Hope To Give Warren County Eagles Reason To Scream
There's nothing like the home-field advantage in a big game,
and that's what the Commerce Tigers will enjoy Friday night when
they host the Warren County Screaming Eagles in the first round
of the Class A football playoffs.
Commerce had wrapped up a home-field advantage for game one by
knocking off Jefferson; it clinched home-field play for the rest
of the playoffs (except the semifinals, which would be played
in the Georgia Dome) by beating Buford last week.
The Tigers, 8-2, enter the playoffs ranked first in Class A in
Georgia following last week's 18-14 victory over previously unbeaten
The Eagles, from Region 7A, have been screaming in defeat most
of the year. They bring a dismal 2-8 record into the playoffs,
courtesy of a system that sends four teams from each region to
the playoffs. The Screaming Eagles beat only Social Circle and
But don't expect Tiger head coach Steve Savage to be complacent.
You don't approach the playoffs without a certain amount of paranoia.
"They are extremely athletic and young," he stated.
"They were right in the game with Lincoln County Friday
night. It was 18-7 and Lincoln County faked a punt and took it
on in." The final score was 34-7.
Savage knows that it doesn't pay to regard a playoff opponent
"If you lose, you're through. There won't be any more tomorrows,"
he points out. "You can't take anything lightly."
Kickoff is at 8:00. The admission fee, which is set by the Georgia
High School Association, is $7.
Meanwhile, Jefferson will travel to Athens academy, Wesleyan
will visit Lincoln County and Buford will host Georgia Military
College in other playoff games.
The winner of Friday's game plays the winner of the 6A Trion-5A
Heard County game.
and boys' basketball teams look to seniors to lead promising
Talent, experience and leadership will all head up the Banks
County Leopard and Lady Leopard basketball teams this year.
Combined, the two teams bring 12 seniors to the court. Senior
experience coupled with the youthful aggressiveness of rising
underclassman should mix for an effective season for both teams.
The Georgia High School Association's recent realignment put
Banks County in a new region with several new faces.
Banks moves up to Region 8-AA South, joining East Hall, Greater
Atlanta Christian, Apalachee and long-time rival Dawson County.
The North subregion will include old friends Union, Towns and
Rabun counties as well as Riverside, White and Lumpkin counties.
Banks County's boys' and girls' teams will open their seasons
a week early this year. The Leopards and Lady Leopards will get
their first test in the Pepsi Tipoff Challenge beginning this
Saturday and continuing Tuesday in Jackson County.
After that, the two teams will break until after Thanksgiving.
The Lady Leopards will try to rebuild a potentially powerful
team this year after going 11-10 with a first-round playoff loss
"I've been accused of being overly optimistic, but I feel
good about this year," Lady Leopard head coach Mike Gordon
said. "We have a lot of potential talent. I've been well
pleased so far with what I've seen."
Harvesting the team's "potential talent" will be a
key for the Lady Leopards, as they look to replace several starters
from last year's team.
Banks' girls' team lost five players to graduation, including
top scorer Bree Whitlock.
But the team will be returning a plethora of senior talent this
year, including four-year contributor Haley Crumley.
"Crumley, (Laura) Carlyle and (Regina) Veal all show a lot
of leadership, character and drive," Gordon said. "They
are good examples for the younger players. Our seniors bring
good leadership to the team."
Banks County will also look to seniors Taffy Carruth, Laura Mitchell
and Jessica Mullins to provide leadership for this year's team.
Gordon said he believes the strength of his team this year will
come from the post position, more so than in previous years.
"I think we'll be strong inside," Gordon said. "We've
got quickness at guard too."
As far as the region goes, Gordon looks to Towns County, GAC
and Union County to be the team's toughest competitors. Last
year, the Towns County girls' team fought their way into the
state semifinals before being knocked out of the tournament.
The Lady Leopards will open their season this Saturday in the
Jackson County Invitational. Banks County will face a quick Johnson
team in their opening bout.
"We played Johnson this summer in camp," Gordon said.
"They are quick all over and they'll hit threes on you."
