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NOVEMBER 13, 2002


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Leopards will end season at Union County
Banks County will step out onto the gridiron for the final time this season, going against struggling Union County (3-6, 2-5) in Blairsville.
Friday’s game, head coach Greg Moore said, will probably go to the most motivated of the two teams.
“I think the game will come down to who wants it most and who is fired up the most,” he said.
Banks has plenty reason to be fired up. The Leopards haven’t won their final regular season game since 1999.
A win this week can pull the Leopards out of last place in Region 8-AA. The victory would set them ahead of Union and Dawson in the seventh spot.
Both Banks and Union have had their struggles this season.
The Panthers have taken wins over Towns, Dawson and Apalachee.
But Union County comes off a tough 21-20 loss in the final minutes against Rabun County in Tiger last week.
“They’ve got good players,” Banks County head coach Greg Moore said. “They are physically strong and they’ll try to mash you with it.”
Union returns several starters from a team that went 9-2 last year and finished second in the region, falling in the first round of the state playoffs. However, the Panthers haven’t seen similar success on the field in 2002.
Banks County will likely face some of the coldest playing conditions that the team has seen this season.
Temperatures in normally blustery Blairsville are forecasted just above freezing for Friday night.
Moore said he warned some of the younger players traveling with the team about the cold temperatures but didn’t think it would affect the players who will see a lot of playing time.


Tenacious Tigers
After being sent to the canvas by Athens Academy three and a half weeks ago, the Commerce football team has since rebounded with some knockout punches of its own.
The Tigers’ last three foes—Athens Christian, Towns County and Jefferson—could surely attest to that as Commerce trounced the trio of region squads by a combined count of 127-19, putting itself in a position to lock up the number two seed out of the region in the state playoffs with a win over Social Circle this Friday.
As his team enters the critical season-finale against the Redskins, Tiger head coach Steve Savage acknowledged that his team has taken care of business since its mis-step last month.
“They’ve responded the way a typical Commerce team responds,” Savage said. “They’ve worked hard on the practice field, gotten better each week and have taken each game one at a time.”
The team looks to take that same poised, driven demeanor into this Friday night’s road matchup with Social Circle, a contest in which the winner will take the second seed out of the region into the postseason and home field advantage during its first-round playtoff matchup.
Both the Tigers and Redskins are currently deadlocked in second in 8-A with 3-1 region records.
Social Circle is certainly a team that stands as a hurdle in Commerce’s bid for a high postseason seeding.
At 5-4, the Redskins feature a dangerous and deep back field which accounted for 317 rushing yards in Social Circle’s 20-7 win over Towns County this past Friday.
“They have a lot of guys to give the ball to and a lot of plays to run,” Savage said. “And they’ve also got skill people and when you’ve got skill people, it means you’re capable of breaking one.”
Social Circle’s Ken Stoudenmire, who owns a 9-11 record in his second season as the Redskins’ head coach, explained that they’re without a “super back” but have found success with a running back by committee system, using tailbacks Patrick Parker and Marcel Fears and Josh Calloway who’s been carrying the load at fullback.
The Redskins work primarily out of the I-formation.
Defensively, the Redskins have limited foes to 18 points a contest, playing perhaps their best game Oct. 25 in a dramatic 10-7 win over Jefferson, limiting the Dragons’ high-powered running attack to just 60 rushing yards and three first downs.
“Defensively, we’ve been pretty strong this year,” Stoudenmire said.
The defense is led by a strong linebacking core, anchored by senior Brandon Ramsey, and a solid front line, which “has really stepped it up” according to Stoudenmire.
A win for Commerce Friday would continue a Tiger tradition of high-seedings in the state playoffs. A win for Social Circle would be a stepping stone for a school which Stoudenmire explained is “trying to build a program.”
The Reskins own a 9-31-1 record the previous four seasons but the coach said he’s seeing signs of change.
“Things are coming along well,” Stoudenmire said. “The kids have responded well both on the field and in the weight room...We’ve improved and gotten stronger.”
Stoudenmire expressed a respect for both the tradition that Commerce has and the brand of football it plays.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “They’re well-coached and well-disciplined. They don’t do a whole lot of different things but what they do, they do very well...We expect a good game. Commerce has a lot of history and that helps them.”
THE SERIES
Commerce’s Friday night’s meeting with Social Circle is the first since 1995.
The series dates back to 1986 when a Ray Lamb-coached team topped the Redskins 14-0.
Through the early- and mid- 90’s the teams were common foes, meeting every year from 1990-1995 with Commerce out scoring Social Circle 209-103 while winning five times in that span.
The Tigers’ only loss to the Redskins came during Commerce’s mediocre 6-5 campaign in 1991 when they fell to Social Circle 19-8.
All seven contest against Social Circle have been region games.


