Area Sports...

 August 9, 2000

Gridiron Tigers Among Decades' Best in Class A
With just more than three weeks before the first game of the season, Commerce coach Steve Savage said hisTigers still have "a long ways to go."
"We're trying to learn how to practice," Savage said. "A lot of these guys aren't used to it. Once we settle into some kind of rhythm, our team will start to get better."
The return of hot and humid weather has been another obstacle for the team this week, Savage said. "We're doing all right, but it's hot as blue blazes," Savage said. "It's 20 degrees warmer than it was last week."
Now that the 1990s are over, it's time to look at the aughts - '00s that is. But before we go too far into the present and future, it makes some sense to regard the recent past.
Several teams made significant marks in the 1990s in Class A. Commerce High School was among the best of the class.
With a .714 winning percentage, the Tigers were easily one of the top 10 teams for the decade. Last year's 13-1 mark and the 12-1 season of 1997 were the highlights of the '90s for Commerce. The team amassed an 85-34 record from 1990-99.
They reached the semifinals in the first and final years of the '90s, only to lose to Lincoln County both times.
But that seems fitting. The Red Devils posted the best record in Class A by 12 wins. Lincoln County closed out 1999 with a loss in the Class A title game. That defeat lowered its staggering record to 124-14. Lincoln County won fewer than 10 games in a season only twice. Its worst record was an 8-3-1 mark in 1994.
The decade saw the Red Devils claim three Class A titles, each with perfect 15-0 marks. For the decade, the Red Devils averaged 3.8 playoff games per year.
Macon County finished a close second, however. The Bulldogs were 110-20 with one championship. Macon County closed out the decade in Class AA with a two-year record of 11-11. Looking solely at their Class A records, Macon County finished with a mark of 99-9 for a .916 winning percentage.
Bowdon picked up a Class A title in 1992 by defeating Macon County. The Red Devils finsihed the '90s with a 101-24 record.
Charlton County waited until 1999 to win their state title, but they did not wait to start winning games. The Indians, who move up to Class AA with realignment, closed out their 10-year Class A tenure of the '90s with a 101 -28 mark for a .783 winning percentage.
Darlington had a perfect season in 1998 to claim the Class A title. The Tigers split time between Class A and AA during the decade for a combined 80-36 record.
Looking just at Darlington's Class A records, it had a mark of 56-17-1 for a .767 winning percentage.
Buford was one of the other notables for the decade with a mark of 77-36 for a .681 winning percentage.
Clinch County won a title in 1991. Complete records for Clinch County were not available at press time. From 1993-99, Clinch had a record of 53-25
Manchester split time throughout the '90s between Class A and AA. They won their Class A state title in 1997. During their four years in Class A, the Blue Devils were 51-5, winning 91.1 percent of their games.
Manchester's total record for the decade was not available at press time. Manchester won the 1997 Class A title, yielding 13 points in its five playoff games that year.
Commerce's best decade record came in the 1970s with a mark of 98-16-6 for an .859 winning percentage.
The team also posted an impressive mark in the 1980s with a record of 88-30-1 for a .746 winning percentage, claiming the 1981 Class AA title.

Team working three sessions per day during camp week
While the season is still three weeks away, the Banks County High School football team is working hard to be ready for Jackson County Sept. 1, coach Rance Gillespie said.
"We've got some areas that we've got to get better," Gillespie said. "But there's a lot that we're excited about. They're not holding back."
Gillespie said that the tone in practice was being set strongly by the upperclassmen.
"We've had good senior leadership," Gillespie said. "They've set a great example for the rest of the team. We've just got 35 kids that love to play football."
Gillespie is also pleased with the way the underclassmen have stepped up.
"Our underclassmen are falling in to place, giving 100 percent," Gillespie said. "We're looking for the younger players to be able to give us a good look. They're giving us a great opportunity to get better."
During this week of camp, which sees the Leopards out for three sessions each day, preparing mind and body are equally important, Gillespie said.
"Camp is more than just a chance to go out three times a day and work on fundamentals," Gillespie said. "There's an element of mental toughness to coming out. It's an opportunity to check your team's character.
"We've been real pleased with the character of our team. It's a challenge to come out three times a day like we do."
The Leopards will conclude this week of camp Friday with picture day at 4:30 p.m.
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.

