By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Genuine Article’s superlatives for the Class of 2020 conclude this week with these 12 student/athletes from Millington Central High School, Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Munford and Brighton high schools.
It is hard to narrow these categories to one female and male student each year. With the seniors enduring so much this year, I wanted to feature so many more students.
When these student/athletes put in so much hard work and dedication to their sport, studies and community, you want them to get a moment of recognition.
It was tough, but the final six Who’s Who category will feature the students below.
Kayla Reed & Carson Roberson
We start this week’s reflections with Best Overall and a pair of Munford Cougars. Kayla Reed was great at softball from the day she walked onto the campus. Carson Roberson was a difference maker in football for multiple seasons.
Both have meek personalities during school and in practice. Once Reed put on that No. 18 jersey, she transformed into a flashy batter, dominating pitcher and life of the dugout.
She embodied the personalities of her parents Tina and Tony. Tina is relaxed until the late innings. Meanwhile Tony is the vocal coach armed with a timely one-liner to pick up the spirit in the dugout. Kayla’s big sister Ashley was the role model and standard. Ashley would tell you quickly, her younger sister surpassed the benchmarks she set at Munford. And the whole time Kayla achieved with the glowing smile of her mom, boosting spirit of her dad and work ethic of her sister.
Another hard worker at Munford was Roberson. He would let his play do the talking on the field (Mr. Roberson’s Neighborhood). The defensive end specialist became a familiar visitor for opposing quarterbacks.
He earned All-Region and All-Star selections. He was picked as Best Overall this year because when he said he would do something, Roberson made it happen on the field.
His demanding a double-team created lanes for his defensive line mates to attack the opposition. Roberson’s presence will be missed by the Cougar defense in the fall of 2020.
Megan Sanfratello & Markees Flowers
Sanfratello and Flowers were two students from the Class of 2020 who seemed to always be helpful, invited to all the social events, win special recognitions and were genuinely liked. Flowers bloomed in the halls of Millington Central High School joining the football team as a freshman.
Sanfratello got an early start as well with varsity sports joining the TRA Lady Rebel Basketball team as an eighth grader.
She played for the Lady Rebels so long, Barack Obama was still president. I’m not trying to make Sanfratello feel old but she is the all-time leading scorer in program history. The 2020 Basketball Homecoming Queen has a radiant smile, a jumper just as beautiful and a good memory.
Once Megan talks to you and invest in you, she won’t forget you. She’ll ask how your mom is doing. Check in on your well-being if she heard you were sick. Megan is resourceful and full of good information. Reminds me of her dad Johnie.
Back at MCHS, the headlines went to all of Flowers’ teammates. That’s because he did his job quietly but with raw force. The offensive and defensive lineman cleared the way for a record-setting quarterback. Flowers created running lanes for his skill players and got down field a few time to give an extra block.
Off the field, Flowers was invited to all the parties and just seemed to get along with all his peers. He never seek out the spotlight. Instead, Flowers would give me information on his teammates and tell me why I should feature the next big star. I have to respect a young man who puts others above himself.
Meredith “Mo” Owen & Verdo Young
Winning this superlative has certain characteristics like reliable, coaches can count on you and teammates see you as a go-to person.
Verdo Young of Millington is currently beginning his Naval career. He has the discipline, work ethic, intelligence and focus to be ultra successful.
I saw his dependability this past football season. Young recovered from an injury he suffered early in the season to play in the playoffs and get back on the mat in wrestling.
But for those weeks he missed, Young was still at practice, attending meetings and keeping his mind and body ready for his return.
No excuses and no regrets for Young as he watched his teammates make history by winning the Region 8-4A title. His contribution was not taken for granted and was appreciated by his coaches and teammates.
Young was there working with his younger teammates and giving them pointers. Same thing he did in wrestling. Young is a leader by example. His body and mind transformation from a freshman to now let’s me know he will do great things.
