Area Sports...

 July 26, 2000


Tiger Football Practice Under Way
Commerce kicked off the 2000 season with its first week of high school football practice this Monday.
About 43 players have begun the week.
Commerce coach Steve Savage said the first week of practice is a time to begin working in several facets of the game.
"We'll put in some of our kicking game," Savage said. "We'll work some on our passing game. The biggest thing though is to get everyone acclamated to the heat. They've got to get used to what it's like out here."
Full pads will be added to the practice regiment, starting Monday. Commerce will host a jamboree Aug. 25 with Athens Academy and Stephens County.
The Tigers will open the 2000 football season Sept. 1 with a game against Franklin County in Carnesville. The Tigers will open their home schedule Sept. 8 with Forsyth Central.


Leopards open 2000 with bang
For a first day's practice, ending with a bang may have seemed too much to ask for. But Banks County High School's football team combined its play with the weather to end its first day with a lightning bolt.
While football teams around the state prepared for hot and humid weather, the Banks County High School Leopards began their 2000 football season under cool and overcast skies.
What the weather lacked, the Leopards made up for by running into a heated practice schedule.
Complete with contact against padded dummies, the Leopards spent time in individual and team drills.
As the team's began their offensive groups, a light shower quickly turned to torentual downpour, which drenched everything but their spirits.
After a complete session of plays, Banks County coach Rance Gillespie called for the last formation of practice. As it was completed, the first lightning of the storm cracked across the sky.
Prepared to exit, the players made a faster jog to cover.
HEAT WILL RETURN
While the cool first days of the practice season were atypical for late July, Gillespie and the staff are ready to make sure that summer heat does not become a danger to the players.
"You've got to have a lot of concern for the heat," Gillespie said. "We're going to keep a close eye on them and make sure and give all the necessary water breaks they need."
Gillespie added that players can help fight adverse effects of the heat when they are at home.
"The most important thing is for the kids to hydrate themselves before and after they get to us," Gillespie said.
COMING ATTRACTIONS
Getting back into the pace for regular season practice is the key for Banks County, Gillespie said.
"We've got make sure we're back on the same page from what we did during spring practice," Gillespie said. "We'll spend some time conditioning and getting them acclamated to things before we get into pads. That's what this week is for."
The Leopards will add shoulder pads next week. Gillespie said the team will switch between full pads and practice in shoulder pads and shorts.
Banks County will revisit its jamboree opponents of 1999 this year on Aug. 25. After hosting Fannin County and Dawson County last year, the Leopards will travel to Blue Ridge for the 2000 meeting.
Banks County will open its season Sept. 1 at Jackson County. The two teams have kicked off each of the past two seasons.
Last year, Banks County edged the Panthers 9-8 in overtime in Gillespie's first game as coach of the Leopards.
BCHS 2000
Football Schedule

Date Team
Aug 25 Jamboree (at Fannin)
Sept. 1 Jackson Co.
Sept. 8 at Jefferson
Sept. 15 Open
Sept. 22 at Dawson Co.*
Sept. 29 East Hall*
Oct. 6 *at GAC
Oct. 13 Apalachee*
Oct. 20 at Lumpkin Co.*
Oct. 27 Union Co.*
Nov. 3 Rabun County*
Nov. 10 White Co.*
*Region 8-AA Opponent


It's football time again!
Timing is the name of the game during summer football camps around the area. GHSA member football teams were allowed to begin summer practice this week without pads. With the mercury running high recently, area coaches have scheduled their camps in the early morning hours, before the oppressive heat sets in.
Lower temperatures at the beginning of the week were a welcome sight, though Jefferson head coach Bob Gurley indicated the milder weather may set his squad back a few days. With school starting in less than two weeks, that's a few days the Dragons don't have.
"What we do next week depends a lot on the weather the rest of this week," Gurley remarked. "If it doesn't get that hot this week, we may have to wait a day or two next week before we go to full pads."
"At least we don't have to play in the heat," responded a thankful assistant coach Jeff McCord.
With Jefferson teachers returning to classrooms Monday, the Dragons will be forced to wait until 4 p.m. to begin practicing.
At Jackson County, head coach Greg Lowe and his Panthers began Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. Jackson County's sessions this week are slated to last only two hours.
Next week, when full pads are allowed, Panthers will wipe the sleep from their eyes early in order to make practice at 7:30 a.m. The six-hour practices will be divided into three sessions, with a number of breaks along the way. Panther freshmen will begin their practice sessions August 9.
Several Jackson County coaches have shuffled positions since the team last saw action. Former assistant Clay Harris accepted a job with Monroe Area, and Al Darby will drop his varsity football duties to take over as head coach of the West Jackson team.
To fill the empty slots, Lowe has moved Rusty Hendricks and Shawn Lindsay into positions as varsity assistants. Jimmy Williams is also back to coach the 9th-grade team.


