It was a wild ride on the local sports scene in 2017 from thrilling games and performances to milestone accomplishments to region, area and state titles to coaching changes and so much more.

Today the Calhoun Times begins its series which looks back on the exciting year that it was with the Stories of the Year. Today’s recap will cover the stories for the first third of the year from January through April, and the rest will run in the next two editions.

So without further ado, here are the stories of note from the first third of 2017 (in chronological order):

Johns’ breaks Calhoun girls scoring record (Jan. 14)

The Calhoun Lady Jackets got a solid non-region road win on Saturday and a school record fell in the process.

Calhoun senior Jana Johns scored a game-high 23 points, which moved her past former Lady Jackets standout Taylor Palmer atop the all-time scoring list in Calhoun High girls basketball history, as she led her team to a 63-55 victory at Cartersville. Johns already holds the single-season scoring record after breaking that mark last year.

Calhoun Swimming wins NWGA Title (Jan. 16)

The Calhoun Aquatic Center hosted some of the best swimmers and teams from throughout northwest Georgia on Friday and Saturday, and at the end of the competition, it was Calhoun High that stood out from the rest.

The CAC hosted the second ever Northwest Georgia Swim and Dive Championships, which included more than 20 teams and more than 521 swimmers. The Calhoun boys team further cemented their dominance this season with a first-place finish with 421 points to easily defeat second-place Rome (285) and third-place Blessed Trinity (269). The Jackets remained undefeated with the victory.

Calhoun also took first in the combined team scores with 685 points to finish ahead of Rome (618) and Blessed Trinity (563). The Lady Jackets had 264 points to place fourth in the girls team standings. Rome (333), Blessed Trinity (294) and Jefferson (276) finished ahead of them.

Calhoun’s Rierson joins 1,000-point club (Jan. 18)

Calhoun senior Chapin Rierson is now part of a club that only nine other players in Calhoun boys basketball history can claim membership in.

Rierson surpassed 1,000 points for his career on Tuesday with a 3-pointer in the second quarter of Calhoun’s 62-51 victory over rival Sonoraville. He is only the 10th player in Calhoun history to score 1,000 points for his career.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” said Calhoun boys head coach Vince Layson of Rierson’s milestone. “He’s only the 10th player ever at Calhoun to do that, and there have been a lot of good basketball players here over the years. I was happy to be a part of it with him, and I know his teammates are too.”

Walraven, Wilson make Sonoraville history (Jan. 21)

Sometimes the pursuit of an individual milestone or record can take some attention away from a great team win, but on Friday at Sonoraville a couple of those efforts only served to enhance one.

On a special night for both senior Brad Wilson and junior Wil Walraven, the pair led the way to a convincing 74-56 non-region home victory over Southeast Whitfield while also making a little Phoenix history individually.

Walraven reached the 1,000-point mark with his 22nd point of the night in the fourth quarter, and Wilson broke the single-season school record for 3-pointers with his third from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Walraven finished with a game-high 23 points, and Wilson scored 22, including seven total 3s, to help Sonoraville run away with the win in front of a packed house.

“Brad is such an impressive, unbelievable kid, and when he gets going, you won’t find one much better shooting,” said Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn. “He got off to a bit of a slow start tonight, and we really did as a team, but he got going in that second quarter and made a few from out there. When he does that, it really energizes us. He has that effect on us to make the guys feel more comfortable when they see him making shots like that.

“(For Wil) it’s a really great accomplishment. I think that he would give a lot of credit to those guys around him, but he’s a special player no doubt. To get to (1,000) points as a high school player and to do it with six games left in your junior season is incredible. We’ve asked a lot of him from Day 1, and he’s stepped up for his and only continues to keep getting better.”

First state title highlights Calhoun State trip (Feb. 6)

The Calhoun swimming and diving team took a large group of competitors to the GHSA State Swim and Dive Championships this past weekend, and several of them made their presence felt.

Calhoun was led by a program-first on Saturday night in the final boys event. The relay team of Caleb Black (Sr.), Cal Parker (Jr.), Bo Dyar (Jr.) and John Carroll (Soph.) finished first in the 4x100 meter relay to earn Calhoun’s first individual swimming state championship.

