Area Sports...

DECEMBER 4, 2002


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Leopards, Lady Leopards looking to rebound
If Banks County is looking to improve its record, it’ll have a hard time doing it this week.
The Leopards (1-2) and Lady Leopards (0-3) are set to embark on probably their toughest three-game stretch of the season.
The two will travel to GAC Friday before hosting East Hall Saturday and heading back out to take on Wesleyan Tuesday.
The three teams are probably some of the most powerful basketball teams they’ll see in the regular season.
“We’ve got to play as close to mistake-free basketball as we can,” girls coach Robert Sain said.
The Lady Leopards will face defending AA state champs GAC Friday night, though the Lady Spartans will be without several from last year’s title team.
“But you don’t win two state championships without your younger kids knowing what it takes to win, especially in your own gym,” Sain said.
After Friday’s game, Banks will have to come home to take on East Hall, whose girls’ team has been strong in recent years.
“They are very athletic and they’re another team that knows how to win,” Sain said.
But the Lady Leopards’ true test will come Tuesday when they take on the defending class A state champs and highly-touted Wesleyan Lady Wolves.
“Hopefully, we can use (GAC and East Hall) to prepare ourselves for Wesleyan Tuesday,” Sain said.
The Lady Leopards are hoping to learn from their opening two losses and carry some of that experience into this weekend’s games.
“I think Friday was the eye opener and Saturday was a chance for us to see what we have to work on,” Sain said of the two loses. “We’ve got to learn to make better decisions.”
The Leopards will also be tested during the tough three-game stretch.
GAC has put out a consistent top team in the region during the past several years, especially when playing in Norcross.
Saturday Banks comes back home to take on an East Hall team that many feel will make a run at the state championship this year.
Tuesday, the Leopards will face a ranked Wesleyan team.
“If we can make it through these next few games without getting too down, we’ll be allright,” boys coach Mike Ruth said.


Dome-ward Bound?
Commerce hopes to be breaking out the turf shoes—not basketball shoes—next weekend.
A trip to the Georgia Dome for the state semifinal playoffs is the prize on the line for the Tigers this Friday night when they meet 6-6 Dooly County in the quarterfinal round on the road in Vienna.
A semifinals appearance will delay the start of the Commerce basketball season.
Should the Tigers move on to the dome, it would mark the 15th time Commerce has advanced to the state final four.
But there’s no premature talk of that in the Tiger camp this week as they prepare to meet what Tiger head coach Steve Savage called “the most athletic team we will have played all year.”
Despite the Bobcats’ .500 record, Tiger head coach Steve Savage said that Dooly County is an extremely dangerous foe, pointing out that the South Georgia team’s won-loss record was distorted due to a killer early season schedule outside their region.
The Bobcats started the year with losses to AAAA Crisp County, AA Brooks County, Class A Pelham, AAA power Thomasville and AA Macon County—all playoff teams in their classifications.
Since an 0-5 start in that gamut of difficult non-region tests, Dooly County has been one of Class A’s hottest teams through out region play and the playoffs, winning five in a row and six of its last seven to propel themselves into the quarterfinals.
In fact, the Bobcats are fresh off a 29-18 upset of one-seed Miller County.
Dooly County head coach Bill Clark said he believes the early season knocks helped his team.
“We had that brutal non-region schedule and we took some bruises from some talented football teams,” he said. “But by the time we got into our Class A games, it seemed like we felt like we were going to be all right...We’re just happy to be where were at.”
Commerce will be facing a team that’s been finding its identity on both sides of the ball as the year’s progressed.
Defensively, Clark said his team has made impressive strides under a new defensive coordinator. In fact, the team has only surrendered an average of 9.8 points per game during its current five-game winning streak.
Savage described Dooly County as “tremendously quick” on defense.
Offensively, the team lost its top two signal callers early in the season but Clark said his team has remarkably regrouped and found a myriad of players that can throw the ball.
The coach said he’s used as many as three different quarterbacks under center during a game since the top two went down—Jerrell West, Chad Bryant and Deonte Burnum, a 240-lb quarterback who doubles as a linebacker and has several Southeastern Conference schools scouting him.
“It’s kind of like having three aces,” Clark said.
Burnum’s size and ability have particularly impressed Savage.
“He’s hard to bring down and then he throws down field,” he said.
Clark’s unorthodox quarterback system has apparently worked as the coach said two receivers—Demetris Mathis and Latravis Taylor have both gone over 1,000 yards receiving.
Clark said he is expecting to see a Commerce team similar to the one that topped Dooly County 36-15 in 1999 in the state playoffs.
“They look like they did four years ago,” he said. “The only difference is that they don’t have that tall receiver (Michael Collins).”
Clark, however points out that Commerce still has many weapons.
“They’ve got a good quarterback and three backs they can give the ball to,” he said. “They can lull you to sleep and then counter back with one of those backs.


