Americus Times-Recorder 2018 Sports Year-End Review

Published 2:21 am Friday, December 28, 2018

AMERICUS – Many accomplishments, both from teams and individuals, were achieved in Americus, Sumter County and Schley County throughout 2018. In this year-end review, we will highlight those accomplishments. In many ways, 2018 was a year of success for our local high schools, colleges and the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD).


Americus-Sumter Lady Panther basketball team reaches 2018 state semifinals


With only seven available players on ASHS head coach Sherry Harris’s squad, the Lady Panthers of Americus-Sumter went 24-8 in 2018 and went all the way to the GHSA Class AAAA state semifinals before losing to Henry County. The Lady Panthers were led by point guard Jykiera Long. Long earned Second Team All-State honors in 2018. Long is now playing college ball at Chattahoochee Valley Community College. Players such as Brianna Pope, DeAsia Ford and Nyja Carson played key roles in the Lady Panthers’ success in 2018. Many of them are back this year to help the team make another run to a state championship.


Former ASHS point guard Eric Hall led the Panthers to a 25-4 record in 2018 and a berth in the state quarterfinals.
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Americus-Sumter boys’ basketball reaches the 2018 state quarterfinals


The ASHS boys’ basketball team looked like they had a great shot to win the state title in 2018. They made it to the GHSA Class AAAA state quarterfinals before losing to Baldwin. The Panthers finished the 2017-18 season at 25-4, one of their best seasons in school history. They were led by point guard Eric Hall, who is now playing college ball at Georgia Southwestern State. Joshua Lusane, now a senior, played a key role in the Panthers’ success as well. Many of the players on that team are back this year. The Panthers have gotten off to a great start this season and are poised and ready to make another run for a state championship.


Former Southland forward Harrison Bell takes a shot against Brookwood. Bell made 106 three-point baskets in his career as a Raider.
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2017-18 Southland Academy boys’ basketball team finishes successful season at 19-7


Led by GISA All-State performers Saige Batten and Alex Roach, as well as All-Region performer Harrison Bell, the Raiders finished the 2017-18 season at 19-7. They made it to the second round of the GISA Class AAA state tournament before losing to eventual state champions Holy Spirit Prep. It was a tremendous season for the Raiders. Batten, who is now playing college ball at Brewton Parker College, set the school record for free throws made in a career (153). Roach set a school record for three-pointers made in a career (164). Harrison Bell, now a pitcher on the University of South Carolina Beaufort Baseball Team, knocked down 106 three-pointers in his career at Southland.


Former Southland star Cassi Bass goes in for a layup against Valwood. During the 2017-18 season, Bass broke the school record for number of three-pointers made in a year (51).
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Lady Raiders finish the 2017-18 season at 22-5: advance to second round of state tournament


The Southland Academy Lady Raider basketball team had a marvelous 2017-18 season. The Lady Raiders finished the 2017-18 season at 22-5 and reached the second round of the GISA Class AAA State Basketball Tournament before losing to Holy Spirit Prep 52-43. Kathleen Kinslow, daughter of SA head coach Ty Kinslow, set the school record for number of three-pointers made in a career (114). Cassi Bass set the school record for number of three-pointers made in a year (51). Savanna Banks closed out her senior year by scoring 119 points, grabbing 137 rebounds and blocking 38 shots. Sydney Payne, now a senior on this year’s squad, scored 202 points during her junior year. Macy Williams, who is also a senior on this year’s team, had a great 2017-18 campaign. Williams scored 174 points, grabbed 140 rebounds and blocked 34 shots during the 2017-18 season.


Southland wrestler Morgan Youngdale won the individual state championship in the 182-lb. weight class at the 2018 GISA Class AAA Wrestling State Tournament.
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Southland wrestling finishes State Runners-Up: Youngdale is State Champion


The Southland Academy wrestling team had a banner year in 2018. The Raiders finished the season as the state runners-up and SA senior Morgan Youngdale won the individual state championship in the 182-lb. weight class. Youngdale very nearly won first place in 2017, but in 2018, he did not let it get by him. Southland’s Cole Landreth finished as the state runner-up in the 145-lb. weight class. As a team, the Raiders finished as the state runners-up with a total of 165.5 points. They barely edged out John Milledge Academy, who finished in third place with 163 points. Bulloch Academy won the team state championship with a total of 273 points.

It was a tremendous year for Youngdale, Landreth and the rest of the Raider wrestling team. Many of them are back this year to try and claim a team title for the white, black and gold.


SGTC’s Esther Adenike was named to the 2018 NJCAA All-Tournament Team.
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SGTC Lady Jets earn second consecutive trip to the NJCAA Division 1 National Tournament


The South Georgia Technical College women’s basketball team earned their second consecutive trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division 1 National Tournament in 2018. They did this by defeating Spartanburg Methodist 69-42 to win the NJCAA District J Championship.

