Area Sports...

NOVEMBER 12, 2003

Make It Nine
Commerce’s Ninth-Straight Win Over Jefferson Brings First Region Title In Three Years
Commerce’s seniors came full-circle Friday night.
The Tigers won the region crown in 2000 when they were freshmwn and now, thanks to Commerce’s 35-13 thumping of Jefferson Friday night to clinch the 8-A title, they’ll add another patch to their lettermen’s jackets in their final year.
Of course the region title wasn’t all the Tigers won three years ago as that team hoisted the state championship trophy when the season ended.
Time will soon tell if these seniors will have a pair of bookend Class A titles to boast as well.
But Friday night was something that could be savored in itself as the senior class made it a perfect 4-0 against Jefferson with the school’s ninth-straight win over its Hwy. 15 rivals and clinched the program’s 17th region title.
Commerce has now won 20 of the last 22 meetings against Jefferson.
“It means a lot,” senior linebacker/tight end Casha Daniels said. “We came in as region champions and we wanted to go out as region champions. We’ll just see how far we can ride this from here.”
It was an eventful night for Daniels as he recorded 10 tackles, a fumble recovery, boomed two long punts and also did a bit of successful prognostication as his team went up 21-0 at the half in cruising to the win.
“I predicted we’d get up by three (touchdowns) and we did and we just went from there,” he said.
Daniels’ fellow senior teammate Dennis Wilder, who had three rushing touchdowns, helped insure the fast first-half start with scores from 50 and 26 yards out and then threw a halfback pass to a wide-open Hank Tiller for a 44-yard score.
Wilder finished the night with 206 yards, adding another rushing touchdown in the second half.
“I thought Dennis ran well,” Tiger head coach Steve Savage said. “I still don’t think he ran as well as he could have but he ran well enough for us to win.”
His 50-yard run came on just the fourth play of the game when he took an option pitch to the right down the sideline, juking a Jefferson defender at the end of the run with a cutback to the middle of the field.
It took just four minutes for the tailback to find the end zone again, picking up the last 26 yards of a quick four-play drive on a toss sweep left at the 6:22 mark in the first quarter to put the Tigers up 14-0.
Jefferson was able to slow Wilder a bit on the ground in the second quarter putting nine defenders on the line of scrimmage. But in the middle of the quarter the Tigers caught them trying bring a 10th player up into the box and made Jefferson pay.
Wilder took a toss sweep and suckered the Dragon defenders in, stopped and hit Tiller free down the right sideline to put Commerce up by three scores.
“I thought Dennis threw the it well and we were able to catch the ball,” Savage said.
The Dragons cut the lead to 21-7 in the third quarter with a commanding 11-play drive and looked to be gaining the momentum after forcing a three-and-out on the Tigers’ next possession.
But Jefferson fumbled the ball on the Commerce 22 and then botched a punt on its next drive which gave the Tigers the ball on the Jefferson two yard line.
Wilder scored one play later from 12-yards out for his third rushing touchdown of the night and the game was iced.
Commerce’s final score came with 4:53 left on a two-yard sneak from Josh Haynes, his ninth touchdown of the year.
Jefferson scored added mop-up touchdown on the last play of the game.
Savage said the win wasn’t without its errors but gave his team a passing grade for the evening.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” he said. “We had a few errors in there, but overall we played well ... We came in and had a game plan and improvised it a little. I thought we came off the ball well and put a hat one somebody. Defensively, except for a spot there in the third quarter, I thought we played pretty good.”


