Journalism

It was little surprise Friday when freshman quarterback Luke Manning received a huge cheer at the HHS pep rally.

After retrieving an errant snap and then breaking tackles in an upfield scamper, Manning slung a touchdown pass to Jameson Wharton with no time left on the clock Thursday, giving the Commando freshmen team a 10-6 win over Blackman. The play was so thrilling that ESPN’s SportsCenter picked it up, and as of Friday morning it had more than 1.2 million views.

“I was totally starstruck,” Manning admitted of seeing himself on ESPN. “So many people will see it, professional athletes even.”

The final series had disaster written all over it until that miraculous play. The Commandos were down 6-4 deep in their own territory with just 46 seconds left. After a couple of bad plays, time expired, but a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Commandos one last shot with no time remaining.

And then it happened: The snap sailed over Manning’s head. “I thought, ‘Oh, no. I’ve got to get back as fast as I can.’”

He recovered the ball and started upfield, breaking five tackles before he spotted Wharton alone by the end zone.

“It was a hope and a prayer,” Manning said of the pass. “I just threw it up.”

Manning had received close to 200 responses on his Instagram as of Friday morning, the vast majority positive but also a few negative like, “Their defense was terrible; anyone could have made that play.”

He said he doesn’t let the naysayers bother him.

“It’s all part of it,” Manning said.

Coach Jack Littlejohn credited the efforts of Manning and Wharton and added that the game “was a textbook definition of a team win.”

“Our defense kept us in the game,” Littlejohn said. “If it wasn’t for the defense and the efforts of our punter Harrison Perry, we wouldn’t have had a chance at the end.”

One of the most valuable lessons new Lady Commandos volleyball coach Jason Sloan ever learned about coaching didn’t come on the court.

After 12 years of coaching, Sloan stepped away from the sport because of health reasons. It was during this six-year hiatus that he began to rethink the best way to handle player errors.

“It used to drive me nuts,” Sloan said of the mistakes he would see his players make.

Today, Sloan, who also teaches psychology at HHS, says he is a little older and a little wiser as he begins his first year back in coaching. Players need to make those errors, he said, so they can learn and react on the court, where anything can and often does happen.

“In the chaos you’re forced to think,” Sloan said, and players figure out what makes a smart play to earn a point.

Although Sloan may be new to HHS, he is definitely not new to volleyball. His coaching career began in the early 2000s at Mount Juliet Christian Academy for six years. He next moved to Rutherford County to coach at Smyrna Middle School for a year and then to Oakland High School for five more years before taking the six-year layoff.

He said that compared to other teams, the Lady Commandos get along well and are eager to learn, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

His main goal for the team is to see growth in each of the girls from the first day of the season. He wants them to be able to read the other team’s plays and make adjustments. If they can do that, he said they will have a chance to beat rivals like Station Camp and Beech.

The Lady Commandos appear to be off to a good start. Last weekend they had their final tournament before the regular season begins Wednesday (Aug. 15) at White House Heritage. They went up against teams like Goodpasture, Smyrna and Lipscomb, and Sloan saw great improvement in the girls from July. He thinks there is plenty of room for even more growth as the season progresses.

The Lady Commandos' home opener is August 30 against Gallatin.

Story by reporter Kyra Hodge, who is also a member of the Lady Commandos volleyball team.

Whether dashing off to visit relatives or sticking around town with friends, most at HHS are happy the holiday break is almost here.

CTE office clerk Zina Crowder will be enjoying it with her family.

“My son, his wife and my grandbabies will be coming home from California for the holidays,” Crowder said. “Most of our family hasn’t seen them in three years, so we’re excited.”

Trinity Palms, a senior, will also spend time with family. “Every year my family comes to my house and we drink hot chocolate while reading Psalms 100,” she said.

Meg Sewell, a junior, will be singing Christmas carols at her church on Christmas Eve. “Oh, and I’m also going to see Cirque du Soleil with my brother and parents,” she added.

Many will be visiting family in other states. Katie Rathert is going to Illinois, Cleo Graham to Florida and Hannah Atwood to Georgia. All three girls are sophomores.

But of course, not everyone has definite plans for the holidays.

 “No plans are the best plans,” said Assistant Principal Christy Wall. “I have two small kids, so we do holiday festivities to the nines. We just play it by ear.” 

Officer worker Becky Sanders will also be home for the holidays, though she’s dreaming of a warm, sunny Christmas.

“I’d like to go to Disney for the holidays,” Sanders said through laughter. “I wish Santa would bring me a trip to Disney for Christmas.” 

