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Record-setting season was high mark for Sullivan South sports year

Jeff Birchfield • May 21, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The Rebel Yell was never louder than the 2019-20 sports season.

Sullivan South had a record-setting season on the basketball court and added another chapter to its strong tradition on the volleyball court. The Rebels also found success on the football field and golf course.

The boys basketball team made history, earning a first-ever state tournament berth, although the COVID-19 pandemic ended hopes of a possible state title.

Still, it was a season that South fans won’t likely forget, hitting the 30-win milestone and sweeping Three Rivers Conference and District 1-AA championships.

On a team featuring Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News All-Northeast Tennessee player of the year Ben Diamond and coach of the year Michael McMeans, the Rebels went further than any South team had before.

Cole Layne was also an All-Northeast Tennessee selection, while other seniors included Gannon Chase, Cam Necessary, Caleb Lay and Parker Wilmoth. The Rebels were dominant much of the regular season, winning the Three Rivers title.

They followed up with a 63-61 double-overtime win over Elizabethton in the District 1-AA title game and a road win at Alcoa in the sectional round.

VOLLEYBALL

No strangers to postseason success, the Lady Rebels made their fourth straight state tournament appearance. Led by seniors Abbey Jayne and Makkenzie Compton, they won 27 games before being eliminated from the state tournament by Anderson County in a five-set thriller.

One of the most tradition-rich programs in Northeast Tennessee, South has 31 state tournament appearances, nine state finals appearances and five state titles including those in 2013 and 2015.

This season’s team, which featured Olivia Delung, Allie Jordan, Katie Watson, Izzy Musick and Susie Chatman, swept conference, district and region titles.

FOOTBALL

After an 0-2 start, the Rebels reeled off four straight wins. They nearly pulled off the upset of the season, losing 14-13 at No. 1 Elizabethton. Normally relying on the ground game, South found success in the air with Ethan Bergeron hitting 11 of 18 passes for 248 yards and Necessary, at tight end, making six catches for 104 yards.

The Rebels continued pressing on, beating East Hamilton in the first round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs, the second straight year they eliminated a Chattanooga-area team. The Rebels’ season came to an end the next week in a rematch with eventual state champion Elizabethton.

Julian Reed led the team with 1,508 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns to earn a spot on the Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News Elite 11 team.

GOLF

The girls golf team beat Tennessee High by six strokes to win the Big 11 Conference championship.

South’s Kara Carter finished one stroke ahead of Dobyns-Bennett’s Isabella van der Biest for the individual medalist, while Kirstyn Moore added a solid round for the team title. Carter followed up by winning the District 1 title the following week, although the Lady Rebels, with Moore and Erin Musick, lost the team crown by two strokes to Tennessee High. Carter qualified for the state tournament as an individual, and she finished eighth overall.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

The Lady Rebels started strong, winning four of their first five games. They won their final two regular season games before falling to Johnson County in the District 1-AA tournament.

Alex Harris was the team’s offensive leader, pacing the Lady Rebels in scoring, 3-point goals and free throws. Other leaders included Nicole Troutman in rebounding and McKenzie Littleton in assists.

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