season at Tigers’ helm

By Maurice Patton

Kennedy Mathis, who in his first season as baseball coach at Mt. Pleasant led the Tigers to their first double-digit win campaign in seven years, has abruptly resigned from that position.

“An opportunity came up for me that I couldn’t pass up,” said Mathis, who will enter the business sector after rallying his first team from a slow start to within one win of a berth in the Region 5-A Tournament. “When I sat down and mapped everything out, it just ultimately made the most sense for me and my family.

“In making that decision, I thought a lot about the guys and what we built in a year. That made it extremely tough. It was very, very difficult.”

Succeeding Eddie Bassham in the veteran’s third stint as coach at the school, Mathis – a former Independence assistant who played at Forrest and at Columbia State – guided the Tigers from a 3-8 debut to the No. 2 seed in the District 10-A postseason tourney, a loss in the consolation finals to eventual tournament titlist Richland and an 11-17 finish.

“I thought he had a heck of a year. I told him that, straight up,” Mt. Pleasant principal Ryan Jackson said. “I’m proud of him, proud of that work. It’s a tough loss, not only for Mt. Pleasant baseball but for the school …

“One thing he did do was create a foundation. Even though it was only one year, this young guy came in and created a solid foundation. Whoever we wind up getting in there, we can now point to this microcosm of success we had in this one year, a team that is very solid with some up-and-coming players that are ripe for greatness.”

Mt. Pleasant featured just one senior, all-district selection Ryan Clark, and counts rising senior Gaven Whitehead – who struck out 16 in an April 19 three-hit shutout victory against Santa Fe to help secure that district runner-up finish – among its returnees for 2022.

“I think you just point to the good work that was done, the foundation that was built,” Jackson said. “You just hope somebody saw the work Kennedy did and says ‘I’d like to build on top of that’. That’s the hope right now.

“Kennedy played a strong part in threading some of those pieces together to maximize potential. He saw the potential in some of those guys and literally maximized it.”

Mathis creates at least the fourth coaching change from the 2020-21 school year for Mt. Pleasant.

Bronson Bradley was dismissed in November after seven seasons as football coach and replaced by ex-Blackman coach Kit Hartsfield, while both basketball coaches – Chris Carney with the boys, Amy Odom with the girls – were relieved of their duties in April, each after two years in their positions. Hayden Pentecost has been named girls coach, with the boys search still ongoing.

Jackson admitted a bit of dismay with the latest development.

“That one stings,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of love for him. I hate to see him go, but we ultimately wish the very best for him.

“We’re on the hunt.”

Elsewhere in Maury County, coaching vacancies remain at Columbia Central (girls basketball, softball) and Culleoka (girls basketball) in addition to Mt. Pleasant.

‘Border Battle’ rivals clash in Ravenwood 7-on-7 championship

By Maurice Patton

BRENTWOOD — Call it Border Battle Lite.

Independence, breaking in yet another starting quarterback for the upcoming season, edged 2020 Class 5A state titlist Summit in the finals of Saturday’s Ravenwood Passing Tournament – an outcome that hardly fazed either coach.

“It was a great matchup, a great practice – that’s what it was,” Eagles coach Scott Blade said after senior Joe Cummings led the team through four single-elimination 7-on-7 contests as the top seed out of its pool, culminated by a semifinal win against Page prior to the finale.

“Our kids have been playing the whole summer, the whole spring and the offseason, with a lot of juice. They’re a fun team to coach. We know it’s just practice, we also know it’s in June, but it’s always nice to put in a successful day at work.”

Cody Pagach, a sophomore transfer from Ensworth, and senior Hunter Howard also took snaps for Independence over the course of the day, which included four pool play matchups prior to bracket play.

“Cody got a ton of reps early on in the day, and when we started bracket play, we just tried to stick with one unit, but Cody did a great job as well,” Blade said.

“Hunter’s right up there, but he also plays outside ‘backer and safety for us. … I wanted the bulk of his work to be on defense. We’re trying to get that personnel figured out.”

Cummings has earned the nod as the successor to Jaxson Campbell, who succeeded Ethan Cash, who …

“Ethan was there for a year and a half, but it really goes all the way back to (three-year starter and 2015 state titlist Andrew) Bunch,” Blade said regarding the last time Indy had a returning starter at quarterback.

