Area Sports...

OCTOBER 22, 2003

Homecoming Romp
Wilder, Commerce Run Wild In Rout Of Athens Academy
Dennis Wilder was tired. But it was a good tired.
By the time he trotted off the field in the second half Friday, the senior’s eventful homecoming night against Athens Academy included 218 yards rushing, three touchdowns and three quarters in the defensive back field where he secured a key interception in his first two-way performance of the year in Commerce’s easy 34-7 win.
Wilder’s handiwork helped assure an early rest though as he exited to a warm applause in the third quarter with his team up comfortably. It also assured a much more important thing — the snapping of the Spartans’ two game-winning streak over Commerce.
“It feels great to beat Athens Academy,” Wilder said after the game. “We knew they had some good players but I think we did a good job. We held them to seven points. Athens Academy usually scores a lot more than that.”
Credit Wilder for dropping an anvil on the Spartans early.
A third of his 218 yards came on the first play of the game, taking a handoff up the middle and bolting 73 yards down the right sideline to give Commerce a 7-0 lead 19 seconds into the game.
His defensive highlight of the night, however, was the turning point of the game.
With the Spartans trailing just 14-7 late the first quarter, Wilder picked off a Chris Rogers pass and returned it to the Athens Academy 14, setting up his own 14-yard score two plays later which game his team a 21-7 lead.
The defending region champions never recovered as Commerce added a score from Josh Haynes late in the second quarter and another from Wilder in the third in the 27-point rout.
Wilder, who now has 541 yards rushing over the last three games, did all his damage in just two and a half quarters as his understudy Tristan Daniels was in the game by the midway point in the third.
Savage praised Wilder as well as the rest offense in a performance which saw it amass 300 yards rushing for the second consecutive week.
“I thought Dennis played well. I thought everybody played well,” he said. “I though our offensive line blocked well and I thought our quarterback put us in the right plays. Dennis just happened to get the ball. You never know who’s going to get it each night. Some nights it might be the quarterback, some nights in might be the fullback. Some nights it might be the tailback.”
The win, which avenged the Tigers stunning 14-10 loss last fall, came easier than expected for those on the Commerce sideline.
“I thought the game would be closer than that,” Savage said.
Said Wilder: “It was good to win on homecoming ... We just came out tonight and played to our ability.”
Wilder’s fellow backfield standout, Haynes, didn’t have a bad senior homecoming either, rushing for two scores.
Haynes broke a 7-7 first quarter tie, scoring from one-yard out on keeper with 1:31 to put Commerce up by a touchdown.
The quarterback’s biggest play of the night though came with under a minute left in the first half with his team up 21-7 and facing a fourth-and-two situation. Haynes ran the option to perfection around left end, tucking the ball when he got to the corner and keeping it 29 yards for the score as Commerce led 28-7.
Just as impressive as Haynes’ run was how Commerce kept that scoring drive alive. Facing a fourth-and-12 at its own 39, the Tiger punter Casha Daniels fielded a bad punt snap, tucked the ball and ran and then shoveled it off to Wilder who raced 22 yards for the first down.
The Tiger defense dominated the Spartan offense for the most part, but experienced a lapse in the last 48 seconds of the first half as Athens Academy flew down to the Commerce 14 and threatened to cut the lead to 14 just before intermission. The Spartans, however, had to settle for a field goal try which they missed from 31-yards out to end the half.
If that didn’t kill the Spartans hopes, the Tigers’ opening possession of the second half did as Wilder took an option pitch 15 yards for a score on his last carry of the game to cap a six-play 47 yard drive.

