The Cedartown Bulldogs and Rockmart Yellow Jackets are both hosting for this first night of high school football in Polk County.
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says the three players suspended for the 16th-ranked Tigers' opener at No. 12 Georgia, including returning starters defensive end Corey Crawford and offensive lineman David Beasley, won't get a reprieve from their one-game punishments.
Swinney suspended Crawford, Beasley, backup cornerback Garry Peters and reserve offensive lineman Shaq Anthony in March for undisclosed violation of team rules. Last week, Anthony announced his intentions to transfer.
Swinney says all had worked hard and shown good character since March. But the coach says there are consequences for their actions.
Crawford, a senior, would've started opposite All-American end Vic Beasley. David Beasley started seven games along the offensive line.
Swinney says the three will be allowed to travel with the team to Georgia if they want.
Our ritual of having a beer a couple of times a week became a challenge because of travel. Sometimes, I just couldn’t keep from being out of town on Monday, the day Dan Magill preferred to enjoy a late afternoon libation at our favorite watering hole in Five Points.
Cedartown and Pepperell alumni football players will be squaring off for a matchup at Cedartown High School this evening.
ATLANTA (AP) — From his vantage point in Chicago, Devin Hester saw the Atlanta Falcons as a consistent playoff contender.
As a free agent, Hester, 31, was looking for a new home that could give him a good chance to get back to the postseason. He said that was a big reason he signed with Atlanta — despite the Falcons' 4-12 finish last season.
Now Hester is anxious for the Falcons to play like a winner when Atlanta starters get an extended look in their third preseason game against Tennessee on Saturday night. The Falcons struggled in last week's ugly 32-7 preseason loss at the Texans.
"It's going to be very important," Hester said. "Coming off the game we played last week, we left a lot of plays out there. We know the fourth preseason game is pretty much for the rookies and the younger guys, so we know this is our last opportunity to really showcase what we're capable of."
Hester provided one of Atlanta's few highlights last week with his 12-yard touchdown catch.
Hester is best known as one of the top return specialists in NFL history. The opportunity to contribute on offense was another reason he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with Atlanta in March.
He didn't have a catch last year with the Bears for the first time since his rookie season. He has a chance to be a part of three- and four-receiver formations in Atlanta with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
"We were all on the same page with the situation on offense," Hester said of his talks with the Falcons. "Looking at it, we kind of discussed what my role would be on the offensive side of the ball, and we saw eye to eye on that. That was one of the main reasons why I chose Atlanta."
The timing could be perfect for Hester. There will be additional opportunities for receivers to help fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez.
"I think those are going to be more distributed to the third and fourth receiver now," Hester said. "They pretty much treated Tony like a No. 1or No. 2 receiver the last couple of years. With Tony gone, it's going to open up more options, I would say, for me and Harry in the slot position when we go three-wide."
Hester set career highs with 56 catches for 757 yards in 2009 with the Bears. Since then, his role on offense declined.
Tennessee's Nate Washington said Titans receiver Marc Mariani is another example of a player who has difficulty shedding the tag of a return specialist.
"It can be difficult because a lot of times you can just get labeled as a return man," Washington said. "A lot of guys like Marc want to be respected as a receiver also. He has the talent so I'm sure Devin is feeling a little bit similar. Going out there making plays on special teams is one thing, but you always want to be a part of that offense and make sure that team knows and the rest of your community and your fans know you're a vital part of that offense."
Hester's credentials as a return man are unquestioned. He shares the NFL record with Falcons Hall of Famer Deion Sanders with 19 return touchdowns, including a record 13 on punt returns.
He made first-team AP All-Pro honors as a return specialist in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
Hester had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown last season. As a free agent, his three finalists were Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Hester said the Falcons are "a team that I knew had a good success in winning games and was always competing in the playoffs."
"The older you get the more you start looking for the team that's got a chance for the playoffs and for winning the Super Bowl," he said.
Cedartown High School football alumni are taking the field this Saturday evening against their counterparts at Pepperell High School for the first game between the two alumni programs to raise money for the Bulldogs and Dragons football programs.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner were left as the remaining candidates to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner after MLB Executive Vice President Tim Brosnan withdrew before the start of voting Thursday.
