Area Sports...

OCTOBER 9, 2002

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Leopards taking on Dawson Tigers
Banks County could be playing one of two Dawson County teams this Friday.
They may play the Tigers that beat Apalachee and Athens Academy earlier this year. Or, the Leopards just might get the Tigers that fell 20-7 to Rabun County last week.
“It all depends on which one their teams shows up,” Moore said. “I still feel like we can play with them though.”
One things for certain about Friday’s game. When the Leopards travel to Dawsonville to take on the Tigers, they’ll be playing against a team that lost nine seniors.
“We are very young and very inexperienced and it shows up in the way we play sometimes,” Dawson County head coach Jeff Fleming said. “But our kids are improving.”
Fleming said his Tigers (2-2, 1-1) have had to put younger players in some of their key positions.
Dawson will run a similar offense to the Leopards, lining with a three back set and concentrating on the run. They’ll likely mix in a few play action passes.
Fleming said he had looked at Banks County and thought his team worked much like the Leopards.
“They do what we like to do, run the ball and control the clock,” Fleming said of Banks County. “I think we are very similar on offense.”
On defense, the Tigers run multiple sets but will often come out in a 4-3 or five man front. They’ll also try to put pressure on the Leopards with their outside linebackers.
“Banks plays a lot better defensively,” Fleming said. “They are probably the most improved team in the region.”
Fleming said his coaching staff and team were expecting a tough game Friday night.
“Banks is very improved from last year,” he said. “Coach Moore has done things simpler. We are very concerned that we will have a very competitive game Friday night.”

Ground War
Unless both teams decide to scrap their offenses and install the “fun-n-gun,” Commerce’s Friday night’s matchup with Madison County promises to be a ground-game lover’s delight.
Both the Tigers and Red Raiders (3-3) will throw potent running attacks at each other when the two schools renew their rivalry at Tiger Stadium. The teams haven’t played since 1999 after meeting 42 consecutive times from 1958 to 1999.
Commerce comes into the contest averaging 250 yards on the ground per contest while AAAA Madison County’s offense has averaged 192 a game on the ground with three consecutive 200-yard rushing efforts to its credit.
Conversely, Commerce threw just two passes in last week’s win over Lincoln County while Madison County attempted five in its loss to Grayson.
Given the nature of the two programs’ clock-control offensives, Friday night’s matchup might be a speedy one.
“It may very well be the shortest game in Georgia high school football history,” Savage joked. “We both like to keep it on the ground. We're both happy getting three and a half yards.”
Madison County’s running attack is highlighted by a trio of senior backs.
Richard Stowers, who gained 836 yards a year ago, has been the workhorse of the Raider back field, picking up 651 yards on the ground this year. Stowers had an 105 yard night in Madison County’s 17-14 loss to 8-AAA Grayson last week, his third consecutive 100-yard outing.
However, it was Tony Freeman, not Stowers, who came into the season as the most highly-touted of any of Raider ball carriers after an 1,000-yard season in 2001. However, Freeman has limited to only 259 yards this year due to a hamstring injury, missing two full games before returning last week with 69 yards on just three carries.
In Freeman’s absence, senior Dante Montgomery has emerged however, gaining 220 yards this year including a 93-yard effort against Jefferson County Sept. 27.
Savage said he has been impressed with the Raiders’ back field as well as the offensive front that throws blocks for them.
“They’ll came off the ball and block you,” the coach said.
However, Savage said there’s more to Madison County than a strong running game, pointing to a sound defense which is led by linebacker Kevin Cash who has totalled 65 tackles this year.
“Defensively, they’re good,” he said. “They always have a lot of guys around the ball.”
Overall, Savage expects the renewal of the Commerce-Madison County series to be a tough taks for his squad.
“They’re well-coached. They do a good job of what they do. They’ll give us all we can handle,” he explained.
Madison County is currently in the midst of its third year in a non-region slate. The program enjoyed a 10-0 season in 2000 but slipped to 8-2 last year and have already been handed three defeats this season.
The teams have one common opponent so far, Franklin County, which Madison County fell to 7-6 and Commerce topped 23-15. The Raiders also lost to Athens Academy 16-7 which the Tigers will play ?
Since Madison County moved up to AAAA this year, Commerce’s matchup with Raiders will be the first against a team from that classification.
Madison County spent 24 seasons in Class AAA.
Class AAAA used to be the state’s largest classification until 2000 when the Georgia High School Association went to five classifications.