Scalped
Lumpkin shows offensive prowess in win over Banks
The opening minutes of Friday’s game against Lumpkin County looked as if Banks’ defense might be able to contain the potent Indian offense.
But after the Leopards threw an interception on their opening drive, Lumpkin found all the spark it would need to roll to a 41-8 victory to secure a playoff berth and shout the Leopards out of postseason play.
“We didn’t execute on either side of the ball,” head coach Greg Moore said. “We played hard but we didn’t play well.”
The Indians racked up 346 yards of offense on 39 plays while holding the Leopards to 235 and forcing two turnovers that led to 13 Lumpkin County points.
“Had we played our best game and they played their best game, we might not have been able to beat them,” Moore said.
Lumpkin’s talented quarterback gave the Leopards fits. He threw for ?? yards and was able to scurry for plenty more when the secondary locked coverage on the receivers.
“He’s an excellent scrambler,” Moore said. “He’s probably the best quarterback we’ve played against.”
The Indians’ first score came just more than three minutes into the contest. An interception set Lumpkin up on Banks’ 35 yard line.
Quarterback David Richardson took the ball 35 yards in on a scramble on the first play to score. The PAT gave the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Lumpkin scored again. Richardson hit a 52-yard pass down inside the 10-yard line. A penalty and two plays later and Dorian Dorsey took the ball in for a two-yard touchdown run. The PAT gave the Indians a 14-0 lead.
Banks mounted a drive on its next possession but stalled after dropped passes forced the Leopards to turn the ball over on downs.
Lumpkin took the ball and scored as the second quarter opened. The third touchdown came off a four-yard pass to a wide-open Indian. Lumpkin went on to a 21-0 lead.
On Banks’ next possession, an interception stopped a 50-yard drive in Lumpkin County territory.
The Indians went on to punch it in again with less than a minute left in the half. Dorsey took the ball in from five-yards out for the score. The Indians missed the PAT but lead 27-0.
Banks County mounted a mammoth drive to open the second half, pushing the ball 45 yards on 16 plays and eating up 7:38 on the clock.
But dropped passes again plagued the Leopards as the drive stalled inside the 10 yard line, turning the ball back over to Lumpkin.
The Indians chewed up the rest of the third quarter and scored just minutes into the third quarter to jump ahead 34-0.
A bad punt on Banks’ next possession put Lumpkin inside the Leopard 15 yard line. The Indians scored two plays later to take a 41-0 lead.
On the Leopards’ last possession, they drove 72 yards on eight plays in 5:31 to score their only touchdown.
Chase Martin took a 24-yard pass from Tyson Baxter for the score. On the extra-point attempt, Baxter threw the ball to a wide-open Jimmy Bryant to set the score at its 41-8 final.
GAME NOTABLES
•As far as ball control goes, Banks held the pigskin nearly eight minutes longer that Lumpkin, keeping possession for 27:57 of the game.
•Lumpkin County was a perfect 5-5 in touchdowns inside the redzone. Conversely, Banks failed to score during its only trip inside the 20.
•The Leopards converted only seven of 15 third down attempts and only one of three on fourth down. When those two stats have been bad for the Leopards this season, they’ve usually not come out on top. Good conversion rates and low turnovers have been crucial for success this season.
•Both teams had identical first downs (11) while Banks County ran 56 plays compared to Lumpkin’s 39.
•The Indians most often won the battle of field position in the game. Two Leopard punts netted only 11 yards.


Winner Friday earns region’s second seed in playoffs
The Jefferson football team controls its own destiny in the race to be able to host a playoff game next week.
A win this Friday in their regular season finale against Athens Academy at Memorial Stadium and the Dragons will earn the second seed from Region 8-A in the state playoffs. A loss and Jefferson would miss out on the home field advantage that comes with that second-place finish and they would face a slightly stiffer opponent from Region 5-A in the playoffs.
A current five-game losing streak in the month of November has been troubling to say the least over the past few seasons for Jefferson. And it’s something that head coach Bill Navas and his staff hope to do away with Friday.
Last year, after starting out 5-2 the Dragons dropped four-straight games to end the season and ended up with 8-A’s fourth seed in the state playoffs as a result. That meant their second meeting of the year with Class A powerhouse Landmark Christian the following week, a game they lost, which end their season.
Similarly, Jefferson had gone 5-3 through eight games this season, but a loss to Commerce last week has again put them in danger of finishing the regular season at 5-5, something that they have done for the past two years.
“I think last year the kids lost a little bit of focus and hopefully that won’t happen this year,” Jefferson head coach Bill Navas said.
As far as playoff implications go, there are several scenarios that could play out this Friday regarding seedings, but simply put, a win and the Dragons will be playing at home next week.
Unlike last year, when the finale against Athens Academy had no impact on the region standings, this time around the loser will be the third seed and will have to go on the road next week.
“They’re just like they were last year,” Spartan head coach Mike Gunn said Tuesday. “They’re going to play a tough and physical style football game and we’ve had trouble against teams that play like that in the past. But we’re kind of just worried about us right now.”
The good news for the Dragon faithful is that they will not have to meet the War Eagles in the first round again this year, regardless of Friday’s outcome. The worst that Jefferson can finish is third, thanks to their win over Social Circle on Oct. 24.
Depending on the outcome of a game this Friday the Dragons will face either Heard County or Bowdon in the first round. Those two teams face each other this Friday to determine seedings in their region. Landmark has already locked up the top spot in Region 5-A.
Said Navas: “I think their best football player is (quarterback) Chris Rogers. We need to find a way to stop him.”


