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SEPTEMBER 11, 2002


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Lady Leopards get first fast-pitch win
The Banks County fast-pitch softball program can say that it has cleared one hurdle.
The varsity Lady Leopards took a 5-2 win over Buford to claim the program’s first ever victory.
“What a relief it was to finally pick up our first win of the season,” head coach Kevin Gaines said. “Hopefully the win will give us some confidence in ourselves.”
The Lady Leopards will look to carry some of that confidence into the upcoming week as their region schedule heats up.
Banks hosts private school Wesleyan Thursday. The JV teams open action at 4:30 p.m. The varsity will start before 6 p.m.
BANKS 5, BUFORD 2
In their opening game of the Lumpkin County tourney last weekend, the Lady Leopards took a 5-2 victory over the Lady Wolves.
Gaines points to the team making only one error and giving up only four walks as a key to the victory.
“If we can do that every game, the wins will begin to flow for us,” Gaines said. “I am real proud of how the girls played.”
Banks scored first to open the game. Rachel Walker led off with a walk. Ashley Gowder followed with a bunt and an error allowed Walker to score.
Gowder then scored on a passed ball.
Jennifer Webb singled in the inning, followed by walks to Nicole Powell and Jessica Freeman. An error on a ball hit by Jennifer Martin allowed Webb to score, giving Banks a 3-0 lead.
In the second, Walker singled and Gowder bunted to move her to second. Walker came in to score on an Ashley Freeman single.
Buford added two runs in the fourth to make the score 4-2.
In the top of the sixth, the Lady Leopards added their final run. Ashley Dumas walked and then scored on a fielder’s choice hit by Gowder.
“We definitely played the game as a team,” Gaines said. “The little things were done, like two bunts by Ashley Gowder which helped us get three runs because of an error they made and moving runners over.”
FORSYTH CENTRAL 15,
BANKS 0
After their first game in the tourney, Gaines said the Lady Leopards began running out of gas.
“I think by winning the first game we played in the tournament, we were drained to the point we could not rebound the rest of the day,” Gaines said.
Walks, errors and a double gave Forsyth Central a 12-0 first inning lead.
The Lady Dogs went on to add three more runs and take the win.
DAWSON 10, BANKS 3
The Lady Leopards got their first runs against Dawson in the top of the second. Powell tripled to the fence and scored on a ground ball by Jessica Rogers to tie the game at 1-1. The Lady Tigers went on to take a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Martin and Dumas walked and Walker reached on a single. Gowder followed with a two RBI single to tie the game again at 3-3. But Dawson had numerous hits to take a 10-3 lead before the time limit expired to take the win.
LUMPKIN 7, BANKS 0
In their final game of the tourney, the Lady Leopards were blanked 7-0. Freeman reached base twice for Banks, once on a single and once on a walk.
FRANKLIN 9, BANKS 2
In a game last Tuesday, the Lady Leopards fell 9-2 to Franklin County.
After getting a couple of runners on base in the first, the Lady Lions made an error on a ball Powell hit that allowed Freeman and Webb to score Banks’ only runs.
Franklin tied up the game in the bottom of the fourth and added seven more runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take the win.
FRANKLIN JV 16, BANKS JV 5
In the junior varsity’s first game in several outings, the Lady Leopards fell 16-5 to Franklin.
In the top of the first, Brooke Whitmire, Walker and Hannah White drew walks. Whitmire later scored on a wild pitch to give Banks a 1-0 lead.
But Franklin responded to jump ahead 4-1 and then increased its lead to 10-1 in the second.
The Lady Leopards loaded the bases in the third off a walk and hits by Whitmire and eighth grader Hope Autry, but Banks was unable to get a runner across.
Franklin added six more runs in the bottom of the inning to a 16-1 lead.
In the fourth, Banks had four runs walk in to set the score at its final, 16-5.


Tigers Outlast Lions
With four returning starters anchoring a battle-tested offensive front, Commerce’s offensive line had its share of expectations heaped upon its shoulders during the preseason.
