Area Sports...

MAY 12, 2004

Knocking The Dust Off
Commerce Football Team Tries To Get Rid Of The Rust With The Start Of Spring Practice
Approximately 55 kids showed up for works outs this past Monday for the Commerce football team as it kicked off its spring football practice session.
The session will run through May 21 giving the squad 10 days to brush up on fundamentals and schemes before the start of summer vacation.
Commerce head football coach Steve Savage, who’s entering his 16th season as the Tigers’ head coach said day one was all about getting acclimated to football once again.
“It was a typical first day,” he said. “All of them think they can remember everything but nobody really remembers anything. It was just to knock the dust off and look at a few things and some different people at some different spots.”
Savage called it a “workman-like” practice.
“Nothing looks good on the first day,” he said. “But I thought the effort was fine. Everybody was attentive.”
The spring season will start the process of the team seeking to find replacements at spots like quarterback, running back, linebacker and the offensive line.
Gone are Josh Haynes, a two-year starter at quarterback; tailback Dennis Wilder, who rushed for over 1,900 year last year; Casha Daniels and Justin Howell, who both logged over 100 tackles last year; Tommy Eason, who was a mainstay at right guard for four years; and Brandon Smallwood, who started at center last year.
“We’ve got a lot of places to look at some folks,” Savage said.
But the coach added that spring is only the preliminary stage.
“We’re not looking to win a position,” he said. “We’re just out here to look at a few things.”
After spring practice, the team will reconvene in two months, July 13-15, when it hosts its annual offensive camp which will procede summer football practice which begins July 19.
Commerce will have its parent orientation July 12.
The season opener is Aug. 20 against Trion.


Athletes receive awards at spring banquet
A spring sports banquet was held Tuesday night at the Banks County High School auditorium.
Five spring sports teams were recognized. Coach Mike Ruth started the presentation of awards with the tennis team. Catie Murphy, Brittany House, Jessi Wiltsie, Hannah Jordan, Kayla Sims, Heather Beck, Kayla Duncan, Emily Scales, Angela Hand, Kyle Roberts, John Payne, Ben Lewis, Michael Baker, Daniel Esparza, Josh McMahan and Chancey Dorsey all received varsity letters. Murphy and House were both given the Miss Tennis award Beck and Scales received the girls doubles award. Kayla Sims and Hannah Jordan received the girls most improved doubles award. Kayla Duncan was awarded the girls spirit award. Jessie Wiltsie was given the most improved singles award. The boys spirit award went to Payne. Lewis and McMahan were the boys most improved doubles. Dorsey was named the most improved singles player. Baker was awarded the newcomer player of the year award.
Following tennis, Chuck Smith gave the girls’ golf team their award. Coach Bragg was out of town. All 10 members of the team earned varsity letters. Jessica Lewallen was given the award for most improved player. Hannah White was named most valuable player.
Smith also presented the boys junior varsity awards. He said the team was, “a fine group of young men,” and thanked Hammer’s Glen golf course for its support throughout the season.
For boys varsity golf awards, Smith gave the state ranked team recognition for a great year.
“We had a great year, with some great kids,” he said.
The team finished second at region and third in the state tournament.
Tanner Goodson was given the spirit award. Jacob Fountain earned the coach’s award. Seth McCoy was most improved. Matt Dale, who recently earned the state title, was given the most valuable player award and the team momentous award.
Coach Mike Brownlee handed out the track awards. He said he was happy to coach track at Banks County.
“I am delighted to be a track coach, we have a fantastic facility and have a lot to look forward to with such a young team,” Brownlee said.
The team had 16 varsity members and 14 middle school members. Only three members of the team were seniors. The undefeated 4x100-meter relay team was composed of a seventh grader, an eighth grader, a freshman and a senior. Brownlee gave an award for most improved player to R.N. Bellamy, a distance runner who shaved a minute off of his mile time last season.
Joe Lord recognized junior varsity baseball players. He thanked the athletes, parents, recreation department staff and the booster club before handing out certificates to the players.
Mike Williams followed Lord to present the varsity Leopard baseball team members with their awards. Williams thanked the board of education, superintendent Erwin, Principal Art Wheaton, coach Ruth, the booster club and Johnny Williams and Allen Haynes for helping to prepare the field for play before sentimentally thanking his wife for her support.
Receiving awards were: Ramon Vasquez, most improved player; Tyson Baxter, offensive most valuable player and teammate of the year; Jacob Williams, utility player award; Michael Haynes, coach’s award; Alex Cruce, pitcher’s award; and Tyler Scroggs, defensive most valuable player.
For soccer awards, Jodie Watkins gave senior Ashley Dumas the most valuable player award and Amber Sims the Leopard spirit award.
Coach Gillig awarded the boys’ soccer team after thanking the booster club, principal Wheaton and the athletic directors. He gave the Leopard spirit award to Cory Schmidt. The most valuable player award went to the team’s captain, Ben Vang.