David versus Goliath matchup to end season for Jackson Co.
Despite starting the season with a bit of a snag, there’s no doubt that the top team in Region 8-AAAA has lived up to the hype that surrounded them prior to the season. Friday’s game against Jackson County (0-9) can clinch the region title for first-place Cedar Shoals (8-1) and secure the top seed from 8-AAAA heading into the state playoffs.
“They’re the most talented, dominant team in this league,” Jackson County coach Brent Brock said of the Cedar Shoals.
The Jaguars have been on a tear ever since losing 8-7 to Habersham Central on Sept. 13 in the rain. Since then they have responded with seven straight victories, many by large margins, and have showed little sign of slowing down as they prepare for a playoff run.
For the Panthers the contest presents another opportunity to upset a heavily favored opponent, something that has yet to come true for the team this season.
Any hopes of knocking off the Jaguars starts with containing an impressive array of skilled players including the likes of 6-foot-6 215 pound Edward Turner at wide receiver, as well as a talented running back in Steven Whitehead.
Friday’s game marks the final regular season contest for both teams, with the Jaguars coming off a 31-15 win over Newton last week, while Jackson County fell to Loganville 38-6.
Brock stated he was encouraged by the intensity shown in the huddle last week, especially on a 60-yard third-quarter drive that he called the “best offensive drive of the season.”
Whitehead rushed for 143 yards on 23 carries last week, while Cedar Shoals’ quarterback Renardo Faust threw for 110 yards and one touchdown in their win.
“This is the best team in our league and we look at it as an opportunity to go head to head and chest to chest with the (best) and to head into the off-season and continue to build,” Brock said.


Dragons all that stand between Spartans and Region 8-A sweep
When the schedules were drawn up for Region 8-A this year, all indications were that this weekend’s regular season finale between Athens Academy and Jefferson would possibly be for all the marbles. Instead, the game will feature two teams on the opposite side of the momentum spectrum, not to mention two schools that know exactly where they will be come playoff time, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
Last week’s Academy win over Athens Christian coupled with Jefferson’s loss against Commerce set the two schools playoff seedings in stone and made the upcoming clash less important for the schools than it could have been—at least on paper.
Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s affair, the Spartans are assured of the top seed from Region 8-A and a home playoff game and they can do no worse than share the region crown. The Dragons, on the other hand, will occupy the fourth and final playoff spot from the region and will be on the road come the first-round of state play.
That said though, both coaches are stopping short of calling the contest at Slaughter Field any less important, as neither team wants to head into postseason play with defeat fresh on their minds.
And, don’t tell the other two schools still in contention for at least a share of the region title (Commerce and Social Circle), that the game is not important.
As for the Dragons, they’re looking to seize some momentum and head into the playoffs on a high note with a win.
“We look at it as an opportunity,” Jefferson coach Bill Navas said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re looking at it as a challenge and a chance to beat a real good football team.”
Should the Spartans slip up against the underdog Dragons it would open the door for the winner of Friday’s other important matchup, between Social Circle and Commerce, to technically earn a share of the crown, however neither team can earn the top seed.
A win by Academy however and the region title is there’s alone.
For Jefferson, the game presents yet another challenge in what has been a rocky latter part of the season. After falling in road tests to Social Circle and Commerce in the last few weeks, the Dragons have seen their vaunted rushing attack held in check after tearing through many an opponent in their first seven games.
Jefferson scored one touchdown in each game of those games and saw their rushing totals cut substantially. Prior to the Social Circle loss the Dragons were averaging some 295 yards per game on the ground and were scoring an average of 31.4 points per game.
In their two losses since, the Dragon offense has been held to just seven points per game and an average of 64 yards per contest on the ground, numbers which concern coach Bill Navas with the coming rigors of postseason play looming.
But, if their is a bright spot in the Jefferson huddle this week, its a chance at preventing the Spartans from sweeping the entire region slate, not to mention the momentum that could be gained in order to jump start the Dragons heading into the playoffs.
“They’re very similar to Commerce,” Navas said of Academy. “They’re a big, strong senior-laden team. But they’re a lot more diverse.”
All of which means the task will certainly not be easy.
Although Academy faltered early in the season in losses to Dawson County, Lincoln County and Franklin County they have reeled off four straight wins against 8-A teams.
During that stretch they have outscored their opponent 128-31.


