Area Sports...

DECEMBER 31, 2003

2003 Brought Some Memorable Moments To Commerce
W hether it was Casha Daniels recording 21 tackles in the playoffs against Bremen or Ashley Evans singling home the biggest run of her team’s championship season, 2003 had some signature moments.
All totaled, the inventory of the past calendar year for Commerce teams included two state championships, two region titles, five state tournament teams and eight individual state competitors.
Looking back on 2003 shows that a sentimental favorite this year was the Lady Tiger slow-pitch softball team which claimed a state crown in its swan song season amongst the schools outside Class AAAAA left playing slow pitch. Commerce High School itself is set to switch to fast pitch in 2004 and will no longer field a slow pitch program.
But while one sport at CHS died out, another continued to flourish.
The Tiger cheerleading team continued to make state championships in February the norm, edging out Bremen for its third title in the last four years.
One team that didn’t have to edge anyone out in winning a title was the Commerce football team in taking the Region 8-A crown.
Commerce snuffed out all pretenders to the throne with five lopsided victories over 8-A foes in going unbeaten in the region slate. Amongst the Tigers’ victims in that stretch was defending champion Athens Academy which Commerce trounced by four touchdowns.
But those weren’t the only moments that made Commerce athletics in 2003.
Here’s a run down, in chronological order, of the important dates from the past year.
•February 8 — Cheerleaders win state
When the fifth- through second- place winners were announced in February at the state competitive cheerleading meet in Columbus and the list didn’t include Commerce, thoughts of not even placing enter the team’s mind with only one spot left to be called.
But those worries instantly turned to euphoria as it was announced that the cheer Tigers had earned that top spot, giving them their third state championship in the last four years.
It was a satisfying end of the year for a team that had been stricken with sickness at the beginning of the season and even slipped up and lost a meet to Jefferson.
The team got back to full strength by the end of the year, posting three-straight scores of over 230, including a 232 at state which edged out Bremen by three points to give the cheer Tigers a hard-fought second-consecutive state crown.
•February 22 — Five Wrestlers Place At State
It was a perfect five-for-five day for the Commerce wrestlers in late February at the state meet in Jefferson.
Jesse Smith, Royale Goodwin, Eric Redmon, Taylor Massey and Ben Wilson all earned a trip to the Class A meet and all placed there to give Commerce an eighth-place finish in the state.
•May 5 — Flint Wins Region Discus Title
Kenny Flint wasn’t headed to the state track meet — stuck in third in the discus at the 8-A meet in early May — that is, until he heaved a throw of 125 feet to become the region discus champion.
Flint improved upon his distance at the Class A meet with a throw of 130’6” to finish seventh in the state.
Tommy Eason also went to state, finishing second in the region in the shot put and 11th in the state.
•June 27 — All-star Team Qualifies For State
The Commerce Recreation Department’s 14-and-under all-star baseball team beat White County twice in the final day of the area tournament, 12-11 and 11-7, to earn a trip to the state tournament in Adel.
•October 17 — CHS Football Team Rips Athens Academy En Route To Region Title
It was a play symbolic of how the Commerce football team would handle the entire region in 2003 — running right past it.
Dennis Wilder galloped 72 yards to paydirt on the opening play Oct. 17 against Athens Academy and the Tigers never looked back in a 34-7 route that night.
Commerce made its dismantling of the defending region champion Spartans a springboard for the rest of the region slate as it dominated the five 8-A opposing schools this season by an aggregate score of 201-54 in winning the school’s 17th region title which eluded it in 2002.
Individual highlights included a 1,900-yard season by Wilder who finished his Commerce career as the school’s fourth-leading rusher and an 145 tackle season from Casha Daniels, who became the school’s all-time leading tackler.
All that helped the Tigers’ make another trip to the quarterfinals where they ran into a buzzsaw named Hawkinsville which went on to win the Class A state title.
•October 23 — Saxon Takes Region Bronze In Cross Country
Gary Saxon was the third runner to cross the finish line at the region meet this past October insuring the Tiger junior his second consecutive trip to the Class A state meet.
His time of 18:39 at region was his second-best of the season until he posted a 18:30 16 days later at the Class A meet in Carrollton where he finished 19th overall.
•October 31 — Lady Tiger Softball Team Stuns Jefferson With Final-Inning Comeback In State Title Run
While a 6-3 win over rival Jefferson Nov. 1 clinched the slow-pitch softball team’s state title, the highlight of its year might have come the previous day in the first meeting with the Dragons.
In what 20th-year head coach Donnie Drew called “one of the best games I’ve ever been involved with” senior Ashley Evans delivered a game-winning RBI single to secure the win.
Usually a lock to hit the ball to the right side of the field, Evans sent the ball down the left field line to bring home fellow senior Katie Wilbanks for the winning score.
The victory brought the Lady Tigers within one game of the state crown which they clinched the following day with their three-run win over Jefferson.
Fittingly, the final out of the history of the program was recorded by a senior — Stephanie Rainwater — that afternoon as the Lady Tigers celebrated the first state title in the team’s history on the last day it would play.

