Area Sports...

NOVEMBER 20, 2002


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Mud Bowl Showdown
Friday night’s gridiron contest more resembled a mud wrestling match than it did a football game.
Heavy rains before and during the contest at Union County created a field with more mud than grass.
The sloppy conditions also wreaked havoc on several Banks County snaps, leading to miscues that helped the Panthers to their 15-9 season-ending victory over the Leopards.
“The field was the same for both teams but I feel like it favored their power game more,” Leopard coach Greg Moore said. “Take away a couple of big plays and we win that game.”
The Leopards had a 9-7 lead over Union for most of the second half. In fact, Banks kept the Panthers from scoring midway through the fourth quarter when Alex Cruce fell on a fumble in the endzone.
But with 2:16 left in the game, a Union back was able to get outside the tackles and scant for nearly 50 yards to score. The Panthers went for two and got it, going ahead 15-9.
Banks County would commence to drive nearly the length of the field. Quarterback Tyson Baxter hit Chase Martin on a 65-yard pass that set the Leopards in scoring position.
But on the last play of the game inside the 10 yard line, the Leopards weren’t able to strike for the score, falling in their final game of the season.
“I was disappointed that we only won one game but I was encouraged by the effort the kids gave,” Moore said. “I think we’re going in the right direction.”
The Leopards scored first in game Friday, just shy of the end of the first quarter. With 4:31 to play, Martin hit a 26-yard field goal to put Banks up 3-0.
Midway through the second quarter, Baxter ran 40 yards on fourth down to get the ball on the one yard line. Fullback Seth Brownlee punched it in for the score with 8:33 in the half.
Union blocked the extra point attempt, setting the score at 9-0.
The Leopards’ defense was able to hold the Panthers for the better part of the rest of the half, thanks in part to Cruce’s interception inside his own 15 yard line.
But late in the half as Banks was holding onto a shutout, the Leopards fumbled the snap and Union recovered. With 11 seconds to go in the second quarter, the Panthers hit a 28-yard touchdown pass and the point-after to cut the lead to 9-7.
REGION 8-AA
Banks’ loss puts them last in the region.
Buford, GAC, Wesleyan and Lumpkin County are all moving on to postseason play. Buford will stay at home against Decatur and GAC will host Grady.
Both Wesleyan and Lumpkin are on the road. The Wolves will face Blessed Trinity while the Indians must travel to take on Union Grove in McDonough.


