MJCA storms past Lipscomb 15-0

MT. JULIET — Annalise Wood and Ashton Barga combined to pitch Mt. Juliet Christian to a 15-0 win over Lipscomb Academy on Monday.

Wood walked two in a scoreless first inning before Barga threw the following three frames, allowing a hit and no walks while striking out two.

Bethany Lyons led the Lady Saints with two hits. Amelia Lyons hit a bases-loaded single in he first inning following singles by Keely Sellars and Wood.

Wood leads Lady Saints past MTCS

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet Christian took a 10-1 triumph over Middle Tennessee Christian on Thursday.

Annalise Wood fired a five-inning one-hitter with 10 strikeouts for the Lady Saints. She also staked her team to an early lead with home runs in the first and third innings. Amelia Lyons homered in he second.

Lyons drove in three runs as she, Wood, Bethany Lyons and Kara Jo Alsup each had multiple hits out of the Lady Saints’ total of 12.

Staff Reports

Wilson Central goes 6-2 at Commando Classic

HENDERSONVILLE — Wilson Central opened its softball season last week by going 6-2 in the Commando Classic at Drakes Creek Park.

The Lady Wildcats outscored their opponents 6-2, defeating Gibbs, Greenbrier, Tullahoma, Bearden, Stewarts Creek and Battle Ground Academy.

Claire Smith led Central with a .571 batting average as she and Alaina Morris each scored six runs. Ashley Foster and Kaylee Richetto each won three games in the circle.

The Lady ‘Cats closed the Classic with a 5-1 win over BGA.

Laney Tucker doubled as she and Brooke Pfefferle each drove in two runs. Leadoff batter Claire Smith doubled, walked and was hit by a pitch. Kenzey Meador singled twice.

Central will play at home at 4 and 8 p.m. Thursday as the play host to the Southern Warrior Classic.

Staff Reports

Bears blank Portland at Vandy

NASHVILLE — Mt. Juliet opened District 9-AAA play Monday night with a 7-0 shutout of Portland at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field.

Aaron Brown, Sean Hunley and Ethan Smith combined for a two-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts during the rain-interrupted game which saw Mt. Juliet improve to 3-2 for the season.

John Dyer and Brayden Osborne each drove in two runs on two hits, with each hitting a triple.

Mt. Juliet pecked away to build a 5-0 lead through three innings and tacked on two more in the fifth. Brown and Hunley each hurled three innings with Hunley credited with the win. Smith threw the seventh.

The Golden Bears, who were the designated home team Monday night after opening the season in Gulf Shores, Ala., will play on their home field for the first time Thursday when Fairview comes in at 4 p.m. and Arlington at 6:30 for the Wilson County Invitational.

Mt. Juliet shut out 1-0 by Bob Jones

GULF SHORES, Ala. — Bob Jones scored the game’s only run in the second inning in a one-hit victory over Mt. Juliet in the Gulf Shores Classic on Wednesday.

Ethan Smith gave up the unearned run on two hits and a walk while striking out 10 in four innings. Cade Hoppe fanned four in the final two hitless innings.

But Golden Bear batters fared no better as they had just one hit – a single by Jake Linville – and three walks while striking out 13 times against Ford Luttrell, who did hit Jack Simonson with a pitch, as they fell to 2-2 for the 3-day-old season.

Saints white wash Maplewood in home opener

MT. JULIET — After waiting a day due to the snow and cold, Maplewood and Mt. Juliet Christian just had the cold to deal with Wednesday as the Saints opened their home schedule with a 12-0 triumph.

Cole Alsup and Caylor Bates combined on a five-inning one-hitter. Alsup struck out five in three innings for the win before Bates got all six outs on strikes over the final two frames as Mt. Juliet Christian climbed to 2-0.

Dawson Perry singled and produced a two-run double. Cody Nalley knocked in a run on two singles while Alsup and Daniel Boehm each banged out an RBI single. Noah Michael and Nolan Burgess each singled.

Central starts 3-1 at Disney

ORLANDO, Fla. — Wilson Central went 2-1 in the first two days of its season-opening stay at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.

The Wildcats shut out TMI Episcopal (Texas) 6-0, lost to Corinth (Miss.) 6-5 in nine innings and defeated St. Paul’s (Md.) 4-1.

Ryan Hill hurled a seven-inning two-hit shutout of TMI with no walks and five strikeouts.

Ethan Shelton drove in two runs on a double and single. Chase Ford also doubled as he and Mason Mobley each managed a pair of Central’s 10 hits.

Corinth scored in the bottom of the ninth on a swinging bunt off Connor Sullivan, who failed to retire a batter after Matthew Jenkinson allowed the winning run to reach base to end his 2 1/3-inning stint. The Warriors tied the score in the sixth.

Will Wright pitched the first five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits. Dawson Hamilton gave up two unearned runs on one hit in the sixth.

Will Hudson homered, singled and drove in two runs for Central while Mobley singled twice from the leadoff spot. Aaron Hubbell doubled as the Wildcats collected 10 hits to Corinth’s 13.

Andrew Franklin pitched five innings for the win and Hamilton the final two for the save against St. Paul’s. Franklin gave up an unearned run and two walks while striking out seven. Hamilton fanned two. Each gave up three hits.

Sullivan and Gabe Jennings doubled as Central finished with five hits.

Mt. Juliet wins twice in Gulf Shores

GULF SHORES, Ala.— Mt. Juliet picked up its first two wins of the season Tuesday 8-3 over Lee and 9-0 over Washington in the Gulf Shores Classic,

Trey Pruitt drove in three Mt. Juliet runs against Huntsville Lee on two singles and a double while scoring three times. Leadoff bater Aiden Raines also had three hits, including a triple, and scored four times. John Dyer doubled as the Golden Bears banged out 10 hits.

Sean Hunley allowed one hit and struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings for the win. He gave up two runs (one earned) before Cal Burgett recorded the final four outs, three on strikes.

Against Washington, John Dowless pitched six innings of two-hit ball with two walks and four strikeouts. Dalton Earheart threw the seventh as Mt. Juliet improved to 2-1.

