Area Sports...

OCTOBER 8, 2003

Another Barn-Burner?
CHS-MCHS Meet Again After Wild 2002 Contest

While it might not parallel the dramatics of Commerce's rivalry with say, Lincoln County, the Tigers' series with Madison County has proved to be well worth the price of the five dollar voucher at the gate over the past few years.
And if the past three meetings are any indication, Friday night's 44th renewal of the Commerce-Madison County rivalry should be another four-quarter affair.
"They play everyone right down to the wire," Tiger head coach Steve Savage said of the Raiders. "That's just their style of play."
"Down to the wire" would certainly summarize last year's heart-stopper where Commerce averted defeat with a clutch 67-yard drive in the last two minutes for a game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion in a 29-28 victory.
The close win followed two previous nail-bitters in which the Tigers also conjured late-game heroics. Commerce won 31-22 in 1998 with the aid of a 77-yard kickoff return from Monté Williams and again in 1999, 22-16, after coming up with a crucial fourth down stop in Tiger territory.
If it comes down to another photo finish this year, Madison County's players will have had plenty of experience with close contests to draw upon.
Last year's one-point loss to the Tigers was just one of seven Raider games that were decided by nine points or less in a 5-5 non-region campaign.
In six games so far this season, four have been decided by less than a touchdown with the Raiders beating Franklin County 14-7 on the last play, downing Athens Academy 13-7, tying Jefferson County 21-21 and falling to defending 8-AAA champion Grayson 14-7.
The Raiders have a 3-2-1 record this year.
Classic finish this time around or not, whoever's left standing in this one will get something it hasn't seen almost a month - a win.
Both teams haven't prevailed since Sept. 12 when Commerce slammed Banks County 35-14 and Madison County outlasted Athens Academy by forcing seven turnovers.
Since then, the Tigers have dropped contests to top 10 foes Morgan County (35-7) and Lincoln County (14-7) and had an off week this past week to think about it while Madison County was routed by Monroe Area (28-7) Sept. 19 and had its tie with Jefferson County Sept. 26 before last week's seven point loss to Grayson.
The matchup pits two teams come from similar schools of thought offensively with both employing run-oriented, three-back schemes aimed at chewing up yards on the ground and time on the clock. In fact, the teams totalled 501 rushing yards between the two of them in last year's contest.
The winner of this contest could be the one who holds onto the ball the longest.
This year, Madison County's "Hybl-bone" offense is averaging 205.8 yards on the ground while putting the ball in the air less than seven times a game.
Commerce's ground attack - averaging 171 per game - has of course been slowed this year with the absence of Josh Haynes for most all of the past two games. However, Haynes will be back under center Friday night to team with tailback Dennis Wilder in trying to revive the Tigers' triple option attack.
That's a big concern for Madison County head coach Tom Hybl as Wilder and Haynes combined for 242 rushing yards against the Raiders last year. Haynes also notched the final touchdown and Wilder added the deciding two point conversion.
"It used to be Williams and Collins," Hybl said. "Now it's Haynes and Wilder."
Hybl said if the duo runs wild like it did last year, it could be a long night for his team.
"We're going to have to contain their quarterback and tailback and try to create some turnovers," Hybl said. "We'll try to keep their offense off the field and control the ball. We were able to do that a little last year. But when they got the ball in their hands, we couldn't stop them."
Savage said his team will have to answer the physical challenge against Madison County as his team seeks its seventh win in a row in the series.
"If you don't defeat blocks and tackles, then your not going to be able to play with them," the Tiger coach said.
·Aside from injury, the Tigers were nursing sickness during off week. According to Savage, several of the team were bitten by the flu bug but all should be well enough to play Friday night. The time away from the playing field was well-spent Savage said.
"We needed on off-week this past week," he said.
·Commerce will be looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 1992 when it started out 0-4 in a 3-7 season.
·The Tigers' 29-28 win over Madison County last year was its first over a AAAA school.
·Commerce and Madison County were region foes from 1958-1969. The Tigers owned a 9-3 mark in that stretch.
·The only other opponent that Commerce has played more in its 64-season "modern era" than Madison County is Jefferson.

