Area Sports...

NOVEMBER 5, 2002


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Banks on the road to battle GAC Spartans
Banks County will have its hands full this week.
The Leopards travel to Norcross Friday to take on the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans (7-1, 5-1), one of the top teams in the region.
But Banks has had two weeks to repair, enjoying a bye week last Friday.
“We’ve got a couple of different little twists to slow them down,” head coach Greg Moore said. “Last week practice went real good.”
The Leopards didn’t get to practice on the field earlier this week because of weather, but took several snaps in the middle school gym to prepare for the Spartans.
GAC comes off a 41-14 spanking of Rabun County. The only team the Spartans have fallen to this year has been region powerhouse Buford. The Wolves got a 35-10 victory in the game.
“We’re playing a little better now than earlier in the year,” GAC head coach Jimmy Chupp said. “We are improving in some areas but we’re not as good as we want to be.”
When the Leopards square up against GAC, they’ll be facing a quick team.
The Spartans bring one of the better backs in the state, senior tailback Micah Andrews. Moore also said GAC has a great quarterback and fullback.
But despite his offensive weapons, Chupp said he has a lot of respect for the Leopards and their program.
“I’m always impressed with them and their intensity,” Chupp said. “Some of the hardest hits we’ve ever taken have been in the Banks County game. They’ve got a lot of good things going for them.”
After Friday’s game, the Leopards will have only two remaining. They’ll host Lumpkin County next week before closing on the road at Union.
Athletic director Robert Sain said the school invites all former football players to attend the Lumpkin County game. A halftime ceremony will honor the former players on what will likely be the last night of varsity football at the stadium.
The Leopards will begin playing at the new athletic complex once it is finished next year.
“We want anyone who has played to come down and help send it off,” he said.


Commerce Looks To Take Care Of Business Against Lowly Towns County
One mis-step this season was enough for Commerce Tiger head coach Steve Savage and his team to stomach. They’re certainly not in the mood for another.
Just two weeks removed from a 14-10 upset loss to a struggling Athens Academy team two weeks ago, the Tigers look to continue its climb back into the Region 8-A race as they prepare to meet lowly Towns County Friday night.
Savage said his team can’t afford to overlook anyone they lineup against this season.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “We’ve already dug ourselves in a hole. When you start thinking about that, that’s when you get sloppy. We’ve already found out that you can get beat in this game. We’ve got to go up there, stay focused and take care of business and get ready for our last two games which are huge.”
Taking care of business would give Commerce a 2-1 record entering its final pair of contests with Jefferson, Region 8-A’s second place team, and Social Circle, which is currently atop the region with a 2-0 mark.
The Tigers evened their 8-A mark at 1-1 with a moral-boosting 54-0 win over Athens Christian after their setback to Athens Academy.
While Savage said Commerce is taking its matchup with Towns County as serious as any other contest, the Tigers are matching up with an Indians that’s struggled mightily this season as well as historically.
Besides being winless and outscored by an average of 23 points per game in its six losses, Towns County is facing serious depth problems with only 19 players on its roster.
More seriously, the team is without feeder programs, fielding neither a JV or a middle school squad.
“It’s been extremely difficult. It’s about impossible to coach that when you’re playing teams like Jefferson, Commerce and Athens Academy,” said assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Doug Miolin. “It’s been kind of tough to build a program but we’re not making excuses. We’re going with what we got.”
But Miolin said the team, which went 1-9 last year in a non-region schedule, has tried to take pride in the small steps its made and not be discouraged by the daunting obstacles they face.
“I think we have tried to build on some small things,” he said. “And I think we’ve improved immensely. We’ve been trying to go back and teach the basics of football. We’re enjoying it as much as possible. They’ve got a lot of guts to go out and play against the teams we play with only 20 guys on the sideline.”
THE MATCHUP
According to Savage, Towns County’s multiple offense will showcase many of the same looks Commerce saw in its contest with Athens Christian.
Molion said Towns County’s offense will feature a lot of I-formation and shot gun, adding that the team is “about 50-50” in mixing the run and pass according.
Offensively, the Indians are led by quarterback Kyle Woody, a player that’s impressed Savage.
“Their quarterback looks like a gritty player,” he said. “He’s the main man for them.”
Another key players on the offense include fullback Jared Wright, receiver Brent Thompson and a sizeable 6’7”, 270-lb. lineman in Robbie Elliot.
Defensively, Elliot, a nose guard, and safety Cody Shelton achor a unit that struggled this season, surrendering just over 39 points per ball game.
As for Commerce, Miolin expects his team to see a smash-mouth Tiger football team.
“I think they’re extremely physical,” he said. “They’ve got one of the best offensive lines that I’ve seen. They’re very enviable. They keep it simple and play their game.”
THE SERIES
Friday’s meeting with be the 13th between the two schools. Commerce and Towns County haven’t played since 1999 when the Tigers trounced the Indians 51-7.
Commerce has never lost to Towns County in its history, owning a 12-0 mark overall and 6-0 record in region contests with the Indians.


