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FEBRUARY 19, 2003


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For the third time in as many years, the Leopards will start the soccer season with a new coach.
Mike Townson takes over at the helm this season, and he’ll be looking to fill holes left by nine graduating seniors off last year’s team.
But despite the key losses, the Leopards will be returning a host of talented players, including five seniors.
“These guys work hard and they want to win,” Townson said. “All these guys are great on offense and defense. I’ve got to find a way to cycle them through to play everything. But we’ll find out Friday who’s going to step up and get it done.”
The Leopards open their season Friday at Oglethorpe County. Both the boys and girls will debut in Lexington.
Friday’s match should show whether or not Townson has been able to mesh the team together.
“We’ve got three different styles of soccer—Asian, Hispanic and American,” he said. “I’ve got to figure out a way to combine them into my style. But I think it’s going to come together.”
Townson has just over 20 guys out to play soccer this season and he will be running what he says could be called a little “unorthodox” style of program.
He has appointed four senior captains and sends them onto the field to lead practices.
“They run practice and they work the boys to death,” Townson said of the captains.
Townson said the he felt appointing the leaders was important because they’ll be the ones leading the team on the field.
“I’m going to let them run the games,” he said. “They have to communicate to me. I can’t get out there and play.”
He said the teams has responded well so far to his style. And since many of the players were out conditioning together without any coaching leadership earlier this year, allowing them to lead themselves seemed like a natural fit.
Townson said he’s hoping that the captains’ leadership and the players’ work ethic can help the team reach its season goal—a 12-6 record and first or second in region play.
“They say they want to win,” Townson said. “They are tired of not winning and they want to go to state. I told them that if they put forth the effort, they can do it.”
The Leopards will look to try and go undefeated in region play this season, or at least grab the number two slot behind a stellar Lumpkin County team.
Townson, who comes to Banks as a former Jackson County assistant varsity coach, has scheduled 18 games with many of the teams he faced while coaching next door.
“To win, you’ve got to play good schools,” he said. “And we want to play schools we can compete with. I told the guys that I come from a winning program and I expect to win.”
The Leopards have only four home matches this season but are looking for all the fan support they can get.
“We need some fan support,” Townson said. “We’ve got a chance to really do something special and hit some school records this year.”
And whether or not the Leopards will be able to live up their potential will likely show in the season opener Friday.
LADY LEOPARDS
Girls coach Mike Brownlee isn’t shy about labeling this season as a rebuilding year.
He lost four key seniors off last year’s 6-6 team in what was undoubtedly Banks’ best season of Lady Leopards soccer in the program’s short history.
“It’s a building year,” Brownlee said. “We are real young, mostly ninth and 10th graders.”
But despite the Lady Leopards’ youth, several solid players from last year’s team will be back on the field.
Banks gets lone junior Ashley Dumas back as a striker.
“She is really going to have to play,” Brownlee said. “I’m going to count on her a lot.”
The Lady Leopards will also probably see senior Ashley Stapleton on the field. Several younger players, including Dana Littman, Lauren Reiselt, Jessica Rogers, Lindsey Shirley, Kelly Paulk and Jessica Kirby.
Brownlee will probably have just over 15 girls on this year’s team, having some come out as the basketball season ended. However, Brownlee said he has been disappointed with turnout numbers and the lack of interest on the middle school level.
“It would be great to have 30 girls out there,” he said.
The Lady Leopards, with the youth of a junior varsity team, will play a 12-game full varsity schedule. They open with Oglethorpe Friday.
“I’m going to do a lot of subbing to find out who needs to play where,” Brownlee said. “Right now, we’re looking at the whole season and I need to find out who can play.”
He added that he didn’t know much about some of the other teams on Banks’ schedule. The Lady Leopards picked up a few opponents—along with the guys’ team—that they didn’t face last season.
“I’m real excited about these soccer girls,” Brownlee said. “They’re a good group. They’ve worked hard and they’ve got a good bunch of parents behind them.”