Friday night, the group showed why.
With a new quarterback under center and a new tailback lining up in the back field, Commerce’s veterans in the trenches took the offense under their wing, blasting open enough holes to allow the Tigers to rack up nearly 200 yards on the ground in a 23-15 season opening win over 8-AAA Franklin County.
Savage said he was extremely pleased with the performance of the highly-touted Tiger offensive front.
“We turned the ball game over to our offensive line,” the coach explained. “That was our plan from the beginning.”
Individual honors on the line for the night belong to senior right tackle Kenny Flint who recorded a school-record nine “pancake blocks”—blocks in which the defender is driven into the ground.
In all, Commerce’s offensive front finished with a total of 13 pancake blocks for the night.
While there was little doubt during summer workouts who’d comprise the offensive line, who’d tote the pigskin behind them at the tailback spot remained a question mark.
But junior tailback Dennis Wilder did his part in the opener to help solve that problem Friday night, leading the team on the ground with 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
“Dennis Wilder played well,” Savage said. “He played like a trooper at corner back and defensive back.”
But his biggest play of the night, however, came via his right arm, not his feet, as he connected with Jonathan Beasley to rewrite the school record book with a 99-yard touchdown toss in the second quarter, giving the Tigers a 16-0 lead that they never looked back from.
While Commerce certainly had its moments on the offensive side of the ball, the defense conversely, had its struggles with Franklin County’s option-oriented attack
However, the group made up for it with a pair of key, momentum altering first-half goal line stands to stymie Franklin County inside the five, keeping the Lions off the scoreboard.
“Making those two stands—that was big,” Savage explained.
The Tigers flexed their muscles early, rolling over the Franklin County defense with an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped by a six-yard run by Wilder and a two-point run by Josh Haynes, making his first start at signal caller, to them an 8-0 edge.
However, the Tigers didn’t get a chance to become complacent as the Lions offense moved 70 yards to the Commerce six behind the running of Eaveson, who carried the ball eight times on the drive.
But the Tiger defense answered with its first big denial of the night, stopping Franklin County on a third-and-five situation, forcing them to attempt a field goal which sailed wide, preserving the eight point lead.
On its next drive, Franklin against pushed deep into Tiger territory, this time driving to the Commerce two.
However, the next two plays marked the turning point of the night.
First, Commerce’s defense again answered the call, smothering Lions running back Terry Blackwell a yard shy on the one yard line on a fourth and short situation.
And then Commerce cashed in on the defensive momentum on the next play, rolling the dice with Wilder’s halfback pass out of their endzone to Beasley who caught it and raced down the right sideline into Tiger history.
The 99-yard completion broke the old mark set by Dustin Allen and Monté Williams who hooked up for a 87-yard throw and catch against Banks County in 1998.
“They had a guy come up so I figured if I laid it out to Jonathan, he could catch it,” Wilder explained. “I just laid it out to him and thank the Lord he came up and got it.”
Wilder said despite the offense being backed into the shadows of its own goal posts, he had confidence that the play could work, given the quality of the Tiger offensive front.
“We’ve got an offensive line that’s capable of blocking anybody,” he said. “If we get the defense blocked we’re capable of doing anything.”
With a 16-point cushion heading into the third quarter, the second half turned out to be anything but a waltz for Commerce.
Franklin County got a one-yard score from Blackwell and a two point conversion in their first possession of the second half to cut the Tiger lead in half.
Then, after Commerce seemingly put the game away with a methodic, seven-play, 50-yard march capped by a one-yard score by Nick Slayton, the Lions flew down the field in just six-plays, cutting the lead to eight with an acrobatic snag by Amonzo Gantt in the corner of the endzone.
However, Commerce recovered the ensuing onside kick, finally allowing them put the first win of 2002 in the books.
“We were glad to win, Savage said. “I thought Franklin County played really well. It got a little hairy there in the end.”