Austin Waller had three of Mt. Juliet’s eight hits from the No. 9 hole. Hunley homered and drove in two runs. Pruitt and Dyer doubled.

Bears beaten 2-1 in seventh

GULF SHORES, Ala. — East Limestone (Ala.) scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday night to deal Mt. Juliet a 2-1 season-opening loss in the Gulf Shores Classic.

The Indians began their uprising against Cade Hoppe and finished it against Austin Raines, who took the loss.

Mt. Juliet starter Aaron Brown pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball with three hits and no walks allowed while striking out seven.

The Golden Bears managed three hits but struck out 10 times. They scored in the top of the first inning when Raines came home on a Sean Hunley RBI. Hoppe, Dalton Eearheart and Jack Simonson singled.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet High grad Hill gives Nationals veteran insurance

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – Mt. Juliet High graduate Taylor Hill, 28, in some ways, is a survivor.

Some of the young pitchers he came up through the minor leagues with are no longer with the Washington Nationals.

Taylor Jordan, for instance, was released by the Nationals last June when rookie Lucas Giolito was called up to make his big league debut.

Then in early December during the winter meetings Giolito and fellow young pitchers Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were traded to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton.

So that means the Washington farm system may have less quality pitchers in the upper minors than it has had in the recent past.

That could be good news for Hill, who made two scoreless appearances for the Nationals during spring training as a non-roster invitee.

“I feel good about it. I felt I was able to execute some pitches and work on some things,” said Hill, standing outside of Washington complex one recent afternoon. “I like where I am. I feel like this is the best spring training I have had. I am excited about the season and where I am at.”

Hill gave up just one hit to 10 batters while throwing three scoreless innings in two games for the Nationals during spring training before he was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse on March 13.

A former Vanderbilt pitcher, Hill seems on track to start the season with the Chiefs, perhaps in their starting rotation.

“It is the same approach I have always had,” said Hill, who was drafted by the Nationals in the sixth round in 2011 out of Vanderbilt. “If they need me they will call me. If it happens it will happen. If they see a need … hopefully it will work out.”

Hill made his big league debut in 2014 as he went 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 in three games, with one start, for Washington.

He made six appearances out of the bullpen for the Nationals in 2015, posting a record of 0-0 with an ERA of 3.75.

The right-hander spent all of 2016 with Triple-A Syracuse, where he was 6-13 with an ERA of 4.60 in 27 starts.

Mark Scialabba, the director of player development for the Nationals, recognizes that Hill gives Washington pitching insurance as someone who has thrown as a starter and reliever in the majors.

“He competes well. He has great work ethic and he is a competitor,” said Scialabba, while watching the Nationals play the New York Yankees on Monday. “You know he will do everything he can to help the big league club. He is going to give you length. We have him as a starter but he can pitch multiple innings in relief and support us that way” if needed in the majors.

What advice did Hill get from manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Mike Maddux when he was sent down?

“They thought I pitched well. I just need to go down and get innings,” Hill said. “That is the nature of the beast.”

What is it like to work under Maddux?

“He keeps things simple, which is nice,” Hill said. “It is not overbearing. It is easy to get up there (at the big league level) and work on things.”

And he is used to being a starter and reliever.

“I am willing to do that. I don’t mind that at all. As long as I pitch I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what role I am in,” he said.

The Nationals moved from Viera, Florida into a new spring training complex this year that they share with the Houston Astros here at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

“Just better facilities; the place is really nice. The fields are awesome,” said Hill, who arrived here in mid-February. “They have cafeteria style; you can eat as much as you like. They did not withhold any expenses. There is nothing you can complain about. We are excited about it.”

Editor’s note: David Driver is a free-lance writer from Maryland who can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com

Bears/Wildcats skate to Senior Night win

NASHVILLE — Kieran Ogle and Aaron Simpson each scored twice for Mt. Juliet/Wilson Central in a 7-1 Senior Night win over Ensworth/Oakland last Friday.

Cameron Barnes had an assist as he and Nash Buckner scored the other goals. Jake Watkins had three assists, Brady Kolff two and Nick Roman one for the Golden Bears/Wildcats.

Mt. Juliet/Wilson Central, ranked No. 1 in its division, had 39 shots on goal to three by Ensworth/Oakland.

Two more games remain before the playoffs – Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. against Centennial at Centennial Sportsplex and at 8 p.m. next Monday against Father Ryan at Ford Ice Center.

Staff Reports

Bears take No. 2 with win over Wildcats

GLADEVILLE — Mt. Juliet used a first-half run to take a commanding lead on host Wilson Central as the Golden Bears extended their winning streak to five with a 57-44 season-ending victory on Friday night.

Central led 6-5 and 11-8 on three-pointers by Gavin Johnson and Dawson Hamilton. But J.R. Sanders sank back-to-back threes, the latter of which became a four-point play, to ignite a 15-0 Mt. Juliet run and the Golden Bears never looked back as the Wildcats’ winning streak ended at four.

Mt. Juliet led 16-11 at the first-quarter break, 35-20 at halftime and 39-26 through three periods as the Golden Bears, who took the No. 2 seed in next week’s District 9-AAA tournament with an 11-3 mark to go with a 19-8 season record.

Central slipped to 15-12 for the season and 7-7 in the district, good for the No. 5 seed in the tournament to be played at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

All four first-round boys’ games are tentatively scheduled to be played Friday, barring a change at Monday. Mt. Juliet will battle No. 7 Hendersonville at 4 p.m. and Central will take on No. 4 Beech at 8:30.

Sanders sank three first-quarter triples and led Mt. Juliet with 18 points while forward Trey Pruitt powered in 12. Isaac Stephens added eight, Terrell Wilson seven, Joey Hayes a pair of threes for six, Brian Aiken four in the second period and Tony Thompson two free throws.

Johnson swished home a pair of threes to lead Central with 13 points while Cole Booth added eight, Zay Kern seven, Kene Aruh six, twin brother Kito Aruh four and Nate Ochoa and Hamilton a three apiece.

