Area Sports...

May 23, 2001

Dragons in baseball's final four
And then there were four . . .
Jefferson High School's varsity baseball team took another huge step forward in the Class A state playoffs Saturday, sweeping host Wilcox County in a doubleheader to move on to this weekend's semifinal round.
The Bowdon Red Devils got the best of Brookstone Monday in game three of their series with a late-inning rally to move on to face Jefferson Saturday. Bowdon will host Saturday's doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m., and Monday's game three, if needed, at 4 p.m.
"They're a good team," Jefferson head coach Chuck Cook said of the Red Devils after taking in Monday's game against Brookstone, "but we're not going to back down from anybody. If we can put the ball in play, I think there's a good chance we can get on and move people around."
Though pitching was again the dominant factor in Jefferson's wins Saturday, shortstop Kyle Potts and his bat stole the show. Potts belted three home runs in the two games, and missed a fourth by inches when he doubled off the top of the fence late in game two.
The long balls moved Potts into second place on Jefferson's home run list for the season, with eight. Corey Hill leads with nine, and Ben Songer and Shane Wilburn have seven each. The Dragons have belted a total of 43 homers on the season.
Potts started the scoring in game one with a home run in the first inning to give Jefferson the lead. A two-run shot by Wilcox County tied the game in the third, but Potts put his team back on top with a leadoff blast in the fourth.
With the score still tied in the seventh, Brantley Gilbert doubled and Joseph Laird followed with a walk. Songer sacrificed the runners over, and Ryan Gurley pushed the go-ahead run across with a single. Josh Nabors, who had been in a hitting slump of late, then cleared the bases with a three-run home run to close the scoring at 6-2.
"Corey kept it close enough for somebody to step up and come through," Cook said of game one. "We kind of put everything on Ryan's shoulders to drive in a run with two out. For him to come through like that shows he's a top-notch ball player. Then Josh came up and hit that home run to give Corey some room to work."
Hill struck out nine and allowed only six hits in seven innings.
Potts had been taking the mound in Jefferson's second games during the playoffs, but sustained a badly-torn fingernail on his throwing hand prior to game one. That set the stage for hurler Chris Wheaton, and the junior ace didn't disappoint.
Wheaton struck out eight Patriots and allowed four runs in just over six innings pitched, including striking out the side in the second inning. He also recovered from giving up a home run by recording a strikeout to end the third, and finished the fourth on a strikeout with a runner at third base.
Hill was called on after Wilcox led off the seventh inning with a home run and a triple. After walking the first batter he faced and getting an infield ground out, Hill struck out the final two batters to close the win at 7-3.
Jefferson trailed 2-0 in the third inning before singles by Nabors, Potts and Hill drove a run in. Laird was hit by a pitch with two out in the fourth, and Ben Songer followed him with a two-run homer to give the Dragons a 3-2 lead.
Potts' third homer of the day came with one on in the fifth, and Jeremy Smith later doubled in Shane Wilburn to make it 6-2.
Potts' long double came in the sixth, and pushed Nabors across with Jefferson's seventh run of the game.
"We played with so much heart," Cook recalled. "I count it a privilege to be able to coach these guys. It's a coaches' dream to have a team that just steps out there on the field and plays ball."
This weekend's other semifinal game will see The Walker School at Pacelli. The winner will host next Saturday's state championship round.

