Archive for April, 2010

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith inspired by story of Greenville High coach Jeremy Williams with terminal illness

(This is part of the AJC’s “30 in 30″ series — with quick hits on top high school football teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. We’re doing 30 football teams in 30 days. What about spring sports? Click here)

Mike Smith, the highest-profile football coach in Georgia, says he has been touched by the story of Jeremy Williams.

Williams has inspired many with his attitude toward his terminal illness of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He led Greenville High School to an 11-1 record this past season, with the Patriots losing in the second round to the eventual Class A champions.
“It’s such a great story, the success they had as a football team,” Smith told the AJC recently. “But I also think probably the big story is the fight and will in Coach Jeremy Williams. He has got a really tough battle and such a great outlook on it. [Despite, the illness,  he is] out there coaching those guys every single day.”
“I think it is a great story, not only about the …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: South Gwinnett Comets

No. 16 is a darkhorse to be the state's No. 1 QB in 2010. Not QB prospect but in production and accomplishments (AJC)

No. 16 is a darkhorse to be the state's No. 1 QB in 2010. Not QB prospect but in production and accomplishments (AJC)

(This is part of our “30 in 30″ series — with quick hits on top high school football teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. We’re doing 30 football teams in 30 days. What about spring sports? Click here)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before we go anointing others as the “state’s best quarterback,” I suggest taking a look at South Gwinnett’s Kent Rollins.

He may not have the arm strength of Wilcox County’s Nick Marshall or the height of North Gwinnett’s CJ Uzomah — or the Nintendo-like stats of Lassiter’s Hutson Mason (signed with UGA) from last year. But Rollins is a darn good high school quarterback.

While no one was looking, Rollins passed for 2,200 yards and 31 touchdowns. That’s hard to overlook when you’re playing in arguably the state’s toughest region (8-AAAAA), but somehow it happened.

I watched Rollins closely in South Gwinnett’s …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview – “30 In 30″ Series: Kell Longhorns

AJC's 30 football teams in 30 days series for spring high school football

AJC's "30 football teams in 30 days" series for spring high school football in Ga.

(Note: We love our high school football in Georgia. This is part of our “30 football teams in 30 days” series — with quick hits on top teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. What about spring sports? The AJC has extensive coverage of the spring sports with notebooks, features and playoff coverage by clicking here)

Kell has made back-to-back appearances in the state playoffs, and the team’s chances look good again with 10 returning starters.

The Cobb County school has two of the metro’s best in the offensive backfield:

  • Brian Randolph (6-1, 185) is arguably the state’s No. 1 prospect at safety. He was hindered most of his junior season by a shoulder injury but is nearly back to full health. Randolph has a dozen scholarship offers, including Georgia Tech, Florida, and Tennessee. He is a two-way standout for Kell, rushing for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns last …

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Jelan “Mr. Do It All” Kendrick finally takes basketball official visit to Memphis Tigers

Did Georgia Tech and UGA make a big mistake by overlooking Statesboro native Eric Ferguson (signed with Georgia Southern), the 6-8 forward who developed into one of USA’s best in prep school?

  • Yes, because he may be the best from Georgia, including Jelan Kendrick and Marcus Thornton
  • No, just because many schools — including other ones than Georgia Tech and UGA — never saw it coming either

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Wheeler High All-America basketball player Jelan Kendrick is racking up frequent-flyer miles as rapidly as he score points.

On Friday, the 6-foot-5 Kendrick will finally take his official visit to Memphis with his parents. Kendrick signed last November with Memphis, which has the No. 1-ranked 2010 basketball recruiting class in the nation, according to several recruiting services. Kendrick will take his newly-earned nickname on his trip — “Mr. Do It All.”

