Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A review of Augusta's 86-73 win over Barton and a preview of Thursday's 11:00 A.M. "Education Day" matchup against Emmanuel

Augusta 86, Barton 73 - Final

PBC Player of the Week Darren Lucas-White

Leading scorers

Rafael Monteiro - 22
Darren Lucas-White - 18
Troy Cracknell - 14

The Jaguars improved to 4-2.

Watch the replay here:

Thursday at 11:00 A.M. Augusta will face Emmanuel, which, like Augusta, won its conference and advanced to the NCAA tournament last season. The “Education Day” game will be attended by thousands of elementary school students. If you can't attend but want to watch, you can do so at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN1vJGQK7Tk

Augusta vs Barton - Breakdown

Augusta head coach Dip Metress had to be pleased that during Saturday's 86-73 win over Barton, his team delivered nicely on all three of his "keys to the game." A breakdown of that performance follows:

1) Improve defensively after giving up 85 points against Barton on November 9. (Augusta prevailed by 3 points on the road in the season's second game)

As hoped for, the Jaguars held Barton to 39% shooting in Saturday's win at home, whereas three weeks earlier Barton had converted 53% of its field goals against Augusta. Augusta also out-rebounded its opponent 40-32. Metress spread the minutes among more players in Saturday's meeting than he had in the first meeting between the two teams, which allowed more intensity and activity from the players on the court at any given time. Eight players played more than 14 minutes, and nobody played more than 26 minutes in Saturday's game.

Two players who made the most of those minutes and made a notable impact on the defensive end of the floor were sophomores Darren Lucas-White and Tyshaun Crawford. Lucas-White played well enough to earn Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week honors as he tallied 18 points (5-7 field goals, 8-9 free throws), 6 steals and 4 assists in 22 minutes. Coach Metress singled him out in our post game interview:

Metress also praised Crawford, a 7-0 center in his first season with the Jaguars after transferring from Georgia Southern, for blocking 6 shots in 24 minutes of action:

All Peach Belt Conference performer Rafael Monteiro, Augusta's leading scorer (19 ppg), led the way in fulfilling Metress's second objective for Saturday's game, the first of 4 home games in December:

2) Establish the inside game.

Monteiro continued his torrid shooting pace in the win by making 11 of his 16 field goal attempts. He also grabbed 9 rebounds in the contest. The senior has made 59% of his attempts through 6 games.

With one more game before the beginning of conference play, Metress is homing in on his rotation, which brings us to his third key for Saturday's game against Barton:

3) Build depth

Nine players scored for Augusta Saturday. And in addition to the standout performances by Lucas-White, Monteiro and Crawford, the Jaguars got key contributions from Troy Cracknell (14 points and 7 rebounds), Tyree Myers (9 points and 5 assists) and Shawn Moss, who made a pair of key buckets in the second half.

It's not often that a team executes on all of the points its coach outlines before a game. But Saturday's win, Augusta's second straight, was one such case. When Emmanuel, the defending Conference Carolinas champion, visits Thursday morning, similar execution might be needed for Augusta to extend its winning streak to three games.

Monday, November 25, 2019

11 Games to be broadcast this Thanksgiving week by SUVtv and AugBball

11 Games to be broadcast this Thanksgiving week by SUVtv and AugBball

The basketball season is in full swing and during this Thanksgiving week you can watch, either in person or live on the internet, 11 games featuring the area's most competitive college and high school teams.

Augusta Lady Jaguars (2-2) at Benedict (4-1) 

- 5:30 Tuesday (Nov 26)

Augusta (2-2) at Benedict (3-3) 

- 7:30 Tuesday (Nov 26)

Friday and Saturday's college and high school action at Augusta University

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Highlights from Grovetown vs North Augusta, a preseason scrimmage game with post season type effort, competitiveness and skill level

Colin Rodrigues (North Augusta) sprints back to contest Zach Bell (Grovetown) at the rim.

Grovetown 78, North Augusta 74 (Preseason Scrimmage Game)

Four teams I expect to be among the area's best this season finished their preseason Tuesday when North Augusta's boys and girls teams visited Grovetown for a pair of scrimmage games that would that easily could have been mistaken either for region rivalry or even post season matchups had we spectators not known better.

A few sequences during the third quarter of the boys game vividly illustrated the competitiveness of the players and the the high level of talent on the floor. For example, after a North Augusta turnover, Grovetown's Darius Dunn, who recovered the ball at the free throw line on his defensive side, quickly spotted teammate Zach Bell leaking out at half court with no Yellow Jacket defender in sight. The instant the ball left Dunn's hands, North Augusta's Colin Rodrigues, who was standing near the corner, even with Dunn and a good 25 feet from Bell, broke into a sprint and made up enough ground to plant his feet on the volleyball line at the same time as Bell, who himself had planted to rise up for a dunk.

Unlike the other three times Bell blew the roof off of the gym with thunderous slam dunks in the third quarter, he was unable to finish this particular attempt. But the buzz in the gym from after he tried, and as importantly, after Rodrigues's extra effort to make sure to contest and ultimately get called for a foul, made it obvious that we were watching two high level teams that wanted to do everything in their power to win the bragging rights that were at stake Tuesday, whether it was a regular season game or not.

Grovetown topped North Augusta 78-74 in the boys game. The Warriors were led by Bell, who scored 19 points, senior Zy Wright, who also tallied 19, and junior Julius Brown, who logged 15 points (4 three pointers) and 9 assists.

Rodrigues (15 points), a junior, led the way for North Augusta. Senior Kaleb Cooper added 12.

North Augusta 59, Grovetown 52 (Girls)

In the first game, North Augusta's Lady Yellow Jackets, the three time South Carolina class 4A defending state champions, topped a promising Grovetown squad 59-52 behind 19 points by 6-2 freshman P'eris Smith and 17 by junior Kiana Lee.

Sophomore Keona Curtis led Grovetown with 15 points, and fellow sophomore D'mya Griffin added 12.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Augusta Splits Season Opening Games in the 45 Second Classic - Game stories, highlights and interviews with head coach Dip Metress

Freshman Lee Flenor got the "chest bump of the game," which Augusta head coach Dip Metress gives to one player after every road win, after Flenor injected some needed scrappiness into Saturday's second half against Barton, sparking a 25-8 run that stretched 8 minutes and propelled the Jaguars to an 88-85 win in its second of two 45 Second Classic season opening games at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina last weekend.

