Archive for May, 2010

Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: North Gwinnett Bulldogs

(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. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Click here)

IN MY OPINION: Bob Sphire is one of a handful of Georgia's high school coaches that I think would be excellent candidates for a college assistant job. He has performed miracles at North Gwinnett. When I asked Sphire about his college interest a few months ago, he said he was happy in the high school ranks (AJC photo)

IN MY OPINION: Bob Sphire is one of a handful of Georgia's high school coaches that I think would be an excellent candidate for a college assistant job. He has performed miracles at North Gwinnett. When I asked Sphire about any college interest a few months ago, he said he was happy in the high school ranks (AJC photo)

So many good things have happened over the last four years under North Gwinnett mastermind Bob Sphire, that it’s hard to believe that Bulldogs were once a laughingstock among Gwinnett County’s football nation.

How good is North Gwinnett now? They were arguably the second-best team in Georgia last year, suffering their only loss to eventual state …

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AJC’s Mr. Basketball meets NBA celebrity during Texas visit, prepping for UGA and Georgia Tech visits

Texas is the darkhouse school in the sweepstakes for the AJC's Mr. Basketball. Texas coach Rick Barnes guided the Longhorns to their first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2010, but they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament (AP photo)

Texas is the darkhouse school in the sweepstakes for the AJC's Mr. Basketball. Texas coach Rick Barnes guided the Longhorns to their first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2010, but they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament (AP photo)

The AJC’s Mr. Basketball got to meet one of his “all-time favorite basketball players” during his recruiting trip to Texas.

Westlake High’s Marcus Thornton has narrowed down to four schools, and has visited Alabama and Texas. He is expected to travel to UGA and Georgia Tech this week and announce his college decision by  May 21.

When Thornton went to Texas last Monday, he got to meet and greet T.J. Ford, guard for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

It was really exciting having him spend much of the morning with me just talking about the kind of things you should be looking for in college recruiting.

“ It was really exciting having him spend much of the morning with me just talking about the kind of things you should be looking for in college …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Marist War Eagles

(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. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)

Marist returns QB Andy Perez (AJC)

Marist returns QB Andy Perez (AJC)

You just never know about Marist.

When its supporters start bragging about the team well in advance of the season, Marist usually struggles to meet expectations. However, when the War Eagles aren’t projected to make a deep run into the playoffs, then they will likely surprise you with a championship-contending season.

There’s not much talk out there about Marist right now. Then again, we are three months away from the kickoff of the football season. Still, it makes me think that legendary coach Alan Chadwick has some surprises up his sleeve for this season. Chadwick, by the way, always loves to be underestimated.

Marist has a lot of …

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VIDEO: Wild and wacky ending to baseball playoff series between North Cobb and Grayson

North Cobb was the winning team in the one of the wackiest endings to a baseball playoff series in years.

Avery Cross had a walk-off hit-by-pitch plate appearance with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a 12-11 win over Grayson in Saturday’s deciding game of the best-of-3 series in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

“It was really pretty wild — I’ve never seen anything like it,” North Cobb coach Tom Callahan said.

The two teams combined for a dizzying display of belated offensive firepower, combing to score a total of 15 runs over the game’s final two innings.

With North Cobb (20-9) trailing 11-10 in the bottom of the seventh, the Warriors loaded the bases with one out. Grayson coach Seth Rhine tried some creative strategy, instructing one of his outfielders to go to the infield to play defense. Rhine then told all five infielders to play close to the grass, making it easier for a force out at any base.

Unfortunately for Grayson, the ball was …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Campbell Spartans

(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. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)

Campbell High School needs a little hope.

Campbell Spartans (Courtesy of CHS)

Campbell Spartans (Courtesy of CHS)

The Cobb school has only one won more than seven games one time in the 15-year history of the football program.

Where is the hope? It’s with coach T.K. Dodd, who is in his second-year of coaching the Spartans. Campbell has been a revolving door for coaches, with four different ones over the last five years.

Campbell, which was 2-8 last year, will return its Team MVP, two-way lineman Henry Hankerson (6-foot-1, 295 lbs.). “He’s aggessive, coachable, mobile and a very strong player,” said Dodd.

The team also welcomes back its highest-graded offensive lineman from last year, junior Tyler Houston

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Blessed Trinity Titans

(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)

Which Atlanta area private school has the best football program?

