It’s a nearly-impossible task to take what was one of the best spring seasons we have ever seen in our area, and choose one team of the year for each sport. There is no hard and fast rule on it though, so in some cases there were dual teams of the year. Check out the best of the best this season.
Jefferson put up one of the best regular seasons we have ever witnessed, going 24-1 before the playoffs started. This included a 17-0 start to the season for the reigning Class 4A State Champions, who were moving down into a new classification (3A). Legendary coach Tommy Knight had the Dragons looking like a repeat champ, but the first round for the #1-ranked team in the state proved to be their undoing. Westminster, a solid team, really had no business keeping with Jefferson, but the Dragons fell 7-1 in a horrible first game before rebounding with a stellar 8-0 series-tying victory. In the win-or-go-home game three, Westminster used timely hitting and pitched well to a 5-4 win, sending Jefferson home far too early.
The Dragons allowed 59 runs all season while going 25-3 overall, and 11 of those runs were allowed to Westminster. The offense was dominant, to the tune of 222 runs scored for the 8-AAA Region Champions. Guys like Lane Watkins (UGA), Zac Corbin (Kennesaw State), Sammy Elegreet, and far too many more to list out, put up incredible numbers for the team who was better than any until the playoffs began.
Habersham Central Raiders
The Raiders made history in 2019. For two straight seasons prior, Habersham Central and coach Chris Akridge got out of the gate with quick starts, only to fall in the final week both seasons to dash any playoff hopes. This time was different, as guys like Peyton Irvin, Alex McFarlane, Colby Jones, Christian King, and others made sure it didn’t happen again. The Raiders went 19-13, making the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and only the second time in school history.
The boys fell at South Paulding in the opening round of the playoffs, but this is a group that gelled so well together and fought in one of the toughest regions in the state in order to make the historic run, which included a state ranking during the regular season.
The Tigers advanced the furthest of all our local programs, coming within one hit of reaching the semifinals. Commerce went 22-13 along the way, reaching as high as #8 in the state rankings. Steve Cottrell and the boys nearly took down Schley County in the quarterfinals, falling in the do-or-die game three 6-4, but threatening with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning.
Commerce had proven veterans like Jacob Welch, Colby Rogers, Nate Ray, and many others who were pivotal to this success.
Honorable Mentions: Stephens County, Union County, Banks County
The #4-ranked Dragons advanced all the way to the semifinals of the 3A bracket before falling to top-ranked Westminster. Jefferson’s Javy Flores and Roberto Quintal were unbelievable, and between the pipes Flores had 13 shutouts in 2019.
Jefferson, the 8-AAA Region Champions, rolled through the first three rounds of state without allowing a goal, making the first Final 4 in school history.
Union County Panthers
The Panthers didn’t have the greatest regular season, especially within region play (5-2), but did just enough to earn the final spot in Region 8-AA to get into the playoffs. Once the boys got there, senior Brian Smith and fellow star Kobi Robbins took over in what became a legendary cinderella run.
Union County (13-5) used dramatic finishes to get past #8-ranked Lamar County (2-1) and #10 Gordon Central (3-2), both on the road. Then came a rare 4-versus-4 matchup with Jefferson Davis, which saw Smith go for the hat trick in a 4-0 win to punch a semifinals ticket for the first time ever. The 3-0 win over #6 Vidalia (also on the road), advanced the Panthers to the title game. What makes all this so much more special is the fact that the Panthers missed state last year altogether with a 5-8-1 overall record, including going 0-6 in region play. It proved to be one of the best one-year turnarounds we’ve seen.
Union fell 2-1 in the State Championship despite taking an early 1-0 lead on a Smith goal in the first half. Thomasville struck back with a late first half goal, and the 1-1 tie held even after an overtime period that then forced PKs. Thomasville won the PKs, 4-2 to take the title.
Honorable Mentions: Habersham Central, Dawson County, Rabun County, Towns County, Commerce
Jefferson Lady Dragons
These Lady Dragons (17-3) ranked #4 in the state rode to a region runner-up finish and a sweep through the playoffs to the semifinals. This included wins over top-five teams Dawson County (#2) and Pike County (#3). Molly McCarty’s group featured some talented players like Abbey Eison, Margo Perry, and many others.
