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Five named to LHS Sports Hall of Fame

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Randy "Hondo" Vanatta

Vanatta, Byrd, Chaffin, Neal & Rhodes --
Lebanon High School will induct five new members onto its Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies planned Friday, Dec. 12 between games of a basketball doubleheader with Wilson Central High School.

Nominations were solicited from the public, with the Hall of Fame class determined by a committee of Lebanon High coaches, boosters, former athletes and one present member of the Sports Hall of Fame.

The 2014 inductees include:

Randy Vanatta, Class of 1972; Baseball, basketball & coach

Robert "Bobby" Byrd, Class of 1962; Football

Nikki Neal, Class of 1982; Basketball

Sherrie Chaffin, Class of 1982; Basketball

Richard Rhodes, Class of 1983; Football & basketball

A standout two-sport athlete during his time at Lebanon High, Randy "Hondo" Vanatta went on to become a beloved coach and mentor to thousands of students during a teaching career that spanned over three decades.

Vanatta starred as a point guard for the Blue Devil basketball team and as a centerfielder / leadoff man for the baseball team -- helping lead the basketball team to the semifinals of the 1972 state tournament with a record of 32-3.

Named to several all-tournament, all-district and all-region teams in both sports, Vanatta worked as an assistant under his former coach Hester Gibbs, before moving over to coach alongside Campbell Brandon during the heyday of the Devilette program.

He also worked as an assistant football coach under Louis Thompson and coached the LHS golf team for many years, seeing several of his players sign college scholarships.

Vanatta died in a tragic auto accident March 30, 2013. He attended Lebanon's Cumberland Junior College where he played basketball and baseball. He completed his education at Middle Tennessee State University and earned a Masters Degree from Nashville's Trevecca Nazarene University.

Bobby Byrd was a two-way star for the Blue Devil football teams of legendary head coach Clifton Tribble.

Byrd played running back on offense and in the secondary on defense where he was named All-Midstate in both 1960 and 1961 and was a key member of Lebanon's 1961 team that went undefeated during the regular season.

He went on to become a record-setting linebacker for Austin Peay State University where he piled up 489 tackles in three years as a starter. He was a two-time All-OVC selection and was inducted into the APSU Sports Hall of Fame in Oct. of 1994.

Byrd stayed close to the game as an NCAA football official for some 25 seasons, working National Championship games at the I-AA, Division II and NAIA level.

Basketball teammates Nikki Neal and Sherrie Chaffin helped lead the Devilettes to and record of 29-6 and the brink of a TSSAA state championship in 1982, falling to Smyrna in a controversial 45-43 loss in the finals at MTSU.

The pair were the offensive mainstays for Lebanon High, Chaffin bombing away from the wing in the days before the three-point goal, and Neal slashing through opposing defenses from the post area.

During their four-year varsity careers, Neal and Chaffin helped the Devilettes to three state tournament berths.

Both were All-District, All-Region. All-Midstate and All-State Tourament selections during their careers at Lebanon High and both signed with Lebanon's Cumberland Junior College where they helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to the finals of the NJCAA National Tournament as freshmen.

Fittingly, the two were inducted into the Cumberland Sports Hall of Fame in as both surpassed the 1,000 scoring mark for the Lady Bulldogs.

Richard Rhodes was a brilliant two-sport athlete for the Blue Devils, playing receiver, safety and punter for the first LHS team to earn a TSSAA playoff berth, and small forward for the basketball team.

His 1982 football team finished 7-4 and lost in the playoffs to eventual state champion Lincoln County.

Rhodes was named All-Midstate by the Nashville Banner for both sports and was an all-district selection for football and all-district / all-region in basketball.

Upon graduation from Lebanon High, Rhodes signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent and scholarship papers to continue his education and football career at the University of Cincinnatti where he was a three-year starter for the Bearcats and ranks among the program's all-time tackle leaders.

The Lebanon High Sports Hall of Fame inducts new members every other year.

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Bobby Byrd, Hondo Vanatta, Lebanon High School sports hall of fame, Nicky Neal, Randy Vanatta, Rich Rhodes, Richard Rhodes, Sherrie Chaffin
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