Leopards looking for second region win

Friday's football game could have big implications for the rest of Banks County's season - and Dawson County's too.
"Both of us are in a must-win situation if we are going to slip into that number four spot," new Dawson head coach Jeff Lee said.
With Buford and Wesleyan quickly gobbling up the top two spots in Region 8-AA, the third and fourth slot could be up for grabs.
GAC, a usual powerhouse in the region, has already dropped two region contests. Lumpkin, another tough contender, fell to Wesleyan last week and gets Buford this week.
While it may seem too early for playoff talks, Friday's win is a must if Banks County (2-3, 1-2) even has a tiny hope of a playoff berth this season - and Dawson County (2-2, 1-1) too.
Both the Leopards and the Tigers are on a similar level and match up well, a recipe for a pretty good football contest on homecoming night in Homer.
Dawson will bring a fairly young team sporting eight starting sophomores and two freshman. After a key season opening 24-19 win over Forsyth Central, the Tigers dropped two in a row. The Tiger coach attributes that to experience.
"We had to get over the young inexperienced thing," Lee said.
Dawson comes off a 24-21 victory over a winless Rabun County team. The Tigers' two loses came to Athens Academy (16-0) and Apalachee (21-0).
Though Lee wasn't coaching at the school last year, some of Dawson County's players could still have a bitter taste in their mouth about last season. The Leopards marched in Dawsonville and spoiled the Tigers' homecoming with a 14-0 win there. Now Banks County will be having homecoming as the Tigers come to town.
"We haven't tried to play it up because it's a different team and a different situation," Lee said. "We're worrying about ourselves right now."
Banks County head coach Greg Moore also said he isn't playing up that issue.
"I always say that football players play football," Moore said. "We worry about the game and not everything else."
Dawson's coach Lee said he expects a good game Friday night. He'll see Banks in person for the first time this week but said the team has improved over the film he's seen of last season.
"That quarterback is a gamer," Lee said of Tyson Baxter. "I'd like to have him myself."
Lee also pointed to Seth Brownlee.
"They have several other kids who play real hard," Lee said. "They must be doing something right."
On his team, Lee said he's gotten good play out of his defense, especially junior linebackers Lance Walls (50) and Jesse Tobias (22). Walls leads the team in tackles.
He also mentioned senior defensive tackle Steve Kritikos (53).
Offensively, the Tigers rely on sophomore quarterback Chad Cunningham (9). The leader, who also doubles as field goal kicker, threw for over 300 yards in Dawson's first game.
Since then, Lee has tried to take some of the pressure off Cunningham's shoulders by running the ball more often. But the Tigers do have the ability to air it out effectively. And Cunningham hit a 45-yard field goal in last week's win over Rabun.
If the Tigers stay on the ground, they'll likely go to fullback Andy Myers (3). He posted 197 yards rushing last week.
Lee also pointed to his center, Andrew Grigsby(58), as a key for the offensive line unit.
Moore said he expects Dawson County to be a very physical football team and hopes not to get a letdown after last week's win over Apalachee.
"Their defense is very, very good," Moore said of the Tigers. "They throw the ball around everywhere. It will be a big challenge. They are quite a team."
Banks has managed to stay fairly healthy but will be without starting lineman D.J. Ledford, a senior. He'll miss the game for unspecified reasons.

