Area Sports...

October 24, 2001


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Lady Dragons' repeat bid falls short
Going in to last weekend's state Class A slow-pitch softball finals, there was little doubt as to who the top contenders were. Defending champ Jefferson returned virtually all of its team from 2000, and runner-up Bryan County was likely the only team that could stand in the Lady Dragons' way.
And stand in Jefferson's way they did.
Bryan County took advantage of numerous defensive mistakes and quiet bats from Jefferson to claim the 2001 state title, with the Lady Dragons a close second.
Jefferson struggled to score from the start, needing 10 innings to down Claxton in the first round. But when they did get started, the Lady Dragons poured it on, with nine runs in the 10th inning to win, 13-4.
A 12-1 bruising of Miller County followed, setting up the semifinal-round matchup with Bryan County.
Bryan broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning by scoring two unearned runs. Jefferson left five runners on base in the final three innings, and Bryan took the 4-2 win.
CONSOLATION GAME
Jefferson met familiar region foe Buford in the consolation round, and the two teams battled early, the Lady Wolves leading 2-1 in the fourth inning.
Another offensive outburst propelled Jefferson to victory. The Lady Dragons sent 13 batters to the plate in their half of the fourth inning, and put nine runs on the board to take a convincing 10-2 lead. Lee DuBose and Brittany Caudell both doubled in the inning, and DuBose added a single in her second at-bat of the inning. Annie Goza singled in both of her plate appearances, and Jefferson also had singles from Kenyotta Beasley and Sunny Bush.
The Lady Dragons picked up two more runs in the fifth to close the scoring at 12-2.
FINAL ROUND



Leopards heading into the mountains
Banks to take on undefeated Union County.
The Banks County Leopards will have a long bus ride awaiting Friday evening.
The Leopards are traveling to Union County to take on the undefeated Panthers.
"They are real big and strong," Leopard coach Greg Moore said. "They'll be the most physical team we've played."
Moore said the Panthers don't have the speed in the backfield that some of their other opponents have had, but it is their size and strength that worries him.
Union County is coming off a 13-7 victory over White County last week. Three weeks ago, the Panthers edged out Lumpkin County 36-35 in overtime. Banks fell 20-0 to Lumpkin last week. Union County has yet to face GAC, Dawson County or East Hall.
The Panthers run their offense out of the wing-T formation with a 4-3 set on defense.
A key for the Leopards Friday night will be getting a breakthrough on offense. Last week, Banks came within yards of scoring for the first time since their second game of the season.
"We mixed it up a little more last week," Moore said of the offense. "We'll probably do some of the same things this week."



Panthers pick up region win, 21-14
Homecoming this week
The Jackson County Panthers claimed their first varsity football win in more than a year Friday, with a 21-14 victory at Franklin County. The win was also Jackson County's first in region competition since the 1997 season, when the Panthers finished 3-4 in Region 8-AA and 4-6 overall.
"Good things come to people who keep their shoulder to the wheel," Panther head coach Greg Lowe said of the win. "It's something we preach all the time; good people, high character, hard work ­ it has it's rewards, but the message gets lost if there's no reward. Friday was sort of a reward for us, finally."
The Panthers racked up 283 yards rushing and another 53 through the air, and turned the ball over only once, marking the second consecutive week of improvement for Jackson County in holding on to the pigskin.
Down 7-6 at the half, Jackson County might have been expected to give up when the Lions came out roaring with a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter.
"It would have been real easy for our kids to just check in at that time," Lowe commented.
But they didn't. The Panthers responded with a touchdown of their own, Chris McGeary hauling in a Bradley Wilson pass from 18 yards out to pull to within two.
As rarely as the Panthers have found the end zone in 2001, a two-point conversion might have seemed to be a lot to ask for, but the task was accomplished when Wilson connected with Chuck Kubiak to tie the game at 14.
Jackson County mounted its final drive of the game with around 10 minutes left in the game, a monster 19-play, 88-yard drive that gobbled up all but 19 seconds of the game clock.
Chris Kubiak moved the ball to just inches shy of a score before Marquez Trammel went in for his second score of the night to break the tie.
"I think that's a real testimony to our kids' perseverence," Lowe said of the game-winning drive. "We had all kinds of opportunities to stub our toe, and that would be the expected thing, with a squad that's struggled like we have."
Franklin County threatened to send the game to overtime in the final 19 seconds, until Andy Crawford batted a Lion pass and Brandon Shields came up with the interception to end the drive and clinch the win for Jackson County.
"We came back in Moday [of last week] and did some real soul-searching," Lowe said of his team's first practice after a 47-7 loss to Loganville. "Last week was a real hard week to be a football player here. The kids really stepped it up. We didn't do anything bad to them; it was really just a change of attitude. The main thing is the players' effort. That was the big change from last Friday to this Friday."
HOMECOMING THIS WEEK
The Panthers will observe Homecoming this week, as the Bulldoggs of Winder-Barrow come calling at Panther Field.
"Winder is very athletic," Lowe commented on this week's opponent. "They'll attack us on defense and try to disrupt us before we get going. If we go out and make a good effort, it will be a good, competitive football game."
Winder-Barrow is 3-3 thus far in 2001, 1-4 in region play. The Bulldoggs' three wins have come against teams with a comined record of 3-18 ­ 20-6 over North Hall (0-7), 15-7 against Meadowcreek (2-5) and 32-10 over Franklin County (1-6).