Lady ‘Cats roll past  Mt. Juliet in closer

GLADEVILLE — In losing seven of its previous nine games, five of Mt. Juliet’s losses were by one or two points and none by more than 13.

But for the first time, the freshman-full Lady Bears were taken to the woodshed by Wilson Central as the Lady Wildcats closed the regular season with a 53-26 triumph Friday night.

After spotting Mt. Juliet a 3-0 lead on a Tondrianna Davis three-pointer, Wilson Central scored the next 11 points to take control as the Lady Wildcats closed the campaign 26-2 for the season and 13-1 in District 9-AAA.

Addison Byrd dropped in 27 points, including five three-pointers, to lead the Lady Wildcats. She was followed by Lindsey Freeman’s nine, Nathalie Ventura’s seven, Piper Elrod’s five, Taylor Tucker’s three and Anna Altman’s two.

The Lady ‘Cats led 15-5 at the first-quarter break and 30-10 at halftime as Mt. Juliet finished 14-11, 6-8.

Point guard Nevaeh Majors led the Lady Bears with 10 points, including a pair of threes. Veteran Julia Maki also hit a couple of threes for her six while Davis finished with five, Aaliyah Frazier and Emma Palmer two apiece and Skye Riggan a free throw.

Up next is the district tournament at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court with first-round games set for Wednesday and ThursdayTop-seed Central will take on Gallatin or Portland at 6:30 p.m.. The winner of the flip will face Station Camp at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Mt. Juliet is seeded sixth and will face No. 3 Hendersonville at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by No. 5 Lebanon against No. 4 Beech at 8.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

It’s tourney time in Wilson County

It’s high school basketball tournament time all across the state.

On the girl’s side, it appears to be Wilson Central’s tournament to lose. Wilson Central enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed with an overall record of 26-2 and 13-1 in district play. Seniors Addison Byrd, Piper Elrod, Anna Altman and Nathalie Ventura, along with freshman point guard Lindsey Freeman, should lead the Lady Wildcats deep into the tournaments and are odds-on favorites to represent District-9 in the upcoming state tournament in March.

Head coach John Wild is no stranger to playing tournament basketball as he has strong starters and a deep bench. Juniors Taylor Tucker and Kathryn Bean are as good of defenders and rebounders as there are in the district.

The Lady Bears enter the District-9 tournament at Lebanon High School with a record of 14-11 and 6-8 in district play as the sixth seed. Mt. Juliet was hit hard early when senior post Tavie Bell tore her knee the second game of the season. Losing a senior from a freshman-laden team was devastating for the Lady Bears.

Three freshman starters lead by twin post Emma Palmer and Aaliyah Frazier. Another pair of freshman run the point guard with Nevaeh Majors and Ryleigh Osborne. Sophomore Tondriannha Davis starts at the shooting guard position and is a threat shooting the three-ball as well as going to the goal of the dribble.

Junior guard Julia Maki has been coming off the bench lately to give the Lady Bears a boost shooting the three. Seniors Cassidy Harris and Skye Riggan can both give opponents trouble by shooting the basketball and playing tough man-to-man defense.

For Mt. Juliet to advance to the Region-5 tournament, they’ll have to beat No. 3 Hendersonville in the opening game, which has beaten the Lady Bears twice this year 59-40 and 46-33, Wednesday at Lebanon High School at 6:30 p.m.

Lebanon’s Lady Blue Devils finished at 17-11, 7-7 in district play and are the No. 5 seed and will play host to No. 4 Beech on Thursday at 8 p.m.

The Lady Devils have a young team as well with juniors Maleigha Oldham, Christaney Brookshire and Keionna Britton. Freshman guards Aaryn Grace Lester, Allissa Mulaski and senior Zyrina Neuble will add to a team to be watched in this tournament, especially hosting both the District-9 and Region-5 tournaments.

On the boys’ side, it is truly a wide-open tournament. Lebanon enters as the No. 1 seed with a 19-7, 11-3 regular season. Eddie Jackson, Noah Mulaski, JaKeese Turner, Cameron Oliver and David Covile are the starters. The Blue Devils play host to Portland on Friday at 7 p.m.

Mt. Juliet takes the No. 2 seed at 19-8, 11-3 and will open the tournament against No. 7 Hendersonville on Friday at 4 p.m.

The Bears are led by point guard J.R. Sanders who can hit the three or score off the dribble, penetrating to the goal. Senior Trey Pruitt is a force on the low-post both offensively and defensively.

Junior center Isaac Stephens has been a beast, along with sophomore post Bryan Aiken. Guards Joey Hayes, Terrell Wilson and Tony Thompson can score from anywhere on the court.

Wilson Central enters as the No. 5 seed with an overall record of 15-12, 7-7. Getting big post Gavin Johnson back from an early season injury has made the Wildcats a tournament threat. Cole Booth, Zay Kern, brothers Kene and Kito Aruh, along with Nate Ochoa and Dawson Hamilton, will give the Wildcats a good chance to pull some upsets.

Lebanon High School will play host to both the district and region tournaments. Go out and show support for these great athletes.

George Page is sports editor for Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.

Mt. Juliet Middle boys win TMSAA title

Mt. Juliet Middle School basketball has numerous state championships. The girls’ team, under coach Rick Johnson, has six titles.

Now, the middle boys’ basketball team can hang its second state championship after it knocked off Siegel Middle School, 48-32, at Dickson County High School on Saturday.

The team had a fantastic season, winning 26 games and losing only one. This team specialized in an intense defensive pressure team and by limiting their own turnovers. It was effective with the three-point shots while moving the ball through the offense to their big men.

The team won the Oakland Christmas Tournament, beating Oakland Middle School in the championship. It also won the area district tourney by beating Knox Doss and Station Camp. It then beat Clarksville Northeast for the sub-sectional title.

In the state sectional tournament the Middle Bears handily knocked off Rockvale Middle School in the first game of the tournament. In game two, the Bears had to beat Blackman Middle School for a third time this season in the semifinals to advance to the championship game. 