Region play brings renewed optimism
Dragons look to get leg up, end three-game skid Fri. at ACS

Nothing can make a team with a losing streak smile more than the likes of a struggling football program up next on the schedule.
Friday marks the opening Region 8-A game of the 2003 season when Jefferson travels to Athens Christian, and in the eyes of the Dragons, the meeting could not come at a better time.
"They're struggling a little bit right now," a modest Jefferson head coach Bill Navas said Tuesday.
Although surely not wanting to give Friday's opponent any bulletin-board material, on paper the Eagles appear to be as poor a squad as any in 8-A this season. With a roster hovering around 25 players on a good day, a defense that averages 28.2 points allowed per game and an offense that is struggling mightily (7.8 points per game), Athens Christian appears to be the type of team the Dragons will enjoy opening the month of October against.
And considering Jefferson has not notched a victory since Sept. 5, a win would definitely go a long way toward helping to restore a bit of team confidence.
"It's been pretty upbeat so far at practice, there's a little uneasiness there that a win would help, but for the most part things have been pretty good," Navas, whose team was off last week, said.
The past month has seen Navas' squad hampered by injuries and slowed by an arduous schedule that included home losses to Lumpkin Co. and Landmark Christian (both Top Ten teams in the state) as well as a tough road defeat to Monticello.
The loss of tailback Montray Riley for the season to a torn ACL and MCL for the season leaves the backfield short an experienced and poised runner.
The junior was injured on Sept. 19 during an 11-point loss to No. 8 Landmark Christian.
His departure has meant the Dragons will need to find a bit more depth in the running back positions of the offense, something Navas said has been addressed during the past week and a half off during practice.
"We've just taken the last weeks to develop as much depth as possible and to diversify as much as we can," Navas explained.
Using several different style ball-carriers in the wing-T offense Jefferson runs has become a priority, as has the continued development of the passing attack.
Although the latter has improved substantially this season, with sophomore Wade Johnson at the helm, a running mate that can replace Riley and go along with leading rusher Wesley Satterfield has still yet emerge.
The return of linebacker and fullback/tight end Tito Moon on Friday should help the Dragons tremendously on both sides of the ball. The senior had missed significant time this season with a knee injury.
"Tito's a good kid and one of our better athletes, so he's definitely going to help us," Navas explained.
But, as has been the case this season, as soon as one player returns another seems to go down. This week it is linebacker Daniel Love that has a calf injury that has him listed as questionable for Friday.
Wide receiver/defensive back Seth Potts will also be out this week with a hip injury, although he is possible for next week. The senior has missed nearly a month with a fractured hip.
Friday's game presents a challenge of a different kind than those of late for the Dragons, as they will have to fight off complacency and rustiness more than favored opponents.
Athens Christian is led by senior quarterback Nick Dalton who has a solid arm and is experienced.
Gone is last season's leading receiver Josh Pennington, and a thin line on both sides of the ball should give Jefferson a physical advantage in that regard.
During their four losses the Eagles were outscored 135-13 and they were shut-out in three of those games. Their lone win of the season was a 26-6 game against Glascock Co. on Sept. 19.

Montgomery's quick strike not enough in Raider setback

It was one play and call it a day for Madison County's offense Friday night.
No sooner than when the final note of the "Star Spangled Banner" had subsided, Danté Montgomery busted outside on a hand off and thundered 80 yards down the left sideline to give Madison County a stunningly quick 7-0 lead over Grayson after just six seconds.
It was the next 47:54 that managed to get the Raiders, however.
Montgomery's run would actually out gain Madison County's combined offensive output for the rest of the night as the Raiders mustered just 76 total yards after the score in a 14-7 loss to the defending 8-AAA champions.
Raider head coach Tom Hybl said he couldn't fault his team's effort, explaining that his group was simply shut down by a physically imposing squad.
"I thought our kids played with a lot of grit," he said. "They rose up to the level of competition. We couldn't move on their offensive and defensive fronts. They were huge and physical. For us to hang in there in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or win was some good stuff out of our kids ... They were as big a team as I've seen since I've been here."
While Montgomery's run turned out to be in vain, Hybl called the highlight "an excellent individual effort."
"We didn't block the hole," Hybl said. "But he bounced off and kept fighting and busted it out."
It didn't take long for Grayson to put its weapons to use and even the score after Montgomery's jaunt - a minute and five seconds to be exact.
After an incomplete pass and a short gain, Ram quarterback Mason Bass unloaded a perfect strike to Reece Tate who burned the Raider secondary for a 63-yard score to knot the game at seven.
After that, Grayson added a second quarter score - a one-yard sneak from Bass to cap a seven-play, 95-yard drive - and then put its defense to work as Madison County crossed midfield just three times the rest of the way.
The Raiders' offense was revived momentarily though in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Chaz Perry entered the game and hit Montgomery on a quick-hitter over the middle that went 31 yards down to the Ram 43 with 7:05 left.
However, a short gain and two incomplete passes killed that threat.
The Raiders did give themselves a one more long shot opportunity to tie the game when they held Grayson and a fourth-and-inches on the Madison County 27 with just over a minute left to play.
However, the Raider passing attack didn't have the firepower to match Montgomery's opening run as Perry misfired four times, turing the ball over on downs with 44 seconds left.
·On the defensive side of the ball, Hybl praised the play of Jamie Rice who had 13 individual tackles as well as Marcus Shivers at cornerback.
·Travis Calloway had a field day for the Raider special teams, booming several long punts, including a 62-yarder in the second quarter.
-Zach Mitcham contributed to this article

