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SPORTS SECTION

SPORTS SECTION - AUGUST 18, 1999

BCHS / CHS / JCCHS / JHS / MCHS

Leopards have one week left
Preseason ends with jamboree next Friday
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Camp is over. The jamboree is a week away. The preseason is dwindling fast.
The Banks County High School football team returned to one practice session per day this week. Last Friday's picture day had concluded a camp week that saw the teams in three practices per day.
With school starting this Friday, the Leopards used the days leading to the return to the classroom to get used to the afternoon heat.
"We started practice at 4 p.m. this week to try and get them used to heat," coach Rance Gillespie said. "That's been the toughest thing this week."
The Leopards will hold an abbreviated practice this Friday night to that will be closer to game intensity.
"We'll do a lot of half-line work Friday," Gillespie said. "We may do some whole team work, but it's going to be real physical. We won't go for a long time.
"We've cut back on the contact a little bit to help them get their legs back under them going into the jamboree and the first week of the season."
Banks County will host Dawson County and Fannin County in a jamboree Aug. 27. The Leopards will open the regular season the following Friday against Jackson County.



Tigers Looking To Build On Recent Success
BY DREW BRANTLEY
The last few years of Commerce football have raised the bar to a high level.
With a 12-1 record in 1997 and a 10-2 mark in 1998, expectations abound for gridiron Tigers. Several preseason polls have Commerce predicted as one of the top teams in Class A.
But Tiger coach Steve Savage says high hopes follow the Commerce team every year.
"Everybody around here expects us to be good every year," Savage said. "How many games we'll win I can't say. I can tell anybody that our kids will play hard and give the folks a good show."
As ever-present as the August heat, several of the Commerce seniors have a burning desire to build on the Tigers' recent success.
"It puts a lot of expectations on us," senior Chad Scoggins said. "If we keep working hard, I think we can win as many as we did last year if not more. The pressure to live up to that is definitely there."
Commerce hasn't lost more than three games in a year in five seasons. This year's seniors don't want to slow down the run.
"I think it pushes us to be better," senior Russ Brown said. "It's a lot to live up to. I think they've only had one losing season since I've been at Commerce. We haven't won fewer than 10 games in a season since I started playing. It's a lot to live up to."
Recent success doesn't have the Tigers shooting for low goals.
It's my senior year and I want to win the state championship," Brown said. "I took it personally when we lost to Rabun County last year. I'm looking forward to playing them. And of course Jefferson."
"I think every team's goal is get to the playoffs," Scoggins said. "Nobody wants to put a limit on what we can do. But as far as a team goal, I want us get into the playoffs."
A winning team this year will not rest solely on the seniors, however. Getting contributions from all the players will be necessary for team success.
"We're going to have to have some younger players step us," senior Daniel Carder said. "Some of the older players are going to have to go both ways. We'll have to take it one game at a time. I want us to get in and go as far as we can."
With the regular season still more than two weeks away, this year's seniors are still looking forward to their last chance at Tiger football.
"I'm looking forward to our first home game, coming down the hill," Scoggins said. "It's my last run, and I want it to be a good one."
SCHOOL STARTS
Commerce will start school this Friday. After going through a transition from two-a-days to practice this week, getting into the regular season schedule will require another adjustment, Savage said.
"We'll start school, and that will be another routine for them to get into," Savage said. "I think they'll be ready to hit somebody else by next Friday."
This Friday, the team will hold an abbreviated practice. Family members and fans will be able to get a close up view of drills.
"We'll let anybody that wants to get close to the huddle when we're calling place," Savage said. "It will give them a chance to get close to the action."
Commerce will host Stephens County and Morgan County in a jamboree next Friday night, starting at 7 p.m. The regular season starts Sept. 3 at Madison County.


Looking for the 'sweet taste of revenge'
Lady Dragons set for comeback
BY ADAM FOUCHE

At the end of last year's season, the Jefferson Lady Dragon softball team was tied for first in the region and ready to head to the playoffs. However, a last-minute ruling by the Georgia High School Association declared a Jefferson player ineligible, knocking them completely out of playoff contention.
But this year's team isn't going to let last year's ending get to them.
"My girls have the attitude this year that they have something to prove," said Dragon head coach DeMaris Gurley. "They feel that they had something taken away from them last year and no one will stand in their way of gaining it back."
And the Lady Dragons' thirst to make this year's season better than last could very easily be quenched.
Jefferson lost only three starters to graduation, two infield and one outfield. And Gurley said they do have replacements for the lost players.
"You could look and say 'Yeah, we lost three seniors,'" she said. "But the replacements we have are just as strong."
Unlike most years, this year's team looks to be fairly balanced on both sides of the ball. Jefferson should have a solid defensive and offensive team.
"This is the quickest team defensivley I've had in four or five years," Gurley said. "There are some strong arms in the infield. We will also have power hitting coming from our ninth graders and solid base hitters the rest of the way around."
Though the Lady Dragons may be young and without much infield depth, summer camps have led to improvements in team hitting. At a camp in Tifton, the Jefferson players refined their ability to place the ball in the outfield.
"We improved a good bit over the summer," said Gurley. "I think we have a better team that has learned to place the ball better."
Heading up the Lady Dragons' infield will be senior second base starter Misty Lance. Junior Brooklyn Marlowe will start at third, sophomore Lee DuBose will be in at shortstop and freshman Annie Goza will man first base. Junior Emily Jackson will catch for Lady Dragon pitcher Melinda Floyd.
In the outfield, senior Shanda McClure returns to the right-center postion. Junior Lara Bridges will be in left-center, and Staci Childress will play left field. Right field will be manned by junior Marissa Cook and Michelle Boring, a ninth grader, will serve as the extra hitter.
Gurley said she expects Commerce, Banks County, Buford and Jefferson to finish the season as the top four region teams. She also foresees Dawson County as being the region sleeper, depending on the size of last year's graduated class.
"I see the south as being stronger than north in our region," Gurley said. "I think you will see several teams from the south representing our region."
Jefferson will begin their season hosting a booster club tournament this weekend. The Lady Dragons' next regular game will be next Tuesday at Buford.