Brosnan's withdrawal was disclosed to The Associated Press by a team official who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Owners estimated Manfred had the support of 20-21 teams headed into the meetings this week, Werner of about six and Brosnan one: the Cincinnati Reds.
A three-quarters majority, 23 of the 30 teams, is required to elect a commissioner. Selig, who has run baseball since September 1992, plans to retire in January.
Teams vote by secret written ballot in MLB's first contested election for a new commissioner in 46 years.
Each candidate spoke to all owners for about an hour Wednesday and met in sessions Thursday morning with groups of 10 teams.
"I wouldn't even guess," Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno said Wednesday when asked whether the election would produce a commissioner.
Werner is supported by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Moreno. Other teams have said Reinsdorf wants a commissioner who will take a harsher stance in labor negotiations for the deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season.
"I haven't been counting votes," Reinsdorf said. "I don't know where anybody stands."
Selig, 80, has ruled baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of baseball's executive council and since July 1998 as commissioner. The second-longest-serving head of baseball behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44), Selig announced last fall that he plans to retire in January 2015. The trio of candidates was picked by a seven-man succession committee chaired by St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.
Manfred, 55, has been involved in baseball since 1987, starting as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who assisted in collective bargaining. He became MLB's executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998, received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012 and last September was promoted to chief operating officer. He helped lead negotiations for baseball's last three labor contracts with players and the joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been repeatedly strengthened.
Werner, 64, was the controlling owner of the San Diego Padres from 1990-94, triggering fan criticism for the payroll-paring departures of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Tony Fernandez, Randy Myers and Benito Santiago. He has been part of the Red Sox ownership group since 2002, a period that included three World Series titles. While working at ABC, he helped develop Robin Williams' "Mork & Mindy" and later was executive producer of "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne" at The Carsey-Werner Co.
MLB's last contested election for commissioner was after Spike Eckert was fired in December 1968. With the requirement then a three-quarters majority in both the American and National leagues, teams split between San Francisco Giants vice president Chub Feeney and Yankees president Michael Burke and failed to elect anyone during 19 ballots.
Bowie Kuhn, counsel to baseball's Player Relations Committee, was elected commissioner pro-tem on Feb. 4, 1969, with a one-year term. He was voted a seven-year term that August and remained in office until October 1984, when he was replaced by Los Angeles Olympics head Peter Ueberroth.
Former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti took over from Ueberroth in April 1989, died later that September and was replaced by his deputy commissioner, Fay Vincent. Selig, then the Milwaukee Brewers owner, teamed with Reinsdorf to head the group that pressured for Vincent's forced resignation in September 1992.
Selig led baseball as head of the executive council for nearly six years, including the 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that canceled the World Series. He repeatedly said he wouldn't take the job fulltime before he formally was voted commissioner in July 1998.
Ueberroth, Giamatti, Vincent and Selig were elected unanimously.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia starting fullback Merritt Hall has been forced to give up football due to recurring concussions.
Georgia announced Thursday Hall, a junior, has been medically disqualified by the school's sports medicine staff.
Hall sustained a concussion last week during practice. According to Georgia, Hall had "multiple concussions" in high school and at Georgia before his latest injury.
Hall played in 25 games, including seven starts, in his first two seasons. Primarily a blocker, he had only three carries for nine yards in the two seasons.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have recalled left-hander Luis Avilan from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Avilan, who began the season as one of Atlanta's top setup relievers, is with the team for Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Avilan was 3-1 with a 4.85 ERA in 47 games when he was optioned to Gwinnett on July 19. He says he focused on his curveball and change-up at Gwinnett.
Avilan joins James Russell as left-handers in the Braves' bullpen.
The Braves relied on Avilan in 2013, when he was 5-0 with a strong 1.52 ERA in 75 games.
The Braves optioned right-hander Juan Jaime to Gwinnett following Wednesday night's win over the Dodgers.
HOUSTON (AP) — For Brian Cushing, there's no substitute to being on the field.
The Houston Texans linebacker returned to practice on Wednesday, "a very small step" as he comes back from offseason surgery on his left knee and leg.
