Before the year began, Sullivan Central’s shining jewel was expected to be the girls basketball team.
The Lady Cougars didn’t disappoint.
And although they fell short of their goal of reaching the TSSAA Class AA tournament, Central’s girls turned in arguably the best season in school history.
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In a season made up almost exclusively of wins, the Lady Cougars endured two very tough losses at the end of their 2019-20 campaign.
Central started the year with 13 straight victories before absorbing a pair of setbacks in an Orlando, Florida, tournament.
A 14-game winning streak followed before Central was upset by Elizabethton in the District 1-AA championship game. The loss turned out to be costly, too: The Lady Cougars were slotted on the same side of the region bracket with Grainger. A 55-43 loss in the semifinals ended Central’s season at 29-4, which tied the school mark for victories in a season.
Abbey Crawford was the scoring leader throughout the season, averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game. Peyton Sams was second in Northeast Tennessee with 5.1 assists per game.
Finding a winning rhythm seemed to be just out of reach on the hardwood for the Cougars.
They won five of six games in late December and added back-to-back Three Rivers Conference wins in late January, but the rest of the season didn’t fall into place.
Central finished 9-22 after a hard-fought, 65-59 loss to Unicoi County in the first round of the district tournament.
Freshman Joltin Harrison showed promise for the future by leading the team with 13.2 points per game. Sophomore Ty Barb added 10.4 points an outing.
Wins have been hard to come by, but Central showed promise on the gridiron in 2019.
The Cougars followed competitive losses against Sullivan North and Volunteer with a 32-6 win over Pigeon Forge in their third game.
On Oct. 11, the Cougars defeated Sullivan East 28-14 to secure their first season with multiple wins since 2014.
Quarterback Will Nottingham had a nice junior season, passing for 1,285 yards and 15 touchdowns. Receiver Bryson Crabtree totaled 613 yards receiving with nine scores. Jay Moody was one of Northeast Tennessee’s top tacklers with 86.
Seth Robinette, a sophomore, qualified for the TSSAA Large School tournament. He finished 29th after rounds of 79 and 81.
Junior Mason Sanders earned a spot in the state meet and finished in 67th place with a time of 17:22.94.
The Lady Cougars didn’t reach the .500 mark, but a district semifinal win over Elizabethton made it a memorable season. That 3-1 victory put the youthful Lady Cougars in the region tournament, but they lost to Greeneville in the district final and to Seymour in the region semifinals.