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Top local sports stories from ’21

By CHRIS SIERS ~ sports@t-g.com
Posted 12/29/21

Each year, following the Christmas holiday, the sports staff of the Times-Gazette takes a look back at the top highlights from local sports happenings.The 2021 calendar wasn’t short of …

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Top local sports stories from ’21

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Each year, following the Christmas holiday, the sports staff of the Times-Gazette takes a look back at the top highlights from local sports happenings.
The 2021 calendar wasn’t short of highlights and memorable moments within Bedford County. 
We’ll break down the top highlights from 2021 in a two-part series, beginning with No. 8:
 
No. 8 Longtime Cascade AD retires 
For the better part of 20 years, Dale Rucker kept the wheels turning within the Cascade athletics department.
It takes a special level of care and dedication to ensure officials are requested for each game, transportation arranged for away games, gate fees collected, among many other countless duties and responsibilities. 
His impact cannot be undervalued to what he's meant to athletics as a whole at Cascade and several coaches and administrators gave their thoughts on working with Rucker.
"When you think of a Cascade Champion, Dale Rucker immediately comes to mind. Dale served Cascade and Cascade Athletics for 34 years in a variety of aspects such as teaching, athletic director, assistant softball coach, and working the clock at basketball games. Dale was the perfect athletic director as he did not want attention on himself," Cascade principal Dr. Josh Young said.
Head boys basketball coach Chris Lawson shared Hammonds' sentiment as well.
"Dale Rucker is one of the reasons I decided to come to Cascade. When I was asking other local coaches about Cascade before they offered me a job, everyone said, 'Chris you will get to work for one of the best Athletic Directors in the state.' That is completely true! I never had to worry about anything from a legality standpoint. Dale had it organized. I have a high respect for him and the job he did. I wish him all the best in his retirement," he said.
From his days as a student at Cascade to becoming head football coach, Jake Tyre built up quite the rapport with Rucker.
When the lights hit the field at the Stable on Friday night, Tyre said he never had to worry about anything behind the scenes as well.
"Dale is Cascade through and through. There's few of us out there that bleed Orange and Black to the core and Dale is right there at the top. I went to school here so I had him as a teacher. He wasn't an AD when I was in school. When I came back as an assistant, he was AD. Knowing him as long as I have and seeing the transition of being a student of his to being a colleague and a friend was awesome. You knew everything was going to be done the right way," Tyre said.
Following Rucker’s retirement, the duties of athletic director has been split among baseball and assistant basketball coach Josh Hammonds and Tyre.
*Original reporting by Chris Siers
 
No. 7 Cascade reaches Sub-State 
The 2020-2021 Cascade Champion basketball teams was nothing short of a thrill ride, for both the team and the Cascade faithful. 
Through November and into December, wins were tough to come by, with Cascade posting a 2-5 record before beginning district play against Fayetteville City on January 8.
With first-year head coach Chris Lawson taking over the program, and summer work severely limited by COVID-19 protocols in the summer, the first part of the season was essentially a get to know the team period for both the Champions and Lawson. 
But after that 2-5 start, something clicked for Cascade, and the Champs rattled off nine-straight District 8-A victories and claimed the regular season title.
During that run, Cascade posted three one-possession victories, including a regular season sweep against Fayetteville City.
The Tigers got their revenge on Cascade in the District 8-A semifinals, but it was Cascade who had the last laugh with a consolation round victory over Moore County.
After advancing to the Region 4-A tournament, Cascade dispatched Merrol Hyde in the region quarterfinals, which set the Champs on a collision course rematch against Fayetteville for not only a region championship berth, but also a state sectional berth as well.
In that win-or-go-home fourth meeting against the Tigers, Cascade took control of the scoreboard just 47 seconds into the game on 3-pointer by Lucas Clanton and never left go of the lead. 
"We talk about a good team like Fayetteville is going to make a run. We knew it was coming-and it did. We got up on them and they made a run and threw a punch at us. Our guys did a good job of making free throws down the stretch and taking care of the basketball when they had to. They did what they had to do in order to finish it," Cascade coach Chris Lawson said.
In the end, it was a stellar defense effort by the Champions that held off a late Fayetteville rally and punched the Champs’ ticket to the Region 4-A title. 
“As we go, people make adjustments. When we played them the last time, we kind of played a little more and didn't make as many adjustments and ended up kind of letting one slip away at the end. Tonight, we focused on what we were going to be content with and what we were going to lock up. At the end of the game, our game plan was I think spot on,” Lawson said. 
While Cascade knocked off Fayetteville in the region semifinals, a sluggish night scoring against Moore County in the region finals saw Cascade come up short, forcing the Champions to go on the road in the sectional with a difficult matchup against eventual Class A state champion Clay County.
In that sectional meeting, Cascade had its chances, but came up just short, falling to the Bulldogs by a single point. 
 
