Coaching changes commanded much of the attention during the year of Warren County sports. This was punctuated by the hiring and departure of high school football coach Scott Smith in the same calendar year.
Smith was hired to lead the Pioneer football team in January, but announced in a text message to players the day before Thanksgiving he was leaving to take the head coaching job in Franklin County.
Smith was one of many coaching changes in Warren County as both high school basketball jobs changed hands, as well as the boys soccer and girls softball coaching positions.
When it comes to athletic success in 2014, two teams at WCMS claimed championships on the same weekend. Both the WCMS baseball team and soccer team won their conference title games.
Outside of those teams, the WCHS girls golf team made a memorable state tournament run, eventually finishing fourth in the state.
Here’s a recap of the top 10 sports stories of the year as determined by the Southern Standard.
1) Scott Smith era ends with text message
The Scott Smith era was over after just one year in Warren County. Smith left to take the head coaching job at Franklin County.
Smith guided the Pioneers to a 4-6 record in his one season at Warren County.
Director of Schools Bobby Cox said he was pleased with Smith’s coaching performance. “He did exactly what we asked him to do and that was build a foundation for Warren County football,” said Cox. “He was working to build the program. I thought he was the man for the job and he showed he was the man. I told him he was our coach, as far as I was concerned, for as long as he wanted the job. I’m disappointed to have to start the process all over again and find a new football coach. I thought we had the right guy.”
Smith reportedly told his players he was quitting via text message. The text said, “Guys I wanted to let u know b 4 u started hearing rumors that as of 2 day at 2 pm I have accepted an offer from Franklin County to become their new head football coach. I would much rather have told u face to face but with the holidays that will not b possible. This was n no way what I had planned on happening. However this will allow us not to have to move and stay n our present home. Plez know how hard this was and that this was an incredibly hard thing for me and Mrs. Smith 2 do. I understand that u may b upset and I understand those feeling completely. Plez know that I love u guys and will continue to love u all.”
2) Moore hired as new WCHS football coach
Faced with a 2015 schedule that includes state powerhouses, Warren County hired a football coach who knows how to win playoff games. The Warren County athletic department announced Dec. 19 coaching veteran Tom Moore will be assuming duties as WCHS head football coach effective Jan. 1.
Moore led Brentwood Academy to two state championship games after taking over the program from coach Carlton Flatt. Moore compiled a 24-11 record in three years at Brentwood Academy. “I am fortunate to have coached with some talented people in some great settings,” said Moore. “Through each experience, I have learned and grown as a person and as a football coach. That path has led me to Warren County and I am thankful and excited about being part of the community and being able to lead this football program.”
Moore has spent the past four years coaching at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis where he served as both offensive and defensive coordinator. “Tom brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our program,” said WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore. “Tom is excited about the possibilities our position offers and is eager to mold and lead our students in a positive manner.” A native of Middle Tennessee, Moore was a player at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville where he was named most valuable player for the 1979 season and first team all-state quarterback. His high school success led to a football scholarship with Vanderbilt University. Moore was team captain during his senior season as a defensive back.
After college, Moore began his coaching career at his alma mater, Montgomery Bell Academy, working for legendary coach Tommy Owen. Moore left MBA to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee.
Moore eventually returned to MBA to coach beside ex-teammate and close friend Ricky Bowers before being chosen to succeed longtime Brentwood Academy coach Carlton Flatt. Following Brentwood Academy, Moore started and operated his own business while sustaining his coaching career as a non-faculty assistant at Franklin Road Academy and Christ Presbyterian Academy, including CPA’s 2002 state championship run. Four years ago, Moore returned to teaching and coaching full time at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis
Moore is the eighth football coach hired at WCHS over the past 20 years.
3) WCHS basketball names pair of new head coaches
After 39 days of searching, the Warren County High School basketball coaching jobs were filled April 15 when Chris Sullens and Shea Panter became the newest members of the coaching family at Warren County High School.
“We’re excited about the possibilities. Both candidates were at the top of the list after each round of interviewing,” said Willmore. “Both have had an outside view of our programs over the last few years, so they have an idea of what the expectations should be for our programs.”
Willmore and a selection committee poured through 70 applicants – 45 on the boys side and 25 girls applications – before settling on two local products after three rounds of interviews. Sullens, who played for the Pioneers in the early 1990s, comes to Warren County after nearly two decades of coaching in the county.
Willmore is hopeful Sullens’ and Panter’s ties to town will help stabilize the basketball programs, where coaches have had an average tenure of less than three years since 1990.