Lady Panthers win North title, enter region tourney seeded first
Now that it’s official, the sub-area 8-AAAA North co-champion Lady Panthers of Jackson County have begun the process of re-focusing and re-evaluating what they need to do to continue to have success on the diamond in preparation for the area tournament which begins Saturday.
The Lady Panthers (15-5, 10-1) will look to keep a six-game winning streak intact in Loganville, site of the 8-AAAA tournament. The team takes on Newton in the opening round at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Last week’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over Madison County on Oct. 1 set the stage for the Lady Panthers to claim the top spot in the North, and meant that if they could take out Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central on successive days they would likely win the North’s top seed.
They did just that and were thus en route to the title by virtue of a tie-break win over Madison County.
The team did just what coach Mark Mahoney had hoped they would, earning a shutout win over Cedar Shoals last Wednesday. Although he admitted the concern of a let-down following the previous day’s win over the Lady Raiders did exist, Mahoney had to be pleased with the way the Lady Panthers responded.
JCCHS ace Brandi Townsend, dominated her opponent en route to an 11-0 win, with only a single walk allowed preventing her from throwing a perfect game.
The following outing on Thursday provided just as much non-excitement, with Clarke Central posing little in the way of a challenge for Townsend who, pitching for the third consecutive day, found her no-hit form again, striking out 10 Lady Glads while walking five batters.
The team’s only senior, Hannah Freemen, led the charge at the plate, as she stroked three hits in four at-bats, as did junior teammate Diana Robinson. Jackson County cruised to another 11-0 victory, one that assured the team of not only the top seed in the area tournament, but also the first sub-area title in the school’s brief two year history of fast-pitch.
By virtue of the shutouts to end the regular season in sub-area play, the Lady Panthers won a tie-breaker with Madison County. The two teams each gave up five runs in head-to-head play, but Jackson County bested the Lady Raiders in the second tie-breaker—runs allowed in sub-area play—giving up just six.
For the Lady Panthers, the title, was satisfying, especially considering they accomplished something that they set out to do from the very beginning of the program.
“To beat Madison County and to win the sub-area was a big deal to us,” Mahoney said. “That was our (initial) goal and so now we’ll just regroup and set our sights on the area tournament and sectionals.”
The team’s run this season has been as impressive as any program in the state, especially considering that four of the team’s five losses came on one weekend on Sept. 6-7 at a tournament at Evans High School. Other than that, the team’s only defeat was the first meeting at Madison County and even that—a 4-3 loss on Sept. 12—was by the slimmest of margins.
However, while Mahoney is pleased with the season so far he remains focused on what lies ahead for his squad and added that the past is well and good, but the season is not yet over.
“To sit back and reflect, I haven’t really had a chance to,” he admitted. “Things move too fast around here. I just try to keep them focused on the future.”
Perhaps at season’s end the squad will get a chance to look back. When they do they’ll notice a monumental season for the fast-pitch program.

Jefferson opens region play Friday against ACS
When the Jefferson football team takes the field this Friday night against Athens Christian at Memorial Stadium, there will be an enhanced atmosphere surrounding the game. With the first half of the season behind them, the Dragons will now take on the task of playing region competition from here on out, with playoff implications riding on each and every snap of the ball. Although the top four teams in 8-A advance to the state playoffs, seedings can often determine how far a team progresses.
With both squads coming into Friday’s contest after an off week of preparation, each should be well schooled in the tactics of their opponent.
“They return everybody and we return seven (from last year),” Jefferson coach Bill Navas said. “They’re one of the best offenses we’ve faced this year...the big challenge for us is going to be defensively.”
Athens Christian (2-3) officially enters region play Friday after making the move from the GISA prior to the past two seasons of GHSA non-region scheduling. The Eagles were upended in their last contest against Aquinas, falling 8-7 in overtime via penetration.
Jefferson (3-2) enters Friday after beating up on Monticello 42-26 on Sept. 26.
Foremost on the minds of both team’s coaches heading into Friday were the match-up problems each team poses for the other.
Athens Christian coach Van Beacham, whose team returns most of their starters from a last season worries about the physical nature of the Dragons.
“They’re big and strong and they pose a lot of match-up problems for us,” Beacham said. “Offensively, we’ve struggled the last few weeks with our running game and that’s something that we’d like to be able to turn the tide on them.”
The Dragons bruising-style of play, often dominating possession poses a challenge to the Eagle 5-2 base defense according to Beacham.
“Coach Navas has done a great job with them this year and he’s got them playing at a high level of intensity. They show a lot of desire.”
Navas noted the change in intensity that the Dragons have shown during practice this week, but said that he’s still waiting to see how his team responds in a tough game situation, especially after a disappointing performance at Landmark-Christian three weeks ago.
“I think we can score points on them, but we need to play well on defense in order to win,” he said.
Last year’s contest, a 40-6 win by the Dragons was largely influenced by a player who can only watch from the sidelines on Friday. Tailback Courtney Wiley ran all over the Eagles a year ago, amassing 217 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
Dragon tailback, Jeremy Smith will look to have similar success on the Eagle defense.
“We’ll just try to take away the gaps,” Beacham said. “The battle for ball control is going to be big.”