Leopards get first win at Christmas tourney
The Banks County Leopard varsity boys’ team came away with a win in their first game of the Christmas tournament ‘Battle of the States’ held at Towns County High School Saturday.
The Leopards won 64-60 over the North Carolina Robbinsville Black Knights in a close fast paced game thanks in part to seniors Reggie Smith and Matt Dale, the two high scorers.
Coach Mike Ruth said: “Reggie really came around in the second half. After only scoring two points in the first half, he came back ready to play.”
Those two points were scored when Smith fielded the ball, went up for the shot, missed, came up with the rebound and made his second attempt in spite of the aggressive defense by the Knights.
That tied the score at 19 with just a few minutes left in the first half.
The Knights came on strong and battled their way to a 27-19 lead with just seconds left on the clock in the first half.
As the Leopards brought the ball down the court, seconds ticked away and Seth McCoy hit a 3-pointer from mid-court.
“That really gave us some momentum,” the coach said. “We were headed for the locker room, but it made a difference. We knew we weren’t playing aggressively. That had to change. So we held a prayer meeting. We got charged and went out there in the second half ready to play.”
And play they did. Hustling up and down the court, the Leopards pulled ahead 42-38 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Knights weren’t going to go quietly and regained the lead with two minutes to go in the game.
The Leopards were not to be denied their victory. With a foul and two free throws, the Leopards went ahead by two in the final seconds. After a quick rebound, the team raced down court and Dale got a shot off that was good for two points.
“We played well,” the coach said. “But we have to make things work. We need to play two good halfs and not depend on coming back. The kids put out their all out there and we started to penetrate and get to the basket to get the shots and the rebounds.”
High scorers for the game were Reggie Smith, 19; Matt Dale, 18; and Kyle Roberts, 14.
Smith was 6 for 5 at the free throw line and Roberts was 4 for 2.
As for rebounds, Smith had 15 and Roberts came down with 12.
“We did pretty well with rebounds - 26 offensive and 22 defensive,” said Ruth.
Monday night at 8:30 p.m. the Leopards will tangle with the Towns County Indians.
“We’re 1-for-1 with them,” Ruth said. “They beat us up in Towns and we beat them down here. They’re about like us. They have a couple of big guys, big guards. They’re very aggressive inside. We stepped up to them in Banks and we’ll step up to them again,” he said.
The Towns County Christmas tournament has nine teams from across the southeast participating in the three-day event that ends Tuesday.
For additional pictures see this weeks Banks County News.
(Note: results of the Monday and Tuesday games will be in next week’s paper.)

Total dominance
Host Jefferson crusies to Keen Classic crown
The Jefferson wrestling team gave former coach Jack Keen the perfect tribute Monday, running away from a solid field to easily claim the championship of the tournament named for him.
The Dragons finished with 251 points to outdistance second place Dawson County by 146 points in the team standings. Eight Jefferson grapplers won weight class titles and in all some 12 wrestlers advanced to the finals of the event held at the JHS gymnasium.
Rounding out the top five in the team standings were Habersham Central, Elbert County and Adairsville; however, clearly the Dragons were the best team on the mat Monday.
Along with the eight Dragon champs, another four lost in the finals to finish second in their respective weight classes.
Among the varsity team members from Jefferson the following took first place honors: Enrique Zavaleta (119), Jose Zavaleta (125), Will Roper (130), Britt Cantrell (135), J.J. Brueshaber (145), Forrest Garner (160), Daniel Love (171), and Jake Gurley (189).
Taking second in the tournament was Mark Newton (140), Jason Fields (152), Marc Baskett (215) and Seth Love (275).
In addition to the varsity members that competed, Jefferson also saw two junior varsity squads do well. Off those teams, C.J. Brown and Drew Fredrick finished first and second respectively in the 112-pound division. Kyle Baird took second in the 119-pound division as well, while Jake Walker was third in 135.
Arguably the most competitive final of the day pitted Commerce’s Hunter Glenn against Seth Love of Jefferson in the 275-pound division. Glenn, who transfered across the county from Jefferson this season, eventually outlasted his former teammate 5-0 to win the title. Garner was victorious extremely quickly in his final match, pinning J.T. Thomas of Habersham Central early on to win the division.