During Augusta's pivotal second half run, Flenor scored 8 of his 12 total points and grabbed 6 of his game high 7 rebounds, including 3 on the offensive end that led to scores. Flenor capped the spurt by putting back his own miss while being fouled to give Augusta a 68-56 lead with 9:44 remaining.

Rafael Monteiro (18 points), Miguel Arnold (18) and Tyree Myers led Augusta in scoring. Monteiro, a preseason first team all Peach Belt Conference selection, made 6 of his 10 field goal attempts and all 5 of his free throws, capping an impressive first weekend for the senior, who scored 24 points and logged 11 rebounds and 4 assists in Friday's 88-82 loss to Mount Olive.

Sophomore point guard Tyree Myers also turned in his second solid performance of the weekend Saturday, dishing 8 assists to go along with his 17 points after a 10 point, 9 assist outing Friday. Myers scored 10 points during the final 7 minutes, halting an 8-0 run by Barton after Augusta's lead was cut to 4 with a shot clock beating finish high off the glass over the outstretched arms of a Barton defender that put Augusta ahead 72-66 with 6:17 remaining. Myers scored 10 of Augusta's final 18 points and made all 4 of his free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds while the Jaguars nursed a two possession lead.

Myers and fellow sophomore Miguel Arnold helped keep Augusta within striking distance throughout the first half. Arnold scored 11 points on 4-7 field goal shooting (3-6 from deep) during the first 20 minutes. And it was during that time when Myers tallied 7 of his game high 8 assists.

Augusta also benefited from timely shot making by junior Troy Cracknell, whose three pointer from the right wing with 16:40 remaining tied the game at 44. Cracknell later nailed a pull up jumper on the left wing that put the Jaguars ahead 54-52 with 13:25 left.

Troy Cracknell - Augusta

Cracknell scored 9 points on 3-6 shooting after netting 16 in Friday's game. Factoring in the contributions from sophomores Darren Lucas-White and Tyshaun Crawford reveals that seven different players scored at least 9 points in one or both of the weekend's games.

Saturday's performance an improvement over Friday's

Coach Metress told us in an interview before Friday's opener that "nobody's any good this time of year," adding that "you don't really play your best basketball at this time of the year... at least hopefully not... you want to play your best basketball late in the year."

Despite that realization, Metress was noticeably frustrated after Friday's 88-82 loss to Mount Olive, and he was particularly displeased with his team's 19 turnovers. Despite shooting 47% from the field and out-rebounding Mount Olive 46-35, the Jaguars were unable to overcome their sloppiness with the ball and hold on to the 1 point lead they earned with 4:27 remaining after battling back from down as many as 8 points in the second half.

But the transition from Friday's turnover plagued opener to Saturday's crisp outing (Augusta committed only 8 turnovers while shooting 53% from the field and 82% from the free throw line) had to qualify as a kind of sign that this season's team is capable of making the progress that will need to be made for it to be able to approach the type of success that last year's championship squad was able to attain. Here's Dip Metress's conclusion after Saturday's win and the weekend's split:

"It was a great win. Any time you win on the road, you should be happy. And it gives us something to build on. We're still looking for identity. We really are."

Augusta will travel to Claflin for another non conference game Wednesday before next Tuesday's (November 19) home opener against Catawba.

More about Augusta University

2019-20 Season Preview with Dip Metress (November 8)

2018-19 "Exit Interview"

Friday, November 8, 2019

#13 Augusta Season Opener Preview

#13 Augusta tips off its 2019-20 season Friday and Saturday in Wilson, NC. The @AugBball social media feeds will provide full coverage throughout the weekend. The attached video is our preview for the seaaon opener, which follows this outline:

Meet key returning players and one high impact newcomer (0:00-3:45)

Interview with head coach Dip Metress (3:45-10:30)

Players mentioned.

Rafael Monteiro
- 15 ppg, 6 rpg
- 59% FG, 42% 3 pt FG, 72% FT
- 2nd Team All Peach Belt Conference 2018-19
- 1st Team Preseason All Peach Belt Conference 2019-20

Miguel Arnold
- 12 ppg
- 47% FG, 46% 3 pt FG, 85% FT
- Peach Belt Conference Co-Rookie of the Year

Tyree Myers
- 10 ppg, 5 apg
- 48% FG, 44 3 pt FG%, 79% FT

Darren Lucas-White
- 5 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg in 19 mpg
- 39% FG, 26 3 pt FG%, 74% FT

Troy Cracknell
- 7 ppg, 2 rpg in 16 mpg
- 48% FG, 48 3 pt FG%, 87% FT

Tyshaun Crawford
7-0, 290 lb Sophomore

Robert Barlund
6-8 Sophomore

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

USC Aiken and area junior college standouts get an early start on the college hoops season

Tim Williamson (left), Faison Brock (top right), Drez McBride (bottom right)

USC Aiken dropped a pair of games last weekend in the SBC Hall of Fame Classic in St. Joseph, Missouri. The four team tip off classic was the first sign of official NCAA basketball for the 2019-20 season as many Division I teams get set to start there schedules tonight, and the rest of the Division II will tip off this Friday. NJCAA (junior college) play also began last Friday, when, as was the case with USC Aiken's opening games, lots of action with a local flavor took place in the two year college space.

Aiken began its difficult early season schedule with a pair of losses

Xzavier Barmore (USC Aiken) is a preseason first team All PBC player.

The Pacers - who finished last season as the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament runners up, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, amassed a 27-6 record and spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 - entered this year as the #17 ranked team in the NCAA.com preseason poll. Its opponents last Friday and Saturday in Missouri are also highly regarded as Davenport, Friday's opponent, was ranked #13, and West Texas A&M, Saturday's foe, was listed as the #5 team in the same poll. 

In Friday's 77-68 loss to Davenport, the Pacers played without Faison Brock, one of two returning seniors who were highly productive members of last season's squad. And Xzavier Barmore, the team's other key returning veteran, only made 2 of his 17 field goal attempts in the loss.

