Boys soccer coaches name Class AAA all-state team

The Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association announced its 2015 Class AAA boys soccer all-state team Tuesday:

Forwards: Behnam Alinejad, Sr., Ravenwood; Gabe Alvarez, Jr., Bearden; Elmer Cardoza, Jr., Station Camp; Stefano Della Rosa, Fr., Houston; Ike Hunsucker, Sr., Science Hill; Blade Kimbro, Sr., Oak Ridge; Devin Malone, Jr., Bartlett; Peyton McKnatt, Jr., Houston; Dami Omitamu, Jr., Farragut; Clement Ndaizeye, Sr., Oakland; Kevin Pierce, Jr., Independence; Cameron Schneider, Sr., Hardin Valley; Bret Thomas, Sr., Summit; Ian Wolfe, Sr., Ooltewah; Oscar Zamora, Sr., LaVergne.

Midfielders: Lucas Altman, Jr., Science Hill; Oshi Amro, Sr., Houston; Riley Benson, Sr., Rossview; Aarin Buchanan, Sr., Northeast; Jonathan Collins, Jr., Cleveland; Ethan Crawley, Sr., Columbia; Andy Dean, Sr., Columbia; Mason Gasaway, Sr., Clarksville; Jordan Gamedah, Jr., Arlington; Chris Fernandez, Jr., Maryville; Shawn Foster, Sr., Hardin Valley; Jorge Hernandez, So., Oakland; Ethan Jones, Sr., Cookeville; Anthony Lemus, Jr., Sevier Co.; Cameron Martin, Jr., Gallatin; Karson Mayo, Sr., Station Camp; Alexander Rigatti, Sr., Maryville; Jordan Rodgers, Sr., Science Hill; Alex Schupp, Jr., Farragut; Collin Scott, So., Houston; Ben Sheppard, Fr., Houston; Jordan Taylor, Sr., Siegel; Nick Zalewski, Sr., Cookeville.

Defenders: Kyle Bennett, Sr., Riverdale; Preston Bredding, Sr., Morristown West; Andre Bucks, So., Arlington; Will Carmon, Sr., Collierville; Cody Hardy, Jr., Germantown; Isaac King, Sr., Wilson Central; Logan Kington Sr., Hardin Valley; John Lucchesi, Sr., Science Hill; Angel Santiago, Sr., Ooltewah; John Totten, Jr., Farragut.

Goalkeepers: Grayson Garland, Sr., Science Hill; Jakob Hurst, So., Oakland; Joey Sealor, Sr., Ooltewah; Lohan White, So., Lebanon.

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Naval invasion taking place in Middle Tennessee

Originally published in the July 13 issue of The Contributor.

It’s roughly 700 miles from Nashville to Annapolis, Md. – the location of the United States Naval Academy.

And while there’s no way to physically make the two any closer, Amos Mason has helped shorten the distance in some respects.

The former Brentwood Academy three-sport standout was one of the early products of what has become a recruiting pipeline for Navy’s football program as coach Ken Niumatalolo enters his eighth season.

Signing a year after ex-Goodpasture quarterback – and current Heisman Trophy hopeful – Keenan Reynolds and alongside onetime Independence standout Jalen Wade, Mason is projected to be among 14 Middle Tennessee products that will either be on the Midshipmen’s roster or at the Naval Academy prep school this fall.

Another Midstate standout, East Nashville defensive back DeVarius Cortner, committed to Navy earlier this spring.

“I always try to send them down here to look for more kids,” said Mason, a 6-1, 250-pound junior who heads into the upcoming season listed second on the team’s depth chart at left defensive end, during a recent trip home.

“I know the talent we have down here. Coach (Ashley) Ingram, who recruited me, always takes a look down here and does a great job of recruiting them and selling them Navy, and they turn out to like it.”

The sales job and the success – Navy has made five bowl appearances in six years (including a 24-6 win over Middle Tennessee State in the 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl), with a 10-win season and a pair of nine-win campaigns – have made their impression. Among last year’s area seniors, eight committed to the program, with five of those entering the Naval Academy prep school for the upcoming year.