20 innings of MCHS baseball were plenty memorable in 2003
As far as significant moments in 2003 go, it’s hard not to recall the evening of April 4 – that is, if you brought your caffeine pills.
That’s the date when a double header between Madison County and Loganville went 20 innings into the night.
The first game went seven innings and the night cap — and a night cap it was, literally — went 13.
Another inning, and the teams would have played the equivalent of three baseball games as the midnight hour was fast approaching when the final out of the evening was finally recorded.
Though the Raiders lost both ends of the double header, the second contest seemed to have all the ingredients that make a great night of baseball — clutch defense, great pitching and timely hitting (as well it should when you have 13 innings worth of time to demonstrate it).
Tony Tittle stood out the most in that marathon night, slamming his head into the center field wall for a diving catch early in the evening — say at about 9:45 p.m. — and then slamming a homer the next time he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
Who knew then that his and everybody else’s night would just be starting?
Here are some other favorite moments from an eventful 2003:
Sean Jones’ 96-yard return
stunning Tennessee
Thanks to Sean Jones, David Pollack’s batted pass/interception last year against South Carolina won’t be overplayed on Georgia highlight reels with the same frequency that “Welcome to the Jungle” consumes classic rock radio.
(Don’t get me wrong, Pollack’s score against the Gamecocks was magical but even he said it’s time to move on from that highlight.)
Jones takes the trophy for this year’s defensive score of the season when he picked up a Tennessee fumble at the Georgia four and waltzed 96 yards the other way for a back-breaking touchdown just before halftime.
Just as priceless were the images ESPN caught of the stunned Volunteer faithful as a sea of orange turned ghost-white pale during Jones scamper down the sideline.
Jarvis Hayes’ buzzer-beater
downing Florida
The sudden rise of Georgia basketball was nearing its death in early March with allegations of NCAA infractions about to decapitate the program and the “Godfather” Jim Harrick denying each charge every step of the way.
But the Bulldogs were able to get off one last glorious shot as the ship sank and that shot came from none other than Jarvis Hayes, the most electrifying Georgia player many of us have had the priviledge to watch.
With only a couple of seconds remaining, Hayes pulled up and buried a jumper to give the Bulldogs an 82-81 upset win over a top 10 club in Florida —which had beaten Georgia in similar fashion in January — as fans swarmed the court.
The win needs to be savored because it will be several winters before Bulldog fans have a reason for a similar type celebration.
FSU downing
Florida on the gridrion
Buford’s P.K. Sam hauled in a game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass from Chris Rix in the final minute as the Seminoles stunned Florida back in November to dash any hopes the insufferable Gator nation had of going to the SEC title game.
Georgia can’t beat Florida but, hey, at least the guy who caught the pass was from the Peach State. You’ll take a microscopic victory anywhere you can.
‘Funny Cide’ winning
the Kentucky Derby
Just a personal point of pride here. During a glance at a television back in May while playing a game of pool, I forecasted that a 3-year-old gelding with 14-1 odds would take horse racing’s most coveted title.
“Funny Cide” didn’t let me down, staying in fourth for most of the race before trumping the front-runners with a burst of speed down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby.
Now if I had only bet money ....
Ben Munro is a reporter for The Commerce News and The Madison County Journal.

Panther hoopsters back Fri. against Johnson
A nearly two-week stretch without games will come to an end for the Jackson County basketball teams this weekend when they face off against Johnson at home on Friday, followed by a trip to West Hall the following evening.
For the Jackson County girls (8-3) the meeting with No. 5 Johnson (Class AAA) presents an opportunity for pay-back, as the Lady Knights were victorious in the two team’s prior meeting this season on Dec. 6 in Gainesville.
Johnson (7-3) comes in reeling since an upset win of Class AAA No. 1 Gainesville on Dec. 19. The Lady Knights have lost three games in a row since that landmark victory, with their latest defeat coming at the hands of Chattanooga Christian, 65-50, at the Sweet South Classic on Tuesday.
Should the Lady Panthers hope to win their sixth-straight game, they will have to contain Johnson standout Whitney Randolph. The sophomore notched a double-double despite the loss Tuesday, with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Against the Jackson County on Dec. 6, she burned the Lady Panthers repeatedly en route to a game-high 28 points during a 68-54 win for her team.
On the boys side of things, Jackson County will be looking to win their third-straight game Friday, after they secured their only two victories of the season against Apalachee and Banks County on Dec. 19 and 20.
Under first-year head coach Richard Crumley the Panthers (2-9) have started to come around a play well as a team of late.
With a big game Tuesday at Habersham Central, this weekend’s action will provide the last out of region chance to fine tune their game.
The game with the Raiders is the first of 12 consecutive region games to close out the regular season.

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