Columbia County had a year to remember in 2004. State titles and record breakers highlighted the year for the county. Ashley Brown and I decided to put together our own separate lists of the top 15 moments in the county this year from a list of more than 40. Of course, mine will be the correct selections, but you should still check out Ashley's picks as well. Enjoy, and let us hope 2005 will be as good as 2004.
15. Cheng Ho torches Greenbrier for 278 yards rushing:
Cheng Ho was probably the best player on the county's best football team this year. He had a number of great games, but the best was against the Wolfpack on Sept. 17. Ho ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns as the Knights beat Greenbrier, 35-12. Two touchdown runs went for 74 and 76 yards in the second half.
14. Rich Poythress drills grand slam off Columbus' Iain Sebastian:
Evans' Cheng Ho picks up a long gain in the third quarter against Lakeside He also ran for 278 yards against Greenbrier.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Nobody really gave the Wolfpack much of a chance heading into their state semifinals matchup with the Blue Devils. Much of that was because Greenbrier would have to face Sebastian, one of the top juniors in the nation. Sebastian will be a first- or second-round pick in the 2005 MLB Draft and can touch 96 mph on the radar gun. But Greenbrier sophomore Rich Poythress got hold of a Sebastian fastball and hit it more than 400 feet for a grand slam in Game 1 of the series. The home run gave Greenbrier a temporary lead and fueled the belief that Poythress, now a junior, will be one of the best ball players in county history.
13. Madebach twins close out their career with state titles:
Sarah and Rebekah Madebach ended arguably the top two careers in Georgia Independent Schools Association history this spring with a slew of state titles and state records. Rebekah won the 800 and 3,200 meter races at the state meet while Sarah won the 1,600 meter title. The girls spectacular finish helped the Lady Lions win the team state track and field title.
12. Evans returns to playoffs:
At the beginning of the 2004 football season, no player on the Knights' roster had ever played a game in the state playoffs. Expectations weren't high for a school that had suffered in Class-AAAAA during the past few seasons. Head coach Marty Jackson's first season at Evans wasn't exactly a resounding success, as the Knights went 3-7, losing to Lakeside and Greenbrier. The Knights got revenge in 2004, beating all three county schools and made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The Knights' stay was short, losing 34-6 to Creekside in the first round, but the program seems aimed in the right direction.
11. Greenbrier takes lead in both Final Four games against Columbus, but loses:
Former Greenbrier and Evans coach Terry Holder has come back from retirement to help coach football at Thomson.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbus was hyped as if they were the New York Yankees heading in the state baseball semifinals. Columbus had only lost two games all season and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. But the Wolfpack weren't starstruck, leading the Blue Devils in both games of the doubleheader - including in the fifth inning of Game 2 - before falling to the eventual state champs.
10. Harlem girls soccer derailed by Lovett, again:
If Harlem girls soccer coach George Berry had his way, the Atlanta-area private school Lovett would be bulldozed. For the second straight season, the Lady Bulldogs headed into the state playoffs hoping for a state title. The Lady Bulldogs had lost only once before the Lovett game and were ranked No. 2 in the state. For the second straight season, they were pasted by Lovett, 11-0, after a 16-1 loss in 2003. It was just another example of the disparity between public and private schools.
9. Terry Holder returns to coaching:
When I interviewed Holder in July for an article in The Augusta Chronicle, he told me he was very interested in returning to coaching. Two weeks after the story ran, Holder took the job as the junior varsity coach at Thomson, where he would help with Luther Welsh and the varsity team. Holder is a legend in coaching in every sense of the word. Maybe he'll be content coaching junior varsity or maybe the always prepared Holder has grander visions. Stay tuned.
8. Tyler Warren wins state title:
Tyler Warren said he expected to win the state cross country title heading into the state meet in Carrolton, Ga. Expected or not, Warren's feat was one that will always be remembered in the county's cross country circles. It is believed he is the first to win an individual public school state title in the sport in county history and dominated all season in a sport dominated by private schools. Warren also led his team to a second-place finish in the state behind Marist, the school's best finish ever.
7. Effingham County and Evans meet again:
Some long-standing wounds were finally healed when Evans and Effingham County finally played 17 years after the last controversial meeting. A large number of Knights fans are still hurt over having a shot at the state title taken away after the Rebels coaching staff protested an Evans win in the state semifinals because Evans used an illegal headset. Most felt Evans would have won the state title. When Evans beat Effingham County this season, at least a few individuals received the closure they had searched for since 1987.
6. Kristan Glover wins 100th game and gets 1,000 strikeouts:
Greenbrier pitcher Kristan Glover is only the fourth player in the nation to reach both 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in a career.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
An argument could be made that Kristan Glover had the best prep career of any athlete in county history. She won't be able to play professional baseball like Todd Greene or others from the county and probably won't go to the Olympics like Reese Hoffa, but what she did in high school rivals any athlete's accomplishments. She became the first in state history to grab the 100 - 1,000 distinction and the fourth in the nation's history. She won a state title. She was in Sports Illustrated. There might never be another softball player as talented to grace this county.
5. Evans wins county football title:
It's rare that any of the county schools get to play the other three in one season. Evans got to play all three this season and won all three, beating the other three in a single season for the first time in school history. The Knights beat Harlem in the first meeting between the schools since 1984. Evans went on the beat the other two schools, claiming three of its six wins in county games, pushing the Knights into the playoffs.
4. Evans moves down to Class AAAA:
When the biennial Georgia High School Association re-classification occurred last fall, the county found out Evans was moving down from Class AAAAA to AAAA. Fans around the county salivated. Now the rivalry that existed between the county schools became bigger, with every game decided region positioning.
3. Lakeside girls make it to the state title game:
There were other teams that won state titles in 2004 in the county (Augusta Prep cross country, Augusta Christian girls track, Augusta Prep boys tennis). But the Lady Panthers' run to the state championship game made the entire county step up and take notice. Soccer was a sport dominated by Atlanta-area schools, most often private, in recent years. Undaunted, Lakeside went all the way to the finals, hosting the state title game but losing to Marist - an Atlanta private school.
2. Reese Hoffa goes to Olympics:
There aren't many native Columbia County residents who can say they participated in an Olympics. In fact, there has been just one documented county native that has represented the United States in the Olympics. Lakeside alum Reese Hoffa made it all the way to the Athens Summer Games, falling in the preliminary round of the shot put competition. Hoffa, ranked No. 6 in the world, says he will be back in the Olympics in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Hoffa doesn't live in the county anymore and doesn't train here or he would have been in the No. 1 spot.
1. Greenbrier softball wins state title:
Garrett Black has said repeatedly he doesn't want 2004 to end. It has been a dream season for Black and his softball team. As the team entered the 2004 season, lofty expectations were placed on the team. The Lady Wolfpack began the season ranked No. 1 and finished it in the same spot. Greenbrier waltzed through the state tournament, not giving up a run in the final seven games of the season en route to the title. Kristan Glover's 47 innings of scoreless pitching were masterful. The Lady Wolfpack's title was the first girls' public school team sport title in county history.
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