Assistant Principal Thomas Oglesby should win an award for busiest Christmas break. He’ll spend Christmas Eve at his in-laws' house, Christmas morning at his own house, then he’s off to his sister’s house in Gallatin. On December 27th, he’ll celebrate his 37th birthday before going to Ohio to visit his wife’s grandparents.

A college football fan, Oglesby said he’s also looking forward to watching ball games while ringing in the New Year – that is, if he finds a moment to sit down.

No matter what your plans for break, The Ville News wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Story by Bailey Guy and Carly Lancaster

More than half of HHS seniors have been touched by the national opioid crisis, a recent survey suggests.

Twenty-one of 40 HHS seniors randomly surveyed said they knew someone struggling with opioid addiction. The informal survey, which was conducted for a dual enrollment English class at the school, did not specify the subject’s relationship to the addict - whether the person was a family member, friend or acquintance.

The same students were asked whether opioid addiction is a problem in Hendersonville, and 29 of them (73 percent) answered “yes.”

Hendersonville Police Officer Timothy Roller said he encounters someone at least once a week who is “either in some kind of medical distress over opioids or has been involved in a crime and the driving factor behind it, say shoplifting, is opioids.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 90 Americans a day (about 33,000 a year) die after overdosing on opioids, a classification of drugs that includes prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl.

To put the figures into context, consider that 58,200 Americans lost their lives during the entire Vietnam War.

“It’s getting worse,” Roller said of the problem in Hendersonville. “I don’t have any specific numbers on where we stand but it seems like two years ago we never saw anything like this; now, if we arrest a shoplifter it is unusual not to find loaded needles, heroin or pills.”

Story by Giulia Giordani, Kayla Delk and Kelsey Dotson

Right up there with “Will this count for a grade?” and “Oh, when was that  assigned?” one of the most common questions teachers get this time of year is “Can I be exempt from the final exam?”

The answer is, “It all depends.”

The school handbook says students may be exempt from a final exam (not a state-mandated End Of Course test) if he or she has an A average and no more than three absences of any kind; a B average and no more than two absences; and a C average and no more than one absence.

But if only it were that simple. The handbook goes on to say that students may not have a combination of more than five tardies/early dismissals; may not have any in-school (ISS) or out-of-school (OSS) suspensions; and may not have any zeroes on assignments.

And then there is the biggest catch of all: “A teacher may require a student to take the final exam if the teacher feels it is in the academic interest of the student,” the handbook states.

In other words, teachers have a huge amount of discretion when it comes to exam exemptions. Some go along with the policy as outlined in the handbook, while others say, “No exemptions, period.”

Math teacher Jennifer Kotler falls into that latter category. “I want to have a grade that I can control and a test that I can have prepared so that it’s in the best interest of my students,” Kotler said.

French teacher Erin Flannery has a similar opinion. “Everybody should have to take them. College doesn’t exempt. Life doesn’t exempt,” Flannery said.

But agricultural science teacher Amy Rickman has a different take on exam exemptions, and it makes her more of the exception among the handful of teachers interviewed by The Ville News.

Rickman believes granting students exemptions, provided they meet the criteria, gives them an incentive during the school year.

“It rewards students for good grades and good attendance,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Story by Abbey Lewis, Sarah Kovach and Kyra Hodge

Locker? What locker?

That’s the sentiment of many HHS students who say they never use a locker and carry everything they need in a backpack.

“I don’t have time to stop in between classes,” said freshman Aislyn Zasada. “I use it maybe once a month.”

“I haven’t used it once,” freshman Hannah Adamson added, while classmate Zoe Murphey remarked, “I don’t even know where mine is if I’m being honest.”

But teachers, parents and health experts warn that students are literally breaking their backs to save a few minutes.

“Kids come in here complaining about back pain, shoulder pain, and headache all the time. I’ll go lift of their backpack, and it feels like it’s 60 pounds. They’re stuffed full,” HHS nurse Sue Buckberry said.

It isn’t only anecdotal evidence, either; studies show that most students carry backpacks that are between 10 and 20 percent of their body weight, a load that can cause serious back pain and other disorders down the road.

In theory, students should have enough time to stop by their lockers and still get to their classes on time. HHS recently extended the period between classes from 5 minutes to 7 minutes – same as Gallatin and Beech but not as generous as Station Camp’s 12 minutes.

Still, HHS students say 7 minutes isn’t enough time, especially if they’re going from one end of the building to the other and need to drop by the bathroom.

In the end, it seems they would rather risk a back ache from a heavy backpack than a detention from a touchy teacher.

Story by Olivia Nutting and Emma Miller

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