From famine ....to feast
Raiders rebound from blowout loss with 48-0 win
The Raiders were certainly outmatched against a bruising Buford squad the week before, but the Madison County team got to feast at the other side of the table Friday, devouring Cross Keys 48-0 in the 2003 finale.
“It was kind of the opposite of the Friday night before,” said Raider head coach Tom Hybl, whose squad finished the year at 5-4-1.
The winless Cross Keys team could not slow down the Raiders’ rushing attack. Madison County, which didn’t attempt a pass all night, powered its way to 390 yards on just 28 carries, a 13.9 yards-per-carry average.
In fact, the goal line was the only thing that stopped Madison County’s leading rusher Jamie Rice on three out of his four carries Friday night.
The fleet-footed sophomore rushed for 131 yards on just four carries, scoring on runs of 4, 59 and 12 yards. He averaged a whopping 32.3 yards per carry.
Senior Dante´ Montgomery finished his career at Madison County with a stellar performance, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. Meanwhile, other Raider backs had notable performances as well. Tyler Johnson finished with 70 yards and a touchdown on two carries. Travis Calloway plowed his way for 53 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Senior Sean Wingo had one run for eight yards.
“I was really pleased for our kids to get a win and finish the season on a positive note,” said Hybl. “I’m definitely pleased about getting a shutout and getting most everybody on the field. We moved the ball well and did a better job up front.”
Hybl praised linemen Thad Pruett, Garrett Hochstetler and Justin Crider, running backs Rice and Montgomery, linebacker Kevin Cash and defensive back Marcus Shivers, who returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown.
The coach said the team played virtually mistake-free football.
“We didn’t punt for the night,” said Hybl. “We only had two penalties. We had no turnovers. We played a clean game. Whenever you do all that, you have a good chance against anybody.”
Madison County wasted little time pulling away from the outmatched Cross Keys team, scoring on a three-play, 53-yard drive on its first possession, with Rice carrying the ball in from four yards out. The key play of the drive was a 43-yard run by Montgomery.
The Raiders forced Cross Keys to punt, then Rice broke free from scrimmage on a 59-yard touchdown run almost midway through the first quarter.
Cross Keys’ best scoring opportunity came on the next drive as the Indians drove down the field, but the Madison County defense tightened in the red zone and took over on downs at its own three-yard line with 8:56 to go in the second quarter.
The Raiders wasted little time marching 97 yards, thanks to runs of 22 yards by Montgomery and 57 yards by Rice. Calloway carried the ball in from five yards out with 6:21 to go in the half to put the Raiders up 21-0.
Soon after, Madison County took over on downs at the Cross Keys 44-yard line. A Calloway touchdown run was called back on a penalty, but Rice carried the ball in from 12 yards out with 57 seconds left in the half to put the Raiders up 28-0.
The third quarter opened with Marcus Shivers streaking down the sideline for an apparent touchdown on the kickoff return, but the run was called back due to a penalty. However, the Raiders rolled down the field, with Montgomery rumbling for 28 yards, then scoring on a six-yard run with 9:47 to go in the quarter. A two-point conversion run was stopped short of the goalline and Madison County led 34-0.
The Raiders added another score late in the third quarter when Shivers returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown. T.C. Ledford picked off a Cross Keys pass in the fourth quarter and Tyler Johnson scored the Raiders’ final touchdown from 30 yards out with 2:47 to go.


About as tough as they get
Panthers have hands full Friday against Jags
T he Jackson County football team has one last shot to pick up a win before the season ends Friday night when they host Cedar Shoals. And while a victory has escaped the squad so far this year, there’s no doubt the Panthers (0-9) have been able to win the respect of many a team in Region 8-AAAA.
But if by chance they can manage to upset the defending region champion Jaguars (7-2), there’s no doubt that the strides they have made will get their due recognition.
“I fully expect a tough-nosed Cedar football team to come in here Friday night, but I also fully expect our kids to come out ready,” Jackson County head coach Brent Brock explained.
The Panthers, who have had problems starting games this year, were again undone by a poor first half last week in a 21-14 loss at Loganville. After regrouping at halftime however, the Panthers were impressive in the second half and erased what was a two-touchdown deficit. In the end however, the first half lapses and some costly turnovers kept them from knocking off the Red Devils.
“I’m not sure what it is,” Brock said of the first half woes his team has routinely had problems with this season. Adding that he and his coaching staff have tried numerous ways of preparing the team in order that they might come out and perform well in the opening two quarters of play.
“We didn’t play well early, but I thought our kids really responded well in the second half, we’ve had our problems starting ballgame and that’s something we’re going to have to work on this offseason,” Brock explained.
Friday against Cedar Shoals, expect the Panthers to try and keep the Jaguar offensive unit off of the field as much as possible by controlling the time of possession.
Citing an earlier game this season against a similar Clarke Central team that hung on for a nail-bitting win over Jackson County, Brock stated that he is confident that his squad will come out with an understanding of what it is going to take to upset Cedar Shoals.
The Jaguars are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 20-14 home loss to Newton, that dropped the Athens school to third-place in the region standings. Friday’ game is important for Cedar Shoals because of the playoff implications at stake. Should they pull out a win, they would lock up the third seed in the region which would enable them to play a second seeded team in the state playoffs. Winder-Barrow and Clarke Central are battling for the top spot in 8-AAAA. A win by Jackson County and Newton respectively would drop the Jaguars to fourth and the Rams would move up to third. The top four teams from each region advance to the state playoffs, with the top two squads in each region hosting first round games.
Cedar Shoals will look to get back on track after a miserable offensive game last week against the Rams. During that game the Jaguars managed just 138 yards of total offense and two first downs.

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