Area Sports...

SEPTEMBER 4, 2002


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Oh so close!
One yard doesn’t seem like much. But Friday night, one yard meant everything to the Leopards.
With less than two minutes to go in Friday’s game, Banks County’s defense made a tremendous stand on a fourth and seven play that would have put Oglethorpe County inside the 10 yard line.
The Leopards forced an incomplete pass and got the ball back with 1:48 on the clock and an 18-15 lead. One first down would mean a Leopard victory.
But on a third and five play, Banks was only able to pick up four yards, just a good spot shy of being able to run the clock out.
Instead, the Leopards were forced to punt the ball with under 25 seconds left in the game. But in a bizarre twist of events, the punt snap went over D. J. Ledford’s head and he had little choice but to fall on the ball inside the 10 yard line.
As the Leopards’ spirits sank, the Patriots took over possession on the eight yard line with 14 seconds to play. An offside penalty moved the ball inside the five and Oglethorpe was able to score the winning touchdown with nine seconds on the clock.
The Patriots missed the point-after attempt, taking a 21-18 lead. They kicked off to Banks County and the Leopards were only able to get off one play before the game ended.
The Leopards put up 250 yards of total offense on the night, only the third time they’ve gained that many yards or more since the beginning of last season.
Banks’ defense only gave the Patriots 133 yards and stifled the Oglethorpe offense in the first half, forcing the punt on five of six possessions. The Leopards also shut out their opponent for the first two quarters.
“Offensively and defensively, we looked better on both sides of the ball,” head coach Greg Moore said. “We played well enough to win.”
But two second half fumbles and the last second punt snap lead to all 21 of Oglethorpe’s points.
“Those mistakes killed us,” Moore said. “But I’m not down on the kids. We’ll keep working and get better.”
FIRST HALF
The Leopards got the ball back just about as soon as they kicked off the start the game.
Oglethorpe fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, giving Banks the football on Patriot 31 yard line.
Banks went on an nine-play scoring drive, including converting on two key fourth down attempts, one a 15-yard pass play and one a two-yard run.
Fullback Seth Brownlee stuffed it in from one yard out to get the score. Banks’ point-after attempt failed.
Near the beginning of the second quarter, the Leopards forced the Patriots to punt from deep in their own territory and Banks took over on Oglethorpe’s 30 yard line.
Five plays later, Brownlee took it in for the score again, this time from 16 yards out. Banks missed the two-point conversion attempt, taking a 12-0 lead.
SECOND HALF
As the second half rolled around, the Leopards somehow misplaced their luck.
Banks fumbled on their opening drive, giving Oglethorpe the ball just inside the 50.
The Patriots went on a eight-play drive, scoring on a tight end pass. Oglethorpe got the point-after to cut the lead to 12-7.
Two possessions later, Banks coughed the ball up again and the Patriots took over on the Leopards’ 18 yards line.
A sweep on the next play gave Oglethorpe their second touchdown. As they lined up for the point-after attempt, the holder bobbled the snap and the kicker picked up the ball and somehow found a man in the end zone for the two-point conversion. The Patriots took a 15-12 lead on the play.
But Banks County wasn’t down yet.
They responded with a monumental 14-play drive that included a 25-yard pass play to Tim Brown on a fourth and 17 situation. The Leopards ate up nearly six minutes of the clock on the play.
Quarterback Tyson Baxter stuck the ball in from one-yard out on a keeper to put Banks ahead 18-15. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots proceeded to drive 68 yards, only to have the Leopard defense stall the drive and get the ball back on downs with a chance to run out the clock.
Afterwards, Oglethorpe coach Cody Keene Sr. spoke highly of the Leopards’ team.
“Banks County’s kids played their guts out,” Keene said. “They played a great game.”


