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Cross country team dominates first meet of season
Across a creek and through the woods to victory we go
“Victory in the heart and run till you puke” is the motto for the Banks County cross country team, but it was more than a motto Monday as the team defeated East Hall and Tallulah Falls. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams achieved victory and some literally threw up at the finish line. It was 93 degrees at 5 p.m. on Monday.
Banks County has a true cross country course that takes runners 3.1 miles through the woods, across a creek, over a hole, up a couple of hills and across some flat ground.
Low score wins in cross country. Scores are determined by adding together the place finish of the top five runners from each school. For example, if one school takes the top five finishes the score for the team would be 15, the lowest score possible. Each school must have at least five runners to compete.
Banks County has nearly 40 high school runners and 12 middle school runners. Some high school athletes and middle school runners opt to run a one or two mile course instead of running all three.
The Banks County girls cross country team secured all five top place finishes Monday, August 30, winning the meet with 15 against East Hall’s 45. Tallulah Falls did not have enough runners to compete for place finishes.
Newcomer Ashley Blevins took first place with a time of 29 minutes and 49 seconds.
“I feel great!,” Blevins said as she caught her breath. “I ran as fast as I could and then I took off when I heard somebody behind me.”
No one was too close behind Blevins, the next to finish was almost two minutes behind her. Blevins said she’d never run the course before and admitted she’d never run three miles at one time. Banks County coaches Kelly McDuffie and Dana Boling are checking to see if Blevins set a new record.
“I didn’t know she was going to run, she is a natural,” McDuffie said. “She is a multi-sport player and what better thing to do than to come out and run with us.”
Blevins said she wanted to run to get in shape for basketball season, which starts one month after the cross country region meet in November.
Katrina Kyle, who ran the course in a pair of socks, finished second running the course in 31 minutes and 33 seconds. Following Kyle, Lauren Reiselt finished third, Kayla Duncan took fourth and Penny Mullins finished fifth.
Banks County’s cross country boys defeated East Hall 29-42.
Mitch Cagle, current school record holder for the course, finished ahead of the pack running the course in 21 minutes and 45 seconds. Cagle is a junior who set the record on the course last year.
“I’m looking for big things out of him this year,” McDuffie said.
R.N. Bellamy lost a fight to the finish line with an East Hall runner wearing a camel pack putting him in fourth place, one second behind two East Hall runners. Bellamy finished the race in 24 minutes and 51 seconds.
Kelen Rylee finished sixth for Banks County, Eli Minish took eighth and Michael Baker rounded out the top five with a 12 place finish.
Both teams will race again on Wednesday, September 8, at East Jackson Elementary School. The race will start at 4:30 p.m.

Panthers, Red Raiders to renew rivalry Friday
Those in search of a football rival for Jackson County could find it Friday night when the Panthers travel to Danielsville to face Madison County for the first time in four years in region play.
With programs that are similar in several ways to each other it’s only natural that the two schools are both looking at this week’s anticipated meeting with rivalry anticipation.
“I think the football teams and the communities are pretty much reflective of each other,” Panther head coach Brent Brock said. “Their team reminds me of us in a lot of ways — big, strong and a few players handling the load for them.”
“It’s a big game for our kids,” Madison County coach Randall Owens said. “They know a lot of their kids and it’s our return to the region.”
For evidence that the two schools are headed toward developing a rivalry, one need look no further than the different paths they have chosen to try and rebuild their programs.
The Red Raiders have returned this season after a four-year hiatus in non-region play. The move was designed to give a struggling program some much-needed confidence some four seasons ago under then head coach Tom Hybl. With Hybl now gone, Owens has guided the Red Raiders to a 1-0 start in his first season, after resigning from Heritage to take the job in Danielsville earlier this year.
Conversely, the Panthers toughed it out in region play over the last few years despite a floundering recent history. The result has been the state’s longest losing streak (now 26 games long) which only this year has started to show signs of possibly ending.
Those differing rebuilding strategies could develop animosity between the two schools.
“Nothing against what Madison County did, but I’ve never been a proponent of non-region (scheduling). It allows adults to look young people in the eye and say ‘we’re not going good enough to play somebody else,’ and that’s not how life is,” Brock said.
“We feel like you’re delt a hand, so you’ve got to go out and play it — just like in life,” Brock explained. “Sure, our guys know it’s a tough region we play in, but I think (not playing a non-region schedule) has helped us this year by preparing us for the intesity that it takes to win each week. Now, we’re knocking on the door.”
While they are by no means new to each other — the two schools compete regularly against one another in other sports — they haven’t played football against each other since 2001. That game marked the fourth-straight win by Madison County in the series since 1998.
But, despite the losing streak, Jackson County thinks it’s a different type of program than the one that existed back then.
“We told our kids going into the season that there’s no more going out there and surprising teams. We won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year.”
Last Friday night the Panthers nearly defeated one of the region’s playoff teams from a season ago — Winder-Barrow. Despite leading 14-7 in the contest, several miscues cost the Panthers and they ended up losing 21-14.
“Our defense played as well as its played here in three years (against Winder-Barrow),” Brock said. “It was the first time in a long time around here our young people felt like they really should have won a game. They realize they’re close.”
Since that loss, Brock said the team’s focus at practice has been superb and he noted that he expects the Panthers to be ready to end the losing steak Friday night.
Doing so against the rival Red Raiders would just be icing on the cake.