“Joe is the guy. He’s a senior, he’s the No. 1 guy this year. We’ll try to get Cody enough reps this year that he gets comfortable so we don’t skip a beat next year.”

Destin Wade, meanwhile, is Summit’s Bunch – approaching his fourth season as a starter and already committed, along with twin brother Keaten, to Kentucky.

“Destin got some good work,” Spartans coach Brian Coleman said as his squad also rolled through pool play to a top seed in the bracket and knocked off Centennial in the semifinals. “We competed. That’s our main thing from (Saturday) – compete, have fun. It was a good day, fun day, long day, hot day.

“Coach Blade knows what he’s doing out here. They’ve got some good combinations, kids that can catch it and throw it. We’re getting better defensively, in the secondary. In this new region, they’re going to sling it around.”

Barring another meeting at Riverdale’s 7-on-7 event on July 15, the stakes will be higher for the next faceoff between Summit and Independence. The Spartans will host this year’s Border Battle on Oct. 8 as they step into Region 7-6A competition this fall.

“We’re alright,” Coleman said. “We competed. I can’t get stressed about that.”

Coming up this week:

Tuesday at Shelbyville (TBA) – Cannon Co., Cascade, Columbia Acad., Community, Cornersville, DeKalb Co. (JV), East Robertson, Fairview, Forrest, Gordonsville, Hickman Co., Lake Co., Marion Co., Mt. Pleasant, Richland, Sale Creek, Stratford, Trousdale Co., Waverly, White Co. (JV), Whites Creek

Tuesday at Columbia Central (6 p.m.) – Columbia Acad., Lawrence Co., Spring Hill

Wednesday at Shelbyville (TBA) – Centennial, Coffee Co., Columbia Central, Community, Creek Wood, DeKalb Co., Dickson Co., Greenbrier, LaVergne, Macon Co., Marshall Co., Page, Riverdale, Rockvale, Rossview, Shelbyville, Stone Memorial, Summit, Tullahoma, Warren Co., White Co.

Thursday at Giles Co. (TBA) – Columbia Acad., Richland (list incomplete)

If you have a team participating in a 7-on-7 event this week, please submit your schedule information to

Back to the grind: Locals resume 7-on-7 grid action

SM-Tn Sports

Is it really summer if there are no 7-on-7 high school football events?

That’s no longer an issue, as area teams get back to offseason work against other squads – after missing out last year because pandemic guidelines instituted by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association ruled out those activities as well as preseason scrimmages and jamborees.

And the local teams are wasting no time getting going, as both Independence and Summit will be among 19 teams participating Saturday in the day-long Ravenwood Passing Tournament.

Activity continues to ramp up Tuesday, as Shelbyville will hold a two-day event with Columbia Academy, Columbia Central, Mt. Pleasant, Richland and Summit taking part. Columbia Central will also host a Tuesday workout with CA, Lawrence County and Spring Hill.

Before the dead period begins on June 28, Columbia Academy and Richland will both participate in a 7-on-7 event Thursday at Giles County.

Here’s a list of teams and events for the upcoming week, based on submissions from area coaches:

Saturday at Ravenwood (8 a.m. start) – Blackman, Centennial, Community, East Nashville, Franklin Road Acad., Green Hill, Hillsboro, Independence, Kenwood, Lebanon, Lincoln Co., Page, Springfield, Stewart Co., Summit, Warren Co., Whites Creek, Wilson Central

Tuesday at Shelbyville (TBA) – Cannon Co., Cascade, Columbia Acad., Community, Cornersville, DeKalb Co. (JV), East Robertson, Fairview, Forrest, Gordonsville, Hickman Co., Lake Co., Marion Co., Mt. Pleasant, Richland, Sale Creek, Stratford, Trousdale Co., Waverly, White Co. (JV), Whites Creek

Tuesday at Columbia Central (6 p.m.) – Columbia Acad., Lawrence Co., Spring Hill

Wednesday at Shelbyville (TBA) – Centennial, Coffee Co., Columbia Central, Community, Creek Wood, DeKalb Co., Dickson Co., Greenbrier, LaVergne, Macon Co., Marshall Co., Page, Riverdale, Rockvale, Rossview, Shelbyville, Stone Memorial, Summit, Tullahoma, Warren Co., White Co.