Raider softball team ready for area tourney
With a sub-area co-championship now in hand, the Madison County fast-pitch softball team now turns toward to the daunting task of bringing home a 8-AAAA crown.
The Raiders will kick off area tournament play this Saturday in Loganville, an event they’re eager to ready themselves for according to head coach Doug Kesler.
“We feel we have a good shot,” he said. “I was ready to start practicing for this yesterday...We’re looking forward to four days of practice. We’re excited.”
Eight teams will trek to Loganville, the site of this year’s area tournament, but only the top four will advance on to the state sectionals.
Madison County will be shooting for its third straight area title. Th Raiders won area titles in 2000 and 2001 before being reclassified into AAAA this year.
Kesler said this upcoming 8-AAAA tournament will be one of the toughest hurdles of the postseason for his second-seeded club given the caliber of competition in the area.
“We knew going into the season that the area tournament was going to be tough, tougher than the the state sections,” he said. “The toughest thing is going to be getting out of the area.”
Madison County’s first round foe has yet to be determined but Kesler speculated that his outfit might be pitted against Loganville in what would be a rematch of last year’s AAA final. However, the Red Devils still have to make up a rainout with Rockdale which could shake up things should Loganville lose.
Madison County goes into the event winners on its last two regular season contests.
The Raiders dusted off Cedar Shoals 11-0 Thursday and blasted Habersham, earning themselves a tie with Jackson County for the top spot in the 8-AAAA North sub-area. Pitcher Lindsey Barnette threw no-hitters in both games.
The sub-area championship was Madison County’s third in a row.
Both schools had 9-1 records but the Panthers will have the top seed in the area tournament since Jackson County allowed fewer runs in area play.
The first tie breaker would have been head to head competition but the team split the season series, only allowing a total of five runs to each other.
Kesler said he was still pleased with how the regular season went, pointing out that the team reached the 20-win plateau for the fifth year in a row.
But more importantly, the coach said the team did a lot of growing up in its first season in AAAA ball.
“We were pleased with the season,” he said. “We lost a lot from last year, not only with graduation but with some others who weren’t here. We had a lot of holes to fill. We now feel we have all the right people in the right positions.”
In Barnette’s first no-hitter of the week, the Raiders senior worked five innings, striking out five in a run-rule shortened contest.
Offensively, Madison County exploded for 11 runs in the second inning and did look back from that point in picking up its 19 win of the season.
Taylor Sapp and Sarah Tippins both enjoyed a 3-for-3 days with one RBI in the win..
Also chipping in at the plate were Sarah Owen, who went 3-for-4,: Kesler, who had two hits which included a double and RBI; Barnette, who had two hits; and Melanie Elrod, who had two hits.
After sub-par performance in a 3-1 win over Habersham Central earlier in the year, Madison County provided a little less suspense this time.
The Raiders jumped on Habersham with five runs in the first, six more in the second and three more in the third. The game ended in the fifth due to the 10-run mercy rule.
While Madison County was making noise at the plate, Barnette quietly went about her business on the mound, working five innings and fanning seven.
Sapp again went a perfect 3-for-3 with a pair of triples and three RBIs. Also turning in a big days were Kesler, who went 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs; Owen, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI; and Casey Allen, who went 2-for-2.

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  Banks County
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. -

Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co.
9/13 at Banks Co.
9/20 at Morgan Co.
10/04 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
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. 12-41
9/20 Eastside
9/27 at Salem 0-21
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 -

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 21-45
9/27 Monticello 42-26
10/11 Athens Christ. -
10/18 Towns Co. -
10/25 at Social Circle -
11/8 at Commerce -
11/15 at Athens Acadm. -

  Madison County
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Franklin Co.
9/6 at Hancock Cent. 16-8
9/13 at Athens Acad.
9/20 Monroe Area 15-12
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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