When I was looking back through the year to write this column, I couldn’t believe how many highlights there were. The following is just a few of them. I could have gone on and on.
Here’s wishing 2013 is just as fulfilling, but before we get too far into the new year, I thought you might enjoy a look back at some of the highlights 2012 had to offer.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Two of Cherokee County High School’s most decorated softball players had their jerseys retired on Jan. 6.
Shortstop Kaitlyn Griffith and pitcher Lauren Millsaps were honored in a ceremony prior to the Warriors’ basketball games against Anniston. Griffith, a South Alabama signee, had a career batting average of .521 with 391 hits, 309 RBIs, 315 runs, 95 stolen bases and 72 home runs. Her home run total is second all-time in the state to Pisgah’s Shelby Holley’s 78.
Millsaps, now at Shorter University, earned 143 career wins in the circle. She pitched 1,046 innings with 38 career no-hitters, 81 shutouts, eight perfect games, 1,294 career strikeouts and a career earned run average of 0.73. Her 38 no-hitters and 21 consecutive no-hit innings are both state records.
The Warriors swept their way to the boys and girls county basketball titles on Jan. 14. The Lady Warriors defeated Spring Garden 44-30 for their second straight county championship. Tori Davis led the charge with 10 points and four rebounds.
The Warrior boys completed the sweep with a 66-60 victory over Sand Rock. Dee Williams connected on 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch and finished with 13 points. Malandro Chambers led all scorers with 23 points, including four 3-pointers (all in the third quarter).
Jacksonville State softball coach and Spring Garden native Jana McGinnis received a special honor on Feb. 5 during JSU’s annual Fan Day at University Field.
McGinnis had the street adjacent to the field named in her honor, Jana McGinnis Lane.
McGinnis, who entered her 19th season in 2012, has won over 600 games at JSU.
In high school basketball, the Cedar Bluff Tigers took the hard route to another Final 48 appearance in Birmingham, but they came through when it mattered most.
After losing the Class 1A, Area 14 tournament championship to Collinsville 58-50 on Feb. 13, the Tigers had to hit the road to Skyline in the Northeast Sub-Regionals on Feb. 17.
Cedar Bluff claimed a 78-63 victory over Skyline to claim another Northeast Regional berth in Jacksonville.
Three other area teams joined Cedar Bluff in Jacksonville in Piedmont’s boys and Collinsville’s boys and girls. Piedmont fell in a heartbreaker to Madison Academy 57-56. Collinsville’s boys lost to Ragland 64-44. Collinsville’s girls fell short against Ragland 47-44.
The Tigers dispatched Gaston in the regional semifinals 69-45, then defeated Ragland 52-41 to earn their second straight trip to Birmingham.
Cedar Bluff forward DeAngelo Hardy was named the Regional Tournament MVP following his 30-point performance against Ragland.
In the state semifinals, the Tigers defeated St. Jude 64-58 in the state semifinals on Feb. 28, setting up a rematch with Pickens County in the Class 1A title game for the second straight season.
Cedar Bluff’s basketball team opened the month by finishing as Class 1A state runner-up for the second straight season to Pickens County. The Tornadoes claimed a 70-59 victory.
DeAngelo Hardy led the Tigers (20-15) with 18 points and six rebounds. He averaged 19.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.1 steals for the season and ended the month as one of seven area basketball players receiving All-State recognition.
Hardy was a first-team selection. He was joined by second-team selections in Piedmont center Sloan Garner, Collinsville guard Deshawn Moore and Lady Panther guard Christy Cox.
Sand Rock center Chad Thompson, Collinsville forward Kristen Ford and Piedmont forward Sarah Garner all received honorable mention recognition.
In fishing, the Gaylesville duo of Carlton Teague and Adam Mobbs won a qualifying event March 3 at Weiss Lake in the semi-pro division of the Cabela’s Crappie USA Classic. The duo’s seven-fish limit weighed in at 11.3 pounds, which earned a $1,000 prize.
