Another year has come and gone, but before we get too far into 2014, here’s a look at many of the sports highlights the year 2013 had to offer throughout the Cherokee County area. Happy New Year, everyone!
The first month of 2013 wasn’t short of drama.
Two area girls’ basketball players scored their respective 1,000th points for their careers. Cherokee County senior forward Tori Davis scored hers on a layup with 6:23 left in the fourth quarter during a Jan. 11 game against Alexandria. Davis finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds in a 62-41 Lady Warrior victory.
A day earlier, Piedmont senior forward Sarah Garner earned her 1,000th point in a 57-30 win at Ohatchee. She joined teammate BreAnna Thompson in breaking the 1,000-point barrier. Ironically, Thompson scored her 1,000th point earlier in the season against Ohatchee.
In the annual Cherokee County Basketball Tournament, Cedar Bluff’s boys rallied past Spring Garden 68-58 in overtime to claim their second consecutive county championship on Jan. 19 at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena. The Tigers rallied from a 14-point third quarter deficit. Senior forward DeAngelo Hardy scored eight of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter.
In the girls’ tournament final, Cherokee County won their third straight county tournament title with a 57-44 victory over Sand Rock. Senior guard Chelsea Ray led the way for the Lady Warriors with 18 points, including three 3-pointers, along with three assists and three steals.
The Cherokee County area is always well represented at the Northeast Regional Basketball Tournament, and 2013 was no exception.
Cedar Bluff, Spring Garden, Sand Rock, Piedmont and Cherokee County’s girls, in addition to Collinsville and Spring Garden’s boys, made their way to Pete Mathews Coliseum the week of Feb. 18.
Only Cedar Bluff’s girls advanced to the Final 48 in Birmingham, winning a thrilling 47-43 Northeast Regional final game against Spring Garden. It was the fourth time the two teams had met during the season. The Lady Tigers had lost the previous three meetings, but won when it counted most behind Class 1A Northeast Regional Most Valuable Player Audrey Hargitt’s 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Cherokee County’s girls fell one win short of joining the Lady Tigers in Birmingham. The Lady Warriors dropped a 54-44 decision to Madison County in the Class 4A Girls Northeast Regional final.
Cedar Bluff’s historic girls basketball run ended in the Final 48 in Birmingham against state champion Brantley on Feb. 26. The Lady Tigers fell 42-31, ending their season at 17-16.
Cedar Bluff assistant football coach Scott Clifton accepted the Coosa Christian football vacancy on Feb. 28. He replaced former Coosa head coach Van Owens, who went 28-30 in six seasons.
Clifton, a 1992 graduate of Cedar Bluff, became the 14th head coach in Coosa’s football history, which dates back to 1976.
Another former Cedar Bluff coach was in the news during the month. Mark Mitchell, who guided the Tiger boys’ track and field teams to six consecutive Class 1A state titles before taking a job at Piedmont, was selected as the National Federation of State High School Associations as Alabama’s 2011-12 Coach of the Year in boys track.
The Spring Garden softball team received a welcome surprise from former Major League Baseball pitcher Chris Hammond on March 7. Hammond donated $5,000 from his foundation, which helps assist rural school sports programs throughout Alabama.
Spring Garden planned to use the money to help complete a batting cage.
On March 9, Kentucky duo Donny Burris of Gradyville and Darrin Adams of Columbia took first place in a Crappie USA Fishing qualifying event at Leesburg. The duo caught a total weight of 8.13 lbs., and earned $1,200.
Second place went to the Gilbert, S.C. team of Janette and Joe Carter (7.88 lbs.). Third place went to the Rainsville, Ala. team of Tony Thomas and Michael Hardeman (7.76 lbs.).
The Cherokee County Lady Warriors claimed their third straight Cherokee County Softball Invitational title at the Centre Softball Complex on March 16. The Lady Warriors defeated Sand Rock in the title game 4-0 in five innings.
Cedar Bluff senior forward DeAngelo Hardy and Collinsville senior forward Deshawn Moore headlined area basketball players selected to the Alabama Sportswriters Association All-State Basketball Teams. The teams were announced on March 17.