“The game against Blackman was a very intense game,” said Trent Fortner, who’s son, Jack, is a guard for the Bears. “The Bears defense did a fantastic job creating turnovers and denying the Blackman big men the ball.”

The only loss this season was to Blackman in double overtime at Blackman Middle School.

In the championship game against Siegel Middle School, the Bears’ defense just overwhelmed the Siegel’s offense attempts to move the ball. The Bears led by as much as 22 points in the third quarter as it eventually wrapped up the championship by defeating Siegel, 48-32, to bring home the state title. The Bears had three players on the all-tournament team, Riggs Abner, Zach Blair and Josh Keck.

“This is a team that really pulled together the whole season. This team genuinely likes one another and that made for a great season of lifting up one another.” Fortner said Sunday not only as a proud father, but also proud of the accomplishments these boys made.

“Throughout the season the team made seamless transitions of players entering the game that showed no superstars, but a whole team of well prepared players that filled each role they were asked to play. This team will also finish with a grade-point average above 3.5, which is just as impressive as its on-court performance.

The team includes Riggs Abner, Blake Anderson, Zach Blair, Jacob Burge, Matt Delfendahl, Jack Fortner, Zach Freeman, Eli Gamble, Josh Keck, Camren Malone, Owen Rodriguez and Bodie Wells. The head coach is Jonathan Drake, and assistant coaches are Josh Marlowe and Andrew Begley.

George Page is sports editor for Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.

Lady Wildcats clinch top seed in 9-AAA

GLADEVILLE — The top two teams in the District 9-AAA standings hooked up Friday night and host Wilson Central emerged from a tight tussle with a 56-52 victory, giving the Lady Wildcats the top seed in the upcoming league tournament.

Freshman Lindsey Freeman’s off-balance balance brought Central into a 45-45 tie early in the fourth quarter and junior Kathryn Bean’s layup with 5:36 to play put the Lady Wildcats ahead for good 47-45 as clutch baskets and free throws by Bean and Addison Byrd and solid defense enabled the home team to improve to 24-2 for the season and 11-1 in the district with two games remaining.

Station Camp, which lost Emiline Payne to an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter, fell to 19-5, 9-3 going into Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. home game against slumping Mt. Juliet.

The Lady Bison took the early lead as their pressure defense kept Central from getting a shot off during the early moments. But the Lady Wildcats recovered in time to take an 18-10 advantage at the first-quarter break.

Olivia Dell’s inside basket pulled Station Camp into a 24-24 tie 1:23 before halftime, and that’s where the score remained through intermission.

The teams swapped leads throughout the third quarter which ended in a 43-43 tie.

Byrd scored 12 third-period points, including a pair of three-pointers, and led the Lady ‘Cats with 35, including a three triples. Freeman finished with 11 of her 17 in the first half. Bean supplied all seven of her tallies in the second half, including four in the fourth. Kenadhi Killebrew came off the bench for four in the first quarter while Taylor Tucker tossed in an early two and Anna Altman a fourth-quarter free throw.

Byrd bagged eight rebounds, Tucker tossed six assists and blocked a pair of shots while Nathalie Ventura notched three steals.

Carolyn Fitch fired in five triples and Jane Deason three as each finished with 15 for Station Camp while Payne finished with 13 to go with five assists.

Slumping Lady Bears lose at Hendersonville

HENDERSONVILLE — Mt. Juliet’s youthful Lady Bears continued their late-season struggle Friday night with a 46-34 loss to Hendersonville.

The Lady Commandos led 9-7 following the first quarter, 18-9 at halftime and 33-24 through three periods as the Lady Bears, losers of six of their last eight going into Tuesday’s game at Station Camp, fell to 14-9 for the season and 6-6 in District 9-AAA.

Brooke Long knocked down 19 points and Peyton Sheehan 10 for Hendersonville.

Aaliyah Frazier finished with eight points to lead the Lady Bears while Tondrianna Davis and Emma Palmer each scored seven, Ryleigh Osborne six, Cassidy Harrisfour and Nevaeh Majors two.

Mt. Juliet will close its regular season Friday night at Wilson Central.

Fourth-quarter surge sends Lady Saints to victory

SEWANEE — Mt. Juliet Christian’s girls used a fourth-quarter spurt to defeat St. Andrew’s-Sewanee 36-28 Friday night.

The Lady Saints led 7-5 following the first quarter and 18-15 at halftime before falling behind 26-25 through three periods. But Mt. Juliet Christian outscored St. Andrew’s 11-2 in the fourth to take the victory.

Amelia Lyons tossed in 10 points for Mt. Juliet Christian while Caitlyn Smith scored nine, Abi Hildabrand seven, Caroline Hibbett six and Marcella Gallione four.

No one scored in double figures for St. Andrew’s.

Mt. Juliet Christian will be the No. 6 seed in the East-Middle District 1-A tournament and play Thursday night at King’s Academy. The winner will advance to Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s final/consolation at Friendship Christian’s Bay Family Sportsplex.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Dreams come true on signing Day

Dozens of Wilson County athletes signed papers to continue their playing careers at various college and universities on Wednesday during National Signing Day.

Wilson Central High School led the way with more than a dozen players signing paperwork at various institutes, including the University of Tennessee, University of Tennessee at Martin, Bethel University, U.S. Naval Academy, Tennessee State University, Morehead State University and more.

Watertown High School had three signees Wednesday, and Mt. Juliet High School featured 10 seniors sign official letters of intent.

Colton Dowell, the lone UT-Martin signee, went through a lengthy process that saw him de-commit from another college before ultimately making his final decision.

“At times, it’s been stressful, but overall it’s been fun. It’s been a fun experience. I was blessed with [On Top Athletics trainer Shavez Jobe] and [Wilson Central assistant coach Josh Crouch] in helping me with recruiting, so it’s been a really fun experience,” Dowell said.

“It’s all been going pretty good. I appreciate all the things the recruiting coaches have done for me. I’ve learned a lot over this whole process,” said Ray Coggins, who chose Tennessee State University.

