Sports Year In Review

Remembering the joy and the heartbreak

by Doug Gorman

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CHAMPS!!! It was impossible to wipe the smiles off the faces of Northgate’s girls soccer team after earning the program’s first GHSA state championship with a 4-1 victory over Whitewater at the University of West Georgia in May.


With another year now in the history books, the 2013 sports scene in Coweta County will go down as a year of championships, near misses and difficult losses both on and off the field.

It was a year when varsity girls took center stage, thanks to state titles, a state runner up and a trip to the Final Four among the many sports highlights from the past 12 months.

One thing is for sure, with all the highs and lows during the past year, there wasn't a dull moment as athletes and coaches generated plenty of excitement for local sports fans.

Among the most celebrated stories this year was Northgate High's run to a Class AAAAA girls soccer title while defeating rivals McIntosh and Whitewater along the way as underdogs.

Taking on Region 4-AAAAA rival Whitewater in the Class AAAAA finals at the University of West Georgia, the Lady Vikings built a 1-0 lead at the end of the first half against the Lady Wildcats and never looked back en route to a 4-1 win.

Whitewater entered the title match ranked No. 1 in the Class AAAAA poll.

The Lady Vikings picked up two goals from Micayla Crenshaw and one from Hannah Murray to cap their high school careers. Freshman Lily Barron added another goal for the Lady Vikings en route to the win.

Just minutes after the victory, Murray said she never had a doubt the Lady Vikings were going to finish on top.

'The crowd was great, and we were so motivated, we never thought we were going to lose,' Murray said.

Whitewater entered with perfect record against Northgate during the regular season.

For Crenshaw and Murray, Northgate's senior captains, there was a reason to be motivated. A loss in the Final Four to Whitewater during their freshman year was something the duo never forgot even four years later.

'We have been trying to beat them for so long, and to do it in this game is special,' Crenshaw said.

Northgate closed out the magical year with a 17-3 record, including a 2-1 victory over defending state champion McIntosh in the semi-finals to set up its showdown with Whitewater.

INDIANS ALSO MAKE A RUN TO SOCCER SEMIFINALS: The varsity soccer season as a whole provided excitement, nearly producing a boys state champion as well.

Led by the one-two punch of the Antley brothers, Ian and Conner who combined for 78 goals and 21 assists, East Coweta reached the GHSA Class AAAAAA Final Four and was poised to advance with a two-goal lead before falling at Berkmar 3-2 on penalty kicks.

Here's a look at other major stories that shaped 2013 in Coweta. SOFTBALL Northgate makes championship run:

The Northgate girls softball team came within one victory of adding another Lady Viking state championship.

Unfortunately, after rolling into the winner's bracket of the Class AAAAA Tournament in Columbus, the Lady Vikings ran into Region 4-AAAAA rival Ola, who won three times during the final day of the tournament, including 8-5 and 9-6 victories over the Lady Vikings to steal away the top prize.

Northgate finished 28-9-1. The Lady Vikings were attempting to capture their second title in three years.

Until dropping the two games to Ola in the championship bracket, Northgate won six of its last seven games.

GREAT YEAR FOR LOCALS: Newnan softball player Chaycie Goggins returned from appendicitis after missing two weeks late in the season and guided her team to the Class AAAAA Elite 8. Goggins' biggest swing of the bat came when she smashed a solo home run to give her team a 1-0 win over Coffee County at the Sweet 16.

That win sent the Newnan on to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2007.

East Coweta put a young team on the softball diamond and missed out on a trip to Elite 8, but the Lady Indians finished with a 26-10 record before losing to eventual state finalist Harrison. VOLLEYBALL TRINITY CHRISTIAN COMPLETES THREE-PEAT WITH PERFECT SEASON: The Lady Lions dominate their volleyball season, winning the GISA Class AAA title for the third straight year with a 3-1 victory over Augusta Prep in the championship.

The title came in a year when Trinity was rebuilding after losing four all-state players to graduation.

'The first one here was special, but this one had a very different feeling for me cause it is he most satisfying,' Trinity coach Joe Camp said.

FINAL FOUR BOUND It was also a successful season for the Lady Vikings volleyball team.

Northgate faced tough competition all season, and in the long run it paid dividends, as it advanced all the way to the Final Four for just the second time in school history.

After beating Lithia Springs, Houston County and Whitewater in the Class AAAAA tournament, the Lady Vikings ended the season against eventual state champion McIntosh.