Commerce To Face Perennial Powerhouse, Coaching Great
There won’t be any shortage of postseason savvy on the other sideline in Tiger Stadium Friday night.
Not only will Commerce be facing a Bowdon Red Devil team—last year’s Class A state runners-up—that’s enjoyed seven straight trips to the state playoffs, they’ll also be facing a coach that’s been the mastermind behind three state titles.
Twenty fifth-year head coach Dwight Hochstetler, who’s won state crowns at both the Red Devils (1992) and Greenville High School (1980 and 1984), will lead his Red Devil team into Commerce Friday night in the opening round of the Class A state football playoffs in the first meeting between the two schools.
Hochstetler has spent the past 15 years at Bowdon.
The last time Commerce faced a Hochstetler coached team, the Tigers mustered 27 fourth quarter points on a water-logged field to take a 40-14 over the Greenville Patriots in 1985.
Seventeen years later, the school will be different, but Commerce hopes it can repeat history against one of the state’s coaching greats.
Commerce head football coach Steve Savage said Hochstetler’s teams always showcase a tough brand of football and this Bowdon team is no different.
“They’ve got a good football team,” Savage said.
The Tigers whipped Social Circle 37-7 this past Friday night to secure the second seed out of Region 8-A, set- ting up the show down with the Red Devils.
While Savage believes his team has been given one of the most difficult first-round draws possible, Hochstetler paints a different picture.
“We’re a struggling football team right now,” he said. “We’re disappointed with the 6-4 record.”
Hochstetler said the team has had to replace three key seniors from last years’ team and has had to make “wholesale changes” on defense due to injuries.
On top of this, the team doesn’t have its own stadium to play in. Bowdon is still waiting on a new stadium to be completed, forcing it to play its home games at nearby Central Carroll High School.
The Hochstetler said the mix of events has made life rough on the gridiron for Bowdon.
While Bowdon has four losses, they’ve all been to powers both in and out of the state.
The team has suffered setbacks against 12-0 Clay County of Alabama, 8-2 Trion, 10-0 Landmark and 9-1 Heard County. Those teams have a combined 41-3 record.
However, Savage has been impressed with Bowdon and its no frills style of football in what might be considered a down year by those close to the Red Devils.
In discussing his team’s first-round foe, Savage described a team that adheres to the same football philosophies as his own.
“They’re happy to get three and a half yards,” he said. “They’re not going to do anything that takes them out of a ball game.”
Bowdon employees a Wing-T scheme which will feature a lot of misdirection and a lot of power running.
The most impressive player on the offense is one who never touches the ball, right guard Nick Johns, 6’3,” 275 right guard and offensive tackle who’s already signed with Georgia.
“He’s a football player and he’s not the only one they’ve got,” Savage said. “...They’ve got good people at every position.”
The team’s fullback Maresse Protho has also impressed Savage.
Defensively, Hochstetler said the Red Devils, who operate out of a 4-3 set up, have a young unit with two freshman and “several” sophomore starters while lacking a standout.
Hochstetler expects Commerce’s I-Bone attack and heralded offensive front to give his unseasoned defenders a serious tests.
“Their line of scrimmage is the first thing that stands out,” he said. “They do a great job of blocking. Offensively, you’re preparing for something you haven’t seen.”
The coach is also impressed with Commerce on the other side of the ball.
“Defensively, they run extremely well to the ball. I’ve been impressed with their linebackers and their front seven look pretty good.”
BOWDON NOTES
•Bowdon was denied its second state title under Hochstetler last year when it lost to Buford 35-13 in the Class A finals. The team finished the regular season with a 6-4 record in 2001 but caught fire in the post season with wins over Gordon Lee, Lincoln County, McIntosh County Academy and Metter before falling to the Wolves. Bowdon won the 1992 state title (15-0) in Hochstetler’s fifth year as head coach.


Panther season full of growing pains
Depending on your perspective, Jackson County’s 41-6 loss at Cedar Shoals last Friday can either signify a sorrowful end to a lackluster season, or the start of a time when the Panthers can begin to close the gap between themselves and the rest of the region in the offseason.
“I’ve confused them a little bit with the verbiage, but this is the ‘ending of the beginning,’” Jackson County coach Brent Brock said jokingly.
Whatever the viewpoint, the Panthers know that they have much to improve on this coming offseason after failing to pick up a win during 10 games in 2002.
Last Friday the squad had to look no further than across the field to see a team, and a program, that they would love to emulate in the coming years.
The Jaguars’ win clinched the Region 8-AAAA crown for them and sent them on their way to a home game in each of the first three rounds of the state tournament for the first time in nearly seven years.
Early on, however, it appeared the improbable had a chance at happening.
Jackson County came out pumped up in the first quarter, using a solid drive to eat away precious minutes and help keep the time of possession in their favor early in the ballgame.
The Panthers controlled the ball for roughly eight of the first twelve minutes of the game, including a drive of over six minutes.
Unfortunately for Jackson County though, the time consumption produced nothing in the way of points and midway through the second quarter the Jaguars appeared to have been awoken from a refreshing sleep.
Using the running game to take command, Cedar Shoals put together a go-ahead drive, capped off by Jaguar running back Steven Whitehead’s two-yard touchdown run to put his team up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
From there the two teams traded blows with both defenses playing solid. In fact, it appeared the Panthers would be heading into halftime within striking distance, before Whitehead’s athleticism came in to play.
As was the case earlier in the season against another athletic Athens-based team—in Clarke Central—the Panthers allowed points late in the first half and it ended up costing them.
Whitehead spearheaded the Jaguar effort, scoring two of his three second-quarter touchdowns within the final 2:22, the last of which—a 24-yard scamper with 12 seconds until halftime—was his longest.
From there the momentum was seized and the rout was on as Cedar Shoals came out and dominated the third quarter.
“They played hard and matched up well for about a quarter and a half,” Jackson County coach Brent Brock said of his team. “That’s kind of been the story of the season for us—a big play here or there really swung the momentum and in this day and age it seems like plays like that really change things more than they did 25 or 30 years ago.”
Quarterback Renardo Faust hit 6-foot-6-inch wide receiver Edward Turner on a 64-yard touchdown pass to start the third quarter and the Jaguars never looked back en route to the win.
Brock, following an ejection from the team’s prior game against Loganville, did not coach in the game due to GHSA rules which state that an ejected player or coach must sit out the game following the ejection.
Jackson County’s lone score of the game came on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jerrod Glass—who was playing in his final game as a Panther—to sophomore Daniel Clark with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter. Clark led his team with three catches for 80 yards on the day, an encouraging sign for a team laden with youth that graduates just five seniors.
“You have to admire the youngster, he had a really nice game for us,” Brock said of Clark. “It’s really his first full year of football.”
Brock added that he has seen much progress this year despite what the Panthers may look like on paper and he noted that hitting the weight room hard now is how the Panthers can “close the gap.”
“We stood toe to toe with some good football teams this season and we’re a better football team now than we were back in January,” he said.
Also advancing to the state tournament to join Cedar Shoals from Region 8-AAAA were Heritage, Habersham Central and Salem. Only the top four teams advance.


