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|SPORTS SECTION - NOVEMBER 17, 1999|
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Leopards down Union
BY ADAM FOUCHE
After a demoralizing 0-10 season last year, the Banks County Leopards, under the direction of first-year head coach Rance Gillespie, finalized a 4-6 season with a 21-12 victory over Union County last Friday.
"I felt like that was one of the biggest games of the season," Leopard coach Rance Gillespie said. "That finishes the season on a positive note and gives some people things to be excited about for next year."
The Panthers scored first, jumping out to a quick 6-0 lead early in the game. But Banks County quickly responded, driving the ball down to Union County's three-yard line before fumbling into the end zone.
Union County pushed the ball down to Banks' 39-yard line, but the drive was stopped as Blakley Crumley picked off a Panther pass on his own 19-yard line.
"Blakley played a huge game for us," Gillespie said. "He had the three interceptions, but he also had a catch for us on third and long that kept a drive going. That was as big as some of his interceptions."
Two plays later, Jonathan Dumas took a toss sweep 79 yards in for the score. The point after gave the Leopards a 7-6 lead.
Union County scored its second and final touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter. Gabe Montavanni took the ball 14 yards to nab the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempted failed, but the Panthers still had a 12-6 lead they would carry into the half.
Banks County's defense took control of the second half, shutting out Union County and forcing four turnovers.
The Leopards set up their second touchdown of the game midway through the third quarter by recovering a fumble on Union County's 25-yard line. Three plays later, Drew Gowder hit Mike Ivey in the end zone from 11 yards out. The two-point conversion put Banks County ahead 15-12.
The Leopards recovered another fumble on the Panthers next possession. Banks County went on a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Gowder capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
The point-after attempt failed, putting Banks County up 21-12.
Union County tried to drive back with just over three minutes left in the game, but was cut off when Joe Krause intercepted a pass on his own 40-yard line.
The Leopards coughed the ball up on the next play from scrimmage, giving the Panthers the ball on Banks' 43 yard line with 1:07 left to play.
Two plays later, Crumley picked up his third interception of the game. The Leopards ran out the clock and held on for the 21-12 win.
Following a win over Jefferson the week before, Gillespie hopes that the team is on a climbing pattern.
"Sure, beating Jefferson gave us some confidence going into the Union County game," Gillespie said. "Hopefully these two will give us confidence for next year. In order to win, you have to win. Every win is huge for our program.
The BCHS Booster Club will hold an awards ceremony Sunday at 3 p.m. in the new high school cafeteria to honor all the fall sports.
Lowering The Tiger Boom
CHS Upends Buford To Claim Region Title
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Going into Commerce's game with Buford Friday night, there were a lot of questions. A 42-32 win by the Tigers provided the most important answer.
The Tigers scored on six of their 10 possessions. Buford reached the end zone on five of its nine drives. Commerce offered the only punt of the game late in the fourth quarter. Both defenses gave up points and yards, but Commerce came up with big plays late in the game to sit on the win and the Region 8-A title.
"Being region champs means a lot," Tiger coach Steve Savage said. "We're very proud for our team, our school and our community."
Going into the game, the reputation of Buford's defense was a hot topic. The Wolves had yielded yards and points sparingly all year.
"This meant the world to us as a team," junior Michael Collins said. "I hope everybody is satisfied. The critics said our defense wasn't any good. But we showed them we could stop them when we had to."
Buford started two drives inside Commerce territory in the fourth quarter but came away with points both times.
Collins and senior Daniel Carder came up with the two biggest plays. Collins swatted a pass attempt in the end zone on third down. The Tiger rush forced a desperation pass to the goal line on Buford's final play. Carder fell in the end zone with his second interception to end the game.
"It felt great," Carder said. "When I had the ball I knew we had won the game."
Armuchee In First Round
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Celebrating its second region championship in three years makes plenty of sense for Commerce.
"We're proud to represent our region in the playoffs as the champion," Commerce coach Steve Savage said. "Being able to play at home in the first round is a big plus."
But playing in the postseason means facing tough opponents every week now.
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"We feel like Armuchee could have been
the number one seed," Savage said. "A couple of points
in one game and they could have been. And then they were almost
out of it. That just shows how tough that region is. And don't
forget the state champion came out of the region last year."
Darlington went 15-0 last season, downing Lincoln County to take the Class A state title.
This year, Armuchee finished fourth in Region 6-A, but beat its region champ, Trion, 26-21. A 14-10 loss to Lovett and a 28-0 defeat by Darlington kept them down at fourth place.
The Indians will bring a big defensive front, Savage said.
"They are well-coached," Savage said. "It looks like their motors run good and they play hard. They've got good size. They've got one kid about 290 and another one about 270. The rest of the front are in the 200-pound range."
On offense, Armuchee will bring a balanced attack to the field.
"They run multiple sets on offense," Savage said. "They give you a lot of looks. They're about 50-50 on running and passing. They'll give us a lot to worry about."
Commerce season tickets will not be valid in the postseason.
Tickets will be on sale at all Commerce schools until lunch on Friday for $6 each. Tickets at the gate will be $7.
NOTES: Friday night's football game will be the first ever between Commerce and Armuchee.
Time to heal: Wounded
Panthers limp to 0-10
By Tim Thomas
After a season that defies description, the Jackson County Panthers began licking their wounds this week. The team wrapped up its 1999 season Friday with a 33-7 loss at West Hall.
