Gate City's Thompson, J.I. Burton's Thacker tops in Southwest Virginia

Kevin Mays • Jun 20, 2019 at 12:22 AM

This year’s Times News Southwest Virginia prep athletes of the year are different in personality, but both are dominating in their fields of play.

Gate City rising junior Sarah Thompson is quiet in demeanor. J.I. Burton’s Houston Thacker is a polar opposite. But whether it’s the laid back personality of Thompson or the running-on-all-cylinders Thacker, both athletes let their performances do their talking.


Thompson will likely be involved in some type of sport, regardless of the time of year.

This past school year, Thompson was a dominant player for the Lady Blue Devils’ volleyball, basketball and softball programs.

In basketball, she was named as the Mountain 7 co-player of the year. She was also named to the Times News All-Southwest Virginia team, as well as the VHSL and VHSCA Class 2 all-state teams and to the all-Region 2D squad.

As a sophomore, Thompson averaged 19.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. She also averaged 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals for the Lady Blue Devils.

Thompson was just as impressive on the court during volleyball season.

She was named to the All-Region 2D and All-Mountain 7 volleyball teams after recording 367 kills, 324 digs, 46 blocks and 39 service aces as an all-around player in her sophomore year.

During the spring, Thompson recorded a .413 batting average, a .669 on base percentage, smacked three home runs and had 19 RBIs and a .910 fielding percentage.

Thompson was named to the Times News All-Southwest Virginia softball team, as well as the All-Mountain 7 softball team.


Thacker’s high school journey ended this spring.

The always-personable Thacker was a two-sport star — basketball and football — for the Raiders during his senior year.

He was named to the Times News All-Southwest Virginia, All-Region 1D and All-Cumberland basketball teams while helping lead Burton to the Region 1D basketball championship under the guidance of then-Raiders coach Aaron Williams.

“Houston Thacker played with a tremendous amount of spirt and enthusiasm,” Williams, who resigned the Burton coaching position to accept a similar post at Abingdon after the season, said of one of his star players. “The thing that I loved about Houston was that he was a team-first player.”

“It’s always lively around Houston. He has a great heart.”

During the basketball season, Thacker averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He also connected on 41 percent of his shots from the floor.

Thacker was a leader on the Burton football squad as well, leading the Raiders to the Cumberland District championship while passing for 2,018 yards and completing 118 of 236 pass attempts. He threw for 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in the Raiders’ run into the postseason.

He was named as quarterback to the Times News All-Southwest Virginia team and was named to the All-Region 1D and All-Cumberland District football teams.

Thacker hopes to show his talents on the collegiate football field this fall while staying in Southwest Virginia. He has signed to continue his education and football career at UVa-Wise.


After three seasons, Twin Springs softball coach Tim Lawson resigned earlier this week.

The former Sullivan South coach and ETSU assistant made big strides at the helm of the Lady Titans’ program.

In 2017, Twin Springs only won three games, but in the last two years, the Lady Titans compiled a combined 30-17 record, including a Cumberland District tournament championship and two straight Region 1D tournament appearances, including a regional semifinal contest this season.

Lawson’s departure is just one of a slew of coaching resignations this year. It also marks one of many coaching positions that are still unfilled heading into the summer.

In addition to the boys basketball coach, Burton is also looking to replace girls tennis coach Laura Potter, who led the Lady Raiders to back-to-back Region 1D championships.

Potter resigned to accept a teaching position with neighboring Wise County Schools.

Eastside boys tennis coach Alicia Jones has also resigned her post to accept a teaching position in Washington County, Virginia, after guiding the Spartans to their first VHSL Class 2 state championship appearance this spring.

Castlewood is looking to replace football coach Darrell Taylor, who resigned in April after six years at the helm of the Blue Devils, and boys basketball coach Reuben Rasnick, who resigned recently.

Kingsport Times News Videos