Area Sports...

December 6, 2000

Off To The Dome
OK, the game is in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, but the road to the Class A state football championship goes through Lincolnton, no matter what anybody says.
At 9:00 Saturday morning, the Commerce Tigers, having dispatched No. 2 Johnson County 34-20 last Friday, will face a familiar foe Saturday, the Lincoln County Red Devils. The winner plays at home the following Friday night for the state title, and if the Tigers win, the game will be at Tiger Stadium.
Tickets are $12 and are on sale at the high school.
It will be the sixth time the Tigers and Red Devils have met, the third time in the state semifinals, and the Tigers have come out on the short end of the score all but once.
That one victory was earlier this season.
On Sept. 29, a Lincoln County penalty gave the Tigers a second chance at a long field goal and Casey Gary drove it through the uprights to give the Tigers a 16-15 win.
With a 1-5 record against this devilish opponent, would the Tigers rather play some other team?
Not really, says Coach Steve Savage.
"It doesn't matter who you play," he said. "It's always tough to beat somebody twice. We know we were lucky to win ­ it was 16-15 on the last play of the game. That means anybody can win that thing.
"When you're playing Lincoln County, you're playing the best. We'll be playing the premier program in the state of Georgia, a class organization from top to bottom."
Savage figures both teams are much better than they were in late September.
"There's no doubt both are better. They've grown and evolved and found out what they can do best," he said. "We always hope our teams could play their best football at the end of the year. Most of the time, they do."
Last year in the state semifinals at the dome, Lincoln County ended the Tigers' season with a 35-21 victory but was defeated 20-0 a week later by Charlton County in the Class A finals.
It's a cliché that in big games, the team with the fewest mistakes wins, but that's exactly the way Savage looks at Saturday's contest.
"There won't be nothing easy about this game, and there shouldn't be," he says. "Two good teams are going to play. We've got to execute well. We can't turn the ball over and have penalties, something we did in the first half last time. We've got to create something in the kicking game."
The surface of the dome comes into play in the kicking game, says Savage, because once a ball hits the ground "it'll roll forever." In receiving the kick, that means there is pressure to field the ball, rather than letting it hit and roll. In kicking, it means putting the ball where the other team can't field it.
"They've got lightning in the bottle back there on punts," Savage said, indicating the Tigers will try not to let the Red Devil deep men field the punt. "We made that mistake at the half last game (Sept. 29) and they ran it in for a touchdown."
The Red Devils are big, athletic and speedy. Their leader is Ricky Stokes, who will play receiver, quarterback, cornerback and return kicks.
"He'll play everything. He's got a vertical leap of 43 inches. That's world class, up there with Deion Sanders," Savage said. "He's one of those 4.4 guys."
Running backs Darien Freeman and Allory Norman alternate in the backfield and have both size and speed, Savage said. Lincoln County's linebackers are 225 and 240 pounds, a defensive end is in the 230-240 area, and a defensive tackle stands 6-7 and weighs about 315.
Don't expect anything different from the Commerce offense.
"We'll come in there and give it to our quarterback, give it to our tailback and give it to our fullback," Savage concluded.
It's a tactic that has worked well as the Tigers have beaten both the number one (Buford) and number two teams in Class A this season.
Saturday's game will mark the fourth straight year Lincoln County has played in the dome. And last week's win over Metter was the 100th career playoff victory for Red Devil coach Larry Campbell.
The Tigers and Red Devils had four common opponents, Athens Academy, Buford, Washington-Wilkes and Wesleyan. Both lost to Washington-Wilkes and both beat Athens Academy and Wesleyan, but Commerce beat Buford and the Red Devils fell to the Wolves.
What difference do the time and location make?
According to Savage, the time is irrelevant.
"Shoot, you get inside the dome, you don't know what time it is. You just start playing," he said. "Kids adjust a whole lot better than adults anyway."
Savage said the playing surface in the dome "makes speed faster." The traction is at least as good as a natural surface, he added.
"It's a great experience for those kids to go out and play there," he said, noting that last year's Tiger-Red Devil game, played at noon and the first game of the day, was played before a good crowd and had the highest ratings on Georgia Public Television, which broadcasts all of the semifinal games.
Commerce is designated the visiting team. Fans will find it convenient to enter the Georgia Dome through Gate D, which is located next to ground-level parking and the MARTA station.
For more information about Lincoln County, look up its web page at