'Incredible year' ends at Sweet 16
The Banks County Leopards made it to the Sweet Sixteen and the best season in the school's history before they met defeat in the rubber game against Calhoun Wednesday, May 16.
The squad traveled to Northwest Georgia to face Calhoun. The team arrived Monday night for the Tuesday doubleheader which they split and stayed until Wednesday for the deciding game.
"We had an incredible year," Coach Michael Williams said. "To go from class A to double A and a tougher region schedule without a doubt was great. We had 20 wins last year and 23 this year, and to make the second round of the playoffs makes for a pretty incredible year," said Williams.
The 20 games that the Leopards won last season was a school record. The 23 wins the Leopards had this year was "obviously making history," Wiliams said.
For the game in Calhoun over 100 Banks County fans made the trip along with the Nugget (a spray-painted compact pickup truck) which made the trip in tow and sat along the leftfield fence. The truck has been a "good luck charm" for the Leopards these past two years and has been a successful one. During the Nugget's tenure as team charm the Leopards have enjoyed their two best seasons.
Coach Williams said, "We had great kids, great fans, great support. We had a boatload of people up there. A nugget load. Maybe I should say a nugget load of people."
"This year is something these guys will never forget. juniors, seniors, freshmen, sophomores, coaches, it doesn't matter. We'll never forget this year," Williams said.
There were eleven seniors on this year's team. They are Clint Angel, Bray Maxwell, Casey Murray, Duran Bellotte, Jason Hill, Eli Cooper, Drew Gowder, Joe Krause, Hank Jones, Steven Caudell and Ryan Loggins.
"They were in the sixth grade when I came here. It was an enjoyment to coach them. It was an enjoyment to coach all of them, underclassmen included," Williams said.
For the rest of this story, including a play-by-play break-down, see this week's Banks County News.

Tigers Put On Pads
The State Champion Commerce Tiger's football team is back on the practice field preparing for another shot at the crown. There are some big shoes left empty from last years squad that must be filled, however.
Yes, Monte Williams is off in Kansas preparing for the big time and Michael Collins will replace orange with gold at the University of Tennessee. Casey Gary and Twion Shealer spent the winter throwing discus and shot, and this year that training won't lead straight into football. There are only seven seniors returning to the team, but there is a lot of experience among the underclassmen and the Spring practice is giving Coach Steve Savage a look at the upcoming freshmen.
"We are out to find some offensive linemen and defensive linemen to replace Twion and Gary. A center to replace Stephenson and to replace quarterback and safety, not to mention tailback," said Savage.
But the focus on the Commerce practice field isn't on the depression left by these players because the stars are in the making.
"I feel we have had as good a winter in the weight room as we have in a while. You build a team in January, February, March and April," said Savage.
The team is returning last years back-up quarterback and starting tight end Rob Brown, three offensive linemen and "a few folks on defense," said Savage.
The Tigers have several kids working at tailback. Dennis Wilder, Justin Howell, Lamar Daniels, Tristan Daniels and James Rucker are all trying their hand at the tailback spot.
Rob Brown is penciled in at quarterback. Brown was Collins' back-up last year, and though he had to have surgery during the spring practice, any other player who wants a shot at the position will "have to beat him out," Savage said.
The Tigers have thrown for 1,000 yards or better during many of the past years, and even threw for better than 1,400 yards two years ago, Savage reported. Next season, Savage thinks the team will be a better passing team.
Tommy Eason moved from guard to fullback and Casha Daniels, who started as a freshman at the linebacker spot, is also working at fullback. Nick Slatton and David Braden are also learning the ropes at the fullback position.
At safety, Commerce is going with Kyle Moore and Sam Cutler. Savage said that Moore had a "good winter" in the weight room.
Through the first week of spring practice the team has been doing a lot of learning. The coaches have worked on precise steps for quarterbacks and ball carriers, lined up huddles and instructed on weight balance for taking blocks. "There are a bunch of young ones, there is a lot of teaching and playing to do," said Savage. Savage also expressed that he is pleased with the rising ninth graders. "Haven't been disappointed," he said.
All the players are on two teams, one offense and one defense and the team of coaches are instructing the players on "how to play the game," said Savage. "Some we have to teach to practice; they don't know how to keep up with the pace of practice. We push them and so far I'm pleased. There are always people that will surprise you."
The coaching staff will be the same. Savage, Michael Brown, Rex Gregg, David Cash, and Greg Jarvis will coach the offense. Joe Hames will be in charge of linebackers. Terry Canup will coach the defensive line and David Stephenson will coach the defensive secondary. Jimbo Stephenson and his son Matt, who is student teaching at Commerce,will help with the linemen. 'Thank goodness," for the coaching staff, "I don't brag on them enough," Savage said.

