Johnson City Press Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sports High schools

With season getting close, Longhorns looking for new coach

June 16th, 2014 7:44 pm by Douglas Fritz

With season getting close, Longhorns looking for new coach

With time running down to get things started for the 2014 football season, Johnson County finds itself in a somewhat awkward position for hiring a new head coach.

Mike Atwood resigned last week after 16 years in the position.

“He met with the director of schools, and I was notified he turned in his resignation,” said Johnson County principal Lisa Arnold on Monday. “We posted it Thursday, and we are interviewing two people today.”

Arnold declined to release the names of the coaches being interviewed, but said both are from “out of town.”

“We’re very interested in both of these prospects,” said Arnold. “It’s a five-day posting, and we want to get this done as soon as possible, hopefully this week.”

The Longhorns had competitive teams throughout Atwood’s run, and his overall record was 75-97.

Often playing against bigger schools, Johnson County was unable to break through with a postseason victory until 2013. The ’Horns lost all eight of their playoff games before beating Chuckey-Doak 23-20 in the Class 3A first round. Johnson County lost 56-19 to Christian Academy of Knoxville in the second round.

Atwood’s best years were 2000 and 2006, when his teams posted 8-2 records in the regular season. The 2007 team went 7-3, and Atwood had three other winning seasons.

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Unicoi County is still looking for a head baseball coach. Charlie Baxter recently resigned after his second stint as the Blue Devils’ leader.

A representative for the Unicoi County school system said interviews had not been conducted for the open position as of Monday, but were expected to begin by the end of the week.

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Any high school athletic department wants its program to be headed in a positive direction, but some teams are ahead of the curve.

Certainly success is part of the equation in looking for the programs that stand out. After all, it’s the simple nature of athletics to have a winner and a loser in every game.

But in our second installment of the Positive Program Direction rankings, it isn’t an attempt to predict which programs will win the most games. It’s just an acknowledgement of programs that seem to generally be moving at a pace that is a step or two in front of the crowd. Sometimes it can even be just a matter of moving away from a somewhat negative history at a rapid pace.

Also, not being included on this list does not suggest a program is headed in a negative direction. It could be an indication of a neutral pace that is continually sustained at a high level, or a slower than normal acceleration for a given program.

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

Week No. 2 houses the top five PPD rankings for boys and girls basketball:

1. David Crockett boys — Much has been made of John Good taking over as head coach, and the influx of talent transferring from Science Hill. However, the top spot in this ranking is more about the competitiveness displayed by the Pioneers’ players.

Having talent is always a critical element for success, but if the kids don’t play hard the talent will be wasted. There’s a renewed interest in playing hard at David Crockett, and that’s the real impact Good has made.

2. Elizabethton girls — Winning a state championship takes a lot of different factors coming together and bonding like super glue. Repeating such a feat takes a mental toughness rarely displayed at the high school level.

It may be difficult to imagine a state champion still moving above and beyond, but this is a group of kids — and a coach in Len Dugger — with the type of inner drive it takes to push upward.

3. Sullivan East girls — It took the Lady Patriots a little bit of time to make people notice a change, but it is here and the future looks bright. Before last year’s season-ending loss to Grainger, East had won 13 of 15 games — with both losses coming against eventual state champion Elizabethton.

Three of East’s eight losses for the entire season were against the Lady Cyclones, and a fourth came against Creek Wood — which was one basket away from playing Elizabethton for the Class AA state title.

4. Sullivan East boys — There’s just something different about Sullivan East basketball, and it has been that way for a long time. Even when the Patriots were competing against Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett, they scrapped for 32 minutes even if the score got away from them.

Now that attitude has become a championship mentality in the Class AA ranks, and the Patriots are reloading and looking forward.

5. (tie) Elizabethton boys and Unicoi County boys — Before someone screams, “Cop out!” at the notion of these rivals being tied for fifth place, there are similarities.

Both teams have rich traditions, although the Cyclones had to rebuild theirs over the last two years. And both made plenty of postseason noise over the last couple of seasons.

The Blue Devils have been beating on the state tournament door for a decade. And as long as Coach John English is in the mix, don’t expect the pounding to stop.

For Elizabethton, it’s a story of a young coach in Lucas Honeycutt — cut from the same mold as English — who is driving a program in the right direction.

Others in the mix: Science Hill girls, Greeneville boys, Volunteer girls, Hampton boys.

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Prep signings: Three Dobyns-Bennett athletes made their college choices official last week. Baseball players Logan Gentry (ETSU), Payton Marshall (Walters State) and Sammy Salyers (Catawba Valley) signed scholarship papers.

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