Both Hardy and Moore were selected to the Class 1A First Team. Hardy averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.2 assists for the Tigers (19-8) during the 2012-13 season. Moore, who helped lead Collinsville (27-4) to the Northeast Regional Tournament in Jacksonville for the third straight year, averaged 18.9 points, 6.6 boards, 4.1 steals and 2.1 assists.
Seven other area basketball players received All-State recognition. Joining Hardy from Cedar Bluff on the Second Team was senior post player Audrey Hargitt. Hargitt averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, 2.5 steals and an assist during the Lady Tigers’ (17-16) first state tournament appearance. Terrence Scales received an honorable mention.
Collinsville also had a pair of honorable mention players in boys’ senior forward Davey Posey and girls’ senior guard Christy Cox.
Cherokee County senior forward Tori Davis and Piedmont senior center BreAnna Thompson both received Second-Team recognition on the Class 4A and Class 3A girls’ teams respectively. Davis averaged 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists for the Lady Warriors (25-7), who made the Class 4A Northeast Regional final in Jacksonville.
Thompson tallied 19 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.4 steals and an assist for Piedmont (26-7), which reached the Class 3A Northeast Regional tournament for the first time since 2008.
Class 2A Sand Rock had an honorable mention in junior guard Dylan Mackey.
On March 21, the Cherokee County Lady Warrior softball team claimed their seventh straight county softball title. The Lady Warriors defeated Sand Rock 5-0 in 4 ½ innings in the championship game at Gaylesville.
A day later, the Cherokee County Baseball Tournament got underway at Gaylesville, but rain eventually washed out the weekend’s action. Sand Rock defeated Spring Garden 11-7 and Cherokee County defeated Gaylesville 11-1, but the tournament was never concluded.
Alan Beckett resigned as Collinsville football coach to take the head coaching position at Winterboro on April 1.
Beckett posted a 43-23 record in six seasons at Collinsville, including back-to-back region championships in 2010 and 2011. His best season at Collinsville was an 11-2 mark in 2011. Beckett led the Panthers to an 8-3 mark in 2012.
Cherokee County High School senior forward Tori Davis and Cedar Bluff senior forward DeAngelo Hardy took top honors on the All-Cherokee County basketball teams. It was Davis’ second straight All-County Basketball MVP honor.
Tragedy struck the nation on April 15 after bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, killing and injuring hundreds. Spring Garden basketball coach Ricky Austin was among the athletes in the 117th running of the race.
Austin and his wife Dana were safely back at their hotel in nearby Waltham just 52 minutes before the first bomb went off. Austin finished the race with a time of 3:17:52.
On April 16, the Cherokee County boys’ tennis team claimed first place while the Lady Warriors took second in the Class 4A, Section 3 tennis tournament at Jacksonville State. Both teams qualified for the state tournament in Montgomery on April 25-26.
Both Warrior teams finished eighth at the Class 4A state tournament, held at Lagoon Park.
Three area baseball teams qualified for the state playoffs: Class 1A, Area 13 champion Cedar Bluff, Class 1A, Area 13 runner-up Spring Garden and Class 3A, Area 10 champion Piedmont.
Cedar Bluff and Spring Garden swept Skyline and Woodville respectively, setting up a second-round battle with each other on April 26. Cedar Bluff swept the Panthers 11-5 and 6-0. Levi Mintz tossed a no-hitter in the nightcap, his second straight of the postseason.
After being taken the distance in their first-round matchup against Cleveland, the Piedmont Bulldogs swept Glencoe in the second round to set up a quarterfinal series against Mars Hill Bible.
Three area track and field teams won their respective section meets on April 26-27.
Cedar Bluff’s girls and boys won the Class 1A, Section 2 meet at Lincoln. Sand Rock’s boys and girls took third place at the Class 2A, Section 3 meet at Falkville. Piedmont’s boys and girls claimed the Class 3A, Section 3 meet in Birmingham.
The month began with some area football coaching news. Ernie Willingham returned to coach at Collinsville for a second term, replacing Alan Beckett, who resigned to take the Winterboro position on April 1.
