Area Sports...

December 18, 2000


Class A High School
Football Champions

Commerce Tigers
defeated the
Buford Wolves
for the state
Class A
High School
Football Championship

Commerce 27
Buford 19

The Commerce News is in the process of publishing an "EXTRA" edition which will be printed and distributed late Friday night and early Saturday morning to newsstand outlets in the Commerce area. Highlights and photos of tonight's championship game will be in this souvenir edition.

Tigers win state crown
The thunderstorms predicted by the National Weather Service did not arrive in time to disrupt the Class A State Championship football game Friday night. But lightning named Monté Williams struck four times, electrified a standing-room-only crowd and propelled the Commerce Tigers to a 27-19 victory over the Buford Wolves.
Williams stunned Buford on a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Collins for the game's first touchdown, then scored on runs of 88 yards, 32 yards and 56 yards. His 272 yards on 29 carries pushed him past Emmitt Smith to number four among all-time national high school rushing leaders, with 8,829 yards.
"Monté came to play tonight," said coach Steve Savage. "He went out in style, I'll tell you that."
The senior running back showed why he's Georgia's most prolific high school runner ever. On his final touchdown, a 56-yard jaunt, Williams broke two tackles, regained his balance after a Buford defender grabbed his face mask, and sprinted into the endzone after Buford had scrambled to within two points.
For a few minutes, it looked like the Tigers would blow Buford away. They used Williams' first three scores to build a 21-0 lead, only to see the Wolves climb back into the game with 19 unanswered points to make things uncomfortable for the Tiger faithful.
The rain held off until the second half, and when it came, it suited Williams just fine.
"It was great weather - perfect weather for me to play in. Cause people tend to get slippery (when it's raining)," said the slipperiest running back in Georgia high school history.
While Williams was piling up yards for Commerce, the Tiger defense limited Aiken to 74 yards on 13 carries. McDonald added 56 yards on 11 snaps, and Payne collected 106 yards and one TD by air, but suffered two crucial interceptions.
For Savage, it was his first state championship after a number of close calls, and he did his best to savor it.
"With about four minutes left, I was looking at the clock and I got to thinking it was going to be over soon. I wasn't ready for it to be over," he said.
"This team has been building for years. A lot of people can take credit for that championship tonight....I thought we were close in 95 and 94. We had our best chance in 90....They were all there tonight."
Savage was effusive in his praise for his team, particularly his seniors.
"Some say it was the best senior class we've ever had. I don't know....I can't say enough about them guys," he said.
It's been a close-knit group.
"I've got some great friendships here, and that's what I'll remember the most," said Collins after the game. "Playing for Commerce is really special. The supportive atmosphere is awesome."
The crowd was huge, 6,000 or more, with the home stands filled by 6:00 and cars parked as far away as the Jefferson Road.

Banks teams slam White County
Whether or not the White County Warriors knew it, they were in for a rough ride at Banks County Friday night.
Banks' teams swept White County, at both the junior varsity and varsity levels. The Leopards attained a thrilling 67-50 comeback win while the Lady Leopards took over early to win 66-42.
For the Leopards, a tough defense would once again rise to the occasion to squelch the Warriors' fight.
Banks County took 12 steals and 13 deflections while sending White County to the free throw line only eight times.
"It was a great defensive effort," Leopard head coach Mike Ruth said. "We controlled the boards and we were quick."
White County ran away with the lead early in the game. The Warriors' aggressive attack on the Leopards helped them to a 37-29 halftime lead. At one time during the first half, White County even led the contest by 15 points.
Warrior sophomore D.D. Tate gave the Leopard defense fits, nailing four three-pointers.
But after the half, everything changed.
"We had a little powwow at halftime," Ruth said. "They came in and their heads were down. I told them to get it together and show what we were made of. I told them that we were not going to lay down at home."
And the Leopards didn't lay down. They arose from their first-half slump and held White County's offense to only nine third-quarter points. At the same time, Banks County forced the ball into the post and scored 14 points of their own.
"We were in the zone and opened up to him (Tate) in the first half," Ruth said. "We put Bray (Maxwell) on him man-to-man in the second half and shut him down."
As the Leopards shut down Tate, they shut down the entire White County offense.
Going into the fourth quarter down 46-43, Banks' fans got into the game to uplift the Leopards.
"The fans were great," Ruth said. "They got our kids pumped up."
Just minutes into the fourth quarter, Chris Ivey sank a shot but was fouled, getting one free throw attempt. He missed, but Mike Ivey grabbed the rebound and put in the goal to give the Leopards a 49-48 lead.
From there, Banks County would go on to victory, holding the Warriors to a measly four points in the fourth quarter.
"It was a great team effort," Ruth said.
Victor Bonds led the scoring for Banks County with 22 points. M. Ivey added 14 and C. Ivey put 11 on the board. Cody Whitlock was also in double digits with 10 points.
Last Tuesday, Banks County downed Lumpkin County 89-63.
Bonds led the scoring again with 31 points. C. Ivey had 15 and M. Ivey added 13 points.
A tough defense and solid scoring runs helped the Lady Leopards secure their second win of the season, a 66-42 defeat of White County.
The Lady Warriors capitalized on several small Lady Leopard errors in the first quarter to jump ahead early. But before the quarter was even over, Banks County began taking control of the game, pushing ahead 15-10 by the buzzer.
In the second quarter, Banks County went on a run. White County didn't get on the board until two and a half minutes into the quarter. By then, the Lady Leopards were ahead 20-12. They pushed out ahead even further before the half, taking a 31-14 lead.
"Our defense had them confused offensively," Lady Leopard head coach Mike Gordon said. "It got them frustrated."
Banks County came back out of the half with the momentum still in hand.
The Lady Leopards increased their lead to 51-30, dominating the Lady Warriors.
"We've been having slow third quarters," Gordon said. "At the half, we talked about not letting that happen."
The Lady Leopards continued their run through the end of the game to take the 66-42 victory.
Haley Crumley led Banks with 22 points. Ashley Freeman also hit double digits with 10 points.
Banks County was edged out in overtime 48-46 last week against Lumpkin County.
"I hope that was our season low point," Gordon said. "We just didn't shoot the ball well."
Crumley led the Lady Leopards' offense with 20 points, including three three pointers.

