Best Marshall County sports stories of 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017
Cornersville’s Henley Mitchell takes a perfect snap and places the ball just right for Adam Qualls, who kicks the game winning PAT in a double overtime win over Huntingdon in the quarterfinal round of the TSSAA Class A playoffs at Frog Bottom.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

It was another great year for sports in Marshall County with the Cornersville Bulldogs coming in as the top story of the year when the Frog Bottom gridiron boys turned in the best season in school history, posting a 13-2 record and a first-ever TSSAA BlueCross Bowl appearance.

After starting the season at 1-1, Cornersville ran off 12 consecutive wins to claim its first-ever region title with an unbeaten record in league play.

The Bulldogs, who secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs, kicked off the Class 1A postseason with back-to-back blowout wins over Hollow Rock-Bruceton and Grace Christian-Franklin before taking on perennial power Huntingdon in the quarterfinals.

Not many people outside of Marshall County gave the Bulldogs much of chance to win the game, but in front of a record crowd in Frog Bottom, the Bulldogs proved the doubters wrong.

In what was easily the most dramatic moment in sports for the year, senior Adam Qualls kicked the game winning PAT in double overtime to send Cornersville to the semifinals.

Not to be derailed, the Bulldogs came back the following week and scratched out a 7-0 win over Lake County, punching Cornersville’s ticket to the first-ever state final game in any sport in school history.

Even though the Bulldogs came up short versus Greenback in the title game, Cornersville’s march to the pinnacle contest proved that a bunch of guys from a small town football program can compete on the big stage.

BTW, the majority of the squad comes back for their senior season in 2018.

Lewisburg’s Dont’a Hightower is a Super Bowl hero after his game-changing fourth quarter sack fumble sparked a New England comeback and an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons. AP Photo
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The second best moment of the year happened when 111.3 million worldwide television and online viewers watched Super Bowl LI with Lewisburg’s Dont’a Hightower turning in the game changing play.

With less than 10 minutes to play in the game, Hightower came up with a huge sack fumble recovered by the Patriots that turned the tide and led to a New England comeback and a first-ever overtime Super Bowl.

The Patriots went on to win 34-28 on the first overtime possession when Tom Brady threw to running back James White, who ran from two yards out to the pylon and scored the game winner to give the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl victory, one short of the Pittsburg Steelers six wins.

D’Andre Brown goes high for a layup for two of his 10 points in a game versus Giles County in which he played three days after the passing of his father.
Tribune photo by Mike Inglsbee

The number three story of the year took place at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg on January 25 when the Marshall County Tigers hosted archrival Giles County.

Three days prior to the contest, D’Andre Brown suffered a terrible loss with the passing of his father, but Brown suited up and the Tigers left it all on the court for their teammate in an emotional 67-50 win over the Bobcats.

Brown scored 10 points with a 3-pointer and seven rebounds.

Forrest’s Jeff Gross (left) beat Eagleville’s Wyatt McLemore 2-0 to win the 113-pound state title at the TSSAA State Wrestling Championships in Franklin.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The number four story of the year contains the lone state championship in prep sports with Forrest wrestler Jeff Gross winning the TSSAA Class A/AA 113-pound crown in a hard fought 2-0 victory over Eagleville’s Wyatt McLemore.

Gross finished the season with a 31-1 record and also won his second Region 3A/AA title in a row with a win over McLemore.

The Rocket sophomore’s gritty determination, dedicated training regimen, technical savvy, and outstanding sportsmanship was breath of fresh air the entire season and he still has two more years to capture a couple of more state titles.

The Marshall County Babe Ruth League 15-year old all-stars lineup at the opening ceremonies in the World Series at Lawrenceburg.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Number five on the list is something very dear to my heart.

I grew up in Trenton, New Jersey which is the birthplace of Babe Ruth baseball and I played on the diamond at Switlik Park, the first Babe Ruth complex that opened in 1951 and hosted the first Babe Ruth World series the following year.

Although I never made it to the World Series, my older brother Tim (an awesome catcher) played in the 1971 event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 2016 Marshall County Babe Ruth League 13-15 year old all-stars received the opportunity of a lifetime when they were awarded an invitational in-state bid to the World Series in Lawrenceburg.

Marshall County took the field at Bobby Brewer Park in Lawrenceburg on August 10 and after losing their first three games, the boys notched a historic first-ever World Series victory in a 9-6 win over Newtown, Connecticut.

Although Marshall County was eliminated the following day, the experience was very rewarding and a moment that will last a lifetime for the players on the squad.

Here are the rest of the best in chronological order:

January

Cornel’s Chris Walker (MCHS) named All-Ivy League
Forrest Lady Rockets celebrate 100 years of basketball
FMS Lady Rockets win back-to-back World Tournament titles

February

Forrest’s Caitlyn Yost scores 31 points versus tenth-ranked Huntland
Martin Stewart’s last second blocked shot secures the Rockets an emotional 56-54 senior night win over Perry County
TSSAA announces Lewisburg native Willie Mitchell’s induction into the Hall of Fame
Marshall County blows out Giles County 75-55 for the programs first district tournament title since the turn of the century

March

Forrest Lady Rockets beat Moore County 33-32 to claim their first region title in six years
LMS’s Zach Graves tosses a complete game no hitter over E.A. Cox at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Babe Ruth Field
The Patriots re-sign Dont’a Hightower to a four year, $43.5 million contract
The Forrest Rockets travel to Eagleville and win 4-2 in a 13 inning marathon
LMS Tigers beat the CMS Bulldogs for 18th win of the season