Taking advantage of a second chance
The morning of September 7, 1999, began as any other for Jackson County soccer star Jeremy Friedman.
"We were going to school, and it was just like a regular morning. I was sitting back in the truck, just dozing off; I was tired."
Friedman and pal Andrew Cowart were on their way from Hoschton to Jackson County Comprehensive High School on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day. As the pair traveled on Highway 124, Cowart apparently lost control of the truck and veered into the opposing lane in front of an oncoming Jackson County school bus.
"I didn't really think anything of it," Friedman said. "He went over into the other lane, and I figured he was gonna just pull off to the left on the other side of the road and into the grass, but he didn't."
Instead, Cowart pulled the wheel to the right. The move came just in time for Friedman, but too late for Cowart, who lost his life in the collision that resulted.
"He tried to jerk it back, so that I wouldn't get hit," Friedman said. "He pretty much saved my life."
Friedman was alive, but in grave danger. He'd suffered serious internal injuries in the accident. Doctors later discovered that his spleen had ruptured in four places. Additional injuries included one broken and several severely bruised ribs, a broken thumb, a closed head injury and a number of minor cuts and abrasions.
"The doctor was clearly amazed that he survived," mother Beth Friedman recalled. "Whatever doctors we've seen in the course of this have looked at him and can't believe that he survived. If you look back and you see what he went through and see where he is now, God's blessed him. It's really a miracle."
Dad Harvey Friedman, the family comic, offered a more simple explanation.
"I think his recovery has a lot to do with the water here in Jackson County."
On the day he was released, a number of his Brookwood Soccer Association teammates showed up at the Friedmans' to welcome Jeremy home.
"The day I got out of the hospital they came to visit me. They set up a goal right outside my house, and they let me shoot one shot. I had 24 staples in my stomach and I could barely move, but still I shot it somehow."
"We didn't know if he'd ever play again," Beth said as a pair of huge dogs barked their way around the family home in the Deer Farms subdivision. "His coach came to the hospital the second day and looked at him, and he was just mortified. We didn't know whether he'd be able to play. We were just so surprised and so happy when the doctor finally told us that he would heal completely."
Even after his amazingly quick healing process, Friedman was still a far cry from his previous form on the soccer field. He'd already missed the first soccer season with the BSA, which began just days after the accident. The spring high school season was within reach, but Friedman's recovery plans were much more short-term.
"Jeremy said right away after the accident, 'Mom, my goal is Cocoa Beach at Christmas'," Beth remembered. "And he made it."
"I had to do so much home training," Jeremy said. "I had to run a lot, and I juggled the ball all day. My coach and I spent a lot of time together, training."
That coach is none other than Brookwood High School and USA Cup coach Mike Nova, who was named Georgia's soccer coach of the year in 1997. Nova also serves as head coach of the Brookwood Soccer Association's 19-and-under Select team, for which Friedman plays when he's not on the field for the Jackson County Panthers.
During the Cocoa Beach tournament, Friedman made enough of an impression on Nova to earn a spot on the USA Cup team. During last week's USA Cup competition in Minneapolis, Friedman was asked to join the 2001 team as well.
In a field of more than 60 teams from around the globe, the Brookwood team advanced as far as the tournament quarterfinals before being eliminated by eventual champion Ireland, 2-0. The game was scoreless at the half, but a second-half penalty shot got the ball rolling for the Irish team.
"It was upsetting," Friedman said of the loss, "but they went on to win the tournament, and we fared really well against them." Though he was a forward for the Panthers during the 2000 season, Friedman played left defensive halfback for the USA Cup squad.
One of the highlights of the trip for Friedman was spending time with Josh Wolf, Parkview High School graduate and star player for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.
"He's a great guy," the young athlete beamed, "and he's an excellent player. I got to meet him and talk with him. He's cool."
For Beth Friedman, the cool part was seeing her son come home.
"To see him get off that plane in his soccer stuff, compared to where he was in the accident, it was really a good feeling."
As the summer begins to wind down, Jeremy is confronted with the usual decisions facing high school juniors. Within the next two years, he must decide where to attend college, hopefully somewhere his soccer talents can be showcased for a possible professional career. But after having played in such glamorous cities as Venice, Italy and Munich, Germany, Friedman says he'd like to stay close to home. Georgia colleges Berry, Emmanuel and North Georgia are all on his short list.
"I've still got two years left, but I'm looking." In the meantime, Jeremy will continue to work as a licensed youth referee and assist friends who instruct young players at the Lilburn Soccer Academy, in addition to his BSA and JCCHS commitments. And, of course, there's always homework.
Also nestled into Friedman's schedule are frequent visits to the Cowart home, less than a mile from his own. He says spending time with Andrew's mother has helped them both deal with the accident.
"I walk in over there just like it's my house," he said.
"When Andrew was around,' said Beth, "it was 'I'm going to Andrew's, I'm going to Andrew's.' He was at Andrew's all summer long last year. Andrew's mom wanted it to remain that way after the accident."
"I was going to teach him how to play soccer," Jeremy recalled. "He wanted to play, just for the heck of it, just for fun."
Almost a year after losing his best friend, Friedman shows little reluctance to recall his harrowing accident, save a slight but obvious stiffening at the effort.
"It took more than 40 stitches to put him back together," Beth said, "but nothing was greater than the impact of losing Andrew. After the physical hurt went away, the emotional hurt came, and that's been long-lasting. But he's sorting through it."
As he continues to sort through the past, Jeremy Friedman says his life is more focused today than it was a year ago.
"My attitude toward life is a lot different. I treat life a lot more wisely. It's a lot more special to me. I'm living for Andrew now. It's for him."


