State champions headline Best of Preps Coach of the Year finalists

State champions headline Best of Preps Coach of the Year finalists

June 14th, 2018 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Preps

Gallery: State champions headline Best of Preps Coach of the Year finalists

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Not only did each of the finalists for the Scrappy Moore Coach of the Year award win a state championship, a couple collected multiple state titles during the 2017-18 school year.

The winner of the award will be announced at tonight's Best of Preps banquet, which is set for 6 at the Chattanooga Convention Center with Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota as the guest speaker. For information on the event or tickets, visit bestofprepschatt.com.

The finalists are Baylor's Curtis Blair, Silverdale Baptist Academy's Tim Couch, Gordon Lee's Mike Dunfee, Cleveland's Joey Knox, Calhoun's Hal Lamb and Calhoun's Diane Smith.

Blair capped the 2018 boys' soccer season this spring the same way his 2017 Baylor girls' season ended in the fall — with a Division II-AA state championship won via penalty-kick shootout. He guided the Lady Red Raiders past Briarcrest for a title in October, then followed that with a defeat of chief rival McCallie — with Baylor rallying twice from a goal down — for another state title last month.

Couch is the first to guide an SBA team to a TSSAA state title in any sport. He spent five previous seasons as the Lady Seahawks' head softball coach, then stepped away at the end of the 2016 season after leading them to a Class A state-runner-up finish. He returned as the program made the transition to Division II-A this season, winning the District 2 title, and after losing its first double-elimination game at the Spring Fling, SBA rallied through the losers bracket for the championship.

Dunfee led the Trojans to the GHSA Class A public school baseball state title after the Trojans fell short in the championship round three previous times, including in 2017. This postseason they went undefeated and culminated their run with a sweep of Telfair County in the best-of-three title series in Savannah.

In Knox's first season as Cleveland's head wrestling coach, the Blue Raiders swept the duals and traditional state championships in Class AAA. Knox, an assistant for four seasons before taking over the program, guided the Blue Raiders to a 34-1 overall record this past season. Cleveland led the traditional field by more than 30 points before its final two wrestlers took the mat.

Lamb's 19th season as the Calhoun football program's head coach may have been his finest. The Yellow Jackets finished 14-1 and won the GHSA Class AAA championship, Lamb's third state title at the school. Though the team was ranked inside the top 10 all season, few expected a lengthy playoff run. The Jackets took a most difficult path to the title game, winning on the road in the quarterfinals against Liberty County and the semifinals against undefeated and top-ranked Cedar Grove before topping second-ranked Peach County in the final.

Smith is no stranger to winning state championships, but the softball title won last fall was a surprise even to the veteran coach. Three starters quit during the season, but a few experienced players and some talented youngsters rallied behind Smith and her staff to earn the No. 4 seed for the Region 6-AAA tournament. The Lady Jackets did not lose again, winning their final 14 games and outscoring opponents 88-13 in the playoffs, capping Smith's fourth title in five years with a 4-2 win over Cook County.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.


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