Tigers Look To Tame Rejuvenated Lions
If last week is any indication, Commerce won’t be facing the same breed of Lions that they methodically thumped 29-13 a year ago when the two lineup this Friday night in the Tigers’ opener.
Instead, Commerce will have to contend with a Franklin County outfit that’s walking with some swagger this week after a 7-6 upset of Madison County last Friday in new coach Danny Durham’s inaugural game.
Tiger head football coach Steve Savage said that this year’s Lions are showing none of the signs of a program just a year removed from the dregs of a 1-9 campaign.
“Ole Danny Durham has them playing hard,” he said. “They look like a typical Franklin County football team. The team is excited and their fans are excited.”
While he thinks the revved-up Carnesville outfit should pose a tough opening night challenge, Savage said his squad doesn’t really care who they lineup against at this point. After seven weeks of summer practice and having an open date last week while most of the rest of the state kicked the prep football season off, the Tigers are ready to pop headgear with anyone else besides themselves.
“We’re ready to play,” Savage said. “It doesn’t make a difference who we play now.”
Savage said the key for this Friday night is successfully transforming all that labor from their lengthy preseason into results on the playing field.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves as a football team,” he explained. “We’ve got to go out and do what we’ve been practicing on. We’re ready to see if we can do it.”
Commerce had little problems in making the transition from the practice field against Franklin County a year ago. Led by an 121 yard, two touchdown night from tailback Brandon Jennings, the Tigers rolled out to a 29-0 lead en route to a 16-point drumming of the Lions who were then-coached by Bobby McAllister.
However, the momentum factor could come into play this season given Franklin’s success last week.
The Lions were able to secured a second quarter touchdown last Friday and come up with several crucial turnovers to stave off Madison County picking up the one-point win.
“We had some opportune things happen for us and I think we took advantage of them I thought,” Danny Durham said. “We didn’t give it right back to them.”
The new coach said opening the gutty effort has lifted his team’s spirits after last season’s debacle.
“Anytime you get a win, it’s good for confidence especially after the season these kids had last year,” he said. It’s something we can build on.
Along with a new attitude is an impressive cast of players on the Franklin County sideline highlighting the Lions’ 60-player roster.
The Lions feature a workhorse tailback in Terry Blackwell, who gave the Lions their only score Friday night with a 36-yard touchdown jaunt, a hard-nosed fullback in Daniel Smith, a veteran signal caller in Tyler Evenson who will direct the Lions’ “Wing-Slot” option-oriented offensive attack and an athletic wide receiver in Amonzo Gant, who will lineup at defensive back as well.
Jack-of-all trades utility man Derek Chitwood, who can play quarterback, receiver and defensive back, and linebacker Donovan Layton are also vital cogs on the Lions squad as well.
Savage said he is impressed by what Franklin County will bring to the table.
“They’ve got a bunch of good players.”
Durham said he’s been impressed with the Tigers in the preseason.
“They’re good,” Durham said. “We sent someone to scout their scrimmages and they’re looking pretty good.


Panthers roughed up in opening game of season
Momentum in high school football is more important now than it ever has been according to Jackson County head coach Brent Brock. Case in point was Friday night’s 34-0 loss his team suffered at the hands of Winder-Barrow.
Following a key fumble recovery by his team, Brock admitted that the tide definitely shifted when the Panthers, after appearing to seize the momentum early, turned around and gave the ball right back to their opponent with a fumble of their own. From there, a 7-0 deficit quickly increased even further as Winder-Barrow’s Phil Penfield blocked a punt 25-yards for the game’s second touchdown and thus driving a devastating dagger straight through a depleted Panther team.
“I’m not an ‘if, and or but guy,’” Brock said. “But had a few things gone the other way there was a good ball game going on out there...and in this day and age, momentum has become an even bigger factor in the outcome of games than it used to.”
From there the Panthers were reintroduced to Winder-Barrow tailback Antwain Riden, a player who torched the Panthers for 266 all-purpose yards in last season’s game, as his potent running ability landed him in the end zone once in each of the three remaining quarters, all on runs of 20 or more yards. He finished with 122 yards for the evening and three scores.
But, the story of the night was not the lopsided scoreboard, but rather the tempo swing that occurred so quickly in what was otherwise a closely played game.
“If we take away our bad special teams play, if we take away our turnovers, and if we don’t give them the short field, then we’ve got a pretty good ball game going on,” Brock remarked.
The numbers seem to back Brock up when running down the statistics, all except for the final score.
The Panthers were respectable overall moving the ball, with 188 yards of total offense on the night, more first downs than their opponent and a defensive performance that held the Bulldoggs without any passing yardage for the entire game—all of which are hardly indicative of a team that was shutout and beaten by nearly five touchdowns.
“From a positive standpoint, everything that we did not do well can be corrected,” Brock said.
“There were a lot of goods. The negatives could be seen by the naked eye and that was just bad special teams breakdowns. But, I thought our defense prowled the football nicely and our offense had its moments.”
A week off this Friday should help the Panthers regroup and heal up several nagging injuries. Brock said he is confident that his full squad will be available for the Panthers’ next game at Clarke Central and he noted the importance of getting better in between the first and second games of the season.
“From a positive standpoint, everything that we did not do well can be corrected and it is my job to get us prepared in those areas of the game,” he said.


