Area Sports...

NOVEMBER 17, 2004

LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

BANKS COUNTY LEOPARDS
(1-8)

8/20 Ogle Co. W 30-27
9/3 Wesleyan L 0-42
9/10 Commerce L 13-40
9/17 GAC L 0-30
9/24 Rabun Co. L 0-17
10/1 Union Co. L 13-33
10/8 Lumpkin Co. L 3-39
10/15 Buford L 0-45
10/22 East Hall L 0-35
10/29 Dawson Co. 7:30

COMMERCE
TIGERS
(6-4)

8/21 Trion W 36-27
8/27 @Frank Co L 21-28
9/3 Morgan Co L 27-41
9/10 @Banks Co W 40-13
9/17 Lincoln Co L 13-18
10/2 @N Oconee W 35-21
10/8 Social Circle W27-13
10/15 @JeffersonW34-31
10/22 Towns Co W 35-14
10/29 @Athens Acad L

JACKSON COUNTY PANTHERS
(2-7)

8/21 @ Cedar Shoals L 0-21
8/27 Winder-Barr L 14-21
9/3 @ Madison Co L 0-21
9/10 Hab. Central L 14-20
9/17 @ Eastside W 21-14
9/24 Rockdale Co. W 15-12
10/1 Loganville L 7-14
10/15 @ Heritage L 7-0
10/22 @ Salem L 0-48
10/29 Clarke Central 7:30

JEFFERSON
DRAGONS
(6-2)

8/20 @ White Co. W 23-8
8/27 Warren Co. W 30-14
9/3 @ Lumpkin Co. W 28-0
9/10 Whitfield W 23-0
9/17 @ Oglet Co W 30-0
10/1 Athens Acad L 19-20
10/8 @ Towns Co. W 42-8
10/15 Commerce L 31-34
10/22 @ N Oconee W 55-0
10/29 Social Circle 7:30

MADISON COUNTY RED RAIDERS
(6-3)

8/20 @Frank Co W15-7
9/3 Jackson Co W 21-0
9/10 Eastside W 24-14
9/17 @Heritage L 0-23
9/24 @Lgnvile W 29-12
10/1 Clrke Cent W 8-7
10/8 @Hab. Cent L 7-14
10/15 Salem L 36-7
10/22 Rokdle Co.W 23-20
10/29 @Cedar Shoals 7:30