After that, the Lady Leopards will embark on a two-game road
trip before playing at home on Dec. 8.
The Banks County boys' basketball team will be stacked with senior
talent this year. Starters Victor Bonds, Bray Maxwell and Mike
Ivey will be back on the Leopards squad. All three helped the
team to a 14-11 season last year, capturing the Region 8-A North
The Leopards lost Blakely Crumley and Justin Smith to graduation.
Seniors Casey Murray and Chris Ivey will likely fill the departed
graduates slots on the starting team.
Leopard head coach Mike Ruth said he will also look to seniors
Steven Caudell and Ryan Loggins and juniors Will Gordon and Cody
Whitlock to rotate in off the bench for the team.
"We've got eight or nine deep with a good rotation,"
Ruth said of this year's team.
Ruth expects to produce a Leopard a quicker team with more pressing
"We're going to try to pick up the tempo and pace,"
he said. "We have a little more quickness than in the past.
We may work with more three-quarter and half court trapping."
The Leopards will be competing a tough subregion this year. East
Hall, a new face to Banks County, lost in the state Class AA
championship game last year and returns all of its starting talent
to the court. Ruth also said he looks for GAC to offer stiff
"East Hall and GAC will be the teams to beat," he said.
"Our side is loaded. No one can hardley compete with East
Hall and GAC. Both teams will be tough to beat."
However, Ruth didn't put a win over either team out of the realm
"We will have to play at the top of our game with no mistakes,"
he said. "Since they are on our side, if we go to region,
the first night we won't have to face GAC or East Hall. We'll
play the other side (north subregion). We only have to win one
game to qualify for state."
Union County offers the biggest threat to the Leopards in the
north subregion. The other teams likely will not be able to compete
with the south.
"We feel we can compete with anyone on the other side,"
Ruth said. "Union County will be the team to beat. Four
teams will go to state. After East Hall and GAC, that leaves
two others in contention."
Banks County will open its season Saturday against Johnson in
the Jackson County Invitational Tournament. Ruth said Johnson
was a strong team with an effective press.
"They will press us," Ruth said. "They took some
plays from the East Hall playbook. It will be a good test for
us to see if we can handle the defensive pressure."
The Leopards will go into the tournament with a somewhat rusty
squad. Three of Banks County's starters have only been practicing
with the team since the end of football season last week.
"We only have five or six days to practice our main starters
and those guys will be rusty," Ruth said. "Our younger
juniors will have to step up in the tournament."
After the tourney, Banks County will travel away for one game
before hosting Riverside Dec. 2.
Time for JHS
rebuilding to pay off
"I'm so excited, I just can't wait until Saturday."
With those words, Jefferson guard Buzz Wehunt accurately reflected
the thoughts of the entire Jefferson basketball program. For
the past two seasons, the Dragons have enlisted the help of this
year's tremendously athletic junior class in rebuilding both
the girls' and boys' basketball teams.
Now it's time for the payoff, according to the Jefferson coaching
"We're excited," said boys' coach Bolling DuBose. "This
team has spent the last two seasons building for this moment,
and it's getting ready to pay off, if we'll work for it."
Girls' coach Kevin Jacobs echoed DuBose's thoughts.
"Before, we were doing the hunting," Jacobs said, referring
to his Lady Dragons. "Now we're going to be the hunted.
Everybody's going to be out to get us. It will be interesting
to see how we accept the challenge."
That challenge begins Saturday in the Jefferson gymnasium, when
the Dragons again host the Sonny's Smokin' Shootout. Other teams
participating include Westside (SC), Holy Innocents, Providence,
West Hall, Greater Atlanta Christian and Crescent (SC). Habersham
Central's girls will also be on hand, as will the boys of Pace
The Lady Dragons get things rolling for Jefferson Saturday, when
they tip off against Crescent. The boys will follow immediately
after, also against Crescent.
"I don't know if we could make this tournament a whole lot
better," DuBose said earlier this week. "There are
going to be some great basketball games. This is a great way
for us to start the season. We'll find out real quick just what
Fans who want to find out just what the Dragons have will be
asked to pay $5 admission per entry to the event, which stretches
over a week. Tournament passes are available for $15, allowing
unlimited access to all the tournaments' games. DuBose indicated
that Dragon Booster Club members should be aware that booster
passes are not valid for tournament games.
