published Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

South Pittsburg star running back Jajuan Lankford going to ETSU

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    South Pittsburg's Jajuan Lankford rushes the ball during the first half of the TSSAA Class 1A state championship game at Tennessee Tech in December. He has committed to play collegiately at East Tennessee State.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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South Pittsburg star running back Jajuan Lankford has committed to continue his football career with East Tennessee State's revived program.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Lankford is the fourth player from the area to commit to sign with the Buccaneers on Wednesday, joining Pirates teammate and linebacker Kahlil Mitchell, East Hamilton linebacker Austin Gatewood and McMinn Central defensive back Denzell Boyd.

ETSU, which discontinued its football program in 2003, is resurrecting the sport this fall but will not begin playing games again until 2015 as a member of the Southern Conference.

"I like the environment around the campus and the atmosphere with the program," Lankford said Monday night. "They've got a good business school, and that's going to be my major. I like going into a new program where I feel like I've got a good shot at playing time."

Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech also have been courting him.

Lankford, who is the first South Pittsburg player to be a two-time Mr. Football finalist, rushed for 1,548 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, averaging more than 12 yards per carry against a regular-season schedule that included seven playoff opponents and five teams that were either district champions or state-ranked. He also is the Pirates' career rushing leader with more than 5,300 yards and helped them finish as Class 1A state runners-up.

"He's a great athlete with great quickness and cutting ability," Pirates coach Tim Moore said. "He can do some things that will help him at that level because he can also run with some power."

Bledsoe duo pass 1,000

Bledsoe County senior guard Eric Hale surpassed the 1,000-point mark in his high school basketball career Saturday when his 15 points helped the Warriors clinch the boys' District 7-AA regular-season championship in a 61-40 victory at Sequatchie County.

Hale joins classmate and backcourtmate Blake McCloud in accomplishing the feat this season. The two played sparingly as freshmen, played about half the game each off the bench as sophomores and have started the last two seasons.

"Those two, in all my years of coaching, have put more work in on their own outside of what we do than anybody I've had," Bledsoe coach Mark Cagle said. "They love basketball. Any free time they have, that's what they're doing. They've both really improved their shooting since they've been in high school. They just work at it."

Hubbard also to 1,000

Heritage junior guard Jada Hubbard eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last Friday in the Lady Generals' win against Ridgeland and isn't too far from becoming the school's all-time leading scorer.

Hubbard joined Brittany Harvey as the program's only two 1,000-point scorers and did so against the same team. In fact, the moment was quite the deja vu for coach Eddie Bryant against one of the team's rivals.

"It's common practice to inform the opposing coach before something like this happens, but we were playing Ridgeland, and when Brittany Harvey did it against them I told Coach [Matt] King and he put a box defense on her and made it really tough on her," Bryant recalled. "So I didn't want to tell him, but we did and he reminded me what happened last time. Sure enough he put a 1-3 defense in with a chaser on Jada, but she still managed to get it."

Hubbard, who did not know she was closing in on the mark, hit a 3-pointer in the third period to get it. The game, which Heritage went on to win, was briefly stopped as she received a game ball.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or

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