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5 surprises from the high school sports year

Success came from some unlikely places in high school sports this season.

Here’s a look at a combined five teams and athletes who enjoyed surprising moments during the past school year.


After going 5-5 during the regular season, Northeast didn’t look like a team about to go on a deep run in the Class 5A football playoffs. The Eagles appeared to be rebuilding after the graduation of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who now plays for Tennessee. But the Eagles made it all the way to the semifinals for the best showing in school history.

A 1995 quarterfinal appearance with another future Vol, Travis Stephens, was the deepest playoff push before that for Northeast.

The Eagles showed a hint of their potential when they took a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of a 32-28 loss at eventual state champion Henry County on Oct. 25. Northeast rattled off playoff wins at Lincoln County, Hillsboro and Gallatin before falling to Henry County again in the semifinals.


Upperman never has been considered a football hotbed, but it produced a record-setting quarterback this season. The Bees senior broke a state record with 72 rushing and passing touchdowns combined.

York led Upperman (13-1) to the Class 3A semifinals with 2,611 rushing yards and 2,524 passing yards. He signed with East Tennessee State, which will revive its football program in 2015.

York put the small town of Baxter, population 1,384, on the football map with his video game-like numbers. Upperman enjoyed its first winning season since going 6-4 in 2000.

York set a state record with 713 yards in total offense (337 passing/376 rushing) in a 70-49 win over Tyner in the second round of the playoffs. He had 10,514 career yards in total offense, second best in state history.


Brentwood’s Kamron Doyle looked untouchable in the Division I boys bowling tournament after winning the 2013 title with a record pinfall of 3,293. The sophomore entered the tournament with the state’s highest average (250.81) and he has already bowled in 12 professional tournaments.

But Doyle had an off tournament, finishing fourth at Smyrna Bowling Center where the lanes were slick with a sport shot oil pattern.

That opened the door for Columbia freshman Cole Flatt, who won the championship with a 217-188 victory over Cane Ridge senior Aaron Ruiz as the finals were changed to a step-ladder format this year. The sixth-seeded bowler competed against No. 5, the winner bowled No. 4 and so on.

The pressure will be on Flatt next year because no individual has won consecutive titles in boys bowling.


When Ensworth’s boys basketball team got off to its worst start ever at 1-7, it looked like the Tigers’ state title run might finally be over. The Tigers turned things around in a hurry.

Ensworth won 18 of its last 22, capped by a 57-46 win over Memphis University School for the Tigers’ fourth straight Division II-AA title. Brentwood Academy is the only other boys team to win four in a row (DII, 2003-06).

A midseason team meeting helped the Tigers turn the tide. Guard Andrew Fleming, the Mr. Basketball winner and an Iowa commitment, led the way.

“This team — there were times this year where we were really terrible,” Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said. “I mean, we just were. And this group they really turned it on (the last) four weeks.”


From 2004-08, M.L. King’s girls basketball team went 5-96. The Lady Royals never won more than two games in any of those seasons, including a 0-20 showing in 2006.

A state tournament appearance must have seemed a million miles away, but M.L. King made it to Murfreesboro in Class AA this season.

Coach Lindy Brown King orchestrated the Royals’ gradual turnaround. M.L. King went 6-14 in 2009, 10-13 in 2010, 11-17 in 2011, 16-10 in 2012, 18-8 in 2013 and 28-3 this season.

The Royals won 20 straight before exiting with a 49-47 quarterfinal loss to Westview. All five starters return, including the top three scorers in Jordan Majors (16.3 ppg), Brianna Smith (16.3) and Molly Kafader (10.5), so M.L. King should continue its resurgence next season.

Reach Chip Cirillo at 615-664-2194 and on Twitter @ChipCirillo.

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