That top finish was a big part of the Calhoun boys placing fourth overall in the team standings behind state champion St. Pius, Westminster and Chamblee.

Black was also the first Calhoun swimmer to earn a spot on the podium in an individual event as he finished third in both the 200 meter freestyle and 500 meter freestyle. Black was also a part of the 200 medley relay team along with Parker, Dyar and Joe Kauffman (Sr.) who finished fourth.

Black, Parker and Dyar all earned spots in the finals of their individual events. Carroll earned a spot in the finals in two individual events, and Cody Workman (Sr.) qualified for the finals in one. Carroll and Kauffman were also a part of the boys’ 200 freestyle relay along with Spencer Brown (Sr.) and Josh Tolson (Fr.) who qualified for the finals.

Jackets defeat rival Sonoraville to earn 5th straight region title (Feb. 11)

The atmosphere and intensity were certainly worthy of a region championship game on Saturday night, and the play on the court delivered as well.

Rivals Calhoun and Sonoraville did battle for the 6-AAA crown, and the game was tight throughout. But the Jackets simply made more plays in the final quarter to pull out a hard-fought 53-48 victory and earn their fifth straight region title.

The Jackets (20-4) trailed by one going to the fourth quarter and then by four at 43-39 close to the midway point of the period when Calhoun senior Rhett Abernathy stepped up with a huge four-point play on a made 3-pointer followed by a free throw to tie the game at the 4:52 mark.

The game was a scrap from that point on as Sonoraville’s Trent Daniel lifted the Phoenix (22-7) back to a 45-43 lead with a lay-up with just over three minutes to play. Calhoun then closed the game on a 10-3 run, including going 8-for-8 at the free throw line to seal the win.

Calhoun coach Vince Layson said the game itself was great to be a part of and his team was fortunate to make the plays to get the win, including Abernathy’s clutch shot.

“That’s the type of game you want to be in,” said Layson. “I knew the guys would bring a lot of energy tonight with it being a cross-town rival and region championship. That game could’ve had several different outcomes. We were fortunate to make some plays down the stretch and pull it out. Credit to Sonoraville for making it extremely tough to do. That game could’ve gone either way.

“I think Rhett’s four-point play set the tone for the rest of the game. We were winded and down a little, and I felt like if they got a stop there and went and scored on the other end, it could’ve put us away. But that shot brought us back to life. I’m more happy for Rhett than anything. He works so hard, and he came through with a huge play when we needed it.”

Abernathy finished with 13 points in the game, including six in the fourth quarter. Chapin Rierson also had 13 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. He added 11 rebounds to give him a double-double for the night.

The Jackets got a huge (and somewhat unexpected) lift from Davis Allen, who led them with 17 points and nine rebounds. He also went 4-for-4 from the line in the final two minutes. The sophomore got the start on Saturday night, and Layson said he did more than enough to warrant it.

Trio of state champs lead Sonoraville at State (Feb. 14)

The Sonoraville wrestling team sent a message to the rest of Class AAA that they are a force to be reckoned with this past weekend in Macon, and they have three state champions to prove it.

The Firebirds sent seven wrestlers to the Class AAA State Traditional Tournament in Macon and had three as the last men standing in their weight class to bring home state titles. Those performances, along with several other impressive finishes, helped Sonoraville finish second overall in the team standings.

“Our performance this past weekend indicates that we are all about competing at a high level,” said Sonoraville coach Randy Steward, who just finished his first season at the helm. “I will tell you to have the kids compete like they did makes the coaching staff very happy. The first thing I talked about last Fall when I got here, and continued to talk about all season, was creating a culture of ‘Expect to Win.’ I believe I was able to articulate 30-plus years of experience into giving our kids the opportunity to be successful. I guess you could say this isn’t my first rodeo. Many of the kids have bought in and believe they can be the best. I’m a firm believer in routine and doing things right all year long – for the most part they stuck with the routine that was developed and went down to Macon and focused on one match at a time. I can’t begin to say how proud I am of this group of kids and how proud I am to be the head coach at Sonoraville High School.”

