LON sports editor Justin Hubbard recaps his favorite stories from 2018
I truly cannot believe how quickly 2018 came and went.
I know everyone says that every year but I felt that way more this year than ever before. It’s amazing how fast we got from January through December.
Before we completely turn our attention to 2019 and what it has in store, I want to look back on some of the stories I most enjoyed writing about during 2018. I’ll try to include every school that I can and be fair but, honestly, we had a lot of great things happen here in Lake Country last year, so I’m forced to be selective.
– Lake Oconee Academy’s final basketball games of the 2017-18 season were magical. We saw both the Lady Titans and Titans score wins over Glascock County, the latter of which came down to the wire. It was an emotional sight seeing the teams’ first-ever seniors get a signature moment in their send-off.
– Morgan County’s soccer teams were once again great and loaded with talent, but I’ll always remember 2018 as the year of the freshmen – specifically, Brooke Butler and Trace Blanton. The first time I watched those teams this year, Butler scored six goals and Blanton had three. They went on to help lead their teams to playoff appearances, and I expect that will be the case again this year.
– The Morgan boys basketball team scored its seventh-straight Region 8-AAA title last February. The title game against Hart County was a double-overtime thriller. Then-senior Quin Williams fought through a stomach virus to help lead the Bulldogs to the victory and a 1-seed in the playoffs. Things didn’t end well for the Bulldogs, as they lost in the Final Four, but the season and that victory over Hart were something special.
– LOA’s soccer teams took major steps forward this year. The Lady Titans reached the playoffs where, unfortunately for them, they got eliminated by Eagle’s Landing Christian. Along the way, they were one of the most dominant programs in Region 7-A. Led by senior Meredith Grill, who racked up a ton of goals including five in one game against Greene County, the Lady Titans set the foundation for a successful future. The Titans missed the playoffs but closed the season with several wins, including a dramatic victory at Social Circle. They seemed to turn the corner midway through 2018. Considering they lost no seniors, I won’t be shocked if they contend for the region title this season.
– Speaking of LOA, it saw more history made this year. Golfers Emma McCord, Katie Scheck and Ryan Smith all competed for – and won – Class A state titles. Those marked the first-ever varsity athletic championships in school history. LOA’s volleyball team scored the school’s first team sport playoff victory in the first round of this year’s state tournament, too.
– I had such a fun time watching Morgan’s baseball team last year. That’s my favorite sport and the Diamond Dogs were one of the best teams in the entire state. They proved it by reaching the Final Four round of the playoffs. They were eliminated by Lovett but that took nothing away from their magical run last year.
– Greene County’s track and field team scored a state title victory. Laronya Williams, Seyvon Richardson, Demetrius Mitchell and Malik Jones, who comprise the Tigers’ 4 x 100-meter relay team, placed first in the finals with a time of 43.39.
– Over the summer, the Dixie Youth 11/12 Greene County All-Stars baseball team qualified for the Dixie Youth World Series in North Carolina. The team from Greene County defeated Putnam back in July to earn a spot in the finale. The Greene County players were ultimately eliminated but it was cool seeing kids from our area represent on the national level.
– One of these days, I’ll make it to Columbus. I hoped to drive down there back in October to watch the Morgan softball team compete in the Elite Eight round of the playoffs. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. However, the 2018 season was a fun one in Madison. The Lady Dogs battled through a plethora of injuries into the Sweet 16. Not bad at all. And I think they’ll be right back in the hunt next year.
– Greene County’s football team made a huge improvement from the 2017 season. Under the returning Larry Milligan, the Tigers won their first region title in 13 years and made it into the third round of the playoffs. That season-ending loss at Pelham was a tough pill to swallow, for sure, but those guys reenergized Greene County’s passion in the school’s football team. I look for that to carry over into next year. It’ll be tough without the team’s seniors but I think the Tigers will still be tough competitors.
– I got to know Rafe Slate, a teenage race car driver in Eatonton, in early 2017. I went to a bunch of his races. He won several times between then and this past August, but I never personally saw any of those victories. I finally did last summer, though, when Slate won the final Thursday Thunder race of 2018. It was great finally seeing him do a burnout and celebrate in victory lane.
– Finally, all of our area’s scholarship signings were fun to witness. I’ve been asked before, “Do you care about covering scholarship signings?” Of course I do! I think it’s awesome anytime one of our athletes receives college offers, regardless of whichever school or level of program it is. That’s a big deal, and Lake Country saw a bunch of its student-athletes sign on with college teams in 2018.
As you can tell, 2018 was a fun, packed year here in Lake Country. And that’s really just scratching the surface. I’m grateful I was the one who got to cover all of these significant events.
I appreciate all of you following along in 2018 and I hope you’ll do the same in 2019. Happy New Year!