Each week during the summer, The Columbia County News-Times will highlight a different high school, with a look back at its five biggest stories from the previous school year.
This week's focus is on Evans High School.
In 2008, the Knights football team was coming off one of its most successful seasons.
The preseason questions were how Evans would follow it up, and if the defense could rebuild after losing several key players. Both were answered in resounding fashion.
Evans blew through the regular season undefeated, holding opponents to a touchdown per game defensively and chewing up yards on offense behind running back Jonathan Finch and quarterback Troy Griffith, a first-year varsity starter.
The undefeated campaign was Evans' first since 1987, and came as the Knights football program celebrated its 50th year.
Its Region 3-AAAA title was followed by the Knights softball team capturing the region championship.
Knights pitcher Jenny Shepherd was named the All-Area Player of the Year and County Player of the Year, in addition to earning first team all state honors in Class AAAA. Her teammate, Laura Brown, later signed to play for Augusta State.
The Knights' baseball team finished strong to claim the region's second seed, earning the team two home playoff series. The Knights won both to advance to the quarterfinals, where they lost to Loganville, the defending state champions.
The Knights boys soccer team won the region title, slipping past Lakeside early in the season and cruising from there. Coach Brian Killips' team carried its momentum to two wins in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The Knights boys track team, led by Finch and Georgia Tech signee Perron Jones, captured the 3-AAAA title at Westside.
Evans' overall success led to Kevin Kenny being named Athletic Director of the Year.
Here is a look back at five of the biggest stories from the Knights' year.
Knights are riding high after overtime victory
April 30, 2009
The eight players on the bench linked arms for the final 30 seconds. It wasn't as if the Evans boys soccer team had stolen another win, it was just that this one felt like the rest of their season: win when there was plenty of opportunities and reasons to lose.
When the whistle finally blew on its 3-2 Class AAAA second-round victory over Upson-Lee on Wednesday night, the players on the bench dashed onto the field. In the middle of it all, Evans students lifted Jesus Lopez on their shoulders and paraded him around the field.
Lopez's overtime goal gave Evans its first state quarterfinal bid since 2005. It will play host to Hillgrove (Cobb County) on Saturday night.
"Let's go," Lopez said he remembered screaming over and over again.
The victory was another sweet reward for a team that returned only three of 11 starters from last season.
More stories on Page 11
Playoff-bound Knights stay perfect
Nov. 8, 2008
Reuben Faloughi stood before his teammates at Evans' pregame meal Friday and reminded them what it meant to win.
The linebacker was referring to the phrase Knights coaches and players have used all season, having turned win into an acronym standing for "What's important now?"
The approach has helped them focus on the next task and no further.
After Evans' 27-10 win over Richmond Academy completed a 10-0 regular season, their next target is a first-round home playoff game Friday. The Knights will be the top seed out of Region 3-AAAA.
"It sums up the whole season," Faloughi said of his pregame speech. "What's important now? It's crazy."
...The undefeated season and region championship were the Knights' first since 1987. On Friday, they welcomed the school's first football team, which played its first season in 1958.
Weather stole thunder from Evans' championship victory
Oct. 12, 2008
Evans softball players trudged to their bus Wednesday, not looking like a team that had just captured a region title.
They had spent the past seven hours at Diamond Lakes softball fields playing two games, the last of which ended with a lengthy rain delay, some tense moments and, finally, a trophy declaring the Knights Region 3-AAAA champions.
"It kind of took a little of the excitement away," Evans pitcher Laura Brown said.
The weather cooperated as the Knights opened the day by beating Cross Creek 9-2. Evans then waited to play the winner of Harlem-Cross Creek. The Bulldogs earned the right, and the Knights needed one win against them to clinch the No. 1 seed in the region heading into the Class AAAA South Sectional, which begins Friday.
The Knights opened a 13-0 lead on Harlem in the bottom of the third inning, needing only two more runs to clinch the win via mercy rule. Then the skies opened.
...The region championship is the Knights' first since 2003, when they captured the Region 7-AAAAA title. Evans also owns region titles from 1996 and 1999.
Powerful region leaves team home
April 22, 2009
...Evans golfer Jacob Tilton might have been the only player on the course not sweating an outcome, at least not after making the turn. Tilton fired a 5-under-par 67, six shots clear of the nearest competitor (to claim medalist honors at the Region 3-AAAA golf tournament at Jones Creek).
His opening nine 6-under 30 left him only needing to avoid disaster coming in.
"I was thinking don't screw up," Tilton said. "Don't blow up. Don't blow it."
Tilton broke his ankle playing basketball almost a month ago and wore a stiff brace that restricted his movement. But he played his first six holes in 6-under, with an eagle on his fourth hole.
Evans' bats come alive
By Stephen Fastenau
May 15, 2009
For a while Wednesday, Travis Ward thought his second-inning run would be the only one Evans could muster during its deciding game against Glynn Academy.
The senior reached on a walk, moved to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch, and scored on a fielder's choice. It was the only type of offense Glynn Academy starter Blake Strickland allowed through five innings.
"I really did think I was going to be the only one," Ward said. "Because he was dealing."
But Evans finally broke through with a big sixth-inning and beat the Terrors 7-1 to clinch the Class AAAA second-round playoff series.
The Knights will go on the road to face defending state champion Loganville on Tuesday in the best-of-three quarterfinals. The Red Devils defeated Lakeside-Dekalb 3-1 and 6-3 in their second-round playoff series.
"All we know right now is defending state champs," Ward said. "That's all we've heard so far."
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