So far, decade ruled by girls in county school sports

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On October 7, 1999, Marshall County High School's Joey Morefield birdied the first playoff hole at the Class A/AA state golf tournament at Old Fort Course to beat Jeff Page of Jackson Christian, culminating a two-decade domination in prep sports by male athletes in Marshall County.

After Moorefield's victory in '99' and the subsequent turning into the 21st Century, girls have ruled high school sports in the county.

The last girls' title or even runner-up finish in any sport before 1999 was almost 20 years before when Donald Steely's Tigerette basketball team won the Class AA crown in 1980.

Softball was the first girls sport to make inroads in the new century as Forrest and Marshall County High School began to shine on the diamond, capturing state runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Reese Hambrick and his Marshall County Tigerette softball squad finally broke the 25 year drought, leading the gender metamorphosis in 2005, winning the Class AA state softball title with a 3-2 win over Walker Valley on May 27.

In March of 2006, gold-shirted head coach Robbie Reasonover and his underdog Forrest squad shocked the prep basketball world in Tennessee, overtaking perennial favorite Jackson County for the gold ball on a Gaby Bussell bucket with forty-three seconds left in overtime to win 42-41.

The unlikely crown in 2006 by Forrest was the first ever state title for the Chapel Hill school.

In 2007, three female squads made the trip to Murfreesboro to represent Marshall County in their respective sports, beginning with Steely's son David, who along with current head coach Boyd West had rebuilt the Tigerette basketball team going into the 2006-2007 season.

The girls from Lewisburg took a 23-9 record to the state tournament and went as deep as they could go before running into an Austin-East buzz saw in the championship game on March 10, settling for second place.

Later in May of 2007, the MCHS tennis duo of Tori Richardson and Lyssa Wiles followed longtime head coach Dickie Adkins' cry of "Come on" all the way to the unforgettable (6-4, 2-6, 6-4) final round win over David Lipscomb in the Class A-AA title match.

That title was the first for Adkins' tennis program in Lewisburg.

Just a few days later, Becky Cheatham and the Forrest Lady Rockets lost 3-0 to Trinity Christian Academy in the state title game, but had chipped away a huge chunk from the private school stranglehold in Class A softball.

For the Tigerettes, the minute the championship game ended in 2007, with a steely off season resolve, they began their quest for the program's fourth state championship, marching into the Murphy Center with a 29-4 record, intent and intense.

There was no stopping the Lauren March led Tigerettes as they stampeded Gibson County in round one, outlasted McMinn in round two, and outplayed Milan in the championship game on Saturday March 8, winning 44-35 and finishing the job not completed from the previous season.

At the Spring Fling in May of 2008, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs joined the fray along with Forrest and the two Marshall County schools delighted the fans, playing in the now famous 'public school' championship on May 23, won by the Lady Rockets in a 3-1 thriller.

Cornersville's third place finish in the state tournament was the best ever for the school.

An overconfident Trinity Christian team had checked out of their hotel rooms the day of the championship game, but had to look for another night's lodging in Murfreesboro when Forrest spanked them 10-4 on May 23, setting up the if necessary championship game the next day.

There was no stopping them as fate's dealing dealt the Lady Rockets a full-house 5-4 winner and ended the 18 year private school domination in Class A softball.

The title was the first for Cheatham and the Lady Rockets.

In March of 2009, Marshall County sent four girls teams to the state tournament, starting with Forrest and Cornersville in basketball.

Both squads were eliminated in the first round, but had made their mark in hoops circles around the state, compiling a combined 55-11 record as both teams won their respective district regular season titles and region tournament championship before the state tournament losses.

The state tournament appearance for head coach Micah Landers and his Lady Dawgs was a first ever for the Cornersville school.

History repeated itself at this year's Blue Cross Spring Fling as the same three teams made a return trip to Murfreesboro.

Wiles and her new partner Jenna Branaman took out their first round opponents before losing in the semifinals. Wiles made state all four years she was in high school, while Branaman took the trek three times.

Down the road, Cornersville and Forrest were on a collision course once again on the dusty diamonds at Starplex and for the second year in a row, Forrest won the public school title, this time in a 5-0 win.

The Lady Rockets just missed the repeat, losing 5-4 in the last inning to a resourceful Trinity Christian Lady Lions squad in the title game.

In the decade of girl's dominance, only two boy's teams have reached title games.

MCHS lost in the 2002 Class AA state basketball title game 77-46 to Ridgeway and in 2005-2006 the Mikey Minor led Forrest Rockets lost 2-0 in the title game to McKenzie.

When the 2009-2010 school begins in August, the boys have just five months of prep sports to break the decade long domination by the girls.