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Rams football tops top-10 sports stories of 2013

COVINGTON — There has been a lot of highs and lows in the local sports scene in 2013 ranging from individual to team efforts.

1 - Newton sent shock waves in Georgia football with 15-14 win over Lowndes.

While the first win for head coach is special, Newton’s head coach Terrance Banks win went down in history as his Rams upset the AP Class AAAAAA No. 4 ranked Vikings on the road.

Leading 14-8, the Vikings tried to put the game out of reach with a field goal with a minute left in the game only to have the attempt blocked by Newton’s special team unit giving the offense the ball on the 35-yard line.

Newton sophomore quarterback Romario Johnson improved the Rams’ chances following a 34-yard run putting the ball deep in Vikings territory after a 15-yard penalty. The Rams had the ball inside of the 10-yard line before penalties and a couple of plays put Newton in a third and goal situation from the 18-yard line with enough time for one more play.

Johnson was able to find Davonta Jones in the endzone off a post route for the winning touchdown as time expired.

2 - Two grapplers take top spots on the mat

If having a state champion is nice having two is twice as nice.

Eastside’s Kevin Thompson won the 145 weight division in Class AAAA while Rockdale’s Alonzo Allen secured his championship medal at 106 in Class AAAAAA.

Thompson showed what perfection looked like going 64-0 for the season which culminated by pinning Carr’s Turner Martin in the championship bout in two minutes, 26 seconds.

Allen, who had a record of 42-4, found himself in a different situation than Thompson as he had a fight on his hands the entire three periods of his match against Roswell’s Brennan Ninesling. But in the end the results the same with his hand raised in victory after beating Ninesling 6-2.

3 - Three get gold in state track meet

Heritage’s Myles Hunter and Morgan Hubbard won gold in the Class AAAAA state track meet while Malik Franklin stood atop the Class AAAAAA podium for Newton.

Both of Heritage’s medals came in the hurdles with Hunter crossed the finish line in 14.71 seconds to win the boys 110-meter hurdles event as Hubbard won the girls 30o-hurdles with a time of 43.84 seconds.

Franklin was able to get his medal by winning the triple jump with a distance of 47-feet, 1.5 inches besting Tri-Cities Kenneth Fisher by a foot.

4 - Hurst becomes winningest coach in Newton County history

Eastside head football coach got off to a rocky start in 2005 going 0-10 putting the Eagles in a 24-game losing streak. But he belived in his players, coaches and himself. That belief help turn things around as Hurst broke 47-year record set by Milton McLaney in 1966. McLaney set a record getting of most wins by a head coach in Newton County getting 57 win over a 12-year span. Hurst broke that record in his ninth year of coaching with Eastside’s 28-12 win over Lumpkin County on Oct. 18 giving Hurst his 58th win of his career.

5 - Bulldogs send both cross country squads to state for the first time

It took some time, but for the first time in the school’s 60-year history Rockdale sent both squads to the state meet.

The Rockdale boys also had another first as they won its first ever region championship with the help of freshman Dax Willette’s first place finish to win the individual title. The Rockdale girls squad came in fourth place in the Region 2-AAAAAA make Rockdale school history.

6 - Both Salem basketball squads hosted state playoff games for the first time in the school’s 22-year history.

While the Salem girls rolled to a 72-40 victory over Paulding County, the boys fell to Allatoona 69-56. The girls would lose to Tucker three days later in the second round, but the Seminoles’ stay amongst the best of Region 8 seems secure, while the boy’s extended a school-record with their third consecutive state playoff appearance after never having played in the postseason before the 2010-2011 season.

The girls, led by Ayanna Mitchell, captured the Region 8-AAAAA championship by defeating three tournament foes - rival Heritage, Flowery Branch and finals opponent Clarke Central - by an average margin of more than 15 points. The boys handled Winder-Barrow and Loganville before coming up short in the region final (72-61 loss to Gainesville), but the pair of top-2 finishes set up a historic day at Salem.

7 - Rockdale football turns it around

The Rockdale football team closed the 2012 season with a Class AAAAAA postseason berth, though the Bulldogs went 3-7 in the regular season and squeaked into the postseason thanks to a fairly-weak Region 2.

That followed a two-year stretch where Rockdale went a combined 5-16 in 2010 and 2011, so despite the three-win regular season, even a first-round loss Langston Hughes and a 3-8 finish under first-year coach Venson Elder seemed like a step in the right direction.

The Bulldogs took it a step further in 2013.

It all started with a sweep of county rivals Salem and Heritage - the first time the Bulldogs had done that since 2008, also the last time it had defeated Heritage - and a 3-0 start a year after being out-scored 132-14 during an 0-4 first month.

“All the doubts are over. This is the new Rockdale,” Elder said after the Heritage win

Rockdale added an overtime victory over Newton in mid-October, and though the team barely missed the playoffs, its 6-4 season showed a five-win improvement after just two seasons.

8 - Heritage softball wins region for first time in 12 years

There have been plenty of fantastic seasons in the history of the Heritage softball program, but perhaps the 2013 campaign ranks as No. 1.

The Patriots finished unbeaten in eight regular season games in Region 8-AAAAA, then out-scored Winder-Barrow and Loganville 24-2 in three games to clinch the program’s first region crown since 2001.

Heritage had no trouble in a two-game sweep of Stephenson in the first round, then lost in two tight games to Pope in round two. After the state playoffs concluded, the Patriots’ wonderful season continued as Carri Wilkerson was named the Region 8 player of the year and Wilkerson and Georgia Southern signee Kierra Camp were each named to the all-state team.

9 - Rockdale volleyball advanced to state tournament for fifth-straight season

It was just another season complete with a state playoff appearance and region awards for the Rockdale volleyball team.

The Bulldogs were runner-up in Area 2-AAAAAA, qualifying for the state playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, and prior to the area final match against Norcross, several Rockdale players were honored.

University of Georgia commitment Majesti Bass was named the league’s player of the year, the third straight season Rockdale has had the league’s top player, while Abby Bradford, Alycia Johnson, Natheree Lackey and Nazzerine Waldon were named to the all-area first team.

10 - Mass exodus of Alcovy coaches

It was a rough time for Alcovy athletics as they lost almost half of their head coaches. While a few of the coaching changes were expected, like boys basketball and softball, the end of the school year opened the floodgates. Leaving for change of scenery were their baseball coach and girls basketball coach. Their head girls soccer coach also stepped down to take an assistant principal position.