Dragon matmen to stay busy during break
School may be out for the holidays over the next two weeks, but the Jefferson wrestling team will be doing more than just lying around in front of the fire.
After a three-way dual with Madison County Friday at Cedar Shoals, the Dragons will journey to wrestling's Death Valley, Morgan County, Saturday for the Avado Brands Invitational. The host Bulldogs, defending class AA state champions and winners of two tournaments already this season, will be heavy favorites on their home turf.
Looking beyond Saturday, Jefferson has two more tournaments on the schedule during the Christmas break.
The Duckhead Southeastern Holiday Classic, one of the premier tournaments in Georgia, is slated for Dec. 22 and 23 at Winder-Barrow High School. Jefferson will host the Keen Classic Dec. 28 and 29.
Four Jefferson wrestlers returned from last weekend's John Smith Mountaineer Invitational with hardware. The Dragons placed seventh overall in the team competition.
Defending class A 140-pound state champion Hunter Garner defeated Lithia Springs' Daniel Furr to claim the gold at 140, and Jeremy Smith took second at 152, falling only to Morgan County's Scott Konicki in the final.
Corey Mack (103) recovered from a semifinal loss to eventual champion Jason Powers of Jackson County to earn a fourth-place medal. Blake Gooch (130) lost to Gilmer County's Nick Long, a returning state medal winner in class AA, but came back to take fourth.
Nathaniel Wilson and Brendon Kemp both overcame losses to eventual finalists to finish fifth.
Scott Nix, David Parks and Andrew Morris all contributed team points, and Sanquez Smith, Jason Fields, Brandon Seabolt, Daniel Love and Matt Underwood also participated.

