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As 2017 approaches, it’s a great time to reflect and celebrate again the many athletic victories Franklin County experienced this year.




BHS grad signs with Southwest Tennessee

After recovering from an injury prohibiting her from playing college softball, Laken Bragwell is finally going to be able to play for Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Bragwell, an all around softball player, was scouted by Keith Gentry from the college. Gentry was looking for a pitcher and was told to check out Bragwell. He said he quickly realized that Bragwell was injured from the way she was pitching. Gentry offered Bragwell a spot on the team after her injury was healed.

“He called me, and I had been wanting to play in college. Then I just kind of fell in love with the school,” said Bragwell.

While playing for Belgreen High School, Bragwell was part of the team when BHS won the area championship.




Golden Tiger Deyon Hill signs with University of West Alabama

It was a feeling of brotherhood that reminded him of home that drew RHS Golden Tiger Deyon Hill to the University of West Alabama.

“It was just a family thing, kind of like we have here,” he said. “It just felt comfortable.”

Hill said UWA, in Livingston, has been recruiting him as a player for some time, and – surrounded by family, teammates and coaches – he signed on National Signing Day to play football there in the fall.


RBHS golf standout signs with Meridian Community College

Red Bay High School senior Isaiah Jackson signed a golf scholarship with Meridian Community College in Meridian, Miss., Friday. Meridian is the top-ranked Junior College golf program in the nation.

“I just want to thank God for the blessing he has given to me, which is being able to play the sport I love after high school,” said Jackson. “It’s been a great journey, not only for me, but my family and my golf instructors, Mickey Smith in Birmingham and Jim Lovett. I’m so thankful for the scholarship I have received to help pay for education. I’m super excited to get down there and play golf and start my college career. Getting a golf scholarship has been a goal of mine since the seventh grade.”




Wildcat signs for softball

Haley Malone just started her senior softball season last week, but there is one thing she will not have to worry about – whether she will get a scholarship.

Malone signed a scholarship last week the day before the Tharptown Wildcats played their opening game.  Malone will play for the Southwest Lady Saluquis in Memphis, Tenn.

“I am so happy,” said Malone, who will join former teammate Autumn Sutter at Southwest next fall. “This is what I have worked so hard for and spent so many hours playing this game. I am so fortunate to get my education paid for and continue to play softball.”


RHS baseball coach receives memorial award

Coach Chris Heaps from Russellville High School received the Sammy Dunn Memorial Award for the Coach of the Year in the state of Alabama.

Every year the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association selects a coach out of the seven state champions to receive this award. Heaps received the award at the 21st Annual Coaches Convention Award Banquet. Dunn’s son, Cassey Dunn, presented the award to Heaps.

“I’m very honored; it means we accomplish great things as a team,” Heaps said. “To have my name mentioned in the same sentence as (Dunn’s) is such an honor. I’ve been around some great people, with some great talent … It’s all about the players and the assistant coaches. I’m just lucky enough to receive it.”




Golden Tiger Austin Bohannon signs to play at Shelton State

RHS’ Austin Bohannon made a decision for his future last week and signed to play baseball for Shelton State at Tuscaloosa.

Bohannon, pitcher and first baseman for the Golden Tigers, sees playing for Shelton State and Coach Bobby Sprowl as a good stepping stone for a future SEC athletic career. “He’s a good coach, and he’s known for sending a lot of player to really good schools,” Bohannon said.

RHS Coach Chris Heaps said Bohannon shows a lot of promise. “We’re real excited for Austin. Austin has a lot of potential,” Heaps said. “He’s been a very good pitcher for us.”


Two RHS seniors to play in AHSAA North-South All-Star football game

Cameron DeArman was playing a golf match when he found out – and not playing well, by his own standards. “Coach Heaton told my dad in the middle of it,” he said, “and my dad told me, and I started playing great just because my mood changed. I was so shocked.”

The shockingly exciting news was his selection to the AHSAA North-South All-Star football game. Coach Mark Heaton got word that both DeArman and Austin Bohannon have been selected to participate.

Bohannon was actually signing to continue his baseball career at Shelton State when Heaton passed the news along to him.

“I’m not going to play college football, so this is my last game I’ll ever play,” Bohannon said. “I’m looking forward to it.”