Faison Brock (USC Aiken) scored 22 points in Saturday's loss.

Saturday's outing started much better for the Pacers because Brock made his first appearance less than 5 minutes after tip off and proceeded to lead the team in scoring with 22 points. And despite another slow start by Barmore (3 first half points), Aiken led most of the first half before falling behind 38-35 at the break. But a better second half (12 points on 6-11 shooting) by Barmore was not enough to stop West Texas A&M, which was paced by Joel Murray's game high 27 points, from maintaining a double digit lead for most of the second half.

More stiff competition ahead of Aiken

Things won't get easier for USC Aiken because this weekend the Pacers will play Friday against Tusculum and Saturday against Lincoln Memorial, which entered the season ranked #9 in the NCAA.com poll and #6 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) rankings. Lincoln Memorial, a perennial South Athletic Conference (SAC) power, will host the two day tournament. And when the Pacers finally return to the area for their first game of the season at the USC Aiken Convocation Center on November 16, their opponent, #23 Florida Southern, will be another team that entered the season ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA.com preseason poll.

Local talent makes a mark during the first weekend of junior college action

USC Salkehatchie, home to four highly accomplished area players, won a pair of games last weekend after entering the season ranked #18 in the NJCAA preseason poll. The Indians topped Georgia Highlands 102-98 Friday in overtime before knocking off South Georgia Tech Saturday 76-68. The games were part of the Cape Fear Classic at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Drez McBride (January, 2017)

In the two games combined, sophomore Drez McBride, who transferred from McCook Community College in Nebraska after starring for Butler High School, scored 33 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished 8 assists. McBride has blossomed into a Division I player since graduating from high school in 2018, and the athletic lefty with a smooth stroke and crafty ball handling skills has received scholarship offers from UNC Asheville, Albany, Hampton and, most recently, Illinois State.

Kevin Williamson (January, 2017)

Another sophomore with local ties, Kevin Williamson, a former Aiken High (class of 2018) star who recently committed to Coastal Carolina, scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the two games combined. And former Lincoln County standout Ahmad Rand, a sophomore who received offers from Tulsa and Grambling after leading the nation in blocked shots last season, logged a total of 13 rebounds and swatted away 7 shots in the two games combined.

Tim Williamson named player of the week after scoring 37 in a win

Tim Williamson (Andrew College)

Former Glenn Hills (and Hephzibah before that) standout Tim Williamson, now a sophomore at Andrew College, scored 37 points in his team's season opening 88-85 victory over New Rock Prep Saturday. For that Williamson was named the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week.

Freshmen Kalen Williams and Trez Ruffin contribute early for their new teams

Kalen Williams (December, 2018)

Kalen Williams (Lakeside '19) and Trez Ruffin (Josey '19), two former area standouts who will be expected to make an impact in their first season on the junior college scene, did just that in their teams' opening games. Williams scored 11 points in 28 minutes during Western Nebraska's 100-86 win over Central Wyoming Saturday after logging 8 points in 24 minutes in Friday's 96-75 loss to Western Wyoming.

Trez Ruffin (February, 2019)

Ruffin scored 12 points in Iowa Western's 89-70 win over Northwest Kansas Tech. Iowa Western dropped its game against Colby Saturday 93-73.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Interview with Grovetown Basketball Head Coach Darren Douglas

I asked Grovetown basketball head coach Darren Douglas to help answer the following question from a local high school hooper:

I was wondering if you knew any workshops or events I could attend to find out more information about getting recruitment and offers? Or do you know any information or resources or experiences that you can share about recruitment?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Riding a four game winning streak under first year head coach Lafayette Stewart, Fox Creek's players and coaches are making the most of their Fridays... and Saturdays too

Left to right: Nick Williams, Blake Shealy, Ryan Chavous, CJ Tillman and Jadon Johnson (Fox Creek)

After dropping a pair of games to begin the season, Fox Creek has run off four consecutive victories, and last Friday night the Predators earned their first region win since joining in 2018 South Carolina's class 2A, region 2, which first year coach Lafayette Stewart calls "the SEC West" of the Palmetto State.

Fox Creek knocked off Ninety Six 17-7 on the road Friday to improve to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in region play ahead of this Friday's road game against defending state champion Abbeville. Sophomore quarterback Jadon Johnson threw two touchdown passes to senior Jatonious Butler in the victory, and running back Ryan Chavous continued to pile up rushing statistics with 179 yards on 27 carries.

Jatonious Butler (Fox Creek)

In a recent conversation, coach Stewart praised his offensive coordinator, Cam Epting, and his defensive coordinator, Brett Johnson, for steering their units in the right direction during the current winning streak. Chavous's eye popping rushing numbers (11 touchdowns and just under 800 yards in the last 5 games) can be traced back to a move Epting made in the second half of Fox Creek's 21-14 overtime win over McCormick in week 3.

"Early in the season we had a couple fourth-and-inches or third-and-shorts we didn't get, so we implemented a goal line package," Epting explained Monday before the team's practice. "That really propelled us. It led us to a couple victories. It's not a closed book. This thing's open. We're adding to it every week."

Johnson also made adjustments on the defensive side of the ball to help spur the current winning streak. After surrendering 777 total yards and 11 touchdowns in the first two losses combined, Fox Creek has given up only one touchdown and 313 total yards in the last two games combined.

"We had a rough first two games defensively," Johnson said Monday. "We knew we had the right players on the field. What it's come down to in the last four games is getting them in the right position."

Coach Stewart's focus on "the next level"

In addition to the recent success on Friday nights, coach Stewart has brought to Fox Creek a methodical approach to exposing his players to opportunities to play college football. A scroll through the Fox Creek Twitter feed (see above) will reveal a series of Saturday trips to some of the highest profile college football games in the nation.

A small subset of the players who have been making unofficial visits to college games described their trips to me Monday afternoon. Quarterback Jadon Johnson watched from the sidelines as Georgia took on Notre Dame, and Clemson hosted Texas A&M. Johnson has also been to games this fall at South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

"What stood out for me was the environment of just being there, and being around a huge crowd there." Johnson answered when I asked him what it was like to be on the sideline for Georgia's home game against Notre Dame, which set a Sanford Stadium attendance record. "And having everyone looking at you, and noticing you, and the feeling that you get being on a visit at a big time college."