Former Auburn University at Montgomery basketball assistant coach and Cherokee County resident Jack Waters was selected as a Southeastern Conference’s 2012 All-State SEC Basketball Legend. Waters, one of 12 members selected, was honored at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament March 8-11 in New Orleans. He was a letterman at Ole Miss from 1959-61.
The Cherokee County Lady Warrior softball team claimed the Cherokee Softball Invitational title on March 17. The Lady Warriors defeated Sand Rock 2-0 in the championship game behind Tori Davis’s no-hitter on her 17th birthday.
Samford guard Paige Anderson finished her basketball career in style on March 18. The Lady Bulldogs finished the season at 20-13 following an 82-47 loss in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Anderson scored six points in the game and ended her career with 902 points, ranking eighth in school history.
The Cedar Bluff baseball team won its second straight Cherokee County baseball championship with a 7-4 victory over the Cherokee County Warriors at Sand Rock on March 24. The Tigers won the title behind Austin McCullough’s four-hit, 12-strikeout performance.
Cedar Bluff’s DeAngelo Hardy claimed the Alabama Sportswriters Association Class 1A Basketball Player of the Year on April 11 at a formal banquet in Montgomery.
Hardy was chosen over a pair of Pickens County players in LaJuan Doss and De’Marko Hall.
In other basketball-related news, the Cherokee County coaches selected their All-County teams. The Warriors swept the top boys and girls honors, with guard Richard Barton and forward Tori Davis earning MVP honors.
Barton averaged 13 points per game. He also had 80 assists and shot 79-percent from the free-throw line for the Warriors (16-11).
Davis averaged 13 points, 7.2 rebounds and was a 73-percent free-throw shooter for the Lady Warriors (18-9).
Jason Howard returned to coach football at Spring Garden for a second term on April 17. Howard spent the previous two seasons at his alma mater in Ohatchee. Howard replaced former Spring Garden coach John McKay, who resigned earlier in the month.
It didn’t take long for Ohatchee to fill its vacancy, and it looked to the Cherokee County area to do it.
Former Cherokee County defensive coordinator Nathan Wehunt was hired April 26 to replace Howard. Wehunt became the fourth head coach at Ohatchee in the past six years.
Cherokee County won its sixth straight Cherokee County softball championship by defeating Spring Garden 12-1 at Sand Rock on April 28.
In tennis, No. 6 singles player Mindy McMichen led the Cherokee County Lady Warriors to a runner-up finish to UMS-Wright at the state tennis tournament in Mobile. McMichen was the only Lady Warrior to win an individual state title.
Cedar Bluff’s boys and girls track and field teams captured their sixth straight state championships in Selma on May 4-5. The Tiger boys edged Westminster of Oak Grove 82-71, while the Lady Tigers earned 113.5 total points to finish ahead of Westminster’s 91 points.
The Tiger boys had one individual state champion in Dallas Plummer. He claimed the discus title with a throw of 123 feet, 3 inches. Plummer also finished fifth in the javelin.
Audrianna Hargitt led the Lady Tigers with a gold medal in the triple jump (33’1”) and silver medals in the shot put and long jump. Hargitt also claimed a bronze medal in the high jump.
The Tigers’ track success also carried over into baseball and softball.
Cedar Bluff’s baseball team advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A state baseball playoffs, where its season came to an end at Shoals Christian.
The Lady Tiger softball team earned its first fast-pitch regional tournament berth after finishing runner-up to Class 1A, Area 14 champion Spring Garden in a 9-2 loss. It was Spring Garden’s eighth straight area softball championship.
The Sand Rock Lady Wildcats and the Cherokee County Lady Warriors also won their respective area championships. Sand Rock claimed the Class 2A, Area 13 title with an 8-6 rally over West End. Cherokee County claimed the Class 4A, Area 10 championship with an 11-2 victory over Alexandria.
Speaking of the Lady Warriors, they went on to claim another North Central Regional title and advance to the state tournament in Montgomery. The Lady Warriors were joined in Montgomery with area baseball team Piedmont, which played in the Class 3A state title series against Trinity the third week of May.
