By Greg Sullivan
The boys of summer hit the base paths again Wednesday. Thursday they will let the Gladiators into the arena as the Diamond Dogs host their first summer baseball game in some years when Clarke Central comes calling for a varsity double header.
The Gladiators topped Morgan County 11-10 in a back-and-forth contest in the recent varsity baseball season. Thursday's summer ball double header represents an opportunity for redemption for the Dogs.
"I know our guys will be excited to see them again," said Diamond Dogs Head Coach Brandon Patch. "It's a chance to redeem ourselves for the last time."
Game one Thursday afternoon is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch in Madison.
This week's games, including Thursday's double header and Wednesday's games at Banks County, are just the beginning for the team.
Much of their summer schedule is composed of tournament action, but Patch said he expects the varsity team to play about 19 games in June. The JV team, he said, will likely play about 13 games.
Patch said he expects these summer games to provide crucial game experience for his team.
"We use summer ball as a time we can look at kids in different positions," Patch said. "It really helps our pitchers to get that time on the mound."
Aside from returning players, the season also allows Patch to bring in rising freshmen to see some playing time.
One issue the team will face starting this summer is replacing their seven seniors.
"There'll definitely be some slots to fill," Patch said. "We're going to count on some young guys to really contribute this year. I'm really interested to see what they can do."
By Greg Sullivan
As one school year ends thoughts then turn to the next one. Students and teachers move on and changes are made, accordingly.
One era at Morgan County Middle School, a particularly bright one, represents another such change. Coming to a close is the Coach Mike House era of Lady Pups basketball, with House having enjoyed one of the more dominant tenures in recent Morgan County memory.
After two undefeated seasons, two conference tournament championships and big win after big win in his two years, House opted to pursue what had been his goal for some time—high school head coaching. He found his opportunity at Cedar Shoals High School, just down the road from his home in Athens, where he will be girls head basketball coach next season.
"I'm excited. I've already met with the girls," House said of his new team, the Class AAAA Lady Jaguars. "They're truly behind the basketball program just as they are here in Morgan County."
"I anticipate on bringing in the same type of style. Going 31-0 and having that success here…There's an old saying that goes you don't fix what's not broken."
The hard part, House said, is having to leave so many of his former players behind.
"I'm going to miss the 23 girls I was able to coach," House said. "They did well on and off the court and gave me everything they had for two years."
House also praised others within the school and community whom he said helped to make his Lady Pups teams so successful.
"I'd like to thank all our basketball supporters, administrators, family members and everyone here at Morgan County...and all the community members who so actively supported us."
By Greg Sullivan
The first thing Bulldogs Head Coach Bill Malone brought up when asked for his impression of Friday's spring scrimmage was the play of rising sophomore quarterback J.D. Hawkins.
"He put the ball on the money every time he threw it," Malone said of the upstart youngster. "With John Dustin's performance, I believe we've found two quarterbacks."
Going into the preseason, everyone knew that Morgan County had at least one legitimate quarterback on their roster. Rising junior Terence Harper took the vast majority of the snaps last season and proved he has what it takes to lead a competitive team.
With Harper at the helm in 2007, the Bulldogs appeared in the Class AA state playoffs and won the 8-AA South sub-region. In addition, Harper led the team to a fourth quarter come-from-behind win at rival Greene County.
Harper, however, was forced to watch Friday's scrimmage game from the sideline with a separated shoulder while Hawkins saw the majority of the action, turning the heads of the team's coaching staff.
Malone makes it clear that he doesn't see any possible quarterback controversy with the apparent emergence of Hawkins. Rather, he said he envisions a platoon situation that he expects to benefit his team.
His players, Malone said, will be expected to handle however coaches choose to deal with the quarterback position as it fits into the team’s offense.
"Right now I would be furious if anyone would suggest there is a quarterback controversy," Malone said. "[The players] want the best player out there and they trust us to make that decision."
By Greg Sullivan
Although it's not as much about bragging rights as it is about giving players some motivation throughout their two week spring season, there were still more than a few hard hits to go around Friday night in Madison.
