Area Sports...

MARCH 10, 2004

A Break From Region
CHS Baseball Team Awaits Three
Non-Region Foes
If the diamond Tigers have some wrinkles to iron out, now’s the time to do it when the games don’t count against them.
Commerce — 1-2 as of Monday — will take a hiatus from 8-A play with three straight road games against non-region competition, starting with a Thursday matchup at Oglethorpe County, a foe that the Tigers haven’t seen in some time.
Commerce then takes on Apalachee on the road Monday and travels to Buford Tuesday. The Tigers have never played Apalachee and haven’t played Buford since the Wolves moved up to AA after the 2002 season.
“It will give us a chance to see some good baseball teams,” Tiger head coach David Cash said of the string of non-region games. “We try to play good teams because it lets us see a lot of good pitchers and gives us a better quality game than we can see in practice.”
Commerce, which earned its first win of the year last Wednesday with a 12-5 win over Banks County, started 8-A play with a 4-0 loss Monday against one of the region’s top teams, Athens Academy, before playing Towns County Tuesday.
Results of the game with Indians weren’t available as of press time.
Though his team was shutout by the Spartans in the region opener, Cash wasn’t overly discouraged by the loss to a squad which he said was probably one of the top two teams in the region.
“I was pleased with the way we played on defense .. We didn’t give up a run after the third inning and being down four runs with the win blowing in our ball park isn’t much so we felt pretty good the hole day.”
Much of the credit of keeping Athens Academy off the board for the final four innings went to pitcher Daniel Taylor.
Taylor in extended relief of starter Josh Haynes, worked five and a third innings, gave up one earned run and struck out four.
“We were tickled with him,” he said.
Athens Academy’s pitcher didn’t have a bad day either.
The Spartans Minesh Menta, who Cash called “one of the top two or three pitchers in the region,” had a dominating performance, allowing just three hits in seven innings while striking out 10 in the shutout win.
Commerce didn’t have to face a pitcher of Menta’s caliber, however, last Wednesday against Banks County and the result was 12 Tigers runs.
With a lopsided win over the Leopards avenging a loss, Commerce two-game series with Banks County was nearly a carbon copy of last year’s contests with the Leopards where Banks County won the first contest 4-2 before the Tigers routed them 13-6 in the rematch.
The Tigers showcased their bats in Wednesday afternoon’s win, pounding out 14 hits after being held to just two hits and four base runners in this year’s opener against the Leopards.
“Banks County was saving some pitchers for a tournament and that benefited us,” Cash said. “We needed to hit the ball well and we did.”
Russ Hodsdon led the team with a three-hit afternoon which included a double and three RBIs. Hank Tiller added two hits, Jesse Smith had two hits and an RBI and Derick Blalock had two hits and two RBIs.
The Tigers scored six times in the first inning and added five more runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
“It was good for our confidence,” Cash said of the offense.
Cash said Commerce also got some timely pitching, led by starter Casha Daniels who pitched four innings and gave up two hits. Haynes, Taylor and Tiller all relieved.
“We got a lot of people some innings.”

Top at the tourney
Two finish in top three at 20-school tourney
Banks County Leopard golfers played in a 20-school 18-hole tournament Saturday at Apple Mountain Resort and Golf Club in Clarkesville.
Leopard golfers play again Thursday at Chateau Elan against Buford and at Kingwood Tuesday, March 16, against Rabun County.
The team finished fourth overall Saturday, but Matt Dale and Jacob Fountain had the second and third lowest score overall.
Dale finished one over par with a 73, earning him second place as low medalist. Fountain shot a 74 and was awarded third place as low medalist.
Jazz Hulsey shot an 83. Seth McCoy had an 88, Tanner Goodson shot a 90 and Josh Miller hit a 98. As a team, Banks County scored a 318, which tied them with host team Habersham Central at fourth place.
“I was really pleased with our game on Saturday, a few breaks and Matt or Jacob could have been low medalist, but that’s the game of golf,” said Banks County Coach Chuck Smith. “It was fun! If we can get our 4, 5 and 6 players shooting in the mid-80’s we’ll do well this season.”
The team defeated Dawson County Thursday at Gold Creek, 165-199.
Dale and McCoy had the low scores at 40, which was four over par.
Hulsey shot a 42. Fountain had a 43. Chris Carter, who played as the seventh man so his score wasn’t calculated into the team total, shot a 44. Miller hit a 46 and Goodson shot a 51.
Thursday’s match was supposed to be the first of the season for the Lady Leopard golfers, but short days forced it to be an unofficial match when only two of the golfers completed all nine holes.
Melinda Burnett and Hannah White were the only two to finish, they shot a 67 and 66 respectively.
The Lady Leopard golf team is made up of 10 players; three freshman, three sophomores, one junior and three seniors.
The girls will play again Thursday at Chateau Elan and Tuesday at Kingwood. Both games will begin at 4 p.m.

