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December 12, 2001

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Gurley resigns; Panthers get new coach same day
THERE MAY NOT BE MUCH in common between the Jefferson and Jackson County school systems, but one thing is for sure: Both will have new head football coaches in 2002.
Just hours before the Jackson County Board of Education approved Westside (Macon) offensive coordinator Brent Brown to lead the Panthers, Dragon coach Bob Gurley submitted his resignation.
“We’re on the search to find a new football coach immediately,” Jefferson High School principal Pat Blenke said Wednesday morning. “Bob Gurley has resigned, and it will be taken up at the Jefferson Board of Education meeting Thursday.”
Gurley indicated that the decision was his, and that his resignation had not been requested.
“I chose to announce it at the football banquet Monday, so I could thank the parents and the players as a whole,” Gurley said. “If you try to catch everyone individually, you’ll leave someone out. I wanted everyone to know that I appreciate the support they’ve given the program in the past several years, and to thank all the kids for their efforts.
Gurley said he’s accomplished what he was asked to do when he was hired at Jefferson – make the team competitive and increase participation numbers.
“We’ve made some strides in this program in the last five years. I feel like I’ve done all I can do here. It’s time for someone else to step in and see if they can finish the job. . . . It’s been a long, hard road.”
As for the future, the Jefferson native said he’s unsure what he might do.
“I’m going to take some time and sit back, and see what I want to do. When I decide, my primary concern will be taking care of my family and my kids, and making sure they get the best education possible.”
The Jackson County school system wasted no time in picking the person to take over the helm of the Panther football program. High school principal Dr. Robin Hines introduced Brent Brock at Monday’s meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.
“We’re looking for great things out of Brent,” Hines said. “I’m excited about what is about to happen with this program.”
Brock will assume the position of health and physical education teacher at JCCHS in January. His wife, Missy, a special education teacher, was also present at Monday’s meeting.
Brock has worked for the past two seasons as offensive coordinator at Westside High School in Macon. The Seminoles finished 10-3 this season, and reached the state Class AAAAA quarterfinals before losing to Parkview last week. Westside’s other two losses this season were to Northside and Dacula, who faced off Friday, also in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
Westside reached the state semifinals in 2000, also losing to Parkview in their final game of the year.
Brock said his specialty is in weight training, and in trying to revive struggling programs.
“A lot of our competency is in the weight aspect,” Brock said. “I know the football program has struggled a bit . . . [but] I feel that we bring some experience to this kind of situation,” Brock said. “We’re excited about the opportunity.”
Brock graduated from Albany High School, and played football at Florida State University during Bobby Bowden’s early years there. He and Hines worked together at Thomasville, and Brock followed coaching icon Dr. Jim Hughes to Colquitt County, where he stayed for 10 years.
Brock served as head coach at Worth County and at Fitzgerald, each for four years, before accepting his current post at Westside.
“There’s always been some adversity to overcome wherever we’ve been,” Brock recalled, “and we’ve learned a lot from those things.”
As for staff changes, Brock indicated that he will likely have a mix between current coaches and some that he’s worked with before.
“We have a very competent staff, and we’ll retain some staff members who’ve been very loyal to the program. We’re educators first, and there are some outstanding teachers here that work in a dual capacity of teaching and coaching. We’ve found from experience that you want to keep some folks who are loyal, not just to the program, but to the community as well. We want people on our staff who are particularly loyal to our young people. I can’t promise that everyone will be back; we need to right the ship, and obviously you want to bring in some of your own people. At the same time, the cleaning house thing can backfire on you if you’re not careful. There are some good people here. The folks who are already here will be given the chance to interview and see if they fit in to what our plans are here.”
Brock plans to meet with staff members and players later this week.
Even with the focus on athletics, Brock said that producing good students is more important to him.
“This is a call for us to be educators first, then coaches. We think it’s important for our kids to be successful when that bell rings for class. I feel very strongly that we’re very blessed to be in this situation. We’re very much interested in it, because Dr. Hines has done a tremendous job of implementing some things here from an academic standpoint. He’s convinced us there’s some very special things going on here.”
As for the Panther football team, Brock said each player should be congratulated for his efforts on the field.
“The kids should be commended for just coming out and playing as hard as they can. A lot of times people forget about that, and the W’s and L’s are much too strongly emphasized. The kids are winners for just coming out and playing.”