Rushing game powers Jefferson past AA Appalachee in opener
Although forecasters were predicting rain last Friday night, the only downpour on the evening came in the form of Appalachee fumbles, as Jefferson capitalized on mistakes and eventually held on for a 27-19 home win in the first game of the season for both teams.
Despite a magnificent performance by Wildcat tailback Bobby Duncan, Jefferson used a solid bevy of backs of their own to carry the load and amass 260 yards on the ground, the majority of which came in the first half.
Appalachee was bitten by the turnover bug all night long and right from the start of the game it was apparent which team was ready to perform. The Wildcats, who came into the matchup with 19 returning starters, appeared confused and sloppy on offense. Conversely, the younger Dragons, who returned just four starters from last season, looked to be the more poised team on the field, or at least the more prepared.
Appalachee turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions inside their own 40-yard line and Jefferson capitalized each time. The Dragons pounded the ball straight ahead as their offensive line took control early. Hunter Garner and Montray Riley scored on running plays during the first two possessions for Jefferson. Following the third Appalachee fumble of the day, and the third score on four series for Jefferson, the Dragons led 21-0 with 11:28 remaining in the first half.
Memorial Stadium buzzed with excitement following what could not have been any better a start for new Jefferson coach Bill Navas who coached his first game at the helm.
Duncan was the only bright spot for the Wildcats as he single-handedly tried to keep his team in the game. Although he finished with a very respectable 123 yards receiving, a 65-yard punt returned for a touchdown and another 68 yards rushing on six carries, his effort alone was not enough to counter his team’s mistakes.
“They are a really good football team,” Appalachee coach Brian Moore said of the Dragons. “We knew that coming in here and you can’t commit five turnovers against a team like that and expect to win.”
Moore said the Wildcats were fortunate to be within striking distance late, considering the hole his team dug itself into.
After trailing by three scores, Duncan took matters into his own hands returning a Jefferson punt 65-yards after a nice cutback in the open field with just a few defenders to beat.
The Dragons were quick to respond, however, as their prior running success set up a nicely-called play-action pass between quarterback Brantley Gilbert and tight end Todd Freeman. The catch resulted in a touchdown of 61-yards and put Jefferson up 27-6 with 53 seconds remaining in the first half.
“It was there all night,” remarked Navas of the completion that put his team back up by three scores. It was only the second pass of the day for the predominantly run-oriented Dragon offense, but it’s the results that mattered most to their coach.
“We can throw the ball when we pick and choose when too,” he said. “We just have to know when to do it.”
The play obviously caught the Wildcats by surprise, especially considering the circumstances. “They ran the ball well,” Moore said. “And when they had to they threw the ball well, but we knew coming in they could throw it in certain situations.”
A three-headed monster backfield carried the load for the Dragon rushing attack in the game. Brandon Vinson finished with 88 yards on 8 carries to lead the way, while Hunter Garner was tough all night, running for 61 yards on 16 carries and Travis Reed provided 62 yards on 3 carries.
Appalachee, highly touted as an offensive threat coming into the matchup came back late to make a game of it as Jefferson began to show signs of fatigue. Several players began cramping for Jefferson on what was a humid night.
Duncan made an athletic catch on a pass by Appalachee quarterback Mike Odie and then streaked down the far sideline before outrunning the entire Dragon secondary for a touchdown. Then, wide receiver Will Jackson caught a quick touchdown pass on a crucial fourth down and seven play for Appalachee and suddenly the Jefferson lead was 27-19 with 4:45 to play.
Duncan appeared to bring his team even closer after blazing everyone minutes later on what looked like another punt returned for a touchdown, but an illegal block penalty negated the score and Jefferson held on for the eight-point win.
“Our guys started getting tired there toward the end, but we hung on. It was a good win,” Navas said.