Both teams’ championship hopes were dashed, with Piedmont’s season ending at 29-11-1 against Trinity in two games 5-4 and 12-0 in the Class 3A state championship series. The Lady Warriors (39-6) earned their second straight Class 4A softball runner-up after falling to Haleyville in the title game 5-0.
The Cherokee County Hall of Fame welcomed its latest class of inductees with a formal ceremony on June 9 at the Gadsden State-Cherokee community room. The 2012 class included Sand Rock football standout Lance Mackey, Hatcher and Cherokee County High School basketball standout Ronald Rooks, and Cedar Bluff football and basketball standout Harry Tucker.
In baseball, Cedar Bluff second baseman Rihied Harris and outfielder Lance Estes were chosen by the Cherokee County baseball coaches as co-Most Valuable Players on the 2012 All-Cherokee County Team.
Harris batted .423 with 15 doubles, a triple, 32 stolen bases, 22 walks, 42 runs and 28 RBIs as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter. Estes followed Harris in the lineup and batted .356 with 14 doubles, a triple, 36 stolen bases, 27 walks, 18 hit-by-pitches, 43 runs and 26 RBIs.
Harris and Estes were two of 10 area baseball players to receive All-State Baseball recognition.
Joining Harris (first team) and Estes (honorable mention) was teammate Curtis Abernathy (first team pitcher), Collinsville senior third baseman Trey Reed (first team), Gaylesville first baseman Brian Sanford (honorable mention), Gaylesville second baseman Zack Cavin (honorable mention), Piedmont pitcher Joel Ray (first team), Piedmont shortstop Cade Bradley (honorable mention), Piedmont catcher Landon Pruitt (honorable mention), and Piedmont outfielder Trevor Ford (honorable mention).
In softball, Cherokee County High School pitcher Tori Davis took the MVP honor on the All-Cherokee County Team. Davis Davis led the Lady Warriors (39-6) to their second straight Class 4A state runner-up. She compiled a 39-3 record in the circle with 275 strikeouts and a 0.60 ERA.
Davis was also chosen as the Class 4A All-State Softball Player of the Year during the month. She was one of 15 area softball players to receive All-State Softball recognition.
Joining Davis from the Lady Warriors was catcher Madison Millsaps (first team), second baseman Darbie Rosser (honorable mention), and first baseman Molly Brewer (honorable mention).
Spring Garden was represented by outfielder Jordan Sides (first team), shortstop Heather Smart (honorable mention), and second baseman Jessica Smart (honorable mention).
Collinsville was represented by third baseman Trista Duque (first team) and catcher Christy Cox (honorable mention).
Cedar Bluff was represented by outfielder Suzie Quarles (honorable mention) and shortstop Katie McGinnis (honorable mention).
Gaylesville was represented by utility player Katlin Hammett (honorable mention).
Sand Rock was represented by second baseman Megan McCullough (honorable mention), third baseman Madison Smith (honorable mention) and utility player McKenna Morgan (honorable mention).
Former Cedar Bluff baseball catcher and Alabama-Huntsville signee Jim Nelson began playing in the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate Baseball League with the Hopkinsville (Ky.) Hoppers to keep his skills honed during the summer months.
Former Cherokee County and current Jacksonville State two-sport standout Coty Blanchard began playing summer baseball in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores. Blanchard played several infield positions for the Commodores, whose season went though August.
Another former Cherokee County High School and Jacksonville State football standout Maurice Dupree was unanimously named to the Profession Indoor Football League’s First Team on June 21.
Dupree, who plays for the Columbus, Ga. Lions, led the league in points scored (242) touchdown receptions (40) and receiving yards (1,278). He also finished second overall in all-purpose yards despite not having a kick return to his credit.
Dupree helped guide the Lions to a 6-7 record and a berth in the playoffs.
Cedar Bluff’s DeAngelo Hardy and Levi Mintz, along with Piedmont football coach Steve Smith, helped guide their respective North All-Star teams during the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s annual All-Star Sports Week in Montgomery July 9-12.
Hardy scored seven points and had a rebound in seven minutes of action of the North’s 65-57 boys basketball victory over the South.