Nick Williams, a 6-4 and 300 pound sophomore tackle, also attended the games at Georgia, Clemson and South Carolina. And seniors Blake Shealy, CJ Tillman and Ryan Chavous have been to games at UNC Charlotte, Mercer and Furman already.

Watching college games up close and talking to the coaches and recruiting coordinators during the visits are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But such trips are part of a much larger process that Coach Stewart describes in the interview above. As he explains, the process begins with awareness on the players' part, which is facilitated by communication between the coaches and families of the players. Then comes the necessary academic achievement of the players, the attending of recruiting camps during the off season, the performance on the field during the actual season and an ongoing shepherding from somebody like Stewart, who has distinguished himself early in his coaching career as somebody who takes a special interest in facilitating his players' goal of graduating with the necessary skills and academic requirements needed to attend and graduate from college, while at the same time playing football on Saturdays!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Spirit Creek knocks off previously unbeaten Glenn Hills to finish regular season 5-0 ahead of next week's semifinals

Spirit Creek's Javaris Harris takes a handoff in Tuesday's win over Glenn Hills.

In Tuesday's battle between unbeaten Richmond County middle school teams, Spirit Creek used a formidable rushing attack to build a lead, and protected it late by forcing Glenn Hills to commit two turnovers in the second half as the Dolphins earned a 14-6 win on the road to secure a 5-0 regular season record and the top seed in the county's four team playoff, which starts next Wednesday.

Javaris Harris rushed for 149 yards on 12 carries, and Antwain Hendrieth logged another 42 yards on 5 carries, including a 14 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Telly Johnson added an 11 yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter after Harris closed out the third with runs of 35, 24, 11 and 11 yards during a 72 yard drive that ate up nearly all of the time in the period following a Glenn Hills fumble.

That turnover was one of three in the second half by Glenn Hills. The fumble was forced by Johnson and Harris, and recovered by Corey Cooper at Spirit Creek's 28 yard line on the second half's third play from scrimmage.

Left to right: Javaris Harris, Antwain Hendrieth and James McDougald (Spirit Creek)

After the game, Spirit Creek coach Michael Collins credited his offensive line for creating the space for the Dolphins to gain 172 rushing yards on their first four possessions. And he commended his running backs for holding onto the ball during that turnover free stretch in which Spirit Creek built a 14-0 lead.

"Tonight was what you saw. It was tremendous. Our offensive linemen. Everything started up front," Collins said as he patted right guard Brian Bailey on his back. "We did what we had to do. Our running backs held on to the ball. The coaches coached well. We played together. Stuck it out. And here we have an undefeated season."

Spirit Creek Guard Brian Bailey

After falling behind 14-0, Glenn Hills benefitted from forcing a fumble themselves when Judd Brown stripped Harris and sixth grader Jarvis Singfield, who recorded 4 tackles during the game, recovered the ball on the Seminoles' 28 yard line. Glenn Hills then took to the air as quarterback Danny Daggett completed a short pass to Lejuan Meyers, who ran 15 yards the Spirit Creek 42 yard line. Then J'Kelyn Carroll took a pitch from Daggett and quickly unloaded a long pass to Jonathan Brown, who caught it and was brought down at the 6 yard line. James Pride, a big, strong and agile Seminole running back who proved throughout the game to be difficult to bring down, rushed for a 6 yard touchdown two plays later to bring Glenn Hills to within one score at 14-6.

James Pride (Glenn Hills) scored on a 6 yard touchdown run in Tuesday's loss.

Glenn Hills would have two more chances to even the score. The Seminoles were first denied when Corey Cooper shot into the Glenn Hills backfield and disrupted a handoff near midfield, allowing Hendrieth to pick the ball up off the ground and run it back to the Glenn Hills 28. After turning the ball over on downs, Spirit Creek got its third takeaway of the half when Willie Taylor intercepted a pass by Daggett near midfield to seal the win with 1:11 remaining.

Evans Middle Claims Columbia County Title

Brenden Reynolds (Evans Middle) rushed for 192 yards and 5 touchdowns Tuesday.

Evans Middle thrashed Lakeside 38-0 to finish its season 7-0 and win the Columbia County middle school championship. Its 14-0 win over Grovetown (see game highlights here) ensured the Knights would be their division's representative in the championship game. Evans got a standout performance by running back Brenden Reynolds, who rushed for 192 yards and 5 touchdowns, in Tuesday's win.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Georgia Soul is back and it has a head start on a successful return because of its record of success, its community ties, and its loyal following

(Standing) Left to Right: Chad Cook, Nesia Wright, Latasha Brown, Adrienne Terry, Reyna Adams, Laron Freeman
(Kneeling) Left to Right: Eboni Fields, Lacoya Terry

The Georgia Soul, a local semi-pro women's basketball team that attracted a significant amount of interest and earned many fans during a two season run in 2016 and 2017 that culminated in a Women's Blue Chip Basketball League national championship, will return for its third season this spring and summer, according to founder Ernesia Wright. Wright, a human resource officer at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, and a former Augusta University and Laney basketball star, spearheaded the team's first successful run. And she plans to use the positive experience of the Soul's players, coaches, support staff and volunteers during the first go around to make the most of the coming seasons.

"We want to get out in the community more," Wright said recently when she explained the organization's plans and described its core members.

The Soul has a head start on its plans to engage the community because of the return of star players who already live and work in the area, like Eboni Fields and Lacoya Terry, who are featured in the video highlights below from the Soul's 2017 national championship game comeback win over the St. Louis Surge.

Fields, who played college basketball at Francis Marion after graduating from Laney, is a first year head coach of Butler High School's girls basketball and volleyball teams. Terry, who starred at East Carolina and Hephzibah High, is an activity therapist at the Augusta State Medical Prison, and she also served as an assistant coach for Augusta University's women's basketball team.

The organization's website lists more than a dozen players and coaches and provides details about their backgrounds, including their hometown, educational achievements and current profession. Most of the names and faces will be familiar to fans of the Soul and of area basketball in general. Also listed is information about the team's tryouts, which will be held January 19 and 26 at Butler High. The season will run from May to August, and there will be a minimum of 8 home games on the schedule.

