Area Sports...

AUGUST 6, 2003

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Drag racing series coming to Atlanta Dragway
Round six of the 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will come to the Atlanta Dragway this Friday and Saturday.
The show will feature methanol 260-mph dragster and funny cars and all other classes. On Satuday, there will be a street rods display and a swap meet.
Gates open Friday for spectators at noon and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The car show and swap meet start at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Tickets for adults are $20 for each day or $35 for a two-day pass. Children 6-12 can get in for $10 each day and children under five can get in for free.
Free admission is also granted to car club members and one guest who display their hot rods. The entrance fee for car show contestants is $20 with top 20 awards to be presented.
Sellers in the swap meet must also pay $20 for entrance, which includes a display space.
For more information about tickets or the Atlanta Dragway, call 706-335-2301 or visit

First preseason scrimmage for JHS set for Friday
After nearly two weeks of steady play in pads the Jefferson football team will shift into another preseason gear come Friday when Greene County comes to town for the first of two scrimmages against opposing teams this preseason.
“We just want to get after it,” Jefferson coach Bill Navas, whose team has been in preseason camp since July 28, explained.
Friday’s contest will be of a scrimmage format featuring four, nine-minute quarters without live kicking. For the most part it offers both team’s coaches the opportunity to see their players in action against someone other than themselves. Navas stated that he plans to play his varsity first-team in the first half followed by second-teamers in the third quarter and the junior varsity team in the final quarter. In all he anticipates dressing 65 players for the scrimmage.
“We’re doing okay,” Navas said of his team’s work in the preseason thus far. “It’s going fine, we’re just trying to become more mentally tough and work on those types of things.” The Dragons open the regular season Aug. 29 at Apalachee.

Toughing It Out
Tigers Remain A Spirited Group In Summer Practice Coach Says
It’s safe to tay that Steve Savage has seen a summer practice or two in over three decades as a football player, assistant and head coach.
And if there’s a common thread in all of them, it’s this:
“Summer practice is not fun,” the Commerce head coach said. “I’ve never seen a player who said they liked summer practice, but it’s something you’ve got to do.”
And it’s something that his Tiger football team is doing well so far, he says, as the Commerce football team is in the middle of its third week of practice.
The grueling summer heat — which is only multiplied by the addition of several pounds worth of pads — and hours of exhausting drills have never left much glory for those who brave the conditions. But Savage said he’s seen no slackers amongst his 60-man squad.
The coach said his team, which just wrapped up its two-a-day session last week, has come to work everyday in the tough elements.
“I’ve really been pleased with the attitude of our players,” he said. “They’ve worked hard and look eager to get with it.”
Savage said his veteran players have mostly highlighted practices so far, pointing to familiar faces like lineman Tommy Eason, linebacker Justin Howell, linebacker Casha Daniels, quarterback Josh Haynes, lineman Ben Wilson (who Savage said has had some great practices), split end David Evans, fullback David Bray, linebacker Nick Slayton, tailback Dennis Wilder, Caleb Jordan “and some others.”
While the older members of the team have been setting good examples for the younger members with their performances in practice, the team still lacks a vocal leader according to Savage.
That’s something though that will come in time.
“This team has a lot of the same faces from last year but will have to make it’s own identity between now and sometime before the season is over,” Savage said.
The Team will be practicing at 6 p.m. all this week, continuing work on fundamentals ... All parents and fans are invited Thursday to watch practice “as close as they feel comfortable watching” according to Savage as part of the Tiger’s annual “Parent Night” ... No time has been set yet for Commerce’s Aug. 23 home crimmage against Rabun County.

