Kennesaw Mountain climbs to No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA after the fall of No. 2 Mill Creek and No. 4 East Coweta. Mill Creek lost 5-4 to now unranked South Forsyth while East Coweta dropped a 3-1 decision against newly ranked No. 7 Columbus in Class AAAA. The Mustangs earned their top ranking by drilling Class AAAAAA’s No. 2 Pope, 8-3. No. 5 Norcross jumps four spots. New to the ...
There are two sets of brothers who are head coaches of Georgia football teams. Who are they? Clue: One pair played against each other last week. (Answer Thursday)
Answer to Tuesday’s question: The highest-rated senior player in ...
By: Michael Foster
Tuesday was a fantastic night for the North Forsyth Lady Raiders softball team, but it was almost perfect. Starting pitcher Sara King had nothing but zeroes credited to her name when she had two more batters to sit down in the top of the sixth inning. King never showed signs that she was in a perfect game, neither did her defense, but the anxiety North fans felt with each batter going down fizzled away when West Forsyth’s Christie Carpenter’s blooper to shallow left field fell just short of a diving glove. West would get two hits and reach on two walks before the inning ended, with Ashton Bruce relieving King, but the Lady Raiders (5-1) held on to a comfortable 4-1 victory at Raider Valley. King finished the contest with just two hits and a walk allowed through 5 1/3 innings, while Bruce would allow just one hit and a walk to seal the save. The performance wasn’t just about King—the Morehead State commit and leading senior in the lineup—but rather the entirety of North’s defense. Because King couldn’t register a strikeout against the Lady Wolverines’ bats the defense behind her was put under pressure throughout the contest. Despite the brief blip in the back end of the sixth inning the team finished with no errors, and it stood out to head coach Bud Henderson. “We had to field every single ball tonight. We had fantastic defense,” Henderson said. “When it was hit Sara didn’t have to worry about bad happening. There’s girls have been out there long enough to really start feeling everything and not thinking, and it’s showing. It’s why we’ve played them so early on in their careers. They’re ready this year.” Henderson didn’t think King put herself under too much pressure as the night went on. “I think you could tell she knew, but she wasn’t showing signs of pressing or anything like that. She was out there, basically throwing a pitching lesson. She’s just really calm and mixes up her pitches well,” Henderson said. West (3-5) head coach Justin Rickett wasn’t alarmed by the performance. He liked his team’s plate appearances but thought the balls were just hit to defenders at a high rate. “She just got ahead in the count a lot, we might have chased a little bit, but give credit to (Sara). She’s a very good pitcher,” Rickett said. “We can’t win region tonight, so we’ve got to just put this game behind us and move on.” North had a standout performance at the plate as well. Freshman Mallorie Black was 3 for 4 at the leadoff spot with a run scored and a double, while Madelyn Oliver (2-3, double, RBI) and Morgan Franklin (2-2, RBI) had multiple hit performances. West threatened in the sixth after loading the bases after Bailey Concatto doubled and consecutive walks came from Ashley Schell and Alana Frye. Carpenter walked in to score the Lady Wolverines’ only run against Bruce. North opened the scoring when Franklin singled to score Black, then came home again in the bottom of the second when Oliver doubled to bring home Payton Martin. Two more runs came in the bottom of the fifth off RBI singles from Addie Harris and Abbie Martin, scoring Bella Caracciolo and Franklin.
Alpharetta 14, Northview 0
Armuchee 4, Chatooga 3
Baldwin 24, Academy of Richmond County 0
Brookwood 14, Lakeside-DeKalb 0
Buford 2, North Gwinnett 1
Calvary Day 12, Treutlen 1
Cambridge 10, North Atlanta 0
Camden County 10, Brunswick 2
Carrollton 14, Paulding County 2
Cass 4, Hiram 3
Central Gwinnett 12, Berkmar 0
Chattahoochee 3, Dunwoody 1
Cherokee 6, Woodstock 3
Coahulla Creek 5, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 2
Crawford County 12, Taylor County 9
Creekview 12, Sequoyah 6
Dodge County 17, Dublin 0
East Hall 4, Lumpkin County ...