Panther Invitational this weekend to provide early season tests
JACKSON COUNTY WILL host one of the larger wrestling tournaments around this Friday and Saturday as some 20 teams come to town for the annual Panther Invitational at JCCHS.
The Panther wrestling program will likely see a wealth of change this season, due in large part to the loss of some 13 wrestlers from last year’s Class AAA fourth-place team. Included in that class was the top 145-pound Class AAA wrestler in the state, Chris Kubiak. Among the challenges for head coach Phil Thurmond this season is the unenviable task of trying to revamp the Panthers following last year’s success.
The main bright spot on this season’s team will be a familiar face to followers of the Jackson County program as he is the team’s lone returning senior. Two-time defending state champion Jason Powers leads the squad in both experience and accolades as he begins his quest for an unprecedented third-straight state gold medal. Powers took first in the 103-pound division of Class AAA last year, however Thurmond indicated that he will be moving up in weight this year—something that will present yet another challenge for the senior to overcome.
After that it’s safe to say the Panthers are looking for some youth to emerge from the shadows and prove that they have what it takes to compete on the mat this year. And because of the relative drop off in experience, Thurmond has been drilling one thing into the team during training so far this year—fundamentals.
“Just learning the basic moves so that they be able to wrestle,” has been the focus of many of the team’s members so far, something that is definitely a challenge.
“We do have several guys that can step up but its just going to take them time to develop,” Thurmond said.
Six juniors make up the rest of the upperclassmen on the squad including Cody David, Nick Howard, Christopher Kinsey, Ben McDaniel, Chase Minish and Adam Nichols.
From there the bevy of youth can be seen as 15 underclassmen make up the rest of the squad.
First Match of Year
Last week, in the team’s first match of the season, the Panthers fell to Madison County 57-18, Gilmer County 48-30 and Lumpkin County 49-24 all at the Gordon Street Center in Jefferson.