“When I signed with Memphis, it was kind of out of the blue,” Kendrick told the AJC. “My …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview – “30 In 30″ Series: Pebblebrook Falcons

AJC's 30 football teams in 30 days

AJC's "30 football teams in 30 days" series on spring football

(Note: We love our high school football in Georgia. This is part of our “30 football teams in 30 days” series — with quick hits on top teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. What about spring sports? The AJC has extensive coverage of the spring sports with notebooks, features and playoff coverage by clicking here)

Will the third year be the charm for Pebblebrook?

This season, the Falcons will under the direction of coach Randall Smith for the third year in a row. The Mableton school has made rapid progress under Smith, going from 3-7 in 2008 to barely missing the state playoffs with a 6-4 record last year.

What are the goals this spring? “To work on our execution as a team,” Smith told the AJC. “These young men have been in our system for two years now and have a better understanding of our schemes, so we play to move at a faster pace this spring that we have the past couple of …

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Former UGA football star and assistant coach fighting brutal illness since retiring as Dougherty County AD

Former UGA football player and assistant coach Frank Orgel, who served as athletics director of Dougherty County Schools from 1996-2001, is still fighting a courageous battle against a motor neuron disease similar to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Bo Jackson: Orgel was

Bo Jackson: Orgel was "the best coach to come through Auburn" (Nike photo)

Orgel’s health situation was updated over the weekend in the Albany Herald by columnist Loran Smith, the longtime UGA sidelines reporter.

Orgel has been flying to Mexico for stem cell treatments. Longtime buddies such as former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who was Orgel’s roomate during their playing days at UGA, have helped with fundraisers for the medical costs, according to Smith. Orgel and Dye were star performers on UGA’s 1959 SEC Championship team. Later, Orgel played two years at defensive end for the then-AFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Orgel shares with Smith some of his famous football stories, including his relationship with Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson when Orgel …

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Another Wheeler first-rounder??? MLB scouts flock to observe CF Dale Carey before June draft

Wheeler High’s Dale Carey, who is one of Georgia’s top baseball players, is fearless when roaming the outfield.

Which Georgia high school player will be the first drafted in June?

  • “Chevy” Clarke, OF, Marietta
  • DeAndre Smelter, P, GISA
  • Steve Bedrosian’s son Cameron, P, East Coweta
  • Zach Alvord, SS, South Forsyth
  • Kaleb Cowart, IF, Cook County
  • Trey Griffin, OF, MLK
  • Tyler Austin, IF, Heritage
  • Kevin Jordan, OF, Northside-Columbus
  • Andrew Smith, P, Roswell
  • Dale Carey, OF, Wheeler
  • Other (see post below)

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A couple of weeks ago, Carey sprinted after a ball that was blasted over his head in center. As usual, Carey didn’t bother to take a glance at his proximity to the fence.

“He takes charge of the outfield, and if it’s hit out there, he thinks it’s his,” Wheeler coach David McDonald said.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Carey picks up the rest of the story: “I’ve run into the fence several times, and it was the one time …

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AJC’s Mr. Basketball finishes meeting Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and other college head coaches, will begin trimming list next week

Thornton: R&R this weekend in Sunshine State, then time to narrow down schools (AJC photo)

Thornton: R&R this weekend in Sunshine State, then time to narrow down schools (AJC photo)

What’s the latest with the recruiting of the AJC’s Mr. Basketball?

Westlake’s Marcus Thornton, who is one of college basketball top free agents, has finished the in-home visits with all seven of his finalists — Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, UGA, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Michigan. On Thursday, Thornton left for Florida for a mini-spring break. He will return late Sunday night and begin narrowing down his schools on Monday, his father confirmed to the AJC on Thursday night.

“We wanted to give Marcus some time to think about everything,” Billy Thornton said. “We’re going to look over things next week. We don’t have any pending short list, and (the rapid process of recruiting) may not allow us to specify a short list in advance.”