Sonoraville started the championship matches on Saturday with a victory by Tyler Hunt at 120. Hunt won a 9-4 decision in the championship match over North Hall’s John Pedraza.

The momentum continued at 126 with Trevor Burdick winning his final match against North Hall’s Bryson Smith by technical fall in the third round after building a 16-0 lead. For Burdick and Hunt, it made back-to-back state titles over the past two seasons.

The third state champ for the Firebirds came at 132 where Ian Clark edged out East Hall’s James Stoudenmire for a hard-fought 6-5 decision.

In total, Sonoraville had six wrestlers finish in the top six of their respective weight classes. Along with the three state champions, Sonoraville’s Allen Stone (106) placed third and Gavin Thompson (113) and John Knight (195) each placed fourth.

Swanson takes over full-time job for GC girls (Feb. 24)

Matt Swanson had the chance to learn about his team and players on the fly this season when he took over as interim head coach midway through the year for the Gordon Central girls basketball program. Now, he’ll get a shot to lead the program on a more permanent basis.

Swanson was officially named the head coach of the Lady Warriors recently and will lead the program going forward. The veteran coach took the reins midway through the season after the resignation of former head coach Erick Hopper, who was in his fourth season at the school, and impressed his superiors enough to warrant the full-time hire.

“We are excited to announce Coach Matt Swanson will return next year as our head girls basketball coach,” said Gordon Central High principal Doug Clark. “His time with our girls this season was a win-win for both our program and our girls. He was able to build on the foundation built over the past few years, and our athletes gained trust in the process as the season progressed. I believe he is the right person for our program at the right time, and I look forward to seeing where he leads our program over the next several years.”

Swanson has coached basketball for 18 years, including a stint as LaFayette High girls head coach from 2004-2012. He said he looks forward to the opportunity to lead the Lady Warriors.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to be the head coach at Gordon Central,” said Swanson. “Taking over in January gave me a chance to really assess the situation. The first thing I noticed was how great the girls are. They play really hard and were really accepting under a very difficult circumstance. I became their biggest fan.”

Calhoun makes Final Four (March 1)

The Calhoun Yellow Jackets keep proving people wrong…and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Few in the entire state gave them a chance to make it to the Class AAA Elite Eight, much less win on Wednesday night, and when the opponent was set with Jenkins, the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs in the Elite Eight last season, coming to town, they were certainly the underdogs once again. But the Jackets embraced that role, and fought, battled, scratched, clawed and any other word you want to describe it as, and they were the last team standing on the court on Wednesday as they defeated the Warriors 65-60 to advance to the Final Four.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Calhoun coach Vince Layson after the game. “This team hasn’t let me down all year with their intensity and will to win. They bring it every night, and that’s exactly what they did again tonight. I’m a little speechless right now.

“I think last year when we matched up with Jenkins in the Elite Eight, we thought we were the favorite, and when they ended our season, it was a shocker for us. But our guys responded once we knew we were going to have this rematch. I don’t think anybody in the state thought we could get this ‘W,’ but I can tell you that everyone in that locker room believed it. I told them after the game to soak it up because this is an achievement and game they’ll remember for a lifetime. But on that same token, we’ve got another game to get ready for on Saturday.”

The game was very hard-fought on both sides as two teams played at a high level, especially on the defensive end. Both teams worked hard for every point they scored throughout the four quarters with the fourth quarter going back and forth several times after it was tied 39-39 at the end of the third.

The final quarter featured six ties, but Calhoun never surrendered the lead back to Jenkins (22-8). Both teams made big plays, including Calhoun senior Malik Lawrence, who scored 15 of his team-high 25 points in the period and went 7-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch to seal it. In fact, Calhoun scored their last eight points at the free throw line as they went 8-for-8 in the final 1:09.

Also in double figures for the Jackets was Davis Allen with 18 points, and he also had eight rebounds. Kaylan Aker added 12 points and five rebounds, and the leading scorer Lawrence pulled down six boards of his own to go with his 25 points.

