The high school sports season was filled with the usual amount of drama, excitement, thrilling wins, and heartbreaking losses.
Here is a ranking of the Top 10 moments — based on level of surprise and excitement — in Northeast Tennessee high school sports, followed by a more-detailed look at highlights from the 2017-18 athletic year.
Three area teams — Science Hill, Elizabethton and University High — reach the state baseball tournament in the same year for the first time in 26 years.
Greeneville wins its first-ever state baseball title after losing in region final to Elizabethton.
Dobyns-Bennett football recovers from a 2-3 start to win the Region 1-6A title in Graham Clark’s final season.
North Greene reaches the boys’ Class A state basketball semifinals with a 25-year-old head coach.
Greeneville wins its third state football championship.
Johnson County football goes 11-0 before losing in the second round of the playoffs.
Unaka earns its first-ever win in the girls state basketball tournament.
Daniel Boone reaches the Class AAA girls state basketball tournament for first time ever.
Unaka reaches the Class A state softball tournament and earns a win.
Science Hill finishes as the Class AAA duals state wrestling runner-up.
Game of the Year
Elizabethton 8, Stewart County 5
It was a 10-inning thriller in the Class AA state tournament, filled with heart-thumping moments — including the potential winning run getting cut down at the plate in the eighth inning by Cyclones’ right fielder Jacob Mullins for out No. 2. The final out of that inning was pitcher Corey Russell’s whirling bullet-throw pickoff of a runner on third base during an attempted double steal.
The game was eventually decided in the top of the 10th inning when Evan Carter hit a two-out go-ahead RBI single to center field and scored on the play when the ball went all the way to the fence.
Maryville and Alcoa continued their grudge match for racking up state titles.
The Rebels captured championship No. 16 with a 42-7 blow-by of Cane Ridge in Class 6A. It was their ninth title since 2004. Meanwhile, Alcoa won title No. 16 as well. The Tornadoes won for the 11th time since 2004, beating Covington, 31-20, in Class 3A.
Other champions were Knox Catholic (Class 5A), Greeneville (4A), Union City (2A) and Greenback (1A).
It was a season to remember for Johnson County, which was undefeated before losing a close one (30-21) to Austin-East in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. In Class 4A, Elizabethton was 9-2 before getting clipped by an Anderson County team that jumped all over Greeneville in the quarterfinals before losing 35-31.
And in Class 6A, Dobyns-Bennett made a nice recovery from a slow start to make retiring head coach Graham Clark’s last season memorable instead of disappointing. In the offseason, Clark’s assistant, Joey Christian, became the Indians’ head coach.
Greeneville was denied a third straight state championship with a tough 1-0 loss to White House in the Class AA finals.
In Class AAA, Science Hill’s girls made it to the state tournament before a 2-1 loss to Franklin in the quarterfinals.
Science Hill’s boys battled their way to a fifth-place finish in the Large Division event.
In the Large Division, Dobyns-Bennett sophomore Sasha Neglia ran away from the field to earn the girls state title. It was her second straight championship, and she helped the Lady Indians to a third-place finish.
Also, University High’s boys won their first state title in 10 years with five runners finishing in the top 25 in the Small Division. UH’s girls took third place, getting a fourth-place individual finish from Bekah Owen.
North Greene, coached by 25-year-old David Crockett graduate Sam Tarlton, made its first state tournament appearance since 1992 and reached the semifinals before getting beaten by Memphis Douglass.
Daniel Boone blasted through ghosts from years past — Morristown West and Oak Ridge — en route to their first-ever Class AAA state tournament berth. However, the Lady Trailblazers couldn’t hold up in the quarterfinals against Bradley Central.
Unaka carved its way to Murfreesboro for just the second time in school history, and the Lady Rangers beat Wartburg Central before a hard-fought semifinal loss to Summertown.
Science Hill put together an eye-opening run to the state championship match in the dual tournament. The Hilltoppers fell short of gold in a 51-22 decision against Cleveland.
In the individual event, multiple area wrestlers walked away with titles — including Science Hill’s Luke Story and William Diehl on the boys’ side.
Northeast Tennessee had one of its best seasons in many years with Science Hill, Elizabethton and University High each reaching the state tournament — the first time since 1992 three area teams did it in the same season.
The Cyclones were the only team to earn a win, beating Grundy County and then avenging an opening-round heartbreaking loss to Stewart County.
Greeneville won the Class AA title, crushing Decatur County Riverside 11-0 in the championship.
It was all about Unaka as the Lady Rangers were the only area team to reach The Boro.
And they performed well, winning their first game before a pair of hard-fought 3-0 losses.
Dobyns-Bennett made a powerful unbeaten run to the Class AAA state tournament, but a hard-to-swallow loss to Blackman left a bitter edge to the season — especially when Blackman knocked off Brentwood in the semifinals to earn an eventual state runner-up finish.
In Class AA, Greeneville made it back-to-back titles with a 3-0 win over Loudon.
On the boys’ side, Tennessee High’s Stone Cozart fell short of a state singles title in a tough three-set loss Memphis White Station’s Takuma Walter.
As for the girls, Dobyns-Bennett reached the state semifinals in the team event before losing to eventual champion Brentwood.
In doubles, D-B’s Lainey Hill and Willa Rogers finished state runner-up with a 6-2, 6-3 loss against Brentwood’s Evie Calhoun and Georgia Fischer.
Track and field
Neglia reached the spotlight again, winning the 1,600 and finishing second in the 3,200.
Sullivan South’s Madison Cowan was state runner-up in both the triple jump and high jump.
In the Small Division, University High’s 4x800 relay team (Ashley Daniel, Anna Bader, Ali Burns and Bekah Owen) earned a state title.
UH’s Aidan Costello (boys’ pole vault) and Happy Valley’s Natalie Newsome (girls’ pole vault) each earned a state runner-up finish.