Volley Cats to kick off 2000 fall sports
A year after a successful season that saw them qualify for the state sectional tournament, Jackson County's volleyball team has a quite a few big shoes to fill.
Gone from the 1999 team are five seniors, all of whom saw extensive playing time. Team captain Kasey Hill, spirit leader Megan Riley, Caroline Williams and Susan Yang all were lost to graduation. But the team's two biggest losses will be the hardest to make up for.
Monic Stewart inked a volleyball deal with West Georgia after the 1999 season. Stewart's powerful net game will be hard to replace.
As if that weren't enough, head coach Michelle Gentry accepted a position at area rival Madison County. Coach Robin Potter has stepped in to assume Gentry's position on the sideline. Helping Potter with the transition will be JV and assistant varsity coach Heather Backer.
"It's going to be a rebuilding year, obviously," Potter said during practice this week. "But I think we're going to be competitive. We've got Alex [Rudio], Julie [Griffith] and Stacey [Finch] coming back, and we've got several young players." Potter indicated that a number of sophomores will also be expected to step up to the varsity level. Another new face is senior Jamie Colston, a transfer from Illinois.
The GHSA realignment will benefit the Volley Cats in more than one way. Last year, the team had to beat a strong Oconee County team to make the sectional. The Lady Warriors will compete in AAAA this year. In 1999, classes A, AA and AAA were grouped together for state qualifying. This year, class AAA will be alone, meaning Athens Academy, another strong team, will not be an obstacle.
"There's only three teams in our area, and two of those will move on to the state sectional," Potter said. Jackson County will host both their area (Oct. 5, and 7) and sectional (Oct. 14) tournaments, giving the team a home-court advantage over the competition.
Check out the Volley Cats' 2000 schedule on Page 2B.

Tony Bennett and Love in victory lane
Tony Bennett's dream season continued Saturday night at Lanier National Speedway as he took the lead with eight laps to go in the 50-lap Coca-Cola Pro Late Model feature enroute to his seventh win of the season.
Bennett qualified seventh behind RE/MAX pole sitter Shane Chastain, who turned a lap in 13.917 seconds. After the green flag waved for the feature, Bennett wasted little time breaking into the top five, as he surfaced to fourth on the fifth lap.
Bennett worked around Jamie Stephens' Chevrolet on lap 20 and seemed primed to run down leader Chastain. But the pole-sitter's Chevrolet consistently held a three car-length lead for the next 15 laps until struggling to lap the Chevrolet of Tom Salley.
That was just the break Bennett needed to narrow the margin, and seven laps later his Pontiac blasted into the race lead. A late caution on lap 44 gave the field a chance to line up on Bennett's bumper, but it proved fruitless as Bennett pulled away on the restart and led by five car lengths over Chastain at the checkered flag.
"I had just about given up on catching Shane until he had trouble with that lapped car," commented Bennett in victory lane. "I'm just picking up where Jimmy Garmon left off in the Southern All Star Race here last Saturday," Bennett said when asked how he is beating the competition in the corners. "He (Garmon) never missed a beat."
Rounding out the top five were Jamie Stephens, Stacy Long and Tom Hardy in the Cornett Thunder Ford.
Twenty-two trucks took to the track Saturday night as preparation continues for the PARTS Pro Truck race to be held at Lanier August 19th. Many drivers used the 30-lap event as a test session. PARTS Pro regular David Elliott grabbed the early lead from pole sitter George Williams Jr.
Elliott then surrended the lead to Maysville's Joey Love on lap 17. Love held on by one truck-length to claim the win.
"I didn't know if I could outrun him (Elliott)," Love said in victory lane. "He was squirrelly in the corners, and I wasn't." Williams could only sit back in third and watch, as he never mounted a serious charge to take the lead.
Rodney Benefield took fourth, followed by Coon Ayers.

Georgia all-star team finishes fourth in Dixie World Series
The Georgia Dixie Majors All Star team, which included four players from Madison County High School, recently competed in the Dixie World Series in Euless, Texas, July 28 through Aug. 3. With 12 teams represented at the World Series, Georgia made a strong performance by finishing fourth.
The team began play on Saturday, July 29, by defeating Florida 10-3. On Sunday, the Georgia team also defeated North Carolina 9-2. Monday night, Georgia was up against a strong Mississippi team. Georgia was losing 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. With base hits by the first three batters, Chad Youngblood, Michael Koppin and Steve Cogswell, they were able to tie the score.
A solo home run by Matt Crump in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Georgia team the win over Mississippi.
On Tuesday, with Georgia and Louisiana both being undefeated, it came down to the last inning. Louisiana hit a home run late in the game to give Louisiana a 6-5 victory over Georgia. Wednesday, the Georgia team squared up against a strong Texas team, losing 5-4 to eliminate them from the tournament.
During their stay in Texas, ,the team attended a banquet on the morning of July 28 and opening ceremonies that Friday night, hosted by the city of Euless, Texas. Sunday night the team was treated to a Texas Rangers game in Arlington Stadium.
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