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|SPORTS SECTION - FEBRUARY 23, 2000|
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Diamond Tigers Open Season Next Wed.
Pitching Key For CHS Baseball Team in 2000
BY DREW BRANTLEY
After a season that ends in the playoffs, the first questions about the next year are, who is graduating and who is coming back for a return trip?
For the Commerce Diamond Tiger squad, they lost a good bit of their offense and pitching, but return several key players. Dustin Allen has moved on to play for North Georgia College and State University. With him went one of the most dominating pitchers in Northeast Georgia. His bat provided a significant portion of the Tiger offense as well.
"No doubt we're going to miss Dustin," coach David Cash said. "You don't lose an arm like that easily."
But back from that team are five starters and several others who saw action.
Daniel Carder moves up on the pitching rotation to Allen's spot.
"Daniel will be instrumental to our success," Cash said. "He's our leading pitcher and he needs to be one of our top two or three hitters."
Rising with him is Matthew Owensby. Wes Smith and Dane Cottrel each saw time on the mound last year as well. Bobby Worley and Charlie Epps come up from the junior varsity to provide more depth for the pitching staff. Jefferson transfer Wes Massey may also see time on the mound, Cash said.
Adam Stephenson started some for the Tigers at first last year. Craig Henderson joins him to battle for time at first.
Smith is back at second base.
Owensby will handle shortstop. Worley should see some time at short when Owensby pitches.
Epps and Cottrell will fill in at third base.
Massey should settle in at left field. Brody Beardon will be the starter in center. Carder will be right field when he doesn't pitch. Cotrell will also see time in right. Nick Moulton is recovering from a broken collar bone. When he is healthy, he will see time in the outfield.
Brian Allen and Chad Jordan are the catchers, but neither has varsity experience.
"Pitching is going to have to be our forté," Cash said. "Our hitting is going to take some time."
Cash said Greater Atlanta Christian is the clear favorite in the subregion this year.
"GAC was the state runner-up last year and they have eight starters coming back." Cash said. "We've got a chance to get back to the playoffs, though. We're going to have to play well against Jefferson and Buford. And we're going to have to win the rest of our subregion games."
Commerce opens the season next Wednesday at Rabun County at 4 p.m.
The Commerce junior varsity baseball team should boast as many as 14 players. Some players will spend time on both the varsity and JV squads.
But getting time for all the players is the key for the season, according to coach Mark Hale.
"We want to get as many innings as we can for as many people," Hale said. "We'll try people at different positions to see where they can help when they get to the varsity. They get to come out and be a part of varsity practice and see what that is all about. But it really just gives them an extra two months of practice before the summer starts."
CHS Field Leads
Core Of Lady Tigers Returns For 2000
As the Commerce track teams prepare to start the 2000 season, several of the ones the team counted on in the end last year are back and looking for more.
For the boys' team, shot and discus men Casey Gary and Twion Shealer are poised to rise to the top of the state again this year.
Shealer was the state champion in the discus as a freshman and reached fourth place last year as a sophomore.
Starting slowly but finishing the year on fire, Gary was the runner-up in the shot put last year.
For the girls' team, the season's highlight last year came at the state track meet.
The mile relay team ran the best race of their lives when the points were on the line and earned a berth at the state meet in Albany.
Stephanie McFadden also reached state in the 800. Christy Westmoreland took the individual region title in the 3,200-meter run last year. After the pair reached state this year in the cross country as the girls' team seems poised for more success in 2000.
McFadden, Christy Westmoreland, Anna and Elizabeth Roller, Shemika Reed and Susan Simmons are all returning parts of the Commerce girls' track team.
Mixed in with those veterans are newcomers Crystal Rainwater and Mashenta Hester. As a group, the team has a chance to put together some points at the region meet, according to coach Jason Oliver.
"We got Christy, Stephanie and the four-by-four team to state last year," Oliver said. "But we were close to getting in on some other things. We had some third and fourth-place finishes in some other things. If they do well this year and be competitive, we've got a chance to get even more of them to state this year."
The boys' track team does lose a lot from last year's team.
Two-time state medalist Doug Oliver transferred to another school, and runners Michael Collins and Monté Williams are not out this year for track.
