Southern Crescent sports had quite a year. From a repeat champion, to a native son making it to the big stage in New York, to two new schools bringing more high school sports into the picture. The year left Southern Crescent fans with intrigue and plenty of triump to go all around.
1. ELCA wins softball state title ... again
There was a new coach taking over a proud program. There was a new No. 1 pitcher taking over for one of the state's best of all time. There was a feeling that ELCA's run of three straight Class A softball titles was in jeopardy.
But the Lady Chargers found a new and capable coach in Lacy McClendon and a new No. 1 pitcher in freshman sensation Megan Betsa.
Behind them and Class A player of the year Julia Echols and fellow senior Kaci Patterson, the Lady Chargers stormed to their fourth consecutive Class A softball state title, the first program to accomplish that feat in state history.
2. Jonesboro, Henry County girls basketball teams make Final Four
Henry County's and Jonesboro's girls basketball teams came from nowhere.
Few in the state had either team on their radar when the season began.
By the end of the season in the early spring, the Ladyhawks and Lady Cardinals made a name for themselves.
Jonesboro embraced the role of underdog, feeling its place in Clayton County attributed to a lack of respect by opponents throughout the state.
But with a duo of quick guards and a bevy of talent, the Lady Cardinals advanced to the semifinals of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Henry County leaned on its star guard Brianna Williams. Just a junior last season, Williams carried the Ladyhawks through the playoffs and into the semifinals of the Class AA state tournament.
It was the first time any basketball program had reached the semifinals in the county's history.
3. Baker wins titles in both seasons
When ELCA senior Luke Baker won an individual state title in track in the spring, the accomplishment was historic enough for the Chargers program.
When he won the Class A cross country meet in the fall, it capped an incredible year.
After finishing second at the state cross country meet in 2008, Baker resolved to work this summer toward finishing first. On the way he was county and region champion.
It's safe to say that in 2009, no one ran like Luke Baker.
4. Toney Douglas picked in first round of NBA Draft
The Southern Crescent had seen one of its own go on to play in the NBA before. Former Riverdale star Josh Powell was a free agent signing of the Los Angeles Lakers after high school, and even was a member of the Lakers during their recent run to the NBA title.
But never had a Southern Crescent native been selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Former Jonesboro star Toney Douglas was the drafted by none other than the Lakers with 29th overall pick in the draft. He was then traded to the New York Knicks.
Coming out of Jonesboro, Douglas signed with Auburn and played there for one year before transferring to Florida State. There, he became one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's premier guards and led the Seminoles to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years.
5. Swine flu threatens ELCA spring sports
Eagle's Landing Christian's boys track and field and baseball teams were all set to prepare for the playoffs. The Lady Chargers track and field team was preparing for their region meet in hopes of qualifying.
Then it was learned a student at ELCA had contracted the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, and the Chargers' springs team's postseason hopes were thrown into disarray.
The swine flu hysteria prevented the Lady Chargers from competing in their region meeting, and thus their chance to qualify for the state meet was vanquished.
But the boys track and field team and the baseball team were allowed to continue with their postseason plans after the Georgia High School Association stepped in.
Had they not, boys runner Luke Baker wouldn't have won a state title, nor would the Chargers athletes had the chance to enjoy the thrill of postseason competition.
6. Another football quarterfinalist
North Clayton's football team entered the season with expectations it hadn't experienced in perhaps a decade, even with the loss of several key defensive players to graduation.
Most of that was due to the reigning Region 4-AAAA player of the year in Clarence Jackson (pictured below).
The Eagles weren't able to repeat as region champs, but they advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs, where they lost to Clarke Central.
North Clayton hadn't advanced that far in over a decade.
7. Woodland football makes playoffs in third year
The average high school football program takes several years to establish its identity, develop a system and become a playoff caliber team.
That's what made Woodland's season so remarkable.
In just their second season with a varsity schedule - and third overall - the Wolfpack were a competitive 5-5 in 2008 and then took the next step in 2009. They went 7-3 in the regular season and qualified for the Class AAA state playoffs, where Woodland lost to defending champ Cairo.
8. Southern Crescent expansion continues
During the past decade, the number of high schools in the Southern Crescent grew nearly exponentially.
Dutchtown, Lovejoy, Luella, Union Grove, Woodland and Mundy's Mill all opened during the 2000s.
Just before the end of the decade, Drew and Locust Grove joined the bunch.
With ever increasing populations, Drew and Locust Grove opened for the 2009 school years, bringing the Southern Crescent's number of high schools to 19 (including Eagle's Landing Christian).
Drew's opening brought a third football stadium to Clayton County, easing some of the scheduling strains during football season and providing another source of revenue for high school sports.
9. Five state wrestling titlists
Henry County has always been a strong spot for wrestling.
This year was no different.
There were no team champions, but several individuals won state titles.
Henry County had the most with three. Anthony Fretwell and Evan Warrington capped their senior seasons with Class AA state titles. Fretwell eventually signed to wrestle for Indiana University, where Warhawks coach Marty Hutsell wrestled. Ahmed Burton also won a title for the Warhawks as a junior. He moved to Pennsylvania during the summer.
Union Grove continued to produced elite wrestlers in the state's largest classification. Seniors Joey Lazor and Jack Roberts each won individual titles in their respective weight classes.
Lazor signed a scholarship with Northern Iowa. Roberts signed to wrestled at Brown University.
10. Clayton State golf
Clayton State has long been a stalwart program among the Division II ranks.
This year the Lakers managed their best finish ever at the Peach Belt Conference tournament.
Clayton State finished second, just 10 strokes behind first-place USC Aiken.
Senior and eventual All-American selection Will Wilcox won the individual title.
The Lakers would go on to qualify for the NCAA Division II Men's Golf National Championships in Houston. It was the first time Clayton State had done so since 1999.
A fine way to end the decade for Lakers men's golf.