  • Marist
  • St. Pius
  • Woodward
  • Lovett
  • Westminster
  • Blessed Trinity
  • Greater Atlanta Christian
  • Wesleyan
  • Other (post below)

View Results

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Blessed Trinity was sooooo close last year.

The Titans were in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season. They sported a 5-2 record heading down the season’s final stretch. Unfortunately, the Roswell private school lost three in a row, including a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to Decatur.

Blessed Trinity coach Ricky Turner is making a few tweaks to the team this spring. There is an all-out battle for No. 1 QB, with the top contenders considering of senior Ricky …

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The AJC’s Mr. Basketball narrows down to UGA, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Texas

Looking Good: UGA made the final four, and Fox still has chance to score more points with AJC's Mr. Basketball during upcoming visit (AJC)

Looking Good: UGA in Marcus Thornton's final four, and Mark Fox still has chance to score more points with AJC's Mr. Basketball during upcoming visit (AJC)

Georgia Tech and UGA are among the four finalists for the AJC’s Mr. Basketball, Westlake High’s Marcus Thornton revealed on Thursday night.

Alabama and a surprise school (Texas) are among in Thornton’s short list of finalists. He eliminated Clemson, Kentucky, and Michigan from consideration, and plans on signing by May 21.

“To the other schools that offered scholarships, I want to say thanks for your time and consideration,” Thornton said in an email. “It was an honor to be recruited by those universities.

“There was nothing wrong with any of the other colleges. They are all great. Unfortunately, in the recruiting process, you can only pick one (school), and it has been very challenging to narrow down the list, and I expect it to continue being that way over the next few weeks. However, I feel very blessed to have the …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Norcross Blue Devils

(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)

Keith Maloof (right) will have one of the most experienced and talented teams in Region 7-AAAAA (AJC)

Keith Maloof (right) will have one of the most experienced and talented teams in Region 7-AAAAA (AJC)

Norcross High, which has had only two 10-win seasons in the last 15 years, could be one of the darkhorses in Class AAAAA next year.

Norcross will be in an all-Gwinnett region, along with powerhouses Peachtree Ridge and North Gwinnett, and returns lots of talent.

The Blue Devils will have one of the metro’s top defensive lines — anchored by Ben Bradley (6-foot-1, 270 lbs.), who has an early offer from South Carolina, and end Demetrius Alston (6-3, 230), who holds scholarship papers from Mississippi State.

Maybe the best news is the return of quarterback Matt Poole, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in last year’s opener. He will …

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HOME PAGE: AJC’s 30 in 30 series on GHSA spring football

Are you ready for some football? We are at the AJC with our “30 in 30″ series — quick looks at 30 high school football teams across the state and metro area over a 30-day period in the spring. Do you want to “talk smack” with other football followers? Here are a few of the particular posts where the reader comments are very active.

Will it be MLB baseball or Georgia Tech football for Blessed Trinity’s ‘Superman?

Buford Wolves (The dynasty of dynasties)

Camden County (South vs. North about football dominance)

Carver-Columbus (Isaiah Crowell USA’s No. 1 RB? Buford vs. Carver???)

Creekside Seminoles (Eric Berry’s twin brothers among nation’s top freshmen)

St. Pius Golden Knights (DB Geno Smith, the sophomore sensation … and Marist)

Sandy Creek Fighting Patriots (Defending Class AAAA champs moving down to AAA)

South Gwinnett Comets (Camden, Newnan, and Gwinnett fans debate)

Peachtree Ridge Lions (Discussion on non-region schedules)

Lakeside Vikings

Wesleyan Wolves (Can they get …

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The next American Idol? Collins Hill’s ace pitcher plays lead guitar in rock band

What would you rather be?

  • Star baseball player
  • Rock star

View Results

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James Buckelew discovered a lot of similarities between playing in a rock band and being Collins Hill’s ace pitcher.

“You’re performing up in front of people, having fun,” Buckelew said. “When you’re on the pitcher’s mound, there are a lot of people watching you. It’s same thing with taking the stage with the band.

“Both are exciting. And once you get started, you don’t even notice the people.”

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Buckelew is one of the state’s top left-handed pitchers, helping lead Collins Hill to the Region 7-AAAAA championship.

The Eagles (20-6) qualified for the playoffs for the fourth time in the past six years. Collins Hill plays host to Alpharetta (15-11) at 4 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Class AAAAA tournament.

