|MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
|SPORTS SECTION - SEPTEMBER 1, 1999|
|1999 Local Football Schedules|
Ready For Another Run
Jackson County Boasts Two Of State's Best Runners In Williams, Sims
BY DREW BRANTLEY
It's hard to believe that two running backs who gained more than 4,000 total yards between them last year would have anything to prove this season.
But being different from most other football players is commonplace for Com-merce's Monté Williams and Jefferson's Stephen Sims.
Williams must prove that the broken leg he suffered in the Tigers' first-round playoff game won't keep him from darting and dancing through Region 8-A this year.
Though he physically dwarfs Williams, Sims has had to live in the shadow of the seemingly tackle-proof Tiger.
Williams stands at 5-8 and 165 pounds, while Sims is 6-1 and approaching 200 pounds. And he also plays linebacker, getting a chance to deliver a devastating crunch on both sides of the ball.
"I like both, but I guess I really like defense better," Sims said. "They get me on offense. But on defense, I get to go after them."
Sims gained 1,712 yards for 22 touchdowns in 11 games. His rushing yards ranked 12th in the state. His scoring was the ninth-best total.
Jefferson coach Bob Gurley said his team depends heavily on the senior on both sides of the ball.
"He's an important part of our offense," Gurley said. "We're certainly not up to full tilt when he's not in there. The most important thing about him is that he plays hard and never says a word. He just does what you tell him. He leads by example."
Williams, Class A player of the year, gained 2,168 yards rushing and led the state with 34 touchdowns.
On the backs of those yards, Commerce and Jeffer-son each continued their seasons in the playoffs. All of the accolades aren't worth missing that chance again, Sims said.
"I'm not going for the yards," Sims said. "I'm definitely trying to help get us to the playoffs. Just like every other season, my goal is to get the playoffs."
Williams, who stands 1,645 yards away from the Commerce career rushing record, says any glory passed his way is misdirected.
"I really don't think about what people think," Williams said. "I come out because I love the game. If I don't give it my best, I feel like I'm letting our players down.
"All I'm doing is running. The offensive line has the hardest job. The open up the holes, and I run through them."
TIGERS VS. RAIDERS
Red Raiders To Test Tigers
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Last year, Commerce faced a new coach in the first game against Madison County without much warning of what to expect. The Tigers got a 31-22 slugfest.
While Commerce has a better idea of how to the Red Raiders line up, the Tiger coach Steve Savage still expects a physical game.
"They lined up and whipped us pretty good up front last year," Savage said. "They've got a good hard-nosed back. It will be a supreme test to whether we can stop them again. They will be a load for us to handle."
The teams will get together for the 42nd time Friday night in Danielsville. Commerce holds the all-time edge at 30-11-0, as well as victories in the previous four meetings. The long-standing rivalry makes for an exciting atmosphere, Savage said.
"There will be people at this game that you won't see all year afterwards," Savage said. "We live close to each other. Lots of these folks work together. It should be an exciting night."
Commerce finished off its preason by hosting a jamboree with Stephens County and Morgan County Friday night. Several players had success.
Senior Daniel Carder and junior Michael Collins had success throwing the ball to each other. The pair also had big nights rushing.
"I thought they both did a good job," Savage said. "Both of them ran the offense pretty good."
Carder ran six times for 48 yards. He also completed four of six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown toss, all to Collins.
Collins connected with Carder for two passes totaling 40 yards. He also hit Monté Williams for one pass of five yards. Collins added 94 yards rushing on three carries.
Williams ran three times against Stephens County for 49 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown scamper.
Junior Twion Shealer had eight carries for 44 yards on the night.
"I felt all right about Friday night," Savage said. "We made some good plays. We made some poor plays. It was good to play somebody else. Hopefully, that will do us a world of good.
"We found out what we need to work on and concentrate more on. We played everybody. I thought we played pretty hard for the most part."
Commerce will face Madison County in Danielsville at 8 p.m.
Raiders look to gain some more in 1999
BY ZACH MITCHAM
The shirtless guys may have had RAIDERS painted on their chests at last year's season opener, but any student of football could have read the subtext, could have seen that Madison County fans and players had another seven-letter word on their minds - RESPECT.
And while last year's 2-8 Madison County squad may not have turned heads with their overall record, the team, when pumped up, could surprise a lot of people, could earn the respect of their foes.
Now, the Raiders are looking to turn it up a notch in their second year under coach Tom Hybl.
The numbers are down again - only 35 players will hit the field Friday for the Raiders, - but hopes are high.
Just talk to senior Paul Collins.
Asked what would make his last year on the high school gridiron a success, Collins paused for a moment before answering - the postseason.
"I'd love to be able to make the postseason," said Collins, a lineman turned ball carrier last year due to a depleted backfield. "Last year we did a good job running the ball. We just need to be able to stop (opponents) from scoring. We've got a good offense and we can move the ball."
There were no postseason shoulder rides in 1998, but the Raiders, coming off an 0-10 season, took a step in the right direction, downing Jackson County and North Hall and giving teams such as Commerce, North Gwinnett and Habersham Central a scare.