At the national tournament, held in Lubbock, Texas, the Lady Jets won their first-round game over Casper College (WY) 77-65. However, they lost in the Sweet 16 to Seward Community College by the score of 88-81. In spite of the season-ending loss, the Lady Jets had a marvelous season, finishing 29-6 overall. SGTC’s Esther Adenike was named to the NJCAA National All-Tournament Team.


In 2018, all four SCPRD all-star basketball teams won their district tournaments and qualified for the GRPA state tournaments.
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Sumter County All-Star basketball teams win respective district tournaments


It was an unprecedented event in the history of the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD). In 2018, all four of the all-star basketball teams: the 12u Boys, 12u Girls, 10u Boys and 8u Boys won their respective district tournaments and qualified for the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) state tournaments. It was an accomplishment that is rarely, if ever, achieved anywhere in Georgia or the country.


The Schley County HS baseball team won the Region4-1A Championship in 2018. One of the many successful happenings in sports during this past year.
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Schley County baseball team wins region championship


The 2018 Schley County Wildcat baseball team won the Region 4-1A Championship by defeating Brookstone 8-3 on April 20, 2018. The Wildcats got stellar pitching by Dylan Taylor in this game. Taylor struck out seven to lead the Wildcats to victory.

The Wildcats were already the defending GHSA Class A-Public State Champions and were poised to win it again. They advanced to the second round of the GHSA Class A-Public State Tournament before getting swept by Bowdon 6-5 and 5-3. However, the Wildcats still had a tremendous season, finishing with an overall record of 24-4. Three Wildcats made the Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine All-State Team: Wade Law, Cameron Belcher and Jordan Hall.


On Friday, June 1, 2018, Josh McDonald was introduced as the new head baseball coach at Georgia Southwestern State University.
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Josh McDonald hired as Georgia Southwestern State’s new head baseball coach


On Friday afternoon, June 1, 2018, a new era began for the Georgia Southwestern State University baseball program. Josh McDonald, a GSW alum and former player, was introduced as the new head baseball coach for the Hurricanes. McDonald came to GSW from Georgia Southern, where he had been serving as a volunteer assistant coach since 2011.

McDonald inherits a program that struggled a year ago. However, McDonald believes that GSW can and will be a winning program under his watch. McDonald told those assembled at that press conference on Friday, June 1, that his expectations for the GSW baseball program are extremely high. “When I set expectations, I set them to what the ultimate prize is…what everybody else is going after,” McDonald said.

The Hurricanes will begin play on Friday, February 1, against Salem International in Franklin Springs, GA. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.


ASHS head football coach Larry Harold seen here with his family. Harold was hired as the Panthers’ new head football coach in March of 2018.
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Larry Harold hired as Americus-Sumter head football coach


On Thursday night, March 7, 2018, Larry Harold was introduced as the Americus-Sumter Panthers new head football coach at a meeting of the Sumter County Board of Education.

Harold replaced Erik Soliday, who left ASHS to become the head football coach at Tiftarea Academy in Chula, GA.

At that meeting, Coach Harold expressed his desire to get started right away, and that he planned to impress upon the team that when they put on the ASHS helmets, they are role models that the younger kids are looking up to. He said that the young kids will be watching his players to see how they conduct themselves on and off the field.

Unfortunately, the 2018 season was a tough one for Harold. The Panthers finished 3-7 overall and 3-5 in Region 1-AAAA, far below Harold’s expectations. However, once the players buy into his system and dedicate themselves to becoming better players, Coach Harold will have the Panthers back on track to compete for a region championship and much more.


Southland running back Clay Owens in action. Owens played a key role in the Raiders’ success in 2018.
Photo by Sheri Bass

2018 Southland Academy football turns in an outstanding season


The 2018 Southland Academy Raider football team had one of the best seasons in school history. The Raiders finished with an overall record of 9-3 and finished in second place in Region 3-AAA with a record of 3-1. They finished behind region champions Tiftarea Academy (4-0).

The Raiders had several seniors on the squad, which helped in the areas of leadership and experience. Freddie Updike, Zane Hines, Parker Weldon, Andrew Bell and Ragan Norman were a part of a senior class that led the way for the Raiders in 2018, and will be remembered for a long time.

Under the leadership of head coach Rod Murray and this senior class, the Raiders advanced to the second round of the GISA Class AAA State Playoffs before losing to Heritage (Newnan) 34-16 on Friday, November 16. Juniors, such as quarterback Landon Law and running back Clay Owens, will be back in 2019 for their senior seasons. Several underclassmen, such as Nathan Duke, James Griffin and Owen Exley, will return with valuable experience under their belt. This bodes well for the Raiders in 2019.


Schley County pitcher Saige Whaley in action. Whaley helped lead the Lady Wildcats to a 22-7 record in 2018.
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Schley County softball turns in a strong season in 2018


The Schley County girls’ softball team had another banner season in 2018. The Lady Wildcats finished with an overall record of 22-7 and finished 12-2 in the Region 4-1A standings. They were led in the circle primarily by senior pitcher Saige Whaley and sophomore pitcher Perri DeVane. Senior Carmen Phillips got on base numerous times and was always a threat to steal. Dasani Minter, Emily Campbell, Tamia Kelley and Alexis Bradshaw all played key roles in the success of the Lady Wildcats.