Willingham coached at Appalachian from 2004-2010 and originally coached at Collinsville from 1998-2002. He is a 1979 graduate of Collinsville.
Cedar Bluff’s historic run of six consecutive Class 1A track and field championships ended May 3-4 in Selma. The Lady Tigers finished second to Westminster of Oak Mountain, while the Tiger boys took fifth.
Former Cedar Bluff boys’ track and field coach picked up his championship success in guiding the Piedmont Bulldog boys to their first state title. Piedmont tallied 81 total points to finish ahead of state runner-up Trinity’s 74 points.
Piedmont’s girls were also in contention for a state title. They finished third overall, led by BreAnna Thompson’s state record in the triple jump (37’2”).
Three area softball teams claimed area championships on May 2-3. Collinsville outlasted Cedar Bluff 5-3 in the Class 1A, Area 13 championship game on May 2 at Collinsville. Up the road at Sand Rock, the Lady Wildcats clinched their fifth straight Class 2A, Area 13 softball title with a 10-0 win over Gaston.
On May 3, Cherokee County claimed the Class 4A, Area 11 title with an 8-1 victory against Alexandria. It was the Lady Warriors’ sixth area softball championship in seven seasons.
Cherokee County advanced to the North Central Softball Regional in Tuscaloosa, while Sand Rock, Collinsville and Cedar Bluff all advanced to the North Softball Regional in Huntsville on May 10-11.
The Collinsville Panther soccer team claimed its first state championship on May 11 in Huntsville. The Panthers (14-7-7) defeated Westminster of Oak Mountain 4-1 in the title game. Panther goalkeeper Adan Morales was named the Most Valuable Player.
In the softball regional tournaments, Cherokee County earned the Class 4A North Central Regional championship in Tuscaloosa with a 7-0 win over Cleburne County and a pair of 1-0 victories over Crossville and Sardis.
Class 2A Sand Rock and Class 1A schools Cedar Bluff and Collinsville all fell short of North Regional championships in Huntsville.
In baseball, Cedar Bluff and Piedmont both made serious runs throughout the playoffs, but their seasons fell short of state championships.
Cedar Bluff (22-15), which swept Addison in the Class 1A quarterfinals on May 3, fell in the Class 1A state semifinals on May 10-11 at three-time defending Class 1A state champion Shoals Christian in three games.
Class 3A Piedmont (26-11) also lost a three-game series in the quarterfinals against Mars Hill Bible.
Staying with baseball, the semi-pro Centre Blue Sox returned to the diamond on May 11. Their first game was an 8-1 victory over the Gadsden Hit Squad. The Blue Sox (11-8) went on to the second round of the Fred Horn Industrial League playoffs, but fell short of the title with a three-game series loss to the Birmingham Cardinals in August.
Cherokee County High School softball and basketball coach Travis Barnes resigned on May 31 after taking the Athens softball and cross country coaching positions.
Barnes led the Lady Warrior softball program to a 40-7 record and the Class 4A state tournament in 2013. The previous two seasons, the Lady Warriors finished as Class 4A state runners-up.
Under Barnes, the Lady Warriors claimed the Cherokee County Tournament the past seven years, won their area five times and claimed four regional championships.
Barnes also coached both Warrior basketball programs. He led the Lady Warriors to a 25-7 record during the 2012-13 season, including a Northeast Regional appearance.
Another of the county’s successful softball coaches resigned his position in Cedar Bluff’s Shane McFry. McFry guided the Lady Tigers to a 61-61 record in four seasons, including back-to-back regional appearances in 2012 and 2013.
The Cherokee County Hall of Fame welcomed its Class of 2013 on June 8 with a formal ceremony at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena. The class was comprised of Spring Garden basketball great Terry Gamble, Cherokee County High School football legend Jack Kines, Gaylesville football and basketball standout Steve Ray, Hatcher High School legendary coach Eugene Weatherly and Cherokee County High School basketball great Amber Wood.
Former Cherokee County High School and Jacksonville State football and baseball standout Coty Blanchard signed a five-year baseball contract with the Tampa Bay Rays on June 15. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The Rays drafted Blanchard on June 8 in the 15th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft with the 458th pick. Blanchard reported to the Rays’ rookie league team in Princeton, W. Va. on June 20.
