Sparta mourns loss of two sports legends

Posted By | January 26, 2012 12:00 am

WCHS legends. Sparta and White County lost two of its all-time great athletes this week. Kenneth Jolly (left) and Stan Mitchell lost battles with extended illnesses within approximately 36 hours of each other earlier this week.

The name Jolly and Mitchell will forever be a part of the grand history of sports in this town. Leading that charge were Kenneth Jolly and Stan Mitchell.
This week the proud and rich heritage of the local sports scene was dealt a blow with the passing of two of the town’s greatest sports icons.
In a town as small as Sparta, the outstanding athletes become heroes in their hometown. Unfortunately in just over a 36-hour timeframe, the community has lost both Kenneth Jolly and Stan Mitchell. Both had been battling extended illnesses. Jolly passed away just before 11 p.m. Sunday night and Mitchell died just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Both were standout athletes for White County High School, whose remarkable careers went much further. Both Jolly and Mitchell are members of the WCHS Sports Hall of Fame. Both were also members of legendary sports families in this town.
Kenneth Jolly was a graduate of the WCHS class of 1958, who excelled on the basketball court scoring more than 1500 points. After being a star at WCHS, Jolly took his career on to Tennessee Tech, where again he was a star for the Golden Eagles. After a stint in the army, Jolly returned to Sparta to teach and coach at his alma mater. Under his guidance through the years, many of Sparta athletes reached new heights of success on the hardwood.
That list of success continued onto his children. Kenneth’s daughter, Kellie, recently joined her father in the school’s Hall of Fame. All of her success has been profiled recently in the newspaper. Both his sons, Brent and Ross, also went on to play for WCHS. Brent helped lead the Warriors to back to back state titles, followed in his dad’s footsteps playing at TTU and is now an assistant coach at Chattanooga. Ross is also coaching at the collegiate level. He is the assistant women’s coach at Tusculum. With Kellie the head coach at North Carolina State, it makes a perfect three for three of Kenneth’s children who are now coaching college basketball.
In addition to all three of his children, Jolly has worked with numerous other basketball players through the years helping develop skills that earned many college scholarships.
The Jolly sports legend also includes his wife, Peggy, and several of Kenneth’s brothers and sisters.
Another family name also carries a lot of weight in sports circles in this town. Stan Mitchell laid the foundation for that legendary status.
Mitchell starred in both basketball and football at WCHS, but football would be the sport that took Stan the furthest. During Stan’s tenure at WCHS, he quarterbacked the Warriors to what still stands as one of the greatest careers at WCHS. The team capped off his high school career with a perfect undefeated season his senior year. At that time, there was not a football playoff.
Upon graduation from WCHS in the spring of 1962, Mitchell continued his football career at the University of Tennessee where he was a three-year starter at fullback for the Vols.
Mitchell capped off his football career at UT scoring the final touchdown in the Vols’ 27-6 win over Tulsa in the Bluebonnet Bowl. For his career, he finished with 1,266 rushing yards and remained in the Top Ten in rushing yards on the UT top Ten until the early 70’s.
Mitchell was drafted by the Miami Dolphins where he played five seasons alongside Larry Csonka. The duo became known as Bronk and Csonk the Dolphin backfield.
His best seasons were in 1967 when he played in 14 games and gained 269 rushing yard and his final season of 1970 when he appeared in all 14 games.
Mitchell, along with Dale Farley, was the first inductee into the WCHS Hall of Fame.
Mitchell’s brothers, Wayne and Steve, were also standout football players for WCHS. Wayne was also a quarterback for the Warriors. Steve played at WCHS before finishing out his career at a prep school and then went on to letter for the Vols for three years at defensive end.
Mitchell’s niece and nephew, Candice and Cameron, were standouts on the hardwood for the WCHS basketball teams in the latter part of the 90’s continuing the Mitchell sports legacy in Sparta. Candice went on to play college basketball for Belmont.
Both Kenneth Jolly and Stan Mitchell gave the sports fans of this town many moments to cheer about on the hardwood and gridiron. Now the town mourns the loss of both these extraordinary athletes, but also will take time to celebrate the legacy these two have left behind both on the court and field as well as their every day lives.

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