Mintz tossed two innings in the second game of a baseball doubleheader. He gave up a walk and two earned runs on five hits with a pair of strikeouts, but the South claimed a 15-3 win. The two teams tied at 6 in first game.
Several coaching changes were in the news during July.
Former Gaylesville baseball coach Brian Sexton took an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Hokes Bluff. Sexton guided the Trojans to an 11-17 record last season.
Paul Hawk, a graduate of Emma Sansom High School and a member of Jacksonville State University’s 1991 Division II national championship team, was hired on July 10 as Sand Rock High School’s new baseball coach. He replaces former coach Keith Cofield.
Longtime Cedar Bluff track and field coach and football assistant Mark Mitchell resigned to take a position at Piedmont on July 16.
Mitchell is best known for guiding the Tiger boys track and field teams to six consecutive Class 1A state championships.
Mitchell’s track and field coaching partner at Cedar Bluff, Joe Carpenter, received the Gill Athletics/USA Track and Field Girls South Regional Coach of the Year award. He was one of eight high school boys and girls coaches honored nationally.
Carpenter has coached the Lady Tigers since 1996 and guided the program to its sixth straight Class 1A state title in May.
Boaz’s Chad Calvert captured the Dub Ellis Invitational at the Cherokee County Country Club on July 22. Calvert defeated Piedmont native Jeremy McGatha on a sudden-death playoff hole on the 18th tee for the victory. Both players shot a two-day total of 135.
The Centre Otter swim team qualified 16 swimmers to compete at the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association state swim meet in Opelika on July 26-27.
In 24 of 32 events, the Otters set personal best times. Six swimmers picked up individual points, while nine of the 16 swimmers pointed. Both relay teams finished in the top 16.
Leading the way for the Otters was Leighton Rainer. She finished ninth in the 9-10 girls 50-breaststroke (43.76) and 11th in the 50-backstroke (40.70). She also swam the breaststroke on the 13th-place 200-medley relay team.
The 2012 high school football season began with a bang on Aug. 30-31.
Cedar Bluff got things going a day early with a 42-0 victory over rival Gaylesville. It was the Tigers’ first game at newly renovated L.D. Bruce Field. The $750,000 renovation project features a new press box, concession stand and new bleachers.
Senior running back Robert ‘Bam’ Henderson led the charge for the Tigers, rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
On Aug. 31, Piedmont honored the memory of former running back Christian Cantrell with a 45-21 victory over rival Cherokee County at the Field of Champions.
Cantrell, a key figure in the Bulldogs’ 2009 Class 3A state championship run, was killed in an automobile accident just three days prior to the game. He was 20 years old.
The Bulldogs scored six touchdowns (Cantrell’s old number), with the first coming on a 69-yard reception by sophomore receiver CJ Savage (who wore Cantrell’s old number).
The win was also a milestone for Piedmont coach Steve Smith. It was his 150th victory as a head coach.
In volleyball, Cherokee County High School welcomed back one if its own in Leah Monteith Goss. The Lady Warrior basketball standout from the early 1990s took over the Lady Warrior volleyball team for Amy Barnes earlier in the month.
Mark Green claimed his second Cherokee County Country Club golf title by besting defending champion David Garrett in match play on Sept. 12. It was the first time Green won the title since 2006.
Cedar Bluff honored the 50th anniversary of its 1962 football championship team on Sept. 14.That team, coached by L.D. Bruce, went 10-0 and was selected by The Birmingham News as state champions.
Cedar Bluff’s current football team added to the special night with a 62-21 victory over Coosa Christian.
Spring Garden captured a milestone football victory on Sept. 21 with a 35-0 win at Coosa Christian. The win gave the Panthers their first 4-0 start in school history.
Senior running back Forrest Livingston was the catalyst. He accumulated 244 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Defense was the name of the game when Class 3A, No. 1 Piedmont hosted second-ranked Leeds in a battle of unbeatens at the Field of Champions on Sept. 27. The Bulldogs claimed a 7-0 victory.