Leopards looking to fill the void left by ‘04 seniors
The Banks County Leopards are looking for key players to step into leadership roles.
A look back
The varsity Leopard basketball team finished the 2003-2004 season as 8-AA north sub-region champs. They finished the season 15-10, 7-1 in the sub-region. All but four members of that varsity squad graduated last May. Ruth said he enjoyed coaching last year’s team.
“It was probably as good a group of kids as I’ve had here,” he said. “They had played ball together since the rec league. We were like one big family.”
Ruth said the team’s best performance in 2003-2004 happened in Blairsville.
“We beat Union County at Union County and that was their first sub-region loss - that was the first time they lost in their new gym so that was big,” he said. “Those kids were heartbroken when we beat them.”
The Leopard’s season ended last year in Dawsonville at the region tournament when the team fell to Greater Atlanta Christian, 59-47.
“That was the worst game we played all year,” he said. “We shot a miserable 18 percent from the paint. In the first quarter we were 0-11 from the paint, we should have been up 18-1, if we had been up they wouldn’t have been able to catch up and we would have played in the state tournament.”
The Coaching Staff
Head coach Mike Ruth is returning for his 12th season at BCHS. Assistant coach John Bertrang is also returning to the staff. Banks County high School graduate Shawn Smith is returning this season as a coach.
“Along with Coach B, we’re glad to have Smith back at his Alma Matar,” Ruth said about the new coach.
Smith played on the 1995 Leopard squad that went farther in the post-season than any other team. They almost made it to the state tournament.
“If he hadn’t fouled out of the ball game we probably would have played in the state tournament, it still makes me sick when I think about it,” Ruth said.
The team
After graduating most of the 2003-2004 squad, the Leopards have no returning starters for the 2004-2005 team. However, Jazz Hulsey, Tony Bedford and Josh Miller did see some playing time on the varsity squad last season.
“This is a building year,” Ruth said about the team. “So we lost nine seniors, the question is can we come back in here and fill the void those nine players left.”
Ruth said he challenged the team to play a .500 season.
“As long as they put everything they have on that court I don’t care if we win a game,” he said.
Proposed positions for the squad are: Bedford, point guard; Hulsey, wing; Chancey Dorsey, wing; Miller, post; Mitch Cagle, outside; Chris Carter, guard; John Payne, post; Rob Allen, wing.
Ruth said the team is planning to execute a four-out offense.
Ruth said he expects this year’s team to match-up well with other team’s in the region defensively.
“I think our team defense will be our strength,” he said.
Ruth said perimeter shooting may be an offensive weakness for this team.
“We have no consistent outside shooting - there is potential, but no consistency.”
He said he is looking for perimeter shooting from Bedford and Hulsey and said they have improved in the off-season.
“We all went to camp together this summer, we all improved as a team,” Ruth said.
A strength Ruth attributes to this particular team that may not show up in points or wins is character.
“I think our kids will show a lot of character, they have a big challenge and big shoes to fill,” he said. “Already in practice we are stepping up. We are working on basketball, but really we are working on what kind of person we are going to be.”
The team is made up of two seniors and nine juniors. Ruth said he plans to start Bedford at point, Cagle at guard, Hulsey and Dorsey at post and Miller at center. Players on the team average in height around 6’2 with Miller towering over at 6’5.
“We’re going to be a young and inexperienced, but our kids have a lot of heart and a lot of enthusiasm and the ability is there,” he said. “We have the ability to play hard in every ball game.
What’s ahead
The Leopards will begin their season on Saturday, November 20, at the Jefferson tip-off tournament held at Jefferson High School. The game is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m.
After one day of tourney play in Jefferson, the team will travel to Hiawassee to play in the Towns County tip-off tournament for a couple of a days. Then, they will return to Jefferson for two more days of tournament action.
Region action opens at home with a game against the Buford Wolves on Tuesday, November 30. Followed by another game against a south region 8-AA team, Greater Atlanta Christian, on Friday, December 3. Sub-region play doesn’t begin until after Christmas and the Battle of the States tournament held each year in Hiawassee.
Banks County will host all four north sub-region teams before taking it on the road. They start with Dawson County on January 4. The final game of the regular season is scheduled for February 4 against newly added East Hall.
In the region
East Hall won the state title in 2003 as a AAA team, now playing a AA schedule the Vikings should be able to compete with other tough south sub-region teams like Wesleyan, Buford and GAC.
The Wesleyan Wolves were one of the final eight teams in last year’s state tournament. GAC made it to the sweet 16.
Ruth said the south side of the region is difficult to compete with.
“It’s just hard to compete with those private schools,” he said. “Providence is probably the weakest of the south side and they beat us last year.”
Ruth said Union and Dawson are the stiffest competitors in the north.
“Union County is loaded and Dawson County has their two best players back, they have one kid who averages 27 points a game,” he said. “The way I see it shaping up, East Hall, Buford and Wesleyan will play for the state title. Union, Dawson and GAC will fight for the number four spot.”
JV ACTION
The junior varsity team will play its first game on December 3 against GAC in Norcross. Boys junior varsity games begin after the girls, which start at 4 p.m. on Friday’s and 3 p.m. during the week. The junior varsity team will play the same schedule as the varsity team with the exception of the tournaments.
Boys playing on the junior varsity team are: Trent Gragg, Chaz Elrod, Bobby Mullins, Michael Baker, T.J. Hulsey, Gerald Parker, Osman Corona, Chris Erwin, Dexter Ledford, Kennon Bonds and Matthew Waters.
John Bertrang is the boys’ junior varsity coach. Shawn Smith will coach the ninth grade team.