Players and staff members were present last Thursday at the 5th Annual Glenn Hills Alumni Games, and Reyna Adams, the Soul's director of basketball operations, played for her Lady Spartans against Hephzibah's alumni team, which was victorious due in part to a fine performance from Terry.

In the near future, you can find the Soul "out in the community" on Saturday, October 12, at Thomson High School for the CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region event, and October 19 for the Pink Runway Breast Cancer Survivor Fashion Show at the Golden Artillery Dance & Tumbling Studio on Deans Bridge Road.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Jefferson County flexed its muscles Friday, taking sole possession of first place in the region with a convincing win over previously unbeaten Hephzibah

Kydran Jenkins rushed for 2 touchdowns and forced a fumble in Friday's win.

Jefferson County created and capitalized on three consecutive Hephzibah turnovers to turn a 20-7 halftime advantage into what became an insurmountable 36-7 third quarter lead on the way to its fourth straight win and its twelfth consecutive region victory. Friday's 44-28 result put the Warriors (4-2, 4-0) one game ahead of Hephzibah (4-1, 3-1), Harlem (3-3, 3-1), Screven County (5-1, 3-1) and Westside (3-2, 2-1) at the halfway point of the class 2A, region 4 schedule.

Kydran Jenkins rushed for two touchdowns as well as a 2 point conversion, highlighting an impressive all around performance by the Purdue bound senior linebacker. Jenkins also forced and recovered a fumble, he recorded a sack, and he logged numerous tackles at and behind the line of scrimmage, spearheading a defense that surrendered only 59 rushing yards.

The most important play Jenkins made might have been his strip of Hephzibah quarterback Marshall Chambers inside of Jefferson County's 5 yard line with less than a minute remaining in the first half that preserved a two-score Warrior lead at the break. Fellow linebacker Jacques Lewis then intercepted a pass by Chambers on the second play from scrimmage of the third quarter, which set up a 28 yard rushing touchdown by Jenkins. And on the ensuing possession, Nick Jordan, who also recorded two sacks and a hurry in the game, recovered another Hephzibah fumble and returned it for a touchdown to give the Warriors a 36-7 lead with just under 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Hephzibah responded in the final 18 minutes with three touchdowns, one on a 14 yard pass from Chambers to Jaiden Wofford, another on a 60 yard strike from Chambers to Erick Harris, and the third on a short run by Jalen Gibson. But a 3 yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter by Kydran Jenkins that was set up by a 54 yard gain by Azarell Jenkins put the Warriors ahead 44-15 and ensured that the outcome would not be in doubt during the final quarter.

Jefferson County's Captains: Jacob West (90), Desmond Beale (2), Cincere Whidbee (78)

Jefferson County played a nearly flawless first half, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four series and forcing three consecutive three-and-outs on Hephzibah's opening possessions. The Warriors' highly regarded offensive line cleared the way for a scoring drive on Jefferson County's first series when quarterback Carlton Brown rushed for 40 of the drive's 42 total yards, including a 7 yard score. On the next series it was Jefferson County's other quarterback, sophomore Izaiah Gaines, who accounted for the majority of the yardage, picking up 38 on a run up the middle and finishing the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run.

Jefferson County's final scoring drive of the first half came after Desmond Beale took a short pass from Gaines and ran 48 yards to Hephzibah's 23 yard line. Later on third and 15 Gaines and Jenkins barely missed connecting in the end zone. But on the next play the two tried again and that time Jenkins came up with the catch to put Jefferson County ahead 20-7.

Hephzibah's only score in the first half came on a 6 yard touchdown run by Enoch Howard that was set up when the Warriors muffed a punt on their own 14 yard line right before the end of the first quarter.

Stay tuned for coverage of this Friday's action because this will be the first week when EVERY team in the area will be fully engaged in region play!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Red Hot Wagener-Salley and Hephzibah Win Big and Stay Undefeated

Wagener-Salley' Jhuatieq Davis rushed for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns in Friday's win.

Wagener-Salley and Hephzibah, two of the area's hottest teams, extended their impressive play into the heart of their respective region schedules with blowout victories at home last Friday.

Wagener-Salley 49, Blackville-Hilda 12

Wagener-Salley, ranked #2 in the latest South Carolina class 2A writers poll, made quick work of #4 Blackville-Hilda at home to improve to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in region play. The War Eagles received notable contributions from an abundance of play makers:

Explosive junior AJ Swedenburg scored 2 touchdowns and gained 108 yards on only three receptions. Jhuatieq Davis rushed for 2 touchdowns and gained 108 yards on 9 bruising carries. Quarterback Gaige Starnes added a receiving touchdown (from Kevin Jackson, who also rushed for a score) to go along with his 2 touchdown passes. Jeremiah Bynem led the charge defensively, recording 11 tackles, while Nigel Brown (9 tackles), Ethan Stroman (9), Roderick Williams (7) and Elijah Davis (7) weren't far behind in making stops.

Wagener-Salley will host Williston-Elko (1-4, 0-1) Friday.

Hephzibah 48, Glenn Hills 13

Hephzibah's Marshall Chambers tossed 3 touchdown passes and logged 256 yards in the air in a 48-13 win over Glenn Hills. Chambers' three scoring throws went for 61 yards (to Jaiden Wofford), 38 yards (to E'Shawn Mayes), and 25 yards (to Erick Harris). Mayes caught 5 passes for 101 total yards.

Ronald Coleman (8 tackles) and Nickolas Callen (9 tackles) helped lead an opportunistic defensive effort that included a touchdown by Coleman on a fumble recovery. Callen forced 2 Glenn Hills fumbles. Malachi Louis led the Rebels in tackles with 10.

Hephzibah improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in class 2A region (4) action ahead of this Friday's showdown on the road against defending region champion Jefferson County (3-2, 3-0). First place in the region will be on the line when the Rebels meet the Warriors, who topped Harlem (2-3, 2-1) 42-32 last Friday at home.