Fourth Quarter Chaos
Slew Of Late Turnovers Doom Tigers In First Loss To Franklin County In Eight Years
File it under Murphy’s Law or some other bizzare force of misfortune.
Either way, little went right for Commerce in the fourth quarter Friday night against Franklin County.
The Lions rallied for three unanswered touchdowns, the last two coming in the final quarter on the heels of three consecutive Commerce fumbles, to stun the Tigers 28-21 in Franklin County’s first win in the series since 1996.
“It’s uncharacteristic of us not to put a game away,” Savage said. “We had a couple of chances to do it and we didn’t and Franklin County took advantage of that.”
Though his completion percentage wasn’t stellar, Franklin County quarterback Kyle Harris helped engineer the upset with some timely throws in passing for 205 yards and three touchdowns while Alex Johnson punched in the winning score with 1:45 left in the game.
Harris’s first two scoring strikes both went to Matthew Heaton and kept Franklin County within a touchdown in the second and third quarters while his third — a six-yarder to Carlos Meritt — knotted the game at 21-21 in the fourth quarter.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Commerce News.

Jefferson looking for 3-0 start Friday at Lumpkin Co.
When the Jefferson football squad travels to Dahlonega on Friday to face Lumpkin County, the Dragons will be running into a team that seems to be headed in the opposite direction. After pummeling their last two opponents by a combined 53-22, Jefferson will be playing an Indian squad that has been bitten by the injury bug, is lacking experience and is coming off an embarrassing 34-point loss.
But, that’s not to say the Dragons should take Lumpkin County lightly.
For evidence that the Indians are capable of pulling out a win Friday, the Dragons need only look back at the recent history between the two teams. Lumpkin County has won the last two meetings in the series, with last year’s win coming 17-7 at Memorial Stadium. The year prior the two squad’s played each other closely before a late field goal gave the Indians a 31-28 victory.
That said, Jefferson appears to be the stronger of the two squads so far this year. A balanced offense and a physical defense have enabled the Dragons to knock off their first two opponents this season, both of which were athletic, comfortably.
Much of that may be attributed to the work head coach Bill Navas and his staff have done at developing physical and mentally tough players over the past few seasons. Many on this year’s Dragon team appear focused and well prepared each time they step on the field.
Last week’s win over Warren County in the home opener was an example of how balanced Jefferson is on offense this season. After using the pass very effectively and opening up the offense somewhat in their opener, the Dragons went to the rushing game of their Wing-T offense against the Screaming Devils. Justin Mize had a big game from the fullback position and racked up 139 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Adam Rooks added 115 yards rushing and one score as well during a 365-yard night offensively for Jefferson.
Through the air, quarterback Wade Johnson has mixed in the pass effectively and kept and forced opposing defenses to remain honest.
Defensively the Dragons have been just as strong. Against White County, Jefferson kept the Warriors nearly scoreless for the entire game. Only a late touchdown prevented the shutout.
This past week, Warren County found it just as difficult to reach the end zone. The Screaming Devils were limited to just 83 yard rushing in the game and were tackled for a loss a remarkable 13 times.
Defensive lineman Kalan Mason continued to play well, taking part in eight tackles, including two for a loss. Linebacker Jim Myrick was the most active defensive player of the night. He took part in nine tackles, four of which were for a loss, and had two sacks.
It’s that type of balance on both sides of the ball that has Lumpkin County coach George Hoblitzell concerned.
“They’re a well balanced football team,” he said. “They’ve got a good running game and I’ve also been impressed with their quarterback, of course we remember him from last year. We’re going to have our hands full Friday night.”
Hoblitzell said his squad will have to rebound with confidence following last week’s demise against Buford. The top-raked Wolves reached the end zone on each of their first six possessions last week against Lumpkin County. That game may have damaged the Indians’ psyche, according to Hoblitzell.
“We’re young. We’re rebuilding this year,” he said. “Buford kind of took us to the woodshed last week so we’re really going to have to regroup and try and bounce back this week.”
Adding to Hoblitzell’s concerns is the uncertain status of standout running back Dorian Dorsey. The senior, who is one of just two returning starters on each side of the ball for the Indians this year, injured his knee in the first half of the Buford game. His status is listed as questionable for this week’s game.

Welcome back, Raiders
Two streaks collide
MCHS to end four-year streak of non-region games against school with state’s longest losing streak
Never one to pass up a good analogy, Madison County head coach Randell Owens has likened his team’s long-awaited return to region play Friday to an impending after-school brawl at the bus stop.
The team, he says, is anxious to get to the fight.
“Your English teacher is trying to get you to do one thing and all you’re thinking is, ‘I’ve got to get there,’” said Owens who’s team will square off against Jackson County Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at home.
The return to region play after four non-region seasons is hopefully the beginning of the road to proving that Madison County has a football program worthy of respect Owens said. For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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