Christopher James

Reporter’s Notebook

Alcoa soccer getting closer to AAA royalty

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Alcoa boys soccer coach Tom Gorman still doesn’t have that win over Eric Turner, but he’s getting closer.
It wasn’t that long ago that Gorman, the 2009 Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association boys soccer coach of the year, was begging the Bearden coach for games.
Turner, whose led the Bulldogs to three Class AAA state titles, did some skills work with Gorman when he was a youth goalkeeper in Oak Ridge. Gorman got the Alcoa job a couple years ago and gave Turner a ring.

Alcoa boys soccer vs. Bearden since 2008
2008 Bearden 8, Alcoa 0
2009 Bearden 1, Alcoa 0
2010 Bearden 1, Alcoa 0

“I don’t think you remember me, and he’s like ‘I do.’ I’m like, ‘Please play me. We’ll come on senior night and get spanked,’ and we did,” Gorman said. “Since then, he’s wanted to play. The last two have been 1-0 to them so I hope we give them at least a reason to play us.”
Monday’s narrow loss is just another measure of the Tornadoes’ improvement under Gorman. Bearden beat Alcoa 8-0 two years ago. Last year, Alcoa lost 1-0 in Knoxville on the last day of the regular season before going on a run to the Class A/AA state title match. This year’s rematch came on the first day of the season and, while the result is no different, Gorman hopes this is a springboard for another run to Murfreesboro.
“If we came out and won 3-0, it’d be really hard to coach this team,” Gorman said. “Right now they’re frustrated and they’re upset, which is good. Hopefully they’ll forget about it tonight and we can start training again later this week.

Written by christopherjames

March 16th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Alcoa, Soccer

Who are these guys?

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Here’s a quick look at the five remaining area challengers in the state wrestling tournament:
Greenback
Jeremy Miller, 145 pounds: The junior captured Greenback’s only individual wrestling state title as an eighth grader (103 pounds in 2007) but has finished second (135 in 2009) and third (119 in 2008) the last two years. His 3-2 loss in the state final last year was probably the match of the tournament.
Tyler Dailey, 285 pounds: The senior has never made it this far, losing in the first round the last two years. He’s been money this season, though, losing just once to Bradley Central’s Patrick Benson. Benson is also through to the quarters, but the pair wouldn’t meet until the championship match.
Heritage
Keagan Matlock, 152 pounds: The freshman is through to the second day of championship play in his first appearance for the Mountaineers. The rookie shouldn’t look like on today, though. Matlock was 65-9 as an eighth grader for Heritage Middle last year, winning the Tennessee State AAU title at 145 pounds.
Nathaniel Molina, 135 pounds: Molina went out in the first round last year at this weight, so it’s new territory for the junior. He gets a familiar face in Seymour’s Michael Raimondi this morning. Seymour defeated Heritage, 54-22, in the Region 3-AAA duals earlier this season
Maryville
Tyler Wilson, 215 pounds: Wilson fell in the second round last year. Not an easy draw today, as he gets Hendersonville’s Brett Jaeckel who was sixth at this weight last year.

Written by christopherjames

February 19th, 2010 at 6:34 am

Black-clad Scots need to win now

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Couple of quick hits while last night’s Maryville College game is fresh in the mind.

Maryville College 94, Milligan 73

The road jerseys I mentioned last night on Twitter were worn because they’re all the Scots have left. MC coach Randy Lambert said the win over Milligan was the third straight game his team was clad in black at home. The Scots home whites set in the washing machine for a couple days and became, in Lambert’s words, “permenantly creased.”
Lambert said he expects to have the jerseys back today after sending them off to Bristol to be steamed. Maryville’s final home game is against Piedmont on Feb. 20.

Back to the Future

It’s stunning to think this year’s team could be in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. Remember, it was last year’s squad that had the problems. MC started off 4-6, but went unbeaten in the New Year to rally its way into the postseason. This year’s team returned nearly all the major players and even added wing Ben Williamson. The Scots flirted with a top-25 ranking.
Yet, back-to-back losses last week made all those expectations look silly. Last night’s performance was a return to what we expect from MC, but will it be enough to secure a bid? Winning out now must be a given.