Aiming for Columbus
A talented Lady Panther squad hopes to meet their high expectations and return to the state tournament this season.
Since its inception two years ago, the Jackson County fast-pitch program has made great strides in a sport that has become evermore popular around the state of Georgia. And with a promising team returning this season, plans for a new fast-pitch field at the high school in the works, and a solid group of young players waiting in the wings for their turn in the coming years, the future of Lady Panther fast-pitch appears bright.
But unlike past years when the program was just getting its feet wet, the role of the 2003 squad will likely be somewhat different. With a team that is considered by many to be the favorite to represent Region 8-AAAA in the state tournament, the bullseye now appears to be squarely on their backs.
Clearly, this year’s Lady Panthers appear to be on the cusp of something special, but only if they can find a way to meet the challenges that come with expectations.
“I think people will come after us, but at the same time we’ve got some higher goals this year,” third-year coach Mark Mahoney said Tuesday as his team continued to prepare for their Aug. 12 season-opener at Franklin County.
“Our talent level is high this season and with so many people competing for positions we could have a different lineup out there each week,” he explained.
A surprise run all the way to Sectionals of the state tournament in their inaugural season was followed by a Region 8-AAAA North title last year after the team finally knocked of proverbial powerhouse Madison County for the first time ever. But what has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many within the Lady Panther program is the fact that despite their top seed the team was upset in the area tournament by No. 4 seed Newton and then knocked out later by No. 2 Madison County to end the year short of their goal of getting back to Sectionals. Its a result that has haunted the team in the offseason, but one that will serve as motivation in the coming months.
As they did last year, the team also hopes to remain unbeaten again at home in 2003, while also pointing toward finding a way to defeat arch rivals Madison County and Winder-Barrow on the road as other goals they hope to accomplish this season. In addition the introduction of two new tournaments to the schedule this year will also provide further tests.
But, while Mahoney finds himself in a position many coaches would relish — with a bevy of talent in need of direction — the close-knit nature of this season’s team should aid him considerably. And, the fact that some seven starters and five seniors return to the lineup this year probably won’t much hurt much either.
Pitching and defense should anchor the team this season with staff ace Brandi Townsend returning on the mound for her senior year. She has been dominant during her two-year career thus far with a .40 ERA and over 300 strikeouts. Seniors Krista Bess (catcher) and Haley Freeman (center field) also return as the team’s top two hitters, along with senior first baseman Diana Robinson. Bess has hit over .400 for her career and leads the team in stolen bases.
Their bats will likely be counted on heavily because if the squad can find a way to produce runs, Townsend’s ability to shut down opposing teams will make the Lady Panthers tough to beat every time out.
Also, the addition of Shana Gibbs on the infield should add to the Lady Panthers’ experience as she returns after a season away from fast-pitch.
While last year’s lone senior, Hannah Freeman, has since moved on to LaGrange College as the first JCCHS fast-pitch player to play in college, filling in for her in left field will likely be Alicia Davidson or Brooke Hughes — two players Mahoney stated will have bright futures ahead of them.

Raider head coach’s son likely to play in Browns’ exhibition game
The Cleveland Browns’ Saturday night exhibition game with Tennessee might not count in the standings but will certainly count in the mind of Nate Hybl.
The former Oklahoma quarterback, who’s the oldest son of Madison County head football coach Tom Hybl and brother of golf standout Ryan Hybl, should get his first opportunity to showcase his talents on the professional level in the Browns’ first official preseason contest in his quest to make the organization’s regular season roster.
Hybl has been with the Browns since May 2 when he signed with Cleveland as a free agent. Since then he’s gone through quarterback school, mini camps and the Browns’ preseason camp.
“I assume he’ll get in,” Tom Hybl said. “They usually let those guys play. I expect he’ll get in sometime during the fourth quarter.”
Hybl is currently listed as the Browns fourth-string quarterback behind Josh Booty, Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb.
“He’s done as well as expected,” his father said. “They’re having quarterback controversy up there, so he’s been kind of lost in that shuffle. There’s still a long way to go though ... he’s hoping he can stay healthy.”
If there were no change in the depth chart at the conclusion of the preseason, it’s unlikely that Hybl would make the Cleveland roster. But that wouldn’t mean he’d be entirely out of options.
“It’s rare for an NFL team to keep more than three quarterbacks,” Tom Hybl said. “His hope then would be to make the practice squad. Most NFL teams keep a five-man practice squad. And then that would probably mean a year in NFL Europe.”
Hybl is coming off a collegiate career that culminated in a prestigous way in January when he was named the Rose Bowl’s “Most Valuable Player” after throwing for 240 yards and two scores in directing Oklahoma to a 34-14 win over Washington State.
His performance that day capped a stellar senior season which included 2,538 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and a 133.72 passing efficency rating.
While Hybl is currently knocking at the door of professional football, he’s had to travel a long road to get position.
To no fault of his own, Hybl didn’t throw a single pass during his first two collegiate seasons, being redshirted as a freshman at Georgia in 1998 and then having to sit out another year in 1999 due to NCAA rules after transfering to Oklahoma. Hybl backed up Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel as a sophomore in the Sooner’s 13-0 national title season in 2000 before splitting starting time with Josh White in 2001.
Hybl took over as the team’s full-time starter after the second game in 2002 after White went down with a torn ACL and led the Sooners to a 12-win season and a number five finish in the nation.
Hybl’s impressive resumé at Oklahoma includes a 20-3 record as a starter and 4,910 yards passing and 40 touchdowns.

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