The two teams looked about as evenly matched as any two teams could, these two versions of the Morgan County Bulldogs, the Red team and their alter-ego the White team. To add to their evenness, both teams shared the same quarterback, J.D. Hawkins, who was forced to don a black shirt as all-time quarterback, with scheduled Red team quarterback Terence Harper being sidelined with a separated shoulder.
Friday's game was competitive. For the record, the White team took the win holding on to a 6-0 decision in the short scrimmage.
"I thought both teams got after each other pretty good," said Bulldogs Defensive Coordinator and White team coach Clint Jenkins. "It was fun."
Offensive Coordinator and Red team coach John Robbins said he thought both halves of the squad got a lot out of the scrimmage.
"It turned out to be a high energy game with a lot of good football--just what we needed to bring spring practice to a close and leave a positive thought on our players' minds heading into summer workouts," Robbins said.
The game's only score came when J.D. Hawkins launched a fourth down pass into the corner of the endzone to Caleb Duvall for a touchdown to put the White team ahead.
The Red team nearly even things up later driving down near the goal line only to have their drive thwarted by a Desmond Williams interception in the end zone.
Bulldogs Head Coach Bill Malone watched Friday's scrimmage perched atop the press box clinging to a video camera.
By Greg Sullivan
Four Morgan County Diamond Dogs were selected for this year's Region 8-AA All-Region Team as chosen by coaches throughout the region, and two Dogs were picked as first team members.
Local players selected as first team all-region members were pitcher Caleb Duvall and first baseman Bobby Patrick. Shortstop Clay Duvall was named second team all-region and catcher and outfielder Tyler Ward was named honorable mention all-region.
"I'm extremely proud of them," said Diamond Dogs Head Coach Brandon Patch of his honored players. "Their hard work has really paid off."
Sophomore Caleb Duvall was one of just five pitchers selected to the first team all-region team. He finished the year with a 5-1 record, a 2.56 ERA and 43 strike outs.
"With Caleb being a sophomore, I was impressed with that," Patch said.
Patrick had a homer and 25 RBI on the year posting a .403 batting average to cap off a solid senior season.
"He was one of our hottest hitters," Patch said. "He hit well over .500 the last half of the season. He was outstanding on defense and was a steady batter."
Patrick will continue his career at Andrew College next season.
Clay Duvall had a big junior season, leading the Dogs in several offensive categories. Duvall led the team with a .424 average, 36 hits, 26 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
"Clay was probably our most consistent hitter," Patch said. "We'll look forward to having him and Caleb back next year."
Patch called Tyler Ward one of his team's senior leaders.
"He does things that don't typically show up in the box score," Patch said.
Ward played through injuries, bunted and ran the bases well.
By Greg Sullivan
Several Mat Dogs were awarded at Monday night’s year end awards banquet at Tequila Express in Madison.
Team captain Austin Sharp was presented the Outstanding Wrestler Award, the Coach’s Award went to fellow captain Kody Vaughters, state runner-up Nick Childers was recognized as 2008 MVP, the Academic Award was presented to Tyler Jensen and Jacon Akins and Wes East received the award for most falls with 40 on the season.
“This is the most talented team I’ve ever coached,” said Robbins, who handed out Monday’s awards.
Receiving senior plaques were Nick Childers who went 46-6 on the year, Vaughters who was 42-9, Sharp at 45-3, East at 45-5 and Jensen who had six varsity wins in his first season with the team.
Third year lettermen received letterman jackets. Those lettermen included Zach Yost who went 40-17 this past season, wrestling assistant Ashley Palmer and wrestling assistant Arianne Gautier.
Second year letterment were Ryan Childers who went 20-16 for the season, Kyle Palmer who had 16 varsity wins and Stiara Mathis who picked up four wins.
First year participants were also recognized at the banquet.
Those wrestlers included Jacob Akins, Dusty Mines, Mack McKenzie, Jared Rector, Chris Hunsucker, Brandon Rivers, Howard Childers and Robert Hutchison.