Spring Sports Teams of the Year
The spring season saw some fantastic playoff runs by many local teams. The goal for almost all programs is to get to the playoffs, and for many others it’s to play for a state title. Here are our 2022 Spring Sports Teams of the Year.
Coach: Steve Cotrell
Accomplishments: 1A Final Four, Region 8-A Champions, #4 State Ranking
The Tigers went 26-14 overall, won a second consecutive region championship, and marched all the way to the state semifinals before falling to Metter in the Final Four. That resulted in a #4-state ranking. Coach Steve Cotrell continued to cement his legacy with this run, and he had a talented offense behind a trio of All-State players: BLITZ Player of the Year Hampton Hutto, Coleson Smith, Cayden Lord, and Ryan Cooper – all underclassmen. Others like Coy Argo, Landon Bunn, Brayton Purcell, and Jaxon Foster were all key cogs in this machine. After starting the season 1-4, although early, some doubted the prowess of this team. The Tigers won 11 of the next 12, including reeling off a 9-game win streak. After ripping through the region to a title there, Commerce defeated Armuchee in the first round of state, Irwin County in a 3-game thriller in the Sweet 16, Emmanuel County Institute in the Elite 8 (also a 3-game series), and fell to Metter in two games to close out the season.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Banks County (Region RU; Sweet 16), Stephens County (Sweet 16), Jefferson (Rnd 1), Dawson County (Rnd 1), Rabun County (Rnd 1), Union County (Rnd 1), Towns County (Rnd 1)
COMMERCE LADY TIGERS
Coach: Scott Tolbert
Accomplishments: 1A State Runner-Up, Region 8-A Runner-Up, #1 State Ranking
The Lady Tigers shook off a disappointing 2021 finish in the Sweet 16, and proved how insanely good they were. From wire-to-wire, Commerce was ranked either #1 or #2 in the state, and lost only twice all year – both times to region rivals Social Circle. That included falling to them in the state championship game, in overtime. Commerce outscored opposition 171-19…read that again! After splitting with Social Circle in the regular season, the Lady Tigers were region runner-up. The team had started out 10-0 before the first loss, and went 14-1 in region play. Scott Tolbert’s team dominated once they got into the playoffs. Trion was the first victim, an 8-1 win. Then came a 14-0 Sweet 16 win over Montgomery County. The first road test was an Elite 8 game at Claxton, and that resulted in a 10-0 win. In the state semis (Elite 8), the Lady Tigers bested region foes Towns County 5-1, and held the lead at the half of the state championship over Social Circle before the game went into OT. Ivy Tolbert blasted home 104 goals and added 42 assists, as she was named BLITZ Player of the Year. Teammate Chloe Diaz joined her as career 100-goal scorers, and Kate Hill had 35 goals and 49 assists for a team that was loaded with talent.
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
Coach: Molly McCarty
Accomplishments: 4A State Runner-Up, Region 8-AAAA Runner-Up, #2 State Ranking
The Lady Dragons under coach Molly McCarty had a goal to win ‘from the start’ as their motto indicated. The team went 14-4-1 overall, and were 5-1 in region play to earn a runner-up finish in a tough region. A tough non-region slate helped prepare Jefferson for a deep playoff run, and the girls used such talent as Abbey Eison, Ella Parker, and Carter Drake on the way to a state title game appearance. The #2-ranked Lady Dragons outpaced opponents 108-15, and Eison (33 goals) and Parker (21 goals) led the offense. The defense was phenomenal, and Jefferson reeled off eight straight wins early in the season. In the postseason, the Lady Dragons went through Hapeville Charter 11-0 in the first round, Columbus 2-1 on the road in the Sweet 16, Luella 10-0 on the road in the Elite 8, and Northwest Whitfield 5-0 again on the road in the Final 4. Marist defeated Jefferson 1-0 in overtime in the title game.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Towns County (Final 4), Lumpkin County (Region RU; Elite 8), Union County (Regio Champions, Elite 8), Habersham Central (Region RU; Sweet 16), Stephens County (Sweet 16), White County (Rnd 1), Rabun County (Rnd 1), Banks County (Rnd 1), Tallulah Falls (State Qualifier)
UNION COUNTY PANTHERS
Coach: Chris Robbins
Accomplishments: 2A State Elite 8; Region 8-AA Champions; #4 State Ranking
Union County had little trouble throughout all of 2022. Kyler Robbins, BLITZ Player of the Year, scored north of 20 goals to guide the Panthers to a 15-3-1 overall mark that got Union a region title. The team had a great balance, with a 70-15 goal differential and went 8-1-1 on the road. Wilson Walker had 14 goals, Zuriel Mancillas had 12, and MJ Delatte had 10 to provide a great offensive attack. The defense was top-notch, and the Panthers won eight in a row early on before later having an 8-game streak of not getting beaten. In the postseason, Union beat both Elite Scholar’s Academy (8-2) and Woodville-Tompkins (3-2) on the home turf before falling in the quarterfinals to Coosa at home.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (Region RU, Sweet 16), Rabun County (Region RU, Sweet 16), Tallulah Falls (Rnd 1), Commerce (Rnd 1)
COMMERCE LADY TIGERS
Coach: Charlie Smith
Accomplishments: 1A Public Final 4, Region 8-A Runner-Up, #3 State Ranking
Commerce girls tennis had a spectacular run, as #1 singles player Kamden Cotton was brilliant, along with BLITZ Player of the Year Carson Hobbs, who went 19-0 overall. The Lady Tigers were region runner-up in 8-A, and in the playoffs blasted their way to a Final Four appearance and #3 state ranking.