Leopards roar by Riverside, 67-33
Banks County's defense took control once again for the Leopards last week.
The team held Riverside to only 33 points in a tough defensive showing Saturday.
"Our defense played real well," head coach Mike Ruth.
The Blue Devils, who put a young, inexperienced team up against the Leopards, were visably inept compared to Banks County.
But Banks played a tough defensive game against Riverside, utilizing the press and forcing turnover after turnover.
Riverside was unable at most times to move the ball through the press, lossing possession to the Leopards.
Other times when the Blue Devils got the ball down court, they would often throw the ball away or have Banks County pick their passes off.
The Leopards kept the game at a fast pace, leading to several errors on Banks' part.
The quick tempo contributed to missed shots and several overthrown passes.
"We sputtered with some stuff," Ruth said. "We were able to work on our fundamentals some."
None of Banks County's starters played in the fourth quarter of the game. In the third quarter, the Leopard's starters saw only two to three minutes of playing time.
Leopard senior Victor Bonds led the team in scoring against Riverside with 20 points.
Bonds also scored 20 points against Towns County last week. He is averaging 20.25 points per game so far this year.
Chris Ivey and Mike Ivey were also in double digits for the Leopards, scoring 12 and 11 points respectively.
M. Ivey also hit three three-pointers, for a total of eight so far this season.
Other scorers included: Will Gordon, five; Cody Whitlock and Ryan Loggins, four; Casey Murray and Randall Norman, three; Corey Sims and Joseph Whitlock, two; and Steven Caudell, one.
Banks County hit 54 percent of their shots from the free throw line. The Leopards have hit 57 percent of their free throws so far this year.

JHS to open region hoops schedule
THE REGION schedule starts early this year for basketball teams at Jefferson High School. The Dragons will host region 8-A foe Wesleyan Saturday at 6 p.m. in the first region matchup for both teams. Boys' and girls' games will precede the varsity games.
After Saturday, the Dragons will take nearly a week off before hosting Tallulah Falls next Friday at 6 p.m.
Jefferson swept Athens Academy Tuesday. Kevin Jacobs' Lady Dragons pounded the Spartans, 70-35, and Bolling DuBose's boys followed suit with a 64-44 win.
Buzz Wehunt led the boys with 27, followed by Dantonio Chandler (13) and Shaudrick Martin (10). Lee DuBose poured in 21 for the Lady Dragons, Brooklyne Marlowe added 17 and Annie Goza 10.
DuBose came within two points of Jefferson's single-game girls' scoring mark last week in the Lady Dragons' 87-80 loss to Hart County. DuBose racked up 44 points in the game, 28 in the second half. Former Jefferson assistant Brandi Bray holds the Lady Dragon record of 46.
Hart County outscored Jefferson 27-13 in the second period to take a 49-32 lead into intermission, but the Lady Dragons stormed back in the third, DuBose's 15 leading the way. The lead was cut to only three with 2:30 left to play when Staci Childress made it 76-73, but Hart hit two straight to make it 80-73.
Childress and DuBose each sunk a pair of free throws in the final minute, and Melinda Floyd hit for three to close the gap to four again with 16 seconds left, but the ninth-ranked class AAA Lady Bulldogs held on for the win.
For her effort, DuBose was named player of the week by both News Channel 32 and the Gainesville Times.
The latest polls show Jefferson's boys ranked fifth after their 79-76 win over Hart County. Martin led the team with 27 points, 16 of them in the fourth period. Wehunt was close behind with 25, 12 of which went in during the second frame. Chandler added 17 in the win.
Martin also picked up 12 rebounds, nine in the second half. Pierre Martin had 10 assists.
The Dragons took time between varsity games to remember Daniel Goza, who was killed in an auto accident before the season began.
The team posted a banner on the gymnasium wall in Goza's memory.