RHS’ Cameron DeArman signs for football

Birmingham Southern College gained a Golden Tiger Monday.

Cameron DeArman signed a scholarship to continue his football career at Birmingham Southern, surrounded by family, teammates and coaches.

“I’m really happy to be moving on and being able to play the sport I love,” DeArman said. “I love the place – beautiful campus, great football coach.”

Coach Mark Heaton said he was proud of DeArman, not only for continuing his athletic career but also for choosing a school that is academically-challenging.

“It’s been an honor to have coached him the last two years,” Heaton said. “I think his work ethic and his commitment to what he does has gotten him where he is today.”




Golden Tigers take Red Map

The Golden Tigers boys golf team will bring home the red map after a stellar performance at the state golf championships May 9-10. The runner-up finish follows last year’s state win. The boys came in second place with the score of 604, falling a few strokes behind St. Paul, who had 583. Eli Hodges stood out as an individual with the lowest score out of the 5A players. Hodges had a score of 141, with a 71 on the first day’s 18 hole and 70 as his second day score, being under both days.


‘It’s been unbelievable’

It is often said in baseball that good pitching beats good hitting, and Russellville had it in Montgomery for the team’s state title defense.  After losing game one of the series against Faith Academy 9-1, the Golden Tigers sent their pair of Austins (Bohannon and Kitterman) to the mound in games two and three, and the seniors made sure the blue map trophy was heading north on Interstate 65 after the series instead of south.

The defending state champions traveled to Montgomery took two games out of three against the Faith Academy Rams of Mobile. With back-to-back titles, the Golden Tigers finished the season with a school record 48-7, tying them with the Cullman team of 2007 for second-most wins in state history.


RHS tennis wins state

The Russellville High School boys tennis team played in the state competition April 25. The boys, as expected, stood out at state as an elite team. Doubles pair Jake Williams and Levi Hargett came in first place at state competition.

“They practiced hard, and they played hard; it was definitely an intense game. They earned it,” said Coach Josh Dobbins.


RHS celebrates Devin Jones’ selection as AAMU cheerleader

Russellville High School senior Devin Jones was the center of attention last week at a celebration marking her selection as a cheerleader for Alabama A&M University.

Jones tried out in April for a position at A&M after cheering her junior and senior years at RHS. She said motivation from her coaches and teammates drove her to continue cheer in college – especially from Coach Stephanie Mayfield.

“She helped me gain a lot of awards this past summer,” said Jones, who has been UCA All American and received invitations to cheer in Florida, London and for UCA staff.

“Devin is a true athlete,” said Mayfield, pointing out her participation in basketball and volleyball in addition to cheerleading. “She’s competitive to a fault.”


HISTORY MADE: Lady Golden Tigers head to state tourney

For the first time ever in school history the Russellville Lady Golden Tigers earned a trip to the softball state tournament in Montgomery.
The Lady Golden Tigers, who have never advanced even to the regional tournament, will now be one of the eight teams in Class 5A playing for a state title at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

“The girls have held true to the course,” said Coach John Smith. They have followed his advice this season: “Don’t worry if you just made an error or just made an out. You’ve got to have a short memory and come back and make the next play or get the big hit.”

The team would go on to fall short in the double-elimination state tourney. They lost to Marbury 2-0 in the first game off an early two-run homer by the Lady Bulldogs, after which the girls couldn’t get anything going themselves. They lost the next game when Russellville’s bats went cold, losing in the losers bracket to reigning Class 5A Champion Springville 13-3.




Golden Tiger turf takes root

In just a few weeks from start to finish, the Golden Tigers have a major upgrade for the upcoming football season: a state-of-the-art turf field.

The turf is an asset, said Coach Mark Heaton, that will keep Russellville High right on the cutting edge, and “it’s more than just beneficial for football. I think it’s good for the entire school system and the community,” Heaton said. “One of the things I hope to do is to do some type of community celebration … This track and stadium are a focal point of the community. We’re excited about that, for the community have a nice, safe place that they can take pride in.”


Red Bay’s Colby Knoblock signs for Blue Mountain baseball

The Blue Mountain College Toppers are going to have a little Tiger blood for next season’s baseball action.

Red Bay 2016 graduate Colby Knoblock signed Monday to join the Blue Mountain team and continue his baseball career at the college level.

