Each year fans of West Tennessee high school athletics have the privilege to watch some of the top athletes in the state compete on a daily basis.
As the school year goes on, we name our All-West Tennessee players of the year in each sport.
But now that the year has come to a close, we look at the top athletic performances for an athlete during the season.
Now don’t get this confused with our All-West Tennessee Athletes of the Year, which will be in the print edition of Saturday and Sunday’s sports section.
1Jordon Varnado (Haywood boys’ basketball) – Varnado, a senior and the All-West Tennessee boys’ basketball Player of the Year, dominated during all three games of the Class AA state tournament.
With double-doubles in each of the three games, he led the Tomcats to the program’s first-ever state championship.
Haywood was undefeated against teams from the state of Tennessee, and the Tomcats picked up the District 15-AA and Region 8-AA championships.
Varnado averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks per game this season. He has signed to play college basketball at Troy University.
2Kyle Akin (TCA football) – Akin, a senior and the All-West Tennessee football Player of the Year, has been the center of the TCA offense for the last four years at quarterback.
As a senior, he completed 218 of 319 passes for 3,265 yards and 42 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed 50 times for 332 yards and three touchdowns to be named the Class A Mr. Football Back of the Year.
He leaves with a career record as a starter at 30-16 including a record of 20-4 the last two seasons.
Akin has signed to play college football at UT Martin.
3Clare Taylor (TCA volleyball) – Taylor, a senior and the All-West Tennessee volleyball Player of the Year, ends her high school career as one of the top – if not the top – all-around volleyball players to come through West Tennessee.
She led the Lady Lions to the Class A state championship match this year for the first time in program history with her hitting.
She ended the season with 735 kills, 78 aces and 480 digs, and the Lady Lions did not drop a set to a Class A opponent until the state tournament.
Taylor has signed to play college volleyball at Trevecca Nazarene.
4Matthew Pickard (Trenton Peabody baseball) – Pickard, a senior and the All-West Tennessee baseball Player of the Year, led the Golden Tide to the Class A state tournament for the first time in program history during the TSSAA era.
Pickard led Peabody on the mound and in the batters’ box.
He was 12-2 pitching this season for the Golden Tide with nine complete games and four shutouts. He had a 0.72 ERA with 117 strikeouts.
Pickard also batted .435 with 12 doubles and five home runs. He had 40 runs scored and 32 RBI.
He has committed to play baseball at Northwest Mississippi Community College next season.
5Johnny Jones (Crockett County Football) – Jones, a senior and the All-West Tennessee football Offensive Player of the Year, helped bring Crockett County back on the map this season as a powerhouse as the Cavaliers reached the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Jones rushed 301 times for 2,602 yards and 52 touchdowns, and he also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Crockett County went through the regular season undefeated.
He was named a finalist for the Class AA Mr. Football Back of the Year award.
Jones rushed for seven touchdowns in the first half of the first-round playoff game against Raleigh-Egypt, breaking a TSSAA state record.
He has signed to play college football at Harding University.
6Amelia Grizzell (JC girls’ soccer) – Grizzell, a junior and All-West Tennessee Girls’ Soccer Offensive Player of the year, has already broken many records for the Lady Eagles.
This past season, she broke the record for most goals in a season and career and most assists in a season and a career.
Grizzell also helped the team to a record-breaking season as Jackson Christian advanced to the Class A-AA semifinals for the first time in program history.
Grizzell scored 45 goals this season, breaking her record from last year of 29 goals. That gives her 85 goals in her career, breaking Shelley Carter’s career record of 76 goals.
She had 24 assists this season, breaking the single-season record. Those assists give her 49 assists for her career, breaking Carter’s record of 44.
7Ashley Channell (Hardin County girls’ bowling) – Channell, a sophomore, finished off a rare feat that few athletes get the opportunity to accomplish by winning two state championships in one season.
Channell beat Upperman’s Kenzie Bowman 183-171 to win the Division I Individual State Championship for the second straight season.
She turned right around and helped lead the Lady Tigers to a second straight team championship with a 16-11 win over White House.
That is a total of four state championships for Channell in her first two years of high school.
She also won the 2014 15U Junior Gold National Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.
8Chris McNeal (South Side boys’ basketball) – McNeal, a senior and All-West Tennessee First Team member, had much riding on his back this season.
The Hawks lost four of five starters from the 2014 Class AA state championship team, and many expected South Side to struggle. But McNeal led the Hawks to the District 14-AA championship and a Region 7-AA runner-up finish for a return berth in sectionals.
McNeal averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists per game as a senior.
He has signed to play college basketball at Western Kentucky beginning this fall.
9Averyale Joy (Middleton girls’ basketball) – Joy, a senior and All-West Tennessee Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, helped lead the Lady Tigers to their first-ever Class A state championship.
When fellow senior Deja Faulkner went down at Christmas, Joy took over the leadership role completely to lead the team to an undefeated season.
Middleton won the District 15-A and Region 8-A championships with Joy controlling the court.
In each of the three state tournament games, the Lady Tigers fell behind, but Joy’s leadership helped the team win each of those three games.
Joy averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 assists and 4.0 steals this season to lead the Lady Tigers.
10Anna Jones (USJ girls’ basketball) – Jones, a sophomore and All-West Tennessee First Team member, led the area this season in scoring.
She averaged 26.3 points, 4.2 steals and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore.
Jones has the ability to play all five positions on the court for the Lady Bruins, and that is an asset for coach Tony Shutes.
She helped lead USJ to the district championship and the No. 1 seed in the Division II-A West region tournament.
11Cade Reasons (USJ tennis) – Reasons, a sophomore and All-West Tennessee Boys’ Tennis Player of the Year, brought home a gold and silver from this year’s Division II-A state tennis tournament.
After sitting out last year after transferring, Reasons joined with George Markos to win the state doubles championship.
Reasons also led the Bruins back to the Division II-A state team title.
12Matthew Tomlin (Madison boys’ soccer) – Tomlin, a senior and All-West Tennessee Boys’ Soccer Offensive Player of the Year, helped lead the Mustangs back to the Class A-AA state tournament.
He used his large frame to stop opposing teams to get through the midfield. Tomlin would continually get steals and begin to move the ball toward the offensive third of the field.
Tomlin also had 10 goals and five assists from his ability to get forward and finish on free kicks.
13Samantha McDaniel (Lexington softball) – McDaniel, a sophomore and All-West Tennessee Softball Player of the Year, used her bat and play at first base to lead the Lady Tigers to the Class AA state championship game.
McDaniel batted .490 avg with 22 2B and 14 HR to go along with 45 runs scored this season.
Her biggest hit of the season came in the semifinals as she hit a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh inning for a walk-off win over Chattanooga Central to reach the title game.
14Tucker Campbell (Adamsville boys’ basketball) – Campbell, a senior and All-West Tennessee First Team member, was named a Class A Mr. Basketball finalist.
He averaged 18.4 points and 11.4 rebounds as a senior for the Cardinals.
15Jeremiah Nance (Crockett County baseball) – Nance, a junior and the All-West Tennessee Baseball Hitter of the Year, helped lead the Cavaliers to the Class AA state tournament and a top four finish.
Nance batted .525 with 51 RBI and 59 SB.
He used his speed on the bases and centerfield to help Crockett County out in timely situations.
Michael Odom, 425-9754