BOYS HAVE MOST DEPTH EVER
Though the boys' team will be hampered for the first several
weeks due to football commitments, DuBose said depth is not a
"We've got seven legitimate varsity guys out already. I
told the football guys that even if they lose Friday night [in
the opening round of the state playoffs], they're not expected
to be here Saturday. Of course, if they want to come and play,
that's fine." If the Jefferson football team remains alive
after Friday's game, GHSA rules will forbid any member of the
football team from playing in the basketball tournament.
Ryan Gurley will get the call at point when the football season
is through, and Pierre Martin will step in until then.
"I don't know that I've ever had a situation where we've
had two point guards as good as these two," DuBose said.
Fortunately for DuBose, the situation is much the same at every
position on the court.
Buzz Wehunt, last season's scoring leader, returns at shooting
guard, with Gainesville transfer Chris Kinsey backing him up.
"Chris is a real smart player," DuBose said. "He's
great on defense, and he handles the ball really well."
D'Antonio Chandler will assume the third guard position, and
Michael Newton will fill in after football season. James Harrison,
who is ineligible until January, will also see some time at the
In the paint, Jefferson will be much bigger physically than in
past years. Tim Newton gets the call at the number five forward,
with Andrew Chambers, Victor Tate and Nate Carson all seeing
time on the court. Chambers, however, suffered a torn ACL during
football season, and will likely not be available until January.
The number four slot poses the biggest challenge for the Dragons.
Daniel Goza, who was killed in an automobile accident recently,
was sure to be a major presence for Jefferson inside. DuBose
will call upon a young but talented player, Shaudrick Martin,
to fill the gap.
"We really don't have a backup at the four," DuBose
said. "Losing Daniel is going to hurt, mostly from a leadership
standpoint. He was our leading rebounder last year, and second-leading
scorer, but the leadership is what I'm worried about. But as
far as talent making up for it, we've got plenty of talent."
DuBose indicated that his boys had chosen to wear a patch on
their shorts in Goza's memory, and the girls' team will likely
wear black armbands. A short ceremony is also planned at the
team's first regular-season home game Dec. 2 against Hart County.
"The first week was pretty difficult," DuBose said.
"It's like we kept looking around, waiting for Daniel to
come into the gym. He was one of the kids who carried us through
our rebuilding the last two or three years. He honestly believed
we had a shot at a state championship. All these kids think that,
and I think we've got a shot, too. I hate it that Daniel missed
out on whatever we accomplish this season. He deserved to be
a part of it."
GIRLS HOPE TO IMPROVE ON SUCCESS
Most coaches would have loved to be in Jacobs' shoes in the 1999-2000
season. The Lady Dragons' run-and-shoot style propelled them
into the Sweet Sixteen of the state tournament. Only one starter
and one sub from that team were lost to graduation. So what does
Jacobs think about his team's chances?
"We're not going to win a game all year," the coach
said in his usual convincing tone. Prod a little deeper, though,
and the truth emerges.
"We have some depth, for a change. We've been young forever,
but we're not young anymore. This team had 15 and 19 wins in
the past two seasons, and they've played together since the sixth
grade. It's time to reap the benefits."
Point guard Staci Childress will lead the Lady Dragons down court,
with shooting stars Lee DuBose and Brooklyne Marlowe in the wings.
Annie Goza will return inside, and will see time at the four
and five spots, with the other slot going either to Sunny Bush
or Melinda Floyd. Audrey Johnson could also pick up some starts,
in addition to senior Ashley Evans, who is recovering from a
third-degree ankle sprain. Providing support off the bench will
be Molly Cleveland, Taryn Gurley and Vanessa Greenwood.
"We've got three legitimate two-figure scorers," Jacobs
said, "and a fourth that should be. We'll run the break,
and we'll press, because we're so small. If we had a big kid,
we could probably contend for the whole thing."