April

Willie Mitchell inducted into TSSAA Hall of Fame
Marshall County hosts the Special Olympics
MCHS’s Jay Howard signs with The Citadel
Forrest Lady Rockets go 6-0 to dominate Brentwood Invitational softball tournament
Cornersville’s Ben Taylor delivers a walk-off game winning double to beat Moore County
The Marshall County Tigerettes tennis team beats Columbia Central for third sweep in a row
The Forrest Lady Rockets beat Moore County 10-0 on senior night to notch 16th consecutive win and clinch the District 9A crown
The Forrest Rockets scratch out a 3-2 win at Huntland to claim their 4th straight District 9-A title
Ayden Orr, a local child with a unique form of epilepsy, throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Joe George Field in Lewisburg
Forrest’s Kayla Gillespie slams the game-winning hit versus Summertown to send the Lady Rockets to the school’s six state title game at the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

May

Tiger ace Brayden Gentry tosses two-hitter in senior night win
Forrest senior Jordan Jent twirls one-hit shutout on senior night
Lady Rocket catcher Carson Warner clinches District 9-A Tournament title with walk-off homerun
Forrest Rockets take a 6-3 late night win over Eagleville to claim their third straight District 9A Tournament title
The Cornersville Bulldogs clinch a Region 6A Tournament berth with 10-5 win over Richland
Forrest sophomore Ethan Mealer tosses one-hitter in a 10-0 six inning, run-rule win over Jo Byrns in a Region 5A Tournament semifinal game
The Forrest Rockets coast to an anticlimactic 12-1 win over Eagleville to clinch a third straight Region 5A crown
Samantha King tosses a one-hitter at Columbia Academy in a state sectional game as the two-time Class A state champion Lady Rockets earn a Spring Fling berth
A Kayla Gillespie eighth-inning walk off hit gives Forrest a 4-3 win over Summertown and sends the Lady Rockets to their sixth appearance in the state championship game

June

Luke Terry goes 3-for-3 as an Atlanta Braves film crew shows up at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Babe Ruth Field in Lewisburg to film a special on the one-armed 14-year old
The Marshall County Youth Trap Team travelled to the Nashville Gun Club and claimed a region runner-up finish
Longtime Babe Ruth and Cornersville Middle School baseball coach Mike Tatum retires after serving the youth of Marshall County for 35 years
The Elks break a three-year Babe Ruth championship drought in a dramatic 7-6 come from behind win over Marshall Medical Center

July

Chapel Hill’s Mike Minor continued his stellar comeback season with the Kansas City Royals with a 5-1 win at Seattle
The Marshall County 15 year-old all-stars post a 16-3 victory over Lebanon in the title game of the East Tennessee State Tournament to become the first boys’ team from Marshall County to play in a Babe Ruth World Series
The 41st Annual 2017 Lions Club Super Pull of the South commences at Chapel Hill
Marshall County placekicker Caleb Estes dedicates his senior season to Kick it for Cancer

August

Lewisburg’s Joe Liggett wins Greater Lewisburg City Golf Open by eight shots
The Marshall County Babe Ruth League’s 15-year old all-stars play their first World Series game in Lawrenceburg
Zach Graves picks up the win on the mound as Babe Ruth all-stars net first-ever World Series win versus Newtown
Brian Borton wins Saddle Creek Club Championship by four shots
Prep football season opens
The Marshall County Tiger golf team claims fifth straight Gary Wells Cup

September

Cornersville High School CHS cheerleaders present a $4,700 check from the sale of “Bulldog Strong” tee-shirts for the Bryan Giles Memorial Scholarship Fund. Giles was a CHS student and football player (#62) who was killed in a household accident
The Forrest Lady Rockets beat the Community Viqueens 1-0 on a penalty kick by Macie Baker in a game where the proceeds were donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

October

The Cornersville Bulldogs wallop Richland 56-20 in Frog Bottom to capture the school’s first-ever region title
The prep football season comes to a close as the Marshall County Tigers and Cornersville Bulldogs win region crowns
The Marshall County Tigers run out at Greenville as the play in their third straight TSSAA state semifinal game.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

November

Marshall County running back Kamron Liggett named Mr. Football semifinalist
The Cornersville Cross Country team finished third at Region 6 Tournament and qualifies for the TSSAA state championships
Kevin McGehee of Marshall County High School named Athletic Director of the Year for Athletic District 6 by the A.F. Bridges Awards program
Tigerette Leah Hollingsworth competes for an unprecedented fourth straight time in the TSSAA cross country state championships
Joe Liggett scores hole-in-one at the St. Jude’s Children Hospital Golf Classic at Saddle Creek Golf Course
The Cornersville Bulldogs beat Grace Christian Academy-Franklin 52-15 for their 10th win a row
Marshall County softball standout Sydne Solomon signs with Western Kentucky University
The Marshall County High School Tigers earn a berth in third straight TSSAA state playoff semifinal game after claiming a 29-22 victory over visiting Maplewood
The Cornersville Bulldogs beat Lake County 7-0 to qualify for first-ever state final appearance
Cornersville plays in Class A state championship game at Tennessee Tech University

December

Caleb Fields scores his 1,000 career point for the Tigers
KJ Johnson pours in 37 points in a big 78-54 rout over Huntland
Leah Hollingsworth scores 30 points, including seven 3-pointers in a 50-34 win over archrival Columbia Central at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg
MLB free agent Mike Minor signs $28 million, three-year contract with the Texas Rangers
Marshall County offensive lineman Dave Roberts signs with Austin Peay University