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SPORTS SECTION

SPORTS SECTION - SEPTEMBER 15, 1999

1999 Local Football Schedules

TIGERS VS. DRAGONS

BY DREW BRANTLEY and ADAM FOUCHE
Coming off of two straight victories to open up the season, both the Commerce Tigers and the Jefferson Dragons hope to stay undefeated after this week.
But standing in each team's way will be their cross-country rival. Both come into Friday night's game with a 2-0 record and the game will open up region play for both teams.
"Everybody keeps saying that Commerce isn't as good as they have been," said Jefferson head coach Bob Gurley. "It looks to me they are just as good, if not better."
Gurley said that Commerce's experienced defensive line will be hard to overcome. He also points to the Tigers' multi-talented offense causing trouble for the Dragons.
"If you keep on (Michael) Collins, they'll run Monte (Williams) and (Twion) Shealer, or (quarterback) Daniel Carder will just keep the ball," he said. "Their offensive line has a lot of seniors and they come off the ball quick."
Williams has yet to look overly impressive for the Tigers this year, rushing for 227 yards with no touchdowns on the ground. But it may be the Carder and Collins combo that get to the Dragons.
The six foot six Collins overshadows the entire Jefferson secondary. Collins height will allow him to reach above Dragon defenders to snag a pass.
Despite the army they stand against, Jefferson does have some weapons of it's own.
Senior running back Stephen Sims has already rushed for 240 yards with seven touchdowns this season. His powerful style of running will offer something different to the speedy Commerce team.
Jefferson will also be playing Friday's game at home, a factor that Gurley believes will help. The game will also be the first time Gurley has hosted Commerce, both as a coach and a player.
"Playing at home is going to be a factor," he said. "It makes it a whole different scenario."
Friday's game will be the 54th matchup between Commerce and Jefferson. So far, Jefferson is behind 15-33-5 in the series.
The Dragons' last victory against Commerce was a 21-7 victory in Commerce in 1995. The Tigers defeated Jefferson later the same year in a region playoff rematch. Jefferson's last home victory against Commerce came in 1994 when the Dragons pulled out a close 9-6 win.
With Hurricane Floyd heading towards the eastern seaboard, rain could possibly be in the forecast for Friday's game. Currently, Jefferson leads Commerce 3-2 when playing in the rain at home. However, the Tigers have a total 7-3-1 record against the Dragons in the rain.
"If it rains Friday, maybe it will slow Commerce down some," Gurley said.


Spartans offer challenge for Leopards
BY DREW BRANTLEY
After playing two schools in bigger classifications, Banks County will open its Region 8-A schedule Friday against one of last year's most successful Class A teams.
Friday the Leopards will travel to Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross. The GAC Spartans entered the playoffs last year as the third-place team from Region 8-A, but proved that they were not the typical third-place team, reaching the semifinals in the dome. GAC missed a chance to play in the state championship against Darlington by losing 35-34 to Lincoln County.
Last weekend, GAC got its chance at Darlington as the two teams squared off in regular season action. GAC had lost to the defending state champs 24-21 a season ago. This year, Darlington took the game in a 28-10 fashion.
"A lot of people say GAC is down this year because they got beat by Darlington," Banks County coach Rance Gillespie said. "But the way I see it, Darlington was the state champion last year."
Having GAC on the schedule along with Rabun County, Commerce, Buford and Jefferson makes traveling through the region schedule a tough task, Gillespie said.
"I think that top to bottom, 8-A is one of the best Class A regions in the state," Gillespie said.
Playing the region opener on the road is less desirable for the Leopard coach, but learning to be successful wherever the team plays is important, Gillespie said.
"Anytime you play at home it makes things a little easier," Gillespie said. "There are fewer distractions. You've got your people behind you. But you can't play all your games at home. We've got to be able to win on the road and at home."


How to get there
DIRECTIONS: To get to Greater Atlanta Christian, take I-85 South to Exit 38. The ramp exits to the right, but turn left onto Indian Trail Road and go over the interstate. The school is approximately one-quarter mile on the right.