Solid guard play will be crucial to success in ‘04-05
Jackson Co. to use balance to make up for loss of dynamic trio
Coaching can be a tough profession to remain calm in sometimes, especially when dealing with youth and inexperience. But, if things continue to go the way they have in the preseason and summer for the Jackson County girls’ basketball team, then head coach Chad Pittman may be able to relax more than he thought he would this season.
The 2004-05 Lady Panthers have one clear challenge ahead of them: find a way to replace a trio of players that led the team in nearly every way possible last season. Graduation left this year’s squad without last year’s leading scorer Nikki Sosebee (16 points per game, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), top post player Tosha Ransom (13 ppg, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) and leading rebounder Cece Hill (9 ppg, 10 rebounds) from last year. All of which means Pittman has spent the offseason trying to develop younger players to step into those roles.
And so far that development has been better than he originally thought it would be.
Expected to lead the Lady Panthers this season are returning guards with plenty of speed, athleticism and experience. Tynishia Berry, Jaimeca Cooper and Brooke Hughes are all capable of scoring and running, Pittman said. The question is will those around them be able to be productive.
Last year’s reserves Jessica Schwartz and Kayla McNeal will be counted on for leadership (both are seniors) and Pittman has seen them help with cohesiveness so far over the summer and in the preseason he said.
“With Ty and Jaimeca we want to try and push the ball,” Pittman said of Berry and Cooper respectively. “They can get out and go but we’re also going to have to adapt and play different ways.”
That, he said, means the low-post presence will be key.
Because of that relative inexperience in the paint Pittman has been focusing on everyone doing their part and developing more unity this season. He said replacing last year’s dynamic trio will only be possible if the squad understands that one person cannot make up for what was lost to graduation. Instead it will take a collective effort.
“I think we really understand the meaning of team this season,” Pittman said. “If there was a theme to our preseason is was that everybody can hustle, play defense and rebound.”
One player he will likely count on to step up this year is Emma Turner. Although she is only a freshman, the 6-foot-1 post player has lots of potential and could be an impact player for the Lady Panthers, he said.
“She does a lot of good things and she’s very coachable,” Pittman said of Turner.
Other young players will also be thrown into the mix at times, he said, including the team’s seven underclassmen. With only five or six players ever having played at the varsity level, and even fewer in a starting role, Pittman knows this season could be one filled with growing pains. But, then again, the fact that a host of teams in Jackson County’s region will also be re configuring their lineups helps.
“Last year we had to depend on Nikki and Tosha so much, but the girls need to understand that they can’t make up for them without playing well as a team,” Pittman said. “We played 45 games this summer and we made so many strides from about June 5 until June 30. It’s like the old saying goes, involvement breeds commitment.”
That involvement looks like it will be the key for the Lady Panthers this season.


Devils Strike Late
Lincoln Co. Puts 21 On CHS In Fourth Quarter In Playoff Win
Commerce’s postseason hopes got lost somewhere in the fourth quarter fog that rolled into Lincolnton this past Friday night.
Behind three final-quarter touchdowns — two of those coming from Gavin Williams in the final 6:10 — Lincoln County overcame a 7-6 halftime deficit with a late surge to run away with a 35-14 win over Commerce in the second round of the Class A playoffs.
The Red Devils, who scored on four straight possessions in the second half of this past Friday night’s ball game, have now won three in a row against the Tigers.
Commerce trailed just 14-7 after three quarters but Lincoln County’s Cordryll Coppins scored on the first play of the fourth and, following a surprise 50-yard touchdown run from James Rucker, Williams iced the game with scores from 17 and 34 yards out.
“It was a game right up until about seven minutes to go,” Commerce head coach Steve Savage said.
With Caleb Jordan out due to a broken collar bone, freshman Reuben Haynes and senior wideout Hank Tiller alternated snaps at quarterback during the evening and the strategy was effective early. The Tigers led 7-0 after a quarter and 7-6 at the half, thanks to a 35-yard score by Rucker on Commerce’s first possession.
But Lincoln County overtook Commerce in the third quarter with an athletic touchdown grab by Stephen Brown on a fourth down and a two-point conversion and would never relinquish the lead.
The crushing blow, perhaps, was dealt on Lincoln County’s subsequent drive.
Deep in Tiger territory, Darrell Norman was controversially ruled down a fumble near the goal line and Coppins scored one play later.
Instead of possibly having the ball to start the quarter down seven with a turnover, Commerce trailed 21-7.
Still, the Tigers were able to fight their way back with the unlikiest of plays.