Let the Games begin
Host Dragons hope to be in Class A title contention this week
When the state’s best boys track and field athletes converge on Jefferson’s Memorial Stadium this week, the hometown Dragons hope to be in contention for the Class A state crown which eluded them last year.
But, if Jefferson hopes to improve upon 2003’s third-place showing, it will likely be thanks in large part to their strength in the field events, which start on Thursday afternoon, according to head coach Tim Corbett.
“We’re going to need to score as many points as we can in the field events first,” Corbett said. “And then we’ll see where we are and what happens after that.”
Jefferson qualified 14 athletes in 11 of 16 events overall this week, with many of their stronger events in the field. In all, five competitors in seven events will be on display Thursday for Jefferson.
The status of two-time defending state long jump champion Courtney Wiley will be important to the Dragons’ chances, especially in the field events. If the senior is able to win his third crown in a row he will likely have to improve on recent performances that have been hampered by a quadriceps injury. Brother Stephen Wiley heads into the meet as the top long jumper from Jefferson, having won the region championship on May 3. His showing in the triple jump will also be critical, as he was the top Region 8-A performer in that event as well.
C. Wiley’s best shot at a state title could come in the high jump, where he has not been bothered as much by the leg injury. His leap of 5-feet, 8-inches in the region meet was the best on the day.
Should he capture the crown, he would follow in the footsteps of last year’s senior high jump state champion John Quiggle (6-2).
Corbett hopes to also see pole vaulter William Martin and high jumper Adam Rooks compete for state crowns following their top-two qualifying showings at the region meet in those events.
In the running events, the strength of solid teams from defending state champion Jenkins County and longtime power Landmark Christian figure to be on display, however Jefferson will have plenty of opportunities to keep up.
The Dragons saw plenty of state qualifyings come in the running events, including three relay teams and seven individuals.
Travis Reed should contend in both the 300-meter and 110-meter high hurdles. He was the state runner up in the latter last season and was the region champion in both this season.
Right behind him will be Rooks, whose solid second place showings in both hurdle events at the region meet mean he will be in the hunt also.
The 400-meter relay squad of Reed, Montray Riley, S. Wiley and C. Wiley should be in the running for the state crown. They were 1.66 seconds off of the time that won the state crown in that event last season at the region meet. A pair of l,600-meter relay squads from Jefferson will also compete this week. The No. 1 squad of Reed, Andy Martin, Chris Wilburn and S. Wiley finished 4.18 seconds faster than the No. 2 team of Rooks, Enrique Zavaleta, Randy Studivant and Riley at the region meet.
By and large though Corbett, who is in his first season as the Jefferson boys coach, stated that the field is pretty wide open this week in Class A.
“Any one of four or five schools could win it,” Corbett said. “That’s my first gut feeling right now, until I sit down and take a closer look for myself and see how things stack up.”
Elsewhere in the running events, Riley has returned from a devastating knee injury in the fall to have a solid track season. The senior was the region runner-up in both the 100 and 200 meters receptively, and he is on two of the relay teams to qualify for state. Another region runner-up competing this week is S. Wiley (400 meters), whom Corbett said should have a shot at the state crown.
Those trying to keep up with the results of this year’s Games during the meet can log on to a new web site that will be up and running with information and pictures: www.gaolympics.org.