But some other key people are back with Shealer and Gary.
Adam Perry will return as the pole vaulter and 300 hurdle man.
Justin Wood and Adam Bagwell are back as the long distance runners.
Lee Sorrow is a newcomer who should figure into the mix by the region meet.
BCHS JV girls closed court with firm gavel
The Banks County junior varsity girls' basketball team finished a 7-2 season with three straight wins.
The strong finish was a visible indicator of how the team got better as the season progressed, according to coach Kelly McDuffie.
"The thing that stands out for me is the improvement of every player on the team from the begining of the season to the end," McDuffie said. "They just showed a lot of character. They showed a lot of hustle and guts to overcome adversity and come out successful."
Jessica Mullins and Maggie Elrod were each sidelined for part of the season, but came back. Mullins missed time after knee surgery. Elrod went down with mononucleosis.
The leading scorers for the team were Megan Williams, Joni Martin, Taffy Carruth and Elrod.
Williams' highlight of the year came in the Lady Leopards' game against Habersham Central when she hit 16 of 19 free throw attempts.
The team closed out the year with wins over Towns County (53-44), Oglethorpe County (55-29) and Union County (43-37).
Williams led the team against Towns County with 14 points. Carruth added 11 points.
Elrod scored seven points, while Kristen Carlan added six.
Elrod scored 13 points against Oglethorpe County to lead the team. Williams reached double figures with 10 points. Martin had nine points. Carruth and Janet Crutchfield each had five points.
Carruth scored 11 points to lead the win over Union County.
Elrod had 10 points. Martin scored eight points. Williams added seven points.
ends at state
BCHS boys take loss in first round
BY DREW BRANTLEY
While it would be preferable to still be on the ride that is the state playoffs, Banks County's final stop of the basketball season was well worth the price of admision.
Scoring runs, three-pointers, leads and deficits were just par for the course in a wild first-round 57-54 loss to Athens Academy for the Banks County Leopards.
The game was in doubt for both sides from the tip-off to the final shot of the game.
The playoff loss ended the Leopards' season at a mark of 14-11.
Banks County turned around a disappointing season a year ago to finish the year as the Region 8-A North runner-up.
"I was very proud of this group," coach Mike Ruth said. "They accomplished more than the expectations I had for them. But one of their goals was to make the state tournament. They said they were going to make it, and they did."
Until seven seconds were left in the first half, Banks County trailed Athens Academy. Three times in the second quarter, the Leopards cut the lead to two or fewer points. But each time Athens Academy would pull away. The Spartans reached a nine-point lead with just more than three minutes to go at 23-14. For the rest of the period Banks County mounted a 12-2 run. Mike Ivey scored eight of Banks County's points during that span.
But it was his brother Chris Ivey who hit a short jump shot that finally lifted the Leopards over the Spartans, 26-25.
The third quarter continued the string of runs by each team. Bonds hit a layup to start the scoring in the second half and give Banks County a 28-25 edge. Athens Academy then scored seven straight points to take a 32-28 lead with just more than four minutes to go. Just more than a minute later, Bonds hit another layup that tied the game at 34-34.
But the Spartans responded with five straight points to take a 39-34 lead into the final period.
The Leopards opened the quarter with a 7-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer by C. Ivey with 5:45 to go to make the score 41-39 in Banks County's favor.
Bonds hit a layup with 3:55 on the clock to give Banks County its largest lead of the game at 49-42, that capped a 15-2 run for the Leopards.
For the final three minutes of the game, neither team led by more than three points.
C. Ivey hit a free throw with 1:25 to go to lift Banks County 52-49. Athens Academy hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 52-52 with 1:15 to go.
Bonds gave Banks County its final lead of the game with a layup with 32 seconds to go in the game. The Spartans hit another three-pointer with 21 seconds left that put Athens Academy up for good 55-54. Two more Spartan free throws ended all scoring with five ticks left on the clock. Banks County got two shots off but neither could find the mark.
"The two seniors (Blakley Crumley and Justin Smith) stepped their game up this year, and everybody followed right in behind them," Ruth said. "I couldn't ask for a better group. It was a fun year for me just to work with kids who have that kind of attitude."