Lady Panthers prepare for showdown
Roughly midway through the season, the JCCHS fast-pitch softball team appears primed and ready to take aim at the Class AAAA North Region title, something they will go a long way towards doing with a win in their next game against Madison County on Thursday. First-place in the region figures to be on the line as the Lady Panthers face off in an away showdown with the highly-regarded Red Raiders.
“We’re probably the two front-runners in the region,” JCCHS coach Mark Mahoney said.
Jackson County comes into the anticipated matchup with a positive frame of mind and a bit of momentum regained. Tuesday they knocked off Cedar Shoals 16-0 in a game that was called in the third inning via the mercy rule. Lady Panther pitcher Brandi Townsend threw a no-hit shutout to lead her team to their third consecutive region win and ninth overall.
“Today was a good breakout game to get our bats going,” Mahoney said.
Thursday’s test will no doubt be on a different level though, and the squad will look to come out on top in the battle of unbeatens.
“It’s a big game for us,” he said while noting the importance of doing the little things to win what should be a closely fought contest.
Both sides will send their aces to the mound as Townsend heads back out on one day’s rest after barely breaking a sweat in her 30-pitch outing against Cedar. She heads into the game with an ERA of .50 on the season.
Sitting at 8-4 overall and 2-0 in region play the Red Raiders have also enjoyed solid pitching so far this season, something they will look to continue as they send out Lindsay Barnette to counter Townsend.
For Madison County the game comes on the heels of the Shaw Invitational in Columbus over the weekend, a tournament which saw the team pull out three wins in five games.
“For us to win we’ve got to execute with runners in scoring position, and put the ball in play,” Mahoney said. “Madison County is a solid team, their not going to beat themselves. We’ve got to execute and manufacture some runs (to win).”
Big hits with runners in scoring position figure to be a key for the Lady Panthers, especially after losing four one-run ball games over the weekend at a tournament in Evans.
The losses were unfamiliar for a Lady Panther team that went to the weekend with an unblemished record. Although things started out well, with a 4-3 win over South Effingham, the Lady Panthers dropped the next four games to Warner Robins, Lakeside, Elbert, Northside (Warner Robins) all by one-run before losing to Harlem 8-4.


Dragons win second straight
Jefferson will look to slay their third consecutive AA team in as many weeks Friday, as they travel to Dahlonega to play Lumpkin County in a battle of unbeaten teams.
After two games under the tutelage of first year head coach Bill Navas, Dragon football is developing a trademark so far. Call it consistency.
For the second straight week the Dragons withstood a potential game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter by a AA opponent at Memorial Stadium. And once again it was the Dragon running game that prevailed over a short passing style team.
This time the Panthers of Union County fell victim and just as it was the prior week against Apalachee, Jefferson prevailed 27-19.
Brantley Gilbert intercepted Union County quarterback Blake Williams on the Dragon 12-yard line with 31 seconds remaining to halt the Panthers’ hopes of a tie. The grab preserved the eight-point win and staved off a late drive by Union County in which Williams orchestrated the team 57 yards down the field in just 1:03.
“That’s just one big play out of a bunch of small things that people did,” Gilbert said of the interception. “We’ve worked all summer and that’s just a little bit of it paying off for us.”
Union converted on a key fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive, but they came up just short.
“That last play was kind of a ‘draw it up in the dirt’ kind of play and usually that doesn’t work,” Union County coach Kent Green said.
Gilbert was one of several key players for Jefferson that came up with big plays when called upon.
“Huge. A great athletic play by Brantley Gilbert,” Jefferson coach Bill Navas said of the late pick off. “He made some big plays in the secondary all game.”
Running back Jeremy Smith carried much of the load offensively for Jefferson as the senior pounded out 166 yards rushing on 16 carries with two touchdowns. His 33-yard scamper with :44 seconds remaining in the first half put Jefferson up 13-10.
The Dragons controlled much of the time-of-possession in the second half by running the ball consistently and scoring twice in the third quarter. Smith’s second big touchdown run, a 45-yard power surge through the Panther defense put the Dragons up 27-19.