“In programs where we’ve had longevity at positions, there’s usually been a tie to Warren County with the head coach. We hope both Shea and Chris prosper here,” said Willmore.
4) WCMS baseball, soccer win championships
Warren County Middle School baseball coach David Martin may not live by Ricky Bobby’s “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” mantra, but Martin and his Pioneers were surely getting tired of second place. After falling in the title tilt the last two seasons, the Pioneers finally got over the hump in 2014 when the baseball team defeated Franklin North 9-4 in the Central Tennessee Conference championship game.
The victory completed a 4-1 run through the tournament for WCMS to move the team’s record to 14-7. Earning the championship over Franklin North on its home field proved to be a two-day affair for the Pioneers. Warren County beat Franklin North in the winner’s bracket finals, only to see the Gators fight their way back into the championship game out of the loser’s bracket.
Franklin North forced a second game by beating the Pioneers in the first game, but Warren County battled back to earn the ultimate prize in the second championship game.
For the WCMS soccer team, staying atop the conference was the team’s goal after winning the tournament the year before. The Pioneers made it two straight to repeat as champions with a 2-1 win over Shelbyville in McMinnville.
The championship victory capped a perfect 10-0 season.
The dream of a perfect season seemed to disappear in the first game of the year when Shelbyville beat Warren County, but the Eagles would be forced to forfeit the win when it was determined the team used ineligible players.
The Pioneers wouldn’t stumble again as they cruised through a tough conference schedule unblemished under coaching guru Matt Jackson.
5) Golf team makes state
The Lady Pioneers finished two days of play in the state golf tournament at WillowBrook Golf Course in fourth place. The Warren County girls combined to shoot 22-over in two days, well below their potential at the familiar course.
The Lady Pioneers entered their second straight state tournament with hopes of winning the championship, but fell behind 12 strokes after the first day and couldn’t climb out of the hole.
Hannah Powell, who finished in a tie for fifth place on the individual scoreboard, had the most success. The sophomore shot a 1-over, 73 on her second day of competition, including playing the back nine at 1-under. Powell finished strong with birdies on the par-4, No. 15 and the short par-3, No. 17. Powell also had 13 pars during her round and only went in the black on three holes - the two par-5’s on the front nine and the par-3, No. 11.
Senior Brittany Myers had a much more up-and-down day two. She would finish her final round with a 10-over 82. Saylem Powell shot 87 on the second day with her lone birdie coming on the par-3, No. 17.
Warren County Pioneer Bracton Womack also competed in the state tournament as an individual. Womack, a sophomore, finished tied for 27th in the 72-player field.
6) Upton resigns, Martin named softball coach
Lady Pioneer softball coach David Upton resigned, bringing an end to a 13-year tenure with the WCHS softball program. His announcement made him the fifth Warren County coach who left during the offseason.
Warren County athletic director Todd Willmore made the announcement.
“The Warren County athletic department is sad to announce the resignation of David Upton,” the school’s statement read. “David will remain in his teaching position and will be involved with WCHS football this upcoming year. “David is a valuable asset to this school and he will be missed on the softball diamond. He is leaving a program he truly loves and is excited about the next chapter in its development.”
Upton took over in 2002 after serving as an assistant coach under former WCHS softball coaches Chris Madewell and Franklin Fisher. In his time with the Warren County softball program, Upton helped the school build a new field on the WCHS campus, signed notes that went to pay for field lights and also presided over the construction of a hitting facility. On the field, the Lady Pioneers competed in District 7-AAA along with the Murfreesboro-area schools for many of Upton’s earlier years before shifting to District 6-AAA in 2009-10. In its first season in District 6-AAA, Warren County advanced to the regional tournament. In 2011, the Lady Pioneers set a school record for wins when the squad finished 19-15. The following year, Warren County won 18 games.
“I’m proud of all the girls who came through the program. We had girls who excelled on the field and in the classroom and who loved to compete,” said Upton.
Upton is being replaced by Jerry “Gooby” Martin, who is no stranger to Warren County sports since he starred for the Pioneer baseball team from 1987-90, leading to him being named the District 7-AAA co-MVP his senior year.
Martin had been coaching softball for WCMS the past five years where he compiled an 87-41 record and claimed CTC championships in two of his final three seasons. Willmore believes Martin’s presence brings back a valuable member of the Pioneer past and helps the softball program moving forward.
“We’re extremely pleased to announce Jerry Martin as our new head coach,” said Willmore. “We are confident he has the ability to build a program our community can be proud of and we look forward to supporting him in this endeavor.”
7) Boyd launches, then dissolves, football program
The helmets and uniforms were on the way. Even a coach was hired.
