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SPORTS SECTION

SPORTS SECTION - JULY 21, 1999

BCHS / CHS / JCCHS / JHS / MCHS

CPRD 11-12 Girls Win District Title
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Last year Commerce came close but then had to settle for second place. This year, there was little doubt that the Commerce Parks and Recreation Department 11-12-year-old softball team would be district champions.
Commerce breezed through undefeated to win and advance to the state tournament in Lumpkin County later this month.
"I don't know if it's the first we've ever had," the CPRD's Ricky Woodruff said. "We've had some basketball teams win district, but this is the first baseball or softball district champion since I've been here."
Commerce opens the state tournament Friday, July 30, at 4 p.m. Win or lose, the team will play again that night. The tournament will conclude the next day.
The girls went undefeated and mostly unchallenged. Commerce won the championship 15-11 over Dawson County for the closest score of the tournament.
The team had already topped the host team 9-4 in their second game.
"(Our girls) surprised us a little bit," coach Clarke Rainwater said. "Last year we got through the winner's bracket. Lumpkin County came through loser's bracket and totally annihilated us both times. This year we opened with Lumpkin."
But this year was different.
In the first round, the girls topped Lumpkin County 17-9. The girls also blasted Union County 18-9.
"We knew we had some good girls coming back from last season," Rainwater said. "We thought everyone else would, too. Those mountain teams are pretty big. They looked big playing. But our girls had a great tournament."
The 11-12 championship capped off a successful district season for the CPRD teams.
The 11-12 boys, the 13-14 girls and the 15-16 boys took third place finishes in their tourneys.
"We're lucky to have one age group finish in third place," Woodruff said. "But as far as sending five teams, and four of them getting trophies, that's super."



Pumping iron
Madison County football players building muscle for upcoming season
BY BEN MUNRO
If there is such a thing as the "lazy days of summer," the Madison County Red Raider football players know nothing of it.
Many players on the Raider squad are putting time that could be spent lying on the couch to good use, working in the Madison County weight room in an effort to get themselves physically prepared for the upcoming gridiron season in the fall.
And if being prepared is half the battle, then the Madison County coaches are making sure that their players are up for the challenges they will face in 8-AAA competition as the staff has set up a work out program for their players to enhance their physical strength.


BULKING UP
Trey Johnson does curls during a workout in the Madison County High School weight room Monday. Johnson and other Madison County football players have been hard at work this summer building muscle for the upcoming season.


"We want to maintain the strength that we got during the winter," said head football coach Tom Hybl, who will be entering his second season at the helm of the Madison County football program after a 2-8 campaign a year ago.
According to Hybl, players who are participating in the weight-conditioning program come to the weight-lifting facilities twice a week for a workout of "around an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half." The program encompasses the areas of strength, cardiovascular endurance and agility. The workout sessions are held every week from Monday to Thursday, beginning at 5 p.m.
"The workout includes weight-lifting, running and agility exercises," said Hybl, whose team will begin summer practice Aug. 2 and open its season Sept. 3 at home versus Commerce.
In the weight room, players do various free weight exercises, ranging from bench to squats to curls to build muscle mass.
"I change the weight work-out around, but it includes the normal weight room stuff - the usual free weight exercises," said Hybl.
Outside the weight room the players get in their cardiovascular work by jumping rope and running sprints while they improve their agility by running various rope drills.
In addition to this, Hybl also said that the team participates in throwing and catching drills during the month of July.



Miller joins Leopard staff
BY DREW BRANTLEY
(Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories about the people who coach Banks County's students.)

With the sun setting, new Banks County coach Matt Miller shouts encouragement to a group of Leopards running sprints at the end of a workout.
For Miller, helping kids reach their potential is the reason he became a coach.
Becoming a coach was one way Miller could give back what he learned as a student at Stephens County High School.
"I thought a lot of the football coaches and teachers," Miller said. "I learned about discipline and living right. They had a big impact on me. I wanted to go back and show kids what they can get through hard work and discipline."
Miller's own hard work paid off in the form of a football scholarship to Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. He played four years, seeing the school pass from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
The year before he arrived, Tusculum went 0-10 in its first year of football. His first year they were 4-6.
"I wanted to play college football," Miller said. "I made a plan and made it happen. After playing in college, I knew I wanted to be a coach. There's not a lot of money in it, but that's not what it's all about. Like working with these kids running, helping them believe they can be better than they thought they could."
Being a part of a college team working its way to new levels was good experience. Coaching at Southeast Whitfield High School was also a course in building a new tradition. Southeast Whitfield had gone winless in Region 7-AAA for the past several years before ending the streak last year with a win.
"I think I have a lot of experience rebuilding a team," Miller said. "Here at Banks County, the kids remember that the team was playing in the state playoffs. It shouldn't be that hard to get these guys to think about getting back to that level."
Miller will also be the wrestling coach next year. His first year at Southeast Whitfield, the team finished 14th in the Class AAA wrestling tournament, led by three-time state champion Justin Brown.
Growing up, athletics were a big part of his life.
"My dad played on the 1958 state championship team at Stephens County," Miller said. "He was a big reason why I got into sports.
"My mom and the whole family came to all my games in college. My parents were a big part of my being what I am today."