Also victorious in class 2A region (4) play last week was Westside (2-2, 2-1), which thumped Josey 49-0.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Middle School Football Review: Full Story and Highlights from Spirit Creek's Comeback Win against Pine Hill, and Highlights from Evans Middle's Win against Grovetown

Javaris Harris (Spirit Creek) scored 3 touchdowns in Tuesday's win.

Spirit Creek overcame a 12 point second half deficit by scoring 14 unanswered in the final 9 minutes of Tuesday's Richmond County middle school game to defeat Pine Hill 28-26 at Cross Creek High School. After fullback Telly Johnson reached the end zone to cut the deficit to 26-20 with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter, running back Javaris Harris scored the touchdown that clinched the victory on fourth and goal from Pine Hill's 5 yard line on a sweep around the right end.

Harris scored three touchdowns in the game, including one right before halftime on a kick off return that reduced Pine Hill's lead to 14-8, and another on the first play from scrimmage of the second half to tie the game at 14.

"That kid is special," Spirit Creek coach Michael Collins said about Harris after the game. "He came to us this year from Tutt. And he's phenomenal."

Harris's first two touchdowns came during a dizzying stretch of play in which the teams scored a combined five touchdowns, three by Pine Hill and two by Spirit Creek, while only 3 minutes and 32 seconds ticked off the clock. The scoring spree began when Pine Hill quarterback Xavier Goss rolled right and hit tight end DeShaun Jones in stride. Jones ran almost the entire length of the field to score an 80 yard touchdown and put Pine Hill ahead 14-2 with 1:29 left in the second quarter.

Pine Hill's Xavier Goss readies for the snap. Goss threw two 80 yard TD passes Tuesday.

Harris immediately answered with a touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff and a 50 yard touchdown run on a direct snap on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter to tie the game at 14.

Then it was Pine Hill's turn to respond quickly when SyQuan Mack ran 65 yards for his second touchdown of the game to establish a 20-14 lead for the Panthers. And after Pine Hill's Jonathan Underwood recovered a fumble by Harris on Spirit Creek's next series, Goss again rolled right and hit Jones in stride on the exact same pattern as before for another 80 yard touchdown reception that gave the Panthers a 26-14 lead with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter.

Spirit Creek's comeback was powered in part by a pair of drive extending completions between quarterback Kenneth Medlock and receiver Antwain Hendrieth. Hendrieth leapt high into the air to grab the ball and then wrestle it away from a defender for a key first down late in the third quarter. And he adjusted to an under-thrown and wobbly pass to make a key catch that created a first-and-goal opportunity for the Dolphins on the deciding drive.

Antwain Hendrieth (Spirit Creek) made two key receptions in the second half.

The comeback was completed when Ahsean McCladdie recovered a Pine Hill fumble with just over 3 minutes remaining, allowing Spirit Creek to run out the clock after Harris and Telly Johnson each converted a first down on offense. McCladdie also recorded a tackle for a safety in the second quarter.

"It just took a lot of determination, a lot of grit," coach Collins said when asked how his team was able to come back from a 12 point deficit twice and eventually win the game. "Our players stuck together and fought, and we had great coaching from our staff."

With the win, Spirit Creek improved to 3-0 for the season, and Pine Hill fell to 1-1-1.

Evans Middle starts 5-0 in Columbia County league

Evans Middle improved to 5-0 in the Columbia County league with a win over Harlem Tuesday to follow up on last week's 14-0 victory over Grovetown Middle (highlights above). Grovetown stands in second place with a 4-1 record.

Zyaire Douglas (Evans) snagged an interception in the win over Grovetown last week.

Quarterback Noah Story rushed for two touchdowns in the win over Grovetown. The Knights dominated the matchup, possessing the ball for the great majority of the game while only allowing Grovetown's offense into Evans' half of the field once, and only for a brief period.

Middle School Playoff Dates

Columbia County will be the first league to play its championship game on Tuesday, October 8.

Brenden Reynolds (Evans)
The leagues that include the middle schools in the area's outlying counties will play their semifinal round on Wednesday, October 9, and their championship game a week later on October 16.

Cervantes Felts (Thomson)
Richmond County's semifinal round will also take place on October 16, and the championship game will be held the following Tuesday, October 22.

Finally, the private school finals will be Thursday, October 24, and Aiken County will have its champion decided on October 30.

Kennedy Middle's Druw Kirkland (8), Demario Saxon (3) and Carlos Ponce (2)

AugBball will cover as much of the championship rounds, and as much of the regular season games leading up to them, as scheduling will allow.

Links to recent middle school and JV football coverage

Evans Middle improves to 2-0 with 34-0 win over Greenbrier

Jefferson County JV tops Thomson after a fourth quarter comeback

Story, highlights, pictures and interviews from Kennedy Middle's comeback against Silver Bluff as well as a round up of middle school ball from around the area

Monday, September 23, 2019

Week 5 Football Review: #9 Swainsboro topped #6 Washington County, local 2A region play heats up on the Georgia side, and class 1A is underway in SC and GA

Cedric (7) and Fredrick (8) Seabrough combined for 11 receptions, 193 yards and 2 touchdowns Friday.

In a battle between top 10 (in Georgia's class 2A) teams, Swainsboro overwhelmed Washington County with a balanced offensive attack and a stingy and opportunistic defense. The Tigers upended the Golden Hawks 27-7 on the road in a highly anticipated non-region matchup, improving to 3-1 for the season, and giving Washington County (3-1) its first loss. Swainsboro took a commanding lead early, scoring touchdowns on drives that covered 65, 74 and 80 yards the first three times it possessed the ball to establish a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter in a game that never seemed in doubt after that surge.

Senior quarterback Kade Youmans threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Swainsboro's twin brother receiving duo of Cedric and Fredrick Seabrough were on the receiving end of both touchdown strikes and the great majority of the passing yards, as Cedric notched 114 yards on 8 receptions, and Fredrick gained 79 yards on 3 catches.

"It's just trusting them," Youmans said after the game when asked about connecting so frequently with the 6'4" brothers, who are both juniors. "Just trusting they're gonna be there. And then delivering. That's all it was."

