Past year was full of local sports thrills

By Anthony Rhoads

The 2004 year in sporrts will be remembered for plenty of drama and suprises.

One of the biggest surprises of the year was the Mt. Zion girls basketball team. The Lady Bulldogs qualified for state and then advanced all the way to the Class AAAAA state semi-finals.

The Mt. Zion girls weren't the only team to go to state this year as 10 other teams advanced to state including North Clayton boys and girls, the Jonesboro boys and girls, the Riverdale boys and girls, the Morrow boys, the Henry County boys, the Lovejoy boys and the Union Grove boys.

Union Grove's Rory Harris and Candler Woods both came home with individual state titles in wrestling. Harris won in the 135-pound division while Woods won at 145 for his second straight state championship. Union Grove was third in the Class AA state meet.

In swimming, Jonesboro's Emily Montesinos placed third at the Class AAAAA meet in the 50 freestyle.

When spring rolled around, many local teams did well with the Riverdale girls winning the Class AAAAA state championship in track.

Riverdale's Tia Perry won three events, including the 400-meter dash and the 300-meter hurdles and was on the 1,600-meter relay team that placed first at state. Other members on the 1,600 relay team were Centauria Olds, Nicole Davis, Morgan Joseph, Shalondan Hollingshed and Amy Williams.

Riverdale's Dominique Thurman also placed first in the long jump.

Several baseball teams made state including Jonesboro, Henry County and Stockbridge going to the class AAAAA tournament. Jonesboro pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year by beating No. 1-ranked Effingham County in the first round.

Luella made school history by making it to the Class AAA state tournament in its first year while Union Grove made it to the Class AA state playoffs for the second straight time.

After the baseball season, long-time Henry County baseball coach Chuck Campbell announced his retirement and his replacement was Troy Baker who had coached at Eagle's Landing for one season. Before going to ELHS, Baker was an assistant for Campbell at Henry County.

In June, Henry County pitcher Michael Rozier was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 12th round and decided to go pro after being offered a $1.6 million contract. Rozier had previously signed to play football at the University of North Carolina.

Three local players did well in the Minor Leagues in 2004 including Jason Perry, Kyle Davies and Matt Murton.

Perry had a stellar summer with the Modesto A's and was named the California League championship series MVP. Perry is currently on the Oakland A's 40-man roster.

Davies continued working his way up the Braves' organization and capped off the year by being named to Atlanta's 40-man roster.

Murton was traded from the Boston Red Sox organization to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade.

Several local soccer teams made state in 2004 including the Eagle's Landing boys and girls, the Union Grove boys and girls and the Jonesboro boys.

Several tennis teams made state including the Eagle's Landing boys and girls, the Henry County boys, the Jonesboro girls and the Union Grove girls.

Mt. Zion head coach Jackie Green reached a milestone on Oct. 29. That night at Tara Stadium, Green won his 100th overall game when Mt. Zion beat North Atlanta 41-12.

Mt. Zion running back Aubrey Dorsey also had a solid season individually and on Sept. 25, he set the Clayton County rushing record with 314 yards in a 25-21 victory over Stone Mountain at Tara Stadium.

Lovejoy offensive lineman Chris Scott was named as one of 78 players to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl coming up Jan. 25 in San Antonio. He was the lone Georgian picked for the team.

Several local teams made the state tournament this year including Lovejoy and Riverdale, who made their fourth straight appearance in the playoffs; Mt. Zion and North Clayton, which went undefeated in the regular season.

Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, in its first season in the GHSA, finished second in Region 5-A and made the Class A state playoffs.

In eight-man football, the Mt. Vernon Crusaders made it to the GCAA state title game, falling to Dawson Street Christian.

In softball, Stockbridge and Union Grove made it to the state elite eight while Jonesboro, Henry County and Luella all made it to the state sectionals.

Also, Mt. Vernon softball player Samantha Bailey became the school's first athlete to sign a Division I scholarship when she signed with Mississippi State.

In volleyball, Jonesboro enjoyed its second straight undefeated regular season and advanced to state. Other local teams going to state included ELCA, Jonesboro, Mt. Zion and Morrow.

In cross country, the Morrow boys and Eagle's Landing boys and girls all competed at the state meet.

It was a memorable year at Clayton State as Allison Kreutzer, a freshman, advanced to the NCAA Division II meet and finished second.

Both the Clayton State men's and women's soccer teams made it to the NCAA tournament. It was the women's first NCAA playoff appearance and the men's first since 2001.

In basketball, A.C. McCullers got his 700th overall victory when the Clayton State women beat Armstrong Atlantic State at home on Jan. 28. McCullers finished out the season and came back to the high school ranks at Union Grove, where he is the head coach of the girls' varsity team and boys' junior varsity team.

In racing, former Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday Thunder competitor Reed Sorenson had a solid season in ARCA, ASA and the NASCAR Busch Series for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sorenson raced in several Busch events, including the fall race in Atlanta and finished the 2004 season with a top five finish in the Busch season finale in Miami.

Jonesboro native Joey Clanton came back to the Southern Crescent for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at AMS in March. Clanton raced in two Craftsman Truck Series events in 2004.

Jonesboro's Garrett Liberty, who races on the ARCA circuit, made his Busch Series debut in 2004 in a race in Memphis.

Hampton's Chris Dilbeck was picked by the Discovery Health Channel's National Body Challenge, which will air in this month. Dilbeck, an up-and-coming young driver, won the AMS Thursday Thunder Pro Division title in 2004 and has signed on with Bobby Jones Racing for the ARCA series.

Back in May, McDonough's Doug Stevens was involved in a crash during qualifying for an ASA race at Kentucky Speedway. Stevens, a 1995 Forest Park High School graduate, suffered several serious injuries but came back in the fall to race in the ASA event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.