Southern Amateur belongs to Hybl
After piling up a trophy case worth of wins during his junior golf days, Madison County's Ryan Hybl has now made a splash in the amateur ranks.
Hybl, a former number one ranked junior golfer, picked up his first amateur tournament win Saturday at the Atlanta Athletic Club in the Southern Amateur Tournament, claiming a two-stroke victory in one of the biggest amateur events with a 11-under-par, four day total of 277.
"It was awesome," said Hybl of the win. "I had a great week and played solid."
Hybl didn't have a hard time figuring out the difficult course, which is set to host the PGA Championship next year, as he hit 66 out of 72 greens in the event and also fired a six-under par 66 on Friday to give him a four shot lead heading into the final day.
"I hit the ball really well, better than I had been hitting it," he said. "It might have been my best ball-striking tournament of my life."
Hybl's victory in the event, which featured several of nations top ranked amateurs, helped to add some luster to what has become a fast start in his step up to amateur competition. The former Raider golfer and 1998 American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year has already nabbed four top 10 finishes in only seven events.
Hybl, a University of Georgia golf signee, started his amateur career in March with a third-place finish in the Azalea classic and followed that with a string of impressive performances this summer, finishing eighth in the Sunne Hanna Amateur and fifth in the Southeastern Amateur. He also had a 25th place finish in the Northeastern Amateur, a 26th place finish at the Dogwood Amateur and was qualifier in the U.S. Public Links and lost in the second round of the match-play event.
Hybl will be competing in the Western Amateur in Michigan in two weeks.
"I've played pretty well this summer," he said. "It's given me a good start to my amateur career."
The competition won't get any easier for Hybl as he is set to begin his collegiate career this fall as a member of the Georgia golf team. He will play in his first event when the Bulldog team competes in The Preview held at Duke University in early September, a tournament that features the top 15 teams in the preseason poll. Georgia figures to be ranked either number one or two.
"College golf is going to be a good experience," Hybl said. "It's going to be tough though because I'll be playing against some of the best college players in the world, really."


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