Cedar Bluff baseball pitcher Levi Mintz and Cherokee County High School softball pitcher Tori Davis both earned Most Valuable Player on their respective All-Cherokee County teams.
Mintz, now playing baseball at Mississippi State, posted a 7-1 record with a 0.99 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 56.2 innings for the Tigers (22-15). He also batted .358 with 23 walks, 11 doubles, 35 runs and 18 RBIs in the leadoff position.
Davis, a North Alabama signee, finished her high school career with a 40-7 record in 266.67 innings with 447 strikeouts and a 0.47 ERA. At the plate, she batted .496 with 17 doubles, five home runs, two triples, 14 walks, 38 runs and 42 RBIs.
Both Mintz and Davis also earned spots on the Alabama Sportswriters Association All-State teams in June. Davis was named Class 4A Softball Pitcher of the Year, Class 4A Player of the Year and a member of the Super All-State Team.
Joining Mintz on the Class 1A All-State Team from Cedar Bluff was senior outfielder CJ Gilreath. The Tigers also had an honorable mention selection in senior first baseman Curtis Abernathy.
The Piedmont Bulldogs (26-11) also had two first-team selections and one honorable mention on the Class 3A team. Senior Dillon Terry earned one of the pitching slots, while senior Cade Bradley claimed a spot at utility. Freshman Payton Young earned an honorable mention in the outfield.
The Gaylesville Trojans (7-18) had a pair of honorable mention players in junior third baseman Gable Lawson and junior outfielder Cole Murphy.
The Spring Garden Panthers (17-17) had an honorable mention selection in junior shortstop Grant Benefield.
Joining Davis on the All-State Softball Team was her battery mate, senior catcher and UAB signee Madison Millsaps. The Lady Warriors also had an honorable mention in senior shortstop Darbie Rosser.
Sand Rock (29-9) also had a pair of first team selections on the Class 2A team in senior second baseman Megan McCullough and junior Madison Smith, selected at designated hitter.
The Lady Wildcats also had two honorable mention players in senior shortstop Taylor Rogers and freshman pitcher McKenna Morgan.
In Class 1A, seven area players were recognized, including four first team selections in Cedar Bluff junior shortstop Katie McGinnis, Collinsville senior catcher Christy Cox, Spring Garden senior shortstop Heather Smart and Gaylesville junior outfielder Lauren Hammett. Cox earned the Class 1A Hitter of the Year.
Class 1A honorable mention players included Spring Garden freshman second baseman Jessica Smart, Spring Garden freshman outfielder Madison Sides and Collinsville eighth grade third baseman Arielle Jones.
Longtime Glencoe girls basketball coach John Blackwell accepted a teaching and junior-high boys basketball position at Sand Rock on June 18. Blackwell cited being closer to home for the move. He played for legendary basketball coach L.D. Dobbins at Collinsville in the 1980s.
Sand Rock also hired Tyler Driskell to fill its head baseball job left by Paul Hawk, who resigned on May 24. Driskell was a former baseball standout at Southside-Gadsden.
In other notable coaching news, Kayla Ray was hired as the new Cherokee County High School softball coach on June 27 to replace former coach Travis Barnes, who resigned on May 31 to take the softball position at Class 5A Athens.
Ray played collegiate softball at Florida State for two years and Jacksonville State her final two. She was an assistant softball coach at White Plains prior to joining the Cherokee County program.
Also hired to replace Barnes’s vacant basketball duties were former Lady Warrior standout Leah Monteith Goss and former Oneonta boys basketball coach Neal Wester.
On June 29, Centre native and fishing guru Richard Peek clinched the 2013 Wal-Mart FLW Co-Angler of the Year Award. Peek finished six 2013 fishing events as co-angler. It was his third year on the FLW tour.
For earning the honor, Peek was rewarded with a new Ranger Z518 boat along with an automatic berth in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.
Three area athletes made were part of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s All-Star Sports Week, held July 15-18 in Montgomery.