“They know the kids can be successful. That’s what they told me about Jackson,” said Jack Pittman, father of former Brentwood Academy lineman Jackson Pittman and an assistant coach for the Eagles. “The Naval Academy has had the same coaching staff, they’ve had success with the kids and they’ve continued to come back to certain areas. I think they’re willing to take a chance on a kid, listen to coaches a little more, based on relationships.

“With Jackson and me, we looked at the statistics. You’ve got 250 kids that are going to get drafted (annually by the NFL). What are you going to college for? You have to think about it in the right way.”

In addition to the younger Pittman, Blackman’s Charlie Davidson, Quen Hardy and Ronnie Killings will attend the prep school along with Independence’s Dom Childress.

Cole Euverard, who quarterbacked Montgomery Bell Academy to the Division II-AA state title and was named Mr. Football last fall, was inducted into the Academy along with Friendship Christian offensive lineman Andrew Wood and Lipscomb defensive lineman Jackson Mitchell.

All will go in with the knowledge that upon graduation, they are obligated to active military duty.

“You have a secured job, for however long you want to have it,” Mason said, in a variation of the pitch he received. “Most college kids are doing internships, trying to find jobs. They give us a job. We have to do it for five years. If you want to, you can continue doing that job, or you can get out and do something with your degree from the Naval Academy. You have a lot of options, after that five years. And at 27, 28, you’re still relatively young.”

With scholarship offers to wrestle – as a former three-time state champion — at Eastern Michigan and Cal Poly and to play football at Murray State and Samford, no other option was as attractive as Navy for Mason.

“I’m at a Division I school, playing huge schools like Notre Dame and Ohio State,” he said. “I don’t know how much better it could get. You get to play in the Army-Navy game. I’m pretty sure that was the only game on television that day. You’re going to a bowl, playing in the only game on TV. Getting that kind of coverage, everybody seeing us, the opportunity you have at the Academy and the opportunities you have after – it’s tough to turn down.

“I have no regrets.”

Metro football jamboree schedule announced

The schedule for the 47th Metro Nashville High School Football Jamboree has been set. Matchups are scheduled for three sites, with each team playing two quarters. Admission is $6.

Thursday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m. at Maplewood: Pearl-Cohn vs. Stratford; Hunters Lane vs. Maplewood.

Friday, Aug. 14, 6 p.m. at Cane Ridge: Hillwood vs. Antioch; Mt. Juliet Christian vs. Glencliff; Whites Creek vs. Cane Ridge.

Saturday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m. at Overton: Hillsboro vs. McGavock; East Nashville vs. Overton.

Riverdale’s Boykin wins national wrestling title at Fargo

With a 16-6 technical-fall victory, Riverdale rising junior 285-pounder Nick Boykin became Tennessee’s first Cadet National Greco-Roman champion Monday, defeating Gavin Nye of California to cap his tournament run in Fargo, N.D.

“I just wanted to have fun while I was wrestling,” Boykin said. “I was just going after it.”

The younger brother of former Riverdale state champion Scottie Boykin, who qualified for the NCAA national tournament this past year as a sophomore at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Nick won Fargo in his first tourney appearance.

“It can be an intimidating tournament because it’s so well known,” said Jeramie Welder, one of three Team Tennessee coaches. “You’re never sure how guys are going to react. But Nick does a great job of keeping his composure and he wrestles everyone the same way. He has that internal confidence that he believes he can do it, and it shows.

“It was fun just getting to watch him compete and do what he does. He did a great job throughout the tournament. He wrestled five matches and he just dominated everybody, either pinned or teched everybody.”

Nick, who competed in the Cadet Duals last summer and went 13-1, said working out with Scottie this summer at UT-C helped.

“Getting to train with my brother was really fun,” he said. “I stayed down there, practiced with their heavyweight and Sammy Evans (Alcoa’s Class A/AA state titlist).”

Nick won the Class AAA 285-pound title in February with a second-period pin of Cleveland’s Koran Kennedy after finishing third as a freshman.

“It’ll be a lot of pressure coming back this next couple of years at Riverdale,” he said. “They’ll be coming after me.”

Before worrying about his junior season, though, the younger Boykin’s focus will be on the Freestyle competition in Fargo that begins Wednesday. Tennessee hasn’t had a Cadet national champion in that format since Nick Marable in 2003, and has never had a double champion.

