I first walked into the Columbia County News-Times office just over two years ago. It was September 2005, and I knew my hands were full with six high schools, an active recreation department and plenty of other sports news to cover.
It's been a blast, and I will miss it.
Friday was my last day as sportswriter here. I'll be moving on to take the minor league beat writer position at The Augusta Chronicle on Monday.
As I cleaned out my desk, I could only think of the numerous memories I'll leave with. I've seen the best baseball in the state, watched a few unbelievable football games and witnessed more than a lifetime's worth of upsets, comebacks and highlights -- all within the confines of this county.
I've been treated well. The coaches, athletic directors and athletes have been fantastic. Even most of the parents have been absolutely reasonable if not overwhelmingly tolerable (their intensity shows their passion). The hate e-mails over the years have dwindled down to one or two a week -- a personal stat that any sportswriter would take pride in.
So I leave with no regrets and plenty of memories. Here are a few that stand out to me. I don't consider them the absolute best moments in the county's sports history (though some are), but I do consider them to be some of the most memorable moments of my time as I covered the county's sports.
Poythress' home run
It was the hardest-hit ball I've seen over the past two baseball seasons. I was seated in the Harlem press box early in the 2006 season. Greenbrier's Rich Poythress, at the plate in the first inning, turned on a high fastball and got all of it. I don't remember the final score, who the pitcher was or how many men were on base. I just remember losing sight of the ball as it was still rising into the air somewhere over the left-field fence. I wonder whether it's landed yet.
When the second of three Greenbrier/Evans boys basketball games during the 2006-07 season took place at Greenbrier, tickets sold out before the girls JV game finished. The packed house watched the two teams battle to a tied score. Evans junior Jonathan Nicely lost his dribble and had no one to pass to in the final seconds of the game. He shifted his pivot foot (as video evidence later showed) then heaved a prayer of a shot from near mid-court that swished just as the buzzer sounded.
The basket counted, the place went nuts, and the greatest blown play in Evans basketball history resulted in a Knights win.
Greenbrier was supposed to blow away Richmond Academy in football this year, but the Wolfpack trailed 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Greenbrier did score a touchdown to make it 24-13, but quarterback Nick Richards appeared headed for a sack at midfield late in the game. Instead, Richards got away and found Andy Gray in the end zone.
The throw was a little high and coming in like a bullet, but Gray somehow managed to break away from a pair of Musketeer defenders and make the best catch I've seen on a football field since I became a sportswriter. Greenbrier finished off the rally with a last-second touchdown dive to win it all.
My list of highlights and memories goes on to include Alana Dyson's inside-the-park home run off a slap bunt at a Harlem region game against Cross Creek in 2006. Then there's Jacob Tilton's called chip-in for eagle to help win the first Columbia County Junior Golf Championship last summer. Lakeside's Brian Carter made a similar shot on his team's way to a 2007 Class AAAA state golf title.
I've seen the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation, Deangelo Tyson, completely neutralized by the Evans offensive line; Rachel Fearneyhough's game-winning hit to give Harlem's softball team a key region win over Cross Creek; Augusta Christian cross state lines to bring home countless state championship trophies; Trey Golston's 33-second pin in last year's wrestling region title match; Greenbrier's unbelievable comeback win over Evans in a 2006 football game; and, of course, just about every single one of Nolan Belcher's strikeouts.
All these events, and many more, will stick with me for the rest of my life. I'm honored to have been a part of them.
I'm moving on now. To borrow a phrase used all season long by Evans football coach Marty Jackson, I'm just climbing my ladder. I only hope I can do as well as they did.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.