Piedmont senior defensive lineman Marquez Gamble recovered a fumble at the Green Wave 12-yard line near the end of the first quarter to set up the game’s lone touchdown. Senior quarterback Cade Bradley connected with senior tailback Jamie Major on a 9-yard pass for the score. Senior Dillon Terry booted the extra point.
The Bulldogs made the score stand by making two fourth-quarter defensive stops inside their own territory.
The Sand Rock volleyball team earned its second straight Cherokee County volleyball championship. The Lady Wildcats defeated Cedar Bluff in the title match 25-17, 25-20 on Sept. 29.
In a month filled with great football performances, two games between area teams highlighted the bunch.
In Week 7 on Oct. 12, Class 1A, No. 10 Collinsville hosted ninth-ranked Spring Garden on its homecoming.
Collinsville senior quarterback C.J. Jones tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Edgar Padilla with 55.6 seconds left in the game as Collinsville rallied for a 45-41 victory.
Jones completed 10 of 18 pass attempts for 237 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Deshawn Moore caught seven passes for 124 yards and three scores.
The win spoiled a 258-yard, 4-touchdown rushing performance by Spring Garden senior running back Forrest Livingston.
That same night, Cedar Bluff dedicated its baseball field in honor of school principal Bobby Mintz on its homecoming. The Tiger football team added to the special night, holding Donoho to minus-48 yards rushing in a 53-9 victory.
The final week of the regular season, Cedar Bluff traveled to Sand Rock and outlasted the Wildcats 34-28. The victory secured Cedar Bluff’s sixth undefeated regular season since 1930 and its first since 2005.
Senior quarterback Levi Mintz completed 13 of 28 pass attempts for 304 yards and five touchdowns. DeAngelo Hardy was on the receiving end of three scores, including the 7-yard game winner with 5:18 to go in the game. Sand Rock marched down inside the Tiger 10-yard line with just under a minute to go, but junior quarterback Dylan Mackey’s toss to junior receiver Isaac Arnold with 41.8 seconds left on fourth-and-15 sailed just out of his reach.
On Oct. 13, the Cedar Bluff volleyball team reached a milestone with a 25-21, 25-17 victory over Sylvania in the Lady Tiger Classic Tournament. The win was the 100th varsity match victory for head coach Tiffany Rieger and senior players Audrianna Hargitt and Hannah Leach.
Cedar Bluff, Spring Garden, Sand Rock and Piedmont all qualified for the new Super Regional Tournament in Huntsville on Oct. 26-27, but only Sand Rock advanced to the state tournament on Oct. 31. It was the Lady Wildcats’ first appearance there in three seasons, and it was brief one at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Sand Rock (35-13) fell in three games to Providence Christian 25-9, 25-7 and 25-20.
The month also saw Cherokee County senior softball and basketball player Tori Davis and Cedar Bluff senior volleyball and basketball player Hannah Leach honored as 20 state finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. The award recognizes outstanding high school seniors who excel in athletics, academics and community leadership.
Five of the seven area football teams qualified for the state playoffs, which began on Nov. 2. Three of those teams (Cedar Bluff, Spring Garden and Piedmont) all advanced to the second round on Nov. 9, but could get no further.
Cedar Bluff’s season ended at 10-1, with the lone blemish being a 34-0 setback against Pickens County on Nov. 9. Spring Garden’s season ended at 9-3 at Hubbertville in a 42-18 loss. Piedmont’s season came to a close at 11-1 with a 28-6 setback at Deshler.
In basketball, the Piedmont Lady Bulldogs earned the Cherokee Medical Center Thanksgiving Tournament at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena on Nov. 23 with a 46-27 victory over Hokes Bluff in the championship game. Senior center BreAnna Thompson was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. She scored 19 points in the championship game.
Piedmont basketball coach Tommy Lewis opened the 2012-13 season in style. The Bulldogs captured his 500th win with a 58-56 victory at longtime rival Cherokee County on Nov. 26.
Lewis is now in his 26th year of coaching, which includes stops at Gaylesville, Spring Garden and Cherokee County. He’s guided his teams to 18 area championships, 17 20-win seasons and 11 Northeast Regional appearances.