Panthers claim four of six from 8-AAA north foes
This time next week, Jackson County basketball teams will have begun what will probably be a welcomed Christmas break. With difficult games coming up Friday and Saturday against Elbert County and Hart County, the Panthers may need the rest.
After Saturday's matchups at home against Hart County, Jackson County will take 11 days off before possibly seeing the Bulldogs again, in the Dairy Queen Classic in Hartwell Dec. 27-29.
In the most recent state rankings, Hart County's girls are second in class AAA. The boys' team, hampered on the court by success on the football field, is ninth.
In their first away date of the season, the Panthers split with Madison County Tuesday night. The Lady Raiders opened the evening with a 67-50 win, but Ron Garren's boys responded with a 71-58 nightcap victory in Dainelsville.
The Jackson County boys had their strongest outing thus far in the season last week, in a 56-52 home loss to Stephens County. Three Panthers (Dustin David - 21, B.J. Wilmont - 14, Tim Birdette - 13) scored in double figures. Wilmont also picked up 12 rebounds.
Jackson County came out a bit cold on offense, hitting only 10 of 27 field goal attempts in the first half. Good defensive play, highlighted by Wilmont's crashing the boards in the second quarter, kept the Panthers in the game. Stephens led by only three at intermission.
The Panther guns heated up in the third. Jackson County took only 10 shots from the field in the period, but six fell in, including a trio of three-pointers by David. The third ended the quarter and tied the game at 41.
Both teams played virtually error-free ball in the fourth, with only one turnover each in the quarter. Alan Finch hit a pair of free throws early that gave the Panthers the lead momentarily, and a three by Birdette with 2:15 left put Jackson County up by one late.
Stephens went back up on a basket and foul shot on their next possession, but Wilmont tied it again at 1:15.
The Indians picked up two points and the foul on their next trip down court. Stephens County missed the foul shot, but grabbed the rebound and quickly threw in two more points to go up by four with only 32 seconds remaining, and the margin held up for the final score.
"I was real pleased, especially defensively," Garren said. "I thought we played extremely well. Tim and Dustin had their best games of the season. We struggled a little bit on the perimeter, but as soon as we build some confidence, we should play very well there." The coach continued by saying that Stephens forced his team into man-to-man defense, and were ready for the Panthers' traps and zones.
"We played them tooth and nail to the very end. We just didn't get the calls and make the plays we had to. That's something you've got to be able to do in order to be up there at the top. It was just a great high school basketball game, and we came up short. Those are the games you've got to win, especially at home, so we're disappointed, but we're encouraged."
The Lady Panthers had little trouble in dispatching Stephens County, 57-40. Freshman Nikki Sosebee scored 14 points, and seniors Megan Elliott and April Cantrell had 12 and 11 respectively. The somewhat easy win allowed head coach Annette Watts to give some of her more experienced players valuable time on the court. Nine players put points on the board for Jackson County, and 11 picked up rebounds.
Turnovers plagued both teams early. Jackson County gave the ball over on four straight possessions in the first quarter, and each team had eight turnovers each in the period. After one, the score was tied at 12.
Though ball handling improved in the second, shooting did not. Jackson County managed to hit only four of 12 shots. Stephens fared about the same, going five-for-14 in the frame. Good offensive rebounding gave the Lady Indians a number of second-chance shots, and a five-point lead at the half.
Cantrell sparked the team with seven points and a steal early in the third, and 10 Stephens turnovers - seven in a row at one point - gave Jackson County a nine-point lead after three. The Lady Indians mustered only five shots from the field in the quarter, and scored only three points.
Sosebee used a convincing head fake to drive inside for easy scores twice early in the fourth. Elliott and Kristi Healan both sank three-pointers, and Stephens County was out of the game long before the final buzzer.

Lady Raiders win fourth in a row
Four consecutive wins may be in the books, but Lady Raider basketball coach Tim Cook said his squad isn't ready to pat themselves on the back.
According to Cook, the squad still has some strides to make to get where they need to be.
"We're making progress... we're getting better, but we won't be where we need to be until about February," said Cook of his team's level of play.
The Lady Raiders continued their improved play Tuesday night, topping Jackson County 67-50
Madison County (6-2) has a chance to continue to making progress with rematches against Loganville and Monroe Area this weekend. Both foes were notches in the Lady Raiders' win column earlier in the year as the girls' squad disposed of Loganville 62-42 on Nov. 28 while overcoming Monroe Area 39-30 on Dec. 1.
But Cook said nabbing two wins this weekend will be no simple undertaking.
"Loganville will be gunning for us," he said. "It's not going to be easy-we've got to execute and focus. Monroe Area is quick and athletic, it's hard for us to match up against them. It's going to be tough. We've just got to take it one game at a time."
Madison County picked up their sixth win of the year in a 17-point stopping of visiting Jackson County Tuesday night.
Tera Bellamy got 12 of her team-leading 17 points on the night to help guide the Lady Raiders to the win.
"She was a big key to our success," Cook said of the senior-transfer's performance. "She shot well and played some good defense. She has some talent."
Up by six in the third quarter, the Raiders hit their stride in the last five minutes of the period, going on a 15-4 run to end the quarter and push their lead to 46-29.
The team then kept the Lady Panthers at arm's length in the fourth quarter of the contest, outscoring Jackson County 21-13 over the final six minutes of the contest en route to the double-digit win.
The contest was tight in the early going as Madison County led by only a point late in the first quarter until Heather Jones nailed a three-pointer as time expired in the period to give her squad a 12-8 edge.
The Lady Raider team then built some momentum in the middle of the second quarter, going on a 14-5 run to build up a 26-13 edge, highlighted by three pointers by Jones and Brittany Escoe, before going into intermission up by eight.

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