20 Years Ago...
Memories Of ‘81 Season Still Strong, Even After Two Decades . For two decades, “1981 AA State Champions” has been as much a part of the proud east end zone Tiger mural as the ol’ snarling Bengal itself.
And for those who brought home that state crown, time hasn’t dulled the memories—even after 20 years.
“I can remember it like yesterday,” said Hal Lamb, a receiver on the 1981 squad. “Oh yeah, I still think about it. Something like that doesn’t happen very often.”
Commerce’s original legends of the fall etched their names in the school’s gridiron history December 11, 1981, claiming the Tigers’ first-ever state crown with a 28-14 win over Greene County.
For Hal’s father, former head coach Ray Lamb, the 13-1-1 1981 team marked the pinnacle of an illustrious 22-year tenure at Commerce.
“It was a tight group,” the elder Lamb, now 65, said. “They did a lot of things together...It was just something that they just made up their minds that they were going to do.”
Led by the quarterback-receiver combo made up by sons Bobby and Hal, Ray Lamb, who now is the University of Georgia Athletic Department’s director of high school relations, remembers a group that had entangibles of a champion that season.
“We were pretty versatile,” he said. “We could run and throw pretty well. We just had the right chemistry.”
According to Tim Pritchett, a defensive lineman on the 1981 team who still resides in Commerce, the chemistry grew from a group that had logged considerable time on the playing and practice field together.
“We’d played with each other as a team since eighth grade, so we knew each other well,” he said.
It took a little while to get that chemistry rolling, but when it did, the Tigers were unstoppable, winning their last 11 games on their way to championship glory.
Ironically, though, that success was kick-started in a game they didn’t even win.
Ray Lamb pointed to the team’s 29-29 tie in the fourth game of the year as the game that turned the tide.
In that contest, the Tigers, who suffered a 13-6 loss to Buford two games earlier, trailed 29-7 at the half but rallied furiously in the second half to avert the loss.
“I think the kids realized at that point that we were pretty good,” the former coach said.
Pritchett, now 37, agreed that the comeback that night in Hartwell fueled the championship drive.
“I think that’s when we decided we were going to play as a team,” he said. “We had some close games after that, but we always had the feeling that we were the better team.”
The remaining teams on the Tigers’ schedule came to realize that too.
Commerce plowed through the rest of the regular season with victories over Oconee County, North Gwinnett, Duluth, East Hall, Jefferson and Loganville.
The Tigers then breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs, downing Rabun Co. 40-24, winning a rematch with East Hall 41-14 and pounding Darlington 37-6.
Commerce picked up a 15-7 win over North Springs before the state championship contest a week later.
Then on a cold December night, 8,000 fans packed into Tiger Stadium to Commerce history made.
“I remember the crowd support we had that night and the intensity on the field,” said Hal Lamb, 37, who now coaches at Calhoun.
The Tigers pounced on Greene County early going up 14-0 in the second quarter. Commerce parlayed two turnovers in the second half into touchdowns to take a 28-0 fourth quarter lead.
Greene County picked up two late scores to cut the lead in half, but the night was to belong to Commerce.
“It was a very satisfying feeling to walk off the field as state champions,” said Hal Lamb who caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from his brother Bobby on the Tigers’ first possession of the game.
Just like the rest of the season, the team got the job done one last time that night.
“They were one of those teams who found a way to win,” said current head Tiger Steve Savage who was a young offensive line and defensive coach for the team at the time. “They were fun to coach and they had good leaders.”
Several members of the 1981 team have gone on to bigger things. Both Bobby Lamb and Clay Hendrix have been on the Furman coaching staff for 14 years now while Hal Lamb led Calhoun to the third round of the playoffs this season.
But memories of the championship season 20 years ago will always be close by for those who were a part of it.
“Watching the games on Friday nights, it doesn’t seem that long since you were out there playing,” said Pritchett.
Rarely do a father and his two sons all claim a championship ring.
Even rarer is when they all do it with the same team, the same year.
But it happened in 1981 when the Lambs, Ray (head coach), Bobby (quarterback) and Hal (receiver) helped guide the 1981 Tigers to the state championship.
The family affair surrounding the championship made the title all the more satisfying for the Lambs.
“You don’t get to play for a state championship very often,” Hal said. “And to have you dad coaching and your brother playing is unheard off. It’s something we remember in our family.”
His father echoed his comments.
“It was really special to me because my two boys were on the team,” said Ray Lamb.
All three Lambs made a significant impact on the Commerce record book.
Ray is the winningest coach in Commerce history with 190 victories, when Hal graduated, he was tops all-time in receiving yards with 1,171 ( he is now behind Michael Collins) and Bobby is still the most prolific passer in Tiger history with 4,224 career yards through the air.