Cushing wasn't the only Texans' star back in pads as the team went through a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster were also back after being held out for most of training camp with hamstring injuries.
Cushing had been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp. He didn't participate in contact drills. Cushing says he needs more live repetitions to learn the new defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien says he hasn't ruled out any of the three players for Saturday's game.
Rome, Ga. — Coach Scott Byrd, Shorter University’s director of track and field, has been named to the NCAA Division II Track & Field Executive Committee as a representative for the Peach Belt, according to Sylvia Kamp, U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association administrative and legislative services manager.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Ballmer officially became the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
The team said the record $2 billion sale closed after a California court confirmed the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the franchise to the former Microsoft CEO. Her estranged husband, Donald Sterling, had unsuccessfully fought the sale of the team he owned since 1981 in court.
The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the sale.
"I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers," Ballmer said in a statement. "Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times."
Ballmer was nearly an NBA owner last year before owners chose to keep the Kings in Sacramento, rather than allow them to be sold to a group that included Ballmer and moved to Seattle.
Adam Streisand, Ballmer's attorney, said Tuesday that Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas signed the order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling's attorneys filed an appeal.
"We were ready," Streisand said. "Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered."
He said even if Donald Sterling seeks an emergency order directing the judge to vacate his order, the attorney is confident an appellate court would agree that Levanas made the correct decision.
Donald Sterling's attorneys weren't immediately available to comment.
The sale ends some troubling concerns that had surrounded the team in recent months.
Doc Rivers would possibly have quit as coach if Sterling remained the owner, interim CEO Richard Parsons had testified. All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who also is president of the Players Association, might have sat out and convinced other players to join him. Sponsors who already started to flee after a recording of Donald Sterling making racist comments was released might have stayed away for good.
None of that appears to be a problem with Ballmer taking over what could be a powerhouse team next season. By agreeing to the record purchase price, he's already proven he's willing to spend in contrast to the famously frugal Sterling.
The transaction ends Donald Sterling's run as the longest-tenured owner in the NBA after 33 years. After buying the Clippers in 1981, he moved the franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles three years later.
The 80-year-old real estate mogul has been in probate court fighting his wife's proposed deal to sell. At issue was whether Donald Sterling killed the deal by revoking the trust after his wife removed him as a trustee. Shelly Sterling acted after doctors found Donald had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
The drama began in April when the recording surfaced of Donald Sterling dressing down his girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games. The audio spurred the NBA to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.
His wife of 58 years then took control of a family trust and negotiated the $2 billion sale of the team to Ballmer. Shelly Sterling said she was initially given her husband's blessing to sell the team and he praised the deal she reached.
When it came time to sign it at the end of May, however, Sterling said he would not sell and would sue the league.
Ballmer said he will be "hardcore" in giving the team, Rivers, the staff and players the support they need.
Rivers called it "an amazing new day in Clippers history," and said he's inspired by Ballmer's passion for the game.
Ballmer, Rivers and Clippers players will attend a new fan festival announced for next Monday at Staples Center.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive says college athletics are "going through a historic evolution."
Slive released a statement Monday after a judge's ruling that players in FBS football and Division I men's basketball are entitled to at least $5,000 a year for rights to their names, images and likenesses. He says the judge on Friday appropriately recognized "the importance of integrating academics and athletics in this decision."
The NCAA says it will appeal U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's ruling against the NCAA's argument that its model of amateurism is the only way to operate college sports.
Slive says "the ultimate consequences" won't be known until legal questions are resolved. He says the judge's decision and recent changes in NCAA governances represent "a historic evolution of the landscape of college sports."
DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia high school football player is dead after drinking too much fluid during practice.
Relatives of 17-year-old Zyrees Oliver had him removed from life support early Monday in a hospital in Marietta. He had no brain activity.
Oliver was declared dead a short time later.
Oliver played football at Douglas County High School west of Atlanta.
Relatives say the youth complained of cramping during football practice on Tuesday. Aunt Tammy Chavis says the teen drank two gallons of water and two more gallons of Gatorade.
Oliver's mother picked him up because he couldn't drive, and he later collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital by helicopter.