Written by christopherjames

February 9th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Scots running away from Milligan

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Now this looks famaliar.
Maryville College opened up a 52-26 halftime lead on Monday night against Milligan by being aggressive and scoring in bunches. The Scots (17-4) had runs of 8-0, 12-0, and 17-2 in just the first 20 minutes.
Those offensive outburst weren’t so much about 3-point shots (Maryville made just four) but by getting to the rack and the free-throw line. The Scots are already 14-of-17 at the line after shooting just 19 foul shots in that narrow loss to the Buffaloes (9-15) in Johnson City last month. Greg Hernandez and Eryk Watson have 11 and 10 points respectively for the black-clad Scots. Milton Stanley has nine, mostly on drives.
Maryville coach Randy Lambert has also done plenty of platooning as he said he might last week. Seven Scots are in double-figure mintues. Stanley’s second group has proved to be the quicker group up and down the floor, earning him some easy baskets and Brandon McGill a fast-break dunk.

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February 8th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

‘Kees recover after tough draw

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FRANKLIN — I think there’s more than a little disappointment in the minds of Greenback’s wrestlers today.

The Cherokees were ousted from the championship bracket last night after losing to defending A-AA state champion Hixson in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA state dual wrestling tournament. The event’s blind draw meant what played out like a championship-type matchup was contested in the first round.

“I had some people, some refs, come up to me after and say that should be the state finals match,” Blackmon said. “It just goes to show us that one match could’ve gone the other way and we could’ve been sitting in the state finals.”

Greenback has bounced back from that 36-33 loss and is in position to grab third in a few moments, the bare minimum first-year coach Bryant Blackmon said he would accept last night.

Assistant coach Justin Ridge, who took the Cherokees to the semifinals last year in Clarksville before being derailed by Hixson, echoed that same sentiment. Ridge, who stepped down to focus on his duties as head football coach, saw his team fail to win a single consolation match after losing to the Wildcats last year.

He said he’d make sure Greenback found itself into the consolation championship this time around. The ‘Kees kept their coach’s word by defeating Montgomery Central, the same team that ended their tournament in the consolation rounds last year.

Written by christopherjames

February 6th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Greenback, Preps, Wrestling

New duals site popular

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FRANKLIN — Both Maryville and Greenback seem comfortably bound for the second round of consolations here inside the mammoth Williamson County Expo Center.

And what a place it is. Ten mats on the arena floor make for plenty of space and lots of simultaneous action during the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s state dual wrestling tournament. Last night, Rebels coach Mark Humphrey told me moving the tournament from Clarksville High School was a good decision.

Wrestlers go at it in the TSSAA state dual wrestling tournament in Franklin

Wrestlers go at it in the TSSAA state dual wrestling tournament in Franklin

“There’s so much more space here,” Humphrey said. “In Clarksville we had to run from gym to gym. They got a lot of space. … The view is as good as Clarksville. I don’t think the seats are quite as good as Chattanooga just because they don’t go up very steep.
“It’s a little hard to see everything. There’s so much space. I’d say this arena is 100 yards long.”

That appears to be the general sentiment with the only complaints concerning some viewing angles. The sheer size of the arena makes it difficult to keep track of mats that aren’t adjacent. That will come into play more during the individual tournament, slated to start here in two weeks, which moved from UT-Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena.

For now, this place has the feel of a wrestling festival.

Written by christopherjames

February 6th, 2010 at 11:02 am

Bowling for State

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A couple quick notes for Heritage’s Smyrna-bound girls bowling team:

All the attention the last couple years has been on Brittney and Breanna Endsley, and rightly so. The pair are headed to their third straight individual state tournament. Just as impressive may be Tracy Berna, who narrowly missed out on her third trip to the Smyrna Bowling Center. Lady Mountaineers’ coach Mark Rowland said Saturday that Berna was the most dangerous bowler he had, capable of “blowing up” at any time.

TSSAA state bowling championships
Thursday-Saturday
Smyrna Bowling Center

She showed that skill in the sectional against Chuckey-Doak going from 159 in game 1 to 225 in game 2.

Speaking of those Endsley sisters, they each had their own reasons for Heritage’s team success this year. It seems it’s all been about chemistry under first-year coach Mark Rowland.
“Last year we didn’t have many bowlers and this year we picked up the Walton sisters (Jessica and Jackie), and they’re really good,” Brittney Endsley said.
“We actually just had a full team, a full good six players. I think that’s what helped us this year.”
Added Breanna: “We actually are a lot closer this year. Last year there was a lot of tension I guess, like not all the girls were close as we are this year. We’ve all been friends for such a long time we just seem to get along, which makes it easier. We have a good time and are relaxed whenever we bowl.”