Cooler weather and the marching bands are still plenty to get the blood flowing in high school football players or fans before any season-opening game.
But if you want the works, try big arenas, historic rivalries ...
With the new classification and region shakeups, four defending state champions open as the No. 1 seed in their respective classes. Defending Class AAAAAA champ Mill Creek debuts as the first No. 1 ranked team in Class AAAAAAA history, earning the nod over No. 2 East Coweta. The Hawks kicked off 2016 with a 5-1 win over Lassiter and a dominant 9-1 decision over No. 8 Brookwood, who the Hawks ...
By: Brian Paglia
Maddie Bryant was in need of a confidence boost. Then a freshman playing on North Forsyth’s varsity volleyball team, Bryant was just two years removed from switching counties and sports almost at the same time. She’d grown up playing softball in McDonough. Now, she was one of the Lady Raiders’ young players competing in one of the state’s toughest volleyball areas. After tallying 119 kills, 87 digs, 27 aces and 25 blocks, Bryant got serious consideration for the all-area team. Just what she needed to hear. “I guess I’m pretty good to get nominated for this,” Bryant said. “It kind of motivated me to get in the gym and be the best I could be and get better.” Bryant has since emerged as one of the county’s top players and a budding Division I prospect with a developing all-around game. She was all-area and all-county last season after almost doubling her kills (201), digs (140) and aces (46) as a sophomore outside hitter. This season, she’s second on the team in both kills (22) and assists (31) through three matches. And at 6-foot-1, she’s getting the attention of colleges. With guidance from her dad, Jason, an assistant coach on North’s football team, Bryant has already started to juggle the many facets of the recruiting process, visiting colleges and managing contact with coaches. Gardner-Webb, Troy and West Florida are her favorites at the moment. “It’s been a lot of fun,” Bryant said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet great coaches and players on teams, visit a lot of campuses. I’m just having a lot of fun with it now. I’m not anywhere close to making a decision.” All of which is making the moment she gave up softball seem prescient. Bryant had played softball forever in McDonough, growing into a promising pitcher and first baseman. But she had a friend start to play volleyball, and Bryant figured she should give a try too. “I did, and I ended up loving it,” Bryant said. “I like being aggressive. I liked hitting the ball. I didn’t really know what anything was. I just wanted to be in the front and hit the ball. “I just thought it was really cool, and then I just kind of fell in love with it.” Bryant just had to convince her parents she should make the switch. Mom was pretty easy. Dad was tougher. But both got on board, and Bryant got to work. After moving to north Forsyth, she tried out for and made a 14-Under team with the A5 Volleyball Club. After getting all-area consideration, she started doing even more, attending supplemental two-on-one practices at A5 on Sundays for as long as two and a half hours. She, and the rest of the Lady Raiders, has also had to get used to new head coaches Kelly and Drew Cecil, learning a new offense and defense, and getting through “ladders” at the end of every practice. “They’re honestly the worst thing ever,” Bryant jokes. Even more, she’s had to start getting used to being a leader. “I want to be able to pick up my teammates when they’re down,” Bryant said, “and not get in my head so much when I make a mistake, because everyone makes mistakes on the court.” Like a few years ago, Bryant was uneasy at first. Now, she’s a natural. “At first I didn’t want all the attention toward me, but it’s kind of easy,” Bryant said. “We all get along really well. Everyone kinds of knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses and knows how to pick each other up.”
