When basketball season came, the Indians used Zane Whitson in a different way.
Together it was two very successful seasons, and Whitson’s impact helped him earn the Times News Male Athlete of the Year honor for 2019-20.
Such recognition made for back-to-back honors for the Whitson family: Zane’s sister, Courtney, was the 2018-19 female athlete of the year.
D-B won its first eight games in football and tacked on two playoff wins to finish with 10 for the season.
Whitson was in the middle of all of those victories. He finished the season having connected for 24 touchdown passes while being picked off only once, and this came against a demanding schedule that included eventual state champions Maryville (Class 6A) and Alcoa (Class 3A).
Whitson passed for 1,945 yards, hitting on 134 of 223 attempts (60%).
Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 165 pounds, Whitson wasn’t the biggest player on the football field. But his stature belied his toughness. He succeeded in football with a three-pronged combination of effort, determination and high on-field IQ.
In basketball, he put those same qualities to work. Despite not playing in the post, he was one of Northeast Tennessee’s better rebounders. He ranked in the top five at the guard position with 5.6 rebounds per game.
Unlike the more experienced football team, Dobyns-Bennett was youthful and struggled during the early part of the basketball season. But with leadership from Whitson as part of the mix, the Indians found their groove in February.
Whitson scored 14 points in a 68-63 overtime win against Science Hill, which was just the third loss of the season for the Hilltoppers.
The Indians reached the championship game of the district and region tournaments. Whitson helped the Tribe stay in the hunt through the postseason until the late stages of the fourth quarter in their sectional loss to Maryville.