Stellar swan song
Madison County’s bruising running backs Richard Stowers and Tony Freeman ended their careers in high gear Friday, combining for 251 yards on the ground as the Raiders plowed by Cross Keys 52-18.
Stowers, who finished the season with 1,138 rushing yards, rumbled for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Freeman ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching a 22-yard touchdown pass from Michael Allen.
“Stowers and Freeman both had a quality game,” said Raider coach Tom Hybl.
The Raiders, who piled up 400 yards of total offense — 347 on the ground and 53 through the air — wasted little time getting on the scoreboard.
Stowers capped off a 56-yard drive with 7:01 to go in the first quarter with a four-yard scoring run to put the Raiders up 7-0.
An errant Cross Keys snap on a punt then set Madison County up at the Indians’ eight yard line. Stowers got back in the end zone a moment later on a two-yard run with 4:30 to go in the first. The point after was partially blocked and Madison County led 13-0.
Lee Shivers picked off a Cross Keys pass seconds later and Freeman raced 24 yards for a touchdown with 3:49 to go in the opening period. The two-point conversion attempt was no good and Madison County led 19-0 after one quarter.
Freeman added a six-yard scoring run with 8:09 to go in the second quarter. The point after put the Raiders up 26-0.
Quarterback Martavius Conyers got the Indians on the board with 4:58 to go in the second, scrambling 24 yards for a touchdown.
After a Cross Keys turnover on downs at the Raider 15, Madison County raced down the field for one last first half score, a 22-yard pass from Allen to Freeman that put the Raiders up 33-6 at intermission.
A Madison County fumble set the Indians up at the Raider 30 yard line early in the third quarter. Conyers then carried the ball in from two yards out with 9:41 to go in the third.
But Tony Tittle returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to put the Raiders at mid field. Moments later, Stowers carried the ball in from one yard out for his third touchdown of the evening and his ninth on the year. The Raiders led 40-12 with 5:29 to go in the third quarter.
Cross Keys cut the Raider lead to 40-18 with its final score of the night, a 42-yard pass with 3:07 to go in the third.
Madison County added two more scores in the final period, a six-yard touchdown run by Travis Calloway with 11:17 to go and a three-yard run by Brison Harbin with 3:10 left in the game.
Hybl was pleased with how his squad moved the ball against the Indian defense, but he said the Raider defensive effort was less than stellar.
“Offensively, we moved the ball at will,” said Hybl. “Defensively, we played very poorly....But any time you win at the end of the year and score 50 points you’ve got to be pleased.”
SEASON REVIEW
The Raiders ended the season with a 5-5 record, with wins over Hancock Central, Monroe Area, Jefferson County, Northview and Cross Keys. Madison County lost to Franklin County, Athens Academy, Grayson, Commerce and Buford. Three of those five losses were by three points or less.
“It was one of those years that could have been,” said Hybl. “We just needed a couple of more plays here and there.”
Friday’s game was the final time in Raider uniforms for 11 seniors, including Stowers, Freeman, Tittle, Allen, Jimmy Payne, Chris Luera, Matthew Baker, Matt Kittle, Robert Geiger, Adam Wynn and Scott Dills.
While those seniors will be missed next year, Hybl pointed out that the Raiders will return 14 starters and 46 football players in 2003.
“We feel we’re on the right track here,” said Hybl. “We’ve got a good group returning.”


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (1-9-0)
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.
7-17
11/15 at Union Co.
9-15

  Commerce
  (9-1-0)
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
36-7
11/15 at Social Circle
37-7

  Jackson County
  (0-10-0)
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
6-38
11/15 at Cedar Shoals
6-41

  Jefferson
  (5-5-0)
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
7-36
11/15 at Athens Acadm.
27-10

  Madison County
  (5-5-0)
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
52-18


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