Class A State Playoffs
Expect to see some famous faces in the stands when Jefferson travels to No. 4 Landmark Christian for their first-round state playoff game this Friday. Two of the War Eagles’ standout players have fathers well known in the athletic world—one as a football guru and the other as a three-time heavyweight boxing champion.
Alex Mortensen, who’s father is ESPN football analyst Chris Mortensen, and running back Evander Holyfield Jr., son of the famed boxing icon of the same name, appear to be as good on the high school football field as their fathers are in their respective professions.
That rare situation aside, Landmark Christian (10-0) appears to be a team on a mission this season, and they’re definitely a squad the Dragons should remember well.
Unlike the majority of teams that have been scrambling to trade game films this week to get just a glimpse of the opposition in the state playoffs, the Dragons already have first-hand knowledge of their foe.
Four weeks into the season, Jefferson (5-5) made the very same trip to Fairburn on Sept. 20, however their effort left much to be desired, as they lost 45-21.
If they wish to extend their season and make the second-round of the playoffs this week, the result will have to be far greater than it was on that day, as the War Eagles come in as a heavy favorite with plenty of momentum.
On the season Landmark has been extremely impressive offensively, scoring better than 44 points per game and outscoring their opponents 442-109. In addition, the younger Mortensen has looked like one of the state’s top quarterback prospects. Two week’s ago he threw for three touchdown passes in the first quarter alone on his way to a 219 yard performance during the War Eagles’ 66-0 trouncing of Our Lady of Mercy.
The previous week’s Nov. 1 meeting with state tournament bound Bowden was an even more impressive display in the air for Mortensen, who threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-6 win.
With all that offense against them you’d think the Dragons would be in serious trouble come Friday, which they may very well be, but considering their last outing against the War Eagles they should be fairly confident heading into the contest.
Although they lost on Sept. 20, Jefferson’s 21 points scored against Landmark was the second most given up by the War Eagle defense all year—a sign of just how strong the Dragon offense can be when they get their running game going.
What is even more promising for Jefferson is that the effort was without the aid of running back Courtney Wiley who since he has returned from injury Oct. 18 has appeared to be itching for a breakout performance like the one’s that made him the team’s leading rusher a season ago.
Also, fullback Jeremy Smith rushed for 183 of his team’s 254 yards and scored two of their three touchdowns in the last meeting and should the Dragons pull off the upset Friday he will likely need a similar effort.
As for the defense, Forest Garner and Montray Riley who led the Dragons in tackles in the last meeting with 13 and 11 respectively will likely have to play well again, while developing a consistent pass rush will also go a long way towards disrupting the Landmark passing game.
“I don’t think they’re 23 points better than us, but they were on Friday evening,” Jefferson coach Bill Navas said after the last loss to the War Eagles.
Jefferson’s chance at redemption comes Friday night.


