Area Sports...

August 15, 2001

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Preseason football action begins
The Jackson County football team was the first out of the preseason gate last week, traveling to Cleveland for a scrimmage against the Warriors of White County.
Jefferson's preseason debut will come this Friday at home, when the second-year Apalachee Wildcats come calling for an 8 p.m. scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. In their first year of competition last year, the Wildcats finished 0-8 in Region 8-AA and 1-9 overall.
Jackson County's scrimmage last week brought smiles to everyone's faces, including that of Panther head coach Greg Lowe.
"It was a happy bus on the way home," Lowe said. "Our effort was real good, and our enthusiasm was real good. Our execution was not where we'd like it to be, but it is early August. We didn't turn the ball over; we were really pleased with that . . . We got what we wanted out of it, and I think the White County coaches got out of it what they wanted."
The Panther defense forced a couple of turnovers and kept White County out of the end zone, despite a few threats. On offense, Jackson County held on to the ball well, and the second team reached the Warrior end zone near the end of the scrimmage.
Sophomore quarterback Jerrod Glass found classmate Chris Huskey for a 45-yard gain to the White County 20-yard line, and another sophomore, quarterback Alex Lowe, stepped in on the next play and hit Huskey again for a 20-yarder into the end zone.
Though they've continued to practice all this week, the Panthers will take a breather Friday for a preseason retreat and goal-setting session. According to Lowe, the time-out will allow his players and coaches to get better acquainted before the August 31 season-opener against Banks County.
"It gives some of our kids an opportunity to talk to our coaches more privately and individually. It's a great opportunity for our assistants to get to know the kids they work with."
Jackson County and Jefferson will meet next Friday at the Dragons' Memorial Field for a 7 p.m. scrimmage. Both teams open the regular season a week later at home. Jefferson will host Athens Christian, while the Panthers welcome Banks County.
The Associated Press released its preseason football poll this week, and Regions 8-A and 8-AAA each had three members receiving votes.
2000 state runner-up Buford leads the Class A poll, with reigning champion Commerce fourth. Jefferson finsihed 13th in the polling.
In Class AAA, current champion Swainsboro is number one, with Hart County fourth. Stephens County and Franklin County also received votes.

Leopards tie with Athens Christian in scrimmage
Leopards to host Athens Academy in scrimmage Fri.
Banks County got its first taste of pigskin competition during a scrimmage last Thursday with Athens Christian.
The Leopards' new coaching staff will get another look at the team Friday when Banks hosts Athens Academy in a 7 p.m. scrimmage at Bobby Morris Field.
Banks is preparing for its season opener on the road against Jackson County on Friday, Aug. 31.
"We're going to work on our stuff and try to get ready for the season," head coach Greg Moore said. "I told the kids we were not going to treat the scrimmage as a game."
The Leopards, who come into the 2001 season with a young team, a new coaching staff and a new offensive scheme, tied with Athens Christian.
Both teams scored one touchdown each.
On offense, Banks County untilized its position players in the backfield. Sophomore Seth Brownlee grabbed the team's only score with a 30-yard run.
The Eagles had trouble throughout the scrimmage containing Banks' rushing attack.
Banks County went to the air only a handful of times.
"I think our first team played very well," Moore said. "I think we've still got to work on our reads."
Defensively, the Leopards were able to keep Athens' rushing game at bay.
However, Banks had some trouble defending against the Eagles' deep passing attack.
Athens Christian scored its only touchdown off a long pass play against the Leopards' second string defense.

Fourth-Ranked Tigers Nearing Gridiron Season
With Friday night gridiron action just around the corner, the preseason prognosticators have once again placed the Commerce Tigers among the state's elite.
The defending Class A state champion squad, which lost nine seniors from last year's team, has been ranked fourth in the state by the Associated Press poll which was released Tuesday.
Ranked ahead of Commerce are Buford, who the Tigers downed 27-19 last year in the state championship, along with Lincoln County and Athens Academy, both of which Commerce will take on during the regular season.
Along with the recognition from sportswriters, things have also been going well on the practice field for the Tigers.
Commerce head football coach Steve Savage said the team made some positive strides during the past week.
"I think practice went well and I think the kids are starting to catch on," the 13th-year head coach said. "We're pleased with how they're doing."
But Savage, who owns a 106-40 record in his tenure at Commerce, explained that his squad is still very young.
"We're still teaching them how to practice, teaching them what they need to do-to give effort on every play," said Savage whose squad has been practicing in pads since July 30.
Savage said the team "has looked good defensively at times" and that they're "still looking to see what we can do offensively."
The Tigers will have another week of practice before taking on Stephens County and Athens Academy August 24 in a 7:30 p.m. jamboree.
Commerce will then kick the season off a week later in an 8 p.m. matchup at Tiger Field.

Raiders ready to bring on the heat
Despite loss of eight seniors, softball Raiders look for success in 2001. Raider softball coach Doug Kesler hopes that success will be a hard habit for his team to break, even with a different cast of players this year.
The nucleus that guided the fast-pitch softball program to 72 wins over the past three years is gone, but head coach Doug Kesler believes the group he has on the diamond in 2001 can live up to the expectations of Raider past.
"You could look at it like a rebuilding year," said Kesler, who lost eight seniors of last year's team who went 26-11 and finished fourth in the state. "But we're looking to try to win 20 games this year for the fourth year in a row, win our area and go to state," he said .
However, the fourth-year coach understands that the 2001 campaign will have it's hurdles.
The program, which sports 23 players this year, will have to contend with inexperience paired with injuries.
The team's only senior, second baseman Amanda Lewis, is on the disabled list with a broken bone in her ankle while the team's top hurler, junior Lindsey Barnette, who was a first team all-state selection a year ago, is on the shelf with back problems and fluid problems in her knee.
Both are out indefinetly but Kesler said he hopes both can be back by at least the end of the season.
"If we can get healthy, everything should work out," Kesler said. "We can be okay."
But Kesler said he is optimistic because of what he sees on the field, rather than dwell on what isn't. The coach said this year's outfit has talent that just needs to be nurtured with game experience.
"A lot of the girls we have on the team this year would have gotten a lot of playing time last year had they been on any other team, but we had a lot of talented seniors," he said.
The coach said this year's bunch should be able to carry the weight offensively while adding some speed on the basepaths.
"We should be able to hit the ball," Kelser said. "But what we'll have this year that we haven't had in past years is speed on the basepaths. That will be a benefit."
Kesler looks to a host of players-mostly juniors-to chip in offensively: Sarah Owens, Brooke Kesler, Danielle Johnson, Lewis when she returns, Melanie Elrod and sophomore Candance Shubert who hit at a .388 clip in 2000.
However, pitching is where the team might experience some growing pains. With Barnette(14-2 with a 0.20 ERA in 2000) out, the pitching staff will have two freshmen-Sarah Tippins and Laura Bird-to go along with junior Johnson.
The team will have some valuable help from the dugout this year to help with Mellisa Mullins who was added to the staff as an assistant. Mullins has experience both as a pitcher and a catcher at the collegiate level, playing three years at McNesse State and one at Louisiana State.
"She will be a big plus," Kesler said.
While 2001 may see a lot of new faces, the coach sees it as a fresh start.
"It's a new year, we've got new kids and we're going to work hard to put a team on the field that the community can be proud of," Kesler said.
The softball squad will hit the field tommorrow, competing in Pool C of the Madison County Softball Leadoff Classic, taking on Elbert County at 4:30 p.m. and Monroe Area at 8 p.m.


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