A Successful Run
Softball Team's Postseason Journey Ends With Fourth-Place Finish. The clock struck 12 on Commerce's Cinderella post season run Friday, but not before they made an impression in the big dance.
The Tigers (17-19) earned a fourth-place finish in the state tournament by rebounding from a 13-1 opening-round loss to top-seeded Miller County with two big wins Friday over Claxton and Treutlen before being ousted by nemesis Buford later that afternoon.
Despite finishing two games under .500, Commerce's fourth-place showing matched that of last year's 25-10 senior-laden squad.
Head coach Donnie Drew said the team's run at state was indicative of the type of up-and-down season the squad had.
"Obviously, you're excited when you finish higher than you thought you would and you're disappointed when you finish lower than you thought you would-we've experienced both recently," said Drew, pointing to the team's disappointing showing during the area tournament and then resurgence in the state sectionals and state tournament.
The coach said that the squad's 17-7 pounding of Claxton in the loser's bracket at the state tournament and subsequent 12-11 10-inning thriller over Treutlen brought out the best in his young squad.
"We were obviously pleased with the results of the second and third games," Drew said. "We played with intensity and concentration. We would have won the fourth game if we played with that kind of intensity....To win those two showed what we were capable of and the tenth inning win was about as good as we could play."
The coach however, said he was disappointed with the team's close, season-ending loss to Buford, a contest where Drew said his team lost the concentration and focus they showed in their two wins.
The team built up a 3-0 third inning lead over the Wolves but surrendered eight runs over the next three innings to fall to Buford by three runs-their fifth loss of the year to the Wolves.
"The concentration wasn't there that could have been," Drew said. "I've never been satisfied with a close loss when we didn't play up to our capabilities.
For the year as a whole, Drew said the team had its bright spots but would have liked to see it play with more consistency.
"If we could have played all year like we played those two games (at state), we could have won several more ball games."
With the team's post season success this year, Drew said the future looks bright for the Tiger softball team-if the team keeps the same caliber of foes next year. With the constant shuffle of teams going from slow pitch, Commerce's future slate of opponents remains to be seen.
"In a similar competitive situation, it (the state tournament success) should help us a lot."