Making a run at the state playoffs this year should help the the returning players next season, Ruth said.
"When we got beat down there it was very emotional for us. You could tell that it hurt them. But this bunch cared a lot. And that committment goes on after the leave the program. It's like when Blakley told the bunch of them that he and Justin would be in the stands next year keeping up the family tradition. We are just like a family."
Of the four boys' teams from Region 8-A that reached the state playoffs, only champion Greater Atlanta Christian advanced to the second round. Buford and Union County each lost their games Saturday.
In girls' action, all four Region 8-A teams will move on to the second round at Floyd College in Rome. Buford and Rabun County each won their games Friday. Towns County and Jefferson completed the sweep Saturday night with their two wins.
BCHS soccer opens
After playing three games in the first week of the regular season, the Banks County soccer teams are well into their second year on the field.
Banks County will host Johnson of Gainesville this Friday night. The teams will travel to Lakeview Academy in Gainesville next Monday and Forsyth Central the following day.
Banks County opened the season against East Hall last Tuesday. The girls lost to the Lady Vikings 1-0.
The Leopards lost 6-1 to East Hall. Joey Lincoln scored Banks County's goal.
The boys lost Friday night to the all-boys Riverside Military Academy.
Banks County's teams took two losses Tuesday night to Gainesville.
Unlike most sports at Banks County High School, soccer is played in three classifications in the Georgia High School Association: Class AAAA, AAA and AA/A.
The two smallest classification combine to play for one championship.
Banks County is forced to play schools in soccer that it does not play in any other sport.
All of the schools in Hall and Forsyth County are in Banks County's region for soccer.
That includes the first three opponents in East Hall, Riverside and Gainesville. But it also includes Johnson, Lakeview Academy, Forsyth Central, South Forsyth and North Forsyth.
In last season's boys' postseason play, Gainesville was put out 2-1 in the second round of the state tournament last year by the eventual champion St. Pius X. Gainesville's girls also reached the second round.
Diamond Dragons win tournament opener
BY ADAM FOUCHE
The Jefferson High School Dragons baseball team took a 6-4 victory in their season opener against Athens Academy Tuesday night in the Banks County Invitational Tournament.
Jefferson will face Jackson County Thursday at 7 p.m., at Jackson County. The Dragons will then face Oglethorpe County Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Banks County, and Lakeview Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Jackson County.
"We got a win, and it was great," said Dragon head coach Chuck Cook. "I had no clue what was going to happen going into this game. Overall, I was well-pleased."
The Dragons were helped in part by senior first baseman Clint Bryson's three-run shot to left-center field in the fifth inning. The homer gave Jefferson a 6-2 lead late in the game.
"It was huge," Cook said of Bryson's home run. "It shows how good of a hitting team we can be when you have your number four hitter batting seventh."
Jefferson started off the fifth inning with an out, before Jeremy Love reached on a choppy grounder that hopped over the Spartans' second baseman. Justin Gooch came in to run for Love and was pushed to third on Joseph Laird's bunt. Gooch later scored on Kyle Potts' single to right field.
Potts and Drew Couch, who was pinch running for Shane Wilburn, were on base when Bryson came up to the plate.
Jefferson put up a strong defensive showing through the first half of the game. Pitcher Corey Hill held the Spartans scoreless through two and two-thirds innings before two runners crossed the plate, one on an outfield single and the other on a double steal.
"Our defense played well to begin with," said Cook. "We made some mistakes late, but I expect it because we're young. We don't have a lot of experience."
The Dragons anted up with Athens Academy in the bottom half of the second inning with two runs of their own. Hill hit a grounder to third, and a bad throw to first allowed a run to score. Hill came around to score after Wilburn doubled to the right field fence.
Hill got into trouble in the fourth inning, loading the bases on three straight walks. Cook brought in Love to pitch. Love went to full count on the next three batters, sending each one to the dugout with a strikeout.
The Spartans made a last-ditch effort to catch up with the Dragons in the seventh inning.
Athens Academy put two runners on base, setting up Bucky Woodruff's score on a tag after a fly to right field. John Pettee then crossed the plate on an error.