Most of the Lady Dragons played summer ball, and the team lost
only two games in the off-season. The first was to an AAU all-star
team from North Carolina. The second came at the hands of class
AAAAA South Cobb, who returns a full team from last season's
30-2 class AAAA squad. The Lady Dragons actually led South Cobb
at the half. They also picked up wins over strong teams from
Central Gwinnett and Holy Innocents over the summer.
"Our region is tough," Jacobs said. "Wesleyan
is all back, Commerce has their shooters back, and Buford will
be ready to play even without Christi Thomas. Providence could
beat any of us, and Lakeview is going to end up beating someone
they shouldn't. I just hope it's not us."
|NOTICE: The Dragon football
team's playoff game will be at Athens Academy Friday night, November
17 at 7:30 p.m., not 8:00 p.m. as reported in this week's
teams have sights set high
Most high school basketball teams would be at a loss after losing
key seniors from the previous season. Not the Jackson County
Panthers. The Panthers lost marquee players from both the boys'
and girls' teams to graduation, but both Ron Garren and Annette
Watts say they have younger players who are ready to step up
and accept the challenge.
The Panthers will get their first opportunity to face that challenge
Saturday at home, when the school hosts the first annual Pepsi
Tipoff Challenge. Also participating in the event will be Banks
County, Johnson and Lumpkin County. The two-day tournaments begin
at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Panthers will take to the court
first for Jackson County at 7 p.m., against Lumpkin County. A
boys' matchup between the two teams will follow.
GIRLS DOWN 40 TO START
Annette Watts' girls face the difficult task of replacing the
40-plus points per game lost when Monic Stewart, Abrielle Varnum,
Krystal Britt, Toya Thomas and Carly Parr all graduated last
spring. Still, Watts said this week that the Lady Panthers' goal
is to work their way back to a state tournament spot.
"We did expect to go farther last year," Watts said.
"It was disappointing, but we have eight people out there
who have that in their memory. Our goal certainly is to get back
to where we were last year, and we want to go on."
Another group of seniors will be asked to accomplish that goal.
Megan Elliott will take over at point guard, with Kristi Healan
and Carla Cato on the outside. Inside, Watts will look to April
Cantrell and Crystal Edge. Backing up the starting five will
be Ashley Rainwater, Tosha Ransom, Nikki Sosebee, Carrie Hammond
and twins Carrie and Crystal Yonce.
"Our second five is just about as good as the first five,"
Watts said. "We've just got to find those additional points
we lost. That's what we're working on, finding out where everybody
The spring realignment by the GHSA left region 8-AAA a shell
of its former self, but the teams that are new to the region
offer some stiff competition. The region is divided into north
and south subregions for the basketball season. In addition to
Jackson County, Winder-Barrow, Monroe Area, Loganville and Eastside
make up the south. The north subregion consists of teams from
Madison, Hart, Stephens, Elbert and Franklin counties. The top
four teams from the end-of-season region tournament will advance
to the state tourney.
"Every game is going to mean something this year,"
Entering her second season at Jackson County, Watts seemed surprised
at the Lady Panthers' work ethic.
"I can't say enough about how hard they are working. We
decided this season to say that hard work will be the difference,
and this bunch works hard."
BAR SET HIGH FOR BOYS
On the boys' side of the gym, Garren said this week that his
team's goals are high.
"I feel good about where this program is. We've been building
this team over the last couple of seasons, and we hope this is
the year we compete for the region championship. With four starters
back from last year, we've set the bar high."
Those four starters are guards Blake Wilson and Tim Birdette,
along with big guys B.J. Wilmont and Dustin David.
"Dustin gives us a lot of flexibility," Garren said.
"He can play four of the five positions. We can keep him
outside if we want to go big with Jay Tory or Adam Hughes or
Chuck Kubiak, or he can move inside if we want to play Deston
Stephens, C.J. Weaver or Alan Finch." Senior Jason Pittman,
who played as a freshman, returns to the roster this season.
"We feel like both B.J. and Blake will have an opportunity
to play at the next level. Jason gives us a little depth at point.