Relatives say doctors told them Oliver suffered massive swelling around the brain from over-hydration.
The coroner says an autopsy is planned.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The second round of the PGA Championship was off to a soggy start and a sudden stop Friday.
A steady rain forced officials to suspend the round after just 20 minutes because of too much water on the putting surfaces. Work crews already were using squeegees on the greens when another burst of showers hit Valhalla.
Play was halted 45 minutes before Rory McIlroy was to tee off, and as Ryan Palmer was playing the first hole.
Palmer, Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell shared the first-round lead at 6-under 65. Palmer was the only one from that group who played in the morning, which typically has easier conditions.
Rain was in the forecast for most of Friday. While it would make the greens soft, it would make the course longer.
Nick Chubb is showing off his skills in practice at University of Georgia, according to an blog post on ESPN.com.
MIAMI (AP) — The owner of a now-defunct Florida clinic was charged Tuesday with conspiracy to distribute steroids, more than a year after he was accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and other players.
Federal court records show Anthony Bosch is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute testosterone. The documents do not specify whether the charges are directly related to the Major League Baseball scandal.
Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, Bosch willfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone.
Bosch surrendered Tuesday morning, and eight other people also have been arrested, said Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Mia Ro.
A Miami New Times report from January 2013, which sparked MLB's investigation, said Rodriguez had bought human growth hormone and other substances from 2009 to 2012 from Bosch's clinic, Biogenesis of America. The newspaper said it had obtained records detailing the purchases by Rodriguez and other ballplayers.
Fourteen players associated with the Coral Gables clinic were disciplined last year by MLB, including a season-long 2014 suspension imposed on Rodriguez.
MLB had sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit had accused them of conspiring with players to violate their contracts by providing them with banned substances.
Although the lawsuit sought unspecified damages, it also provided a way for MLB to subpoena clinic records.
Rodriguez, who denied using banned substances while playing for the New York Yankees, initially fought the suspension. He finally ended his fight with MLB in February, accepting the suspension and withdrawing a pair of lawsuits against the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Rodriguez's suspension is the longest penalty in the sport's history related to performance-enhancing drugs. He was the only player involved in the scandal to contest his penalty.
Pepperell graduate Dakota Ball has been working as a tight end and a defensive tackle at Alabama in preseason practices so far.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Sitting on the deck at his beloved Meadowbrook, Michael Phelps glances toward the pool where he was once afraid to put his face in the water.
"This is me," he said, a slight smile curling off his lips. "This is home."
This is where Phelps put in most of the work to become the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. This is where he's looking to add to that legacy after an aborted retirement, his eyes firmly on the Rio Games two years away.
And as the world's greatest swimmer takes his comeback to its biggest stop yet — this week's U.S. national championships in Irvine, California — it's important for him to remember where he came from.
Why? Because for all the hoopla over LeBron James returning to Cleveland, there's no bigger homebody than Phelps.
He still trains at the pool where he learned to swim, a nondescript building in Baltimore's inner suburbs, right in the middle of the Jones Falls flood plain.
Drive past the shuttered ice rink with weeds growing up at the edges and there it is, a rectangular cube of gray concrete blocks.
Inside, kids do cannonballs off the side of the pool, teenagers sun on the faux beach with umbrellas stuck in the sand, geriatrics glide slowly through the water looking to ward off the advancing years.
In the middle of this scene out of Anywhere USA, there's Phelps and his star-studded training group, an impressive collection of gold medalists, world champions and national record holders.
"It's funny," said his longtime coach, Bob Bowman. "When I come out here and see kids playing around, that's just what Michael did every day when he was a little kid. When I first met him, he was just playing around in the pool, playing games with his friends."
As they wrapped up preparations for the national championships, Phelps and Bowman shared an exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes with The Associated Press.
TRAINING FOR GOLD
Before the Athens and Beijing Olympics, Phelps would push himself to the brink of exhaustion in practice, swimming up to 16,000 meters a day. Now, he's putting in about half as many laps in the pool but doing longer sessions in the weight room, resulting in a more muscular physique.