Hill finished with four strikeouts, five walks, and two runs on two hits over three innings.
Love threw four innings, struck out six, and gave up two walks and one earned run.
At the plate, Bryson was 1-for-3 with three RBIs, Love 2-for-4, Wilburn 1-for-3, Gurley 1-for-4, and Maddox 1-for-1.
wrestlers prepare for state tournament
BY TIM THOMAS
The Jefferson USA wrestling club did well at last weekend's state qualifying tournament at Dacula. Nineteen USA wrestlers from Jackson County will wrestle in the state tournaments.
The 10-and-under tournament will be held Saturday at Parkview, and the 11-to-14 tournament is scheduled for March 4, at McEachern.
Taking first place in their respective age and weight classes were: Cain Finch, Cody Hardy, Christopher Jackson, Jed Gurley, Forrest Garner, Micah Hartsock and Jason Fields.
Earning silver medals were Kole Hardy, Kyle Hardy, Cam Thurmond, Tyler Highfield, Alex Simmons, Corey Mack, Jed Gurley, and Daniel Pelham.
Cason Thurmond, Cutler Finch, Bryan Thompson and Daniel Love all earned third-place spots. Finishing fourth were Andrew Thompson, Tyler Hardman, Will Roper, Aaron Martin, Matthew Pelham, Brandon Watson and Lornorian Sims.
Ty Finch finished fifth in the 50-pound pee wee class, and Jake Gurley took fifth in the 125-pound schoolboy division.
The top three finishers qualify for the state tournaments.
The USA team also placed well in a tournament last month at Winder-Barrow.
Cain Finch, Christopher Jackson, Jed Gurley and Jay Fowler earned gold medals. Silver medals went to Kole Hardy, Andrew Thompson, Kyle Hardy and Tyler Hardman. Winning bronze were Cutler Finch, Corey Wilkins, Cam Thurmond and Nick Durrence (two weight classes). Ty Finch, Aaron Martin, Tyler Porter, Adam Durrence, Cason Thurmond and Bryan Thompson each took fourth, and Tyler Highfield finished fifth.
Jesse Fowler took first place at the recent tournament in Dublin, and Jason Fields won the gold at Bremen.
The Jefferson USA wrestling team is coached by Tim Finch, Todd Samples and Cody Guined.
far can Lady Dragons go?
BY TIM THOMAS
Jefferson's Lady Dragons will take on Landmark Christian Thursday at 4 p.m. in Rome, in the sectional round of the girls' state basketball tournament.
Landmark qualified for the sectional round by beating Walker last week, 49-36. The Lady Eagles' most recent common opponent with Jefferson was Paideia. Landmark defeated the Pythons 42-38 in their region tournament, avenging a 59-43 loss two weeks earlier. Jefferson defeated Paideia in early January, 63-51.
"They have a 5'11" point guard named Ashley Key," said Jefferson coach Kevin Jacobs. "She's an all american quality player. They've also got a 6'3" kid inside who's muscular and gets a lot of second chances."
If the Lady Dragons can win Thursday, they will play again Saturday at 4 p.m. Their opponent would be the winner of Thursday's Towns County - Calhoun contest.
"Calhoun and Towns are both pretty good," said Jacobs. "Calhoun is just like us. We played them at Clemson this summer. It's the same type of basketball - run, press, shoot threes. Towns is real physical inside, and they've got a lot of kids back from last year. They're not real tall, but they are very physical."
Jefferson made the sectional round with an 84-58 win Saturday over Social Circle. Five Lady Dragons scored in double figures in the game: Lee DuBose (16), Annie Goza (15), Staci Childress (12), Brooklyne Marlowe (11) and Melinda Floyd (10).
A pair of wins this weekend would propel the Lady Dragons into the final four next week at Macon. The first round games will be played Monday, with championship games Friday. All four region 8 teams are still alive in the tournament, and chances are good that two might make the final four. Region 8 is the only one to still have four teams in the tournament.
Buford looks to have an inside track to the championship game. Rabun County must get by Paideia, then take on the top-ranked Lady Wolves to go to Macon. With Towns and Jefferson both strong in one of the weaker brackets, odds are pretty good that one will survive this weekend.
