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JULY 24, 2002


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Leopards head back to gridiron
Scorching temperatures during summer practice are nothing new to football.
And the Banks County Leopards are handling the heat the way they always do—lots of water and evening practices.
“We’re trying to stay as hydrated as we can,” head football coach Greg Moore said. “Mainly, we’re just using our heads. We’re not trying to kill them until they’re in better shape.”
The Leopards began practice this week in helmets and shorts. They’ll continue to practice every evening until next Wednesday when they head off to camp for five days.
Moore said the team was working mainly on conditioning this week.
On Tuesday, the team ran conditioning drills and lined up in several different formations to learn offensive sets.
“Our main thing right now is conditioning,” Moore said. “We’re trying to get them acclimated to the heat.”
He said the team was more optimistic this year than last.
“We’re all fired up,” he said. “The players are in good spirit and are really cranked up.”
Moore said he was fairly pleased with turnout so far, though the summer weight lifting program didn’t have as many players showing up as he would have liked. But in the first two days of practice this week, he already had some players out that did not play last year.
The Leopards’ evening practices will continue up to the beginning of school when they will start practicing in the afternoon after school each day.


Commerce All-Star Team Bows Out At State Tournament
The Commerce 11-and-12-year-old all-stars’ postseason run came to a close Thursday in Claxton, falling 8-6 in seven innings to Irwin County to give the team a fifth-place finish in the state.
The Distrtict 7 champions started state tournament play with a 3-0 loss to Bremen Wednesday but rebounded Thursday afternoon with a 4-2 win over Cochran before bowing out later that day against Irwin in the second round of the loser’s bracket.
“We had a good run winning the district tournament and getting as far as we did,” head coach Mark Gary said of the all-star campaign.
In the shutout loss to Bremen Wednesday, Commerce held their opponents’ bats in check for the most part, with Bremen only getting a run in the the first and two more in the fifth, but failed to generate any offense of their own.
The bats, however, rebounded against Cochran.
After falling down 1-0 in the top of the third, Commerce rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer from Jarred Howell. Then with the game tied 2-2 in the fifth, Commerce put it away in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single from Cohen Cooke and an RBI double from Matt Worley.
In their extra inning, season-ending loss to Irwin County, Commerce fell down 5-0 before embarking on a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth, ignited by a solo HR by Colton Brown.
Then, Down 6-3 in the sixth, Commerce answered with three more runs to send the game into extra innings.
But in the seventh, Irwin drilled a two-run HR to take a two-run edge.
Commerce got a late two-out double with a runner on in the bottom of the seventh—which came six inches away from being a game-tying two-run homer—but couldn’t bring the runs home to keep their season alive.
Gary point to the performances of two players in particilar during their stay in Claxton.
“Jarred Howell and Cohen Cooke played well in the state tournament,” he said.


Jefferson wins state title
Going into the bottom of the sixth inning in the 9- and 10-year-old state championship, the Jefferson all-stars were running out of time for a win.
Down 4-2 to the host team Carrollton, and needing just one win to secure a tournament sweep and claim the state championship, the Jefferson all-stars rose to the occasion.
A loss would have pitted Jefferson against Carrollton for the third time in a championship game rematch.
But the team had a brief pep talk just outside the dugout before the start of the sixth inning, leading them to put together several hits to take a 5-4 championship win over Carrollton.
“Our biggest fear was coming down here and losing two games,” coach Earl Sexton said. “We guided and directed and these kids delivered and they played. They’re a great core of players.”
With one out in the sixth inning, Kyle Hardy started a rally with a single. He moved to second on a passed ball, leaving room for Lucas Reed, who drew a walk.
Jason Demos followed with a single down the right field line that just skipped off the first baseman’s glove. Hardy was able to round third and slid just past the catcher’s reach to score on the play, cutting the lead to 4-3.
R.J. Ahearn came off the bench to hit with two runners on and one out. He singled into the outfield, allowing Reed to score and tie the game.
Todd Cruce followed with a clutch single into center field that scored Demos and gave Jefferson the go-ahead run.
They would go into the top of the sixth with a 5-4 lead.
Carrollton led off the top half of the inning with a single, and by the second out, had the potential tying run on third.
The next Carrollton batter, however, hit a fly ball into center field. Demos got under it and caught it to end the game and claim the title for Jefferson.
The play sent the team and coaches running to the mound in celebration.
Jefferson’s other two runs came in the top of the fourth.
Jamie Sexton led off with a grounder to short that took a bad hop, allowing him to reach first. He then got to second on a wild pitch and scored on Hardy’s triple into center field.
Hardy then tagged up on Reed’s sacrifice fly and put Jefferson up 2-0.
Carrollton responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Jefferson also had three other wins in the tournament.
In game one, the all-stars captured a 4-2 victory over Baldwin County. They followed with an 11-9 victory over Carrollton and then took a 9-2 win over Carroll County.
Jefferson’s all-stars moved through the state and district tournament undefeated.
“We beat every opponent they put up against us,” Earl Sexton said.
“These guys worked hard and won.”