The Spartans did lose a lot from last year's team. Most notably, long-time high school coach Jim Lofton stepped down after last season, passing the reins to assistant Jimmy Chupp. As Lofton departed, several key seniors left the team to graduation.
Quarterback-defensive back Nathan Burton threw for 1,862 yards and 24 touchdowns before finishing his senior year last season. Burton's favorite receiver, Andy Andrews, son of former Atlanta Falcon William Andrews, is also gone.
But the Spartans have plenty of talent for this year.
"They've got a bunch of big strong kids," Gillespie said. "They've got a fullback that's tough. And they have an offensive tackle that is a very good football player."
Fullback-linebacker Jason Burrell is back to make a difference on both sides of the ball. Scott Douglas (6-2, 225 pounds) is joined by three other lineman who started last year for GAC.
Senior strong safety Johann Schneider led the defense with seven solo tackles and a fumble recovery against Darlington.
The Spartans also have a potent weapon kicker in Cole Chason. Chason had a 41-yard average on five punts and a 58-yard average on kickoffs. He added a 26-yard field goal and two tackles, one of which saved a touchdown.


Panthers to do battle with Indians in region showdown
By Tim Thomas
Jackson County's Panthers will travel to Toccoa this week, to face region 8-AAA power Stephens County.
The Panthers fell to region foe Central Gwinnett 30-7 last week. Four of Jackson County's nine drives ended on turnovers. The team finished with 319 yards of total offense, compared with 282 for Central Gwinnett.
Things looked favorable for the Panthers early, as their defense kept Central Gwinnett out of Panther territory. But after moving the ball 26 yards in three plays, Jackson County gave the ball back on a fumble.
On the next play, the Knights dropped the ball as well, and Jackson County took over at its own 40 yard line. The offense moved the ball well, going 48 yards in only five plays, only to fumble at the Knights' 12.
Central Gwinnett seized the opportunity and drove 88 yards in 10 plays for the game's first score. The drive was capped off by a 42-yard touchdown run by Andre Patillar on third-and-15. Central's PAT was the last play of the first quarter.
Jackson County opened the second quarter with a strong drive, moving from its own 20 to the Knights' 10 in nine plays. Quarterback Quen Usher led the drive with an impressive 25-yard pass to senior split end Rodrick Gresham. Usher, who was pressured by Central's defense throughout the game, was falling as he threw the ball. Gresham made a leaping catch over the defender for the completion.
With its back against the wall, Central's defense broke through Jackson County's offensive line, first tackling Sam Veal for a loss, then Usher. After attempting another falling pass that was almost picked off, Usher was sacked on fourth-and-24.
Central Gwinnett scored again, driving to the 17 before Panther tackles on second and third downs, both for losses, kept the Knights out of the end zone. They settled for a 40-yard field goal with 1:50 left in the half.
Usher led the Jackson County offense to Central's 40 before being intercepted at the 10 with seven seconds remaining. The Knights ran out the clock, content with a 10-0 lead at intermission.
Defense led the way to open the third quarter. Jackson County went three-and-out, and the Knights started a drive on their own 39. On second-and-inches near midfield, Panther defenders tackled Patillar for a loss. Central Gwinnett was forced to punt after a wideout dropped what would have been a first-down pass.
The Panthers had managed only a yard on two plays, when Gresham dropped a would-be first down pass after a hard hit. Central fielded the ensuing punt at midfield, and returned it to the 32.
After driving to the Panther nine yard line, the Knights faced a strong defensive stand. A procedure penalty gave Central first-and-goal from the 15. On first down, Gresham batted away a touchdown pass at the last moment. Central battled back to the nine on second down before a second touchdown pass was batted away at the line on third. Central switched to its running game, and Patilla ran in for the score on fourth-and-goal.
Veal slipped as he took Central's kickoff, and the referees ruled him down at the eight yard line. Two plays after Ski Harris ran to the 20 for a first down, Ryan Glass turned a one-yard pass into a 15-yard gain on third down. Glass made tremendous second and third efforts to fight to the Panther 35. The performance seemed to spark the team, as they drove the rest of the field to score early in the fourth quarter. Harris took the ball in from the five, and Jackson County was back in contention, down 17-7.
If the Panthers rode an emotional high to the end zone, the low that followed put them out of the game. Central Gwinnett took the kickoff at its own 12, and returned the ball to midfield. Patilla burned up the field on the next play with his third touchdown, and the PAT put the Knights up 24-7.
Jackson County followed with another strong drive, moving 50 yards on 10 plays. Usher led the drive with a third-and-18 completion to Gresham, and Glass gained 15 on fourth-and-two. Two plays later, Usher's second interception ended the drive.
Patilla wasn't done, as he capped the Knights' next drive with his fourth touchdown, this one from 41 yards out. The PAT was wide left, and the score stood at 30-7.
Usher was pressed hard by Central's defense on the next drive, but got the team to around midfield. An incomplete pass on fourth down ended the drive with two seconds remaining in the game, and Central Gwinnett ran the clock out to claim the victory.
Panther head coach Greg Lowe said he was pleased with his team's effort. "Central Gwinnett has a fine football team," he said. When asked about turnovers at crucial times, Lowe responded, "on long drives, not getting anything out ouf it, it hurts you spiritually." Lowe said that holding on to the ball is always a point of emphasis, and that his team's fumbles resulted from "trying to twist and turn and get the extra yard."
Jackson County suffered another loss Friday, as Junior defensive back Adam Doss broke his hand during the game. Lowe was unsure of Doss' status earlier this week, but expects him to be out for at least three to four weeks.