“It’s very exciting,” Welder said. “He’s going to see these guys again and he knows there’s no one he can’t go with. He’ll be making that transition, making the little adjustments. I’m excited for him to come back and go after another title.”

2014 gridiron state champ cracks national preseason listing

Defending Class 3A state titlist Christ Presbyterian Academy will open the 2015 season listed among the nation’s top mid-sized schools, according to one website.

MaxPreps has the Lions at No. 16 in its medium schools preseason Top 25, which was announced Sunday.

CPA, which defeated Alcoa 7-0 in last year’s title game to complete a 15-0 campaign, returns its highly touted passing combination of senior quarterback Zack Weatherly and senior receiver Joseph Richard.

The Lions open at Peachtree Ridge (Ga.) on Aug. 22.

TSSAA mulls giving private schools a league of their own

Originally published in the June 22 issue of The Contributor.

There’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and there’s blowing up the tub.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which governs athletics for the large majority of the state’s high schools, met earlier this month to discuss possibly separating private schools from public schools for competition purposes. The Legislative Council, a nine-member group that would be ultimately responsible for this decision, is set to meet again on July 16 and will likely vote on the topic at that time.

Prior to the 1997-98 school year, the TSSAA created a second division – Division II — for independent schools that offer need-based financial aid for its student-athletes. Since then, private schools have been allowed to continue playing in Division I as long as their student-athletes do not receive need-based financial aid. Those private schools have subsequently been subjected to an enrollment multiplier (currently 1.8) for classification purposes.

A total of 24 private schools statewide compete in Division I. Those are the schools that would be most directly affected by next month’s decision. Eight of those schools are located in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area.

And while much of the conjecture for a complete public/private split centers around creating ‘a level playing field’, the hue and cry is overwhelmingly related to state championships – the opportunity to play for and win them.

“As a former athlete and coach, I’d say I wanted to play the best,” said Bernard Childress, executive director of the TSSAA. “If we couldn’t beat the best, we knew we had some work to do – go back to the drawing board, practice harder and get better.

“I think if we polled (current student-athletes), they’d say the same thing: We want to play the best, and if we can’t beat them, we’ll get better.”

Locally, there are two sides to the coin. Christ Presbyterian Academy, Goodpasture and Lipscomb Academy (formerly David Lipscomb High School) have combined for 70 state titles in their respective existences, 52 in Division I since the formation of Division II. However, Clarksville Academy (boys basketball, 2010), Columbia Academy (baseball, 1994), Nashville Christian and Middle Tennessee Christian have won just two crowns between them, one since 1997-98, and Franklin’s Grace Christian Academy will begin its first year as a member of the TSSAA this fall.

“Nashville Christian has never won a team state championship in anything,” said Jeff Brothers, entering his sixth year as football coach and athletics director at the school. “We’ve been more successful recently, but are we too hot to handle?

“I think there’s a lot of kneejerk reaction to 10 percent of the people making 90 percent of the noise. Football and basketball (are) driving the decision, to give more people opportunities to win championships. The effect goes further than who makes the football playoffs.”

More to the point, those schools don’t do business the same way as DII stalwarts Brentwood Academy, Ensworth and the Montgomery Bell Academy. And should the split actually occur, how they do business will change.

“Schools that don’t have the large budgets, like us, how do they take care of the minor sports,” wondered Brothers, who coached at Pope John Paul II prior to his arrival at Nashville Christian and played at Brentwood Academy before earning all-Southeastern Conference honors as a defensive back at Vanderbilt.

And before saying ‘that’s their problem’, be careful — because how they do business could impact how the public schools remaining in Division I do business as well.

“History says they’re going to table it (in July), consider all the options and do more research, but I think they’re amping up to make a decision,” he said. “If I’m them, I’m concerned the independent (private) schools draft their own constitution and make their own association.”

Even if a total separation spurs an all-private school league, Brothers doesn’t anticipate a rampant raid by private schools on the top public-school athletes as a result, even if some onlookers see that worse-case scenario as a possibility.

“I’d hesitate to say it’s going to be a free-for-all,” he said. “I’d think in our own organization, we’d recognize the budget limitations for a Nashville Christian, a Donelson Christian, a Mt. Juliet Christian. This isn’t an Ensworth/Brentwood Academy issue. I think if we govern ourselves, I don’t believe it would be recruiting open season. There’s more to it than the surface ‘who gets the best players’.