‘No excuses’ for Lady Raiders in 2002-2003
The Georgia football team lives by the credo “finish the drill.” The Madison County girls’ basketball team looks to draw inspiration from a saying as well in 2002-2003 under a new head coach—”no excuses.”
“With a new coach and going into a new classification, there are a lot of excuses we could look at, but we want to take the position of not having any excuses,” first-year Lady Raider coach Latana Coile said. “We know to be successful we’re going to have to overcome things. We’ve got to make the best of it.”
Coile, a member of Madison County’s 1981 state championship team, surely faces a multitude of a challenges in replacing Tim Cook, who spent the past nine seasons at the Lady Raider helm.
Madison County suffered through one of its most tumultuous seasons in over a decade last season, finishing 4-22 after enjoying a 127-68 run the previous eight seasons. The Lady Raiders must try to recover in a bigger classification this season, AAAA, which will present its own set of challenges.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge for us coming off the season we had last year—4-22 is pretty tough,” she said. “We were extremely young last year and we took our lumps.”
Those bumps and bruises are what Coile said should drive the team as it tackles the challenge of trying to get back on the basketball map.
“They don’t want to go another 4-22. It’s motivation for them,” she said.
The initial step in Madison County’s rebuilding project started with the summer months.
Coile first brought in Emmanuel College coach Mike Bona for a team clinic. Madison County then took to the area scrimmages, where the Lady Raiders topped traditionally strong programs like Jefferson and Hart County.
“We felt like we did some good things,” the coach said.
Madison County’s preseason work will soon be put to the test when the season starts Saturday.
Among the strengths the Lady Raiders will take with them to the court are height and experience.
Madison County lost just one senior from last year and sports four players over 5-10, including six-footer Rebekah Faulkner and Ashley Dinsmore who’s near that mark.
Coile, however, said that being tall isn’t enough. They’ve also got to be physical.
“We’ll have to establish an inside game,” she said. “I hope that we will be able to be tough, too. We’ve got to work on that. We’re not always as aggressive as we need to be.”
Coile also points out that the team has numbers, sporting 12 varsity players. With a great deal of parity in that group, many of the starting jobs are still open which will create a competition for positions during the early stretches of the season.
“I see me subbing an and out a lot to try to find five to settle on,” she said. “The jobs are open but that’s a good thing because it makes them work harder.”
In addition to size and numbers, Coile said she also has shooters with Jessica Bentle and Loryn Griffeth and ball handlers with Latoya Cobbs, Abbie Osley and Melanie Elrod.
“We’ve got some of the things we need.”
Offensively, Coile said her team will show a little more of a spread look and run “a lot of motion.” Post players maybe called on to handle the ball and shoot from the outside and the coach said not to be surprised to see the wings with occasional post responsibility.
Defensively, success depends on how well her team plays the man-to-man according to Coile but the coach added that she’ll throw in some zone looks as well.
However, the main focal point in practice has been the transition game. Coile stressed that her team has to master that aspect of basketball to have success.
“It’s not a half court game anymore,” she said.
Thought it remains to be seen how the team’s schemes will work out, she’s been impressed with the character.
“For the first time in a while, I’ve seen some leadership on the team,” she said. “That’s always a positive. We need people to step up when I’m not around.”
COILE ON TAKING OVER AT HER ALMA MATER
While there will be some initial jitters in taking over a school that she helped lead to a state title 21 years ago, Coile is more excited than anything about her first basketball head coaching post.
“I count it as a privilegem” she said. “I’m excited. I’m sure when I first step out there will be some butterflies...But I’ve always been proud of the program and I’ve always supported it even when I was away.”


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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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