Kade Youmans - Swainsboro

Washington County's lone score came on a 68 yard touchdown run by Shamarcus Poole immediately after Swainsboro's third scoring drive, making it a two score game at the half. The Golden Hawks penetrated Swainsboro's side of the field on their first two third quarter possessions only to turn the ball over both times, first when KJ Starnes jarred the ball loose after a Washington County completion over the middle, and next when Fredrick Seabrough recovered a fumble on a botched transaction in the WACO backfield near Swainsboro's goal line.

A fourth quarter connection between Youmans and Cedric Seabrough on a jump ball in the endzone that Seabrough used his height and athletic ability to snag with little trouble put Swainsboro ahead 27-7 in the fourth quarter.

"I just knew that my guy's bigger than theirs, and my guy's a better athlete," Youmans said about finding Cedric high above the fray. "That's what I tell myself. I just give him a chance to make a play."

Swainsboro's Robert Allen rushed for 125 yards on 18 carries, and Youmans reached the end zone twice on quarterback sneaks from short yardage to round out the offensive attack for the Tigers.

Both teams will take this Friday off before beginning their respective six game region schedules on Friday, October 4.

More Week 5 Results

Barnwell improved to 5-0 with a 28-21 overtime win over Wade Hampton, which entered the game undefeated after four games. Barnwell, the #2 ranked team in South Carolina's class 2A, benefitted from 21 tackles (13 solo) by standout junior linebacker DeShawn Watson.

Ben Lippen 35, Augusta Christian 14

AugBball Game of the Week Powered by SUVtv

Favorites step forward in area's class 2A (GA) region

The same four teams (Jefferson County, Hephzibah, Harlem and Screven County) that qualified for the state playoffs last season in the local class 2A region have already established a lead in this season's 8 game league schedule.

Carlton Brown (Quarterback) - Jefferson County
Jefferson County (2-2, 2-0) thrashed Josey 53-0 to set up a showdown with Harlem (2-2, 2-0) this Friday. Harlem breezed past Laney 34-6 behind 155 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns from junior Cameron Garnett. The Bulldogs also got 2 receiving touchdowns and a touchdown on a punt return from Cedric Cullars.

Cameron Garnett (Harlem)

Hephzibah improved to 3-0 for the season and 2-0 in region play with a 35-6 road win over Butler. Junior quarterback Marshall Chambers completed 6 of 10 passes for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. And Chambers rushed for another 104 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries. If the Rebels get past Glenn Hills (1-2, 0-1 ) at home this Friday, an October 11 matchup between Jefferson County and Hephzibah will factor significantly in the region standings at the halfway point of the league schedule.

Marshall Chambers (Hephzibah)

Screven County (3-1, 1-1) rebounded from a loss at home to Hephzibah two weeks ago with a 15-9 win Friday at Westside (1-2, 1-1).

DaCalvin Williams (Screven County)

Class 1A league play is underway in SC and GA

All eight local class 1A teams, four in Georgia and four in South Carolina, opened region play Friday. Six came away with a win.

Undefeated Wagener-Salley marches into week 6.

Wagener-Salley (4-0), which entered the season ranked third in the class, routed Hunter-Kinard-Tyler 54-0. And Blackville-Hilda (3-1) topped Denmark-Olar 37-14 to set up an important road game at Wagener-Salley this Friday.

Collier Sullivan (RSM) rushed for 2 touchdowns in Friday's win.

Also coming this Friday will be another matchup between local class 1A teams that were victorious in week 5. Ridge Spring-Monetta (2-2, 1-0), which beat North 60-8, will take on Williston-Elko, which recorded its first win Friday by topping Estill 44-16.

Aquinas and Washington-Wilkes each edge rivals to start region play 1-0

AJ Williams (Aquinas)

On the Georgia side of area class 1A play, Aquinas improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the region with a 10-7 road win over Lincoln County. Senior AJ Williams scored the lone touchdown for the Fighting Irish. And Washington-Wilkes topped Warren County 22-19 in a home game.

Washington-Wilkes (2-2, 1-0) will travel to Hancock Central (2-2, 1-0) this Friday. Both Lincoln County (2-2, 0-1) and Warren County (2-2, 0-1) will have a chance to earn their first region win when they square off against each other this Friday in Warrenton. Aquinas is off until October 4 when the Fighting Irish will travel to GMC.

More week 5 results

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hephzibah, Westside and Harlem opened region play with a win and these are the highlights, statistics and stories from the opening night of class 2A league play

Javeon Harris (4) - Hephzibah

The fourth week of the high school football season was headlined by the beginning of region 4-AA action. Because of postponements caused by lightning Friday night, the last of the opening four games in that league won't be decided until Monday night after Butler hosts defending region champion Jefferson County. But regardless of how that game unfolds, Hephzibah's 35-27 road win over Screven County, Westside's narrow victory at home over Laney and Harlem's thrashing of Glenn Hills ensured that the beginning of conference play proved to be as exciting as we should expect when it comes to region competition, which of course eventually decides which teams will earn a spot in the state playoffs.

Below you will find full game highlights from the first sign of region competition in the area along with as much information as could be gathered over the weekend from the entire area's week four games.

Hephzibah 35, Screven County 27

The visiting Rebels played with poise and benefitted from a string of big plays during the game's most crucial moments by a long list of contributors, securing an important road win over a quality opponent, and improving to 2-0 overall, and 1-0 in region 4-AA action.

First, Javeon Harris ran back a Screven County kick off 70 yards for a touchdown to give Hephzibah a 7-6 lead right after the Gamecocks had scored on their first drive on a quarterback keeper by Austin Markovcic. Then after both teams took turns losing possession on a fumble, Hephzibah defensive back Jecori Johnson swung the momentum back towards his team's side with a diving interception after making a break on a Markovcic pass over the middle. Then quarterback Marshall Chambers extended Hephzibah's good fortune with two touchdown passes, one to Angelo Mosher, and the other to Erick Harris, giving the Rebels a 21-6 heading into halftime.

Marshall Chambers rolls right and looks for a receiver in Friday's win over Screven County.

