Top story lines for Middle Tennessee spring high school sports.
• 14 for 14: Goodpasture’s slogan is 14 for 14 — that’s 2014 for No. 14. The team is dedicating its season to left fielder Caleb Wilson, who was paralyzed in a fishing accident last summer. The slogan is printed on the Cougars’ practice shirts. Wilson will try to be in the dugout for as many games as possible and will travel with the team on its spring trip to Florida.
• Tall on the mound: When Riverdale coach Barry Messer makes mound visits to Brady Puckett and Clay Riggs, he must feel like he’s looking up to the sky. Messer is one foot shorter than Puckett and Riggs, a pair of 6-foot-9 seniors. Puckett (4-0, 3.23 ERA, 41 strikeouts, 472⁄3 innings) is a Lipscomb signee. Riggs missed last season because of a collapsed lung but has made a full recovery.
• Friendship rebuilding: Coach John McNeal faces his biggest rebuilding year since arriving at Friendship in 1992 after graduating nine seniors. OF Michael Hawks (.426, 49 RBIs) is the only senior as the Commanders move to Division II-A after winning Class A last year. Inexperienced pitching is Friendship’s biggest question mark.
• Smyrna encore? Behind Middle Tennessee State signee Makenzie Prince, Smyrna won its first Class AAA championship last spring. Prince was the Tennessean Player of the Year and the Gatorade Player of the Year for Tennessee after going 37-6 with an 0.83 ERA and 370 strikeouts while hitting .403 with five home runs and 31 RBIs. Twin sister Malorie returns at first base along with four other starters.
• On the move: Tennessee signee C.J. McClain will play her fifth varsity season at her third school. She played in eighth grade at Brentwood Academy before transferring to Beech but was dismissed from the team last season. The outfielder, who hit .465 as a sophomore with nine home runs and 43 RBIs, will play shortstop at Stratford once she becomes eligible April 1.
• No sophomore slump: Greenbrier’s Courtney Miles is looking to build on a freshman season after hitting .359 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs. She is expected to step in as the primary catcher. Other key performers for Greenbrier should include senior infielders Caitlyn Hudgins (Austin Peay signee) and Katie Bolton as well as pitcher Kaytlin Collins.
• Hoping to repeat: Franklin (18-0-2) returns goalkeeper Parker Lamb and all four defenders from its Class AAA champion team that posted 12 shutouts. Brad Ross, a National Soccer Coaches Association All-American who signed with Holy Cross, anchors the defense. Allister Berger (14 goals) and Johns Hopkins signee Drew Collins also should play big roles.
• Title game star returns: Senior Luke Strebel is hoping to create some more memorable moments after this 54-yard free kick with 54.8 seconds left in sudden death gave Father Ryan the Division II-AA title 2-1 over MBA. The goal made ESPN’s Top 10 plays of the day. Leading scorer Lowry Wilson also returns.
• White House confident: Coach Mark Lamberth believes his team can make its fourth straight Class A/AA tournament appearance despite losing eight players from last year’s state semifinalist. Matthew Howard returns for his fourth year as goalkeeper after posting 16 shutouts, including eight in a row. Brock Fogle will anchor the defense.
• Aiming for five: Ravenwood’s girls will be going for their fifth straight championship, a feat accomplished by St. Mary’s (1988-92). The Class AAA Lady Raptors have a big team with 20 players on the roster. Senior Katie Fitt will be at No. 1 singles. Senior Iris Hao will compete at No. 2 singles, and Kelly Rains is at No. 3.
• Brentwood three-peat? Brentwood coach Bill Jayne is optimistic his boys team could win its third straight Class AAA title. Sophomore Nic Fauchet leads the way at No. 1 singles. Senior Will Jayne, Bill’s son, will anchor the No. 2 spot. Brentwood’s talent pipeline is deep with six freshmen who should make big contributions.
• Big losses: Montgomery Bell Academy’s boys had five of its top seven players from the Division II-AA runner-up team graduate, but they still should be one of the top teams from Nashville. Kalyan Chadalavada moves up to No. 1 singles after playing Nos. 4-6. He could be challenged by No. 2 Fred Harwell.
TRACK AND FIELD
• Looking for three: The Brentwood Academy girls’ prospects for a third straight Division II championship will hinge on the return of senior hurdler/jumper Becky Johnson, who had knee surgery in the fall. Sprinter Abbie Whitehurst, an Alabama signee, distance runner Allison Cheeseman (Davidson signee) and jumper/sprinter Savannah Koehn also return.
• Dynasty: The M.L. King boys won the Class A/AA title in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and finished second in 2012. Coach Stephen Dorris hopes to build around senior hurdler/sprinter Troy McLin, who finished third in the 300-meter hurdles, and junior sprinter Davante Payne.
• Title contender: Senior Brittany Kelly returns after leading Northeast to the girls Class AAA championship with wins in the pentathlon, long jump and 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Kelly, The Tennessean’s girls track Athlete of the Year, had signed with Ole Miss after placing fourth at the AAU national meet last summer in the heptathlon and the 100 hurdles.