Complimenting Smith all night was Jefferson’s other senior running back, Hunter Garner.
Garner had two touchdowns and 50 yards rushing, mostly in short yardage situations, as his grinding runs provided a perfect two-man combination in the Dragon backfield, one that was finding holes all night.
“We had some great surges with our offensive line and our running backs run hard and they did a good job,” Navas said.
Union County, a team that lost only once all of last season, came into the matchup expecting the run according to Green.
“(But) we missed too many tackles,” he said. “We had kids there to make the plays and we just didn’t do it.”
Jefferson will look to keep the momentum going this Friday as they face their first road test at Lumpkin County.
“We’re real confident right now, “ Gilbert said. “But we’ve got to keep everything on a level scale.”


Raiders battle past Hancock Central, pick up first win
Madison County took its longest bus ride of the football season Friday, then downed a mistake-prone Hancock Central team 16-8 in Sparta.
The Raiders relied, as usual, on a smash-mouth, straight-ahead running game. Though the squad often struggled to move the ball against a hefty Bulldog defensive front, Madison County took better care of the ball than it did a week earlier in a loss to Franklin County, committing just one turnover on a punt return in the fourth quarter.
Hancock Central, however, showed slippery hands all night, turning the ball over five times, while drawing numerous yellow flags from referees.
Madison County, 1-1, jumped on top early, following a Hancock fumble with a short touchdown drive, capped off by a Michael Allen score on a quarterback sneak with 6:13 to go in the first quarter.
Senior Scott Dills added the extra point, then booted a 32-yard field goal with 7:58 to go in the second period to put the Raiders up 10-0. The three-pointer was the first of Dills’ career and the first field goal for Madison County since Jon Bridges nailed a 42-yarder in a 22-3 loss to West Hall in 1997.
Madison County’s only other score of the evening came on the first play of the fourth quarter on five-yard run by Richard Stowers. The score was set up by a fumble recovery by T.C. Ledford at the Hancock 30-yard line. The two-point conversion attempt failed and Madison County led 16-0.
Hancock Central converted on fourth-and-10 at the Raider 20-yard-line, with an 18-yard-pass to the Madison County two-yard line. The Bulldogs committed two penalties to back themselves up 10 yards, but scored on an 11-yard sweep to the right. Hancock added the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper and trailed just 16-8 with 7:03 to go.
But the Raiders curbed the Hancock enthusiasm, returning the kickoff to their own 34 with 6:57 to go, then using up over five minutes of the clock before punting the ball to the Bulldogs’ own nine yard line.
Hancock failed to move the ball and Madison County took over on downs at the Bulldog 15 with 1:11 to go.
THE NUMBERS
Madison County finished the night with just 163 yards of total offense, with 153 yards coming on the ground.
Richard “Pete” Stowers was Madison County’s primary catalyst, rushing for 113 yards on 26 carries, while teammate Tony Freeman tallied 48 yards on 15 touches.
Kevin Cash led the Raider defense with 11 tackles, Freeman and Danté Montgomery finished with seven each. Ledford, who had four tackles, recovered two Bulldog fumbles.
NOTABLES
Raider junior lineman Anthony Tilton (#52) left the game with a leg injury....Noise warnings are usually issued to golf audiences, not football crowds, but Friday was an exception for Madison County. A referee told the Madison County band to quit playing their instruments during the action, complaining that it was distracting. So the band responded with a vocalized tune.


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (0-2-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 at Oglethorpe Co 18-21
9/13 Commerce
0-13
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
  (2-0-0)
Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co. 23-15
9/13 at Banks Co. 13-0
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
  (0-2-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow 0-34
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. 12-41
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
  (2-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Apalachee 27-19
9/6 Union County 27-19
9/13 at Lumpkin Co. 28-31
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
  (1-2-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Franklin Co. 6-7
9/6 at Hancock Cent. 16-8
9/13 at Athens Acad. 7-16
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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