It’s not exactly the 12 days of Christmas, as there are only four days left. But I will start my sports Christmas wishes and New Year’s Resolutions a bit early.
So as we inch closer to drawing this 2013 year in sports to a close, here are 12 items for the Southern Crescent sports wish list for 2014. Chew on it as you get ready to enjoy your family during the last few days of the year.
12. A state championship for Lovejoy football. Though with a new coach taking over the reins of the Wildcat program, call me cynical, but I don’t think a title is as likely. But if anyone in the area deserves one just by virtue of suffering through close calls, it’s the Wildcats. Stocking stuffer: A smooth year for new coach Edgar Carson, just because I never wish anything bad on anyone, even if I don’t agree with the way things happen.
11. Healthy knees for the Forest Park girls’ basketball team. For the last two or three seasons, it seems as if someone has been deliberately sabotaging the Lady Panthers’ chances at a state title. Of course we know that’s not true. But look at the misfortunes. Since 2011-12 season, no fewer than two Forest Park players have been sidelined with long term — or even season ending — knee injuries. That includes back-to-back ACL tears for senior guard Kayla Potts. Credit coach Steven Cole for keeping the girls together and coaching them to state tournament success anyway, including a narrow semifinals loss last season to eventual state champion Southwest DeKalb. But you just wonder what would happen if the Panthers could stay healthy for one full season.
10. A stable football coaching staff at Forest Park. For the last five seasons, looking for a head football coach at Forest Park has become an annual occurrence. What will it take to get someone to stick and stay at the once proud football program?
9. Another state softball champion in Class AAAAA. Henry County teams have sowed up Class AAAAA over the last two years. First Union Grove in 2012. Then Ola in 2013. With a new cast of characters coming into the class, thanks to Georgia High School Association reclassification — namely Dutchtown and Woodland — perhaps it gives the county increased odds at a three-peat. Stocking stuffer: ELCA getting back on another 4-peat title run.
8. More competitive Clayton County softball teams. We’ve talked about this before. I don’t know what it’s going to take. Better recreation programs. More kids getting into travel ball. Finding ways to play middle school softball during the spring. But something needs to happen to give Clayton County teams a chance to be successful beyond its own borders. There’s no excuse for it not to be.
7. A volleyball state title in Henry County. Union Grove, Woodland, Ola, Locust Grove and ELCA all had quality teams, great seasons in their respective classes and regions, and each has built quality, lasting programs. Now it’s time for someone to take the next step. With a glut of talent returning for Woodland, the Lady Wolfpack seem to be as equipped as any County school to take that next leap.
6. A win-win situation for all involved with coaching changes. I want the schools to get guys who will help take their respective football programs to the next level. But I also want to see those five dismissed football coaches — all of whom are quality guys from what I can tell — to land on their feet in places where they can continue to impact the lives of young men.
5. A quick acclimation for Hampton-Henry. It usually takes new schools a while to position themselves to become winning athletic programs. I’m interested to see how the new Hampton High School will fit in to the Southern Crescent fold next year.
4. A state playoff win for Henry County football. Coach Morris Starr is a very likable guy. And what he accomplished with the Warhawks this year may not look like much, but this season’s playoff berth was a huge step in re-establishing that program. Here’s hoping the Warhawks take the next step.
3. A healthy Betty Jackson and Trevor Gear. These two freshman were phenoms in their respective sports. Jackson was a top notch cross country runner for Eagle’s Landing, while Gear starred at tailback at Union Grove before injury. I’d like to see what these two budding stars can accomplish over the next three years.
2. A post-game hand shake between Derrick Craine and Cameron Sutton. Both of these players have left huge impressions on me as a sportswriter, and it will be cool to watch both on the field next season when Craine and Chattanooga travel to meet Sutton and Tennessee. P.S. Kudos to Sutton for being named freshman All-American. Stocking stuffer: An upset win for the Mocs to give everyone around here a little something extra to talk about.
1. A miraculous cure for Eagle’s Landing football team mom Chanier Jackson. I wrote about Jackson’s courage in being there for the Golden Eagles even while struggling with brain cancer. Few stories have tugged at my heart like that one did.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to the best readers and sports fans in the state of Georgia. I’ve taken great pleasure and pride in covering you this year. Here’s to an even bigger 2014!
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News Daily newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him @GabrielStovall1.