Written by christopherjames

January 26th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Bowling, Heritage

Alcoa in running to host Diamonds

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It appears Alcoa High School could host the Tennessee Diamonds in the professional softball team’s first year in Blount County.
I talked to Lady Tornadoes softball coach Paul Talley last week and he said he’d heard from Diamonds general manager Sarah Fekete about using the field, generally considered one of the county’s best, this summer. An item has also appeared on the Alcoa City Board of Education’s Tuesday agenda (below) asking the board to “approve usage of softball field.”

Finding the Diamonds’ mine
Alcoa City Board of Ed. Agenda, Tuesday Jan. 19
VIII. Facilities and Finance, 3. Approve usage of softball field

Talley said he thought Fekete had several other sites in mind but neither Maryville College nor Blount County Schools, which would include William Blount and Heritage, said they had been contacted about using their fields. Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County Parks and Rec director Joe Huff said the Diamonds only asked him about playing several games at Sandy Springs Park the week of the Smoky Mountain Classic, a nationally recognized men’s slowpitch softball tournament in July.
No matter where they play, the Diamonds will need to bring their own bleachers. Alcoa’s field seats just 150, well below the required league minimum of 1,000.
“Our need really is for the seating,” Fekete said last week. “If you got a couple extra million dollars you want to throw in for the bleachers, I’ll take it.”
Things should become clearer Tuesday night.

Written by christopherjames

January 17th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Atlanta attorney excited about Diamonds

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The Tennessee Diamonds, Blount County’s new professional softball team, got their 2010 schedule from National Pro Fastpitch today.
It includes 22 home dates starting June 9 at a to be determined local field.

Pro Softball: Tennessee Diamonds vs. Akron Racers
June 9, TBA

Minutes before the schedule came out, I got a phone call from Preston Delashmit.
The Atlanta-area attorney, whose daughter Kelly is a freshman outfielder at Georgia Tech, had led a group back in the fall that wanted to purchase the Rockford Thunder , now the Diamonds, when then-owner Bob Lowe put the team up for sale. That plan fell through when it became clear a group led by Sarah Fekete was ready to take over the Thunder’s roster.
“It was just such a rush and such an accelerated time frame that you had to commit to things before you were ready perhaps,” Delashmit said. “That was the real issue with it.
“When the Tennessee franchise was ready to come into the league and was an option for the team to be able to go there, we’re pleased and excited for the team that they have that option.”
It turns out Fekete and the Blount County group might have made a huge diving catch when they agreed to take on the new franchise. The league also announced today that the Philadelphia Force, where Fekete played for a season, had folded. That dropped NPF down to four teams, including the Diamonds. Had the Thunder been left to fade away, it would’ve put the league in an even bigger bind with just three teams.
Help is on the way, though, as Delashmit still hopes to field a team as early as next season with home games at Kennesaw State. The Diamonds are still in need of a home field but Delashmit thinks they’ll be a home run.
“I would think just because that’s an area that loves softball and is devoted and has a high profile collegiate team with the Lady Vols there that I have to think it’s going to do very well,” Delashmit said. “I think it’s a great location for it. I think there’s going to be a natural draw with people wanting to keep some of the SEC athletes close to home.”

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January 14th, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Surprise support

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Here’s an interesting story to get you through the holiday doldrums. Remember back when the Maryville College volleyball and women’s soccer teams were playing in the NCAA tournament over in Texas? Scots volleyball coach and athletic director Kandis Schram had some surprise guests for her team’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA second round against Southwestern in Georgetown.

Maryville College

“We’re standing there and I mean their crowd was huge, not hostile, but it’s loud and all of a sudden when they’re calling our team in the announcement I hear this roar,” Schram said. “I look up and our women’s soccer team flew into San Antonio, got two vans, drove over to watch us play. It was incredible.
“It was about an hour and 40, probably 45 minutes, but the fact that they came a day early, gave up practice time to come and support us was an amazing experience. I was so proud at that point as an athletic director. They came in just jogging, ‘woah!’. It was our 30 kids or whatever and coaches compared to, across the net, a buttload of students. They were loud. They were boisterous. They sat behind our bench and cheered for us the whole time. It was neat.”
Despite the cheering section, the Scots dropped the match and two days later the women’s soccer team was sent home as well, losing to Trinty. It was still a fun trip for soccer coach Pepe Fernandez.
“We flew into San Antonio then jumped into vans and rode over to watch the volleyball game,” Fernandez said. “The girls started talking about it and I said, ‘Guys, what’s the chance we’re going to see one of our other teams in an NCAA tournament where we’re this close?’ We had a great time. (They volleyball team) looked like they were pretty excited to have some fans there.”

Written by christopherjames

December 28th, 2009 at 9:14 pm