Dragons eyeing state track title
When your school hosts the Georgia Olympics state meet each year for track and field, as Jefferson does, you know there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the sport. But this year there’s even more of a reason for Jefferson supporters to anticipate the upcoming season.
The boys’ track team, thanks to the loss of just one member of last year’s squad that took third-place in the state, is setting their sights on the state crown.
Head coach Tim Corbett, who moves over to coach the boys after coaching the girls’ team to a state runner-up showing in 2003, said Tuesday that he expects the Dragons to be strong once again when the season begins Saturday at the Panther Relays at Starr’s Mill.
Thanks to an outstanding nucleus of upperclassmen, Corbett thinks the boys team has what it takes to compete with the likes of Landmark Christian and Jenkins County whom the Dragons finished behind a season ago at the state meet.
“I don’t want to jinx us,” Corbett said. “But I would be lying if I didn’t say we should finish higher than we did last year.”
Part of the reason Corbett feels so good about this year’s squad is that, with the exception of last year’s state champion high jumper John Quiggle who graduated, the Dragons have everybody returning from last season.
Courtney Wiley highlights the group as he will look to win his third-straight state title in the long jump this season. Travis Reed will also be aiming for a state crown after finishing second in the 110-meter high hurdles in 2003. Stephen Wiley took second in the triple jump at state last season and also will be aiming for a state crown.
Corbett added that he anticipates the Dragons will be strong in the relay events this season as well, with the 400 meter relay squad of Reed, Wiley, Montray Riley and whoever replaces Quiggle from 2003 to fair quite well. That team took fourth in the state last year.
“It really helps to have these seniors,” Corbett said of the crop of eight final-year tracksters on this year’s 22-man squad. Other Dragons that should contribute plenty this season include Andy Martin, Brandon Vinson, Sanquez Smith, Chris Wilburn, Mark Newton, Jose Zavaleta, Drew Upshaw, Adam Rooks, and William Martin.
“I feel pretty good about what we have coming back,” Corbett explained.
That said, a limited amount of practice time so far means that it may take a while for the Dragons to get up to the form they will need in May, Corbett said.
“You can practice a lot, but until you get out there and compete, you don’t know how they’ll respond,” he said.
On the girls side, the Lady Dragons are practically a total opposite team from the boys.
New coach Chad Cheatam said he expects his group to pan out as the season wears on, but noted that the team is especially young.
Of the 24 Lady Dragons on the squad right now, only two upperclassmen are on the team, with no seniors.
Jefferson finished behind only powerhouse Landmark Christian at the state meet in Albany last season.
“We’re real young,” Cheatam said. “We’re not to the point where we need to be just yet, we just need to run. It’s going to take a while to get where we need to be, but we’ve got several young girls I think can help us.”
Junior Brittany Caudell returns for the Lady Dragons. She is expected to be strong in many events including hurdles, triple jump, discus and relays. Sophomore Vanessa Guzman is also expected to be strong on the track where she will run in several events.
“She can do just about anything you need her to do,” Cheatam said. “She’s that athletic.”
The Lady Dragons open the season today against Chestatee before heading to Starr’s Mill this weekend.

