Talking football in March? You bet

Mar. 05, 2014 @ 09:57 AM

It’s a Wednesday in March, but football is dominating the headlines this morning.
A day after Gatlinburg-Pittman announced Jim Moore is returning to the Highlanders’ sidelines, G-P’s Riley Trotter will sign a letter of intent to continue his career at the University of the Cumberlands. Trotter, part of The Mountain Press’ All-County team in 2013, is the third Highlander to sign this spring, joining Spencer Brien (ETSU) and Tanner Cox (Carson-Newman). The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. inside the school’s library.
While Trotter gets ready to depart Gatlinburg, Moore is returning 30 years after he left the Highlanders. The former Seymour coach, who resigned in November after going 15-36 at his alma mater, started his coaching career under Benny Hammonds at Gatlinburg-Pittman in 1980. Hammonds said Moore wanted to coach in college, so he left after four years for stints at West Alabama University and Newberry College.
Moore then took a circuitous route back to G-P, starting at H.V. Jenkins in Savannah, Ga. and winding his way through White County and Heritage in Maryville before landing at Seymour, his alma mater, 17 years ago.
“He certainly was a good coach, knowledgable coach,” Hammonds said on Tuesday night. “We enjoyed having him around. He had bigger aspirations. … I see nothing but a bright future ahead for the positions he coaches. We’re tickled to death.”
Hammonds said he’ll make a decision in the coming weeks about what Moore’s specific responsibilities will be.
Baseball season is less than a week away and if Casey Taylor’s second campaign goes anything like his first, it ought to be a fun one in Sevierville.
Taylor led Sevier County within a handful of innings of the state tournament last year before the Smoky Bears eventually fell to Farragut in the sectional round. That 32-win season has led to some high expectations for 2014, but the coach has emphasized getting back to the state sectionals won’t be any easier the second time around. After all, gone is District 2-AAA player of the year Dillon Cate and All-District honorees Nick Clabo, Dylan Ford and Jeff Henry.
That’s not an idea lost on the Bears’ Logan Brett, who said he and his teammates know they have to step up.
“We’re a different team,” Brett said. “We’re a lot different than we were last year. We’re obviously going to have to score a lot more runs and we know that. Obviously losing Dillon Cate and a couple role-playing guys in Dylan Ford and Nick Clabo — Nick Clabo the clutch-type guy — we’ve got to fill some big shoes. We’ve got to score a lot of runs. We’ve got to have some pitchers step up.”
Expectations may be even higher down the road for the Seymour softball team.
The Eagles are trying to get back to the state tournament after bowing out in back-to-back losses in Murfressboro last year. But, like the Bears, this team has a different complexion. Gone is coach Dayna Carter, who is now at Christian Academy of Knoxville. In her place is former Pigeon Forge coach Jessica Sterling, who gets to lead a team with no juniors, five seniors — including Tennessee signee senior Lauren Irwin — and eight very talented sophomores.
“It’s been a whole new experience for them and for me,” Sterling said. “It’s been a good change. We hit the weights real hard this offseason. … I’m hoping it helps a lot with the offense. I hope we hit the ball far.”
While Irwin will grab plenty of attention as the team’s defensive leader and leadoff batter, the potential of that sophomore class is pretty exciting for Sterling. The coach said she often forgets only two of those eight second-year players can drive a car.
But the bulk of that group could be driving the Eagles back to Murfreesboro, including pitchers Sam Trentham and Miranda Duncan. They’ll toss to another sophomore behind the plate in Reid Ballard.
Even with all that youth out there, Sterling isn’t worried about her first season in Seymour. She said her new team spoke so intelligently about the game in scrimmages this preseason, she’s as comfortable as she’s ever been.
“Do i feel pressure? Yes, I want to get back to state,” Sterling said. “Once we got into a game situation, I was as relaxed as I’ve been the last five years.”