At the team's banquet, veteran Northgate coach Matt Trucks announced he was stepping down as head coach. Trucks plans to remain as the girls' basketball coach.

EAST COWETA, NEWNAN MAKE IT TO STATE: It was exciting seasons for the East Coweta Lady Indians and the Newnan Lady Cougars volleyball teams. Under the direction of first-year head coach Amber McClure, who guided her team to a school best 43-7 record. The Lady Indians season ended with a loss to South Forsyth (3-1) in the second round of the tournament. Newnan also made it to the Class AAAAAA state tournament, finishing 25-16, losing to Chattahoochee (3-0) in the second round. 

WRESTLING A PERFECT FINISH FOR ASKEY: Another one of the of the top stories for 2013 also belonged a Northgate student as senior wrestler Tyler Askey ended his high school wrestling career as a four-time undefeated state champ.

The 170-pound wrestler was just the third grappler from Georgia to win the state title four times and also never lose a match.

His success on the wrestling match earned him a scholarship to the University of Virginia.

The last match of his high school career came down to a dominating 16-6 decision over Ware County's David Shavers with the bulk of Shavers' points coming when he allowed him a point on an escape so he could set up his next move.

Askey and Northgate head coach Adrian Anderson went out together. Shortly after Askey put his name in the high school record books, Anderson announced he was stepping down as head coach.

'He comes from a great family and he has such great support,' Anderson said. 'With him, it's all about work ethic.'

Shaver came in with a 61-1 record, but Askey was never really challenged in the championship match held inside the Macon Centreplex.

'I don't really worry about my opponent, I just try and stay focused,' he said after putting his name in the wrestling history books last winter. 

GOLF LADIES GET IT DONE ON THE LINKS: It was also a big year for Heritage School golfer Annie Swords. After finishing as the GISA Class AAA medalist, Swords competed against some of the best junior female golfers in the world after qualifying for the USGA Girls Junior Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind in July. It was Swords' second trip to the national event in a threeyear span.

East Coweta senior standout Ji Eun Baik completed her varsity career with a thirdplace finish at the GHSA Class AAAAAA Girls Championship while firing a 73. Baik signed with Mississippi State.

BASEBALL SMITH CONTINUES TO MAKE STRIDES IN MAJOR LEAGUES Former Northgate standout pitcher Will Smith will have a new Major League home when he reports to spring training in February. Smith, who spotted started and pitched out of the bullpen for the Kansas City Royals, was recently traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Norichika Aoki.

Smith finished his season with a 2-1 record, with one save and a 3.24 ERA. He also had 43 strikeouts and just seven strikeouts.

FOOTBALL

Roads lead to college ranks : National Signing Day 2013 will go down as one of the best ever for Coweta County as seven football players from area high schools signed with Division I programs last February.

Leading the way were Newnan's Tray Matthews, who signed with Georgia, and Northgate's Brandon Facyson, who signed with Virginia Tech.

Both players made an impact on their new college football teams, starting in the secondary for most of the season.

Matthews missed five games with an injury, but still finished with 36 total tackles. He also had an interception.

Facyson ended his freshman year with five interceptions and 26 tackles. He also had a forced fumble to set up a touchdown when he returned home to play Georgia Tech in an ACC contest that was televised nationally by ESPN on a Thursday night.

Heritage School's Candler Rich also moved from the the high school gridiron to the college ranks after signing with Yale last February. Rich, who was the school's alltime leading rusher, jumped into the Bulldogs' lineup from the first game of the season and finished as the Bulldogs' second leading rusher, finishing with 444 yards and three touchdowns.

Northgate's DeAndre Johnson (Georgia), Sean Spencer (Navy), Dee Godfrey (Georgia Southern) and Drew Gibson (Air Force) kept the Division I county pipeline going by signing on the dotted line last February.

MOVING ON TO THE NFL: Two former Newnan High stars celebrated being selected by NFL teams over three days of the NFL Draft. It began with Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree being chosen with the No. 30 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams. It concluded with Alan Bonner being selected out of Jacksonville State in the sixth round by the Houston Texans.

Ogletree had and a successful rookie season with St. Louis. He set a franchise record for a rookie with 117 tackles while also establishing a new NFL record for first-year linebackers with a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown.

