While the coverage of the London Olympic Games has received mixed reviews, I highly recommend tuning in on Friday. The shot put competition is on the schedule, from qualifying all the way through to the finals. That means Friday is the biggest day of the year for Lakeside High School’s own Reese Hoffa.
The 34-year-old Hoffa will be competing in his third Olympic games and is still chasing his first Olympic medal. He has won nearly every worldwide competition possible, including the Olympic Trials in 2008 and earlier this year. However, he has been unable to place in his two Olympic appearances.
Hoffa, a former All-American at the University of Georgia, finished 22nd in the 2004 games and improved to a seventh-place showing in Beijing four years ago.
Join me in rooting for Hoffa Friday as he chases his Olympic dream.
Questions on the gridiron
Last year’s Columbia County News-Times All-County Football First Team consisted of 28 players: 13 on offense, 13 on defense, a kicker and a punter. Of those 28, 21 players were seniors, with only three players returning from the first team offense, including Grovetown running back Jamal Cummings.
Cummings used his combination of speed and power to amass 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He is certainly the early front runner for county Player of the Year honors. The other two returning First Team offensive performers are wide receivers Joacinto Grimes (Evans) and Jonathan Edwards (Lakeside), both of whom were sophomores last season. Grimes caught 27 passes last year and racked up 632 yards rushing and receiving. Edwards hauled in 33 passes for 623 yards and four touchdowns. His 18.9 yards per reception was among the best in the entire Augusta area. Edwards has had a great summer and could emerge this season as a challenger to Cummings for the county’s top football award.
He might also switch to running back to replace Johnathan Long. Long was First Team All-County and All-Region a year ago when he rushed for more than 1,200 yards and led the county with 18 total touchdowns. No matter where he plays on the field, Edwards is a big-play threat who will be counted on heavily by the Panthers, who were hit hard by graduation, losing 10 first-team All-County performers from 2011.
Like the offense, last year’s All-County defensive team saw 10 of 13 players graduate. Of the three returnees, another Lakeside Panther should be a force this season. Linebacker Javeon Brigham had more than 170 tackles the past two seasons and will be counted on more than ever as the Panthers lost eight of 11 starters from their standout 2011 defensive unit. Brigham is a beast in the weight room and will try to carry that freakish athleticism onto the field this fall.
Greenbrier’s Jamario Thompkins is another returnee from the First Team defense. He racked up 85 tackles in just nine games last season. Thompkins has the size and strength that college coaches drool over. He will be fun to watch for the ’Pack this season. Also, Harlem’s Alonzo Hill is back this year. Hill picked off four passes, had 52 tackles and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2011. The speedy Hill will be asked to do a lot for the Bulldogs this season and should have a huge year.
The only other returning First Teamer from 2011 is Evans punter/wide receiver Jacob Rizner. While Rizner is a very talented wide receiver, as evidenced by his 33 catches last season, his punting ability is what really gets him noticed. Plenty of people noticed last season, as Rizner garnered First Team All-Region and All-State honors to go along with his All-County selection.
Rizner averaged 40.2 yards per punt. Even more impressive, he had only seven punts returned all year. He also was named to the WJBF All-Area Team and may be the first special teamer to challenge for county Player of the Year honors in my tenure with The News-Times.
While it is true that a great number of terrific performers from 2011 graduated this spring, there are still some extremely talented players to watch in 2012, not to mention all the young players who will emerge this season. It is only Aug. 1, but I am already counting the days until we kick off the 2012 season.