Watts accepts Davidson College post
JACKSON COUNTY girls' basketball coach Annette Watts accepted the position of head coach at Davidson College last week. Davidson representatives apparently approached Watts about the position several weeks ago, and offered her the job last Monday.
"I'm really excited," Watts said earlier this week. "I played in the Southern Conference, and my heart has always been there. But you always hate leaving a team and a community and the people; it was really sad at church Sunday, because I've grown close to all of them."
Watts said she will assume her new role the first week of June, but also emphasized that the Panthers' summer basketball camps will go on as planned.
"Our camps will go on. Even if a head coach is not in place by then, Coach Potter is running it."
Watts also expressed concern that some might think her decision resulted from the Jackson County Board of Education's recent decision not to rehire boys' head coach Ron Garren.
"I want people to understand that my decision had absolutely nothing to do with the Ron Garren situation."
Watts compiled a 38-20 record during two years at Jackson County, and guided the Lady Panthers to the second round of the state Class AAA playoffs in 2000 and third round in 2001.
Davidson athletic director Jim Murphy was quoted in a press release on the school's website as saying "Annette brings strong technical skills coupled with an energy level needed to move our program forward. Her experience in a Final Four program and background in teaching are appealing to our student-athletes, and her charismatic enthusiasm is contagious."
Watts was an assistant coach at North Carolina State University during the Lady Wolfpack's trip to the 1998 NCAA Women's Final Four. During Watts' two seasons with N.C. State, the team was 42-19.
"We certainly do hate to see Annette leave," Jackson County superintendent Andy Byers said of the decision, "but we understand, and we are extremely proud for her. She's been a tremendous influence on our program. Davidson is certainly better for her having joined the staff. She's a very dynamic person."
Davidson College finished 9-19 in 2000-01, ninth place in the Southern Conference. Their 2001-02 season opener is scheduled for November 16 at the United States Military Academy Tournament in West Point, N.Y.

Raiders to hold Friday scrimmage
The Madison County varsity football team will hold an intrasquad scrimmage in Raider Stadium Friday at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the squad's two-week spring practice session.
Raider coach Tom Hybl, whose team is coming off a 10-0 season, said it's too early to tell much about the team. But he pointed out that he has a "relatively experienced group back on both sides up front."
Hybl said he is tentatively planning four junior varsity football games. He said Madison County needs about 50 guys at the end of the summer before he could field a JV squad. There are currently 55 players on the varsity team.
Madison County has been unable to have JV teams in recent years due to poor turnout.

MCHS soccer players recognized
Madison County soccer players were recognized at a Sunday banquet for their achievements during the 2001 season.
Alan Alvarez, who led the boys' squad with eight goals on the season, was named "Offensive Player of the Year." Joseph Jones was recognized as "Midfielder of the Year." Randall Ballenger was named "Defensive Player of the Year." David Vaughn received "Most Valuable Player" honors. Travis Moak received the "Coach's Award." Kevin Cash received the "Hustler's Award." Cash, a freshman, was also recognized as an honorable mention Region 8-AAA team member. And Vaughn and Scott Dills were recognized for being selected to the All-Region team.
Glenn Carter was named "Offensive Player of the Year" for the boys' junior varsity team. Sean Wingo was recognized as the team's "Defensive Player of the Year."
Jana Ackerman, who led the team with 34 goals, was named the varsity girls' "Most Valuable Player." Kelli Fitzpatrick was recognized as the "Offensive Player of the Year." Amanda Lewis was named "Defensive Player of the Year." Sarah Mosseri was recognized as "Midfielder of the Year." Amber Ginn received the "Red Raider" award. Ackerman and Deidre Davis were selected to the All-Region team and Amanda Rebitch was an honorable mention All-Region member.
Jessica Bentle, who led the junior varsity girls with 13 goals, was named the JV girls' "Most Valuable Player." Brittany Gordon received the team's "Red Raider" award.

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