Quest for third straight region title season starts Sat.
For the Jefferson boys’ basketball squad it may be hard to follow what was arguably the best team in school history, but they’ll sure try this season.
At 24-5 last year the Dragons not only tied for the best record in school history, they also won their second straight region title and a school record 17 games in a row at one point.
Despite being upset in the first round of the state tournament by a talented W.D. Mohammed team, the Dragons were undoubtedly among the best squad’s in Class A. With a ranking as high as fourth and a leader, Jarvis Hunter, that earned all state honors Jefferson certainly had a year to remember in 2003.But now it’s time to rebuild.
On second thought, perhaps reload is more appropriate.
This season Jefferson looses a ton of talent from that record-setting squad. Hunter (23 points, 10 rebounds), point guard Tierre Shields (12 ppg, 8 assists), top defender Chris Wilcox, forward Montray Riley, and utility man Daniel Balthazor have all graduated after helping the Dragons win three region titles in four seasons.
In their place will be a host of talent, some of which is proven, that 29th-year head coach Bolling DuBose thinks has plenty of potential.
“We graduated a lot of guys, but we’ve got five guys back that have played significant minutes, they might not have started but they’ve played a lot at the varsity level.”
While second leading scorer from last season Duran Rakestraw (14 ppg) will return at the shooting guard, around him will be a completely different starting team, but one that is fully capable of putting together another solid season, DuBose said.
Expected to be the biggest impact player for the Dragons this year is sophomore Jarail Rakestraw, whom DuBose thinks has the potential to replace last year’s leading assist man, Shields.
“He’s just got unlimited potential,” DuBose said of J. Rakestraw. “I’ve been here 29 years and he could be as good as we’ve had at the point guard position once he’s done here.”
Along with the Rakestraw brother guard tandem, DuBose expects to insert Keonte Keith at small forward. Keith averaged better than nine points a game off the bench last year and showed flashes of brilliance, DuBose said.
Other starters expected are Chris Davis, a senior power forward, and Adam Laird, also a senior, at the center position.
Other than those five however, experience at the varsity level is tough to come by.
“After that I think I think we’ve got some talent, they’ve just not had any experience at the varsity level,” DuBose said.
Hoping to deal with that relative inexperience off the bench, DuBose hopes to insert a handful of players into games this season, especially at this weekend’s Tabo’s Tip-off Tournament which begins Saturday.
“They’ll have to play right away because we’ve got to develop some depth,” he said.
Included in that second lineup are back-up point guard Brannan Wilburn, shooting guard William Martin, small forward Jordan Watson, power forward Alex Simmons, and center Brandon Mosley. All those players, except for sophomores Wilburn and Mosley, are juniors. Seniors Randy Studivant and Brandon Rakestraw will also figure into the mix.
As is usually the case with the DuBose-coached teams, pushing the tempo will be a trademark of Jefferson this season. But, he said, learning to play solid, physical defense will be something that his squad needs to learn how to do. Another important key to the season will be finding a go-to player at the end of games, much like Hunter was last season.
DuBose said that either D. Rakestraw, J. Rakestraw or Keith have the potential to replace Hunter as the team’s offensive catalyst.
“I’m excited about this season,” DuBose said. “The great thing about young teams is that they don’t tend to get complacent, which I think last year’s team did a little bit...thinking they were better than they were.”
The tournament host Dragons open up the Tip-Off on Saturday night against Banks County beginning at 8:30 p.m.


An encore?
The Raiders look to reproduce last year’s success with a host of new faces
Last year’s Raider basketball team did some heavy lifting raising the bar for the boys’ program.
Now, it’s up to this year’s team to keep it up there.
After an aggregate 36-112 record the previous six seasons, Madison County won 16 games last year and came a win away in the region tournament from advancing on to state.
Crouse hopes that success will drive this years’ team to maintain the programs’ newly-found winning ways.
“Wow, if we’re not thinking ‘hey, we can improve on that’ this year then that’s our fault.”
Crouse is, in fact, thinking as grand as he did last year. The goal then was to go to state. Nothing is changing now.
“I think it’s a tangible goal that we ought to be thinking that we’ll go to the state tournament.”
That said, the fifth-year head coach is also realistic about what the team will have to overcome to do that. Crouse doesn’t want to use the words
“rebuilding year” but says there’s no way around the fact that there will be a host of new faces trying to win games this winter.
“There are so many guys who haven’t played together much,” he said. “That’s new territory for us.”
For starters, the team loses four starters from last season. For the rest of the story see this week's Madison County Journal.

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