Prep Sports

The call came in just before lunch Monday. When I saw that it was Benny Monroe on the caller ID, I knew the timing meant one of the best head football coaches ever to walk a sideline in our area would be retiring. Football coaches don't call reporters in the middle of the day in February to discuss district basketball tournaments.

As Dalton High School begins its search for a new football coach, athletic director Ronnie McClurg said earlier this week that the program will target proven winners, particularly those with championship experience.

Layson West doesn't have time to be nervous about this weekend's Area 7-AA wrestling tournament. Actually, he can't spare time to worry about much of anything the next two days. The Sonoraville sophomore's itinerary the next two days will fill every extra minute.

JASPER, Tenn. -- For 20 nervous minutes, Keta Robinette lay crumpled on the floor, her immediate future and Marion County's hopes of winning its first girls' district basketball championship in 10 years uncertain.

As I began thinking about the area's most memorable prep stories of 2009, the ones I remembered most dealt far more with a kids' perseverance than any game statistic or final score. Here are the top prep stories from our area that made this year memorable for me:

Every turnover or missed assist opportunity by a Cleveland Lady Raiders point guard left coach Rachel Moore clinching her teeth or stomping her foot in disgust.

ATLANTA -- More than the twitching cramps in both calves, it was the stinging pain from the 13-10 loss in Georgia's Class AA state championship game that finally sent Gus Roberts to his knees.

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It was as old-school as it gets for a high school football game played on synthetic turf.

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The tattoo that spreads across Terrell Robinson's rawboned right bicep is more than simple adornment.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- We never know the difference a simple gesture can make in someone else's life. Taking a moment from our busy schedule to help someone who can't possibly repay us could actually bring a bigger blessing into our own life than we could have imagined.

Like most of those in Chattanooga who keep up with prep football, I thought it was all but foregone conclusion that there would be three Chattanooga area teams alive and playing toward Cookeville's first foray into the state championship-hosting business.

The natural reaction would have been to pout or lash out in anger. Instead, Matthew Oellerich's quiet determination to accept a new role and simply do his job has made him a true leader for Baylor's football team.

Having experienced about every situation a high school football coach can face, Benny Monroe knew he had a decision tougher than any fourth-and-inches call.

It's tough to steal the excitement of a day as anxiously anticipated as the release of the state football playoff brackets. But that's just what happened Saturday when TSSAA officials reached into their bag and handed out far more tricks than treats.

I finally got my warning. I did my job and actually made it through a handful of Friday night games before getting nailed by a sideline sheriff.

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