Chambers was brilliant in engineering his team's only two offensive scoring drives of the game, both before halftime, by which time he had recorded 118 yards passing and 2 touchdowns throws on only 4 completions. On the first drive, he threw a strike to Harris on the right sideline to earn a first down on fourth and four right inside Gamecock territory. And a couple snaps later he barely avoided a sack, escaped toward the right sideline and waved Mosher down field before hitting him in stride on his way to a 28 yard touchdown that put the Rebels ahead 14-6. Later in the half he showed off a strong throwing arm by heaving a perfect spiral to Harris while rolling to his right for a 65 yard touchdown completion.

"He's not just an athlete. He's a quarterback," Hephzibah coach William Harrell stressed after the game. "And he's out here to make people understand... he's a dual threat quarterback. And he's busting his behind to make sure people understand he can throw and he can run."

But it was the second half when both teams proved they have what it takes to emerge from the region schedule in 8 weeks and represent the league in the playoffs. Screven County bolted out of the locker room to score 13 points in the first 5 minutes when Shemar Cheever reached the end zone on a 50 yard run, which was immediately followed by a PJ Flowers interception that was returned to inside of Hephzibah's 5 yard line. 270 pound lineman Demetrius Boyd then lined up in the backfield, took a handoff and trucked his way into the end zone to cut Hephzibah's lead to 21-19 with 7:00 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

But the swing in momentum towards Screven County was instantly reversed when on the ensuing kickoff Harris sprinted 85 yards for a Rebel touchdown. Moments later, Hephzibah safety Enoch Howard recovered a Screven County fumble on a botched pitch inside the Gamecocks' 5 yard line, which led to a Ronald Coleman touchdown run and a Jalen Gibson 2 point conversion to give Hephzibah a 35-19 lead. And there was still 4:00 remaining in the third quarter!

Enoch Howard (8) and Jalen Gibson (70)

Howard and Jecori Johnson, who between them accounted for three of Hephzibah's five takeaways, talked after the game about the "family bond" that they say defines their team, which is believable after seeing the way this group, which is fresh off a school record 8 win season, responded to adversity Friday and stuck together through the difficult stretches that come with playing against a good team on the road in league play.

"At Hephzibah we play for more than just us. This is really just a family bond," Johnson said. "Everybody here just loves each other and at the end of the day, no matter how down we are... we're gonna keep fighting besides each other. And I would never like to play for nobody but Hephzibah."

Howard told me in the post game interview he played middle school football with Johnson, and he said he and Johnson have been playing with other current teammates Gibson, (Erick) Harris, Chambers and E'shawn Mayes for years. He was also quick to give credit to others when talking about his own impact on the game in making 8 tackles from the strong safety position:

"They (Gibson and fellow defensive tackle Raul Rodriguez) were just messing up the whole play. It started up front with the D-line," Howard explained. "Them boys held their ground, and I'm really proud of them."

Hephzibah's defense held Screven County to 227 yards rushing, which is 130 yards fewer than its per game average in the first two weeks of the season when the Gamecocks earned close wins over Bluffton and Southeast Bulloch. Along with Howard, a host of Rebel defenders deserve credit for getting the job done, including Nickolas Callen (13 tackles), Dale Mealing (13), Malachi Louis (8) Rodriguez (7), Gibson (7), Ivan Arroyo (6) and Jaiden Wofford (6).

But the deciding play came with less than 4 minutes remaining when Johnson answered a third and final Screven County lunge back into contention. The Gamecocks had just pulled to within one score on Cheever's second rushing touchdown of the game and then immediately forced a Hephzibah three-and-out. On first and 10 from the Hephzibah 41 yard line, Markovcic threw another pass into Johnson's territory. This time instead of diving for the pick, Johnson caught it in stride and ran it back across midfield before being forced out on the left sideline into the Rebel bench, where his teammates, or as he would put it, his "family," greeted him and thanked him for sealing the all important win.

"I'm not gonna lie to you... It took me like three steps to realize I had the ball," Johnson told me after the game about his game clinching interception. "All I know is you just go. You can't be thinking about 'who's over here, who's over there?'"

Westside 6, Laney 0

Maddox Hankinson kicked field goals of 42 and 36 yards to provide the difference on the scoreboard and give the Patriots their first win of the season. Hankinson also did his part in pinning Laney deep in their own territory several times, recording a touchback on all three of his kick off's, and also booting a 50 yard punt.

The other necessary ingredient in Westside's winning its region opener despite failing to cross the goal line for the second time in two games this season was a defense that, in coach Jon Wiley's words, is "stacked with ball players." The unit hasn't given up a touchdown in eight quarters against Richmond and Laney, and it can boast of these accomplishments in Friday's game:

  • 7 forced turnovers (4 fumbles, 2 interceptions, 1 on downs)
  • Allowed only 134 yards on 50 snaps (a large snap count due to Westside's struggles on offense)
  • Recorded 14 tackles for a loss
  • Recorded 4 sacks while forcing Laney into completing only 4 of 20 passes

Harlem 35, Glenn Hills 0

Junior phenom Cameron Garnett was 100% for an entire game for the first time this season, and the statistics for both his team and himself reflected that fact. According to the Augusta Chronicle's Will Cheney, Garnett rushed for two touchdowns and 152 yards on 20 carries. Sophomore Jeremiah Ellis also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in region play.

Jefferson County at Butler (Monday, 6:00 P.M.)

Follow the @AugBball social media timeline for video highlights and updates from this special "Monday night football" game that was rescheduled because of Friday's weather troubles. Both teams enter the contest 0-2, but Jefferson County's losses came to a pair of top 10 teams in Swainsboro and Washington County. The Warriors also started last season with a pair of losses against the same two teams before they ran off 10 straight wins to claim a region title and advance to the class 2A state playoff quarterfinal round.

More Week 4 Results

Besides unbeaten and unchallenged Barnwell, no area team is hotter right now than Strom Thurmond (3-1), which blitzed Midland Valley 40-0 last night for its third straight victory over a local class 4A team. Thurmond is the defending champion of its 3A region. The Rebels will visit Emerald next Friday.

Silver Bluff 42, Denmark-Olar 14 

Grovetown 13, Richmond 7 

Jose Taylor scored on a 71 yard touchdown run and Kori Bryant also rushed for a touchdown from a yard out.

Fox Creek 20, McCormick 14 - OT

Augusta Christian 19, Cardinal Newman 14