Strong out of the gate
Following a march to the finals of their annual shoot-out tournament, the Jefferson girls will take some time to recuperate this week and work on any weaknesses they may have before heading to Apalachee this Saturday at 6 p.m.
Foremost on their minds following last Saturday’s loss to Oconee County will likely be working on shooting, as the Lady Dragons hit just 23 percent of their shots from the field in the game.
The No. 2 Lady Dragons (3-1) marched through an impressive tournament field to the finals of Sonny’s Smokin’ Shoot-out, where they ran into a veteran Lady Warrior team that returned all five starters from last year’s 21-8 AAAA state tournament squad.
The resulting 49-23 loss did not dampen what was still an extremely successful run for Jefferson, as they got a taste of some the state’s toughest competition and came out on top in two of three games at Jefferson High School.
“It was a tough field and we were really pleased to come in second-place,” Jefferson coach Brandy Corbett said. “We played well throughout the tournament and just ran into a really good team there at the end.”
Class AAAAA Oconee County, which possesses several post players who can also shoot well from the outside, created frequent matchup problems for the Lady Dragons.
Kim Hausman, a versatile 6-foot-2-inch post player, as well as Deanna Patrick, who stands 5-feet-9, were threats all evening for the senior-laden Lady Warriors.
Jefferson, whose tallest player is 5-foot-10-inch Annie Goza, attempted to play zone in an effort to defend their taller opponents and rebound the basketball.
“We can normally play a 1-3-1 (press) against some teams, but if we did that (Saturday) we would have had some problems down low,” Corbett said. “We just tried to play zone against them and stop them from scoring down low.”
Unfortunately for Jefferson, they ran into a hot shooting Lady Warrior team.
Oconee County (3-0) came out smoking from behind the three-point line, led by point guard Kaelin Farrington’s 16 points.
Conversely, Jefferson struggled with their shooting in the game and could only get to the foul line four times.
“It’s hard to win when you shoot like that,” Corbett said.
Annie Goza led the Lady Dragon scoring effort with eight points, however she was held under double digits in scoring for the first time this season. Sunny Bush tied Goza for the team lead in rebounding with six points in the game.
Jefferson vs. Franklin County
In the Shoot-out semifinal matchup against Franklin County on Nov. 26, Jefferson escaped with their finest win of the season to date, knocking off the No. 7 AAA team in the state by a close 50-47 margin.
Jefferson’s Molly Cleveland drained a 3-pointer to tie the game with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter and freshman Shalita Brooks came up big for the Lady Dragons at the free-throw line to seal the win with four straight shots.
The effort was part of an 11-point turnaround in the final four minutes of play that sent the Lady Dragons to the Shoot-out finals after trailing by seven points deep into the fourth quarter.
Jefferson’s Annie Goza accounted for nearly 35 percent of her team’s scoring, knocking down 16 points along with eight rebounds—six of which came on the offensive end.
Kennyotta Beasley, Sunny Bush and Molly Cleveland all added six rebounds apiece for Jefferson.
Cleveland’s five steals along with eight points helped energize her side and provided a lift according to her coach.
“Her defense has really been outstanding so far this season,” Corbett said. “She’s stepped up big for us.”
Despite a low shooting percentage from the field (28 percent), Jefferson’s ability to convert free-throws in the game was crucial. As a team the Lady Dragons were 16 of 26 from the charity stripe (62 percent).


Coach says seniors must step it up
Whatever the sport, be it high school or college, this much is true: seniors are expected to take charge.
But Raider wrestling coach Steve Mason said he’s still waiting for his seniors to show some leadership this season. He says the Madison County season hinges on the team’s older guys giving everything they have.
“Until I get some leadership from my seniors, I don’t know what to expect,” said Mason. “...We’re so close to being good and so close to being sorry. We’ve got guys who can wrestle. They just have to decide when they step on the wrestling mat that they’re going to win.”
Though his squad whipped Jackson County last Tuesday in Jefferson 65-17, Mason was disappointed with his team’s efforts against Gilmer in a 48-33 loss and Lumpkin County in a 41-30 setback.
“We didn’t wrestle well; we didn’t step it up,” said Mason.
While there were disappointments, the coach pointed out that several wrestlers performed very well last week, including Mark Arnold and J.J. Brueshaber, who both won all three of their matches during the Tuesday tri-meet. Others who performed well included J.J. Gunnells, Joseph McDivitt, Conrad Carey and Walker Overstreet.
Mason said that the return of the injured Kevin Cash will help bolster the team.
“When we get Kevin Cash back that’s going to make a big difference,” said the coach.
The Raiders have a tough fight on their hands this weekend as they travel to Jefferson for the 20-team Panther Invitational. Teams Madison County will pair up against include Clarke-Central, Dacula, Dawson County, Eastside, Elbert County, Gainesville, Gilmer County, Jackson County, Jefferson, Johnson, Loganville, Lumpkin County, Newton, North Forsyth, North Hall, Oconee County, Oglethorpe County, Stephens County and West Hall.
Madison County will then host Oglethorpe County and Newton at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
JV RAIDERS SHINE
The Madison County junior varsity wrestlers turned in a dominating performance in a JV meet at North Forsyth Saturday, winning the team title by outscoring the next best competitor by some 70 points.
The Raiders won five weight classes. First place finishers included R.J. Klingler, 112 pounds; Tyler Johnson, 130; Jim Myrick, 140; Cory Jordan, 215; and Justin Pirkle, heavyweight. Those placing second included Ramey Overstreet, 112; Drew McCurley, 119; Jesse Compton, 145; Garrett Rice, 152; Keldrick Hunter, 171; Chip Owenby, 189; and Josh Blackmon, 215. Those placing third in their weight divisions were Dustin Temple; 125; Steven Muniz, 135; and Tyler Berryman, 160.


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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.
10-27

  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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