Kicker Adam Williams will continue his career as a preferred walk on at the University of Tennessee.

“I’m ecstatic. This is a dream come true. Tennessee is the home school. It’s crazy,” Williams said.

The group said the number of teammates joining them at the next level is something of which to be proud.

“I feel proud because all of the Southside kids basically grew up together. I’m proud of the friendships we’ve made, even the ones who haven’t signed anywhere,” Dowell said.

“These kids are my brothers. I love them to death. The fact they get to carry on their football career is amazing,” Williams said.

“It’s a lot of talent here at Central and everybody here is a family,” Coggins said.

Players will take different paths at the next level, but the players seemed optimistic about the next step in their careers.

“I’m going to go in under their punter, Trevor Daniel, and learn from him for a year, and then I plan on taking his spot and getting a scholarship,” Williams said.

“It’s close to home and when I went there it just felt like home. All the players showed me love and showed me that when I go there I’m going to be one of them – a brother,” Coggins said.

“A day like today does not start a week ago or a month ago. This is representation of years and years of dedication and hard work, not only by the young man that’s signing, but by the families they represent, the people who have invested in their lives and the people who have helped drive them to practice, train and coach them and the teachers who have been involved,” Wilson Central athletic director Chip Bevis said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Johnson’s return sparks Central past Devils

GLADEVILLE — Gavin Johnson returned to Wilson Central’s lineup two games ago after missing just over three weeks with a high ankle sprain.

The Gavin Johnson the Wildcats are used to seeing returned to the floor Friday night as the junior poured in 25 points to lead Central to a season sweep of visiting Lebanon 59-54.

The 6-foot-7 junior also made a game-saving defensive play when he blocked JaKeese Turner’s driving layup after freshman Jeremiah Hastings’ three-pointer drew the Blue Devils within 57-54 with 25 seconds left and Lebanon got a steal.

“He came back with a vengeance tonight for sure,” Lebanon coach Jim McDowell said of Johnson. “He’s such a tough matchup with his size and his skill.”

Johnson sparked Central with 10 first-period points as the Wildcats claimed a 15-10 lead. Former Blue Devil Dawson Hamilton took over in the second with eight of his 10, including a pair of three-pointers, as the home team took a 32-24 lead into halftime.

“They hit some shots in the first half and got a lead and we settled for some shots,” McDowell said. “I was proud of the way our kids battled back.”

Lebanon’s Cameron Oliver, scoreless in the first half, scored all 10 third-period points. But Central tallied 11 for a 43-34 lead going into the fourth as Johnson ended the period with the second of his two triples.

Zay Kern scored seven for Central while Cole Booth supplied six, Nate Ochoa four, Kyzick Schweppe and Kito Aruh three each and Kene Aruh a free throw as the Wildcats broke a four-game losing streak and climbed to 12-11 for the season and 4-6 in District 9-AAA.

Oliver led Lebanon with all 15 of his points after halftime while Eddie Jackson was solid throughout the evening with 14 inside and Hastings 10 from the point. Turner totaled eight points and Noah Mulaski seven as the Blue Devils dropped to 14-7, 6-3.

Bears pound Panthers

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet celebrated Coming Home with a 64-36 win over Portland on Friday night.

The Golden Bears bolted to a 21-7 first-quarter lead and were up 38-17 going into halftime as they moved into a tie for second place in District 9-AAA with Gallatin at 7-3. Station Camp leads at 7-2.

Isaac Stephens scored 13 points from the post for Mt. Juliet. Joey Hayes hit four three-pointers as he and Jordan Lockridge each tossed in 12 while Tony Thompson supplied seven, Trey Pruitt six, Terrell Wilson and Gavin Wilson three apiece and Bailey Bryant, J.C. Crawford, Will Pruitt and Brian Aiken two each as the Golden Bears improved to 15-8 for the season.

Bryce Keith tossed in 10 for the Panthers, who fell to 3-1, 0-10.

Central, Mt. Juliet await state duals

Wilson Central and Mt. Juliet will compete in the TSSAA state duals tournament Friday and Saturday at Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.

The Wildcats qualified for state for the sixth straight season by defeating Mt. Juliet 60-15 for the Region 7-AAA championship last Thursday. Central earlier knocked off Clarksville 47-24 in the region opener.

“So proud of these boys,” Wildcats coach John Kramer wrote on his Facebook page. “We have struggled with injuries all season and still have two ranked kids out of the line up with injuries. One will not be back, yet we have still been able to have a 35-8 season.  The boys we’ve had in the lineup have stepped up all season long and really showed some character this year.”

Central beat Mt. Juliet 47-27 in the District 7-AAA finals last Tuesday.

The Wildcats will face Tullahoma while Mt. Juliet takes on Tennessee, both at 3 p.m. Friday.

Staff Reports

There’s more than football to Super Bowl

Super Bowl LI is coming up Sunday and with it comes loads of parties and party food.

But we all know it’s about a lot more than the game itself. There’s the family and friends, the halftime show…the great commercials.

Then there’s the food. The mere mention of a Super Bowl party and the first thing comes to mind are, party wings, chili, burgers, ribs and your favorite beverage.

My personal favorite Super Bowl appetizer has to be chicken wings. But they have to be the classic wings and not that boneless stuff.

There is nothing I love more than sitting down with some homemade spicy hot wings, dipping sauce and chowing down while watching the game.

Of course, there are a lot of food choices, but for me, Super Bowl is just like Thanksgiving Day. Except I’m playing football trivia, hanging out with my best friends, eating a ton of food and throwing the football around the outside grill before and after the big game.

What about the halftime show? For many, including most women, the halftime show ranks high on the list of reasons to watch the Super Bowl on an annual basis.

There hasn’t been a decent halftime show in a long time, so I don’t even bother looking forward to that anymore. I mean seriously, when was the last time we had a great halftime show? Not since that “wardrobe malfunction,” by Janet Jackson. All that we’ve been getting are old bands, washed-up performers and people who the NFL considers as “safe.”

