To their long list of accolades add another trophy and title for Henry County’s shooting program.
Known as the No Fly Zone, the group of straight shooters recently added another feather to their cap by winning the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) Tennessee state championship in Nashville back in mid-June where some 227,000 targets were busted.
They’ve now raised their sights, aiming high for the upcoming national title, which will be fought for in two weeks at the big gig in Columbus, Ohio. More than 3,000 kids are expected to participate from across the country.
A testament of their ability resides in the trophy case at Holly Fork Shooting Complex, where the walls are lined with handsome plaques and trophies. In fact, the clubhouse there may need to add another wing just to display all the recognition the local SCTP program has earned.
“We’re ranked as one of the top three programs in the state,” said a proud Drew Williams, head coach of the local shooting program for the last six years. “This year was our best showing ever as in addition to eighteen individual shooting awards there were forty squad and team trophies brought back to Henry County by the No-Fly Zone marksmen.”
Williams, along with assistant coaches Dustin Mackey, Doug Overton, Marty Visser, Jamie Orr, Caleb Orr and Steve Thomas, have donated a lot of their free time and efforts to mold these youngsters into a well-honed program.
Countless hours have been spent both on the road in competition and practicing locally at Holly Fork. Williams credits former coach Bill Neese for kickstarting the program back in 2012 and taking it to a higher level. After nine years of coaching in the program, Williams says he plans to pass the torch on to Mackey, who will take the reins next year.
“I’ll still be around but not as head coach,” said Williams, who just bought a new fishing boat which he and his son plan to use on Kentucky Lake.
From the local program, several youngsters have advanced to the college level on scholarships and Stuart Archer and Lucas Hobbs have already signed on to shoot at Bethel University beginning next fall.
This past year, there were 59 youngsters participating in the SCTP program. Signups for next year start in February.
Youngsters in grades 4-12 wishing to participate need only pass a hunter safety course and then pay a $200 program fee.
“We’re always looking for new kids to come into the program and welcome sponsorship as well,” said Williams, while seated in the nice clubhouse overlooking the impressive shooting complex. Funds from Henry County Helping Hand, the National Rifle Association and Midway USA Endowment Fund are some of the funding sources for the local program.
Competition is spread among five separate age groups. Categories range from double skeet, which Henry County is known for, to trap, sporting clays, skeet and a host of individual competitions spread among the wide variety of shooting opportunities and classes for both males and females.
Throughout the year, coaches help the young shooters hone their skills. So, a youngster doesn’t have to be a Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone to enter the program and get started.
The program’s season, so to speak, runs from March through July. After the national contest, the program takes a hiatus until signup time but shooters are encouraged to keep practicing throughout the year. Like most athletes, those who do it year round are the ones who progress to the next level and find their names in the winner’s brackets.
Meanwhile, several colleges across the nation now offer scholarships for shooters and the list is growing. A few short years ago that was almost unheard of.
The public can keep up with the Henry County team’s scores and progress during the forthcoming national competition by logging onto www.sssfonline.org. All the categories will be posted daily, along with the shooter’s name and scores.
For more information on the local shooting program as to both participation and sponsorship, contact Williams by calling 731-695-7615 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A tip of the hat to all the kids who fly the flag for Henry County’s shooting program and also to the coaches who are helping mold these youngsters for the future.
Good luck at the nationals and whether you win or lose, you’re still our horses and you’ve made the community quite proud.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.