Lawrence said he felt like his team needed him and he responded in the fourth quarter.

“I knew one of us needed to step up, and my teammates encouraged me and gave me confidence,” said Lawrence, one of six seniors on the team. “I knew I needed to step up, hit free throws, handle the ball and get to the basket.

“This means a lot. At first, when we got to the Elite Eight, I was surprised, but I think we wanted it more tonight. We prepared, watched film, practiced hard and did everything we could to get this win. This is something you dream about is going to the Final Four, especially your senior year, and I’m so happy we are able to do it.”

Ralston gets Calhoun job (March 2)

Kayla Ralston has played for and coached alongside Jerry Pruett. Now, she will take the reins from him and usher in the next chapter of Calhoun Lady Jackets basketball.

Pruett announced on Monday that he is stepping down as head coach of the Lady Jackets after 15 years on the job, and Ralston will replace him at the helm.

Pruett, who will continue to teach in the Calhoun City School System, led the Calhoun girls program to sustained success in his time as head coach, which included 12 State Tournament berths (10 straight counting this past season), three region titles, three region runner-up finishes, three Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite Eights. The team went 22-6 this past season and finished as Region 6-AAA runner-up while earning another state berth.

“I have been truly blessed to have the chance to coach a lot of great players over the past 15 years,” said Pruett in a statement released by Calhoun City Schools on Monday night. “It was those players who did the work and paid the price so that Calhoun Basketball could reach the level of excellence it has achieved. What a wonderful ride it has been.”

Calhoun High athletic director Hal Lamb and Calhoun High principal Peter Coombe announced that Ralston will take over as head coach immediately.

She has been a community coach and assistant coach for the past nine seasons under Pruett and is a 2007 graduate of Calhoun High, where she played for him.

Ralston said that getting the nod to take over the program means a lot to her and her time learning from Pruett has been very valuable.

“It is an absolute dream come true,” said Ralston. “It has been a dream of mine to be the Calhoun Lady Jackets head coach ever since I can remember. As much as I am excited, I think my family is right up there with me because they know how long I have wanted this, especially my mama.

Nix named new GC coach (March 2)

A new era of Gordon Central football officially begun on Tuesday as Cory Nix was introduced as the Warriors new head coach.

Nix takes over for David Humphreys, who resigned in early January after four seasons at the school. Nix comes to Gordon Central after most recently serving as the defensive coordinator at Temple High this past season.

“Ever since I found out I had gotten the job a few days ago, everything has been a whirlwind,” said Nix. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this. Without God and my wife, none of this is possible. When I first saw the job opening, I was interested because I’ve got a family and three young children, and I thought this was the perfect environment to raise a family. My goal has always been to be a head coach, and I’ve been chasing that for the last several years. I know I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve coached in and around Atlanta before moving out to Temple before last season, and I know God brought me out there for a reason to show me that a rural-type school is where I needed to be. That’s where I knew I wanted to coach is a school anywhere from Class AA to Class AAAA, and this was a perfect fit for me.”

Nix played at and graduated from UAB and has been an assistant coach at Chamblee, Sequoyah, Woodstock and Roswell before taking the job at Temple prior to last season.

Gordon Central High principal Doug Clark said throughout the process of searching for a new coach following Humphreys’ resignation, he felt like Nix worked his way to the top of the list quickly.

“We started out with 38 applicants and narrowed it down to 12, and Coach Nix was No. 1 on my list,” said Clark. “He was pretty high on everyone else’s list on the committee, but as we continued to go through the process, he worked his way to the top for everyone. Everyone was in complete agreement by the end that he was the man for the job. Then we had him and the other four finalists come here and be with the kids in the weight room just so they could interact and get to know them, and Coach Nix was right there beside them, spotting them and talking to them about their technique. That just reinforced everything for us.

“We feel like he is very energetic and driven, and he can recruit the halls to get kids out and get our numbers up. Our goal is to get him here within the next few weeks to get started, and we believe he’ll do a great job here.”

Nix will teach physical education and weights at Gordon Central, and he said he hopes to be on campus and started in the next two weeks.