Pinion named Jefferson athletic director
BY ADAM FOUCHE
With the school year just getting under way, Jefferson coaches will now have a new man playing for them.
Eighteen-year Jefferson coaching and teaching veteran James Pinion was named the system's athletic director by the Jefferson Board of Education last Thursday. Pinion takes over for Jefferson High School principal Pat Blenke, whose time was being spread thin between his jobs as principal and athletic director.
"The demands on are a high school principal are significant," said Jefferson school superintendent John Jackson. "I was worried about the amount of time Blenke was having to take up on extracurricular activities."
Only 10 other schools in Georgia had their principal as atheletic director. Most of those have either multiple assistant principals or a very small athletic program.
"We felt we should give Blenke every opportunity to serve as Jefferson High School's instructional leader," said Jackson.
Pinion began his teaching career in 1973 at Monroe Area before going to Charlton County five years later. In 1981, he came to Jefferson, where he has since remained.
While at Jefferson, Pinion has coached all levels of football and has headed a Baby Dragon basketball team. Currently, he coaches the track program at Jefferson and is a math teacher at JHS. He has also organized the Georgia Olympics, held at Memorial Stadium, for the past few years.
"With his (Pinion's) experience organizing the Georgia Olympics for the past few years, he had established himself as being able to handle significant administrative duties," Jackson said.
"It was a big honor that I was considered for this job," said Pinion. "It will be a challenge. There is a lot of organizing and paperwork to do, but I am excited."
Pinion said he doesn't have any new issues or policies to promote right now, but that could change in the future.
"I have nothing new to push right now unless something just comes up," he said. "Mostly, I want to be here to help all the coaches out."


MCHS pounds Cedar Shoals in season opener
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Game one usually means a show of rusty bats and errant throws, of things not quite in sync.
But the Madison County Raider softball team looked like a well-oiled machine Monday in its season opener, the squad drilling Cedar Shoals 10-0 in a shortened, six-inning contest.
The Raiders, 22-8 last year, scored one in the first inning Monday, two in the third and fifth, and five in the sixth to post their first win of the year. The game ended in the sixth, thanks to the 10-run mercy rule.
Tawana Moon and Renee Mathews both had hot bats for Madison County, each pounding out three hits. Moon had four RBIs, while Mathews knocked in one. Valerie Norman added a double and Diana Minish, Jana Ackerman and Lindsey Weaver each had a single.
Sheena Mason allowed just one walk, fanning six batters, while going the distance.
NEXT
The Raiders will host the Madison County Leadoff Classic Aug. 19-21 at the recreation department on Hwy. 98, hitting the field Thursday at 4 p.m. verus Habersham Central. The Raiders will then face Elbert County at 8:15 p.m. that same day, before matching up with Morgan County at 6:15 p.m. Friday. The eight-team tournament will conclude with the top four teams battling it out in a gold medal bracket and the lower four teams in a silver medal bracket Saturday. Play begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with the last game slated for 6:15 p.m.
The Raiders will then host Central Gwinnett at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the high school before traveling to Morgan County next Friday and Saturday for a two-day tournament.


From The Sideline
Turning Up The Heat Not A Problem
I don't think it was as hot when I played high school football as it has been this month. I suppose that I spend more time in air-conditioning now than I did then. I also know that I will not get a chance to play in any games ever again. I think that realization kept me interested in practicing when I played in high school. Something is surely keeping this year's crowd in the groove.
Students who are practicing for "fall" sports right now are sacrificing and enduring the heat. Anyone who is spending time outside without pay or the prospect of compensation is definitely showing their dedication. I have seen the teams practicing in the heat this year. In my opinion, there is much for the faithful to be proud of already. I do not know of people who enjoy exercise to the point of exhaustion in the heat of August.
But the rewards of that sacricfice will be seen on afternoons and evenings later on this year when the sun is bit more forgiving.
However, when the game or the season is on the line, these days will tell who will win those far-off games. In the fourth quarter of a playoff game in November, or the fourth tournament game of some day in October, a player may wish to have one more days-worth of practice and conditioning. But it will be too late.
Talent is largely defined well before practice begins. Minor adjustments in ability can be honed in preseason practice in 90-plus heat and 70-plus humidity.
But the biggest lessons learned this time of year are about integrity and discipline. These players are taking part in extracurricular activities for their own benefit. Coaches are teaching them strategies and techniques for the coming seasons. But the players are also learning little tidbits about themselves.
Anyone can come out for a day or two and retreat to the comfort of a cold drink, AC and TV. The ones that persevere will get the rewards.
Everyone is eager to have the regular seasons get started. I know I am. But I have been impressed with the way athletes in the area have been enduring incredibly hot conditions to play their sports.
It is more difficult to concentrate when it is hot. It is easy to get agitated and frustrated. But the coaches I have seen are taking every precaution to give the players breaks and plenty of water during practice.
Even so, I don't know if I could take it. Like many adults, I would love to have the chance to play high school sports again. But I don't know if I have the dedication to suffer.
As the seasons start in the coming weeks, I hope everyone appreciated the hard time it took to get ready.

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