“We’re going to play where they tell us to. But we may be playing in our own league, our own association.”

Oakland takes top honors at Titans’ inaugural 7-on-7 event

The Tennessee Titans’ foray into the realm of high school football was a successful one, as 12 Midstate programs converged on St. Thomas Sports Park for a 7-on-7 tournament Wednesday.

Oakland, seeded fourth following the conclusion of pool play, departed with the championship trophy after defeating seventh-seeded Father Ryan 23-12 in the finals. Ryan receiver/defensive back Bryce Vickers was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Oakland displays the championship trophy and bracket from Wednesday's 7-on-7 tournament.

Oakland displays the championship trophy and bracket from Wednesday’s 7-on-7 tournament.

“I think it’s great for the continued development and growth of high school football in Middle Tennessee,” said Josh Corey, the Titans’ youth football coordinator. “We’re very excited to be able to host it.”

Participants, in addition to the two finalists, were Lipscomb, Page, Centennial, Clarksville, Rossview, Northeast, Harpeth, Kenwood, Wilson Central and East Nashville.

“I would definitely like to grow it,” Corey said. “We’d like to give as many kids as we can manage an opportunity to come into our facility and compete. Hopefully next year we’ll grow it a little more. It’s something (that) we want to see what we did right and see what we need to work on for next year and try to make it bigger and better in the years to come.”

A key component of the Titans’ event was a character development presentation to each of the teams by ex-Titan fullback Casey Cramer.

“I was in their seats just a few short years ago,” said the 33-year-old Dartmouth graduate, who spent parts of six seasons with five different teams, including three stints with the Titans. “I was the player sitting and listening and wondering, ‘how can I play in the NFL?’ (It’s nice) To be on the other side and to be able to talk to them about what really is required – not just the Xs and Os, the 40-yard dash and the bench press, but to talk to them about character and how they develop themselves as men.

“To be a player has been great, but what was most important to me to communicate was how I failed and where I fell short. If I can use my failings and my bonehead moves so they don’t have to do that, it makes my idiotic moves worthwhile.”

The off-field element was something Corey, a former high school football coach in Florida, thought would be appealing.

“While the football part of it is important, this serves as the carrot to get them in here to talk about more important things like being a good man, having character, being a leader,” he said. “It’s something we think that as student-athletes and as people, are messages they need to learn. We’re pleased to not only be able to offer the tournament, but offer something that sets us apart from some of the other things that are going on all the time.”

Christmas in July: East Nashville bowed out of the tournament early, as the 12th-seeded Eagles lost their opening-round game in bracket play to Clarksville, but coach Brian Waite was excited nonetheless with the recent arrival of junior linebacker Jacob Phillips. Coming off a stellar sophomore season at Beech, Phillips has emerged as one of the state’s top recruits in the 2017 class.

“His parents moved to Nashville and they were looking for a school,” Waite said. “It’s been kinda like Christmas. He’s a great ballplayer and a great kid, and a great student, too.”

Tennessee, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State are among the schools that have shown interest in Phillips already.

Dueling quarterbacks: Centennial came out of pool play as the No. 1 seed behind signalcallers Tristan Pisacane and Blake Lovell – the latter a senior transfer from Spring Hill, where Louisville commit Tylin Oden is entrenched as the starter. Brian Rector, whose Cougars finished 10-3 last season and advanced to the Class 6A state quarterfinals, expects the position battle to continue through the bulk of the postseason.

Top gun: Rector was complimentary of rival QB Michael Magochy, the Page senior who led his team to a three-seed Wednesday and a quarterfinal win over Northeast before losing to Father Ryan.

“He may be the best quarterback in (Williamson) county,” Rector said. “(Independence’s Andrew) Bunch is heads and shoulders over everybody, but this guy is pretty danged good, too.”

Less than full strength: Oakland won the tournament without two of its top players – junior receiver/defensive back JaCoby Stevens and senior defensive lineman Ty Nix. Stevens sustained an ankle injury during last week’s 7-on-7 event at Riverdale and missed Saturday’s Ravenwood Invitational as well as the Titans’ tourney. Nix was also left in Murfreesboro because of an injury.