Madison Co. senior all-stars win state title
The numerous home run celebrations at home plate last week were upstaged by a grand finale Friday afternoon — a mad dash by players, coaches and fans to the first base side of the infield, where all piled on for the victory dog pile, reminiscent of a scramble for a loose football.
The jubilation culminated a week of Madison County dominance, with the squad picking up its eighth straight win, a 7-5 come-from-behind victory over Cartersville, which clinched an undefeated senior (15-and-16 year-old) all-star state championship.
After the pileup, manager David Fields was doused with a cooler of ice water, laughing with his players that the cold felt “pretty good.”
“I’m tickled for y’all,” Fields told his players who gathered around him after the game. “It took us eight years to get here. I’ll tell you what, if you’d of won this at 14 and didn’t win this year, you’d probably be down. But you’re going out as champions. You looked at a goal. You accomplished that goal.”
The final peg in that accomplishment was no easy matter.
The squad, which had outscored opponents by a 92-10 total in the previous seven all-star games, trailed Cartersville 5-4 with two outs in the top of the sixth inning Friday. A Madison County loss would have meant that the two squads would pair up again at 5 p.m. for the deciding game.
But Madison County standout Joshua “Hounddog” Fields ensured that there’d be no nightcap, ripping a two-out, three-run homer off Cartersville’s Ben Bevill over the right field fence to put Madison County up by the final 7-5 score.
Earlier in the week, Cartersville opted to walk Fields to load the bases, only to pay dearly when Brent Burkhalter smashed a grand slam homer.
Burkhalter put the hurt on Cartersville again Friday, taking Bevill deep in the third inning to put Madison County up 2-0.
So Cartersville chose to pitch to Fields in the sixth instead of loading the bases for the hot-hitting clean-up man.
Fields said he waited patiently all day for such an opportunity.
“I hadn’t seen many pitches to hit in the previous at bats,” said Fields. “I was trying to be patient. I was waiting on it.”
The Cartersville pitcher picked up his pace, perhaps trying to catch the hitter off guard. But Fields wasn’t fooled. His opposite field shot cleared the fence and the all-star slugger was greeted by teammates as he took a giant leap onto homeplate.
The squad took the field in the bottom of the sixth, with pitcher Michael “Bubba” Young icing the deal. The pitcher went the distance for Madison County, surviving a shaky fourth, in which Cartersville scored four runs on two hits and two errors. But Young showed grit, getting key outs when needed and helping his squad maintain the lead late in the game. His solid outing was even more impressive, considering that he was dealing with the passing the night before of his grandfather.
“He was fired up and dedicated the game to him (his grandfather),” said coach Fields of Young’s performance.
Also contributing Friday was Conrad Carey, who crunched a two-run homer over the right field wall in the fifth inning to knot the score at four.
After the victory, the younger Fields noted that the team was “blessed” during its championship run.
“It’s great,” said Fields of the title. “We started out this year trying to get everybody back to make a run at the state title....The Lord really blessed us.”
UPCOMING REGIONALS
With the state title in hand, Madison County will begin the Southeast Regional tournament in Toccoa the first week in August. Other state champions participating include teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee. The Georgia champions will play the following pool play for the Tournament: Sunday Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. vs. Alabama; Monday, Aug. 5 at 2 p.m. vs. Tennessee; and Tuesday Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. vs. Florida
The number 1 and 2 seeds from each pool will play on Wednesday Aug. 7 at 5 and 8 p.m. The winner of the two games will play in the championship game on Thursday Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. The winner of this game will fly to the World Series on Aug. 10.


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