Panthers set to open home season, renew rivalry with Dragons
The Jackson County baseball team has been regrouping for the past week and a half in preparation for their first home game of the season, which begins Friday against Buford at 5:30 p.m. That will be followed by a renewal of one of the more interesting rivalries around when the Panthers take on Jefferson on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Horace Jackson Field.
The meeting with the Wolves will come 10 days after Jackson County (0-1) fell 16-1 in Buford to open the season.
They have not played since. During that game Panther head coach Scott Roberts said his team, which is made up mostly of underclassmen with little varsity experience, may have been a little bit overwhelmed by the situation. He expects things to be a little bit more familiar this time around though.
The rout on March 2 ended things after just three innings of play, which meant not much in the way of experience was gained. But because of the time the Panthers have put in on the practice field since then, they should be ready to play, he said.
“After the first game with Buford, the kids realized that we have a lot of work to do to get better and they have responded nicely at practice,” Roberts explained.
While there are only two seniors on the team — Matt Myers and Ricky Price — Roberts is hoping the youthful exuberance of his squad will help them get through any growing pains that may lie ahead this season.
“Their attitude had been great and we are getting better. We’ve just got to carry it over to games,” he said.
Kyle Ference is scheduled to start Friday against the Wolves followed by Myers, however Roberts stated that could change depending on how things play out the rest of this week.
Saturday’s meeting with Jefferson will be the first in several years and its something both teams appear to be looking forward to.
Just a few miles apart, the two schools are the lone high schools in the city of Jefferson and thus, natural rivals, despite their enrollment differences.
“This is the first time in a long time that these two teams have played each other in baseball,” Roberts said. “We’re excited about this opportunity and expect to have a playoff type atmosphere at the ballpark.”
The Dragons (2-2) have played several more games so far than have the Panthers, most recently being a 11-1 win over Athens Christian on Tuesday. Last year Jefferson was 19-11 overall.

Lady Raiders to face tough Habersham team after breaking into the win column
Madison County broke into the win column with a 3-1 win over Jackson County Friday night but it will take a much bigger victory this week for the Lady Raiders to start a winning streak.
Madison County will play what Lady Raider head coach Susanna Hawley called a very talented team in Habersham Central this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. on the road.
The coach said her team will have to step it up offensively if it’s to avoid its third region loss of the year.
“We’re going to have to score some goals,” she said, adding that she’d probably be satisfied with a tie with Habersham. “I don’t think that we’ll be able to tie them 0-0.”
Madison County lost to Habersham 4-0 last year. The teams have beat a common opponent in Jackson County this year, though Habersham’s win came in a 13-0 rout.
The schedule won’t get any easier March 18 when Madison County must take on Cedar Shoals (3-1-1) in its next contest.
“They’re an excellent team,” Hawley said of the Lady Jaguars. “We’re just in a really tough region.”
Madison County will have had seven days off when it plays Habersham and then six more days off before facing Cedar Shoals.
Hawley said the rest is a welcomed changed. With several rainouts last year, the Lady Raiders would have weeks where they had up to three tough games on the schedule.
“It’s nice to have the time off,” Hawley said.
Aside from breaking into the win column Friday, the coach hopes her team built some confidence going into the upcoming games after a respectable showing against a decent Clarke Central outfit this past week.
“They played hard against a pretty good team,” she said. “Even when Clarke Central isn’t as good as usual, they’re still a pretty good.”
Offensively, Hawley said she hoped her team would be encouraged by its two goals against Clarke Central since her squad will need scores this year to take the pressure off an inexperienced defensive unit.
“Our defense is so young,” she said. “I think we’re going to give up some more goals but hopefully we can score some more.”
The defense, she added, is being aided by the solid play of Cassidy Guthrie at sweeper right now, allowing Ashley Tittle to play more offense.
Tittle scored once in the in the win over Jackson County Friday as did Mandy Perry and Whitney McGuire in the two-goal win.
The team wasn’t full strength in the win over the Lady Panthers, missing Jessica Bentle, who was on a college visit, and Lacey Duffel who jarred her shoulder in the Clarke Central game and had to sit out against the Panthers.
In the Clarke Central contest, Madison County was nipped by a Lady Gladiator goal with 10 minutes left the contest which put Clarke Central up 3-2. The Lady Gladiators then held on the rest of the way for the win.
“We just ran out of time,” Hawley said.
The deciding score came when a corner kick was knocked out of goalie R. Guthrie’s hands and ruled a score by officials in what proved to be a controversial call.
“(My players) were mad,” Hawley said.
McGuire tied the score at 2-2 in the second half after being down 2-1 at intermission.
Madison County trailed 1-0 in the first half with Clarke Central scoring at the 17:59 mark before Bentle evened the score at 1-1 three and a half minutes later with a goal.
“They played well,” Hawley said. “It’s tough to comeback twice.”

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