Six Panther seniors played their final games Friday. They are Telly Young (DB/SE), Rodrick Gresham (DB/SE), Hector Serrano (DT/C), Steven Barber (DT/T), Brad Smith (DE/G), and Hank Barnett (DB/SE).
As has been the case all season, injuries continued to plague the Panthers. LB/SB Terriss Hale returned from injury Friday, but Seniors Ski Harris (LB/FB) and Ryan Glass (LB/HB) both missed the game due to injuries. Jonathan Lindquist (LB/TE) and Wayne Pilgrim (DT/C) were both injured Friday. The loss of Pilgrim would turn out to be a costly one.
The Panthers were held to only two first downs at West Hall, and a net of 50 yards total offense. Still, Jackson County was in the game until midway through the third quarter.
The Spartans scored early in the first on a nine-yard run by quarterback Shea Whitmire. Sam Veal put the Panthers on the board in the second quarter with a two-yard run. A 50-yard third-down pass from Quen Usher to Gresham was the key play of the drive. The game was tied at intermission, 7-7.
West Hall scored on their first drive of the second half, off a 30-yard run by Garrison Cunningham. Moments later, a fumble on a center-quarterback exchange at the Panther 31 gave West Hall good field position, and Cunningham was soon in the end zone again to give the Spartans a 20-7 lead.
Spartan Geoffrey Cook sealed the win for West Hall with a 47-yard interception return later in the quarter. A fourth-quarter touchdown finished the scoring at 33-7.
"This certainly would not be the way we would choose to begin," said Panther head coach Greg Lowe, referring to his first season with Jackson County. "But we survived it, and now we're ready to move on. I have a lot of respect for our kids. I could see us getting stronger and better as the season wore on, but then the injuries started happening."
Dragons close out football season
By Tim Thomas
Some teams have rebuilding years. The Jefferson Dragons have just completed a rebuilding stretch of only three games.
The Dragon offense, which had been built around senior running back Stephen Sims, had to change direction late in the season after Sims went down with a broken wrist. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Potts' passing became vital to the Dragons' scoring efforts.
"Kyle was put in a position where we looked to him to be a bigger part of the offense the last few weeks," said Jefferson head coach Bob Gurley. "He has gotten better as the year has progressed."
Potts has payed the price for his larger role. He was sacked several times late in the game at Buford, and in last week's loss at Wesleyan, endured a defensive barrage that put him on the ground often.
Near the end of the game, Potts was injured while taking a particularly nasty hit. Though it was first thought he might have a concussion, further observation at a Gwinnett hospital showed he did not. Potts was treated for dehydration and released.
"He was just wore slap out," said Gurley. "He took a couple of shots right there toward the end." Gurley went on to say that with Sims' impending graduation, the quarterback position will become even more important next year.
At Wesleyan, the Dragons put themselves behind the eight-ball early, and never recovered.
One of three early turnovers led to a first-quarter Wesleyan score off an option. Jefferson's offense struggled the entire game, at one point going three-and-out five consecutive times.
"We never could get anything going," said Gurley, "and they just had the football the whole time."
Potts led an impressive drive in the fourth with solid passing, and Justin Gooch capped off the effort with a score. The extra point just missed to the right, and the final score of 17-6 was set.
Jefferson recovered an on-sides kick after the score, their second in as many games, but an interception ended any hope of getting back in the game. A final drive in the closing minutes was stopped on fourth and 10 at the Wesleyan 15.
Jefferson finishes the season with a 5-5 mark, 3-5 in region play.
Raider wrestlers put on preseason show for home crowd
BY ZACH MITCHAM
The strob light flickered, Jimmy Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" blared over the speakers and Randall Ballenger stepped through the cloud puffs made by a fog machine, a fake gold belt around his skinny waist. The high school junior then ripped the white T-shirt off his 125-lb. frame, grinned at the crowd in the bleachers and made his way to the wrestling mat to face Steve Austin.
Yes, Steve Austin. But not of WWF fame. Rather, the 112-lb. Austin of Madison County's sophomore class. And while WWF may offer more in the way of taunts, plot lines and acrobatics off of ring ropes, Ballenger, Austin and 26 other Raider wrestlers gave their fans something Saturday night that neither WWF nor WCW ever offer - real wrestling before a real referee.
Saturday's Madison County intra-squad matches marked the second "Duel in the Dungeon" held by coach Greg Gaines and his Raider wrestlers.
The coach believes mixing high school wrestling with pro-wrestling theatrics is a good way to generate local interest in the sport. It's also an opportunity for wrestlers to have fun and "get the kinks out" before the real season begins.
"They (the wrestlers) think it's great," said Gaines of the pre-match entrances like Ballenger's. "They think they're the main event in WCW."
Gaines, whose team returns eight wrestlers from the 1998 squad, said he is optimistic about his team's chances to improve on last year's 13-18-2 record.
"I think we're well-balanced," said Gaines. "And we've had some guys work hard in the weight room."
Madison County will open its season 9 a.m. Saturday in Covington in the Newton County Duel Tournament. The team will then travel to Riverside Academy at 5 p.m. Nov. 23, before holding its first home match of the season at 5 p.m. Nov. 30 versus Jackson County and Stephens County.
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