For young football players aspiring to take their game to the collegiate level after their high school playing days are done, you couldn’t script it any better.
Second overtime. Down three. A national championship game berth on the line. The ball in your hands.
For Scott County’s Billy Hall, that was the scene in Waleska, Ga., where his Reinhardt University Eagles were facing off against Southern Oregon in the NAIA semifinals. It was a showdown of two undefeateds, and Hall — a true freshman at Reinhardt — was the starting quarterback.
It’s the kind of scenario you dream about when you’re playing Storm football in the Peewee ranks. For Hall, a dream became a reality — and likely sooner than he could have envisioned, after Eagles’ starting quarterback, Dylan Wiggins, suffered an injury that prevented him from playing in Saturday’s game.
Hall didn’t just fill the QB1 position in Saturday’s semifinal game, and he didn’t just manage the game. He excelled, completing 15 of 21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 44 yards and another score. He led the Eagles to a 37-34 win in double overtime and was named the game’s offensive MVP.
It should’ve been no surprise to anyone who watched Hall’s high school career that he was ready for the moment when it presented itself. He excelled as a two-year starter at Scott High, helping lead the Highlanders to back-to-back playoff appearances and several school records for wins. He and his father, Scott County Director of Schools Bill Hall, are one of only two father-son duos to start at quarterback for the Highlanders (the other is Trinity Baptist Church pastor Dilbert Terry and his son, Josh Terry, who is currently the Highlanders’ offensive coordinator).
Hall’s big moment is a statement for student-athletes in Scott County: there is no reason local kids can’t aspire to play on the world’s biggest stages. From Oneida’s Dylan West, who walked on at the University of Tennessee and earned a scholarship with the Vols, to Scott’s Jake Sexton, who led his Austin Peay team into Neyland Stadium as a starting quarterback, to Oneida’s Alex Bond, who was a part of four NCAA Tournament teams at Maryville College, local student-athletes have been proving time and again that the sky is the limit, with the only limitations being an ability to dream and a work ethic to make those dreams a reality.
So to Scott County’s youth who are wearing or will wear the red or the orange, dream big. And then dare to achieve those dreams. Our area may be rural, far away from the bright lights of the big city, but that doesn’t have to be a limitation.
It was a big week for Scott High’s Lady Highlanders. After a 1-4 start to the season in a stretch pitted by big-time competition, they picked up two key wins last week, by far the biggest of which was a 56-47 win at Austin-East to open the District 4-AA season.
Scott was closer to an appearance in the district championship game than most folks realized last season. Yet the Lady Highlanders aren’t getting much respect from around the district as this season gets underway. After a district alignment that saw the Knoxville private schools — Catholic and CAK — removed, and Fulton and the Roadrunners added, most folks are talking about Alcoa, Kingston, Fulton and, yes, Austin-East . . . not so much Scott High.
For a team that is bound to be overlooked by most of the district, going on the road to pick up a conference win is a bold statement, and one the Lady Highlanders will have a chance to build on when they travel back to Knoxville to face Fulton tomorrow (Friday, 6:30 p.m.).
One of the brightest parts of the Lady Highlanders’ start to the season is the balanced play. Senior Journey Babb plays the role of Ms. Consistency, and picked up her second double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Cumberland Gap last week, but elsewhere on the roster, it seems someone different steps up each night for Scott High. In Friday’s big win it was Kyra Stanley, with 18 points and a huge fourth quarter. Other nights it’s Grace Sexton. The ability to have multiple players step up big at opportune times typically bodes well, and should be a bonus for the Lady Highlanders as the season progresses.
If you had to describe Oneida’s season with a single play, it would likely be the final shot of the Indians’ game against York Institute last week. Trailing 54-52, Oneida got the ball into Zak Kazee in the right corner. His turn-around 3-pointer for the win went halfway down, then popped out, allowing the Dragons to escape with the narrowest of victories.
Close, but not quite. That’s been the story for the Indians, who are off to a 2-4 start to the season. They’re playing better than their record indicates, and could easily be 4-2, with three wins over Class AA teams. And as for those other two games, Clarkrange picked up two wins against the Indians last week, by 17 points and 13 points, but both of those games were well within the Indians’ grasp.
For Oneida, it could be as simple as learning to win — not unsurprising for a rebuilding team with a first-year head coach. It stands to reason that those close games will eventually start going the other way.
In the meantime, the Indians have a chance to open the district season on a high note this week. They start conference play with visits to Oliver Springs and Midway, and both of those teams are still searching for their first win of the 2017-2018 season. If the Indians can pick up wins in both games, they’ll be 2-0 in district play for the first time since any of the current players have been on the roster. That would be a huge confidence builder as the Indians get set for a more difficult stretch to close out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule, with district games against Harriman, Oakdale and Coalfield.
From the Pressbox is a sports analysis/opinion column appearing weekly in the Independent Herald.