Knoblock was No. 2 on the mound for Red Bay “and did a great job behind the plate for us,” Coach Richard Maggerise said. “He’s just a great kid – a hard worker. I’m just happy for him to be able to get a chance to play at the next level.”


Six RHS baseball players make AWSA All State

Five Russellville players were named to first team All-State Honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Judd Ward, Reed Smith, Cody Greenhill, Landon Oliver and Austin Kitterman from RHS were among the 16 in Class 5A receiving first team recognition. Additionally, Austin Bohannon, who Coach Chris Heaps said was “equally deserving of first team honors,” was named to the second team.

“I would say there’s not many schools in the history of baseball in Alabama to have that many (selected for All State Honors),” Heaps said.




Two Lady Golden Tigers opt to continue athletic careers

It is almost every athlete’s dream to play the sport she loves at the next level. For Russellville softball’s Jakari Suggs and Jess Guzman, this dream is becoming a reality.

“These are both young ladies who are dedicated. We appreciate the things y’all did here at Russellville to help get us to the point we got to this season,” said Coach John Smith to his Lady Golden Tigers. “I know your teammates are proud of you, and I know that you know that you wouldn’t have gotten here without these teammates. We’re very proud of you, and we wish you all luck.”

Both members of the 2015/16 Russellville Lady Tigers Softball team have been signed to play college ball at Miles College, which is located south of Birmingham in Fairfield.

Suggs and Guzman were pitcher and catcher, respectively, for the Golden Tigers. Continuing on the same team as Miles Golden Bears, Smith said they will know how to read each other for a play and be able to trust each other when a game comes down to the wire.




County schools implement archery, shooting sports

A scholastic shooting sports program is the newest offering for Franklin County students.

“We will be looking for any youth who would like to start shooting competitively for skeet, sporting clays and trap,” said Tim Burks, network administrator for Franklin County Schools. Burks’ son Camron is involved in trap shooting, and Burks is passionate about providing sports opportunities behind the conventional options – football, baseball, basketball and softball – to Franklin County youth. “We attempted last year with an archery program, but we just didn’t get enough participation,” Burks said. This year, archery will be offered as a class for credit at Vina.

“Our National Wild Turkey Federation banquet raised enough monies to be able to purchase the equipment needed for an archery program at Vina High School this year. The state of Alabama gives class credit for archery,” Burks said.




Belgreen volleyball has best season in history of program

The Belgreen Lady Bulldogs finished their regular volleyball season with the best record they have had in the team’s six-year program – a momentous feat in itself. However, as the saying goes, “but that’s not all.”

The Lady Bulldogs won their first round at Super-Regionals Thursday – a historic first for Belgreen, which made it as far as Super-Regionals by winning their first round of the Area tournament, defeating Hackleburg, Oct. 17.

In the Super-Regionals in Huntsville, versus Berry, Coach Teresa Whitten said her girls really showed what they were made of.

“This year we faced Berry, who was their Area’s champions,” Whitten said. Belgreen had lost its Area to Phillips Oct. 17 after defeating Hackleburg. “We were shaky the first set and lost that set, but the next three sets, we played hard and won, advancing to the Sweet 16 – a new first for Belgreen High School’s volleyball program. The girls were super excited. One said, leaving the court, ‘This is the best feeling ever!'”

Belgreen finished their regular season 14-12 and finished second in the Area.




Daniel to join Lady Statesmen

When Russellville High School’s Kalli Beth Daniel was trying to decide where to continue her softball career, she felt at home when she discovered Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

She was drawn to the coaching staff right away.

“They are close, like a family, and their coach cares – she has a relationship with each and every one of her players,” Daniel said. And while she was sold on the coaching staff and program, she was also attracted to the campus. “It was small but big at the same time,” she said. “I liked the community, and the people are so friendly.”

Daniel signed to play softball at Delta State during a signing ceremony last week in the Russellville High School field house. She plans to major in occupational therapy.


Greenhill takes pitching game to next level at Auburn University

“It’s just amazing. I’m truly blessed with the opportunity God has given me.”

That opportunity? For Cody Greenhill to play next-level baseball at Auburn University.

Greenhill committed to Auburn last October after the AU coaching staff saw him pitch at a tournament in Florida. “He’s had good instruction and is a kid we think can really help us right away,” said assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Bohannon.