Cross country Panthers battle region
Daniel Elder qualified for the state meet in Carrollton on Nov. 9 by virtue of his third-place finish at the Region 8-AAAA meet in Conyers last Saturday. Elder crossed the finish line with a time of 17:35 to lead the Panthers. He was the only JCCHS team member to qualify for state.
On the girls side, Christina Nowak placed 14th out of 70 runners and was 53 seconds faster than her previous time at the Conyers Horse Park in Sept.
Overall the boys squad placed seventh out of 12 teams at the meet and saw two other Panther runners turn in personal-best times at the meet.
Panther cross country coach Bob Roller felt the times were slow because of the weather that dampened the course prior to the race.
“A lot of people’s times were down, I don’t know if it was the sogginess or what, but even the winning time was 19 seconds off,” he said. “Our times probably could have been a bit better.”
Looking ahead to the state competition in Carrollton, Roller was optimistic about his top man’s chances at the AAAA state level of competition and he noted that Elder has been preparing for a return to the meet all season.
“He’s there to win it,” Roller said. “He had a real good race there earlier this year.”
His time at the Last Chance Invitational earlier this year, which was held on the same course the state meet will be held on, was a personal best of16:51 and was good enough for second in the 4-A/5-A division.
“There are a lot of folks there that will be tough, but he’s definitely got a good shot.”


Late Redskin rally dooms Dragons
For nearly the entire game last Friday, Jefferson battled host Social Circle in an old-fashioned, grind’em out affair plagued by turnovers and scarce on points. That is, until the final 2:30 when things became decidedly more interesting than they had been before.
Trailing 3-0 late in the fourth quarter, victory appeared to be headed Jefferson’s way after a 82-yard pass play to Hunter Garner produced the first touchdown of the game with 1:50 remaining.
But, the improbable then happened, as the Redskins drove 65 yards in five plays and snatched victory from Jefferson’s grasp on a 33-yard touchdown pass of their own, leaving a mere 20 seconds on the clock and all but sealing a miraculous 10-7 win for Social Circle.
Second-year Redskin coach Ken Stoudenmire labeled the win “one of the biggest wins” for his program during his tenure. However, victory did not come easily.
Following nearly four quarters that had to leave both team’s offensive coordinators scratching their heads, things looked to be headed for a 3-0 win by the Redskins, until Jefferson coach Bill Navas admitted his team had to open up the offense.
“They played a six-man front the whole time and physically whipped our offensive lineman,” he said.
With the normally brutal Dragon running game stifled, Jefferson went to the air late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Brantley Gilbert connected with Garner on an 82-yard touchdown bomb that sent the Dragon faithful into a frenzy. After rolling to his left, Gilbert squared his shoulders and unleashed the pass that Garner went up and grabbed over the Redskin secondary.
From there a sprint down the near sideline and back across the middle to the end zone gave the Dragons the lead with 1:37 remaining in the game.
“That was just our quarterback and Hunter Garner, and they just did a great job. Hunter just turned it on with speed I’ve really never seen before, with a great desire to want to win the football game. That was awesome.”
As exciting as the play was, it was just a taste of what was to come in the waning minutes.
After Redskin quarterback Landon Lackey was sacked for a loss of five with 1:32 remaining, things seemed to be set for a Dragon win, however the sophomore would respond.
Lackey found wide receiver Pierre Kimbrough two plays later, as the senior went up and over the Jefferson secondary and made a miraculous 33-yard catch with 41 seconds remaining.
The fifth and final play of the drive produced an equally impressive play, as Lackey showed solid composure in the pocket and found a diving Lagney Crawford on a 38-yard touchdown pass in the heart of the end zone.
“I can’t think of a word that really explains how I feel right now. I’m so proud of the kids and the way they played,” Stoudenmire said. “A lot of teams would have just shut down, but our kids rose up and drove sixty-five yards and stuck it in the end zone.”
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Navas expressed his disappointment.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “Two big pass plays later (after the Garner touchdown) and we’re down 10-7.”
The team’s five combined first-half turnovers, along with a knack for negative yardage, proved to be the only consistent attribute of much of the night, as both offenses put up low numbers even with their late successes through the air.
The Dragons were held to just two first downs the entire game and saw their streak of seven straight games scoring 25 or more points snapped.
The victory placed Social Circle in a tie for first-place in Region 8-A with Athens Academy, each team posting 2-0 region records. Jefferson dropped to 2-1 with the loss and occupies second-place.