Hybl knows his club has a tough road ahead, noting his squad's difficult schedule, including Friday's showdown with Commerce, Class A's top-ranked team; an Oct. 29 matchup with Oconee County, Class AAA's second-ranked team; and the season-finale against Dacula, ranked tenth in Class AAA.
"We have to be improved to show respectability," said Hybl. "We want to be competitive. That's the number one thing."
Hybl said he "can't tell now" whether this year's team is better than last year's, but he said his squad has "been putting in their time," practicing "respectably even though the weather has been brutal."
He urged Madison County fans to show up in force in Danielsville Friday at 8 p.m. as his squad opens the season against Commerce.
"We need a big-time home crowd," said Hybl. "We need all the help we can get. We were lucky enough to be competitive with them (Commerce) last year and we need a big crowd again."
Those who do show up will see an assortment of old and new faces on the field.
Leopards face Panthers in opener
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Both the Jackson County Panthers and Banks County Leopards will be looking to improve on last year's combined 1-19 season when they square off Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Homer.
Banks County's football team won its jamboree game over Dawson County, but that doesn't automatically mean success will come. Leopard coach Rance Gillespie wants to see his team come back with positive intensity in each game of the regular season.
"We've got to get ready every week," Gillespie said. "You can't get too excited about the things you did well. We have to keep getting better. But we can't forget the things that have brought us this far."
A year ago, Banks County started off the season with a victory over Union County in a jamboree at Rabun County. The team followed with a 30-0 loss to Jackson County in the first regular season game. The Leopards committed 12 turnovers in the game.
The Panthers have a new coach, who brought a new staff and a new system. All of that has made Banks County's preparation for the first game a chore, Gillespie said.
"They run the wing-T," Gillespie said. "They execute it very well. They have all kinds of misdirection. It takes some time to recognize what they're doing. We showed (our players) a little of that over the summer."
When the Leopards have the ball, they will rely on a deceptive option attack of their own. Using Jackson County's size advantage on the defensive front will be key for the Leopards.
"The option will be important for us," Gillespie said. "When you run the option, you're able to double-team people at the point of attack. Every time you run the option, you're leaving two guys that don't have to be blocked. I don't think we're as good as Air Force, but they have been able to be successful with an option attack against larger opponents. If you run it right, you can neutralize size effectively."
Running the ball will be a large part of the Leopard attack, but it will not be the only weapon in the arsenal.
"We're going to play option football," Gillespie said. "We're going to throw the football some, too. Our system is designed to deal with what the other team gives us. There are some things other teams can do to take away the option. There are some things they can do to take away the pass. But it is difficult to take away both of them at the same time."
Coming out of the jamboree, Gillespie was pleased with the way his players combined awarneness with aggressiveness.
"I was real pleased with the way our offensive line came off the football," Gillespie said. "Our wideouts blocked and played through the whistle all night long. I was enthused about that as much as anything all night. It's easy for them to play hard when they have a chance to catch the ball."
One key play in the jamboree gave the Leopard coach a glimpse at the determination his team had.
Dawson County had driven the ball deep into Banks County territory to a first-and-goal chance. The Leopards kept out the Tigers and their standout running back Neal Cain.
A mishandled snap on a field goal attempt was covered by Banks County to keep Dawson County scoreless.
"That represented something that I fatally believe in," Gillespie said. "They have something invested with the hard work they put in during the summer. And because they had something invested, they made a stand and fought for it. It would have been easy for them to have said, 'Wow, this is going to be hard, I don't know if we can do it.' But they held them. That was as big as anything that happened all night."
Friday's game will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Homer.
Dragons Begin Quest for Playoffs Again
By Tim Thomas
Jefferson will host Glascock County at 8:00 p.m., as the Dragons begin a quest for a repeat playoff appearance.
Last week, Jefferson and Jackson County met with Loganville's Red Devils in a jamboree at Bryant-Keen Stadium.
Jefferson coach Bob Gurley was pleased with his team's effort in the jamboree. "We did exactly what we wanted to do. There were some things we didn't do as well as I would have liked, but we achieved what we wanted to achieve."
The team seemed to struggle, particularly on offense. "Our goal was getting everyone in and seeing what they could do. We changed squads every three minutes, so [the players] didn't stay in long enough to get into the rhythm of the game."
Another factor affecting the Dragon offense was the absence of running back Steven Sims from the game. Sims was in in-school suspension Friday, making him ineligible to play in the jamboree. Sources close to the situation blamed the suspension on poor communication.
After much consideration, the coaches picked Sophomore Kyle Potts to be the starting quarterback for the Dragons. Potts had been locked in a tight battle with Corey Hill and Wes Massey for the spot.
"I've never been anywhere with a quarterback battle as close as this one," said Gurley. "I told the guys that they couldn't all start at quarterback, but they are all good enough athletes that they will start somewhere."
Massey will line up at split end, while Hill will step in at linebacker.
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