By: Brian Paglia
Bella Caracciolo needed some brotherly advice. The North Forsyth junior softball player was at the University of North Georgia on Monday for the Lady Raiders’ scheduled doubleheader. Her brother, Griffin, a former North baseball player now at Piedmont College, came to watch her play. He got a good show; the Lady Raiders defeated North Hall 9-1 in five innings, and Bella scored two runs and had three stolen bases. Then he had older-sibling duties. Bella was in the throes of deciding where to commit to play college softball, so she unloaded all her anxieties and ideas on Griffin. “He eventually said, ‘Just listening to you I think you’ve already made up your mind,’” Bella said. “And I agreed.” With peace of mind, Caracciolo verbally commit to Morehead State on Tuesday morning. Caracciolo would join an emerging softball program at Morehead. The Eagles went 26-27 overall and 12-12 in the Ohio Valley Conference last season. Morehead would get an exciting talent in Caracciolo, a speedy outfielder who was all-county and all-region last season after hitting .432 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs and 28 RBI to go along with 20 stolen bases. At least some of Caracciolo’s good fortune with the Eagles belongs to her teammate, Lady Raiders senior pitcher Sara King. King verbally committed to Morehead State last season, and the more Caracciolo learned about the Eagles from King the more she was intrigued. Caracciolo said she reached out to Morehead State head coach David Williams, and there was mutual interest. Caracciolo said Williams soon attended some of her games and eventually offered a scholarship. And with a little help from her brother, Caracciolo decided to accept it. “It has a really great softball program that’s growing,” Caracciolo said. “I’m excited about playing with Sara King. I just love playing with her. And they have a good medical program that I’m excited about, because I want to go to medical school.”
By: Brian Paglia
Morgan Watson knew she could start on a high school varsity softball team. The hard part was waiting to get the chance. The sophomore shortstop had transferred from North Forsyth to Forsyth Central last season, entering Central’s cosmetology program, but had to wait to join the Lady Bulldogs’ varsity team until her hardship application was processed by the Georgia High School Association. She could practice with varsity and play games with junior varsity, but there was no reliable answer for how long her hardship application would take. “I knew going into it I could probably not get to play the whole [varsity] season,” Watson said. Six games into the season, Watson seemed like she was going to be right. Central was 2-4, and Watson was still on junior varsity. She was preparing for another junior varsity game August 24 when that changed. Watson was in the locker room when teammates told her Central head coach Kaelin Farrington needed to see her. Watson met her on the field where she got the news. “She was like, ‘Hey, we got your hardship back. You’re playing [varsity] tomorrow,’” Watson remembers. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It was a cool moment.” Watson made up for lost time. The next night, a 5-2 win against Kell, Watson went 2-for-3 with a run, stolen base and RBI. In 15 total games, she hit .500 (19-for-38), slugged .868, had five doubles, three triples and a home run with 15 RBI. In 47 plate appearances, she struck out just twice. In the field, she made just three errors. Central went on to finish 13-8 overall, 9-4 in Region 7-5A and miss the state playoffs by just one game, but it was a perfect season to Watson. “It was better than I could ask for,” Watson said, “because I was just having fun. I wasn’t worried about stats, I wasn’t worried about junior varsity or varsity. I just wanted to be out there having fun. I like the way everything fell into place.” Watson has seen the side of high school and youth sports that can make it not fun. She’s been playing travel softball since she was 10, first with the Georgia Reign then Atlanta Vipers and now Team Georgia. She’s crisscrossed the country to play in tournaments with five games in a single day under the watchful eye of college coaches. “There are a lot of scouts everywhere and a lot of pressure to perform,” Watson said. “When you’re facing pitchers from California and all over the country, it’s very intimidating. It can get in your head a lot.” Yes, Watson has seen that side of it. But she doesn’t understand it. She took up softball in the first grade. A friend told her she was playing the sport, so that same night Watson told her parents she wanted to too. It was a perfect match for Watson, who was “very aggressive when I was little,” she says. Success and friendships compelled her on. Several of her friends’ families started the Reign, a team full of players of Forsyth County, some of whom are teammates with Watson at Central now. She tried out for and made the Vipers, one of the state’s strongest travel softball associations, which solidified her confidence. This summer she played for Team Georgia Hawk with Lambert’s Marissa Guimbarda, South Forsyth’s Emily Harris and West Forsyth’s Alana Frye and finished fifth at the 2016 Triple Crown National Championships in New York last week. Each step was both fun and challenging for Watson. The competition got better, but a cadre of friends was there to make it manageable. When she moved to Central last year, Watson got the same feeling, even if it cost her some of her sophomore season. “When I made the decision to come here, I knew that and I wanted to come anyway,” Watson said. “I love this program. I love Coach Farrington. I love the way everything is run here.” Indeed, she loves the team pool parties and fierce badminton games, the positive vibes from Farrington, the chance to wear the school name on her jersey. Even as Central moves up in classification into Class 7A and into Region 5 with Forsyth County’s other public high schools – what figures to be a more daunting schedule and season – Watson is buoyed by the prospects of getting to play an entire season, and doing it with her friends. “When we get together as a team, I think we have a chance against any team,” Watson said. “We all worked hard over the summer. I think we can compete this year.”