Calhoun girls, boys tennis continue region title streak (April 12)

Each Spring the Calhoun girls and boys tennis teams know their consecutive region title streaks are on the line, and every year they seem to rise to the occasion.

The Lady Jackets and Jackets each kept their impressive streaks going on Tuesday with victories over Bremen in the finals of the Region 6-AAA Tournament at the Calhoun Tennis Center. For the Calhoun girls, it’s the 11th straight region crown, and for the Calhoun boys, the victory makes it five straight.

The Calhoun girls (16-1) made it look easy at times during the finals on Tuesday afternoon, defeating the Lady Blue Devils 5-0. McCartney Kessler and Carly Briggs swept the No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches in quick fashion, not losing a game in straight-set wins. Emma King finished off the sweep of singles points with a two-set win at the No. 3 spot, and the No. 1 team of Marlee Nichelson and Jalen Holland and the No. 2 team of Sammy Bramlett and Molly Mashburn completed the scoring with straight-set wins in doubles action.

“Today, we brought the intensity,” said Calhoun coach Robin Proffitt. “We played well, and we’re proud of the kids. They were focused and took care of business.”

“It’s always nice to get another region title,” added Calhoun coach Lynn Davis. “There’s a little pressure for the kids to not let it be the year the streak ends, and they stepped up today. We knew Bremen would be a good test because they were our strongest competition this season, but our girls were focused and ready.”

The Calhoun boys (17-1) worked hard for their championship victory as it came down to the final match. With the finals tied at 2-2, the No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Rucker Reeves and freshman Hunter Hartsfield punctuated the Jackets victory with a 6-4, 6-4 win in a very competitive match to lift their team to a region title.

“We knew it would be tough against Bremen because they are a talented team and it’s always hard to beat someone the second go-round,” said Calhoun coach Brian Proffitt.

“But our intensity was better today, and everyone laid it all out there. For Hunter to be a freshman and Rucker to be a sophomore…both of them grew up today. We thought it would come down to either No. 1 or No. 2 doubles, and when it did, we just tried to reinforce to them to stay focused and not worry about the score around them…just their match.”

The match got to 2-2 with Calhoun’s Coen Marcus winning at No. 2 singles Matthew Turner and Aaron Lively winning at No. 1 doubles. Bremen then followed with wins by Clayton Rakestraw and Jacob Gurley at No. 1 and No. 3 singles, respectively to set up the decisive point at No. 2 doubles.

Brian Proffitt, who is in his first season as a coach for Calhoun, said winning another region title was one of their preseason goals and the kids worked hard to achieve it.

“I think it means a lot to the community…winning never gets old,” said Brian Proffitt. “This team is very young, and for them to do this shows how much work this group has put in. When I first got involved this year, I knew the talent was there, but we needed to play as a team. And as the season has gone on, they have learned how to do that and have grown so much.”

Calhoun girls soccer clinches region title (April 20)

After a dramatic win in penalty kicks over their rival Sonoraville last Thursday, the Calhoun girls were securely in the driver’s seat for the Region 6-AAA title coming into this week, needing just one win in their last two region contests to accomplish the feat.

The Lady Jackets took care of that hurdle on Tuesday to clinch the region title with a 4-1 win at Coahulla Creek. Calhoun (10-3, 8-0) fell behind 1-0 early in the contest, but fought back with two goals in the first half to take a 2-1 lead at the break and then finished things off with two more goals in the second half.

Calhoun coach Randy Rice said it has been a tough season for his team, but they never wavered in working hard toward and eventually accomplishing their goal of winning a region title.

“I am completely overwhelmed by the girls winning the region title this year,” said Rice. “It has been a physical and mental roller coaster this season to say the least. We were greeted at the start of the season by losing an all-star performer in Tori Roper to a season-ending knee injury. Then, captain MeriKathryn Black went down with a season-ending hip injury. Captain Carter Baggett, foot, and captain Leah Prather, neck, also lost some playing time due to injuries. At one point we were playing with one captain, Michelly Huitanda.