In the All-Star Softball game on July 16, UAB signee and Cherokee County High School catcher Madison Millsaps went a collective 2-for-3, including a two-run double in the second game, as the North All-Stars salvaged a split with the South. The South took game one 3-0, but the North rallied to claim an 8-4 victory in the second game.
A day later, Sand Rock guard Dylan Mackey was reunited with former teammate and Albertville standout Riley Norris on the basketball court. Norris netted 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had two assists while Mackey finished with a rebound in the North boys’ 96-70 victory over the South.
The all-star action concluded on July 18 with the South’s 22-21 football victory, which featured Piedmont defensive end Marques Gamble. Gamble, who played for the North squad, finished with five tackles.
In local golf, Rainsville’s Jon Bailey shot a two-day total of 136 (64, 72) and held off a ferocious comeback from Piedmont native Jeremy McGatha (71, 67 – 138), allowing Bailey to earn his first victory in the Dub Ellis Invitational on July 20-21.
The Piedmont 9-and-10-year-old Dixie Youth Baseball team outlasted Troy 17-16 to capture the state championship in Oxford on July 26. The Bulldogs went on to represent the state of Alabama in the Dixie Youth World Series in Laurel, Miss., on Aug. 3.
Two Cherokee County Dixie Youth Baseball teams both finished seventh in their respective state tournaments.
The 12-year-old Cherokee Americans played in Troy in the O-Zone state tournament, while the 8-and-under Cherokee Nationals played in Tuscaloosa.
The Centre Otter swim team qualified 11 swimmers for the state meet in Opelika on July 26-27. Out of 13 individual events, the Otters had personal bests in nine. They finished 22nd after earning 60.5 total points.
The month concluded with Gaylesville promoting longtime assistant coach Kyle Garmon to the Trojans’ head football coaching position. The 2000 Cherokee County High School graduate filled the void left by 13-year coach Brian Clowdis, who accepted the head-coaching job at Class 4A Crossville on July 18.
The Piedmont Bulldogs found themselves in a familiar spot in the Alabama Sportswriters Association Preseason Football Rankings, released on Aug. 6. The Bulldogs (11-1 in 2012) began the 2013 season at No. 3 in the Class 3A poll. Defending champion Madison Academy came in at No. 1 followed by Leeds at No. 2.
Piedmont was the only area football team ranked in the preseason poll, but four other squads received consideration (Class 2A Sand Rock and Class 1A teams Gaylesville, Spring Garden and Cedar Bluff).
Gaylesville and Cedar Bluff kicked off the 2013 high school football season in a game for the ages. Behind a 224-yard, three-touchdown performance from freshman running back Gage Davis, the Trojans were able to hold on for a 40-39 victory on Aug. 29. It was Gaylesville’s first win over the Tigers since 1995.
Another rivalry game was played a day later between the Piedmont Bulldogs and Cherokee County Warriors, but it was nowhere near as close.
Piedmont forced three first-half turnovers and a high snap on a punt – all of which led to touchdowns – in the Bulldogs’ 57-13 thrashing of the Warriors.
Jacksonville State got the Bill Clark era started with a win at Alabama State, but the Gamecocks had to sweat out a 24-22 victory. The Gamecock defense held on the Hornets’ 2-point try following a touchdown with 7:33 to play. Gamecock defender Brenton Tolson picked off a Daniel Duhon pass with 48 seconds left in the game to preserve the win.
Clark became just the fourth JSU head coach to win his debut, and the first since Jim Fuller did so in 1977.
Fresh off their 40-39 win over Cedar Bluff in Week 1, the Gaylesville Trojans found themselves in another dogfight at Spring Garden on Sept. 6. The Trojans rallied for a 35-28 victory. Freshman tailback Gage Davis led the Trojan charge with 211 yards on 20 carries and four touchdowns. Senior Dylan Mitchell scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 58-yard run with 9:05 left in the game.
That same night, Cherokee County and Sand Rock both earned tough-fought region wins.
The Warriors held on for a 29-23 victory against Alexandria. Senior running back Ty Green rushed for three touchdowns in the win.
Sand Rock held on for a 21-14 victory at Gaston behind a pair of Austin Chambers’ touchdowns.
Those close battles continued on Sept. 20, as area high school football fans were treated to three overtime games.