Lady Panthers take third in 8-AAAA
The Jackson County girls earned a Class AAAA state tournament berth last week, however the feat was not accomplished without a flare for the dramatic.
After securing an 18-point lead on Rockdale County in the first half of last Wednesday’s region tournament opener, the Lady Panthers (18-10) needed two overtimes to earn the state spot 64-59.
From there, the team was taken out of the region title hunt following a semifinal loss to Newton, 56-51, in their next contest. That said though, there is some consolation to be had in the fact that they at least fell to the eventual tournament champions.
With perhaps the toughest road of any team in the region tournament despite a No. 2 seeding, the Lady Panthers beat Region 8-AAAA North champion Clarke Central in Saturday’s third-place game following their defeat to the other No. 1, Newton.
Combined that with the task presented by Rockdale, and last week was truly a strenuous one for Jackson County.
Against the Lady Rams, the Lady Panthers fell behind early and had to play catch up the rest of the way. Nine first-half turnovers contributed to the early deficit, however a strong third quarter performance cut the lead to five. By the fourth quarter the game got even closer, as Jackson County drew to within 48-47 with 2:48 remaining in the contest before Newton was able to pull away down the stretch.
“That’s all you can ask for as a coach is for your team to put you in that position (to win at the end),” said Jackson County coach Chad Pittman. “But some of our shots looked a little bit tired...I was proud of our heart though.”
This week however, things are turned up another notch, as every game from here on out could be their last.
Saturday the Lady Panthers play the No.2 seed in their section, Creekside at Stone Mountain High School at 7 p.m. in the first round of state.
“I feel like Creekside is similiar to (Region 8-AAAA opponent) Cedar Shoals,” said Pittman. ‘They’ve got a quick guard and a good player inside, but I think we have a good chance against them.”
After the Newton loss, Pittman stated he was pleased with the way the Lady Panther’s responded the next night against Clarke where they were able to gut out a 48-47 win.
In that game, Jackson County hung on despite a late 21-13 run by Clarke Central. Nikki Sosebee paced the Lady Panthers with an 11-point performance while Tosha Ransom added 11.
“This first year in AAAA battling Clarke this year has really turned into a rivalry,” Pittman said.
Jackson County won two of the three meetings between the school’s this year.


Five Wrestlers Heading To State
Going “across the river” in this area usually pertains to the Commerce-Jefferson football rivalry, but for a handful of Tiger wrestlers, crossing the North Oconee this weekend means a shot at a medal at the state wrestling tournament.
Five Commerce wrestlers will head just nine miles down Hwy. 15 Friday for the traditional Class A state meet at Jefferson after qualifying this past Saturday at the area tournament at Social Circle.
Tiger wrestling coach Joe Hames said he doesn’t quite know what to expect this weekend at state.
“I don’t really know yet,” he said. “It’s a completely different tournament. They can do worse or they can do better. It will either be a good surprise or a bad surprise.”
The coach said his team wasn’t at its best this past weekend at the area tournament where it finished fifth and sent four fewer wrestlers to state this year than it did last year.
“I thought we should have done a little bit better,” Hames said of this past weekend. “I don’t think we could have finished better than fifth but I thought we could have had one or two more guys go to state...We just didn’t get the breaks.”
Jesse Smith (119-lb.) and Taylor Massey (215), both state medalists last year, will make return trips to the Class A meet after third place finishes in their respective weight classes as will Royale Goodwin (135) and Eric Redmon (145), who both finished fourth.
Ben Wilson will also head to state, earning his pass by finishing fourth in the 275-lb. class.
Hames called both Redmon and Wilson’s qualifying for state “a pleasant surprise.”
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to state.
Both Nick Cox (171) and Jonathan Beasley (130) placed fifth earning spots as alternates should one of the top four wrestlers in their weight classes not be able to compete.
Overall, Commerce earned 57 points Saturday in its fifth place finish out 13 teams at the area tournament, one spot lower than it finished last year when the team scored 111 points.
Cross county foe Jefferson finished first Saturday with 242 points.
Here’s a run down of results for those qualify for state:
•Smith (119) won three of four matches Saturday, winning his first with a pin, losing his second and closing the day out with victories over wrestlers from St. Francis’s (pin) and Bowden (4-1) to take third place. Smith placed fourth last year in the 112-lb. division.
•Goodwin (135), who finished third last year in the 130-lb. class, began the tournament with wins in the first two rounds before being pinned in his third match. He then rebounded with an 11-7 win before losing to Scott Nix of Jefferson in his fifth match of the day to finish fourth.
•Redmon (145) split four matches, winning his first and third 6-4 and 4-1 and losing his second and fourth 9-1 and 7-0 to finish fourth, equaling his fourth-place showing last year in the 140-lb. class.
•Massey (215), runner-up in last year’s 215-lb. class, picked up a pin in his first match and was then edge by a point in his second, 6-5. He then closed out the day with wins over Jake Gurley of Jefferson, 4-2, and a wrestler from Landmark Christian to grab his third place finish.
•Wilson (275) split four matches, picking up pins in his third and fourth matches and losing 10-0 and 5-1 in this second and fourth.
VS. STEPHENS COUNTY
Commerce’s dual record dropped to 9-6 with a 42-21 setback to Stephens County this past Tuesday.
The Tigers picked up five wins in the match but also had to forfeit three weight classes and double forfeit in two others.
Those with victories were Jesse Smith (125-lbs.), who won by decision over Josh Maynard (5-3); Jonathan Beasley (135), who won by decision (9-2) over Matt Sabato; Royale Goodwin (140), won by decision (14-9) over Clayton Rider; Taylor Massey (215), who pinned Jake McAvoy; and Ben Wilson, who pinned Lance Brawner.


Jefferson crowned Region 8-A champions
Anyone in search of evidence supporting the age old coaching adage that offense wins games, but defense wins championships, would have had all the proof they needed Saturday night during the Region 8-A boys final.
Following a tumultuous three quarters of play that left them down 14 points with 4:36 remaining in the game, Jefferson (18-10) turned things up a notch on defense, thus sparking a terrific comeback that won them the championship 43-42 over rival Athens Academy.
The win marked the second time in three years that the Dragons have won a region crown, the third in the last six seasons, but it was still the type of game that even left longtime Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose a bit dumbfounded by the time all the smoke had cleared.
“With four and a half minutes left in the game and us down 14, I didn’t give us much of a chance to win, especially considering the way (Athens Academy) was controlling the tempo,” DuBose explained. “But, our kids just stepped up big...It was just a great, great comeback on the part of our guys.”
The Dragons were held in check offensively for much of the contest, due in large part to a physical half-court style employed on them by the Spartans. A miserable second quarter during which they were limited to just four points left Jefferson down 11 at the half, with scarcely a sign of turning things around to be found.
But somehow, remarkably, the team dug deep, using an energetic full-court defensive press to ignite a rally and finish the contest on a 16-1 run that eventually earned them the championship.
The victory came after a two-game romp to the title game in the region tournament with wins over Athens Christian and Social Circle respectively.
“People don’t realize how difficult it was, after all that, to turn things around the way we did,” DuBose said. “There were so many big plays for us down the stretch there...I don’t know that we could have gone back 50 times and done those things we needed to do to win the game, but we did.”
What is perhaps even more outlandish is the means that the squad used to reach their ends.
With the team’s offensive leader, Shaudrick Martin, held to three points in the outing, easily below his 24-point season average, several teammates filled in admirably and made crucial plays down the stretch to notch the win.
Following a leaner in the lane by freshman Duran Rakestraw that brought the Dragons to within 41-36 with 1:32 left, junior Montray Riley swiped a pass off the inbounds and hit a lay-in and was fouled. He then sank the ensuing free throw to narrow the gap to 41-39.
Academy’s John Tereshinski then sank a free throw with 47.8 remaining to make it 42-39, however the Dragons drew even on their next possession as junior point guard Tierre Shields drained a clutch three-pointer from the top of the arc with 31 seconds left.
From there, Jefferson’s Jarvis Hunter sank the back end of two free throw attempts to give his team a one point lead with 12.9 remaining.
Tereshinski was errant on a tough go-ahead shot on the other end of the floor after Jefferson defenders collapsed on Spartan point guard Chad Kimbrough.
From there the Dragons held on and, ironically enough, won their biggest game of the year, despite amassing their smallest point total of the season.
“They wanted to go out and win it for me and we did,” Martin, Jefferson’s lone senior, said of his teammates. “It feels real good right now.”
Despite playing a sub-par game offensively, DuBose praised his postman, for the way he controlled things in the paint defensively.
“I told him he was having a tough night shooting the ball, but we couldn’t have won the game without him,” DuBose said of Martin. “It was probably the best defensive game I’ve seen him play in a long time.”
A concurring Martin, who finished with 10 rebounds on the evening, said he wanted to help out anyway possible.
“I pretty much tried to focus on rebounding there at the end and I just tried to do what I could to help us win,” he explained.
Hunter, whose key return from first ineligibility and then a wrist injury last month, led the Dragons with 16 points on the night.
In addition, Shields’ ability to control his team from the point guard slot helped keep the Dragons within striking distance. He finished with a productive nine points and six assists, with just three turnovers.
Freshman Keonte Keith also chipped in with eight points off the bench.
Kimbrough led his team with a 12-point scoring effort.
The win capped off a 17-2 record against Region 8-A foes this season, by far the most impressive mark in the area.
“I don’t think anyone can argue that we didn’t win this region, no one else has that kind of record against 8-A teams,” DuBose said.
Dragons blowout Social Circle in semifinal affair
In a contest that was about as opposite as is possible in relation to the championship game, at least for Jefferson, the Dragons overwhelmed the Redskins in the 8-A tournament semifinals last Friday night. Jefferson was on fire from behind the arc, sinking 10 three-point shots. Hunter led the way with a game-high 23 points while Martin added 19. In addition, Rakestraw had his first real solid game since coming back from an ankle injury with 18 points on the night.


Eight Raiders earn trip to state
Eight Raider wrestlers are headed to state, two with area titles in hand.
J.J. Brueshaber, 145 lbs.; and Mark Arnold, 189, earned first place in their respective weight classes during the traditional area tournament at Cedar Shoals High School this past Friday and Saturday as the Madison County squad took second place in the 12-team tournament.
Brueshaber even earned “most outstanding wrestler” for middle weight divisions in the area tournament.
But the two area champions weren’t the only points of pride for the Raiders.
Several others earned a trip to this week’s state tournament in Rome with top four finishes in the area tournament.
Other state qualifiers included: Walker Overstreet, 103 lbs., second place; David Giles 119, third; Ryan Cleghorne 140, fourth; Conrad Carey 171, fourth; Robert Geiger 215, third; and Matt Kittle heavyweight, second.
Kevin Cash finished in fifth place in the 160-lb. class and will travel to Rome as an alternate.
“We were hoping we could take a couple of more guys (to Rome),” said Raider head coach Steve Mason, whose 2002 squad also took eight wrestlers to state.
Just like the area dual tournament, Madison County finished above all squads except Loganville, which took top honors with 191 points, compared to 167 for the Raiders. Salem took third, while Heritage and Habersham Central finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Mason said his team struggled during the opening day of the tournament Friday but rebounded well Saturday.
“We put ourselves in a hole with the way we wrestled Friday night,” said Mason. “We came back strong Saturday, but it was too late.”


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