Ridaught: The end of an era

The Trenton softball team has dominated Class 1A with back-to-back state titles (2019 and 2021) and a state runner-up finish (2018) the past three FHSAA state tournaments.

The Tigers were 57-1 the last three years and would have likely won another state title in 2020 had it not been for COVID-19. They were 10-0 and nationally ranked when things got shut down.

But prior to the Tigers’ run, there was a team from Levy County who enjoyed that same kind of success.

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Chiefland made four straight state title game appearances from 2014-2017.

The Indians won three state titles (2014-2016) and lost to Union County in the 2017 state championship game, all under then head coach Wayne Weatherford.

Weatherford’s assistant, Jimmy Anderson, was named his replacement in 2015.

However, last week Anderson announced he was stepping down from coaching after 33 years.

“I give thanks to Coach Weatherford,” said Anderson, who was the booster club president when the Indians defeated Jay High School to win the 2014 Class 1A state title. “He brought me on. He didn’t have to. I coached travel ball and I guess he saw that I could help the program and I’m very fortunate that he gave me the opportunity.”

Anderson had been the head coach for five seasons but he coached his final game during last week’s district tournament. 

Last Monday, the Indians defeated Newberry, 4-3, in the 1A-District 7 quarterfinals but lost to top seed Dixie County (Cross City) in the district semifinals, 10-3, on Tuesday to finish 7-17.

“It’s a sad moment knowing it’s my last game,” Anderson said. “It will probably be worse next January or February when the kids start playing again. But it’s bitter-sweet. I’ve had a good run.”

The Indians played the Class 1A No. 2 Bears tough. 

The game was tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but Dixie County’s six-run sixth inning put the game away.

“This was probably the most errors-filled season that I’ve coached,” he said. “We just didn’t make the plays. You’ve got to make plays to win. And you’ve got to hit the ball. We didn’t hit the ball very well all year, sporadically but not as a team. I’m proud of each and every one of them though.”

Anderson, who coached football, baseball, and softball during his 33-year coaching career, but mainly softball the last 13 years, said he was blessed.

“Our kids won three state championships, a runner-up, so the good Lord has been good to me,” he said. “I hang my head about nothing. Obviously, you want to win one as a head coach but it wasn’t meant to be. The good Lord blessed me with three and a runner-up. I’m good with that.”

Meanwhile, defending 1A state champion Trenton will travel to Dixie County for Thursday’s 1A regional semifinals. 

The Bears defeated the Tigers, 4-0, last Thursday to win the district title.

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