Heading over TRA, Mo is an example of a person you can count on to get the job done. Her play on the softball field has earned her a scholarship. But it was a moment away from an official game that won my heart over with Ms. Owen.
During the Murfreesboro Challenge, the Lady Rebel Softball players had to execute drills that put the human body through a tough test.
With one teammate out sick, Owen was faced with a decision as a senior leader. Let her team lose the competition set up by Coach Sanfratello or do the challenge twice.
Owen went through the course a second time that day. She fought through the pain and tears to give her team a chance to win. No excuses came from her mouth that day.
Mo even got up to root on her teammates and even this reporter that day. I had to finish the challenge because I just witnessed her doing it twice.
Part of being dependable means getting the job done when other can’t or won’t. Young and Owen are two I want on my team in the game of life.
Kennedy Lamar & Geoffrey Warberg
You have to respect student athletes who excel at both. At Millington Central High School, I was fortunate in March to witness two familiar faces be recognized for their academic excellence. Lady Trojan Volleyball player Kennedy Lamar finished in the top 15 of her class. Then Trojan Soccer goalie Geoffrey Warberg was the final name called out that day at the ceremony as valedictorian.
Both Lamar and Warberg joined their respective teams as freshmen and helped their teams achieve history.
Lamar was a young upstart on the Lady Trojan helping Millington reach success in District 15-2A. This past season she was a senior leader by example. She worked hard in practice and kept her grades in position to finish 12 in her class.
You could see Lamar working with the Yearbook and in her scrubs participating in HOSA. Lamar is not flashy. Her methods are simple: grace, class and intelligence.
Grace and classiness are also associated with Warberg. He took on the tough position of goalie as a freshman and literally grew into the position. But his mind being focused on being the best in the class was firmly set from day one. He was chasing the ghost of his brother Darrell, who finished first for the Class of 2013.
One thing we learned about Geoffrey, once he sets a goal, he will achieve it. Warberg and his teammates set a goal of making soccer history. And in 2019 the boys reached Regionals. Where Warberg, goes success follows.
Sylvia “Bugg” Jones & Jaden Tincher
The duo of Brighton’s Sylvia “Bugg” Jones and Millington’s Jaden Tincher display their hard work with heart, mind, body and soul.
Jones’ heart was shown one night in Munford. With her face busted open and blood pouring out, Jones got her bandages and came back to the floor to help lead her Lady Cardinals over their rivals the Lady Cougars to stay ahead of them in the district basketball standings.
Tincher’s heart was on center stage through golf and wrestling. The latter became Tincher’s calling card with three State appearances. It takes heart to win a Region title like Tincher did this past winter.
Bugg’s mind grew sharper and sharper each year. In her junior season she was named District 13-3A MVP and she was the clear leader of her team by her senior season running the point.
Tincher’s mind grew around wrestling being an advisor and coach for teammates. It was no coincidence eight other Trojans went to State with Tincher in 2020.
Jones’ body was in top condition with powerful biceps and detailed calves. Built like a sprinter, Jones was lightning fast on the court with the ball in her hands.
Tincher trained his body to stay at a disciplined 106 pounds. He worked hard to maintain his diet and kept his frame in primed condition for attack on the mat.
Lastly the souls of these two were dedicated to their craft. Jones is heading to the next level and joined a rare group of Lady Cardinals to ink a college scholarship. She wants to add to the legacy of Brighton Basketball by being a success in college.
Tincher left an impressive legacy at Millington through his wrestling. But those who have been in his presence were blessed by the impressive nature of the young man. Tincher is unselfish, willing to share his knowledge, skills and time.
Bugg must have had a similar impact on her teammates as so many came to her signing party in May. Actually both Jones and Tincher travel with dedicated parents, devoted friends and those who admire the hard work they put into what they do. Believing in Jones and Tincher is a safe bet because they will put in the work to validate themselves and those who invest in them.
