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A long look ahead in the right direction

June 2nd, 2014 6:51 pm by Douglas Fritz

A long look ahead in the right direction

One of the sad things about the end of May is athletes saying goodbye to their high school playing days.

But it’s also a time to look forward as the 2014-15 school year will be here in what will seem like the blink of an eye.

Therefore, it’s never too early to take a look forward. This will be the first installment of the Positive Program Direction rankings —   a brief summary of area athletic programs that seem to be headed the right way.

With each ranking, a reason will be given. Because this is a forward-looking process, the rankings are of course subjective.

We will start this week with the top five PPD rankings for football: 

1. Science Hill — This was an easy pick for the top spot in Northeast Tennessee. The Hilltoppers have been on an upward path since the arrival of head coach Stacy Carter.

Last year’s victory over Dobyns-Bennett in Week 10, ending the forever-long “Streak,” is one of the biggest reasons for the Hilltoppers having the most positive program direction. Another thing is overall excitement for the program. Athletes are coming out to play. They want to be a part of Carter’s entertaining brand of fast-paced football.

Yes, the future looks bright on The Hill.

2. Elizabethton — The Cyclones have been one of the area’s best programs for decades, and they have been especially strong since moving to the Class AA ranks.

But Elizabethton mainly earned the No. 2 spot based on the growing excitement of having a new football stadium in the near future. Community interest has always been strong for the Cyclones, but they are taking it to a new level.

3. Sullivan South — Moving down to Class AA did the Rebels a world of good, and they were knocking at a door —with a name tag of Knox Fulton — very vigorously at the end of last season.

For a program that had lost a bit of its luster in recent years, South came back like a beast in 2013. And momentum is building for 2014.

4. Greeneville — Another long-running success story is still moving forward. Under head coach Caine Ballard, the Greene Devils have become a perennial Class 4A state-title contender.

Ballard has proven he doesn’t build things for just one shining season. He has laid a strong foundation for a program that can sustain itself from year to year.

5. David Crockett — It’s not always where you are that tells a story. Sometimes it’s where you have been.

Coming off a playoff appearance in 2013, the Pioneers are headed in the right direction under head coach Jeremy Bosken.

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For those people hoping to see a split between public and private schools for playoff purposes become a reality, there is at least some movement in that direction.

The TSSAA is in the process of identifying individuals to serve on the committee to study the issue of the possible split. TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said after next week’s Board of Control meeting, the organization hopes to narrow the list of names to about nine.

“If we are able to do that, we will schedule the first committee meeting sometime this summer,” said Gillespie.

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Unaka has returned to a former success story, turning over its girls basketball program to Kenneth Chambers.

Over the last four years, Chambers was an assistant coach at Cloudland. During his six years as head coach at Unaka, the Lady Rangers went 125-66 with three conference championships. Unaka also made to the state tournament in 2004, getting defeated 62-34 by eventual Class A state champion Clarkrange in the quarterfinals.

The next year the Lady Rangers were 30-1 heading into the Region 1-A title game against Cloudland, a team they had beaten three times in close games. This time the Lady Highlanders turned the tables and won 47-43, sending Unaka on the road for the sectional. Both Cloudland and Unaka lost sectional contests.

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Prep signings: A member of the Johnson City Press Super 22 team landed a college deal Monday.

Unicoi County second baseman Ryan Lingerfelt made it official with Carson-Newman University. Lingerfelt hit .385 for the Blue Devils this season and helped them reach the Class AA sectional round. He also totaled 36 RBIs.

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