25-10 Madison County eyes Class AAAA state title
The doubters were there last year when Madison County was minus eight seniors from 2000.
The Raiders answered the challenge, falling just one game shy of the state title, while earning Class AAA runnerup honors.
This summer, the doubters returned.
Madison County, minus four key starters, looked like it had stepped down from the state pedestal when it hit the field in the Greebrier slugfest in June.
“We looked like we hadn’t seen a softball,” said Raider head coach Doug Kesler, noting that there was talk among some opposing coaches of Madison County being “down” this year.
Even worse, the 2002 hurdle was raised a notch as the squad jumped from AAA to AAAA play.
But the coach didn’t give on carrying on the Raider softball tradition and neither did this year’s team.
“The kids adapted,” said Kesler. “They’re battlers. That’s what’s great about being associated with them. They never give up.”
Madison County will enjoy the fruits of its persistence later this week as the squad travels to Columbus for its third consecutive trip to the Elite 8 tournament. The Raiders will open the tournament Thursday at 6 p.m. versus Greenbrier. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Heritage/ Hardaway game in the double-elimination tournament. Other potential Raider opponents include Jones County, South Forsyth, Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe and Shaw.
The team will face big bats and top caliber pitching — ie. Greenbrier and Heritage.
But the intimidation factor shouldn’t be a problem, not that it has been, anyway.
“We’ve got great senior leadership,” said Kesler. “We’ve been there (Columbus) three years in a row. And this is not their first rodeo. They know what it takes to win.”
Kesler said the “experts” are pointing toward Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe as the favorite, but he said any of the eight teams could get back on the bus with the AAAA trophy.
“At this point, everybody you see is going to be good,” he said. “On any given day anybody can beat anybody. It’s just who executes. We feel we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.
The coach said he is proud of his team.
“I’m so excited for our girls,” said Kesler. “...It’s just a compliment to the kids to make it this far. But we’re not through yet. We’re expecting big things this weekend.”
CLEAR SKIES EXPECTED
No rain is expected in Columbus, Georgia, during the state softball tournaments this week. But temperatures are expected to drop Saturday.
Here is the Thursday through Saturday forecast for Columbus, according to weather.com:
•Thursday, Oct 31, mostly sunny, 71°/47°
•Friday, Nov. 1, partly cloudy, 62°/43°
•Saturday, Nov. 2, partly cloudy / wind, 54°/35°
KESLER TO BE HONORED DEC. 5
Madison County softball coach Doug Kesler recently earned his 100th victory. In honor of his accomplishment, he will be presented an Easton Victory Club award Thursday, Dec. 5, at a special luncheon during the NFCA National Convention in St. Petersburg Fla.
COACH NOTES STELLAR PLAY
Kesler pointed out that several players showed stellar play in the state sectionals, pointing out that Candace Shubert had a “good weekend,” that Taylor Sapp had clutch hits and that Jennifer Stone and Melanie Elrod played outstanding defense.


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (1-7-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 at Oglethorpe Co 18-21
9/13 Commerce
0-13
9/20 Wesleyan
0-28
9/27 at Buford
0-42
10/04 Apalachee
6-20
10/11 at Dawson Co.
14-0
10/18 Rabun Co. 20-48
11/1 at GAC
7-45
11/8 Lumpkin Co. -
11/15 at Union Co. -

  Commerce
  (7-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co.
23-15
9/13 at Banks Co.
13-0
9/20 at Morgan Co.
10-3
10/04 Lincoln Co.
28-6
10/11 Madison Co.
29-28
10/18 at Athens Acad.
14-10
10/25 Athens Christ.
54-0
11/1 at Towns Co.
37-12
11/8 Jefferson -
11/15 at Social Circle -

  Jackson County
  (08-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow
0-34
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. 12-41
9/20 Eastside
2-42
9/27 at Salem
0-21
10/11 at Newton Co.
7-52
10/18 Heritage
0-41
10/25 Rockdale Co.
0-28
11/1 at Habersham Cen.
6-41
11/8 Loganville -
11/15 at Cedar Shoals -

  Jefferson
  (5-3-0)
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
21-45
9/27 Monticello 42-26
10/11 Athens Christ.
32-0
10/18 Towns Co.
41-14
10/25 at Social Circle
7-10
11/8 at Commerce -
11/15 at Athens Acadm. -

  Madison County
  (4-5-0)
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
15-12
9/27 Jefferson Co.
14-13
10/4 Grayson
14-17
10/11 at Commerce
29-28
10/18 Northview
58-0
11/1 Buford
7-21
11/8 Cross Keys -


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