Craig Harris/Macon County Times Dalton Marsh was selected as the District 6-A most valuable player after averaging 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocked shots per game last season.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Dalton Marsh was selected as the District 6-A most valuable player after averaging 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocked shots per game last season.

With the two-week Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association dead period currently in session, let's liven things up with some discussion on some things to keep an eye in the Macon County sporting landscape during the 2019-20 school year.

Mr. and Miss

After being snubbed as juniors, a pair of rising seniors should be among those considered among the finalists for the Mr. and Miss Basketball awards.

Macon County High senior guard Keeley Carter was selected as the District 8-AA Most Valuable Player (MVP), the 8-AA Tournament MVP and the Region 4-AA Tournament MVP last season. She was also named to the 8-AA All-Defensive Team.

Carter led the team in scoring (18.7 points per game), rebounding (7.5) and assists (3.7), and she also averaged 2.5 steals per game. She shot 53 percent from the field, 32 percent from three-point range and 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Most importantly, she's led the Tigerettes to three state-tournament appearances, finishing as the Class AA state runner-up in 2018 and to a state semifinal appearance in March.

Carter maintains that her goal is not to be a Miss Basketball finalist. She's focused on the gold ball given to the state-championship squad.

Last season, Red Boiling Springs senior Dalton Marsh was only the third Bulldog to be selected as the district most valuable player.

Marsh - a 6-foot-7 center - averaged 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocked shots per game, shooting 70 percent from the field.

He'll be looking to help the Bulldogs reach the regional tournament for the first time during his career at RBS.

More and more Whittemore

One last name will bring awareness to two different Macon County High football players.

Juniors Landon Whittemore and Logan Whittemore are expected to stand out for the Tigers this fall.

Both have enhanced their physical appearance with offseason agility and weight training.

Landon Whittemore is coming off of a season in which he was selected as the 3-4A most outstanding tight end. Whittemore caught 11 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.

However, Landon Whittemore - a 6-foot-4, 220-pound specimen who also plays safety - could be a more frequent target for returning senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons or for junior Ethan Jenkins. That quarterback duo alternated series during the team's spring scrimmage at Greenbrier, with Landon Whittemore catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins and a 48-yard bomb from Gammons that set up a short touchdown run.

Logan Whittemore is a fullback and defensive end who has been plagued by injuries over his first two seasons.

In fact, he missed the team's spring scrimmage at Greenbrier due to a minor injury.

However, Logan Whittemore has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic in the offseason.

After suffering an injury in the team's season opener against Smith County last fall, Logan Whittemore bounced back in the team's third game, rushing for 157 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers' 29-7 victory at White House Heritage to give the team its first win.

A better Meador

Macon County High junior Isaac Meador produced the most impressive performance of his career at the 95th annual Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays Golf Tournament last month.

Meador shot 68 to qualify for match play, leaving him among the top 16 boys in the 14-17-year-old age group.

Can Meador take that momentum into the upcoming high-school season?

He and Landon Polston led the Tigers last fall, but Meador shot 82 at the District 9 Large Golf Tournament, which was held at Gallatin's Long Hollow Golf Course. That wasn't good enough to qualify for the region tournament.

He'll need to post a much better score than that if he hopes to have an opportunity to advance out of a district that includes perennial power Hendersonville and eventually move past the region and into the state tournament as well.

All hands on "Deck"

Recent Red Boiling Springs High graduate Allison Deckard may have been the county's most athletic female last season.

Deckard - who also played volleyball - was selected as the District 6-A Softball Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season.

However, she'll be playing at Motlow State Community College this fall.

Deckard was one of six seniors who graduated from a 13-member squad, leaving the Lady Bulldogs with a major rebuilding project after head coach Stacy Gregory resigned at the end of the season.

Can the Lady Bulldogs - who finished with an 11-12 record this spring - remain competitive in a district that should be dominated by Trousdale County and Gordonsville next spring?

It will depend heavily on junior pitcher Jasmine Pruitte, junior outfielder Reyna Ruiz and sophomore third baseman Nautica Goolsby.

On guard!

The guards will be front and center for the Red Boiling Springs High boys basketball program beginning in November … even though the center garners most of the attention.

The Bulldogs are built around Marsh, but the supporting cast may be what either allows RBS to take that next step and earn a regional berth or bow out in its district opener once again.

There will be ample experience in the backcourt with senior guards Mason Hix and Matthew Murphy returning.

Hix averaged 8.8 points, 3.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game last season.

Murphy averaged 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He also drew 26 offensive fouls and shot 43 percent from 3-point range and 66 percent at the charity stripe.

Another senior, James Sampson, should add a threat from 3-point range, having made 49 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season.

Versatile junior Omarion Williams will be expected to play a larger role as well after having averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

The 20-win Bulldogs finished third in District 6-A during the regular season but ended their season with a 50-46 loss to sixth-seeded Clarkrange in the quarterfinal round of the District 6-A Tournament.

The RBS boys haven't reached the regional tournament since the 2014-15 season.