Even though Phelps is only 29, an age that many consider the prime for a male athlete, there's a lot of mileage on those dangling arms and shorter-than-expected legs (an unusually long torso is one of the anatomical keys to Phelps' success). His body doesn't recover as quickly as it once did, so he's focused on becoming bigger and stronger, in hopes of going faster over shorter distances. No longer will he compete in the 400-meter individual medley, a brutal event that is essentially four races within one. He dropped the 200 butterfly, as well, giving up one of his signature events.
At nationals, Phelps' longest event will be the 200 IM. He'll also compete in three 100s — freestyle, backstroke and fly. Still a daunting program, but nothing like rival Ryan Lochte, who's entered six events, or 17-year-old Katie Ledecky, who put her name in eight.
But perhaps the biggest change for Phelps is those he trains with on the Meadowbrook-based North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
There's Yannick Agnel, the towering Frenchman who won two golds at the London Games; Allison Schmitt, who captured five medals at the last Olympics; Lotte Friis, a bronze medalist from Denmark; plus Conor Dwyer and Matt McLean, both with a relay gold to their names.
"If I want to be the best in the world, I needed to have the best coach and the best group in the world," Agnel says. "Where else can I find that but here?"
From Bowman's perspective, this is just what Phelps needed, too — stiff competition, on a daily basis.
"It used to be if Michael was on fire, nobody could beat him," the coach said. "Now, if Michael's on fire, there are maybe a couple of people who can still beat him. They're that good."
HOME SWEET HOME
When Meadowbrook opened in 1930, it was not designed for competitive swimming. There were fountains in the middle, giant slides and high dives along the sides. Things changed in the mid-'80s, when a floating deck was installed to mark off the 50-meter racing distance. In 1995, a second pool was built, this one covered by a roof and surrounded by three walls, with tarps that can be lowered on the fourth side to keep it running in the winter.
Phelps' two older sisters were competitive swimmers at Meadowbrook, so it was only natural for him to take lessons when he was 6. Cathy Bennett was his first instructor.
"It sounds pretty important, doesn't it?" she said, laughing. "It didn't feel important at the time, I'll tell you that."
Phelps, to put it bluntly, was a handful.
"I hate to say that about Michael," Bennett said apologetically, "but he had every excuse in the world to get out of the pool. 'I need to go to the bathroom. It's too cold.'"
Actually, the youngster didn't feel comfortable putting his face in the water. Bennett told him to swim on his back. Within a few weeks, Phelps flipped over.
He never looked back.
Even as his fame grew, Meadowbrook remained pretty much the same. When it's time for training outside the pool, Phelps and his teammates trudge down a rocky path, to a "weight room" that is nothing more than slab covered by a tent. For pull-ups, they grab a U-shaped pipe and yank themselves off concrete blocks. On this day, Schmitt cut the bottom of her foot while walking back toward the locker room without shoes.
"It might not be the prettiest or the best facility to train in, but it gets the job done," Schmitt said, patching up her foot and spraying blood off the deck. "It's kind of homey."
Agnel prefers it this way.
"When you have something so fancy, you forget everything about hard work, the tough life," the Frenchman said. "In some kind of way, this helps us to be mentally tough, as well. It's pretty cool."
For Phelps, it's more than cool.
It's home — so much so that he and his coach now run the place.
"Who would think the greatest Olympian of all time would come from suburban Baltimore?" Bowman said. "But he's got to come from somewhere. It might as well be here."
CEDARTOWN — It was a tale of two cultures coming together to play ball in Polk County as a team of Cedartown All-Stars faced off against their counterparts from Inabe, Japan, in the 2014 Japanese-U.S. Friendship Series.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have announced the group of developers that will build a multimillion dollar, mixed-use site near the team's new suburban ballpark.
Braves officials announced Wednesday that Fuqua Development, Pope and Land, and Pollack Shores Real Estate Group have been chosen to develop the 74-acre site.
Officials say Fuqua Development will work on the retail portion of the project, Pope and Land will develop office space, and Pollack Shores Real Estate Group will work on the site's residential component. Construction is expected to begin later this year.
Atlanta Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said in a statement that partnering with three Atlanta-based companies on the suburban mixed-use site reflects the team's "local roots and global brand."
The Braves are expecting to begin playing in the new stadium in 2017.