UGA coach Mark Fox was the first college head coach to meet with Thornton in person during the recent NCAA contact period, while Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt was the …

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Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and UGA’s Mark Fox make recruiting appearances at Milton High School

Parker: Both Georgia Tech and UGA covet No. 23 (AJC photo)

Parker: Both Georgia Tech and UGA covet No. 23 (AJC photo)

What gets Georgia Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt out of bed at the wee hours of the morning?

Apparently,  the idea of recruiting some of the state’s top juniors at Milton High School, the reigning state champions in Georgia’s largest classification.

Hewitt made quite the impression when he was the first head coach to show up at Milton on the first day of the recent NCAA contact period, which ended on Wednesday. Hewitt was there at 7:45 a.m. sharp on Monday to let his interest be known in a pair of Milton juniors — 6-foot-9 power forward Julian Royal and 6-2 shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker.

Milton’s other elite 2011 prospect, point guard Shannon Scott, has already committed to Ohio State.

What about UGA coach Mark Fox? He showed up on Tuesday afternoon to observe Milton in off-season conditioning. He stayed for two hours, and also has his eyes fixated on Royal and Parker.

Here’s the big question: What are the chances …

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Northview boys, Walton girls are No. 1 in Class AAAAA soccer rankings

Here are the latest soccer rankings for the state. Any surprises? Should any team be higher? Please state your case below.

2010 Georgia High School Soccer Coaches Poll

Boys AAAAA
1. Northview (82)
2. Lassiter (77)
3. Collins Hill (76)
4. Centennial (59)
5. Greenbrier, Evans (55)
6. Dacula (45)
7. Milton (35)
8. Walton (30)
9. Alpharetta (13)
10. Norcross (10)

Girls AAAAA
1. Walton (128)
2. Parkview (117)
3. Brookwood (96)
4. North Gwinnett (91)
5. Harrison (84)
6. Northview (68)
7. Lassiter (46)
8. Pope (44)
9. Greenbrier, Evans (14)
10. Collins Hill (7)

Boys AAAA
1. McIntosh (70)
2. Hillgrove (63)
3. Starr’s Mill (56)
4. Lakeside-Dekalb (42)
4. Marist (42)
6. Habersham Central (35)
7. Dalton (28)
8. North Springs (26)
9. Lakeside, Evans (17)
10. Glynn Academy (4)

Girls AAAA
1. Whitewater (80)
2. Starr’s Mill (70)
3. Marist (62)
4. Salem (59)
5. Heritage (48)
6. McIntosh (38)
7. Lee County (28)
8. Glynn Academy (26)
9. South Paulding …

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U.S. Olympic medalist surprises Atlanta high school team by showing up for track practice

Two-time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson (center, black shirt) was a surprise participant at Lovett's track practice (Photo from Lovett)

Two-time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson (center, black shirt) was a surprise participant at Lovett's track practice. He is joined by former classmates B.J. Crane (left) and Charlie Finch. (Photo from Lovett)

It’s not every day that you get to work out with an Olympic medalist.

So you can understand how some members of the Lovett track and field team were nearly speechless and had to do a few double-takes at practice on Friday. Working out alongside the high school team was Adam Nelson, who won silver medals in the shot put in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Nelson, who is training for another shot at the gold in the 2012 Olympics, graduated from Lovett in 1993. He stopped by the Atlanta private school to visit with former classmates B.J. Crane (Lovett’s shot put coach) and Charlie Finch (Lovett’s head track coach). Nelson also got in a brief workout to make sure his massive biceps and triceps weren’t being ignored.

RELATED: Wheeler flamethrower strikes out first 14 batters in …

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Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt has chance to make last impression on AJC’s Mr. Basketball during Wednesday in-home recruiting visit

Hewitt The Closer? He closed the deal on the nation's No. 1 prospect (Derrick Favors) last year. Will Hewitt have the magic touch again? (AJC)

Hewitt The Closer? He closed the deal on the nation's No. 1 prospect (Derrick Favors) last year. Will Hewitt have the magic touch again? (AJC)

Georgia Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt has prime position for the recruiting of the AJC’s Mr. Basketball.