Turner County and Taylor County, regions 1 and 3 champions, are likely to battle for the final four slot in their bracket. The fourth bracket features three region champions - Savannah Country Day, East Laurens and Calhoun County.
Lady Panthers Fall In Dalton
Jefferson Girls Win, Banks Boys Bow Out
BY TIM THOMAS
Coming from behind to win doesn't happen often in the state basketball playoffs. Quality teams tend to hold on to early leads, as the Lady Panthers learned Friday.
Jackson County was eliminated from the state tournament Friday after losing to Northwest Whitfield, 59-49. The loss capped a season which saw the Lady Panthers win six of their first seven games, then lose five of their last seven.
In Friday's game, a late Jackson County rally failed to dig the team out of an early hole.
A three-pointer by Abrielle Varnum gave the Lady Panthers an early lead. Krystal Britt drew an offensive foul to force a turnover, and Jackson County looked to be on their way.
The Lady Bruins' game plan was to keep Jackson County outside, and they executed to near-perfection. Jackson County forced an obscene number of turnovers, but could almost never capitalize.
Monic Stewart was blanketed underneath, and the Lady Panthers lost a number of possessions trying to force the ball inside to her. Stewart finished with 11 points, most of them in the fourth quarter.
The stifling Northwest defense held Jackson County in check after the opening minutes, and took a 20-6 lead into the second period.
Northwest had trouble handling the ball in the second, at one point turning the ball over on five consecutive possessions. A pair of shots by Varnum and another by Britt closed the gap a bit, and April Cantrell hit two free throws to make the score 25-16.
Britt and Stewart grabbed defensive rebounds on consecutive Northwest possessions, but Jackson County still struggled to convert on the offensive side. The score at intermission was 28-16.
The third-period scoring would seem to reflect a defensive quarter, but the 10-6 effort by Jackson County was more the result of poor offense on both sides. Northwest started the frame with turnovers on seven straight possessions, but the Lady Panthers still could not put the ball in the hoop.
"We just didn't have any offensive weapons that were consistent," said coach Annette Watts. "We just could not score."
Stewart finished the period with a basket for Jackson County, after missing twice and then getting her own rebound. In spite of the Lady Panthers' lackluster offense, the gap had been closed to six.
Jackson County showed some life to start the fourth, as Stewart rallied the team with a pair of early buckets and a block. Two minutes into the frame, Stewart hit one of two foul shots to bring the Lady Panthers within three, 36-33.
Northwest went on a nine-point run at that point, putting the game out of reach. Varnum hit a three-pointer at 2:48 to make it 45-36, but the Lady Bruins executed good ball control to hold the lead. A 16-for-22 performance from the foul line in the closing minutes sealed the win for Northwest Whitfield.
Varnum finished with 19 points, Britt with seven and Megan Elliott five.
"We had a great year," said Watts of her team's 16-10 season. "I'm really proud of them." The Lady Panthers will lose five players to graduation, all major contributors - Britt, Carly Parr, Stewart, Toya Thomas and Varnum.
REGION 8-A GIRLS
Region 8-A made a clean sweep of its first round state games.
All four teams will move on to the second round at Floyd College in Rome.
Jefferson made easy work of Social Circle Saturday night 84-58.
Five Jefferson players scored in double figures. Lee Dubose led the Lady Dragons with 16 points. Annie Goza had 15 points. Staci Childress scored 12 points, while Brooklyn Marlow and Melinda Floyd had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Jefferson will play Landmark Christian Thursday at 4 p.m.
REGION 8-A BOYS
Of the four boys' teams from Region 8-A that reached the state playoffs, only champion Greater Atlanta Christian advanced to the second round.
Banks County's boys lost 57-54 to Region 7-A champion Athens Academy Friday night at Hancock Central High School in Sparta.
Buford and Union County each lost their games Saturday.
Panthers win opener,
BY TIM THOMAS
If Tuesday's opening game is any indication, the Jackson County Panthers should be well improved over last year's 7-17 season.
Jackson County earned a 17-10 come-from-behind win over Oglethorpe County Tuesday in their first game of the Bi-County tournament.