Madison Co., Newton look to halt two-game skids
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Two Region 8-AAA squads are hoping to put a halt to their two-game skids Friday.
Madison County and Newton, who will meet in Covington at 7:30 p.m. Friday, have dropped their first two games of the year.
The Raiders lost a close game to Commerce 22-16, before being shut out at West Hall last week 12-0. The 0-2 Rams opened the season with a 40-18 loss to Rockdale County, then fell 28-19 to Stephens County last week.
Madison County head coach Tom Hybl said his team will have a tough chore defeating Newton.
"They have great athletes at their skill spots and big, physical guys," said Hybl of Newton, which beat Madison County 38-22 in Danielsville last year. "The bottom line is they're a good team with great athletes."
Newton, which dresses out 60 players, has only five seniors on the team.
"We were young last year and we're young again this year," said second-year Newton coach Ben Reaves, whose team was 5-5 in 1998.
The Rams lost standout quarterback Kerry Gilstrap, who accounted for five touchdowns against the Raiders last year, to graduation, but Reaves said senior Randall Hardy, a receiver last year, is doing a solid job at quarterback this season, completing nine of 22 passes for 176 yards in two games. His favorite receiver this year has been Rico Hardeman, who has six catches for 168 yards. Leading the Rams on the ground are junior Marcus Hyman and sophomore Greg Lackey.
Reaves, who said his team tries to "spread things out" while maintaining a run focus, hasn't been impressed with his squad's defense so far this season.
"We're not a good tackling team," he said. "We've done just a terrible job tackling."
Last year, Newton jumped to a 25-0 lead over Madison County. The Raiders, who finished the season at 2-8 with wins over Jackson County and North Hall, cut the lead to nine late, but the Rams held on for the 16-point win.
Reaves speaks highly of the Raiders despite their struggles so far this season.
"Their 0-2 record is sort of deceptive because they (Madison County) really get after you," said Reaves.
Though Reaves added that the Raiders "look great" and are "much improved," Hybl is not so quick to heap praise on his own team this week. The second-year Raider coach said his squad played with "no emotion" in a shutout loss to West Hall, which is 2-0 this season after a 3-7 showing last year.
"We just didn't play well," said Hybl. "They (West Hall) were a team we matched up well with, but we didn't rise to the occassion."
VERSUS WEST HALL
The Raiders had little to cheer about Friday night as their offense struggled to move the ball and wasted the scoring opportunities they had.
The Spartans amassed over 250 yards of total offense, while limiting the Raiders to just over 100 yards on the ground.
West Hall scored on a 34-yard run by Robb Pressley with 3:09 left in the first half. The Spartans added their second touchdown on the first possession of the second half, capping off a six-minute drive with a 13-yard touchdown run by J.D. Young.
Madison County's best scoring opportunity came late in the third quarter. After starting on their own 40, the Raiders moved the ball to the West Hall six-yard line, thanks to a 24-yard run by Preston Fortson. But two plays later a Raider pass was picked off in the end zone.
Madison County got another chance soon after that, recovering a fumble on the West Hall 38 with 10:13 to go in the game. But the Raiders threw three straight incomplete passes and were called for holding, before punting the ball away.
Fortson led Madison County runners with 45 yards on seven carries. The Raiders gained 60 yards through the air. Quarterback B.J. Johnson was 2-for-3 for 25 yards and an interception and Jonathan Pou was 5-for-16 for 35 yards.


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