RABUN COUNTY LADY WILDCATS
Coach: Bryan Getty
Record: 6-1 (known record)
Accomplishments: 2A State Final 4, Region 8-AA Champions, #4 State Ranking
Rabun County’s girls tennis team had a historic season, complete with a Final Four run under coach Bryan Getty. The team earned a region championship, and were ranked #4 in the state on the way to the semifinals before falling to Lovett in that Final Four match.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Stephens County (Region RU, Elite 8), Banks County (Region RU, Sweet 16), Habersham Central (Rnd 1), Jefferson (Rnd 1), Dawson County (Rnd 1), Lumpkin County (Rnd 1), Tallulah Falls (Rnd 1)
Coach: Dawson Bryan
Accomplishments: 4A State Final 4, #4 State Ranking
Talk about a team that welcomed the opportunity to play on the road! The Jefferson Dragons under coach Dawson Bryan went 15-10, which is definitely respectable. However, when the stage got bigger, the team played better. Jefferson opened the state tournament with a 4-1 road win at Druid Hills, then took down West Laurens on the road in a slim 3-2 outcome. In the quarterfinals, the Dragons won 3-0 at NW Whitfield before falling at Columbus in the Final 4. Aaron Eason at #1 singles went 14-9, and Luke Forrester and Nick Yath combined to go 7-2. Roman Smith and Grant Morrow were 10-4 together, and the team played so well down the stretch.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Stephens County (Region RU, Elite 8), Tallulah Falls (Region RU, Sweet 16), Banks County (Region RU, Sweet 16), Commerce (Region RU, Sweet 16), Habersham Central (Region RU, Rnd 1), Dawson County (Rnd 1), Lumpkin County (Rnd 1), Rabun County (Rnd 1)
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
Coach: Matt Sims
Accomplishments: 4A State 6th Place, Area Runner-Up, #6 State Ranking
The Lady Dragons earned an Area Runner-Up finish, and ended as the #6 team in the state after a solid outing at the 4A State Championships. Freshman Anna Kate Patton was 12th overall at state to lead Jefferson. The future remains bright for the Lady Dragons.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Habersham Central (Area RU, State 7th), White County (State 6th), Union County (State 7th)
RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
Coach: David Adcock
Accomplishments: 2A State 3rd Place, Area 3rd, #3 State Ranking, 2x Top-10 state golfers individually
After finishing third in the area, the Wildcats turned it up a notch. Led by brothers and fantastic golfers Garrett and Connor Horton, Rabun County carded a 3rd-place finish at the 2A State Championships, earning a final ranking of #3 in the state. Connor was 10th at state, and had a 9-hole average of 35 and an 18-hole average of 75. Meanwhile, Garrett finished sixth overall at state, and was the area runner-up. He had the exact same 9- and 18-hole averages as Connor. The seniors were instrumental in the success of the program.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Habersham Central (Area RU, State 9th), Jefferson (State 5th), Commerce (State 7th), Dawson County (State 8th)
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
Coach: Timothy Lees
Accomplishments: 4A State Runner-Up, Region 8-AAAA Champions, #2 State Ranking
This team was loaded with talent. It truly starts and ends with the dynamic duo of seniors Jada Pittman (BLITZ Athlete of the Year) and Katherine Law (BLITZ XC Runner of the Year). The Lady Dragons secured 10 region titles (individuals + relay teams), cruising to the team championship. Pittman, who secured an individual state title at the 4A Championships, led Jefferson to a state runner-up finish to Marist. The Lady Dragons had eight events at state in which they placed in the top five.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce (Region Champions, State 5th), White County (Region RU, State 12th), Tallulah Falls (State 14th), Dawson County (State 18th)
BOYS TRACK & FIELD
Coach: Timothy Lees
Accomplishments: 4A State 3rd, Region 8-AAAA Champions, #3 State Ranking
Much like the girls team, the Dragons were brimming with next-level athletes. Of those, Sammy Brown was phenomenal, and accounted for a large part of the success. But none was more pivotal than BLITZ Athlete of the Year Matthew Schroeder, who won a pair of state championships and three region titles. Brown was a top-5 finisher at state in the long jump and 200 and was region runner-up in those events plus the 100. Schroeder won the 800 and 1600, and was part of the state runner-up 4×800 relay group. That duo secured the team a region title and a 3rd-place finish at the 4A State Championships.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Commerce (Region RU, State 5th), Banks County (State 9th), White County (Region Champions, State 17th), Union County (Region Champions, State 18th)