“But give the girls credit. They overcame the injuries. Young players stepped up and filled the holes. We are now finally healthy and are looking forward to the State Playoffs.”

On Tuesday, Calhoun was led by Mari Morales who scored two goals in the first half and one more in the second for a hat trick. Karimar Ramos added the final goal, and Prather, Adamariz Perez and Emily Sorrow each had an assist.

Jackets’ track wins region crown (April 20)

The goal for each track coach is to build their team up throughout the season so that they reach their peak performance level in the final (and most important) meets, and Calhoun coach Brant Murry and Sonoraville coach Jeremy Green accomplished that goal this week with both of their teams putting on impressive performances at the Region 6-AAA Meet.

The Calhoun boys team had the best two-day stretch of the local teams in action as they put together a pretty dominant performance on their home track to earn the Region 6-AAA title. The Jackets finished with 164 total points to take the crown, 54 points ahead of their nearest competitor.

Murry said his boys knew what was at stake coming into the meet, and they delivered exactly what was asked of them against some tough competition.

“I think the boys came out today and went to war,” said Murry. “We knew coming in that there were going to be several schools fighting for points in every event, but we were comfortable and confident that our lineup could do the job. They stepped up today and got it done, and I’m proud of the way they performed to win a region title.”

The Jackets were led by six first-place finishes, including a record-tying performance by Jack Rhea. The senior tied the school record and his personal best in the pole vault as he earned a region title with a successful jump of 15-00. Also earning individual region titles was Drew Rutledge in the 400 meter (51.78), Esvin Garcia in the 800 meter (2:04.28), CJ Fuller in the shot put (46-03.75), William Long in the discus (129) and the 4x400 meter relay ‘A’ team (3:32.73).

Calhoun got a pair of runner-up finishes in the 100 meter dash (11.62) and 200 meter dash (23.64) from Malik Lawrence and the 110 meter hurdles (16.02) and 300 meter hurdles (43.57) from Jevard Williams along with other second-place finishes from Garcia in the 1600 meter (4:47.64), Jonkell Tolbert in the triple jump (40-00.50) and the 4x100 meter relay ‘A’ team (44.60).

Tucker retires, Broom takes over at GC (April 21)

If there has been one constant when it comes to prep basketball in Gordon County and the surrounding areas over the past four decades, its legendary head coach Ray Tucker patrolling the sidelines and implementing the game’s fundamentals while shaping the lives of young athletes.

After piecing together an illustrious and distinguished career that spanned over 600 games coached, Tucker has recently decided to step down from his latest coaching position at Gordon Central and retire from coaching basketball to focus more on spending time with family.

Tucker was most notably one of the most decorated head basketball coaches in Calhoun High School history. From 1979-2004, his team’s remarkably posted a 426-223 record. His Jackets racked up an astonishing 11 state tournament appearances, finished as state runner-up once, appeared in the Final Four on another occasion and reached the Elite Eight round three times.

His Calhoun hoops squads snagged three region championships and one regular-season championship.

“We went on some really good runs at Calhoun,” Tucker said. “It’s just wonderful to see the kids, especially my own kids when they played, be successful. It was really always a big thrill.”

Speaking of his own kids, his sons Ray III, David and Craig also played a crucial role in his legacy by taking part in 19 state tournaments of their own in various sports. Ray III has also logged his time coaching with his father, reaching three basketball and three golf state tournaments.

Tucker’s influence not only resonated on the hardwood, but on the golf course as well. Tucker spent 20 successful seasons as the varsity golf coach, clinching one state title, one state runner-up, five region championships and 13 state tournaments.

Tucker collected many personal accolades during his various coaching tenures, securing a “Coach of the Year” honor from the Chattanooga Times Free Press and landing on the Atlanta Tip-Off Club’s “Georgia’s Winningest Basketball Coaches” list. He was also the State Golf Coach of the Year in 1976 and 1977.

His status as a local sports legend was cemented when he earned a spot in the inaugural class of the Calhoun-Gordon County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

“The great support you get from the community has been one the most outstanding features of coaching,” Tucker said.