A day later, Spring Garden basketball coach Ricky Austin earned his 400th girls victory with a 43-41 decision at Gaston.
Austin is in his 17th year coaching at Spring Garden, which includes Class 1A state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
In college football, Jacksonville State released 13-year coach Jack Crowe on Nov. 30. Crowe posted an 87-57 record with the Gamecocks, including three Ohio Valley Conference Championships (2003, 2004, 2011). JSU went 6-5 in 2012.
Cedar Bluff senior quarterback Levi Mintz and senior nose guard Nick Combs, along with Spring Garden senior running back Forrest Livingston and Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard, took top honors on the 2012 All-Cherokee County Football Team.
Mintz and Livingston shared the Offensive Most Valuable Player honor. Mintz completed 122 of 205 pass attempts for 2,390 yards and 33 touchdowns. Livingston rushed for a Spring Garden record 1,945 yards and 26 touchdowns. Combs tallied 102 total tackles (20 for lost yardage), six sacks, three caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Howard, in his return to Spring Garden after a two-year stint at Ohatchee, guided the Panthers to a 9-3 season.
In volleyball, Sand Rock junior middle hitter Madison Smith earned the Most Valauble Player honor on the All-Cherokee County Volleyball Team. She posted 430 kills, 426 digs, 95 blocks, 64 aces and 27 assists for the Lady Wildcats (35-13), who made their return to the Class 2A state tournament in Birmingham.
Cedar Bluff’s Joe Carpenter captured his 500th career basketball win (boys and girls) on Dec. 6 at home against Valley Head. The Lady Tigers rallied for a 45-43 victory for No. 499, while the Tiger boys claimed a 70-42 win for No. 500.
On Dec. 19, Jacksonville State officially welcomed its new football coach in Piedmont native Bill Clark.
Clark, a JSU graduate, began his coaching career as an assistant at Piedmont. He also had coaching stints at Tuscaloosa County High School, Coffee County (Ga.) High School and Dothan High School before taking the reigns at Prattville.
While at Prattville, Clark guided the Lions to national prominence. During his nine years as Prattville’s head coach (1999-2007), Clark’s teams won a pair of Class 6A state titles. His last two teams won 30 straight games, and his 2007 squad was ranked No. 2 in the nation in USA Today’s national high school poll. Clark finished his career at Prattville with a 107-11 record.
Following his coaching days at Prattville, Clark joined the University of South Alabama’s football program in 2008. He served as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator the past five seasons.
In high school basketball, the Woodland Lady Bobcats overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to win their second straight Cherokee Invitational title, a 64-61 victory over Cherokee County on Dec. 22.
It was the two teams’ third straight meeting in the tournament final, held at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena.
Leah Strain scored a game-high 35 points to lead Woodland. Tori Davis led Cherokee County with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Collinsville won the boys tournament title for the second straight year. The Panthers defeated Cherokee County 69-48.
Deshawn Moore led the Panthers with 34 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Pruitt led Cherokee County with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
In high school football, Piedmont linebacker Jamie Major led 17 area athletes who received All-State football recognition by the Alabama Sportswriters Association.
It was Major’s third straight selection to the Class 3A All-State team. He was also chosen as a finalist for the Class 3A Lineman of the Year award.
Eight of the area players selected earned first-team recognition, including Major, Piedmont defensive lineman Exavyer Jackson, Cedar Bluff tight end DeAngelo Hardy, Cedar Bluff defensive lineman Nick Combs, Collinsville wide receiver Edgar Padilla, Collinsville kicker David Hernandez, Spring Garden offensive lineman Craig Jones, and Cherokee County defensive lineman Zach Bedwell.
Honorable mention recognition went to Piedmont’s Marquez Gamble, Laphonso Burroughs, C.J. Savage, and Dillon Terry, Cedar Bluff’s Levi Mintz, Skylar Cagle and Curtis Abernathy, Spring Garden’s Forrest Livingston, and Gaylesville’s John David Jennings.