Ward joins staff at Clarke Central
Former Jackson County Comprehensive High School athletic director and head football coach Jon Ward has taken a job as an assistant football coach at Clarke Central High School.
Ward will coach receivers for the Gladiators, who play in Region 8-AAAA. He will also be an assistant coach for the Clarke Central baseball team.
Ward is a 1983 graduate of Jackson County High School, where he was a three-year letterman in football.
He was also a two-time winner of the Golden Helmet award. Ward was the most valuable player for the baseball team.
Ward earned a bachelor's of science in business education and a masters in education from the University of Georgia.
Ward is married to Holly M. Ward. They have twin sons, Matthew and Baylor, 4.
Ward is joined by his high school teammate and former Banks County coach Warren Standridge, who will also be an assistant football coach. Clarke Central opens its season Sept. 3 against rival Cedar Shoals.
Ward was replaced at Jackson County by Greg Lowe.



Jefferson city pool changes Aug. schedule
The Jefferson city pool will not be open on weekdays during the month of August.
The pool will be open on Saturdays 12-6 p.m. and Sundays 1-6 p.m. for the month. The cost is $3 per person. The pool will be available for parties at night from 7-9 p.m. at a cost of $75, which includes two lifeguards.



From The Sideline
Let the magic come to you
Drew Brantley
Magic rests in the dust and rocks that cover the youth softball and baseball fields in the height of summer.
That mix of fantasy, fortune and fun falls off every cleat that touches a base and creeps out in the tears of those who, after losing for the last time, pack up their bats, balls and dreams to return home for pool parties, summer jobs or whatever else youths can do during summer vacation.
For some, the magic ride lasts longer. A precious few finish the oddly short trip to a state title.
But all who play get a chance to test why the distance between a winning dugout and the one on the other side of the field cannot be measured in mere feet.
For these young people, they receive a taste of the bitter and the sweet that will await when their gloves become too small for their hands and their uniforms don't fit anymore.
But it is a magic that is not only for those who cannot drive themselves to the game.
Front row seats at Game 7 of the World Series would hold little value as an alternative for most of the parents who fill bleachers or their own folding chairs along the chain-link fences at summer tournament games.
Compared to the sight of their child trying to win a game that might be decided on the ugliest play ever conceived in diamond sports, a game between the two best baseball teams can wait.
Nearly a mile away from a youth all-star game, the shrieks of undeveloped vocal cords and tiny stomping feat carry well enough.
The reason for the cheering might be a grand slam home run that wins the championship, or it might just be that the right fielder dropped the pop fly to let another runner reach base safely.
For many of the players, the difference is not so much.
They began playing with tee ball, a throng of players chasing the ball around the field as if it were a prized Easter egg.
As they grow older, they learn which base to run to first, how to swing level, what to do when someone yells "cut-three" or why a finger to the nose after touching the cap would have meant bunt if the coach hadn't have touched his ear first.
As their understanding of the game increases, the stakes rise with them. Games mean more. Winning becomes more important.
The games become more of a way to define the players as people. And too soon they are grown and watching their own child win the chase to the tee ball without a clue of where their new prize should go.
It is just a game to the kids.
They want to do well. They want to win. But if they don't, a hot dog or a nap usually eases the pain.
It is a resilience that slips away somewhere in the climb to maturity. It is one piece of evidence that magic is still out there even if it is difficult to locate.
But the magic is out there. It is close to the ground out on the field. Don't look for it, because you can really see only its effects.
If it is not easily revealed to you, watch the kids.
They will find it without really looking. They will bring it to you. Just let the kids find the magic, be-cause they always do.
And they always will.

Drew Brantley is the sports editor for The Commerce News and The Banks County News. Email Drew Brantley


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