While the Wildcats will be losing Saige Whaley, Maddie Tobin and Emily Campbell, Phillips, along with Minter, Landrey Whaley and others, will be back next year to try and make another run for a region and state championship.


Team picture of the Sumter County 10u all-star football team after they won the GRPA Class B State Championship. Left to right top row: Coach Brandon Gooden, Coach Reggie Jones, Coach Starlin Morgan, Coach Joseph Jordan, Coach Mike Terry. Standing Row (L-R): Arthur Mays, Austin Davis, Caden Lane, Omari Woodard, Briceton Terry, Joshua Coleman, Daylon Major, Tayten Raybon, Ishmael Jones, Jayden Wooden, Bryce Volley, James Harper, Kyran Davis, Aaron Kearse. Kneeling (L-R): De’untae Clemons, Dometrius Monts, Aaden Cross, Travin Jordan, Amari Hubbard, Jayshun Bobbs, Kaeden Jones, Kendall Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Quay’Shaun Tatum. Not pictured: Zayden Monts. Submitted Photo

Sumter County 10u All-Stars win state championship


The Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD) now has another state championship to go with its tremendous success in area youth sports. On Saturday, December 8, the Sumter County 10u All-Star football team won the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) Class B state title by beating the Calhoun, GA 10u All-Stars 28-6.

Sumter County running back AJ Kearse scored three touchdowns to lead his team to victory.

SCPRD Director Tim Estes expressed his congratulations to the team on a job well done. “We certainly are proud of Coach Brandon Gooden and his staff and all of these fine, young athletes,” Estes said. “It also takes the parents of these players investing in their children.”


The Georgia Southwestern State University men’s soccer team played their first-ever home match under the lights against Brewton Parker College on Wednesday evening, September 5. GSW won the match 2-0.
Photo by GSW

GSW Men’s soccer hosts first-ever match under the lights


Who could ever forget the first-ever soccer match played under the lights at Georgia Southwestern State University on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. At least an hour before the match began, there was tailgating going on. It seemed as if the entire community came together to celebrate the first-ever night game at GSW. There was food, fellowship, games, etc. It was a wonderful atmosphere. Then the game began. In the 79th minute, Matheus Alves scored to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. About six minutes later, Caleb Zolman gave GSW the insurance goal it needed to secure the 2-0 win over Brewton Parker College. A large fireworks show was done after the game, capping off a wonderful evening at GSW.


Schley County running back Tra Sampson seen here running the ball against Dooly County. Sampson rushed for 1,331 yards on 222 carries and scored 16 rushing touchdowns to help lead the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and a berth in the second round of the state playoffs.
Photo by Kricket Barineau

Schley County football team has tremendous season in 2018


After losing a 22-21 heartbreaker to Mitchell County in the 2017 state playoffs, Schley County head coach Darren Alford and his team spent the entire summer getting ready to put the bad taste of that defeat out of their mouths for good.

It was the goal of the Wildcats in 2018 to do something that had never been done before in school history: win a region championship in football. Alford and his men believed that this would be the year it would finally happen. The team they would have to get by Marion County to make it happen. The Eagles defeated the Wildcats 28-7 in Schley County’s season opener on Friday, August 17, 2018. However, the Wildcats rebounded with eight-straight wins, setting up another rematch with the Eagles in the region crossover game. Unfortunately for Schley County, the Eagles got the better of them again by beating the Wildcats 21-6.

However, that didn’t destroy the spirit or the resolve of the Wildcats. They were ready to compete for something bigger than a region championship. They had their eyes clearly set upon winning the school’s first-ever state title in football.

The Wildcats thrashed Trion in the first round of the GHSA Class A-Public State Playoffs. This set up a third meeting between the Wildcats and Marion County.

Of the three games played between the two schools in 2018, this game turned out to be the Wildcats’ best effort. Schley County had a 27-20 lead with 6:47 left in the game, but the Eagles scored two touchdowns to come from behind and beat the Wildcats 34-27.

In spite of the heartbreaking loss, it was a tremendous season for the Wildcats. They finished 9-3 overall. All three losses came at the hands of Marion County.

Nine Wildcats earned All-Region honors, including running backs Tra Sampson and Zamon Ross. Sampson rushed for 1,331 yards on 222 carries and scored 16 rushing touchdowns during the 2018 season. Ross rushed for 1,027 yards on 131 carries and scored five rushing touchdowns.

Junior All-American defensive end Zykevious Walker was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year for Region 4-1A.

Though Sampson will be graduating, Ross, Walker, quarterback Garrett Peavy and several other Wildcats will be back next season to fight for that elusive region championship and much more.