Sports writer Brian Paglia
This season was as much for the Lorenda Holstons as it was for the Brianna Vaughns. For the Justin Connellys, as much as the Mariah Stackhouses. The DeAndre McBrides AND the Jimmy Carmans.
This season was for the players and teams in the Southern Crescent (thinking of you, Lovejoy football) who were so close to dogpiles and championship T-shirts and trophy hoisting, but came up short.
See, you can’t let a team like Eagle’s Landing Christian volleyball spoil your definition of success. The Lady Chargers won the Class AA/A championship, the first in program history.
Nor can you let a phenomenal talent like Vaughn distort your assumption of who is successful. The Union Grove senior swept the 100- and 200-meter titles at the Class AAAA championship meet.
No, the real indicator of the Southern Crescent’s success is just how far and wide its competitiveness was this season.
Take Vaughn. She was nearly unbeatable at the GHSA Girls Track and Field Championships in Albany. She won the 200 in 24.33 seconds. Her 100 victory took only 11.77 seconds.
But because of Vaughn’s dominance, it meant Holston, a junior from North Clayton, and Woodland freshman DeAndra Greer were beatable. They finished second and third behind Vaughn, and not far behind one another — Holston at 11.98, Greer at 11.99.
Or take Jimmy Carman. The junior from Ola took the history of Mustangs wrestling upon him and gave it something to really showcase — a state championship. Winning the title at 182 pounds in Class AAAA put Carman in select company. Solitary company. One of a kind, as far as Ola’s concerned.
If that’s the standard, how should Drew remember DeAndre McBride? The senior blur was runner-up in the 200 and 400 at the boy’s Class AAA championship meet. Just hundredths of seconds away — twice! — from standing on the highest podium. No one higher.
One way to get remembered? Don’t be a senior or a senior-laden team.
They’ll remember Jonesboro junior Taurean Ferguson at next season’s state track meet after he finished second in the 110 hurdles. They’ll remember Eagle’s Landing freshman Gabby Roth at next season’s cross country state championship after her runner-up finish in Class AAA.
And they’ll certainly remember Lovejoy football. To some, the Wildcats’ 22-7 loss to Tucker in the Class AAAA championship was just the opening act. With a roster piled high with Division I talent next season, opponents will remember Lovejoy’s suffocating defense and Travis Custis’ powerful running last season.
Yes, the success was all around the Southern Crescent. There was the Drew boy’s basketball team losing to Columbia in the Class AAA championship. Ola softball was a win away — twice! — from playing for the Class AAAA championship. Union Grove’s Justin Connelly was two strokes away from capturing the Class AAAA individual championship.
I could go on and on — semifinals appearances by Eagle’s Landing, Jonesboro and North Clayton boy’s basketball teams; Union Grove girl’s soccer reaching the Class AAAA semifinals; or Luella breakout star Tadashi Pinder finishing second in the 100 in Class AAAAA at the boys state meet.
So maybe the trophy was a little smaller. Maybe there wasn’t a trophy at all; there’s no trophy for fourth place in basketball.
No matter. We saw schools and communities get swept up in the state titles AND the close calls. The outcome was never a guarantee, anyways, just a tease that kept everyone watching.
So, thank you, Lorenda Holston and Lovejoy football.
This season was for you.
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BrianPaglia.