sports teams prepare for 2001
CHANGE is in the air.
Across Jackson County, school is beginning in early August for
the first time ever. In the sports world, the transition from
summer into the fall seasons has begun.
At Jackson County, the Lady Panthers are set to field the county's
first-ever varsity fast-pitch softball team.
LADY PANTHERS ADD FAST-PITCH
Jackson County's fast-pitch team began tryouts earlier this week
at Lamar Murphy Park. In addition to the high school varsity
and JV teams, both East and West Jackson middle schools will
have fast-pitch teams.
Lady Panther varsity head coach Mark Mahoney was upbeat about
the new team's debut.
"We've got some good players on this team. We're really
excited about it."
The team's first game is scheduled for August 15, at home against
Clarke Central. Game time is currently set at 5 p.m., but that
is subject to change, according to assistant coach Ricky Sanders.
The Lady Panther fast-pitch team will play its home games at
Lamar Murphy Park, on Field 5.
SLOW-PITCH ALIVE AND WELL
Jackson County's slow-pitch program is also still alive and well,
according to head coach Clarke Rainwater.
The slow-pitch Lady Panthers will continue to play at the high
school field. Tryouts are scheduled through the rest of this
Their first game will be August 14 at Oconee County. Both the
varsity and JV teams will be in action, and the first pitch is
slated for 5 p.m.
Oconee County will visit two days later for the first home game,
also scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
FOOTBALL TEAMS PUT ON THE PADS
The Georgia High School Association allowed member schools' football
teams to wear full pads at practice beginning Monday.
Jackson County took advantage of the rule from day one, but Jefferson
is not likely to see pads before the end of the week.
During renovations at the Jefferson field house, equipment has
been stored in a trailer parked next to the facility.
Dragon head coach Bob Gurley indicated that his team may be able
to unload equipment as early as today, and might be ready to
practice in full pads by the end of the week.
Jefferson and Jackson County will square off in a preseason jamboree
at Memorial Stadium August 24.
Prior to that date, both teams will also see action against other
Jackson County begins the preseason schedule August 10, when
the Panthers travel to White County for a 6:30 p.m. start.
Jefferson hosts second-year school Apalachee August 17.
Both teams will start their regular seasons August 31 at home.
Jackson County will host Banks County, while Athens Christian
Head coach Robin Potter and her Volley Cats are busy preparing
for their 2001 fall season as well.
Jackson County returns a number of starters, but will feature
only one senior, Julie Griffith.
Potter indicated earlier this week that though most of the team's
schedule is completed, some area matches still need to be arranged.
Jackson County's cross country teams will begin preseason workouts
Monday at the high school.
Bob Roller and Chad Pittman will coach the two teams.
For area fall sports schedules, see page 5B of this week's
on pads for 2001
The Banks County Leopards strapped on the blue helmets and began
practicing in pads Monday on the practice field behind the school.
The practice began with a sure sign of the physical contact that
was about to begin when Coach Greg Moore grouped his players
around him and explained that there is a right way and a wrong
way to tackle. "If you tackle incorrectly, you can get hurt."
The first day of practice certainly had some contact but was
also spent teaching offensive and defensive backs how to make
a first step. The defense worked on wrapping up while tackling
and the receivers ran passing routes. Offensive linemen pushed
blocking dummies around.
"Our goal is to be fundamentally sound. Block well, run
well. We are teaching the kids to play hard."
The team has some solid senior leadership. Bill Krause is en
route being the starting quarterback for the Leopards. He played
tight-end last year and Moore said, "He is a true team leader."
"We have some strong seniors," Moore said. The Leopards
will have three seniors in the offensive backfield. "The
seniors have done an excellent job."
The two seniors who will be in the backfield with Krause will
be Hank Wilhelm, who will start at wing back, and Corey Bolton,
who will be the halfback.
"Bolton is a hard nosed player," Moore said.
Sophomore Seth Brownlee will fill out the backfield at the fullback
Defensively David Creasey at linebacker and Johnathan Bagwell
at defensive end will provide the leadership on that side of
Moore also said, "We are counting on D.J. Ledford at nose
guard." Ledford will be only a sophomore when school starts
but is one of many tough young players who will be on this year's
I am really excited about how hard the players are working,"
said Moore. " I couldn't ask for a better effort than what
The team does have a couple of unfortunate injuries to sophomore
Tyson Baxter, who will be out six to eight weeks and Corey Williams,
who will miss three to four weeks because of a torn rotator.
"We are going to play it safe," said Moore.
Moore also added, "Injuries are part of the game. We will
deal with them and not use them as excuses."
The only other problem the Leopards have is that there are relatively
few students playing football. Numbers always help a team be
"As athletic director I want kids to participate in something.
We need kids to play."
The relatively small numbers is a problem suffered at many local
schools. Jackson County, who the Leopards play in their opening
game, and Madison County, usually suffer the same predicament.
But Moore isn't using this an excuse either and reiterated, "I'm
excited about the effort from the ones who are out here. We've
got a hard-nosed group."
Put On Pads And Begin 2001 Workouts
The Tigers have had spring workouts and spent the summer in the
gym. They went through the Northeast Georgia Offensive Camp and
had a week of conditioning. Finnally, the eager tigers put on
their pads and began hitting.
Coach Steve Savage could be heard reminding the players, "discipline
yourselves boys, discipline yourselves," Monday at Commerce's
first practice in pads of the 2001 season.
The Commerce players are focusing thier practice regime and some
are "learning how to paractice," Savage said.
The Tigers ran through punt-blocking drills, passing routes and
basic offensive schemes. Most of the drills involved keeping
the players focused on the fundamentals of football.
but commanding former Raider is making a name for herself in
As her old high school coaches will tell you, Tawana Moon wasn't
a yeller during her Raider days.