Unfortunately, Boyd Christian School wasn’t able to start a high school football program as planned.
The school created much talk in January when it announced it would be forming a football program for the 2014 season. Then the Broncos hired Brent Bush as their football coach in February.
But informational meetings didn’t produce enough players interested in participating for the program to float. Athletic director Brent Warren was hopeful the Broncos could get up to 20 players to play on the school’s proposed 8-man football team.
“We’re hoping to have between 15-20 kids,” said Warren during the organizational process. “It is very important if a player plans on attending Boyd and playing football that they attend the informational meeting.”
Details to be discussed at a June meeting included the team’s schedule, practice times, conference alignments and future plans.
“Football will give our kids another avenue and it will open up other athletic teams as the program grows. We’ve already had a huge interest in cheerleading, so it will not just benefit the boys,” said Warren. “Football is huge in Warren County and I think it can be a big boost if we get our athletic programs to where they need to be at Boyd. I think having a football program at Boyd is a positive for Warren County as a whole. I hope the community supports our athletic programs the same way they support Warren County football. Boyd is a part of this county.”
8) Morrison retires Frazier's jersey
There was no shortage of good things to be said about Chris Frazier Jr. at Morrison Elementary in January when the school retired Frazier’s number and presented a framed No. 21 Eagle jersey to Frazier’s parents, Patricia and Chris Frazier Sr.
Frazier, who died tragically in a car accident along with three other Warren County High School students in December 2013, played his entire middle school career for the Eagles and made plenty of memories at the old Morrison Gym. Family, friends and past teammates were all on hand to relive those good days featuring their favorite Eagle.
Tyler Hillis, Frazier’s coach for his final two years at Morrison, attended the dedication. Hillis spoke glowingly about his former player, one he could always distinguish because of his ever-present smile.
“Chris was a great kid and he was fun to coach,” said Hillis. “He loved shooting the three. He listened well and always worked hard for me.”
Many people in attendance shared similar stories about Chris while his family, which includes sisters Ashley and Shelbie Tubb, listened and reminisced.
Current Morrison coach Kyle Cannon presented the family with the jersey between games at the new Morrison Gym, which opened before the 2012-13 season. Though Cannon didn’t have a chance to coach Frazier, he was humbled by the opportunity to honor a former Eagle.
9) James Jackson earns tirp to Europe to compete against soccer's elite
When it comes to soccer, Warren County High School freshman James Jackson is one of the top players in this community. In the summer of 2014, Jackson got the chance to see how he stacks up against some of the best soccer talent in the world.
Jackson, as a member of the Tennessee Olympic Development Team, spent eight days in Europe. While there, he faced some of the best players on the field, while also receiving instruction from some of the best professional coaches on the planet.
James was accompanied on the trip by his parents, Matt and Myra Jackson. Matt is the current WCMS coach who has worked hard to take soccer to the next level in Warren County.
England is not even as big as Tennessee, yet it has 28 professional teams at its top level and it has four levels.
The trip began in the Manchester area, which is in the northwest portion of England. The Tennessee Olympic Development team spent three days there working with Manchester City, one of the premier teams in the world. After that, the team made a stop in Cambridge, which is a university town. While there, Tennessee faced Cambridge United.
10) Collins wins medals in Transplant Games in Houston
The last thing Viola resident Darryl Collins thought about when he was fighting for his life two years ago was competing in a national sporting event. But that’s exactly what Collins did in 2014 when he participated in the Transplant Games of America in Houston, Texas.
Collins was among 3,500 athletes from across the United States who competed in the Olympic type event held every two years. It comes after he received a double lung transplant at Vanderbilt Medical Center on May 30, 2012. “It was a big step, but my recovery is not over,” said Collins of the Transplant Games. “Organ rejection is a lifelong thing. It’s something I’m always going to have to worry about.”
Collins, 46, competed in five events, earning a silver medal in cornhole and a bronze medal in racquetball. He also completed a 5K run, played on a 3-on-3 basketball team, and played volleyball. He didn’t medal in those three events but said the Transplant Games were more about fellowship than competition. He and his family flew into Houston on Friday, July 11, and returned home Wednesday, July 16.
Collins is just glad to take part in the games after his double lung transplant, which was necessary due to his cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease. “It’s something you’re born with,” said Collins. “Most people get diagnosed as a baby, but I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 24. It was something I didn’t really have problems with until I started college in 1986. I had been tested before and it had come back negative, I guess because I had such a mild case of it that it didn’t show up.”
Should his health permit, Collins says he has plans to participate in the next Transplant Games of America in 2016. That event is scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio.