The Leopards and Lady Leopards track teams are winding down their regular season and are about to head into region competition.
The girls will comete in their region matches Monday and Tuesday. The boys region meet will come May 5 and 6.
At the Jefferson Relays over the weekend, Banks had one athlete nail a first place finish.
Seth Brownlee took the top spot in the field in the discus with a toss of 1323. Teammate Kevin Hall got a sixth place finish event, throwing 1115.
For the Lady Leopards, Nikki Garner nailed fourth place in the discus with a toss of 8010. She was also seventh in the shot put with 252.
Chastico Beasley finished fourth in the long jump and in the 100m dash (13.2 seconds).
Charli Bellamy took the fourth place spot in the 100m high hurdles with a time of 19.06 seconds.
Banks finished second overall in a three-way meet with Franklin and Rabun, falling just behind Rabun County.
For the Leopards, S. Brownlee picked up the first place spot in discus. K. Hall took third in the event and also finished second in the shot put.
Cole Morgan and Tyler Williams placed first and second respectively in the 1,600m and 3,200m run. C. Morgan posted a time of 5:35 in the 1,600m (one mile) and 12:40 for the 3,200m.
Eric Merrell became the first Leopard ever to clear the bar in the pole vault with 76. He finished third in the event.
For the Lady Leopards, C. Beasley took first in the long jump, leaping 146. She also took second in the 100m dash.
C. Bellamy won both the 100m high hurdles (19.68 sec.) and the 300m intermediate hurdles (53.93 sec.).
Lauren Reiselt won the 1,600m run with a time of 6:51.
Amber Parr took second in the 400m run with a time of 67.71 seconds for the Lady Leopards.
Vying for state
Jackson County high-jumper Crystal Yonce is no stranger to success. After all, she has qualified for state in the event each of the past two seasons. However, Tuesdays performance may even have surprised her, as it was the first time the senior had stepped onto the stage that is the Region 8-AAAA meet.
Because of their move up in classification this year, what might otherwise be seen as a region-title-contending-squad, is realistically on the outside looking in at state, with powerhouse teams from Cedar Shoals and Heritage sitting atop the standings following the first day of action at the region meet.
The Lady Jags amassed 74 points Tuesday, good enough for a first-place lead over the Lady Patriots (40), Winder-Barrow (38) and Jackson County (15).
But, considering the circumstances Lady Panther coach Robin Potter was pleased with her squads showing in the first day of competition which is reserved to mostly field events especially considering she still has an eight-person team heading into Thursdays finals action.
We did well for only having eight people, Potter said. But its just hard to match up against (the larger teams).
Yonces display in the high jump was the highlight of the day for Jackson County on Tuesday, and she was the only Lady Panther to qualify thus far for the state meet in Albany on May 8-10. Her first-place clearance of five feet, two inches clinched the top 8-AAAA spot, allowed her to make the state meet for the third consecutive year and secured the Lady Panthers a valuable 10 points in the team standings.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Jaimeca Cooper took fourth-place in the long jump, securing another four points for Jackson County. She leaped 15-2 in the event. Melissa Lerette brought home the Lady Panthers only other point on the day with a sixth-place finish in the shot put.
Those qualifying for a finals appearance Thursday included: the 100-meter relay squad of Rashonda Jarrells, Carey Yonce, Crystal Yonce, and Cooper. The team ran a season-best time of 52.9; Christina Nowak, who will run in the 3,200-meter finals after a disappointing showing in the 1,600 on Tuesday; Crystal Yonce, who qualified for the 800-meter final. Realistically, Crystal may be the only one to qualify for state for us, Potter explained, but that does not mean the Lady Panthers wont be on the prowl for an upset. Were hoping to finish fourth or fifth because we only qualified eight girls for region, but Im real pleased with the results of this core group.
Still Up For Grabs
The month of April hasnt exactly been kind to the Commerce baseball team but the outfit still has hopes that it will be playing on into the month of May in the Class A state tournament.
Though theyve enjoyed just one victory through the first 21 days of this month a 7-0 forfeit win over Tallulah Falls the diamond Tigers remain very much a part of the Region 8-A state playoff race.
With a 5-7 region record as of Monday, sixth-place Commerce stands just a game and a half behind fourth place Social Circle (6-5). The top four teams from each region advance to state.
Lakeview sits a half and a game above Commerce with a 4-5 region mark while Rabun Gap and Athens Christian lurk behind the Tigers with identical 4-6 records.
Tiger head baseball coach David Cash expects some interesting scenarios to come about over the next two weeks as the regular season winds down.
Fourth place is still up for grabs, he said. Theres a lon-jam of people right now fighting for that spot.
The coach pointed out that Commerce is the only team right now in contention for that last spot that doesnt have any rain-out games left to play, which could play in its favor as theyll only have to play two games a week while the rest will have extra contests.
Weve played all 12 of our scheduled region games, he said. Everyone else has at least one make up game to be played.
Cash believes that if his team can pick up some a few big wins down the stretch, it would unlock some postseason possibilities for the squad.
If we win the game were supposed to and win one or two that were not supposed to... it might look bad right now but a lot could change in a week..Were still hopeful for our chances.
Commerce, who played region front-runner Prince Avenue this past Tuesday (results werent available), will hit the practice field for two days before a Friday rematch with Rabun Gap, which they downed 13-6 March 25. The team will then look for their second win of the year over Lakeview in a Tuesday rematch on the road. Commerce beat the Lions 4-3 March 28.
Were still holding our head up, Cash said. Were hoping we can get on a roll.
ATHENS ACADEMY 9, COMMERCE 8
Commerce came up on the short end of a home run derby with Athens Academy last Tuesday in a 9-6 loss to the Spartans at home.
A total of seven balls left the ball park during the evening, with the Spartans drilling five homers and the Tigers hitting two.
Thats the most in my memory, Cash said homer-filled loss.
Both Commerces long balls game from Chad Jordan who accounted for over half of the Tigers offense on the day with four RBIs.
The Tiger power hitter crushed a three-run homer in the first and then a solo shot in the fifth.
Looking for redemption after being nipped 9-8 in 11 innings March 14 by the Spartans, Commerce led 5-4 after four innings thanks to Jordans shot in the first and two additional Tigers scores in the fourth.
However, Athens Academy answered with back-to-back homers in the top of the fifth to regain a one-run lead.
Jordan tied the game at 6-6 with his solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, but the Spartans picked up two scores in the sixth and one in the seventh to seal the win.
The Spartans might have struck for more if not for the poised bullpen performance of Beauchamp who came in the seventh and worked Commerce out of a bases loaded, one-out jam to keep the deficit at three runs.
Cash said Beauchamp has been a pleasant surprise this year.
At the beginning of the year we had no really plans to pitch him but hes come on both as a dependable fielder at short stop and as a pitcher.
Ch. Jordan started the contest, working six and one-third inning, allowing 13 hits, eight earned runs, three walks while striking out seven.
Do or die time
WHEN THE SCHEDULES for Region 8-A were drawn up last year, little did the Jefferson baseball team know that come the final full week in April much of their hopes for a region title would rest on the fate of back-to-back trips to Athens. But such is the case this week, as the Dragons will have to head to the Classic City twice in as many days to battle their top two region foes with crucial spots in the standings riding on the each games results.
Currently the Wolverines sit atop 8-A with an unblemished record while Jefferson trails by one game in the loss column. Athens Academy rounds out the top three.
However, Thursdays matchup with the Spartans is every bit as important to the squad as their game against Prince Avenue the following day, manager Chuck Cook explained. And if he has anything to say about it, the trip to Athens Academy will be the only thing on his teams mind come tomorrow.
We have to have a whatever it takes attitude, Cook said. To us the most important game of the season is against Athens Academy on Thursday, because we cant even think about a region championship unless we take care of them...a win against Prince (Ave.) means nothing if we lose the day before.
Although they were originally scheduled to play the Spartans back in March, the two squads have had to postpone twice since then because of weather.
Included in those cancellations was a meeting last week during which the Dragons (11-5, 11-1) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning before the heavens poured down on the chance to complete the game. Unfortunately for Jefferson that advantage will be wiped away come Thursday, as the two squads start from a clean slate in accordance with GHSA rules.
Cook stated he expects to see Spartan lefty ace Bucky Woodruff on Thursday followed by arguably the top pitcher in the region, the hard-throwing Josh Fields on Friday for Prince Ave.
Both pitchers have seen the effectiveness of Dragon hitting, with Woodruff falling once this year and Fields nearly dropping his teams only meeting against Jefferson thus far.
The Dragons squandered a four-run lead in the sixth inning during the 5-4 loss on March 25, their only defeat thus far in Region 8-A play since that loss they have reeled off seven-straight region wins and secured second-place solely. The top two teams earn home field advantage in the first-round of the state playoffs.
Improbable homer propels Dragons past Spartans
In one of the more remarkable comeback efforts in the history of Jefferson baseball, the Dragons staged an improbable four-run rally, as Seth Potts devastated Academy starting pitcher Buck Woodruff with a two-out three-run walk off home run in the seventh inning.
The blast just cleared the outfield fence and propelled the Dragons a game ahead in the standings.
In an interesting coaching move to say the least, Academy skipper Casey Kane took Woodruff out following 4 2/3 innings of work and put him in right field, then placed him back on the mound following two outs by reliever Minesh Mehta.
The move proved costly, as the Dragons touched up the Spartan ace in latter two innings to spark the rally.
Thats the first time Ive ever been associated with a team that hit a walk off homer, Cook said. And for Seth to do it with two strikes on him was even more incredible because we teach our guys to shorten their swing put their bat on the ball with two strikes.
Dragon starter Mark Price left the game after struggling to find the strike zone in the first inning and was relieved by Michael Freeman who, despite inheriting a diamond full of base runners, limited the advantage to 3-0 after one.
Freeman finished the game from then on, pitching an effective 6 2/3 innings and keeping Academy within striking distance.
Asked whether Price would be ready to respond this week following the rough outing, Cook asserted his confidence in his left-hander.
Mark, hell be fine, Cook said. I expect him to come out and pitch well when we need him.
Jay Wood helped start the rally in the third, belting an RBI single to get Jefferson on the board and a screamer to left field in the fifth off the bat of Anthony Ferrara went off outfielder Walter Shamps glove for a home run to bring the score to 5-3.
One more to go
There was a time when a single win on the soccer field was cause for celebration for the Madison County boys program.
Now, one victory is all that stands between this years team and school history.
The Raiders head into the finale of their first non-region season with a chance to become the programs winningest team ever.
Fittingly, the team will go for its record ninth win of the year on senior night Thursday against Loganville (3-11) at 5:30 p.m.
The Raiders tied the schools win mark by prevailing 2-1 over Winder-Barrow in a physical slugfest Monday for its eighth victory of the season. The team downed Eastside 2-0 four days earlier.
On the heels of an embarrassing loss to Banks County and a setback to Newton County last week, Raider head soccer coach Drew Eager said his team has redeemed itself with what its shown the past two games.
In fact, with the exception of the penalty kick period of last Monday nights loss to Newton, Eager said hes been impressed with the teams resilience ever since the second half of the contest against the Rams.
I think they really stepped it up, he said. ...Im definitely starting to see them play at the level they were playing at before spring break. You never know how a layoff is going to effect you and it didnt hurt us as bad as it could have.
The teams win Monday was perhaps its most hard-fought of the season.
The Raiders took a 2-1 first half lead with scores from Trevor Floyd and Brett Burford and held the Bulldoggs off the scoreboard in the second half in grinding out the record-tying victory. It was also Madison Countys first over Winder-Barrow under Eager.
It feels good to finally to get that out of the way and get a win against a team that we hadnt beat, he said.
Eager praised the grit of his defenders in the second half and goalie Stephen Casey, who had two key stops from point-blank range over the final 40 minutes while playing in front of a college scout.
Defensively, we played pretty well to keep a shut out in the second half against a team whos strength was its offense. That was big....It was pretty though. We gave up some dangerous opportunities in the second half.
Now the team turns its attention toward Loganville. Eager said that setting the record is of course a main objective but redemption is another as well.
Its another team we havent beat yet and weve been beating the teams that have beaten us in the past and that are moving up with us, he said.
Since Loganville is a low-scoring squad thats been shut out eight times, Eager said its important to kill the Red Devils confidence early.
Theyve had some close games they havent won. Theyre like weve been in the past right there close...Ive been trying to stress that weve got to go out there and put one on them early.
MADISON COUNTY 2, EASTSIDE 0
Second-half execution was the key to the Raiders 2-0 win over Eastside this past Thursday as both Scott Dills and Glenn Carter picked up goals to lift Madison County to the victory.
The first goal come via some hustle from Dills as he stole the ball, passed the ball to the mid-field, then ran 60-70 yards down the field where Cash crossed the ball back to him perfectly, setting Dills up for the goal.
It was a piece of beauty, Eager said of the score. Thats just how you would draw it up in practice.
On the second score, Cash crossed the ball to Sean Wingo, who headed it off the frame, However, Carter came in and tapped the ball in for the score.
Madison Countys opponents this year have a combined 129-109-2 record.