A YEAR FOR FIRSTS: The 2013 season featured the debut of the Brantley-Knott Water Cooler, given to the annual winner of the East Coweta-Newnan game. The trophy, a hand-painted old Igloo water jug emblazoned with each victory by both the Cougars and Indians was named after each school's longtime trainers James 'Radar' Brantley of Newnan and Lloyd Knott of East Coweta. The Indians claimed first ownership of the trophy with a 24-7 win at Drake Stadium in November.

CROSS COUNTRY COUGARS ARE NEW KINGS OF COUNTY: After 10 years of finishing behind Northgate, the Newnan boys snagged county bragging rights this year led by senior Matthew Miller, who finished first at the Newnan Utilities course in a time of 17:55.

The Northgate girls managed to claim a county championship thanks to a dominating performance by race winner Caitlin Bellora's in 20:35.

MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAMS WIN TITLES:

It was quite the fall for teams from Madras, claiming a football championship in the Coweta County Middle School Athletic League as well as sweeping boys and girls soccer titles last month. Madras' girls basketball team opened the year with a CCMSAL title in February.

Lee's volleyball team went undefeated under coach Robert Doyal for the second consecutive year to earn the program's fourth straight CCMSAL title. In February, Smokey Road held off Evans to win the CCMSAL boys basketball championship

COACHES END OF AN ERA: Among the coaching ranks, 2013 where Coweta said goodbye to several longtime leaders in several sports.

The changing of the guard was felt on the wrestling mats where both Adrian Anderson (see above) and Newnan's Tom Everett passed the torch to qualified successors in John Waters (Northgate) and Sean Hage (Newnan), both of whom were standout wrestlers in college.

Changes also included coaches equally passing the torch from inside East Coweta's athletic department.

Girls basketball coach Paula Jones and head football coach Clint Wade turned in their whistle after teaching and coaching at the school for more than two decades.

Jones announced she was stepping down at the end of the 2012-13 basketball season after coaching the Lady Indians for 24 years. Jones won more than 515 games with East Coweta and her team treated the veteran coach to one more trip to the state tournament last winter before the Lady Indians fell to Alcovy in the first round of last year's Class AAAAAA state tournament.

Wade announced he was stepping down from his post as the Indians head football coach right before the Christmas break.

Wade spent six years as head coach, taking over when Danny Cronic retired. However, Wade also served on Cronic's staff for nearly 18 seasons.

Before landing the job at East Coweta, Jones made stops in Ohio, South Carolina and at Flint River Academy, but one thing never changed for the lady who knew she wanted to coach by the time she was in eighth grade.

'Seeing them all succeed, that's what it's all about. The relationships with the players and parents have always been special for me,' Jones said.

Wade's decision after six seasons as head coach and 22 as an assistant coach might have surprised area football fans, but the veteran football coach is comfortable with the decision.

'It's weighed on me for a while. I've done a lot of soulsearching and this is the right thing for me,' Wade said. 'I'm good. I'm at peace with everything and my decision. It wasn't easy. But the time is right.'

Wade arrived at East Coweta in 1992 to begin his coaching career with the Indians. Before coming to East Coweta, he also coached with Dan Pitts at Mary Persons and Max Bass at Newnan.

Two of the veteran football coach's biggest wins came when he guided the Indians to victories over rival Newnan two of the last three years, including this season when they won 24-7.

At Newnan High, while continuing to remain on the Cougars' football staff as offensive coordinator, longtime head baseball coach Kenny Morris stepped aside following a career that included 469 victories. Assistant Marc Gilmore was promoted as Morris' successor.

Veteran high school basketball coach Mack Cain also retired as boys coach at Northgate. 

PASSINGS GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: This past year also reminded sports fans how precious life is and that the outcome of ballgames is really not that important after two high school athletes were taken from us way too soon, East Coweta cheerleader Madeline McTier and Heritage School football player Tyler Henson both died, but not before leave a lasting legacy at their schools and in the community.

Henson a rising senior tight end on the Heritage School football team died in a one-vehicle accident on Saturday, May 18.

McTier died on Sept. 10 after battling brain cancer.

Henson's high school football coach at Heritage, Kevin Prisant, summed it up best while speaking at the football star's funeral.

'Everybody I spoke to said he had passion,' Prisant said. 'A passion for this and a passion for that. They said he had a passion for Heritage, not because he was the best student, but for his joy of being in the classroom.'

McTier received prayers throughout the world as her fight against cancer went out through social media.

Her many friends were always lifted up by her presence.

'She was always funny. She was star of the show wherever she went,' said her friend and fellow East Coweta cheerleader Macy McKnight. 'She was a trend-setter.'



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