The Panthers will take on Jefferson at home Thursday at 7 p.m., then travel to Banks County to face the Leopards Saturday at 4 p.m. Tuesday will see the Panthers back at home against Athens Academy at 7 p.m.
Things looked good for Jackson County early in Tuesday's game, as starting pitcher Michael Hill struck out two Patriot batters. Oglethorpe stranded a base runner after failing to hit the ball out of the infield. Michael Savadge led off with a bloop single to center field for Jackson County, but was stranded on base.
Hill struggled in the second inning, giving up a run on a double, a walk and a hit before hitting an Oglethorpe batter. As is often the case in baseball, hitting the batter seemed to rattle Hill, who hit three other batters before Tim Whisnant was brought on in relief in the third. In the meantime, Oglethorpe racked up 10 runs on five walks and only two hits.
The Panthers picked up three in the second, and Whisnant held the Patriots in check for the remainder of the game, pitching four and two-thirds innings while giving up one hit, two walks and no runs.
Jackson County had 13 hits and eight walks in the comeback win. Jeremy Smith, filling in at catcher for a sick teammate, led the team with a 2-for-3 effort, including a double, a walk and four runs batted in.
"We just kept with it and started hitting the ball," said head coach Rusty Hendricks. "It was kind of like two different ball games. Our guys never quit, and they showed a lot of character."
The win came in spite of the fact that Jackson County was missing two starters, a fact that Hendricks says points to good depth on his team.
"Jeremy [Smith] stepped up and filled in nicely," said Hendricks, "and Adam Doss did well at second base. When we have to make some moves, we can move some guys around."
Jackson County committed four errors in the game, including two costly ones during Oglethorpe's two-inning, 10-run blast.
"Other than those two errors, we played pretty solid defense," Hendricks said.
Region 8-AAA features two ranked teams, North Gwinnett (8) and Madison County (9). The Raiders will host Jackson County on March 15, and North Gwinnett will visit on March 31.
Soccer teams slow
out of the gate
BY TIM THOMAS
Soccer teams from Jackson County will host a pair of quality Dacula teams Friday. Girls' action begins at 5 p.m., with boys starting around 7 p.m. The Panthers will travel to Loganville Tuesday, with boys kicking off at 4:30 p.m. and girls around 6 p.m. Junior-varsity teams will be in action on both dates.
The Lady Panthers started their season on a winning note Thursday, 6-2 over Oglethorpe County.
"It was very encouraging," said coach Emily Mercer, "but I told them they needed to make sure they didn't get overconfident." Mercer said the team was a bit too confident Monday in a visit to Winder-Barrow. The Lady Bulldoggs put the hammer down early, scoring six goals in the first 20 minutes.
"They [the Lady Panthers] were still overconfident," said Mercer, "but they kind of went into shock after Winder scored their first two goals." Despite a lopsided halftime score, the Lady Panthers started well in the second half.
"In the first seven to 10 minutes, they were doing great," said Mercer. "They were very aggressive, but lost confidence after Winder scored again."
Boys' coach Ron Garren, just out of basketball season, also took his team to Winder Monday. The Bulldoggs took a very aggressive win, keeping the ball on the Jackson County end of the field much of the time. The Panthers made a number of drives into Winder territory, moving the ball in well but coming up short of a goal.
JV Raiders look
for winning formula in 2000
BY BEN MUNRO
Though many faces may be new, the plan for success is still the same.
"We've just got to be sure we play hard, have lots of hustle and just have a lot of fun," JV head baseball coach Ken Morgan said of this year's squad.
As long as the junior varsity squad can adhere to these basics, Morgan believes the team, who finished 8-6 a year ago, can continue their winning ways during the 2000 season.
And from what he's seen on the practice field thus far, the squad seems to have the blueprint for a successful campaign.
"I believe the outlook is very positive," Morgan said of the team, who has been practicing since the end of January. "They have worked hard and learned a lot. There are new faces and new challenges, but I'm looking forward to seeing how they'll play. I'm ready to get a game or two under our belt."
Leading the way for the JV squad this season are some key returning players, including pitcher-first baseman Adam Jordan, a junior; center fielder-pitcher Chris Burroughs, a sophomore; and third baseman-pitcher Whitney Sapp, also a sophomore.
