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Year in review: Regional titles set bar for Volunteer athletics

Jeff Birchfield • May 18, 2020 at 4:00 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a year-in-review series looking at athletic achievements by Northeast Tennessee high schools in 2019-20.

CHURCH HILL — Volunteer sophomore Jon Wes Lovelace came within a whisker of winning the individual boys title at the TSSAA Large Schools golf championships.

He was one of four Falcons to win Region 1 individual titles during an athletic year that saw championships on the course, in the pool and on the mat.

Lovelace beat Sullivan Central’s Seth Robinette in a playoff to win the Region 1 Large Schools tournament at the Country Club of Morristown. His round of 71 included two birdies and one bogey. In the playoff, he landed on the green with a chip shot and made a short putt to win the title.

A week later at the state tournament, Lovelace held the first-round lead and was still leading with three holes to go before Jaden Zimmer of Crockett County rallied to win. Lovelace finished as runner-up.


Tinsley Whalen, daughter of Volunteer athletic director Jim Whalen, made history by beating Dobyns-Bennett’s Ellie Hall to win the 50-yard freestyle title in the Region 1 championships.

Whalen entered the meet as the first Volunteer swimmer to earn a top seed in a regional final, and the victory made her the school’s first regional champion.


Volunteer hosted the Region 1 Large Schools individual championships, and the boys responded with two champions and five grapplers advancing to the state tournament.

Brothers Ben and Alex Tucker won individual titles. Ben Tucker defeated D-B’s Gavin Armstrong by an 8-0 major decision in the 113-pound final. Alex Tucker pinned Science Hill’s Levi Grunder to take the 195-pound title. Heavyweight Ethan Rimer, Jacob Gladson (160) and Evan Glass (106) also earned state berths.


The Falcons went 4-6 but ended on a high note by winning their last two games.

Cameron Johnson was the Times News/Johnson City Press player of the week after Volunteer’s 40-28 win over Unicoi County in Week 9. The junior running back rushed for 228 yards and two scores. On defense at the linebacker spot, Johnson made eight tackles, including two for loss, with an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Volunteer closed the season with a 35-12 win at Cocke County. Johnson had 169 rushing yards and two TDs, and quarterback Garrison Barrett threw for 264 yards and a touchdown. Barrett also scored on a 1-yard run.


The Falcons increased their win total from the previous season and got the better of Hawkins County rival Cherokee, eliminating the Chiefs from the District 1-AAA tournament in a 62-57 overtime thriller.

Evan Berry was the hero, hitting a game-tying 3-point shot from the corner to send the game into OT.


The Lady Falcons got 19 points from Atlee Dean and 11 from Kenady Knittel but came up one point short to David Crockett in the District 1-AAA tournament, falling 46-45.

Volunteer could take some solace from finishing the season with a winning record.

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