Student-athlete successes highlight year of prep sports
With the 2021-22 school year in the books, students sports have closed another chapter. While scholar athletes are in the early stages of preparing for their upcoming seasons, now is a good time to take a look back at the highlights of the past year – first, with a reflection on fall athletics.
Phil Campbell started its first volleyball program in several decades, bringing the number of volleyball programs in the county to five – Belgreen, Phil Campbell, Russellville, Red Bay and Tharptown. Volleyball is the fastest growing girls sport in the state, according to the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Red Bay won the Franklin County volleyball tournament. The Tigers were runner-up in Class 2A, Area 10, and advanced to regionals, where they lost to Athens Bible 3-1.
Belgreen volleyball finished runner up in Class 1A, Area 14, and also advanced to regionals, where they lost to Donohoe 3-0.
Tharptown’s Jaiden Gaston earned a volleyball scholarship to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi. She is the first girl to sign a volleyball scholarship for the Wildcats.
Tharptown’s boys and girls both finished runner-up in Class 1A-2A, Section 3. The boys program finished fourth in the state in Class 1A-2A.
Tharptown’s Gracie Montgomery and Belgreen’s Canaan Stough signed cross-country scholarships to Calhoun Community College in Decatur.
Russellville won the Class 5A, Region 8, championship in football. The Golden Tigers beat Lincoln 41-14 in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Fairview in the second round 35-21.
Phil Campbell finished runner up in Class 3A, Region 8. The Bobcats lost to J.B. Pennington in the first round of the playoffs 10-7.
Russellville’s Dallan Montgomery and Seth Franks both earned football scholarships – Montgomery to Maryville College and Franklin to Tabor College. Montgomery also earned a scholarship to UAH in track. Red Bay’s Elijah Luster signed with Myrtle Beach Prep.
THE BEST OF THE YEAR
Football Player of the Year
Connor Warhurst, Russellville
Warhurst was a versatile player for the Golden Tigers, making a huge impact in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. He carried the ball 197 times for 1712 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. He scored 18 touchdowns. On defense, Warhurst had 57 tackles and two interceptions.
Also considered: John Randle Herring, Phil Campbell
Football Coach of the Year
John Ritter, Russellville
Ritter led the Golden Tigers to the school’s second-straight Class 5A, Region 8, championship, going undefeated in area play and 9-3 overall. Ritter has a career record of 36-11 at Russellville. Ritter’s team averaged 38 points per game and gave up 18 points per game.
Volleyball Player of the Year
Kaley Chandler, Belgreen
Chandler recorded 361 kills, 102 digs, and 96 aces for the Bulldogs.
Also considered: Madeline Ledbetter, Red Bay; Jaiden Gaston, Tharptown; and Kaylie Lindley, Red Bay
Volleyball Coach of the Year
Amanda Ledbetter, Red Bay
Ledbetter led Red Bay to a Franklin County championship and runner-up in Class 2A, Area 10, in just the second year of the program.
Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year
Canaan Stough, Belgreen
Stough finished 17th in the Class 1A-2A state meet with a time of 17:57, which was also his personal best time of his career.
Also considered: Alex Quintero, Tharptown, and Yamilison Velasquez, Russellville
Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year
Briseyda Luna, Belgreen
Luna finished 28th in the state cross-country finals with a time of 22:10 and sixth in the sectionals with a time of 23:18.
Also considered: Gracie Montgomery, Tharptown, and Abby Wilson, Tharptown
Cross Country Coach of the Year
Joseph Brown, Tharptown
Brown led the Wildcat boys and girls cross country teams to runner-up finishes in 1A-2A, Section 3, and a fourth-place finish in the state for the boys program.