By James Butler
The spring sport season is getting ready to enter its home stretch and the Southern Crescent has been home to some outstanding teams and individuals thus far in 2016. Fayette County schools Whitewater, McIntosh, and Starr’s Mill have seen teams do well in multiple sports.
The Whitewater boys soccer team improved to 10-1 with a 2-1 victory over Fayette County on Tuesday. The Wildcats have received national recognition this season as USA Today has them ranked 14th in its latest spring rankings. The Whitewater girls team is also a threat in Class AAAA despite a 6-4 record. That is because the combined win/loss record of the teams to defeat the Lady Wildcats is 40-5-2. Emily Petersen has been a goal-scoring threat for the Lady Wildcats.
Not to be overshadowed by the teams on the soccer pitch, Rusty Bennett’s (pictured) baseball Wildcats are looking to continue the momentum from its state-runner up a finish a year ago as they battle Troup for a Region 5-AAAA title. Both teams had identical 4-1 region records headed into Thursday’s play. The regular season concludes a little less than a month from now.
Once again McIntosh also has strong teams in soccer. The boys team is the only team to defeat Whitewater this season and thus the Chiefs are ranked two spots higher in USA Today’s rankings at No. 12. The school’s girls team, ranked seventh by USA Today, was 8-0 headed into Thursday’s match with Union Grove. The Lady Chiefs had allowed only one goal all season
McIntosh’s Class 5A rivals, Starr’s Mill, is sporting strong soccer teams once again as well. The Lady Panthers are 11-0 and have only allowed goals in two games this year for a total of six goals allowed all season. They are ranked No. 11 by USA Today. Seniors Lauren Yoss and Riley Clark, as well as juniors Ansley Peurifoy and Ashton Nowicki have been just some of the Lady Panthers who are playing well as of late. The Starr’s Mill boys are 8-3 with losses to quality teams in Whitewater, St. Pius X, and Harrison.
Elsewhere at the school the Panthers have had good seasons in baseball and lacrosse. The baseball Panthers are 13-1 on the year with its only setback being a 3-2 loss to fellow one-loss team Jones County. Likewise the boys lacrosse team has only one loss, but against 12 wins.
NON-FAYETTE TEAMS BUZZING
Three Henry County and one Clayton County baseball team have also made waves thus far this season. Union Grove, Locust Grove, and ELCA are the three Henry teams. Head coach Allen Franklin’s Union Grove team advanced to the Class 5A Quarterfinals last year and are looking to at least duplicate that feat again this year. The Wolverines are 11-4 with one-run losses to Starr’s Mill and McIntosh included in the defeats. Cord Johnson, Drew Martin, Austin Henry, and Tanner Tolbert have been among the offensive stalwarts for Union Grove, while Braelen Bridges and Jake Kaufman have been two of the key hurlers on the mound.
Reigning Class 4A quarterfinalist Locust Grove also has a one-run win over Union Grove this season. The Wildcats are undefeated in Region 4 play thus far this season and also have a 3-0 win over defending Class 4A champion Buford, who eliminated Locust Grove from the state tournament a year ago.
Class A Private School power ELCA sat at 9-4 with an undefeated Region 4 record going into its Thursday meeting with Paideia. The Chargers have remained formidable with new head coach Stewart Bailey and the loss of MLB draft choice Daz Cameron.
Another baseball club eyeing a playoff spot in its region is North Clayton. Scattered around a couple of 10-0 losses, one to county foe Morrow and the other to Region 4-AAA power Blessed Trinity, the Eagles have been dominant. The cumulative score of its last three victories over Therrell, Washington, and Towers is 48-5. Caleb Clark has been a force at the plate and on the mound along with Kindle Vildor and Jeremy Brown for head coach Richard Flowers’ team.
A pair of county championships from Parker Nail and Madias Loper helped Whitewater nip Sandy Creek and win the Fayette County Boys Track and Field Championship. Nail won the 800 meter title and the 3200 meter title, while Loper won the county championship in the shot put and the discus. Whitewater also won the 1600 meter relay title. Michael Jones was one of the standout performers from Sandy Creek, winning both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.
McIntosh outdistanced Fayette County for the girls title. Alyssa LeClaire doubled-up with victories in the 800 and 1600 meters. She was also a part of the champion 1600 meter relay team and Nicole Zaubi added a 3200 meter title for McIntosh. Fayette County’s Nailah Moore doubled-up with championships of her own, winning the long jump and the triple jump. State-leading long jumper Alexis Farley did not jump in either event as Starr’s Mill did not participate in the championships.