Dawson County Lady Tigers
The Lady Tigers (13-2-1) were nearly perfect in the regular season, allowing just ONE region goal on the way to a 7-AAA title. After a quick start in the postseason, Dawson ran into a buzz-saw that was the Lady Dragons of Jefferson, falling 2-0 in a hard-fought game that pitted top-10 teams against each other far too early.
The talented group was anchored by Fallan Lacey, Makenzie Kimbarl, Molly Muenchen, and Rachel Rajczak along with numerous others under coach Chess Hamby. The girls were ranked #2 in the state pretty much throughout the season, and shut down top-10 teams Lumpkin and GAC within a week of each other to secure the region crown.
Union County Lady Panthers
These Lady Panthers (12-3-1) won the 8-AA title outright, having a phenomenal defensive back line featuring Ellie Garrison and Maddi Sutton, and a great scoring attack led by Madison Yost. Tim Hunter’s group rolled to the quarterfinals before falling to St. Vincent’s Academy.
The #6-ranked Lady Panthers, like the Union boys, failed to make the playoffs last season, making this run equally impressive. A 1-5 region record last year dampened an otherwise solid 9-7 season, but this year the girls wouldn’t let that happen again.
Honorable Mentions: Habersham Central, White County, Stephens County, Lumpkin County, Rabun County, Towns County
Jefferson had an incredible 2019 campaign in which the Dragons were state-ranked, won a region title, won three playoff rounds, and got to the 3A State Semifinals round.
Honorable Mentions: Commerce, Banks County, Rabun County, Stephens County, Habersham Central, Dawson County
Banks County Lady Leopards
Pretty much the whole Banks County team were all-region members, led by sophomore sensation Chloe Smith. The Lady Leopards advanced to the Sweet 16 and won the 8-AA Region Title yet again, and were state-ranked as one of the best in the classification.
Honorable Mentions: Jefferson, Commerce, Rabun County, Lumpkin County, Stephens County, Dawson County
The Tigers had one heck of a season, highlighted by the tremendous play of proven veteran senior Jeremy Davis and freshman phenom Henry Sharpton. The Tigers under Matthew Lund were second in the area, and finished 7th at state, led by Davis’ 11th-place finish.
Towns County Indians
If you go with the Tigers (above), you have to go with Towns County also. Coming from the same area, the two squads were neck and neck all season. Towns County came in 3rd at the area meet, but reversed the trend with a 6th place team finish at state, led by Kyler Garrett’s 18th place finish.
Honorable Mentions: Jefferson, Rabun County, Stephens County
White County Lady Warriors
The Lady Warriors were as good as ever. Top to bottom, the lineup consistently was among the best in the state. Catie Craig followed up her freshman 2018 State Championship with a Runner-Up finish this time around, while senior sister Caroline Craig came in 19th. Both tied for 5th in the area, while White County was runner-up there and 3rd at state. Erin Dorsey and Grace Jones were also phenomenal this season.
Commerce Lady Tigers
Commerce also finished as area runner-up and third place at state, led by Cameron Ford, McKenzie McRee, and Kristin Tash. With the core of the team battling each other for low medalist honors in each tournament, the Lady Tigers made a legit run for a state title, and didn’t disappoint with the top-5 finish.
Tallulah Falls Lady Indians
All three of these teams were incredible in 2019. This Lady Indians group was anchored by a pair of sophomores in Brinson Hall and Maggie Jackson. The duo helped guide Tallulah Falls to an area championship, and followed it up with a top-5 finish at the state tournament, coming in 4th.
Honorable Mentions: Stephens County, Jefferson, Dawson County, Union County, Rabun County
BOYS TRACK & FIELD
The Dragons won the Region 8-AAA title for starters, with five individuals taking the top spot in their events. That was just the tip of the iceberg, as the boys appeared in 14 events at the 3A State Championships, taking the state title as five individuals won state titles on their own.
Honorable Mentions: Dawson County, Commerce, Banks County, Tallulah Falls
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
Jefferson Lady Dragons
The Lady Dragons won the region championship out of 8-AAA, as 12 individual region crowns were earned. 22 events at the state meet featured a Jefferson athlete, and three Lady Dragons were victorious in winning a state title. The team finished 3rd overall.
Honorable Mentions: Union County, Dawson County, Commerce, Tallulah Falls