Cross country team headed to region meet Thursday
Banks County’s cross country teams hope to earn a spot at the state cross country meet.
The boys and girls teams will run in the region meet at Wesleyan Thursday for that chance.
“I am excited because my runners seem to be peaking right at the right time, region time,” head coach Kelly McDuffie said.
The first through sixth place finishers individually will advance to the state. In addition, the first and second place teams get a state finals berth while the third and fourth place teams move on to the sectionals.
Banks County’s teams closed out the regular season Tuesday night at Madison County. Results were not available at presstime.
Last Thursday, the boys and girls placed third in a meet at Rabun Gap against Habersham Central, Rabun Gap, Towns County and Commerce.
Justin Varner led the Leopards at 21:26. He was followed by Mitch Cagle, Clint Lewallen, Kelen Rylee, Rob Allen, Josh Poole and Matt Mullins. R.N. Bellamy posted his personal best at 25:58.
For the girls, Katrina Kyle led with a 27:03. Following her were Penny Mullins, Samantha Porter, Amelia Carroll, Allie Strickland, Sharonda Smith and Erin Westmoreland. Angela Hand (34:34) and Smanatha Porter (28:58) posted personal bests at the event.
At the Rabun Gap meet, Sydney Kyle placed second in the varsity race with a personal best 23:59.
Barbara Johnson finished first for the two-mile event for the Banks County girls with an 18:45, her personal best. Kayla Streiguth posted an 18:47.
For the middle school boys, Aaron Wagner ran the three-mile event and posted a 24:50 finish.
Those who ran the two-mile event posted their personal bests.
Kevin Wade finished first for the team and fourth overall with a 14:12. Michael Sanders (15:36), Stephen Giles (16:46) and Daniel McDuffie (18:49) rounded out the top four.

Expect a heck of a game Friday at Memorial Stadium
Make no mistake about it, Friday’s game against Social Circle is the biggest to date this season for the Jefferson football squad. As far as measuring sticks go, this one is huge.
While the lower echelon of Region 8-A (Athens Christian and Towns County) is now in their rear-view mirror, Friday’s opponent is a step up in competition from the past two weeks.
As many who made the trip to Walton County last year remember, the Redskins have a talented bevy of runners and a defense that is as formidable as any around. They have already beaten Class AAA’s Franklin County and pummeled the likes of ACS, GMC and Jenkins County.
They have size up front, experience (14 upperclassmen) and an ability to score points (avg. 21 pts./game). What’s more, their only two losses this season are to a talented Monticello team (which also beat JHS) and a once-beaten Monroe-Area team that sits atop the tough Region 8-AAA standings.
All of which leads to one thing at Memorial Stadium on Friday — a heck of a challenge for Jefferson.
But motivation should not be a problem, as last year’s 10-7 loss left a bad taste in JHS’s mouth. Likewise, support will not be missing, as the Dragon faithful always turnout to cheer on their team.
Whether or not Jefferson has what it takes to knock off the Redskins is another matter though, but I suspect they will find a way.
Jefferson has had a rash of debilitating injuries this season that have contributed to their three losses, but strangely enough, it is those very injuries that may have helped make this team a better unit.
The absences thrust younger players onto the field with a learn-on-the-fly mentality. The result has been a deeper team than head coach Bill Navas may have expected.
Senior Montray Riley will continue to be missed in the backfield (he blew his knee out Sept. 19 vs. Landmark Christian), but several players have stepped up since Riley’s departure to help fill the void.
Wesley Satterfield, Brandon Vinson and Daniel Love have all contributed to the ground game this season and the recent emergence of Justin Mize reminds many of Jeremy Smith’s transition from the O-line to fullback a season ago.
Preseason starting quarterback J. Wood has had trouble with an ankle this year, but sophomore Wade Johnson has won the starting job thanks to remarkable poise for a sophomore. In addition, he has given the Dragons something they lacked last year, a passing attack.
Defensively the linebacking unit had to deal with the loss of senior Tito Moon for a while, but his return Oct. 10 against ACS has strengthened the unit. Vinson has lived up to preseason hype on defense this year (he leads the team in tackles) and with Moon now beside him the Dragons are tough against the run.
A depleted secondary has caused some concern however, as safety Seth Potts has been out with a hip injury for much of the year, but if he can return to form that will help out this aspect of things.
For all of their adversity though, Jefferson is in as good a position as they could have hoped for. At 2-0 in the region, the offense is clicking and the defense has been tough lately.
Friday they may be as healthy as they have been in a while and with their remaining three games at home things look promising.
But a win against Social Circle this week is essential for any hopes of a region title. We know Commerce and Athens Academy are lurking in the remaining weeks, but those games matter less if a win Friday escapes the Dragons.
Somehow though, I expect them to find a way.
Allen Luton is a reporter for MainStreet News. Contact him at