For the first time since I've been here, our varsity team is
made up primarily of juniors and seniors."
With no starters playing football this fall, the Panthers would
be good to go right away, except for Wilmont, who is recovering
from recent surgery. Wilmont will miss the tipoff tournament,
but is expected back in time for the regular-season opener Nov.
28 against Elbert County.
"We're kind of approaching that from a positive standpoint,"
Garren said. "We know what B.J. can do when he returns.
This will give some of our juniors an opportunity to get some
extra playing time."
Garren said all five teams in the south should be able to compete,
but Eastside's two NCAA Division I prospects put them at the
top of the preseason heap. The Panthers and Winder-Barrow are
expected to fight for the second spot, with well-coached teams
from Monroe Area and Loganville battling for position.
"There won't be much difference in one through five,"
Jackson County was chosen to host a state sectional tournament
"Our goal is to make it there," Garren said. The top
four teams from the region tournament will qualify for state
tournament play. Region quarterfinals will be played at Hart
County, and Loganville will host the region's final four to determine
Al Darby returns to assist with the varsity squad. Joe Lancaster
heads up the JV team, with Bob Roller coaching freshmen. Former
Panther players James Kite and Justin Lott will serve as lay-coaches
for the JV and freshman teams.
Seniors to lead MCHS
A taste of state.
The Madison County senior girls got just that last month in softball.
And this weekend, nine Lady Raider seniors will begin the quest
for another state tournament appearance, opening the 2000 hoops
Raider coach Tim Cook, whose squad finished 18-5 last year, said
he's excited to have such a big group of "hard-working"
and "unselfish" seniors.
"They've played so long together," said Cook of his
nine seniors. "They're a tight-knit group. There's no selfishness.
They don't care who gets the glory."
The Lady Raider seniors include Stacie Beard, Brittney Escoe,
Renee Mathews, Heather Jones, Tera Bellamy, Aiyana Hunter, Sheena
Mason, Valerie Norman and Ashley Myers.
Cook said Mathews will start at point guard, Jones and Hunter
at the wing positions, and Bellamy and Myers at the post spots.
Jones is filling in at the starting wing position while Escoe
recovers from a shoulder injury suffered during softball. Escoe
averaged 12.1 points per game last year, second on the team to
Tawana Moon, who graduated in the spring after averaging 17.9
points per game.
Cook said Moon's departure is a "big loss." Still he
feels his team will manage without her.
"Nobody was standing around (during summer camps) trying
to find her," he said. "The girls stepped up and picked
up her points."
Cook looks for strong play again from Escoe, as well as Myers,
who had a big summer, he said.
"Where we get good mismatches is with Ashley Myers,"
said Cook. "She's great from the outside and she can drive
He also points to Bellamy, a transfer from Franklin County. Cook
is excited by her play, saying she is an outstanding leaper who
will help improve the Lady Raiders in the paint.
"It's always hard to come in to a new team," said Cook.
"But she's fit in well with this team. She plays bigger
than 5'10" because she leaps so well."
While the starters are strong this year, backups will carry a
big load for the Lady Raiders in 2000.
"We do have depth," said Cook. "We'll play nine
or 10 girls a night. Most high school girls' teams play about
seven girls a night, so we'll have a big advantage."
He said that the depth and up-tempo style of play will give Madison
County a real edge in the fourth quarter as opponents become
Cook's team recently set some lofty goals. They include going
undefeated, 13-0, at home, winning the sub-region with an undefeated
8-0 record and making the state tournament.
"When they're totally focused they're as good as anyone
on the schedule," said Cook of his team. "But any team
on the schedule could beat us....The key to our success is whether
we as a group prepare ourselves to play every night."
Cook said the girls' program is as good as it's been in his eight
years with the school, adding that he looks for big things from
this year's junior varsity squad.
"The ninth through twelfth grade is the best-looking group
of basketball players I've had," he said.
Cook said the experience of many of the basketball players in
the recent state softball tournament will carry over onto the
"The girls got to experience the state tournament and now
they know how that feels," he said. "...The community
should be excited about this team."