Starting positions are still up in the air right now according to Morgan, who added that there "has been a lot of good competition in practice for positions."
The 12-man squad should shape up like this: freshman Tray McKay at catcher; freshman Preston Shiflet, sophomore Brandon Rogers and Jordan will all split time at first base; freshman Josh Barnett at second base; Sapp at third; freshman Josh Berryman at shortstop; sophomore Josh Stephenson in left field; Burroughs and freshman Michael Allen in center; and freshmen Tony Tittle and Cody Threlkeld in right.
While the squad has a healthy number of outfielders, Morgan said that the lack of depth at the infield positions, with the exception of first base, might present his team with some problems.
"We're only one deep at a lot of our infield positions so hopefully we won't have any injuries," Morgan said.
As for pitching, the squad will look to use a six-man staff. Those Morgan figures will see action from the mound are Jordan, Sapp, Burroughs, Threlkeld, Berryman and Rogers.
"Hopefully, pitching will be one of our strengths," Morgan added.
The JV Raiders will play a 12-game schedule this year, which will kick off with a road trip to Stephens County March 2. Madison County will play their first home game March 6 against Gainesville. After the regular season concludes, the squad will then take part in the Hart County Invitational Tournament in late March.
MCHS golfers eyeing
third straight trip to state
BY BEN MUNRO
The expectations surrounding the Madison County High School golf team have certainly changed in recent years, to say the least.
A program that had lain dormant for most of its 26-year history has suddenly produced a run of three state tournament trips in the past five years, raising the standard of golf in Madison County considerably.
And with back-to-back state tournament appearances under their belt, advancing past the region tournament is now becoming more of an expectation than a cause for celebration.
"Expectations are very high for this year," said Madison County golf coach Mark Turner, who is in his fifth year of directing the golf program. "I would be very disappointed if we don't go to state and finish better than seventh - what we finished last year."
That statement alone is an indication of the strides that the golf program has made.
"We have been lucky to have some very good golfers move in over the past few years," Turner said, referring to former Raider golfers Jedd and Jay McLuen along with current Raider golfer and defending AAA state champion Ryan Hybl, all of whom transferred to Madison County High School and helped guide the Raiders to state tournaments. "The program has really come along in the last five years, but we are going to need some of our home-grown boys to step up."
As for this year, Madison County looks to have possibly their most talented team ever.
Leading the team again this year will be Hybl, a senior, who has left his mark in junior golf and high school golf over the past few years with his accomplishments on the course. The University of Georgia golf signee and the 1998 American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year will look to defend his individual state championship while also trying to guide the squad to their third consecutive trip to the state tournament.
Occupying the number two spot on the squad is senior Lee Allen, who will be another key for the team if they are to make it back to the state tournament.
"We're looking for Lee to break out and play like he is capable of playing," Turner said.
As for the final four starting spots on the team, Turner said that they are tough to nail down. Turner pointed to five players who will be competing to fill the final spots: juniors Jason Poss and Rodney Kessler, and sophomores Jeremy Cooper, Tyler McSpadden and Steven Tippins.
Other players on the squad include sophomores Brandon Hayes, Dustin Walker and Frank May. This year's team has no freshmen but does include two eighth graders, Shane Murray and Keith Ayers, who will compete on the JV squad.
According to Turner, for the team to attain their goals, some will have to have breakthrough seasons to aid Hybl and Allen.
"I'm going to need two of those five guys to be able to shoot 80 around region time if we want to go to state and make a run," Turner said.
However, grabbing one of the top two spots in the region and advancing to the state tournament will be no easy undertaking. According to Turner, Oconee County, whom he thinks will be the favorite to win state this year, and Dacula are looking strong this year and could stand in the Raiders' path.
"It's going to be a three-horse race in our region," Turner said. "It will be difficult to go to state."
Overall, Turner likes the direction the golf program is heading. However, he believes that the key to future success will be getting golfers started at earlier ages.
According to Turner, the middle school will soon be incorporating golf into their physical education curriculum, helping youth become more interested in golf.
"If I can get kids in middle school playing golf, then I think we can become a respected program in the state," Turner said.
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