E.A. Sports Today

Smith cleared

Notebook: Wellborn coach eager to ‘move forward’ after not guilty verdict, several local wrestlers ranked No. 1, Alexandria injury update, Heflin’s Boyd to sign

Alexandria seventh-grader Jaden New is ranked No. 1 in the state in 106 by Rank Wrestlers. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Alexandria seventh-grader Jaden New is ranked No. 1 in the state in 106 by Rank Wrestlers. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The most stressful two months of Jeff Smith’s high school coaching career came to a close Wednesday when the Wellborn football coach was found not guilty of a harassing charge leveled against him after an incident following a game in October.

Anniston Municipal Court Judge James Sims ruled Wednesday after hearing the case last Wednesday.

“I’m relieved it’s over and we’re moving forward,” Smith told East Alabama Sports Today.

A complaint was lodged against Smith after an alleged altercation between the coach and a ninth-grade Wellborn player, Jaden Harris, in the team room following the Panthers’ 47-16 loss to top-ranked Piedmont on Oct. 7. Smith turned himself into authorities a few days later.

Calhoun County schools superintendent Joe Dyar and Wellborn principal Chris Hayes found no wrongdoing on Smith’s part in their investigation of the case and Smith continued to coach the team through the remainder of the season.

The Panthers finished 5-4, but playing in the toughest region in the state they missed the playoffs for the first time under Smith.

An intense and demanding coach, Smith just completed his 20th season as a head football coach and his eighth at Wellborn, his alma mater. He is 131-89 overall, 55-34 with the Panthers.

Smith said he didn’t know what to expect when he entered the courtroom Wednesday saying, “I was in uncharted waters.” He said the last two months have been “very hard” on his family and it was “very tough” listening to events of the incident recounted in the courtroom.

A few hours after the judge’s ruling, Smith was out in the community distributing more than 20 Christmas food boxes to needy families, a service he has provided since returning to Wellborn in 2009.

“I love this school, I love this community and I love our players,” he said. “I’m thankful to the good Lord it was not guilty and we can put this behind us and move forward and get back to the goal of winning a state championship out here.”

TOP OF THE HEAP: Calhoun County has five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in Alabama in their respective weight divisions in the Rank Wrestlers Top 5 posted Wednesday by Southeastwrestling.com.

Four of the No. 1s are in Class 1A-5A and one is in Class 6A.

The 1A-5A No. 1s are Alexandria’s Jaden New (106), Weaver’s Nick Souder (126), Alexandria’s Christian Knop (182) and Ohatchee’s Caleb Montgomery (220). Oxford’s Matt King is No. 1 at 160 in 6A.

Four other local wrestlers are No. 2 in their weight classes.

In all, 24 wrestlers from Calhoun and Cleburne counties are listed in the Rank Wrestlers Top 5.

The Southeast Wrestling rankings won’t be announced until Monday.

Here is a listing of Calhoun/Cleburne County wrestlers in the Rank Wrestlers poll:

Class 1A-5A Top 5
106 – 1. Jaden New, Alexandria, 7th (13-1); 5. Cody Souder, Weaver, 8th (14-3).
113 – 2. Reed Hill, Ohatchee, Fr. (7-0); 3. Dylan Turner, Cleburne County, Jr. (16-1).
126 – 1. Nick Souder, Weaver, Sr. (17-0).
132 – 4. Brady Rinehard, Wellborn, Sr. (5-0).
138 – 3. Zac Williamson, Cleburne County, Fr. (17-0).
152 – 2. Tyler Mayfield, Cleburne County, Sr. (12-0).
170 – 2. Kyle Clapper, Weaver, Sr. (15-2); 3. Hayden Pitts, Ohatchee, Sr. (7-1).
182 – 1. Christian Knop, Alexandria, Fr. (14-0).
195 – 3. Cade Smith, Cleburne County, Soph. (16-1).
220 – 1. Caleb Montgomery, Ohatchee, Sr. (9-0); 2. Austin Snelling, Ohatchee, Sr. (12-1); 5. Zach Chandler, Wellborn, Sr. (4-1).
285 – 3. Caleb Allison, Weaver, Soph. (6-1); 5. Jordan Brooks, Saks, Jr. (8-1).

Class 6A Top 5
106 – 5. Chase Hicks, Oxford, 8th (21-7).
113 – 5. Sawyer Bentley, Oxford, 7th (5-0).
120 – 4. Landon Burrage, Oxford, Soph. (20-8).
152 – 5. Gryce McDaniel, Oxford, Jr. (16-7).
160 – 1. Matt King, Oxford, Jr. (21-0).
182 – 3. Jack Peavey, Oxford, Sr. (10-1).
285 – 2. Clay Webb, Oxford, Soph. (2-0).

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Just when the Alexandria Valley Cubs lost another key piece to their basketball team for an undetermined period, the news for another injured Cub wasn’t as bleak.

Dalton Dodd returned to the doctor Tuesday for a reevaluation of the left ankle injury he suffered in Saturday’s loss to Oxford and it was confirmed he had a high-grade ankle sprain. Dodd will be undergoing therapy over the Christmas break and will “try” to be back in two to three weeks.

Jamal Tucker also been out since hurting his ankle in the Oxford game and is expected back Friday.

Both players missed Monday’s win at Wellborn and Tuesday’s overtime loss to Southside. Josh Tucker, who has been giving the Cubs some inside scoring and rebounding, left the Southside game in the second quarter with a foot injury, but further examination revealed no break.

All the players the Cubs have sick or injured could make up a pretty good starting five – Dodd, Jamal Tucker, Josh Tucker, Joe Tucker and Thorn Thornton.

Jake Weathington has been starting in Dodd’s place.

“We weather the storm of injuries,” Cubs coach Jason Johnson said. “It’s given some other guys opportunities and experience.”

THE NEXT LEVEL: Shawntavia Boyd’s long road to playing college basketball comes to the finish line Thursday morning when she signs with Southern Union.

The versatile Cleburne County senior has been a team manager, fought back from a serious knee injury as a sophomore and doesn’t mind doing the dirty work it takes to make a difference. She has played all five positions on the floor this season, averaging 11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and collecting 23 steals, 14 assists and three charges.

“These are the moments that make coaching great,” Lady Tigers coach Todd Gable said. “I have coached this kid hard for many years and she was physically and mentally tough enough to handle injury and tough love and tough coaching. She loves basketball.”

Cleburne County's Shawntavia Boyd proudly displays the 'Charge Belt' that recognizes a Lady Tigers ability to take a charge.

Cleburne County’s Shawntavia Boyd proudly displays the ‘Charge Belt’ that recognizes a Lady Tigers ability to take a charge.

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