Grapplers to head north for Mountaineer
Wrestling teams from both Jackson County and Jefferson High Schools will compete Friday and Saturday in the John Smith Mountaineer Invitational tournament on the campus of North Georgia College, Dahlonega.
First-round matches are set to begin Friday at 6 p.m. Semifinals will start Saturday's action at 10 a.m.
Defending state AA champion Morgan County enters the tournament as the obvious favorite, fresh off a championship in last week's Panther Invitational at Jackson County. North Hall, Elbert County and Dacula all are considered strong, as are both the Panthers and Dragons.
Morgan County also won the 1999 Mountaineer, with Jefferson and Jackson County rounding out the top three.
Jefferson's Hunter Garner is the sole local wrestler to return to the Mountaineer as a defending champion. Jackson County's Rusty Colley (2nd) and Jared Herrington (2nd) and Jefferson's Jeremy Smith (4th) all earned top-four finishes last year.
Other teams expected to participate include Apalachee, Dawson County, Gainesville, Lumpkin County and Riverside Military Academy.
Red and black ruled at the Panther Invitational last weekend, but it was the Morgan County Bulldogs wearing those victorious colors. Morgan essentially won the tournament Saturday morning, after six of their 14 wrestlers qualified for the championship finals.
Elbert County made a good run in the consolation rounds to keep it close, but the Bulldogs' semifinal performance built a gap that was too far to close.
Jefferson was fourth with 114 points, just a single point behind third-place North Forsyth. Jackson County was close behind in fifth, at 109-1/2.
Jackson County's Rusty Colley (125) and Jefferson's Hunter Garner (140) both claimed gold medals in their respective weight classes. The Panthers' Jason Powers (2nd-103) was the only other local wrestler to reach the championship round.
Jared Herrington finished third at 140 and Brian Gower was fourth at 275 for Jackson County. Jeremy Smith was third for the Dragons at 152, and Blake Gooch took fourth at 130.
Panthers Matt Potts, Chris Kubiak and Travis Ingram each missed the top four in their weight classes by only one match, as did Dragons Nathaniel Wilson, Jeremiah Wilson, Scott Nix and Chris Seibert.

Lady Raiders look to hit hot streak
After nabbing wins against Loganville and Monroe Area and then 52-33 against Winder-Barrow, Tim Cook's Lady Raiders will look to hit a hot streak that will hopefully carry over after the Christmas holidays.
"We're still not playing as well as we should be," Cook said. "But it's really early. We want to play our best ball when we come back from the holidays."
This week, the 5-2 squad is set to tangle with Jackson County this weekend at home.
After picking up two early season losses, the squad showed some resurgence, thumping Loganville last Tuesday, 62-41, edging out Monroe Area 39-30 Friday and beating the Lady Bulldogs Tuesday.
The Lady Raiders' 39-30 win Friday night over Monroe Area was simply a tale of two halves.
After falling behind 21-17 at intermission on the road, Madison County shifted game plans and got postive results, outscoring the Lady Purple Hurricanes 16-4 in the third quarter while only allowing nine points in the entire second half in claiming the nine-point win.
"We played great defense in the second half," head coach Tim Cook said of the win. "They were too quick so we didn't press in the second half. We didn't want to get into the running game. We wanted to see who was the better half court team and I think we proved that."
Offensively, Cook said the team went back to a more basic offense which led to more points in the second half.
"We went to a more stuctured offense with people knowing more what they were doing and we got some easy baskets," he said. "We moved away from the motion offense."
The Lady Raiders grabbed a 13-7 edge early in the second quarter but struggled to find the basket after that scoring only four more points before halftime as Monroe Area took the four-point edge into the locker room.
However, Madison County's offense went to work in the third quarter, reeling of the first12 points of the period to claim a 29-21 edge.
Senior transfer Tera Bellamy then took care of business the rest of the game scoring all of her team-high 10-points during the last 10 minutes of the contest to keep the Lady Purple Hurricanes at bay.
After the game, Cook, whose team moved to 4-2 with the victory, said his team picked up a solid win in a hostile environment.
"It's always good to get a win here, no matter what kind of team were playing," he said.
Like the girls' contest, the Madison County boys experienced two different kind of halves in their match-up against Monroe Area. Unfortunatley for the Raiders however, their second half was nothing but hardships.
After playing a stellar defensive second quarter, Madison County got rocked in the third quarter Friday night against Monroe Area, getting outscored 30-9 en route to falling 72-43 on the road against the Purple Hurricanes.
After falling behind 18-5 with 2:45 left in the first quarter, Madison County rebounded in the next quarter, remarkably shutting out the home team using a tough zone defense, forcing Monroe Area to miss from the outside and allowing the Raiders to cut the Purple
Hurricane edge to 24-19
However, in the second half, Monroe Area regained their outside shot and their inside game as well as the Raider defense crumbled.
The Purple Hurricanes pushed their lead out to 40-21 with a 16-4 run to start the third quarter.
But things got worse for Madison County as Monroe Area pushed their lead to 54-28 heading into the fourth quarter and then led by as much as 30-points in picking up the lopsided win.
Kurt Cooper led the Raider effort in the loss with 10-points followed by Ben Baker who had eight.

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