Super Bowl LI is in Houston, where Lady Gaga is scheduled to be the halftime performer. Lady Gaga, of course, is no stranger to the Super Bowl stage, as she sang the national anthem before Super Bowl 50. Country music star Luke Bryan is scheduled to sing the national anthem this Sunday. Talk about playing it safe.

Oh yes, the actual game. We have the Atlanta Falcons, which hasn’t been there since 1999. Then you have the New England Patriots, which seem to be their every year, winning four times.

There are 13 NFL franchises that have never won a Super Bowl, and the Atlanta Falcons is one of them.

Eat, drink and enjoy the game.

George Page is sports editor of Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.

Outdoors notebook

Mt. Juliet cougar? A Mt. Juliet resident recently sent the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency a photo of what she believed to be a cougar, but wildlife officers think it is a just large domestic cat.

There have been a number of confirmed cougar sighting in the state this year, mostly in western counties. Wildlife biologists say cougars have migrated in, just as coyotes did a couple of decades ago.

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas, catamounts and panthers, are native to Tennessee but vanished about a century ago. Now they are returning.

Bobcats are plentiful, and are increasingly being spotted in residential areas. They are not dangerous to humans.

The TWRA website, tnwildlife.org, has a link to confirmed cougar sightings, and the Agency encourages their reporting.

Big tackle show: The third annual fishing tackle and outdoors gear swap & sell meet will be held Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet.

Great deals can be had on all sorts of new and used hunting, fishing and boating items.

The event is sponsored by the Percy Priest Hybrid & Striper Club and Central Tennessee Kayak Anglers. A $5 donation is requested, with kids under 14 admitted free.

Proceeds go to support the TWRA’s fish hatchery program.

To reserve a booth call 615-449-5431.

Top shot: Kerry Hale posted the top round of 46 in last week’s trap shoot at the Cedar City Gun Club.

For information about Gun Club activities or the  Cedar City Straights interscholastic team, contact Hale at 615-519-2934.

Wear life jacket: Officials say wearing a life jacket greatly increases the chances of survival in the event of an accident on the water.

Wearing a life jacket is mandatory for youngsters whenever a craft is moving — including drifting — and also mandatory for all boaters in tailwaters below dams.

OUTDOORS CALENDAR:

Dec.-March: TWRA trout stocking

Jan. 13: deer season ends

Feb. 28: rabbit, quail, squirrel seasons end

Feb. 28: trapping season ends

Feb. 28: hunting/fishing licenses expire

PHOTOS WELCOME: Share your favorite outdoors photos with readers of The Lebanon Democrat by e-mailing them to areed@lebanondemocrat.com.

Golden Bears’ roll continues, reaches six games

After a slow start to the season, Mt. Juliet enters the Christmas break on a six-game roll, capped by Tuesday night’s 57-36 thumping of LaVergne in the Vision Realty Partners Christmas Classic at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

The Golden Bears improved to 7-6 after a 1-6 start.

“We struggled a little bit early, but we weren’t playing bad,” Mt. Juliet coach Troy Allen said. “We’ve only had a couple of bad games. We’ve played good competition. I think the reason we’re playing good right now is the people we’ve played.

“The biggest thing we’ve done is we’ve really improved defensively. We’ve got pretty decent size, but the big guys can guard guards and we’re able to switch some things and make it easier for us. And offensively, we’re trying to get paint touches. We’re trying to get it to Trey Pruitt. When he touches the ball, good things happen for us.”

Mt. Juliet led 13-6 following the first quarter, 21-12 at halftime and 39-26 through three periods.

J.R. Sanders sank three 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 16 points for Mt. Juliet while Trey Pruitt muscled in 15 from inside and Joey Hayes nine on three triples. Jordan Lockridge finished with five, Brian Aiken and Isaac Stephens four apiece and Will Pruitt and Tony Thompson two each.

Sean Morris tossed in 12 for LaVergne, coached by former Mt. Juliet assistant Jeremy Moore.

Mt. Juliet will return from Christmas next Tuesday in the Willie Brown Christmas Tournament against Brentwood at 3 p.m. at Father Ryan.

Wildcats defeat Dickson County

COLUMBIA — Three Wildcats scored in double figures Tuesday night as Wilson Central defeated Dickson County 58-49 in the First Farmers and Merchants Bank Christmas Classic.

Central fell behind 16-8 in the first quarter. The Wildcats climbed to within 26-22 by halftime before surging in front 38-35 going into the fourth as they improved to 7-4 for the season.

Gavin Johnson scored 19 points, Dawson Hamilton 14 and Kene Aruh 12 for Central. Naz Czeskleba sank a pair of three-pointers on his way to eight while Cole Booth threw in three free throws and Nick Ochoa a two-pointer.

Darrian Evens led Dickson County with 26 points, including three 3-pointers. He kept the Cougars in the game with 12 in the fourth quarter.

Central will return to play Dec. 28 with a 2 p.m. tipoff against host John Overton in the Overton Christmas Tournament in Nashville.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Byrd’s 24 keeps Lady Wildcats unbeaten

CLARKSVILLE — Trailing at halftime for one of the few times, if not the only time, this season, Wilson Central roared in the second half to put away fellow unbeaten Cheatham County 50-33 and win the Rossview Christmas Tournament on Wednesday night.

The Lady Wildcats led 10-7 following the first quarter but trailed 17-16 at halftime before a 17-7 third period put them up 33-24 going into the fourth as they claimed their 13th conquest of the season.

Addison Byrd sank six three-pointers to lead the Lady Wildcats with 24 points while freshman forward Lindsey Freeman finished with 15. Piper Elrod added eight, Taylor Tucker two and Anna Altman a free throw.

Rachel Allen led the Lady Cubs with 12 points as Cheatham County slipped to 13-1.

Central will return after Christmas to face the host Lady Bobcats in the Overton Christmas Tournament at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 28. Mt. Juliet will be in the same tournament and open against Maplewood at 6:30 that night.