Miss and Mr. Millington Star
Briana Fields & Tommy Clifton
Two students from the Class of 2020 exemplify all the qualities outlined in the previous 11 categories. At Millington Central High School Briana Fields and Tommy Clifton walked the halls, wore the black and gold and represented their school well for four years.
Fields was the manager for various teams at Millington during her tenure. And Clifton made a name for himself as a baseball and football player.
Fields and Clifton have made the past four years enjoyable for this sports reporter. I hate that three months was taken away from me to see this duo enjoy the spotlight.
Let’s start with Fields, it’s not often I recognize a non-athlete on this platform. Christi Lucas was the only other winner for her manager skills back in the day at Millington.
Fields commanded a certain amount of respect like Lucas for how she approached her job and responsibilities. You can tell she has a love for basketball because she paid attention to all the happenings around Head Coach Jewell Gate’s program. She kept the scorebook, kept the locker room in order and made sure all things were clean to near perfection.
She wasn’t afraid to share her knowledge of the game and give expert analysis of her players. Fields knew your strengths and weaknesses after just watching practice. And she wasn’t afraid to give her 2 cents about me.
Our friendship started with a sweet, shy girl giving me a one-liner occasionally. Her jabs were sharp and accurate. By her junior year, I started to punch back with jokes of my own. Then eventually we had a deep conversation with Fields expressing her appreciation for her family, school, teammates, church, faculty, staff and especially her coaches.
I always used to say, “Ms. Fields you’re the hardest working person at Millington Central.” Because I saw her involved with all those things she loved.
When she could be going home or just be lazy, Fields was working on something to make her school and community better. Your first impression of Fields would likely be she works her butt off because she has a non-stop motor.
If I asked her for a favor or she saw a need I had, Fields would take care of it. I will never forget the time I came into the William Osteen Gymnasium for a summer basketball camp hot and sweaty. A few minutes later, I get a tap on the shoulder, “Here you go.” It was Ms. Fields with a ice cold Gatorade. That’s when I knew I had to remember who the little sophomore girl was.
It’s been my honor to get to know Briana Fields and call her a friend.
A friend of MCHS and all of Millington is Tommy Clifton. I’m not going to write about his athlete feats here. There will be time and another place for that. Since the tender age 8, I had the privilege of knowing Tommy III. I was introduced to a little red-haired child who was the ball boy for Trojan Football game.
Quiet and focused, the young Clifton was absorbing all the atmosphere surrounding Trojan Football. He was a student of the game as a youngster. His mind was wrapped around all things football. Tommy was born with the heart of a Trojan. And his soul bleeds black and gold. All that was needed was his body catching up.
I witnessed Tommy grow up. And the words of his mother Debby, father Tommy Clifton II, grandfather Tommy Clifton and even his sister Hannah came to fruition. They all agreed Tommy will give his all for his team and school.
Those who watched Clifton sacrifice his body on Friday nights can testify his dedication for his team. But to summarized the young man Tommy grew up to be I will provide this moment.
Visiting Athletic Director Beth Hale’s office in 2018, Tommy was nearby working on the computer, quiet as usual. “Hi, Mr. Sellers.”
Some of the “cool kids” popped in a few seconds later and came straight to Tommy. “Hey man, how’s it going?”
After those greetings, Tommy went back to minding his own business. Then SPED teacher Zane Adams stopped by to turn in some forms for baseball. He had a couple of his students with him. “Hey Tommy! Hi my friend.” Those students flocked to Tommy and with the same effort and energy, Tommy interacted with them.
Before they left the room, “Hey Coach, what time do we need be at the field?” Tommy was making sure he took care of his responsibilities.
In that 15 minutes, I saw the definition of Mr. MCHS. Coaches, faculty, administration and all his peers respected him. And Tommy didn’t see himself as the big man on campus. He simply saw himself as a Trojan. I’m blessed he was a Trojan because that meant I got several years to cover a special young man.