The Cleburne County Tigers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter, but Cherokee County senior kicker Eric Burgess booted a 32-yard field goal with just seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
In the extra session, the Tiger defense had a goal-line stand, denying Warrior senior running back the end zone on a fourth-and-goal.
Anderson Jacks kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal on the Tigers’ ensuing possession, giving Cleburne County a 41-38 victory on the Warriors’ homecoming.
At Section, Sand Rock senior quarterback Dylan Mackey connected with senior receiver Zane Farrar for the game-winning score in the second overtime, giving the Wildcats a 30-23 victory.
Sand Rock’s defense preserved the win after forcing Lion running back Chris Manning to fumble.
In Collinsville’s game at Sumiton Christian, Jalyn Martin scored on a 14-yard run in overtime. Alexis Sanchez’s extra point provided the Panthers with a 33-32 win.
Overtime spilled over into the college ranks with Jacksonville State’s game at Georgia State a day later. Gamecock junior running back DaMarcus James scored three touchdowns – his final coming in overtime – in lifting JSU to a 32-26 victory. It was JSU’s second consecutive overtime win of the month. Back on Sept. 14, Griffin Thomas booted a school-record five field goals – including the game-winning 20-yarder – to lift the Gamecocks’ 24-21 double-overtime victory against North Alabama.
In a battle of Class 3A titans on Sept. 27, second-ranked Piedmont posted a 26-10 victory at No. 4 Leeds. The Bulldog defense forced six Green Wave turnovers to lead the way in the win.
That same night, Sand Rock sophomore linebacker Alex McMahan’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:49 left in the game helped propel the Wildcats to a 27-21 victory at Plainview. Senior quarterback Dylan Mackey threw for two scores and ran in for another for the Wildcats.
In another nail biter in Anniston, Donoho kicker Mitchell Baker connected on a 33-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift the Falcons to a 30-27 victory over Collinsville. It was Collinsville’s first loss of the season.
In volleyball, the Cherokee County Lady Warriors defeated host Spring Garden 25-17, 20-25 and 15-8 to claim the Cherokee County Tournament championship on Sept. 28. It was the Lady Warriors’ first county title since 2009.
Two of the more memorable football games of the season both happened in Week 6. Sand Rock fell short in its upset bid of sixth-ranked Fyffe by the final of 19-13.
The Wildcats marched down inside the Red Devil 5-yard line with 45.4 seconds remaining. Faced with a third-and-1 at the 4, senior quarterback Dylan Mackey dropped back in the pocket, pump faked a pass, and the ball slipped out of his throwing hand and into the arms of Fyffe senior defender James Carroll with 10.6 seconds to go.
Just a few miles up the road in Collinsville, the Panthers outlasted Cedar Bluff 21-19. With 2:18 left in the game, Cedar Bluff senior quarterback Dalton Cosby scored on an 18-yard run, but his 2-point conversion pass failed.
One of the season’s biggest upsets happened at Saks in Week 8. The seventh-ranked Wildcats forced two Piedmont fumbles, a pair of interceptions and a blocked punt in a 40-15 whipping over the visiting second-ranked Bulldogs. The win secured the Class 3A, Region 5 championship for Saks.
Two Cherokee County volleyball teams finished third at the North Super Regional Tournament in Huntsville on Oct. 26 and advanced to the state tournament at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Oct. 30. Both Sand Rock and Spring Garden’s championship hopes were dashed in their respective first matches. Fifth-ranked Sand Rock fell to No. 2 Providence Christian for the second straight season in the Class 2A Elite 8 in four games. The Lady Wildcats’ season ended at 45-12.
Class 1A, No. 3 St. Luke’s swept fourth-ranked Spring Garden in three games. The Lady Panthers’ season came to a close at 35-17.
Gaylesville, Collinsville, Sand Rock and Piedmont all qualified for the AHSAA football state playoffs, which began on Nov. 8. Only Class 3A Piedmont advanced with a 38-0 blowout of visiting Winfield. The win set up a second-round rematch from 2012 between the Bulldogs and Deshler on Nov. 15.