Tamed by the Lions
For a team using the slogan “step it up” this season, Madison County managed to take several giant paces backwards in their opener.
Bad karma filled the Friday night air from the opening coin toss— literally—as the Raiders were the victim of five turnovers in a 7-6 loss to Franklin County, a 1-9 team from a year ago.
For a team that’s traditionally won the games it has supposed to the past four seasons, the debacle against the Lions was a different experience.
“That’s the first time since I’ve been here that we felt we were better than the team we were playing and mistakes kept us from winning the ball game,” Raider coach Tom Hybl said.
The fifth-year Madison County coach, who owns a 22-19 record, pointed to six mishaps that derailed his ball club—two fumbles inside the Lions’ 25, two interceptions, a freak turnover on a punt that hit a Red Raider player with his back turned and a botched call by Madison County’s captains on the coin toss that accidentally gave the ball to the Lions at the start of both haves.
“We had some unbelievably crucial mistakes,” Hybl said.
Despite a slew of errors, Madison County still had to resolve to put themselves in a position to win the game, seemingly restoring order with a 18-yard touchdown from Tony Freeman, who finished the night with 117 yards, with nine minutes left in the game to cut the Lion lead to 7-6.
Rather than try to gain a lead with another drive, Hybl rolled the dice on the extra point try and went for two.
But on a night chalked full of bad Madison County bounces, a successful gamble wasn’t in the cards as tailback Richard “Pete” Stowers was stopped a yard shy which ultimately killed the Raiders chances of salaving a win.
Hybl cited the team’s offensive problems as the major factor in his decision to forego kicking the extra point.
“We had just been struggling so much on offense,” he said. “But give credit to Franklin County for coming up with the stop. They had a defense as tough as we’ve played.”
Franklin County head coach Danny Durham said his ball club was able to take advantage of the opportunities.
“We had some opportune things happen for us and I think we took advantage of them I thought,” he said. “We didn’t give it (the football) right back to them.”
Terry Blackwell’s second-quarter, 36-yard jaunt on fourth and one to put the upset-mined Lions up 7-0 seemed to be the motivation the Raiders needed to awake them from their first half slumber.
Madison County answered the Lion score with their first sustained drive of the night, pushing deep into Franklin territory behind the the running of Stowers who highlighted the possession with a 27-yard run. Stowers finished the evening with 105 yards.
But just when it seemed the Raiders would even things up, Madison County threw fuel on Franklin County’s fire with a fumble on the Lion four yard line.
It wouldn’t be the last back-breaking turnover.
Madison County repeated the sequence twice more, throwing an interception in the endzone to end the first half and then killing their opening drive of the third quarter with a fumble on the Lion 22.
Despite all here offensive cliches, Raiders were able to piece together a 12-play march in the fourth quarter that culminated in Freeman’s score with 9:10 left.
However, the two-point try failed, sent the Raiders scrambling for more points.
And Madison County’s final two drives yielded no miracles.
The first drive died in their their own territory as they were forced to punt at the 4:04 mark.
And in a play that seemed to some up the entire night, Franklin County picked off a pass on the Raiders’ final possession to ice the game.


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (0-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 at Oglethorpe Co 18-21
9/13 Commerce -
9/20 Wesleyan -
9/27 at Buford -
10/04 Apalachee -
10/11 at Dawson Co. -
10/18 Rabun Co. -
11/1 at GAC -
11/8 Lumpkin Co. -
11/15 at Union Co. -

  Commerce
  (1-0-0)
Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co. 23-15
9/13 at Banks Co. -
9/20 at Morgan Co. -
9/27 Lincoln Co. -
10/11 Madison Co. -
10/18 at Athens Acad. -
10/25 Athens Christ. -
11/1 at Towns Co. -
11/8 Jefferson -
11/15 at Social Circle -

  Jackson County
  (0-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow 0-34
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. -
9/20 Eastside -
9/27 at Salem -
10/11 at Newton Co. -
10/18 Heritage -
10/25 Rockdale Co. -
11/1 at Habersham Cen. -
11/8 Loganville -
11/15 at Cedar Shoals -

  Jefferson
  (2-0-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Apalachee 27-19
9/6 Union County 27-19
9/13 at Lumpkin Co. -
9/20 at Landmark Christian -
9/27 Monticello -
10/11 Athens Christ. -
10/18 Towns Co. -
10/25 at Social Circle -
11/8 at Commerce -
11/15 at Athens Acadm. -

  Madison County
  (1-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Franklin Co. 6-7
9/6 at Hancock Cent. 16-8
9/13 at Athens Acad. -
9/20 Monroe Area -
9/27 Jefferson Co. -
10/4 Grayson -
10/11 at Commerce -
10/18 Northview -
11/1 Buford -
11/8 Cross Keys -


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