All in the family

Shari Bowers has been inside gymnasiums for volleyball matches for a long time. However, her view will be considerably different this fall.

The long-time Macon County High volleyball coach retired - not only from coaching but also from her position as the physical-education instructor at Westside Elementary School - at the end of the school year.

However, she'll still be rooting for the Tigerettes as her daughter, Brooke Smith, has taken over as the program's head coach.

Smith played for her mother before moving on to a four-year career at Cumberland University.

She's been the MCHS assistant coach for the past four seasons.

Despite losing five seniors to graduation - all of which contributed significantly - from last year's 17-8 squad, don't be surprised if Macon County is battling for one of the two regional berths from among the District 11-AA contingent.

Defending state champion Portland will still be atop the heap in 11-AA, despite losing standout Marlayna Bullington.

However, second-place White House Heritage should be significantly impacted by graduation losses.

The Tigerettes should have a solid nucleus with defensive returnees Myle Crowder and Allie Cliburn, and junior middle hitter/outside hitter Kaitlyn Driver gained some experience last season.

However, the game changers could be senior middle hitter Mattie Butler and junior outside hitter Hallie Dickens.

Butler developed into one of Macon County's most effective hitters before a pair of injuries derailed her junior campaign, and there are high expectations for Dickens, who never stepped on the court last season due to an ankle injury.

Up, up and away

Girls basketball teams tend to reload in the Upper Cumberland, with players often moving from town to town prior to high school and sometimes transferring schools even after their high-school career has begun.

However, the door may swing open for the Red Boiling Springs High girls basketball team to assume an elevated position among the elite in District 6-A.

While eight-time state champion Clarkrange will be the favorite to win the district once again, with the entire team returning, the Lady Bulldogs could slip into one of the top three spots in that district.

Clay County suffered significant losses as Kenzie Arms and Taylor Strong (the 6-A most valuable player) graduated, and Pickett County also suffered the loss of first-team all-district honoree Aaliyah Brown.

RBS will rely on senior standouts Kennedy Fleming and Haley Davis, but much like the Bulldog boys squad, it may be the supporting cast that determines the level of success - a group that consists of junior guard Liz Anderson, senior guard Briley Morgan, junior forward Lindsay Randolph and freshman point guard Claire Fleming.

Randolph represents the only significant height that the Lady Bulldogs have in their regular rotation, but Claire Fleming may be the most intriguing player to watch. The point guard moved up to play with the high-school team after the school's junior-high season was completed in mid-December and transitioned seamlessly, working her way into the starting lineup and eventually being named to the district's all-defensive team and all-freshman team.

The RBS girls will be looking to reach the regional tournament after falling short the past two seasons.

Three-peat?

The Macon County High baseball program successfully reloaded last season. After posting one of its best seasons in recent history in 2018 (winning the program's first outright, regular-season district title since 2007), the Tigers didn't flinch after graduating five seniors.

Macon County didn't win the regular-season district title this spring but did finish atop the District 8-AA West Division standings once again, posting a 19-8 record following a 22-7 campaign in 2018.

The Tigers were led by a pair of senior pitchers - right-hander Logan Thompson and southpaw Trent Cook. They were two of only three seniors, along with leftfielder and leadoff hitter Kade Allen.

However, pitching carried Macon County in 2019.

Thompson had a 5-3 pitching record with a 2.06 earned-run average (ERA), allowing 47 hits and 20 base on balls over 57 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out 63 hitters, and six of his eight starts resulted in complete-game efforts.

Cook - a senior left-hander - had an 8-0 pitching record and a 1.68 ERA, and he completed six of the nine games that he started. Over 50 innings, Cook scattered 41 hits, issued 11 walks and struck out 39 batters.

If the Tigers are to find success once again, it will likely depend upon the arms of senior Isaac Belton, junior Jordon Steen and possibly junior Isaac Meador.

The versatile Belton had a 3-4 pitching mark with a 2.74 ERA this spring, but most of his outings came in non-district competition.

Belton can play shortstop, third base and catcher … and other places too if the need arises.

However, unlike the last two seasons, Macon County's 2020 squad may have to rely more on its bats than on its arms, leaving Belton, Meador, senior second baseman Cameron Mercer, sophomore first baseman Oakley Stinson, junior third baseman/outfielder Hayden Blankenship and senior third baseman Connor Trent responsible for a significant portion of the run support.

A numbers game

Numbers are always a concern for the Red Boiling Springs High football program.

They will be once again.

That's been one of the biggest hurdles that Matt Swoner has had to eclipse in his first year at the helm of the program.

However, Swoner and his coaching staff managed to increase the team's roster during the early portion of the season last fall.

The Bulldogs lost just six players to graduation, but those six were significant. It was a group that included the team's most experienced lineman (Wesley Bean) and two of its top playmakers in wide receiver/quarterback Joe Rose and quarterback Hunter Kirk.

Senior fullback/defensive end Dalton Thompson will lead RBS this fall.

The Bulldogs are looking to snap a 12-game losing skid.

What are the best opportunities to end the drought? One of the best may come in the season opener on Aug. 23 when RBS plays at Sunbright. Sunbright won just one game last season, a 28-8 win at Oakdale.