Although a coach doesn’t collect those kinds of accomplishments without a robust knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the sport and an ability to communicate them to the players they are responsible for leading, Tucker credits the majority of his success to his wife, Pamela.

“Pam is the rock of our family,” Tucker said. “I wouldn’t have made the contributions that I did without her.”

Tucker also spent abbreviated coaching stints at Lafayette High School, his alma mater where he was a standout basketball and golf player, and Armuchee High School. In 2014, he was named head coach of the Gordon Central basketball program.

Even though Tucker’s Warriors didn’t always get the results on the scoreboard that they desired, his veteran leadership altered the lives of the student athletes in ways that aren’t always apparent in a box score.

“Ray brought so much experience of the game and life in general,” Gordon Central principal Doug Clark said. “He impacted the lives of the players more than they’ll realize for years to come. He did a fabulous job for us, just like he did everywhere else he has been.”

Although it’s challenging to replace such a seasoned leader, the news of Tucker’s retirement provides Gordon Central’s basketball program with a fresh start under the direction of new head coach Derrick Broom, who has gleaned heaps of coaching wisdom from his time spent as Tucker’s assistant coach this past season.

“Working under Coach Tucker was an honor for me,” Broom said. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach with great coaches in the past before my first head coaching experience, but after coaching under Ray Tucker, I know that I will be better prepared to be a head coach again.”

Broom, who was also head boys coach at Calhoun High for two seasons, said he hopes to infuse a winning mentality into the program and acknowledged the team has a solid core of young players that will contend in the coming seasons. In the long-term, he said he hopes he can build a sparkling legacy, both on and off the court that Tucker exemplified for so many years.

“Coach Tucker is a man of integrity,” Broom said. “He would take the shirt off of his back to help anyone in need. Coach Tucker is well-known around the community and has had major influences in many young adults lives. Whenever I retire, I want to be able to look back, like Coach Tucker is able to do, and be able to know that I had a major influence in my student-athletes lives.”

According to Tucker, the Warriors are in good hands in the upcoming season with Broom taking over at the helm.

“I’m very happy for Derrick, he’s a good man,” Tucker said. “He’s had head coaching experience and college playing experience, so that is a big plus. We had a good group of players, and they can turn into a really good basketball team if they put the work, time and effort in.”

Pate takes over at Sonoraville (April 27)

A new era began for Phoenix football on Thursday as Sonoraville High officially named Denver Pate as their new head coach.

Pate takes the place of Jim Kremer, who resigned on April 21 after three years on the job. Pate served as offensive coordinator under Kremer the past two seasons, but has also previously served as an assistant at Chattooga, Cedartown, East Paulding and one year on the college level at Berry College.

Pate said he is excited to get the chance at his first head-coaching job and is hoping to continue to build on the foundation that was set under Kremer.

“This is the first head coaching job I’ve every interviewed for and I don’t know if you’re ever truly ready until it happens, but you won’t find someone who will work harder than I will here,” said Pate. “I care about this community and program, and I’m dedicated to the task at hand. We’re still in the process of building this thing up and we’re aiming for success here. We’re going to do the little things right and hold each other accountable. That’s what it will take to get to the next level.

“Coach Kremer brought me in here to help continue to build this thing up, and I’m very thankful to him for doing that. Now it’s my opportunity and job to build off what he’s established. “We’re going in the right direction, we’ve just got to continue working hard and putting forth the effort in the classroom, weight room and on the field and hold players and coaches accountable.”

Sonoraville High principal Bruce Potts said in an email to others interested in the job on Thursday that they thought Pate was the right man to lead the program going forward.

“We have spent many hours since last Friday in planning and discussing the direction of our program and who could continue the successes that Coach Kremer has provided the program over the last few years,” said Potts in the email. “Last evening, we held an internal interview for Coach Denver Pate. He sat before a panel of parents, administrators, a school governance representative and rising seniors. After a three-hour session, the panel affirmed the thoughts of Sonoraville High School leadership and made a motion to approve the recommendation of Coach Denver Pate as the next Head Football Coach of Sonoraville High School.”