Shawn Middleton (right) enjoyed his 100th win as leader of the Siegel Lady Stars with trusted  assistant Tim Westfall by his side. 

by Danny Brewer

When you are sitting at the Texas hold’em table and those first two cards are dealt, the best you can likely hope for is a pocket pair of aces. The other players may not initially know how good you have it, but in the end, everyone figures it out.

Rutherford County high school sports has long been a high stakes game. Talented players and good coaches have made life especially exciting over the past two decades. Deeply rooted in this game have been two devoted leaders that may have not always gotten their just due. Recently, each reached a milestone number with their current teams and these cards were revealed as the aces some already knew they were.

Smyrna softball coach Lonnie Drayton reached 100 wins as leader of the Lady Bulldogs.

Shawn Middleton of Siegel and Lonnie Drayton at Smyrna have been dedicated men that have been delivering the goods for many seasons. Having coached multiple sports in Rutherford County over the years, they have positively influenced the lives of many young athletes. Both are now deeply immersed in the sport of girl’s softball and recently each won their 100th game as leaders of their respective program.

Shawn Middleton has been a magical force since first walking onto the Smyrna high campus in 1998 as an assistant football coach. As an assistant in football, boy’s basketball, baseball, softball, and the head coach in girl’s basketball at Smyrna, this Riverdale graduate helped raise many Bulldogs. Having led the Siegel softball program to all-new heights over the past four seasons, interestingly enough, Coach Mid reached the 100 mark with a win over Smyrna.

“I honestly didn’t even think about that number until after the game”, says Middleton. “I just care about my kids and the little things we do to make each other better on and off the field. The 100 is not about Shawn Middleton, it is about all the great players I have had over the past four seasons.”

Lonnie Drayton is cut from a similar cloth. A 1995 graduate of Smyrna high, Drayton has nothing but purple and gold pulsing through his veins. In 2003 he became an assistant to the legendary Steve Willey at Smyrna and has been on Bulldog drive ever since. As a head coach in both boys and girls basketball at different times, Drayton has also guided many Dogs in the right direction. Having assumed the leash for the softball program some six seasons ago, this devoted Bulldog has re-installed the bite for the 2013 class AAA state champs. Hitting the 100 win mark is something the dedicated Drayton puts in perspective.

“I don’t even think about any of those numbers regarding myself”, says the one-time Bulldog basketball sharpshooter. “None of this happens without having great players and a great staff. The number 100 is about them more so than me.”

It is obvious these two have some similarities in their approach. Perhaps that is why they have both enjoyed popularity with players and parents alike.

“I have always been a player’s coach and try and communicate with kids based on them and their mentality,” says Middleton. “You have to know your personnel and what makes them tick. You try and always problem solve and move forward with your players. Having great people around you makes things easier and guys like my assistant at Siegel, Tim Westfall, is what really makes it happen.”

“For me it has always been about the culture of this softball program”, says Drayton. “I really enjoy coaching this sport, but you can’t have success without support from your staff, players and parents.”

These two are both unassuming and selfless in their approach. Each has succeeded in one of  the most competitive sports in Rutherford County. If they happened to be a pocket pair before, make no mistake, the cards are now on the table and Shawn Middleton and Lonnie Drayton are no doubt aces in the coaching world. And for the record, Siegel is currently sitting atop the district standings with Smyrna nipping at their heels in second.