Hewitt will be the last head coach to make an in-home visit with Westlake’s Marcus Thornton, his family confirmed to the AJC. Hewitt and Thornton will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 Thornton is one of college basketball’s hottest free agents.

The Wednesday slot was originally reserved for Florida coach Billy Donovan, but both sides agreed cancel the visit after power forward Will Yeguete of Melbourne, Fla., committed to the Gators on Tuesday.

Hewitt has always been scheduled as the last coach to meet with Thornton. The two sides were initially going to sit down in Atlanta next week, but decided to bump it up after Thornton ended the recruiting process with Florida.

Wednesday is the last day of NCAA’s contact period, …

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AJC’s Believe It or Not: UGA recruiting target strikes out first 14 batters of high school baseball game

Sam Bragg: 14 in a row (Wheeler HS photo)

Sam Bragg: 14 in a row (Wheeler HS photo)

Wheeler High’s Sam Bragg dominated a recent baseball game like he was playing it on his XBox 360.

He put up ridiculous numbers.

Don’t let the baby-face look fool you. He’s a bad dude.

The junior flame-thrower struck out the first 14 batters he faced in a 9-0 win over Campbell this past week. Wheeler’s David McDonald has seen a lot of star-studded achievements over the years as baseball coach — including a sending a steady flow of players to the major-league draft. But nothing like Bragg’s brash streak.

It looked something like KKKKKKKKKKKKKK in the scorebook.

“He just struck them all out,” McDonald said. “There wasn’t a ground ball. There wasn’t a fly ball. I think he went 3-2 (full count) on two hitters. His fastball was popping at 91-92 mph, while he was also throwing his breaking ball very hard for strikes … It was impressive.”

Bragg is one of Georgia’s top high school juniors, and has stolen some of the spotlight from senior …

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Mini-bailout? GHSA to return $245,000 to Georgia’s high school athletic programs for next year

GHSA: Quarter of million dollars back to members next year

GHSA: Quarter of million dollars back to members next year

Every penny counts in the tough economy for the Georgia High School Association.

The state’s governing body for high school athletics has made two financial concessions for next year in order to help its members.

The GHSA will waive membership dues and increase coverage of catastrophic insurance from 80- to 100-percent for the 2010-2011 athletic calendar.

On the surface, the GHSA’s gift resembles a small and nearly forgettable donation, saving each school a total of $340 to $825 for the year. However, when the numbers of the 431 members are calculated and added together, it projects to be lump sum of $245,000 in decreased revenue for the GHSA next year.

“Our feeling was that a lot of our schools are talking about ways of cutting back in their athletic programs,” said Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA’s executive director. “Some schools were going to maybe do away with their junior varsity programs, while others are limiting …

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With UGA’s Zach Mettenberger dismissed, Lassiter High’s Hutson Mason projects to be No. 3 QB as freshman

[RELATED: UGA lands commitment No. 6 for 2011 football recruiting class: click here]

Lassiter High’s Hutson Mason projects to be UGA’s third-string quarterback before taking his first step on college campus.

Mason, who shattered many of Georgia’s high school passing records this past season, will be only UGA’s third quarterback on scholarship when he reports to the team in June.

Zach Mettenberger was dismissed by UGA coach Mark Richt on Sunday, leaving behind Aaron Murray and Logan Gray at the position. Also, cornerback Branden Smith took direct snaps at QB during spring practice.

Hutson Mason: Cobb County legend two snaps away from SEC play (AJC photo)

Hutson Mason: Cobb County legend two snaps away from SEC play (AJC photo)

“Zach is a really good friend of mine,” Mason told the AJC. “It’s a sad thing. I don’t really want to comment on anything else. He’s a good friend, and every time I went to Athens, I stayed with him. Zach will get an opportunity to play again (somewhere else). He’s a good quarterback.”

The 6-foot-3, 192-pound Mason was …

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