The Evans High School Knights are ranked No. 8 in Georgia in the gasports.com Top 10 preseason football poll.
The Knights had a 2007 to remember, as they raced out to a 7-0 start before finishing 9-3 and advancing to the second round of the state playoffs.
However, the Knights lost some incredible talent to graduation. Three-year starters Jonathan Nicely (wide receiver; North Carolina Central) and Kevin Millward (quarterback/punter; Georgia Southern) are both gone.
They are just two of the school-record eight college signees Evans must replace, including the following:
- Michael Heredia (Gardner-Webb)
- Trey Golston (Butler Community College)
- Ben Rouse (Chowan)
- Trey Henderson (Coastal Carolina)
- Tim Tillman (Alabama A&M)
- Mykel Green (Morehouse College)
The Knights still should be the top team in the county with speedy tailback Jonathan Finch back after a stellar sophomore season a year ago. In addition, highly regarded Texas transplant Troy Griffith will take over at quarterback after learning the system last season.
No. 8 in the state may be pushing it because of all the talent the Knights have to replace, but it is good to see a county team in the Top 10. Who knows; the Knights just might live up to the hype.
Baxter to continue career
Former Evans baseball standout Wes Baxter is a kid everyone should pull for. Known more for his defense than his hitting when he graduated from Evans two years ago, the catcher signed to play at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga.
As a freshman, Baxter saw little action, playing in just eight games and getting only 11 at-bats. Some would have been discouraged by the lack of playing time. Baxter, however, used it to push himself in the off-season.
Obviously, the hard work paid off. He went from a seldom-used bench player to a team leader and all-conference selection. For the 2008 season, Baxter hit .330 (after going 0-for-11 in all of 2007). He also smashed 10 doubles, blasted five homers and drove in 34 runs. For his efforts, he was named a second-team all-conference selection in the extremely tough GJCAA.
Scouts apparently were watching, too, because Baxter signed to play at LaGrange College in Lagrange, Ga. Lagrange is a Division III school that plays in the Great South Athletic Conference, which consists of seven teams from Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Head coach Kevin Howard has had a solid run at Lagrange, winning 237 games and five conference titles in just eight seasons.
Good luck, Nolan
Former Greenbrier High School star Nolan Belcher left for college this past week. The talented lefty is headed for the University of South Carolina, where he will try to do to SEC hitters what he did for four consecutive high school seasons -- mow them down.
Belcher leaves as arguably the greatest player to ever play in Columbia County and one of the top pitchers in Georgia history. Even if you take out his 10-0 record, 94 strikeouts and 0.13 ERA in his freshman season at Augusta Christian, he still has left his mark on the GHSA record books.
He shattered the state's ERA mark. His 0.83 ERA easily bettered the 1.12 mark held by Chip Bates, of Shiloh High School. He also posted 37 wins and 422 strikeouts over his final three seasons. Those marks would place him fifth and tied for third in the state's all-time history.
If Belcher's freshman numbers at ACS counted, he would hold the career state record in all three of the main pitching categories. With those numbers and three state titles under his belt, it would be hard to argue against him as the all-time best pitcher in terms of statistics in state history.
He is headed off to play for the Gamecocks, and I am certainly happy for him. But part of me (the selfish part) will certainly miss him dominating the high school competition. So, good luck Nolan; those SEC hitters will have their hands full.
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