So long, seniors: Part 1

By Justin Hubbard

 

Lake Country’s high schools will hold their commencement ceremonies later this month. To celebrate the senior student-athletes who will soon depart from our schools, I am writing three columns to highlight some of my favorite memories from this school year involving our area’s seniors. This is the first of a three-part series, which will discuss student-athletes who competed in football and softball.

Aug. 7: Finney impresses in MOCO debut

Pitcher Katee Finney caught everyone’s attention in her first performance with the Morgan County softball team. Although this was her senior year, the Charleston, Illinois, native moved to Morgan County after last year’s softball season ended, meaning her start against Alcovy High School was her first game with the Lady Dogs. She was exceptional.

Finney pitched a complete game and allowed just one earned run in a 6-2 win. She was not originally scheduled to start – it was going to be Nicole Edwards, who didn’t feel well that day. Katee eventually became the Lady Dogs’ ace and helped carry them into the Sweet 16 round of the playoffs.

Aug. 18: Eagles stomp Screaming Devils

Brandon Bush over at The Eatonton Messenger carried the load this year in terms of covering the Putnam County football team, but I was there for its opener at Warren County. Seniors Simon Petite, Demario Reid and Tyrique Mathis, among others, powered the War Eagles to an emotionally-charged 21-6 win. They had a 1-9 season the year before, so winning their first time out in the 2017 season was a big deal. It was a lot of fun to cover, too.

Aug. 25: Dogs roll past Tigers

I knew we were in for something special with the Morgan County football team on its first play from scrimmage in the 2017 season. The Bulldogs played at Greene County and, immediately after the opening kickoff, senior quarterback Trey Patterson threw a 70-yard pass to senior wide receiver Anthony Cooper. Morgan beat Greene, 49-22. I did my first of many interviews with Cooper after that game (he was actually wearing a pretty nice pair of sunglasses even though it was dark, just like a superstar wide receiver would do) and I knew the Bulldogs were destined for a successful season. More on that in a moment.

Sept. 22: Crumbley shines for NGA

The big headline from the Nathanael Greene Academy football team’s win over Coastal Home School was the fact now-former Patriots head coach Edward Bradley replaced Ash Gabriel at quarterback with Will McCommons. That move paid off big for the Patriots, as McCommons was able to help jumpstart an offense that hadn’t been very consistent to that point. But Joseph Crumbley deserves some recognition from that game, too.

He scored twice and ran for 118 yards. Crumbley recorded two pick-sixes during that game and recorded 11 total tackles. The senior was NGA’s MVP for the year, in my opinion, and that big win over Coastal was one of his best performances.

Sept. 28: Lady Titans softball honors seniors

For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of covering many “firsts” at Lake Oconee Academy. The school fielded its first-ever varsity athletic teams during the 2016-17 school year, which started right after I took this job on Aug. 11, 2016. One of the coolest “firsts” I got to cover was the school’s first athletic senior night. This school year is LOA’s first with a senior class, therefore its teams are losing seniors for the first time. The softball team was the first one up to honor its veterans.

Stephanie Cervantes, Samantha Cervantes, Grace Cosby and Savannah Courter were all recognized prior to the Lady Titans’ game against Morgan County. Unfortunately for them, their last game brought a highly disappointing result: they lost 23-1. Afterward, I interviewed all of the seniors and was impressed by their upbeat attitudes despite the big loss. If it’d been me, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to some reporter. Kudos to them for setting a good example for the returning players.

Sept. 29 Adams lights up Warren

When Robert Edwards was dismissed as the Greene County football coach in December, there was a big reaction from both people who thought it was a good call and people who questioned the decision. All I’m going to say about his and his assistants’ final year at GCHS is this: They underused Milkell Adams. The strong, physical tailback should have been the focal point of the Tigers’ offense, much like Devin Wynn was the year before. Adams actually made waves with Wynn on the team, so I was excited to see what he could do as the No. 1 running back.

We got a glimpse of Adams’ ability against Warren County, which resulted in a 48-6 homecoming win for GCHS. Adams carried the rock 19 times and picked up 243 yards. At that point, five games into the year, Adams was adequately used and had 929 total yards. It took him almost a month later to crack the 1,000-yard mark, finishing the year with only 1,208 yards, after the Tigers featured him less on their offense. Adams’ season ended on a disappointing trend but he was sensational at the beginning.

Oct. 11: Lady Dogs advance to Sweet 16

I was excited for the Morgan County girls softball team after it swept Greater Atlanta Christian in the second round of the state playoffs. The Lady Dogs looked unbeatable during that series and whipped out a trick play that, admittedly, had me fooled and made me think the Lady Dogs were about to choke away any easy win during the second game. Unfortunately for Morgan, it was swept by a good Sonoraville team the next week and eliminated at the Sweet 16 round.

The Lady Dogs weren’t quite as strong in 2017 as they were in 2016 (which was to be expected given the sheer volume of seniors they lost) but they were a scrappy bunch who worked hard to improve all year just to make the playoffs. The loss to Sonoraville marked the end of the road for three Lady Dogs: Mary Trent Chandler, who is headed to the best university in the world, the University of Georgia; Sadie Worth, who signed a softball scholarship to Emmanuel College a few weeks later (I’m still honored to have been the only reporter invited to that ceremony); and Finney, who, as I mentioned above, became a beloved member of the program in short order.

Oct. 13: Dogs repeat as region champs

I have covered my share of great games across multiple sports and multiple levels of competition. Not many were better than the Morgan-Monroe Area instant classic, which ultimately decided the Region 8-AAA champion. The two powerhouses went back and forth until, finally, Patterson connected with Cooper on yet another touchdown throw to put the Dogs ahead late. It was an exciting moment, exciting game and exciting postgame atmosphere I’ll never forget.

It’s a shame Morgan didn’t run a spread offense the entire time Patterson was its quarterback. He’s got Division I talent, in my opinion, and I think he can reach that level one day after he gets started this fall at Georgia Military College. Cooper, who caught 15 touchdown throws from Patterson, will be in Milledgeville, too. I’m interested to see what those guys do at their new Bulldogs team. And I wrote a whole separate column months ago about the other senior football players who will soon make their marks at the collegiate level.

Congratulations to all these seniors I’ve mentioned this week. I will discuss a few of them again across the next two installments of this three-part series. This past fall was a blast, and these young men and women were a big reason why.

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