Lady Panther season ends at state tournament for first time ever
No matter what, the Jackson County girls’ golf team knew their season was going to come to an end on Monday at the Class AAAA state tournament.
But, because the Lady Panthers finished the season with one of their better team performances of the year, they will have yet another reason to look back on the 2004 season and see it as a breakthrough year.
The Lady Panthers finished 14th overall Monday, during their first-ever appearance in the state golf tournament, held in Augusta. The mark was 63 strokes back of state champion Woodward Academy.
According to head coach Shawn Lindsey the showing was not only indicative of a team that continued to improve this season, but it may also be a sign of a bright future at Jackson County for the girls’ golf program.
“We played a very tough course at Goshen Plantation Golf Club in Augusta,” Lindsey, whose team took second in Region 8-AAAA this season, said. “Our girls had a great time competing against some extremely talented golfers.”
Highlighting the day of play for the Lady Panthers was the effort of Cortney Franklin, who turned in her team’s best showing of the day. Her round of 103 was not only a season low, but it also helped the squad shoot seven strokes better than they did at Chateau Elan nearly two week’s prior at the region tournament. The Lady Panthers were just one stroke back from region champion Eastside at that tournament.
The improvement was typical of the team’s progress throughout the season, Lindsey said.
“We are always measuring our success by the amount of progress we experience. As a team we have shown a steady improvement this entire season. I felt like our girls represented our school and community very well.”
Kayla McNeal shot the second-lowest score of the day for Jackson County, she posted a 111. Diana Robinson finished the day with a 115 to round things out for Jackson County.
“It was a great opportunity for our players to get out and see new places and meet new people,” Lindsey said. “We had a lot of fun and look forward to making it back again next year.”


Raider vs. Raider
First round of state pits MCHS against foe that ousted them last year
The team that eliminated the diamond Raiders in the Sweet 16 of the state tournament last year stands in the way of them getting there this year.
It will be an all-Raider first round as the Madison County Red Raiders host the East Paulding Raiders this weekend in Danielsville in a rematch of last year’s second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
The teams will play a double header Friday at 3 p.m. and one game on Saturday at 2 p.m. if needed. Monday is the first-round rain date if one is needed.
“We’ve got to play well. We’re going to have to pitch well and play defense,” Griffeth said, pointing out that East Paulding has been putting a lot of runs on the scoreboard in its wins.
The opening-round matchup pairs two teams that have been recent postseason fixtures.
This is Madison County’s third-straight appearance in the state playoffs andEast Paulding (17-9, 7-4 in Region 7-AAAA) is no newcomer to postseason either as this will mark their fourth straight venture to state.
In fact, the team is coming off an Elite Eight appearance in 2003 which it earned with its sweep of Madison County last year
But this is a different year and a different East Paulding team said head coach Ronnie Green — especially when he looks at the first round.
“I think it’s totally different this year,” he said. “They’ll be ready for us because we swept them last year. They’ll be looking to get back at us. We’re just happy to be playing.”
Gone from this year’s East Paulding team are its top two starters from last season’s quarterfinals team which has made life a little tougher for the Dallas, Ga. outfit this season, according to Green.
“We’re short on pitching,” he said. “We don’t have many arms.”
So short on arms, that Green said he’s even had to employ two freshmen this year for pitching duty.
“We had to throw two ninth graders and it’s tough throwing two ninth graders.”
Green explained that his group is “pretty much a junior team” this

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