By: Michael Foster
With only a slight limp, Haley Simpson circles the softball field at North Forsyth High School in the sweltering heat, retrieving balls that have either been fouled back or hit over the outfield fence. Anything to help practice run smoother. She doesn't have to be there, and admits that having to watch her teammates rather than playing with them is gut-wrenching. Once the official practice ends, Simpson straps on her knee brace and steps onto the outfield with a teammate for a short throwing session. She's still learning to put pressure on her knee, and her throwing motion is more pronounced in the upper body than it would be. She's still eagerly waiting the opportunity to bat again. Hopefully that's just a few days away. Since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, in her right knee on Jan. 9, Simpson has had a long, hard road to recovery that she says is exponentially more difficult than any combined club-varsity softball routine. She visited with and eventually had her surgery from the world-famous Dr. James Andrews, who has performed ACL surgeries and Tommy John surgeries on hundreds of professional name athletes. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Simpson has rehab at Champion Physical Therapy in Cumming, working on everything from strength, stretching, balance and isometrics. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays she has a required workout sheet. All of her rehabilitation exercises are obscure—new to anyone who hasn't gone through an ACL tear. She dreads the rehab, even though she's months into the process, but knows it's only making her a tougher player. “I just want to get back out on the field. I've got a stolen base record to break. I hope I can put it way out of reach,” Simpson said. She's only a rising junior, but as a taller, well-spoken leader she could almost pass as a coach. Simpson, who started playing softball at 4 years old, doesn't remember a time where she wasn't playing the game—that is, until that fateful basketball game against Johns Creek at the turn of the new year. “I knew what it was as soon as I hit the floor,” Simpson said. “I didn't want to believe it, so I was kind of in denial. I remember going to get the MRI and thinking it was a knee sprain, but my mom knew better. Once it was confirmed as an ACL tear I just had to get in the right mind to begin the rehab.” Simpson's mother and father have gone through ACL injuries before, so the game plan has already been executed in the Simpson household. Even though Haley was already well educated about the rehab process, it was the emotional adjustments that have taken her by surprise. “As a player, I always kind of led by example,” Simpson said. “Last season I was the leadoff hitter on the softball team and kind of just getting on base, stealing bases, that was how I expressed myself. Now I can't do anything physical at practice so I've learned a lot more about how to lead in other ways. As an upperclassman, I'm using my voice a lot more. I try to instruct at practice with some of the younger girls. I can't even show how to do stuff so I have to explain a lot. “I don't know if I'm good at it,” she laughed, bashfully. Simpson's payoff from recovery will be two full seasons of softball with the Lady Raiders. Even though she has played with one of the top club teams in the state—the East Cobb Bullets—her long history of being a softball player at Coal Mountain has made playing for North a priority. “We want to win region this year,” Simpson said. “That's our goal every year, but we want to host a state game and go as far as we can in the playoffs.” The timeline for Simpson's rehab is nine to 10 months, which means she hopes to be back a third of the way into the fall season. Already committed to play SEC softball at South Carolina, she's decided to put basketball to the side and focus on softball and track and field for the final two years of her high school tenure. “I was really set on playing both in the beginning but the more I've rehabbed and realized how difficult this all is, I just don't want to go through it again,” Simpson said. “South Carolina has been so supportive and wanted me to do whatever I wanted, but after talking with my parents I think this is the best decision.” So, a full-time softball player Simpson will be when she returns. She plans on being pretty good too. “I think I'll be better, and stronger,” Simpson said. “This has been killing me, but I know it's for the best.”