In a signing day ceremony last week, Greenhill made that October commitment official. Joining him at Auburn will be teammate Judd Ward, who also signed last week.

“I think Cody is right down Butch’s alley,” Coach Chris Heaps commented. “Butch is a pitching guru, and Cody is a very talented pitcher.”


Wray signs with South Alabama

From RHS Coach Chris Heaps’ perspective, if Chad Wray continues the caliber of work and dedication he has shown at Russellville, he’ll “be a big time contributor” to the University South Alabama’s program, with which Wray signed last week.

“Chad was a big part of our formula last year and is going to be one of the most crucial parts of our formula this year,” Heaps said. “We’re so proud to have been blessed, just for a while, to have this talent.” Heaps said while Wray might not have been given many moments to shine at Russellville to this point, he will be a key part of the school’s chance at another trip to Montgomery in the coming season.

Wray, who plans to major in civil engineering or physical therapy and would love to progress to the Major Leagues, said South Alabama just felt like the right fit for him. “The atmosphere down there is great. It’s always warm, so that’s a plus,” Wray said. “It’s a baseball school.” He was also impressed by the school’s commitment to helping their athletes stay on track academically.


Madden joins UNA Lions

When Red Bay High School Coach Donnie Roberts thinks of Darby Madden, he thinks of a girl with exceptional basketball skills and an exceptional commitment to working hard.

“There is nobody who is going to out-work Darby Madden,” Roberts said. “She knows what’s ahead, and she’s going to be prepared for it. Her work ethic is unbelievable.”

With her dedication to the game, Madden signed Monday to play college basketball at the University of North Alabama.


RBHS’ Anna Seahorn signs for college golf

It was a special day for Red Bay’s Anna Seahorn – the day she signed to take her golf game to the next level.

Seahorn signed last week to play college golf at Wallace State, during a ceremony surrounded by friends and family in the Red Bay High School library. Her new coach, Dan York, was also in attendance.

“We are extremely happy and proud that Anna has chosen to come to school at Wallace,” York said. “She is an outstanding young lady … With her skills and being able to practice and play every day with other outstanding young ladies, we expect great things in the future.”

RBHS Coach Johnny Cleveland said it’s the first time ever, to his knowledge, for Red Bay to have a girl sign for golf.


Ward signs with Auburn University

It was earlier this year at a baseball camp that Russellville’s High School’s Judd Ward committed to playing at the next level at Auburn University. It was last week when the early signing period began that he made it official.

“Judd is the type of player I think Butch is looking for as a catalyst for his offense and the type of baseball he wants to play,” said Coach Chris Heaps. He called Ward “one of the most talented players and one of the most dedicated players I have ever had the pleasure of coaching.”


Allie Kennedy signs with Southern Miss

When a high school athlete contemplates that decision of where to pursue college ball opportunities, building connection with the prospective head coach is crucial. For Red Bay High School’s Allie Kennedy, her relationship with Southern Miss Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis began when Kennedy was moved up to varsity in seventh grade during a Christmas tourney. That was the first time Lee-McNelis saw Kennedy play. Last week, the Lady Tiger signed to continue her athletic career at Southern Miss.

For RBHS Head Coach Donnie Roberts, Kennedy is his first ever Division 1 signee. He praised her as a “very talented player.”

“Allie has always had a tremendous work ethic,” Roberts said. “She never lets me down in practice. I’ve never had to discipline her for lack of hustle or effort. She’s always given it her very best.” He particularly praised her ball-handling skills. “She’s got the sweetest jump shot I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.


Big day for Burgett

In spring 2016, Bevill State Community College announced the return of its athletic programs, following a five-year hiatus after the closure of all programs in 2011. With a scholarship signing at Red Bay High School Monday, a local student-athlete will be part of the rebuilding at Bevill.

Landen Burgett impressed the coaching staff during a workout at Bevill State, and he will continue his baseball career there.

“He’s a left-handed pitcher, and we’re looking for quality left-handed arms,” explained Head Coach Joey May. “We’re rebuilding, so we’re recruiting right now, and we’ve put together a really good recruitment class so far. Landen is one of those guys we have high hopes for, and we think he’s going to be great.

“We’re really excited to have him.”