Two clutch wins at area tourney keep Raider season alive
Wednesday shutouts clinch spot at state
The important statistic from Madison County’s area tournament appearance in Loganville?
Two wins.
That’s the magic number that keeps the Raiders’ season alive as it picked up two victories in the losers’ bracket last Wednesday to qualify for the state sectionals.
Madison County secured its fourth consecutive trip to the sectionals by outlasting defending state champion Heritage 1-0 on the strength of clutch defense and pitching last Wednesday. The win followed a 10-0 demolition of Habersham Central hours earlier.
“It extends our streak,” Raider head coach Doug Kesler said. “We’ve been to state the past four years and that’s a big accomplishment.”
The Raiders, however, ended up fourth in the tournament after falling to Newton County 3-2 in nine innings Saturday in the finals of the losers’ bracket. It was Madison County’s second 3-2 extra inning defeat of the tournament as it fell by the same score in eight innings to Rockdale County Monday in its opener.
Had a few more things gone his team’s way, Kesler said his team could be in a much different position this weekend at sectionals.
“We could just as easily be the four seed as the one seed,” Kesler said of his team’s close losses.
Still, Madison County lives to play another week after two clutch wins in the losers’ bracket that came in the face of elimination.
Clutch, shutout pitching performances from Cassidy Pridgen and Sarah Tippins made that possible as Madison County didn’t give up a run all day on the pivotal Wednesday when it beat both Habersham and Heritage to ensure the continuation of there season.
“We got two outstanding efforts from both our pitchers,” Kesler said.
Tippins went seven innings surrendering five hits and one walk while striking out five in her win over Heritage.
Pridgen went six innings in Madison County’s run-ruled shortened win over Habersham Central, surrendering three hits and two walks while striking out two.
Pridgen’s performance came after her nose was broken a week earlier in practice by a line drive.
“We really need a big effort from Cassidy Pridgen,” Kesler said. “It was her first game back, we were anxious to see if she was going to be able to perform under fire.”

From here on out it’s survive and advance
Lady Panthers to meet Marist on Fri. in Class AAAA North Sectional
In the eyes of Jackson County head coach Mark Mahoney, there’s not much left to work on during practice this week as his team prepares for Friday’s game in the first round of the Class AAAA North Sectional in Marietta. At this point, much of the preparation has already taken place.
“My philosophy is we’ve played 29 games this season, if we don’t know what we’re doing by now we never will,” Mahoney said.
With little knowledge of Friday’s opponent, Marist, the second seed from Region 6, the one thing that Jackson County can focus on this week is the mental aspect of the game.
“If we throw strikes and put the ball in play, we’ll be fine...I like our chances Friday,” Mahoney noted. “But our problem right now is the mental side of the game.”
If nothing else, on Friday the Lady Panthers (23-6) are not likely to be intimidated by the circumstances surrounding the Marist game. While a win is important to their chances of advancing in what appears to be a favorable draw, their past results are clear indicators that Jackson County is as good as any team in the state.
Five of the six losses the Lady Panthers have suffered this season have come against teams that advanced on to Sectionals. Add to that wins over defending state champion Heritage, as well as Sectional second seed Newton and fourth seed Madison County, and it’s clear that their schedule has done a good job of preparing them for postseason play.
An earlier 17-game winning streak shows they are capable of getting hot and playing well in succession, something that is vital at playoff time, and as they showed in September by winning the Lanier Invitational, they are durable.
But there’s another element that comes into play this week as the Lady Panthers prepare — experience.
With a solid core of players that were all on the inaugural team at Jackson County two years ago that surprised many by advancing to Sectionals, the Lady Panthers will know what to expect on Friday.
“The girls will still be nervous but they know that we’re not going to see any weak pitchers from here on out and they expect that. They have been there before, so that helps them as well as it helps myself, because that first year I didn’t really know what to expect.”

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