Thursday at Giles Co. (TBA) – Columbia Acad., Richland (list incomplete)

If you have a team participating in a 7-on-7 event this week, please submit your schedule information to

Chicks dig the long ball: Lady Eagle pair tops list in all-star home run derby

By Maurice Patton

MURFREESBORO — Hailey Jones hit 20 home runs Thursday — 19 to win the Home Run Derby portion of the Tennessee Softball Coaches Association’s all-star event at Riverdale’s Lady Warrior Field, and one to prevent the Middle Tennessee stars from getting swept on the day.

Following her Summertown teammate Claire Woods, who hit 17 homers to take the lead in the slugging exhibition, Jones caught fire from the left side of the plate.

“I knew Hailey was going to beat me,” said Woods, the TSCA’s selection as Class A Miss Softball after a senior season during which she hit seven roundtrippers and batted .410 while going 21-1 with 197 strikeouts in the circle. “I just had a feeling. She kills it. She hits ‘em off me in practice, too.”

While Woods, a Middle Tennessee State signee, was a home run derby veteran — “I’ve never won one,” she said — Jones was a reluctant participant Thursday.

“I’ve never been in one before (Thursday),” the North Alabama recruit said. “I didn’t really want to do it at first, but my mom (Anisha) wanted me to do it. I did it because she wanted me to.”

As Jones said, she “started out kinda slow, but picked it up,” getting into a groove with the help of Lady Eagles coach Greg Burleson, who pitched to both.

Summertown coach Greg Burleson set up his two graduating seniors, Hailey Jones and Claire Woods, to take the top two spots in Thursday’s Home Run Derby as part of the Tennessee Softball Coaches Association’s all-star event at Riverdale. (Photo by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports)

“It helps that Coach Burleson was the one throwing to us,” Woods said. “That’s probably our last time he’ll be able to throw to us. It’s kinda bittersweet.”

Hitting out of the leadoff position primarily for the Class A state champion Lady Eagles, Jones led Summertown with 12 homers while batting .402 on the year.

“I consider myself more an ‘on-base’ hitter – line drives,” Jones said. “I was kinda nervous after (Woods) went up there. I thought, I’ll be happy if I just hit five over.

“When you hit one, it’s just like a repetitive thing. Just keep the same motion.”

Jones and Woods were the lone derby participants to hit more than 10 homers during the competition.

Woods worked the final three innings in the circle, with Jones getting the start at first base as the Middle Tennessee all-stars fell to the East Tennessee contingent 3-1 in the opening contest. The lone run for the Midstate stars came on a first-inning solo home run by Forrest’s Laura Mealer, also an MTSU signee.

Following a second East Tennessee win over the West stars by an 8-2 margin, Woods drew the pitching assignment with Jones in center field for the finale. Woods worked two scoreless innings, along with a triple and a single and two runs scored.

Jones had three hits, including a second-inning double and her seventh-inning solo shot that put the Midstate stars ahead 6-5 after the West team rallied from a five-run deficit.

Once again, though, the West rebounded and tied the game with a run in its final at-bat. Playing with a 1:45 time limit, the 6-6 deadlock at the end of regulation stood as the final score.

Following the game, Jones, Mealer and Forrest’s Ashley Milligan were announced as members of the Tennessee all-star team that will take on the Kentucky all-stars on June 30 at Warren South High School in Bowling Green.

The full list of Tennessee all-stars is as follows:

Aubrey Barnhart, Goodpasture; Delayna Bryant, Powell; Jessica Dennis, Sequatchie Co.; Eden Frazier, Heritage; Ellie Hickman, Rhea Co.; Jade Howard, Brighton; Hailey Jones, Summertown; Laura Mealer, Forrest; Ashley Milligan, Forrest; Kendal Pitts, Maryville; Catelyn Riley, Jefferson Co.; Mauri Robbins, Sweetwater; Syerra Rogers, East Hamilton; Becca Williams, Heritage; Cameron Young, Farragut.