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November 01, 2014
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Posted: Thursday, May 22nd 2014 at 5:28pm

Strong spring wraps another incredible high school sports campaign

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Johnson goalkeeper Gerardo Molina (29) tips a Marist cross out of danger during the Knights' 3-0 win in the first round of the playoffs.
And just like that, it was over.

It’s hard to believe that the spring prep sports season -- and with it another high school sports campaign -- is complete, but two nail-biting losses for Gainesville and Buford baseball on Tuesday put a bow on what was 2013-14.

In all it was a pretty nice gift.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite the latest X-box, Barbie Dream House or a new bike -- after all there were a number of championships left un-clinched -- but it was still the kind of present anyone would have been happy to open.

Let’s take a look back at all the good, and some of the disappointments of 2013-14.

In all, area teams claimed 12 state crowns (one in football, one in softball, two in cross country, six in wrestling, one in golf and one in gymnastics), played for five more (Johnson boys soccer finished as Class AAAA runner-up, and Buford boys and girls basketball finished as Class AAA runners-up; Banks County wrestling was also Class AAA duals and traditional runner-up) and notched five state semifinal berths (Gainesville football, North Hall and West Hall boys soccer, Jefferson and Buford volleyball). Gainesville girls golf and North Hall boys cross country also finished as Class AAAAA runner-up in their respective classification finales.

There were also numerous individual glories in sports like swimming -- North Hall’s Paul Powers left a veritable wake in the pool -- wrestling, cross country and track and field.

In short it was everything we’ve come to expect from northeast Georgia’s prep athletes over the past few seasons.

Remember all the way back in fall when the area’s top football programs had state titles in their sites and, arguably, the nation’s top collegiate quarterback prospect playing right here?

Deshaun Watson just finished up his first spring practice session at Clemson, but months ago, he helped lead the Red Elephants to yet another region championship and state semifinal berth. Tucker halted Gainesville’s run in a brutal defensive war that was only settled when Mother Nature drove a Mack Truck of a storm through the Atlanta area and unsettled a Red Elephants squad that was giving as good as it got until the fourth quarter. Gainesville fell 20-14 to deny the Red Elephants a title repeat shot.

Buford, however, was more than ready for another crown, and the Wolves notched their ninth triumph in 13 seasons courtesy a 35-19 defeat of a game Washington County team. Buford overcame a 13-7 halftime deficit to pull away with the crown in the Georgia Dome, which is the Wolves’ second home in December.

Buford is also well-familiar with Columbus in the fall, and the Lady Wolves softball team claimed their seventh straight state championship in November, blanking Central, Carroll 4-0.

It wasn’t all green and gold in the fall, however, and Flowery Branch’s boys and Towns County’s girls cross country teams each laid claim to championships in Carrollton in November. Meanwhile, White County’s Jenna Gearing and Union County’s Emma Garrison each won individual titles. For the Falcons, it was their fourth crown in six years, marking them out as one of a number of area dynasties -- like Buford football and softball and Jefferson wrestling.

The Dragons grapplers continued their assault on the record books this winter, claiming their 13th straight duals title and 14th straight traditional crown. But Jefferson had to share some of the spotlight in northeast Georgia this winter, as Buford and Commerce each claimed the same titles in Class AAA and A respectively.

While basketball season saw two near-misses for Buford in the Class AAA finale there was no missing out for some of the area’s best in the pool, as North Hall’s Paul and Ty Powers each won state meet gold, along with Gainesville’s Colin Monaghan. The Powers also powered North Hall to a 200 freestyle relay team victory. Powers left a towering legacy in the pool before graduating and heading to swim for Michigan, with numerous championships.

As one of the coldest and most snow-filled winters in memory gave way to a nippy and wet spring, the area’s programs continued their title charges led by the Johnson boys soccer team, who made history by notching their first ever championship game appearance -- falling to defending Class AAAA champ Dalton 2-0. North Hall's and West Hall's boys also put together impressive postseason runs, charging into the state semifinals.

The Buford girls gymnastics team did not miss out on its title shot, however, and the Lady Wolves pulled out a championship with a team score of 110.225 to beat out Carrollton’s 109.350.

Meanwhile, the Gainesville boys golf team saw its historic run of victories come to an end in the Class AAAAA championship tournament, falling to Greenbrier and Lakeside, Evans, which made the most of playing on their home course in Augusta. The Lady Red Elephants also performed admirably, firing their way to second in Class AAAAA. Commerce’s girls, meanwhile, went one step better and claimed the Class A public championship.

The area’s top athletes also enjoyed a stellar spring, with nine gold medals to go around for boys and girls performers.

Gearing again led the way, claiming titles in both the Class AAA 1,600 and 3,200 -- the 3,200 gold a repeat of her 2013 success. North Hall’s Gabrielle Hoffman also defended her Class AAA pole vault crown, while West Hall’s Maia Caldwell-Booker also claimed her second straight 100 meter victory. North Hall’s Harper Seymour also claimed the Class AAA discus, while Rabun Country’s Sally Woerner won the Class AA 100 hurdles.

On the boys side, Gainesville’s Colton Quinones hurled his way to the Class AAAAA discus title, while Jefferson’s Mason Hamrick defended his Class AA pole vault title. Buford’s 4x100 meter relay also sprinted their way to the Class AAA crown.

So while the final taste of this high school sports season may not have been another championship -- though two state semifinal berths for Gainesville and Buford were pretty sweet -- the fruits of earlier victory should be plenty to keep us going through the next three months...

And then the title treks start back all over again.
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