Also, Oakdale won just one game last season, and the Bulldogs play there on Sept. 27.

Just for kicks

Head coach Terrance Pryor has helped continue the success of the Macon County High girls soccer program.

The 2018 Tigerettes were arguably the best team in the history of the program, though a 7-6-1 record and a fourth-place finish in District 9-AA may not give that impression.

However, Macon County plays in a district that includes the past two Class AA state champions (White House in 2017 and Beech in 2018).

The Tigerettes reached the district tournament semifinals and suffered a 3-1 loss to Beech, which eventually captured a 3-2 victory over Seymour to win the state title.

That 9-AA semifinal was a one-goal match for more than 55 minutes of play.

It was the third consecutive year that Macon County has fallen one win short of advancing to the regional tournament.

What will the Tigerettes do to improve upon that this fall? They will rely on a core of players who have gained ample experience.

Macon County lost just four players to graduation.

The Tigerettes will be led by senior forward/goalkeeper Keeley Carter, senior midfielder Jamie Ashburn, junior midfielder Emily Ashburn and senior defender Morgan Carter.

In addition to Beech and White House, White House Heritage is another program in the tough 9-AA that has experienced significant postseason success in recent seasons.

Adam's impact

Adam Bandy has his work cut out for him in his first season at the Macon County High boys basketball program.

The Macon County High graduate and long-time assistant of Jason Welch, who resigned to accept the head-coaching position at Tullahoma, inherits a program that is coming off of its least successful season in a long while. The Tigers posted an 11-19 record last season and failed to reach the regional tournament for the second consecutive season, following 10 consecutive regional appearances.

In addition to that, Macon County lost four senior starters to graduation.

To add to that, sophomore point guard Gavin Clayborne - who would have competed for a starting position - transferred to Watertown.

Senior forward Lake Reid is the team's lone returning starter. He'll likely be joined be sophomore guard Braydee Brooks and junior guard Connor Johnson, both of whom played extensively last season.

However, it will inevitably be a slow process if the Tigers are going to achieve success in a district that will likely be dominated by Livingston Academy, Upperman and Watertown this winter.

Close but no cigar

The Macon County High softball program has enjoyed considerable success over the past two seasons.

However, both seasons have ended with a feeling of unfulfillment as Tigerettes fell one win short of the regional tournament again this May.

This spring, the Tigerettes won the program's first regular-season district championship since 2008.

Macon County posted a 26-11 record and was two elusive outs away from advancing to the regional tournament. However, the Tigerettes suffered an extra-inning loss to Livingston Academy and then were handed a 14-0 loss to DeKalb County to end their season.

Macon County lost just two senior starters - pitcher Allyson Shoulders and rightfielder Rachel Ritchie.

Playing in a district with a lot of parity - and far more quality hitting than pitching - the Tigerettes should have an opportunity once again to advance in the postseason.

Senior Morgan Carter - a two-time Tennessee Softball Coaches Association (TSCA) Miss Softball winner - is setting program records for home runs, having hit 19 this spring and 30 over the past two seasons.

What may be even more impressive than Carter's home-run total is the fact that she's only struck out one time over the past two seasons combined.

Macon County head coach John Conditt estimated that she'd hit 25 this season.

Opposing coaches were too smart for that. Teams were careful in how that they pitched to Carter. They would be foolish not to pitch to her carefully.

However, she's not the only elite talent on that team. Because of the visibility and incredible success of the Macon County High girls basketball program, Abby Shoulders is probably more known as a basketball player than a softball player, but make no mistake, the junior shortstop shines on the dirt.

The slick-fielding leadoff hitter has far more pop in her bat than one would ever expect from a 5-foot-2 leadoff hitter. She's an elite fielder, thrower, hitter, runner … and she understands the game incredibly well. You've heard of players who see the game in slow-motion. That's her. It certainly seems that she's playing at a different speed than many others.

No offense to the rest of the Tigerettes - as there are other very talented players who shine as well - but those two are certainly worth the price of admission.

However, will they get the opportunity to play on a bigger postseason stage than just the district tournament come next spring? We'll have to wait to see.

Quest for gold

The Macon County High girls basketball team was undoubtedly good enough to win the Class AA state championship last season.

However, the Tigerettes were derailed with a loss to eventual state champion Cheatham County in the state semifinals.

Macon County will be looking to reach the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season when the quest officially begins again in November.

The Tigerettes have been on the cusp of a state title, having suffered a buzzer-beating, overtime loss to Upperman in the 2018 state championship game.

Macon County didn't lose anyone to graduation.

In fact, the Tigerettes added what could be a key piece to its puzzle in junior forward Saranda Woodson, who transferred from Watertown in May.

Woodson went through the summer with the Tigerettes, who won 23 of their 25 games this summer (falling to perennial powers Riverdale and East Nashville).

Macon County even posted a buzzer-beating win over defending Class AAA state champion Bradley Central, thanks to a shot from Keeley Carter.

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Will the Tigerettes have enough of a kick in the end to finally capture the program's first state title?