*Original reporting by Chris Siers
 
No. 6 Vikings make state basketball tournament 
The 2020-2021 basketball season was a memorable one for the Community Vikings as they made their first trip to the TSSAA state basketball tournament since 1944. 
Just a year prior, the Vikings posted a 32-2 overall record, but came up just short in the state sectional against East Nashville.
Having graduated five seniors, including four starters off that team, the 2020-2021 team weathered an uncertain season outlook through the global pandemic and in the process, beat East Nashville in the Class 2A sectional to advance to the Murphy Center. 
With several measures put into place to play the season, the starting lineup of seniors Will Reed, Jackson Bailey, Evan Petrie, and Jacob Cooper along with junior Stratton Lovvorn saw action last season but had little time to gel and get their chemistry in motion for the upcoming season.
The Vikings started the season 9-1 but lost six of their next seven games and were 10-7 overall and 1-2 in District 12-AA play after falling to Nolensville on January 19.
Community lost its seven games by 17 points and was within striking distance in all of its losses.
The Vikings rebounded by winning their next seven district games and avenged their two earlier district losses by defeating Marshall County and Nolensville.
Community finished 8-2 in the district and in a first-place tie with Marshall County.
The Vikings were seeded second in the district tournament and defeated Forrest, an upset winner over Nolensville, in their opening semifinal game. After the Central Magnet Tigers defeated Marshall County in the other semifinal, Community hosted Central Magnet in the district finals.
The Vikings defeated the Tigers for their second consecutive District 12-AA championship.
Community's season almost came to an abrupt halt in the first round of the Region 6-AA tournament.
The Stewart County Rebels, a team Coach Robbie Davis said was the hardest playing team he has ever had to coach against in his coaching career, gave the Vikings a mighty scare.
In a tie game, the Rebels missed a potential game-winning shot from close range at the end of regulation.
After Stewart County led by one point with under a minute left in overtime, Bailey hit a shot in the lane that gave the Vikings the lead.
Free throws down the stretch by Reed sent the Vikings to the region semifinals.
The Vikings played Marshall County in the semifinals.
After splitting their two games in the regular season, Community increased its lead in the final minutes on the way to a region championship rematch against the Creek Wood Red Hawks.
The Vikings played their first postseason game on the road against the Red Hawks and battled tooth and nail for the upper hand.
The region win brought on a home rematch with the East Nashville Eagles in the sectional with a berth in the state tournament awaiting the winner.
The Eagles overcame an 11-point deficit to put an end to the Viking season last season, but Community did not let history repeat itself.
A Petrie field goal gave the Vikings the lead for good in the third quarter.
Community did not look back and increased its lead en route to its first state tournament appearance in 77 years.
In their first-round game of the Class 2A state tournament, Community led by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter against Kingston, but in the end, fell victim to foul troubles and came up just short in overtime. 
During that first-round game of the state tournament, Reed scored his 1,000th point while playing with the Vikings.
“For Will to get 1,000 points, starting with that group he played with last year, we graduated three 1,000-point scorers. There weren't a lot of shots to go around for a long time. It means a lot that he was able to get it,” Viking coach Robbie Davis said. 
Davis was quick to credit the senior class for guiding the team to the first state tournament berth in 77 years. 
“I looked the other day and in the last two years, this group is 55-10. That's outstanding. These guys are going to leave here with two sub-states and two region championships. If you look at the banners in our gym, that hasn't been done before. Being one of the smallest AA schools in the state, it means a lot. It means a lot to a lot of people,” he said.
*Original reporting by Rickey Clardy 
 
No. 5 Cheeseman wins XC title 
Winning a state championship in any sport is never an easy task. It takes countless hours of preparation, strategy and dedication to be the best in the state.
While the Webb School Lady Feet cross country team was entirely comprised of freshmen and eighth graders, the team qualified for the Division II Class A state meet.
While the team finished fourth overall, it was freshman Abby Faith Cheeseman who blistered her way to a 17:26.91 final time and the individual state title. 
She beat second-place finisher, Lauren Rutlin, of St. George’s Independent by 1:32.
Cheeseman’s 17:26.91 was the fastest 5k time of any girls’ classification during the state meet, which was held at Sanders Ferry Park.
Class A-AA champion Samantha Ouellette finished in 18:31, Class AAA champion Kira Hayes ran an 18:05 and Div. II Class AA champion Bella Guillamondegui turned in an 18:22
“Abby Faith is pretty special. As a coach, I have never taken for granted the difficulty of racing. Racing is standing on the precipice of failure and success.  I know that she will give her best  no matter what the circumstances are. That, to me, is pretty special. She is gritty, works very hard, and thus far, enjoys the process of getting better. Her joy comes from being her best more than the competition itself. However, she enjoys racing and testing herself too,” Webb cross country coach Cathy Cheeseman said.
*Original reporting by Chris Siers

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