Panthers with plenty to play for Fri. vs. Newton

When Jackson County battles Newton this Friday at Panther Stadium, there will be a lot more riding on the outcome of the game for the visiting team from Covington, but only in the region standings.
The Panthers (0-4) are now in the midst of the state's second longest losing streak (18) behind Druid Hills (23), a fact that would be hard to notice for those in attendance at Jackson County games this season.
Although they have yet to crack the win column so far this year, the nature of the defeats has caused plenty of people in Jefferson to begin noticing the strides the Panthers have made.
After an off week last Friday, Jackson County spent the past week and a half healing up some knocks and bruises in preparation for Friday's opponent Newton.
The Rams enter Friday on the heels of one of the more exciting calls of the season made against them by rival Heritage.
The Patriots came away with an 11-10 win last week thanks to a gutsy fake extra-point call in overtime. The resulting two-point conversion romp into the end zone sent the Rams home at 2-3 despite what some, including their coach, thought was a contest they should have won.
Newton head coach Ben Reaves stated his team did plenty to win the game, but that Heritage simply out coached his bunch and capitalized on their opportunities better in the loss.
Lengthy Newton drives last week came up empty time and time again despite moving the chains. The Rams were stopped inside the 1-yard line, on the 15-yard line and on the 30-yard line of their opponent without scoring following lengthy drives.
Mistakes will need to be corrected Friday night according to their coach if the Rams are to avoid becoming the first team the Panthers have defeated since 2001.
Last week against the Patriots, Newton had a touchdown run called back because of a penalty, missed several field goals and only managed to take the game into overtime thanks to a field goal with 33 seconds remaining in the game.
All of which means one thing for Jackson County coach Brent Brock and his squad, continuing to find a way to frustrate the Rams in the red zone.
Coming off arguably their best defensive showing of the season on Sept. 26 againt Salem, if not for several costly turnovers the Panthers might have held the Seminoles to just one touchdown on the night. Instead though they gave the ball up deep in their own territory enabling Salem to march the short field into the end zone on two occasions.
Much like the Seminoles, Friday's opponent will be full of athleticism, size and big play ability according to Brock.
"They'r a dangerous football team," Brock said of the Rams. "They're very talented and could explode and finish the season as strong as anyone.
'They just match up well on both sides of the ball, they have good size and they can do a lot of things with their big bodies."
Last year's quarterback Dedrick Petty has since moved to tailback, while leading reveiver Ben Reaves, Jr. will be a threat in the air on offense.
Defensively the Rams are tough at linebacker and strong against the run, something that should prove to be a challenge for Jackson County's time consuming rushing scheme.
Despite their losing record, the Rams are also a proven and tested squad. They handed Winder-Barrow their only loss of the season in Covington earlier this season. In that game quarteback Brandon Heath proved that although the Rams are known for the run, they possess the ability to mix up the passing game effectively too.
Heath finished that day with 8-of-17 passing with five receptions over 35 yards.

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