Wild picks up 500th career win as Lady ‘Cats advance past Rossview

CLARKSVILLE — John Wild picked up his 500th career coaching victory Tuesday night as his Wilson Central Lady Wildcats defeated host Rossview 36-21 in the Lady Hawks’ Christmas Tournament.

Wild, 70-9 in three seasons at Central, has been a head coach – boys and/or girls – in most seasons since leaving Friendship Christian to take the boys’ helm at Harpeth in 1992. One of three coaches in Tennessee to win state basketball championships in both boys and girls, he has logged wins at Moore County, Bradford, Lawrence County, Franklin County and Riverdale. He has also served as an assistant at Riverdale and on the collegiate level at Evansville and Lipscomb (under former FCS girls’ coach Greg Brown).

Rossview, the last team other than Memphis Central in last year’s state tournament, to beat the Lady Wildcats (in the 2015 Region 5-AAA semifinals) fell behind 11-2 in the first quarter, 20-8 at halftime and 26-11 through three periods as the Lady Wildcats climbed to 12-0 this season going into Wednesday’s championship game against 13-0 Cheatham County.

Senior guard Addison Byrd and freshman forward Lindsey Freeman each fired in 11 points and senior point guard Piper Elrod 10, including a pair of three-pointers, for Central. Anna Altman and Nathalie Ventura each tossed in two points. Kathryn Bean brought down nine rebounds while Taylor Tucker passed for three assists.

What a great year for local sports

It’s been an incredible year in sports in Middle Tennessee. We are grateful for our local schools’ sports teams.

We, as Wilson County residents, are thankful for the players who give us thrills and amazements every week. We are thankful for the coaches who work, teach, parent and lead your children to the next level.

It’s a wonderful time of year, and as I reflect on this year, there are lots of things of which I’m extremely grateful.

When I started this sports column years ago, I could never have imagined how much I would enjoy the process of sharing my ideas with the masses. Before I started this journey, I felt I was wasting my time, as no one would read my ramblings and my look at my photographs. I haven’t felt that way for a long time, and for that I’m grateful.

I have a great wife of nearly 40 years, Renee, two beautiful children, Hollie and Michael, three granddaughters, Caitlin, Kirstin and Kayle, one grandson, Jaxson, and a great-grandson, Kaden. They’re not perfect, but neither is their husband, father and granddad. I know we’re not perfect, but we’re getting there. Most importantly, they love and accept me for who I am, and for that I will forever be grateful.

I’m a proud Mt. Juliet resident of 58 years and love this community. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I consider myself to be the most fortunate columnist going. I have a wonderful group of readers and clients who have been supportive and encouraging from the beginning, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

As I consider all of the things that I’m grateful for this year, it may seem that I have a dream life. I attend many games each week; I have more than 1,000 Twitter followers who rely on my tweets to keep them informed on our local teams.

The reality is that not everything in my life is perfect, but I choose to focus on the positives and the opportunities, not the negatives and the problems.

Now let’s do it again next year.

George Page is sports editor for Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.

Wilson County athletes shop for local youth

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News On Top Athletics athletes and trainers shop for two local children Thursday at Walmart for Christmas. The group said it hopes to continue the tradition and reach more children next year.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
On Top Athletics athletes and trainers shop for two local children Thursday at Walmart for Christmas. The group said it hopes to continue the tradition and reach more children next year.

Wilson County athletes spent time Thursday shopping for two local children as a part of the first On Top Athletics Christmas.

“We just came together. It’s our first OTA Christmas. This is the season to give. I believe to get blessings to have to give blessings,” On Top Athletics founder Shavez Jobe said.

On Top Athletics features student-athletes from several Wilson County high and middle schools and those athletes spent the first full day of their Christmas break helping others.

“Every kid’s not blessed to have a great Christmas. It’s not all about gifts. It’s about the birth of Jesus, but every kid wants to wake up and have something. As a parent, it was a joy for me to see my kids wake up when they were younger and see stuff under the tree,” Jobe said.

Jobe said several people have blessed On Top Athletics this year, including Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Dowell, Partlow Funeral Home, Neuble Monuments and the On Top Athletics parents.

On Top Athletics co-founder Mo Thompson said it’s important for the athletes, many of which have committed to colleges and universities, to know the importance of giving back to the community.

“These athletes are looked up to, whether they want to be or not. When you’re looked up to, you want to have good integrity and character, and also be a people person. It’s important to be able to help others because you’re in that spotlight and able to help others,” Thompson said.

Jobe said he wants to continue the tradition and sponsor more children next year.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

‘Cats defeat Jackson County in Columbia Classic

George Page • Mt. Juliet News Tyler West coverts a steal into this layup for Mt. Juliet Christian against Franklin Road Christian.

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Tyler West coverts a steal into this layup for Mt. Juliet Christian against Franklin Road Christian.

COLUMBIA — Wilson Central opened a two-day stay in the First Farmers and Merchants Bank Christmas Classic with a 56-47 win over Jackson County on Monday night.

The Wildcats led 16-6 following the first quarter, 28-16 at halftime and 41-31 through three as they climbed to 6-5 for the season while the Blue Devils dropped to 2-8.

Kene Aruh’s 16 points led Central while Gavin Johnson scored 13 and Naz Czeskleba 10. Kyzick Schweppe and Dawson Hamilton each had six and Kita Aruh five.

Central will return to Columbia Central High for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff against Dickson County.

Golden Bears win fifth straight, pull to 6-6

Mt. Juliet ran its winning streak to five Monday night with a 51-46 victory over Riverdale in the Vision Realty Partners Christmas Classic at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

The Golden Bears led 13-12 following the first quarter, 27-20 at halftime and 33-30 through three as they pulled even at 6-6 for the season going into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game against LaVergne.

Forward Trey Pruitt powered in 12 of his 17 points in the second half for Mt. Juliet while J.R. Sanders swished in three 3-pointers on his way to 11. Joey Hayes’ nine points included a pair of threes while Jordan Lockridge, Tony Thompson and Isaac Stephens each finished with four and Brian Aikantwo.