Piedmont managed to squeak out a 20-19 victory on the road against the Tigers (8-4). Denard Spears scored the game-wining touchdown on a 14-yard touchdown catch with five minutes left. The win secured a showdown with top-ranked Madison Academy at the Field of Champions on Nov. 22.
A failed 2-point conversion pass by Ty Sparks fell just out of the reach of a leaping Darnell Jackson in overtime. The play proved the difference, as the top-ranked Mustangs escaped with a 34-33 victory. The fifth-ranked Bulldogs’ season ended at 11-2.
The Mustangs went on to win their second straight Class 3A championship by defeating Saks a week later and Leeds in Tuscaloosa on Dec. 5.
The Cherokee County Ravens’ 7-and-under football team capped a perfect 10-0 season with a 20-7 victory over Jacksonville in the championship game Nov. 16 at Gadsden City High School. The Ravens were led by Haden Wheeler’s 170 yards on 11 carries. Jacob Cornejo added 75 yards on seven carries.
Several basketball teams played in Thanksgiving tournaments over the holiday. In the Spring Garden Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 27, the host Lady Panthers earned a 64-28 victory over Springville to win the tournament title.
Two days later, the Sand Rock Lady Wildcats won the Hokes Bluff Tournament at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena. They nipped Brindlee Mountain in the championship 50-48.
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks ended the month with a bang, earning their first NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff victory in 21 years on Nov. 30. JSU blew out in-state rival Samford 55-14. The Gamecocks scored on six of their first seven possessions and set numerous team records in the win.
Jacksonville State claimed a 31-10 victory at McNeese State in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs on Dec. 7.
The Gamecocks’ season came to an end a week later at Eastern Washington, a 35-24 setback. JSU finished the 2013 season with a record of 11-4.
A former Gamecock and Cherokee County High School football standout, Maurice Dupree, signed a contract with the Professional Indoor Football League’s Alabama Hammers. Dupree, a wide receiver, played the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Columbus (Ga.) Lions. Prior to that, Dupree played with the Huntsville-based Hammers in 2011.
On Dec. 22, The Alabama High School Athletic Association recognized 15 area football players with All-State recognition.
The Piedmont Bulldogs (11-2) had the most representatives with three first-team selections (Exavyer Jackson, Taylor Hayes and Darnell Jackson) and three honorable mention players (Denard Spears, Neonta Alexander and Ty Sparks).
A week later, Exavyer Jackson was named a finalist for the ASWA Class 3A Lineman of the Year award.
Cedar Bluff (4-5) and Collinsville (7-4) had All-State First-Team selections in Blake Terry and Shaq Dupree respectively. The two teams also had honorable mention players in Jake Mintz and Kevin McElrath respectively.
Gaylesville (6-5) had three honorable mention players in Gage Davis, Brandon Barnes and Cole Murphy. Sand Rock (7-4) had an honorable mention selection in Chandler Mackey. The Cherokee County Warriors (3-7) also had an honorable mention in Dallas Cabe.
The Gaylesville Trojans took the top honors on The Herald’s All-Cherokee County Team. Davis, a freshman running back who rushed for 1,771 yards and 22 touchdowns, was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player. Murphy, a senior who played a variety of positions, was selected as the All-Cherokee County Team’s Defensive Most Valuable Player. Murphy posted 93 tackles, an interception return for a touchdown, forced two fumbles and recovered three more. He also had a 35.4-yard average as the Trojan punter.
In just his first season as Trojan head coach, Kyle Garmon was named The Herald’s All-County Football Coach of the Year.
In volleyball, Cherokee County High School senior defensive specialist Jessen Burk earned The Herald’s All-Cherokee County Volleyball Team’s Most Valuable Player. Burk posted 354 digs for the Lady Warriors (22-15) in guiding them to the Cherokee County Tournament championship and a spot in the Super Regional Tournament in Huntsville.
In basketball, the Woodland Lady Bobcats won their third consecutive Cherokee Invitational title with a 62-42 win over Sand Rock. Jacksonville State signee Leah Strain scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Lady Bobcats.
Behind Dylan Stone’s 19 points, Glencoe defeated Piedmont 60-36 to earn the boys’ championship.