Every year is unique in the sports world, but it would be hard to argue that 2020 wasn’t the most unique of all.
Though 10 of the 12 months were drastically altered by COVID-19, some great stories still emerged during a year that, more than ever, needed sports as a distraction fron much weightier issues that dominated the news cycle.
Here are numbers six through 10 of the top 10 local sports stories of the year. The top five stories will be revealed next week.
10. A world champion cornhole player
Five years ago Tipton County resident Lynda Oglesby won a cornhole set at a local chili cook off.
She had never played the game, which involves throwing bean bags toward a board with a hole in it.
But Oglesby was willing to give it a try, so she set the boards up in her backyard and started tossing.
“I couldn’t hit the boards and when I did they slid off,” Oglesby said.
She got a little better as time went on and she decided to enter a tournament.
“I got beat so bad,” Oglesby said with a laugh. “It was embarrassing, so I went back to the yard and kept playing and learning.”
Oglesby and Maggie Geiger won the American Cornhole Organization world doubles competition last July in Columbia, S.C. It was her first world title after placing third last year in Las Vegas.
She hosted the first local ACO regional tournament Sept. 12 at the old Brighton High School gym with 84 people competing for titles in juniors, singles and doubles. Players from Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and West Tennessee took part. There were 15 juniors (under 18) who competed, which Oglesby is particularly excited about.
“Eighty-four players, that’s big,” Oglesby said. “That’s like a major event. I’m so excited the sport is growing in our area. To have 15 compete in juniors, that’s great. I really want the kids involved.”
9. Brighton wins playoff game despite month-long layoff
Nobody knew quite what to expect when Brighton took the field Nov. 6 for a Class 5A first round playoff game vs. Dyer County because nothing quite like this had ever happened before.
Thanks to COVID-19, the Cardinals had not played a game in nearly a month. If the Cardinals had come out sluggish or rusty, that would have certainly been understandable.
They did not.
Just like it was in their last game Oct. 9 vs. Fayette-Ware, Brighton’s rushing attack was unstoppable.
Braxton Sharp and Nick Harvell, just like Oct. 9, both had monster games on the ground as Brighton moved on to round two with a decisive 48-28 home win.
Sharp, who has been one of the best sophomore running backs in West Tennessee this season, ran for 219 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries.
When he wasn’t running right through the Dyer County defense quarterback Nick Harvell was. He finished with 170 yards on 27 carries.
Brighton’s season ended a week later in a round two loss at Henry County, but considering all the circumstances, winning six games (two by forfeit) was quite an accomplishment.
“If you look at it we had no spring football, no scrimmages and had to replace six games,” Brighton head coach Mike David said. “With that we really wanted to do well in the playoffs and make sure we were playing our best football at the end of the year. That’s what we were shooting for and I really truly believe we were.”
8. Munford football claims a region title
Five of the seven teams in Region 8-5A did not play football in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.
That left Brighton and Munford as the only programs standing, meaning the game between the Cardinals and Cougars on Sept. 18 would decide the region title.
And what a game it was.
Brighton’s rushing attack was nearly unstoppable, racking up 399 yards, but Munford used its own potent offense and a late defensive stop to pull out a 39-34 victory and win the region title.
When Nick Harvell broke a 66-yard touchdown run with 3:39 left in the third quarter, Brighton led 34-23 and appeared to be in control of the game.
Munford answered on its next possession with a 71-yard, 12-play drive that culminated with a beautiful 13-yard TD catch by Traveon Hawkins.
After Munford stopped Brighton at the Cougar 33, Munford drove 77 yards and went ahead 39-34 on a 37-yard quarterback run by Jaxon O’Neal with 4:48 left in the game.
Brighton took over possession at its own 20 and moved to the Munford 30 with 17 seconds left. Icarius Hodgin intercepted a Tyler Todd pass in the end zone to put an end to things.
At that point in the season, there was no official word that the Shelby County teams were not going to play at all.
Munford head coach Slade Calhoun, however, had a strong feeling the win had clinched a region title.
“I told the guys we’re region champs,” Calhoun said after the game. “Those Memphis teams aren’t playing.”
7. Lady Chargers just miss state tourney that didn’t happen anyway
It’s doubtful that when it was announced in mid-March the Division I girls state tournament was cancelled because of COID-19 that members of the Covington Lady Charger basketball team felt any better about coming up short.
It was just another strange twist in an unprecedented year.
The Lady Chargers had won 15 of 16 games heading into the region tournament and it looked like they were headed for a second straight trip to the Class AA state tournament.
After beating Craigmont and Mitchell, however, Melrose edged Covington in the region title game, forcing Covington to travel to Martin Westview for a sectional game to earn a state berth.
Westview freshman Jada Harrison scored 33 points and Covington lost, 50-45.
It was still a stellar year for Covinton, which went undefeated in league play to earn a second straight district and won 28 games.
6. Charger basketball denied state berth
Fans were packed to the rafters and five deep behind each baseline last March 9 in Jackson in a sectional game between South Side and Covington.
It was one of the last crowds like that to attend a 2020 high school basketball game, just days before the reality of COVID-19 became apparent.
South Side entered the game 31-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state.
Covington, with a senior-laden roster, was looking to make it state for the first time since 1987.
The Chargers played toe-to-toe with the Hawks most of the game, weathering several runs to stay within striking distance for three-plus quarters.
Travontae Powell, who scored eight points in the second quarter and finished with 14, scored late in the third quarter and Covington trailed by just four. But South Side answered with a 20-4 run to push the lead 20 with 3:24 left in the game and went on to a 77-57 win.
A 78-75 loss at Wooddale, the state’s second-ranked team, in the region title game forced Covington to travel to Jackson.
The ways things worked out, Covington was forced to beat one of the state’s top two ranked teams – Wooddale or South Side – to make it to state.
As we now know, however, the COVID-19 cancelled the state tournament anyway.
“You just have to get ready for next year,” Covington head coach Charles Mitchell said after the South Side loss. “The kids had a great season. It was just one of those things.”