But make no mistake, the former Raider two-sport standout had
quite a penchant for letting her bat and a quick first step to
the hoop do her talking.
And a year of college hasn't done anything to quell that.
The strong but silent approach that made Moon one of the county's
most successful female athletes is paying off at the next level,
easily making the transition on both the softball diamond and
the basketball court at Piedmont College.
"She leads by example," said Piedmont's basketball
coach Charles Cooper, whose team Moon helped lead to a 15-12
record and a second-place finish in the conference.
"She doesn't say much, but once she steps on the court she
gives 100 percent. She seems to love the game."
Moon's dedication to both basketball and softball spawned a banner
She was named the Great South Conference Freshman of the Year
in both sports and was also an All Conference and All Freshman
selection in basketball and softball.
And her statistics merit the attention.
Moon averaged a double-double for Cooper's Lady Lion hoop squad,
scoring 12.9 points per game and snagging 10.1 rebounds a contest
and also earned National Collegiate Christian Athletic Association
All Tournament team honors.
On the diamond, Moon was sound as well, hitting .361 this past
year with five home runs and 24 RBIs. She also proved to be dangerous
on the basepaths, swiping a team-high 31 bases in 33 tries for
the Lady Lions, who won the regular season conference title.
"She was a crucial part of our team because of her speed,"
Piedmont head softball coach Terry Martin said. "With her
ability, I wouldn't doubt it if she made All-American in both
sports in the future."
Though Moon has enjoyed her share of success in high school and
college, her achievements are even more impressive given that
she hasn't logged as much time on the field or court as most
of her opponents and teammates. Most college athletes have been
playing sports since they could walk. Moon began both softball
and basketball at the age of 11.
But whatever Moon may have lacked in experience, she made up
for with hard work and raw talent, humbly admitting that she
knew early on that she had a possible future in athletics.
"I kind of knew when I first started to play sports because
people were telling me that I was good and I had parents telling
me that I was good," she recalled, adding that she made
the all star basketball squad in her first year of recreation
league competition. "I didn't start playing sports till
late, so I kind of knew I was given a talent."
Moon nurtured that talent to become one of the most dominant
players in Lady Raider basketball history and a star in the Madison
County's fledgling but successful fast-pitch softball program.
With only four years of organized hoop experience, Moon earned
a starting spot for Tim Cook's 1997-1998 varsity outfit as a
"She was never vocal on the court, but she was a leader
in everything she did," Cook said. "Even in the weightroom.
The way she worked, you would have thought she was fighting just
for a spot on the team."
Cook said Moon knew how to get to the basket.
"Probably the thing I remember about Tawana was when she
made that move off the baseline," Cook said. "Her first
step is as good as any I've seen."
Moon's crafty first step led to her racking up over 1,000 points
over the next three years, placing her among the program's top
three among all-time scorers.
On the softball diamond, Raider coach Doug Kesler credits Moon
with the home run that helped transform Madison County into a
force to be reckoned with in the fast-pitch ranks.
"I'll never forget Tawana's home run against Central Gwinnett
her senior year," Kesler said, referring to a shot that
defeated the Black Knights in extra innings in 1999. "I
think it was a turning point in our program. It showed us we
could win against a good team."
Moon only played two years of fast-pitch, but adapted to the
higher velocities with ease, batting .402, drilling a record
eight homers with 17 doubles and 11 triples from 1998-1999.
"I don't think she said anything to me until her senior
year," Kesler joked of Moon's demeanor. "But she came
to play. She was probably the best female athlete we've had in
the past 15 years."
The Carlton resident's quick assent in prep basketball and softball
earned the attention of several small colleges in Georgia, but
Moon opted to stay close home and selected Piedmont, which is
located about an hour away in Demorest.
While she made the leap from high school to college unscathed,
Moon said she had to learn quickly that her new foes and teammates
were just as able with the bat and the basketball as she was.
The talent level was definitely different than what she saw in
her 8-AAA dominance, but former the Raider said she simply has
"In high school you had two to three players that were great
players, but on the college level everybody was good," she
said. "You just have to learn new people and how to get
into their game and make them adapt to yours," she said.
While she continued the athletic success she enjoyed at Madison
County, that didn't mean that the year wasn't physically draining.
With an academic schedule stacked on top of two sports, Moon
said her freshman year didn't provide much free time. According
to the two-sport student athlete, she mostly saw the classroom,
field, court and pillow of her bed.
"It was very tiring, you had to be determined to get your
work done," she said. "I had time to study, but most
of the time it was hard because I was really tired. The only
free time you had was after practice and then you were just ready
to go to sleep."
But Moon's work ethic allowed her to succeed.
Despite the schedule demands and constant fatigue, Moon earned
a 3.5 in the classroom and said she was satisfied with her results
on the athletic field - though she added that she could have
done better in some areas.
"Softball went good, but I really wanted to do better than
what I did," she said. "I really didn't expect as much
from basketball. But I actually did better than what I thought."
While more expectations are sure to come with three more years
of eligibility left in both sports, Moon has her sights set on
a future that is away from the athletic field. The Madison County
grad said she wants to become a nurse.
However, Moon won't rule out taking her athletic career a step
further, expressing interest in possibly playing pro basketball
"I would like to try out for a team," she said. "I
want to but I'm not sure, it just depends how good I am."
But no matter where Moon's athletic career takes her at Piedmont
or beyond, she said she will follow a simple lesson she learned
during her Red Raider days.
"Respect for your coach is the main thing I learned,"
Moon said. "Because they really appreciate that. The coaches
at Piedmont told me that I was one of the easiest persons to
get along with. So as long as you respect them, you're fine."