By James Butler
Excluding track and field teams, there are a little less than 20 Southern Crescent spring sports teams still alive for a state championship this season. When looking at the teams most likely to take home a state title among the spring sports besides track and field, one school boasts several championship-caliber teams. That school is Starr’s Mill, and that is not surprising considering that the Panther athletic program is the reigning Director Cup winners as it was the best athletic program in Class 5A in the 2014-15 school year. Fayette County rival McIntosh currently sits in second place, one spot ahead of Starr’s Mill in this year’s Director Cup Standings, as the Chiefs also have a couple of spring teams who are seriously eyeing a state championship. Here, in order of most likely to win, are the 10 Southern Crescent spring teams with the best chance of winning a state championship – excluding track and field.
- Starr’s Mill Girls Soccer:
The defending Class 5A State Champions travel to face Region 7’s top North Atlanta today in the state quarterfinals. The two teams have a combined five losses between them on the season, with the Lady Panthers only suffering two defeats. Riley Clark and Leslie Logan have been productive offensively for Starr’s Mill, and the Lady Panthers have only allowed goals in five games all season. A win would put the Lady Panthers in the semifinals against either Columbus or Richmond Hill, where they would be just two wins a way of repeating as state champions.
- McIntosh Boys Soccer:
Head coach Bunky Colvin’s McIntosh boys soccer program is a fixture when it comes to vying for a state title, having won two out of the last three, and four altogether, to go along with several other runner-up finishes. The Chiefs were upended by Greenbrier in the state semifinals a year ago, before they could face the powerhouse Dalton program, who had just moved from Class 4A to Class 5A. McIntosh did face Dalton earlier this season, losing 2-1 in the Chiefs only defeat of the season, but Jacob Stevens (pictured) and company will not have to beat Dalton to win a state title this season. Greenbrier knocked off the Catamounts in the second round. Still, McIntosh has a tough test at a very good Riverwood team tonight. Earlier in the season, Riverwood gave Dalton its first defeat since 2012. With a win, McIntosh would face either Clarke Central or Houston County in the semifinals. Greenbrier, Allatoona, and Northgate are three of the teams who could await if the Chiefs advance to the state finals.
- Locust Grove Baseball:
The Region 4-AAAA Champions Wildcats have had a season to remember up to this point. The Wildcats have advanced to the state quarterfinals in much the same way they got by opponents in the regular season. Locust Grove’s offense has been prone to huge outbursts, as the Wildcats are averaging seven runs per game in the playoffs. They have scored north of seven runs in four of the six games they have played. With a spot in the semifinals on the line, Locust Grove starts it three-game series with Ringgold’s Heritage High School on Tuesday. If Locust Grove continues to advance, Woodward Academy or Veterans would await in the semis, and possibly reigning champion Buford or St. Pius in the finals.
- McIntosh Girls Soccer:
The McIntosh girls have only dropped two matches all season, and both of those defeats came by just one goal. The Lady Chiefs lost to region rival Starr’s Mill 3-2 and Class 6A power Harrison 2-1. McIntosh’s next challenge is traveling to Cambridge on Saturday to face the 12-6 and Region 7 No. 2 seed Lady Bears with a spot in the Class 5A State Semifinals on the line. The state champions two seasons ago (defeating Starr’s Mill in the finals), McIntosh lost in last year’s semifinals to Greenbrier. A win over Cambridge and the Lady Chiefs would get the winner of the Forsyth Central-Northgate matchup, which would put them possibly one-win away from facing Starr’s Mill in the championship match.
- Starr’s Mill Girls Golf:
The Starr’s Mill Girls were absolutely dominant in winning the Region 4-AAAAA crown. The Lady Panthers won by a whopping 24 strokes. Still, golf can be a fickle sport and performances can vary from outing-to-outing. Some teams Starr’s Mill will have to contend with when it plays in the State Championships on May 16 at the Westlake Country Club in Augusta are Dalton, Glynn Academy, and defending state champion Ware County.
- Starr’s Mill Boys Tennis:
Saturday, head coach Ron Mann’s Panther tennis team is facing off against the Lakeside-Evans Panther team that beat them in last year’s Class 5A State Finals in this year’s state finals. Lakeside is led by key returnees Samuel Dromsky and Thomas Huff, so Starr’s Mill will have to have an outstanding performance to finally claim a third state title.
- Spalding Boys Soccer:
In their quest for a state soccer title, the Spalding boys have had the misfortune of some tough draws over the past several seasons. This season, the Jaguars face the defending Class 4A State Champions St. Pius X, who eliminated them in the second round a year ago. However, this time the matchup is in the quarterfinals and it is at Spalding. Midfielder Alex Engel looks to be a part of Jaguar attack that helps one-loss Spalding advance to the semifinals. With a win over St. Pius X, Cross Keys and Cairo are the two teams Spalding could potentially face the semis.
- Starr’s Mill Boys Golf:
Even with golf being a tricky sport to master, the Panther boys can expect some consistency from senior Joshua Grenville-Wood. Grenville-Wood was a standout at the state tournament a year ago, and the Starr’s Mill boys were also impressive in winning the Region 4-AAAAA Championship this season. When Starr’s Mill take to the Bartram Trail Golf Club course in Augusta on May 16, defending champion Cambridge, as well as McIntosh, could be a couple of the teams that stand in the Panthers way.
- Strong Rock Christian Boys Golf:
Logan Perkins was the low medalist as Strong Rock won the Region 3-A Private School Championship. Perkins, a junior, leads a youthful Patriot team into the State Championships in Augusta on May 16. As far as hurdles to Strong Rock capturing a state title go, Brookstone, who won five state championships in a row before failing to do so last year, looks to be a team to beat once again.
- Whitewater Girls Soccer:
The Whitewater girls are another Fayette County team that can say they have won a state championship on the pitch. The Lady Wildcats won their lone state title back in 2007, but are looking for number two this season. Whitewater faces a difficult opponent when it hosts reigning Class 4A State Champion St. Pius X on Saturday. St. Pius X finished as the runner-ups in a tough Region 6 this season, but the Region 5 Champions Lady Wildcats must play close to their very best to get the win.