Banks to begin subregion schedule
There will be no time for play for the Leopards this weekend.
Banks is slated to open its subregion schedule with Greater Atlanta Christian School Friday and host rival Commerce the next night in two games the Leopards are sure to take seriously.
“GAC is not big but they shoot the ball well,” Leopard head coach Mike Ruth said. “They do a lot of pressing and play tough half-court man-to-man defense.”
The Spartans will come into Homer with a young team, sporting no seniors.
“We’re a little average team trying to play hard,” GAC head coach Tim Vick said. “We lost a lot of size. We’re just trying to hang in there.”
Vick said he expects Friday’s game to be a good one.
“Banks County is always tough,” he said. “I think it’ll be a good game. We’re young and small, but we’ve got a bunch of guys who play hard.”
The Leopards will turn around Saturday to host rival Commerce in what usually proves to be a high-energy game. Banks went 1-2 against the Tigers last season.
“Last year they came in here with that good bunch and we still beat them,” Ruth said. “But you can throw out talent, records and everything else when we play them.”
Commerce coach Rex Gregg said the competition between the two schools was good.
“It’s a pretty good rivalry,” Gregg said. “It’s been pretty even in the past few years. Banks County will be up for the game. They love to beat Commerce.”
Due to the football team’s participation in the state playoffs, the beginning of the Tigers’ basketball season was delayed.
They started their schedule Tuesday evening against Prince Avenue Christian and will face Athens Academy Friday.
Fast-paced, aggressive and wild are just a few of the words that could be used to describe last weekend’s 68-52 loss to White County.
“They were quick,” Ruth said. “We played good defense, but we didn’t follow our game plan and we got out of control.”
Banks County was able to hold the Warriors’ offense at bay in the first quarter, taking a 13-12 lead. But in the second quarter, the Leopards stopped forcing White to foul and began losing the ball to the press.
“We started turning the ball over and taking bad shots,” Ruth said. “We let them set the tempo of the game. Our hustle was there, we just lost control of our game plan. You can’t do that against a team that quick.”
The Warriors outscored Banks County 22-12 in the second quarter, helping themselves to an 11-point lead at the half.
“We beat ourselves,” Ruth said. “We played right into their hands. It’s crazy to take quick shots against a team like that. You’ve got to set up and make them play defense and foul you.”
Will Gordon went on to lead the Leopards in scoring against White County with 16 points. Cody Whitlock was also in double digits with 11.
Other scorers include: Matt Dale and Kris Drummond, six; Dustin Bonds, four; Corey Sims, Cory Morris, Reggie Smith and Tyler Sims, two; and Seth McCoy, one. The Warriors had four in double digits.
Ruth said he hopes the loss will help the team later in the season.
“We’ll see a lot more pressure like that from East Hall, Apalachee and GAC,” Ruth said. “Maybe it’ll help us. We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll work real hard, and maybe we’ll make the adjustments we need to make

Searching for a stronghold
Madison Co. holds its own against tough foes. Madison County wrestlers aren’t backing down from tough competition.
The 4-1 squad paired up with some of the top wrestlers in the state last week, nearly beating a top area program and placing fourth in an 11-team meet in Loganville.
Loganville, ranked sixth in AAA, won the tournament with 222 points. South Gwinnett, a 5-A team, took second with 176 points. Perennial contender Westminster finished third with 171 points. And Madison County took fourth with 136 points. Others squads finished as follows: Grayson, 100 points; Clarke Central, 95; Decatur, 93.5; Social Circle, 65; Monroe, 47; Greene Taliaferro, 3; and St. Pias, 0.
Seven Raider wrestlers placed in the top four in their respective weight classes. They included: Steve Austin, second, 130 lbs.; Josh Moyer, second, 215 lbs.; Matt Kittle, second, heavyweight; Will Overstreet, third, 103 lbs.; Kevin Cash, third, 160 lbs.; Mark Arnold, third, 189 lbs.; and Richard Stowers, fourth, 171 lbs.
“It was a real good showing,” said Raider head coach Steve Mason. “I think a lot of teams were surprised by how well we did. But I felt we should have brought home 10 place winners instead of seven.”
Madison County also traveled to Lexington last week to face Oglethrore County and Banks County. The Raiders narrowly lost to the Patriots, while soundly defeating the Leopards.
Raiders who won their matches against Banks County Thursday included Overstreet, J.J. Gunnells, James Smith, Austin, John Poole, J.J. Brueshaber, Ben Carter, Cash, Arnold, Moyer and Kittle.
Madison County nearly beat Oglethorpe County, the fourth-ranked team in AA. The showdown was decided on the last match of the evening, with the Raiders coming out on the short end, 39-38.
Those who won their matches by pin versus Oglethorpe County included Overstreet, David Giles, Poole, Moyer and Kittle. Others who won their matches included Austin and Arnold
“We made a couple of mistakes here and there,” said Mason. “We’re working on those mistakes during practice. I’m proud of their effort.”
Madison County, which was scheduled to face Banks and Stephens County Tuesday — results were not available as of press time — will host Greene Taliaferro and Social Circle Friday at 5 p.m. The squad is scheduled to wrestle at Jackson County Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m. versus the Panthers and Dawson County.
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Local Playoff Results
(first round)

Jefferson 14
Lincoln Co. 26

Commerce 3
Ga. Military 0

  Banks County
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. 0-35
11/2 Rabun Co. 21-18
11/9 at White Co. 10-33

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 24-15
11/2 at Jefferson 14-0
11/9 Buford 0-41
11/16  Morgan Co. 27-10
 11/23  Ga. Military


  Jackson County
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 0-35
11/2 Stephens Co 3-34
11/9 at Monroe Area 0-27
 11/16 at Elbert Co. 7-14

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 0-41
11/2 Commerce 0-14
11/9 at Wesleyan 31-14
 11/16  at Johns-G'ville 7-23
 11/23 @ Lincoln Co.  14-26

  Madison County
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 14-10
11/2 Athens Christian 49-6
11/16 at N. Hall 12-35
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