By James Butler
With Christmas here and gifts already given, I thought this was the perfect time to write a Southern Crescent Christmas list of some of the things I would like to see happen in the next 365 days. So, the list is as follows:
1. An all Southern Crescent Class AAAA Boys Basketball Final Four: Jonesboro has won the last two Class AAAA state titles. The Cardinals appear poised to be playing in early March once again this season, but Region 4 mates Henry County and Eagle’s Landing have played very well in the early season also. Add Fayette County and Sandy Creek from Region 5 and you have several Southern Crescent teams expecting to advance in the state tournament. It would be nice to see as many Southern Crescent teams advance as possible, making the semifinals and finals a Southern Crescent affair.
2. Joseph Newman taking Wofford’s offense to a new level: The Drew quarterback committed to the FCS Terriers last week. Wofford runs a flexbone, Georgia Tech triple-option, style of offense that is run heavy. Newman fits in well with the running aspect, but he also is a good passer. I hope to see him make the Terriers’ offense even more dangerous.
3. Queryachi Taylor winning a state title: The Lovejoy wrestler has two South Metro titles to his credit as well as a fourth-place finish in last year’s state tournament. Already respected as one of the best wrestlers in the state, winning a title at the state traditional meet this February is the only thing left for him to do.
4. Stockbridge vs. Allatoona football tonight at the Georgia Dome: Allatoona won the Class AAAAA football championship in a season where the classification featured no truly dominant team. Stockbridge jockeyed for the top spot in the class throughout the season, but uncharacteristically gave up a two-touchdown lead in its fourth quarter playoff loss to Glynn Academy. That same Glynn team is who Allatoona beat 10-6 in the championship game. Stockbridge scored more points on Glynn than Allatoona, but gave up more. Given a chance to play Allatoona (or another crack at Glynn) I think the Tigers would play more complete game.
5. Seeing Mackenzie Cromer on the track this spring: The Union Grove distance runner made quite an impression in her freshman season in cross country this past fall and could give the Lady Wolverines a big boost in track and field. After finishing third in the Region 4-AAAAA Cross Country Championships, narrowly behind fellow Lady Wolverine Ellunde Montgomery who finished second, Cromer was Union Grove’s top finisher at the state meet where she finished 14th. Montgomery, a senior, is a standout in track and field so Cromer could have a similar impact.
6. Don Harp and Parker Nail climbing state charts: Speaking of performances on the track this spring, Whitewater’s duo of Harp and Nail produced three top-10 finishes at the Georgia Olympics last season. Harp finished fifth in 3,200 meters and ninth in the 1,600, while Parker finished fifth in the 1,600. Frank Pittman of Marist will be the top challenger for both Wildcat runners as he is the reigning 3,200, 1,600, and Class AAAA Cross Country Champion. They also could be pushed by a couple of teammates in senior Thomas Adkins and sophomore Thomas Hall, but the door is open for them to finish higher at state this season.
7. Seeing the Griffin girls basketball team in 2016-17: The Griffin girls are good this season, as evidenced by their 10-1 record. Standing 6-foot-2, post player Andeija Puckett leads the way for the Lady Bears as head coach Veronica Lee as an ever-improving team that is void of any seniors. Thus, they should be even better next season. Puckett will be a senior next season and current sophomore point guard Nia Flower will be a junior. Griffin may make a state run this season, but next season could really be its year.
8. Spalding football building off of 2015: Nick Davis’ first three seasons as the Jaguars head coach produced only five wins. But, patience paid off as the Spalding broke through with a 6-4 record in 2014, followed by a 10-2 mark and a trip to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs this past season. Next season Spalding will move to Region 2 where Mary Persons will be a formidable test. However, the Jaguars (who return some key players) should be in a good position to compete in the new region and revamped classification.
9. The continuing of the Starr’s Mill vs. McIntosh girls cross country rivalry: Both programs have finished in the top 10 of the state meet since being joined together in Class AAAAA in 2012. Starr’s Mill has gotten the better of McIntosh at state as the Lady Panthers finished sixth, second, and fifth the last three years, while McIntosh has finished seventh in each of the last three seasons. However, the Lady Indians have come to run at the county meet, where they are reigning champions. Despite changes around them due to reclassification, the two teams will remain competitive rivals and do battle in Region 3-AAAAA.
10. Watching the new Region 3-AAAAA soccer rivalries in unfold: With Whitewater moving up to Class AAAAA and moving into the same region as Starr’s Mill and McIntosh it should increase the fervor of their rivalries across several sports, such as cross country, but maybe none more so than soccer. Since 2010 McIntosh has two boys state titles and Starr’s Mill has one, while McIntosh has three girls state titles and Starr’s Mill has two. Now comes Whitewater, who won a state girls title in 2007. Of the six teams the schools fielded last season, five finished in the top-two of their region. After this upcoming season the competition on the pitch in Fayette County should be even fiercer.