“James has done a great job with his leadership, leading by example,” Collins Hill coach Paul Pierce said. “He …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Buford Wolves

Will Buford coach Jess Simpson be celebrating No. 4 this year? (AJC)

Will Buford coach Jess Simpson be celebrating No. 4 this year? (AJC)

(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. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)

State championships are always a topic at Buford, which kicked off spring practice on Tuesday.

The Wolves have won three Class AA championships in a row.  Last year’s was perhaps the most fulfilling, as Buford won a  rematch against Calhoun (13-10),  holding the state’s No. 1-rated prospect Da’Rick Rogers to 69 yards on 10 catches.

Why does Buford have a chance to win a fourth consecutive title? Four starters return in the offensive backfield, including QB Alex Ross and running backs Eric Barr and Seon Jones. The defense welcomes back its entire secondary, including Ryan Dillard, C.J. Moore, Jamal …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Banneker Trojans

(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)

michael carvell

E-mail the AJC

Banneker will be hard-pressed to post its third straight winning season.

The College Park school lost about its entire offense to graduation, returning only three offensive linemen. The rest of the offense will be new, which is why coach Ed Gosa has been anxious about the start of spring practice on this past Monday.

The good news is that Banneker has a lot of young and talented players without much varsity experience. And they are familiar with the team’s offensive scheme.

Justin Henderson is projected to be Banneker’s No. 1 QB, while Amon Bridges and Friday George are top candidates as the starting running backs.

Why Henderson? He earned the promotion after serving at the junior varsity’s QB the last two years. Said Gosa, …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Peachtree Ridge Lions

I thought No. 10 was the best prospect/player in the entire state of Georgia last year. People laughed at the time, because he was committed to Vanderbilt. Brad Roby got the last laugh, as the big-time schools charged hard toward the end, including heavy interest from UGA. He signed with UGA. Too bad for Peachtree Ridge, he has graduated (AJC)

I thought No. 10 was the best prospect/player in the entire state of Georgia last year. People laughed at the time, because he was committed to Vanderbilt. Brad Roby got the last laugh, as the big-time schools charged hard toward the end, including heavy interest from UGA. He signed with Ohio State. Too bad for Peachtree Ridge, he has graduated (AJC)

(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. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)

If you can count on one thing in recent years, it’s that Peachtree Ridge will be among the best teams in Georgia’s largest classification (Class AAAAA).

The Suwanee school has won 10 or more games in three out of the last four years, including two appearance in the state championship.

What about next year? Peachtree Ridge …

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AJC’s Mr. Basketball returns from Alabama visit, will likely take recruiting trips soon to UGA and Georgia Tech (Updated)

Anthony Grant has known Marcus Thornton longer than any coach from Thornton's other finalists. Why is that? Grant tried to land Thornton while at VCU (AP Photo)

Anthony Grant has known Marcus Thornton longer than any coach from Thornton's other finalists. Why is that? Grant tried to land Thornton while at VCU (AP Photo)

Alabama coach Anthony Grant was first in line with the opportunity to impress the AJC’s Mr. Basketball on his home court.

Westlake’s Marcus Thornton, one of college basketball’s hottest free agents, took an unofficial visit to Alabama this weekend.

Along with Grant, the prized prospect also had conversations with two other well-known Alabama representatives — school president Dr. Robert Whitt and Nick Saban, football coach of the reigning BCS champions.

“I was very impressed by Coach Grant and his overall approach to the program,” Thornton said in a statement. “He created a family-like environment, and seemed like a coach that anyone would want to play for.”

What’s up next for Thornton? He will visit Texas within the next week, and said he is likely to take recruiting trips to Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and UGA over the …

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Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: Druid Hills Red Devils

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.

(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)

You have to be a special player to start as a freshman in high school.

You have to be super duper special to start at QB as a freshman in high school.

John Henry Carey is that rarity, according to Druid Hills coach Kip Hall.

Hey, at least the kid has a good football name.

Why the freshman? The coach needs someone to direct the team’s “Multiple I” offense, and John Henry seems to be a natural fit.

We will let the coach explain it: “He has a passion for the game. He is not only intelligent in the classroom, but he is a student of the game. From just what I have seen, he has the tools to play the position. [And] he will only get better over time.

“He already …

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