Although unable to host the banquet that has become synonymous with the annual awards ceremony, due to health concerns with the coronavirus, the Times Free Press held its Best of Preps virtual awards show Thursday evening to honor the area's standout high school athletes and coaches for 2019-20.
Despite spring sports being canceled due to the outbreak, there were still 18 award winners announced during the half-hour show, which included several sports celebrities making appearances to send congratulations and best wishes.
Video of the ceremony is available at timesfreepress.com and the Times Free Press Facebook page. Sunday's newspaper will include a special section recognizing all of this past school year's Best of Preps selections.
Thursday's winners included the three annual Scrappy Moore honorees: East Hamilton two-sport standout Madison Hayes as Female Athlete of the Year for the second straight time, Dalton football star Jahmyr Gibbs as Male Athlete of the Year and McCallie's Ralph Potter as Coach of the Year.
Hayes, who for the second straight year also won the Jackson-Lacy award as the area's most outstanding girls' basketball player, is one of the Chattanooga area's most decorated athletes of all time. The versatile 6-foot-1 guard and Mississippi State signee was named a McDonald's All American, a USA Today All-American and the Gatorade state player of the year, and she was Tennessee Class AAA Miss Basketball for the second straight season after averaging 26 points, 12 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per game.
She also led her volleyball team in kills as an outside hitter this past fall and is a three-time all-region selection in that sport.
"It's a blessing and an honor to win this award two years in a row," Hayes said of the Scrappy Moore honor. "It just proves to me that hard work pays off, and now I've just got to keep on working and doing what has gotten me this far."
Gibbs, a Georgia Tech signee who also won the Red Etter honor as the area's most outstanding football player, earned national accolades in addition to GHSA Class AAAAAA player of the year after rushing for a state-best 2,544 yards and scoring 40 touchdowns. His standout performances included a 420-yard, eight-touchdown performance in the season opener against Ringgold. Gibbs was named to Sports Illustrated's All-American team and played in the prestigious All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, and Rivals.com ranked him the nation's No. 2 all-purpose running back and a top-10 recruit in Georgia.
"I couldn't have done any of it without my teammates," Gibbs said. "I have a lot of love for them. Overall, I hope people remember me here as a good person, a good friend and somebody they could trust. I just go out and play, do my best and be a team player."
In his 18th season at McCallie, Potter guided his alma mater to its second TSSAA Division II-AAA football state championship and first since 2001. The Blue Tornado finished the season 11-2 overall — that included a victory at rival Baylor — and won the East Region title as well. As defensive coordinator, Potter helped the Blue Tornado hold opponents to an average of just 15 points per game. McCallie beat Montgomery Bell Academy 28-7 in the state title game, marking only the third time in 13 games the Big Red had been held to fewer than 10 points. The defense also set a state championship game record with nine sacks and allowed just 42 rushing yards.
"As you get older, you realize these things come and go, but for all the guys who put so much work into it, being a state champion gives them a different legacy," Potter said.
Besides honors for excellence in athletics and coaching, the Best of Preps awards annually recognize those who achieve in special ways.
Silverdale Baptist Academy's Carrie Patrick, a soccer captain and member of the track and field team, was named the Sandy Sandlin Unselfish Sportsman for her efforts to raise more than $8,000 to help rebuild the Grace Baptist Academy sports facilities that were destroyed by the Easter night tornadoes on April 12.
"I couldn't imagine losing your school, the place where you've already had so many memories," said Patrick, who recently graduated. "I don't go to school there, but even I have some memories of playing games at Grace, so it's just really sad for their students. We can't replace their school, but we can help rebuild it."
Howard football coach John Starr was recognized with the Guy Francis Award for Going The Extra Mile. Coach Starr has been preparing and delivering meals to more than 30 of his players each day during the pandemic.
"Hunger didn't stop when the coronavirus started," Starr said. "This has given me an opportunity to check on these kids. See how they're doing. Are they taking care of their academics? We just feel like it's our mission to help people."
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe's Jacob King won the Bobby Davis Award for Heart and Desire after he overcame a heart condition that threatened his athletic career. After treatment, King returned to the football field, where he averaged nearly 10 tackles per game as a defensive back. He then helped the basketball Warriors to a 23-5 record and the Region 6-AAA tournament title by averaging 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
"I never thought my senior year would be like this, but a lot happened and I think I made the best of it," King said. "When I found out I could play, I promised myself I was going to put my all into everything because I knew how it felt to not be able to play. It was a blessing to go from believing I would never get to play again to being able to play both sports."
2020 BEST OF PREPS AWARD WINNERS
SCRAPPY MOORE FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Madison Hayes (East Hamilton)
SCRAPPY MOORE MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jahmyr Gibbs (Dalton)
SCRAPPY MOORE COACH OF THE YEAR
Ralph Potter (McCallie)
SANDY SANDLIN UNSELFISH SPORTSMAN
Carrie Patrick (Silverdale Baptist Academy)
GUY FRANCIS GOING THE EXTRA MILE
John Starr (Howard)
BOBBY DAVIS HEART AND DESIRE
Jacob King (Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe)
JOHN FRANKLIN ACADEMIC AWARD
Noah Tremain (McCallie)
JIM PHIFER BOYS’ GOLF AWARD
Jonathan Xoinis (Chattanooga Christian)
BROOKE PANCAKE GIRLS’ GOLF AWARD
Kyndall Shamblin (Baylor)
PHOEBE WRIGHT GIRLS’ CROSS COUNTRY AWARD
Gracie O’Neal (Gordon Lee)
MICKEY HADDOCK BOYS’ CROSS COUNTRY AWARD
Edimo Nintereste (Chattanooga Christian)
BEST OF PREPS GIRLS’ SOCCER AWARD
Camilla Mincey (Signal Mountain)
NEELY-MERRILL VOLLEYBALL AWARD
Abby Rector (Hixson)
BUCK JOHNSON SOFTBALL AWARD
Rachel Gibson (Heritage)
RED ETTER FOOTBALL AWARD
Jahmyr Gibbs (Dalton)
FARR-WORSHAM WRESTLING AWARD
Cole Hunt (Dalton)
JACKSON-LACY GIRLS’ BASKETBALL AWARD
Madison Hayes (East Hamilton)
ROBERT HIGH BOYS’ BASKETBALL AWARD
Jacobi Wood (Cleveland)