Raiders roar to finish
30-7 Madison County takes Class AAA state runner-up honors. Sunflower seeds.
Bottled water, maybe a soft drink. Essentials for watching a game.
But Raider softball parents joked about another essential this past week in Columbus - heart medication.
The Madison County softball squad peered at opponents last week through never-say-die bifocals that all great teams share.
The team took parents, fans and reporters on a roller coaster ride that left hearts pounding and palms sweating.
Three runs down and one strike away from losing the first game of the tournament Thursday, the Raiders rallied - thanks to a clutch two-run double by Brandi Robertson - to force the game to a tenth inning before finally grabbing the win.
The Raiders downed LaGrange by one run in eight innings Friday as Lyndsey Mason smashed a game-winning hit. Later that night, Madison County edged Loganville 3-2 as Lyndsey Barnette continued her pitching dominance, battling some of the state's top hitters in any classification with smart location and wicked changeups.
Yes, the team dropped two straight to Loganville Saturday, 2-0 and 4-1, having to settle for runner-up in Class AAA. The losses hurt. They should. Any team which cares about succeeding should feel the pinch of not meeting a goal.
But gaining perspective is part of maturity.
And as the Raider bus followed a blue-light police escort back to cheering fans at the high school, team members must have surely recognized one thing.
They had a special year.
Consider that the team won the Area 8-AAA regular season and tournament titles for the second straight year in perfect form, going 12-0 in the area.
Consider that the team won a school-record 30 games, including 12 by shutout.
Remember that the state runner-up squad of 2001 is essentially last year's junior varsity team. This year's Raiders had only one senior - Amanda Lewis.
Think about that fact that the Raiders' two returning standouts, Barnette and Lewis, both missed playing time early in the season due to injury, but the two played with pain and showed real team leadership down the stretch.
Remember that the team's number two pitcher, Sarah Tippins, is just a freshman. She was remarkable filling in for Barnette early in the year.
Consider that the Raiders outscored their foes 220 to 70, an average 5.9 runs per game to opponents' 1.9.
Consider that the 2001 Raiders clinched the program's 100th win in fast-pitch softball. Madison County is now 102-34 (.750) in four years of fast-pitch softball under coach Doug Kesler, advancing to the state final four in 2000 and final two this year.
And, of course, consider that the squad overcame a tumultuous off-season in which the coach was fired without any real reasons given, then rehired after numerous people let the school board know of their disapproval of the dismissal. Coach Kesler certainly answered his critics this year.
He led a group of youngsters to unexpected heights.
But we shouldn't be too surprised. The bar has risen in girls' athletics at Madison County in recent years.
And by the looks of things, these Lady Raiders will continue to soar.
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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (1-6-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 at JCCHS 12-7
9/7 Jefferson 7-35
9/21 Dawson Co. 0-28
9/28 at East Hall 0-28
10/5 GAC 0-48
10/12 at Apalachee 0-30
10/19 Lumpkin Co. 0-20
10/26 at Union Co. -
11/2 Rabun Co. -
11/9 at White Co. -

  Commerce
  (3-3-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Franklin Co 29-13
9/7 at Forsyth Ctrl 14-35
9/14 Morgan Co ppd.
9/21 at Walhalla, SC 35-24
9/28 at Lincoln Co 13-12
10/5 at Ath Acad 7-34
10/12 Wash-Wilkes 26-49
10/26 Wesleyan -
10/2 at Jefferson -
10/9 Buford -

  Jackson County
  (1-5-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Banks Co 7-12
9/7 at Madison Co 7-35
9/14 at Elbert Co ppd.
9/28 Hart 3-51
10/5 at Eastside 7-47
10/12 Loganville 0-47
10/19 at Franklin 21-14
10/26 Winder-Barrow -
11/2 Stephens Co -
11/9 at Monroe Area -

  Jefferson
  (4-2-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Athens Christian 40-6
9/7 at Banks Co 35-7
9/14 at Johns-G'ville ppd.
9/21 Madison Co 11-14
9/28 at Social Circle 21-28
10/5 Oglethorpe Co 21-6
10/12 Lndmrk Christ 23-14
10/26 at Buford -
11/2 Commerce -
11/9 at Wesleyan -

  Madison County
  (6-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/24 South Forsyth 0-17
9/1 Apalachee 36-3
9/7 Jackson Co 35-7
9/14 at North Hall ppd.
9/21 at Jefferson 14-11
9/28 Warren Co 14-7
10/5 Union Grove 35-6
10/19 at Wesleyan 14-0
10/26 at Union Grove -
11/2 Athens Christian -


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