Sean Matthews scored 11 from the wing for Riverdale, which will face host Lebanon at 8 tonight.

Mt. Juliet rolled past McGavock 67-41 last Friday and University School of Nashville 50-25 on Saturday in the Ravenwood Winter Classic.

Fourth-quarter comeback not enough for Saints

MT. JULIET — A furious fourth-quarter comeback by Mt. Juliet Christian made the final score respectable, but the Saints still succumbed to Trousdale County 54-46 Saturday to wrap up the MJCA Christmas Classic.

Trousdale County led 17-9 following the first quarter, 28-14 at halftime and 42-21 through three before the Saints stormed back with a 24-12 fourth. But Mt. Juliet Christian still slipped to 6-5 going into the holiday break.

Keyvont Baines bottomed out a pair of three-pointers to lead Trousdale County with 14 points while Braison Raney threw in 13.

Tyler West led all scorers with 18 for the Saints while Logan Anderson’s 14 included four three-pointers. Preston Sloan and Bailey Jones each finished with five, Caylor Bates and David Hylick a free throw.

Mt. Juliet Christian will return from the break Jan. 3 when the Saints play host to Franklin Christian.

MJ Christian rolls to 81-20 triumph

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet Christian blew away Franklin Road Christian 81-20 Friday on the opening day of the MJCA Christmas Classic.

The Saints led 25-5 following the first quarter and 60-9 at halftime as they improved to 6-4 going into today’s 3:15 p.m. game against Trousdale County (the girls will tip off at 2) as the Classic concludes.

Bailey Jones threw in three 3-pointers as he and Tyler West each threw in 13 points and Darius Hylick 11 for the Saints. Logan Anderson added three triples for his nine while Preston Sloan’s eight included a pair of threes. Dwayne Ewers scored six, Gavin Forsha four, Sam Ols and Jacob Hall two apiece and David Hylick a free throw.

Wildcats outlast Spring Hill

SPRING HILL — Wilson Central emerged from a defensive battle with a 41-33 road win over Spring Hill on Monday night.

The Wildcats led 11-8 following the first quarter, 18-14 at halftime and 28-22 through three as they pulled even at 5-5 for the season.

Gavin Johnson led Central with 12 points while Cole Booth added eight, Kito Aruh six, brother Keno Aruh five, Zay Kern four and Nate Ochoa and Dawson Hamilton three each.

No one scored in double figures for Spring Hill.

Staff Reports

Young racer Chase chasing victories

Young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson won three championships this season and wants more next year.

Young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson won three championships this season and wants more next year.

Like lots of 10-year-old boys, Chase Johnson would like to get a hauler and race cars for Christmas.

The difference is, Chases’ aren’t toys.

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy fifth-grader already has the race cars — he has been racing quarter-midgets since he was 8 – and has asked Santa to bring him a new hauler to tow them around in.

His dad Andy has it on good authority that one’s on the way.

To go with his new hauler, Chase is also going to get a full-time mechanic, Randy Weaver, to help prepare his cars at his dad’s Mt. Juliet shop and work with him next season when he expands his racing into full-fledged stock cars.

“I’m looking forward to it,” says Chase, who this season won championships in three quarter-midget divisions. “Driving bigger cars will be exciting.”

“I think he’s ready,” says his dad, who won the premier Late Model championship at Fairgrounds Speedway in 2008. “He’s a good little racer, a great kid who’s never been in a bit of trouble, and he’s worked hard. I’ll help him all I can.”

On his way to scoring a championship triple at the Music City Quarter-Midget track in Hermitage, Chase won 31 races and 26 poles.

He also had a couple of crashes.

“I wasn’t hurt,” says Chase, who escaped the fender-bender with some minor scratches.

But, he admitted, the crashes were “a little scary.”

Did he have any second thoughts about getting back in his race car?

“Nope, not at all,” he says.

In the upcoming season Chase plans to continue to run quarter-midget races while also racing 4-cylinder stock cars at the Fairgrounds, where he father once reigned. During the summer when he’s out of school, Chase will compete in some Pro Mod races in the Carolinas.

He says all the racing never gets old.

“I like it,” he says. “I like winning. As soon as I win one, I want to win another.”

“He’s eat up with it,” Andy says. “He’s like me when I was his age — I couldn’t get enough of it. Once racing gets in your blood it’s hard to get it out.”

Andy ran two Late Model races this season at the Fairgrounds, then sold his car and equipment to Lebanon’s Scott Fetcho whose son Dylan will use it next season.

“Between my work and helping Chase I didn’t have enough time to race myself,” he says. “So I’m officially retired as a driver.”

He adds with a laugh:

“I know I’ve ‘retired’ a couple of times in the past, but this time I mean it. I’m done. The only way I’d get back in a race car is if someone paid me to, and that’s not going to happen.”

Obligations at work limits how much time Andy can devote to his son’s expanding racing schedule, which is why he hired Weaver to help out.

“Randy Weaver and I have worked together for a lot of years and won a lot of races together,” he says. “He will handle the mechanical stuff and serve as Chase’s crew chief. I’ll still do the coaching.”

Will he miss the competition?

“Yeah, some,” Andy says, “but I get a bigger thrill out of seeing Chase win than I did when I won.”

Chase has been determined to follow his dad’s legacy in the sport as long as he can recall.

“I started going to the track with my dad and watching him race as far back as I can remember,” he says. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. My dad has taught me lot.”

Such as?

“Run the best you can every lap and never give up. That’s the way he always raced, and that’s how I want to race.”

Fans can follow Chase’s exploits on Facebook at chasejohnsonmotorsports.

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Fairgrounds schedule: Fairgrounds Speedway kicks off the 2017 season on April 2. The full schedule, along with ticket information, is posted on the track’s website.

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Rim awards: Highland Rim Speedway’s Championship Banquet will be held Jan. 28. Among the champions honored will be Lebanon’s Dylan Fetcho, who captured the track’s  Legends Series title. Information is available on the website.

By Larry Woody

Correspondent