By Anthony Rhoads

If you flip through the Georgia High School Association directory, it's evident there isn't much creativity in the choosing of school mascots.

Yes, there are a unique and unusual few good school mascot names like the Cairo Syrupmakers, the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes, the Gainesville Red Elephants or the Johnson-Savannah Atom Smashers but most lack originality and don't reflect their communities.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with nicknames like the Bulldogs, Eagles, Panthers, Lions, Tigers or Bears but they lack pizzazz and are way overused.

There are plenty of unusual sports mascot names out there and here is a brief sampling of some of the most unusual and unique nicknames from across the country:

The University of California-Santa Cruz takes the top prize, in my opinion, for best mascot name of all-time. You can't get any better than the Banana Slugs. It strikes fear into the hearts of your opponents and it's a name that gives a nod to the community. The banana slug is a bright yellow gastropod that lives among the redwoods of that particular region of California.

Some other nicknames that high schools have borrowed from the animal kingdom include the Benson Bunnies; the Frost Polar Bears, the Ann Arbor River Rats, the Hutto Hippos, the Fairfield Fightin' Mules, the Doane Stuart School Thunder Chickens, the William College Purple Cows and the Itasca Wampus Cats.

For those who prefer rural, down-home names there are the Cobden Appleknockers, the Scottsdale Community College Artichokes, the Hoopeston Area High School Cornjerkers, the Robstown Cottonpickers, the Lewisville Fighting Farmers, the New Market Mules, the San Benito Haybalers and the North East Grape Pickers.

Some football players who take cheap shots may be labeled as thugs but the Yuma High School mascot is officially the Criminals. The nickname comes from 1910, when the high school began holding classes in the cellblock area and prison hospital of the abandoned Yuma Territorial Prison.

Some other unique and unusual nicknames include the Poca Dots, the Rhinelander Hodags, the Winters Blizzards (which is located in central Texas), the Dexter Dreadnoughts, the Hickman Kewpies, the Freeport Pretzels, the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes, the West Plain Zizzers, the Bramwell Millionaires, the Graham G-Men, the Central Catholic High School Buttons and the Evergreen State College Geoducks.

Minor league baseball features a plethora of unusual nicknames. Just to name a few, there's the Albuquerque Isotopes, Batavia Muckdogs, the Brevard County Manatees, the Cancun Lobstermen, the Carolina Mudcats, the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs, the Charleston (W.V.) Alley Cats, the Hickory Crawdads, the Lansing Lugnuts, the Montgomery Biscuits and the Winston-Salem Warthogs.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com and sports@news-daily.com.