By Jessica Blomquist
The Morgan County summer league junior varsity and varsity teams will be playing at the 4th annual North Oconee Summer Shootout in Watkinsville this weekend, from Thursday, June 12 through Sunday, June 15.
The tournament will host 42 teams from 1-A to 5-A at five locations: North Oconee High School, Oconee County High School, Prince Avenue Christian School, Clarke Central High School, and at Smith Field.
Varsity Coach Brandon Patch, Junior Varsity Coach Josh Reeves, and assistant coaches Matt Montgomery, Jerry McCullough, Mike McSherrey, and Rob Brown will accompany the teams to Watkinsville.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Patch.
The varsity team will be matched up with teams from Monroe Area High School, Oglethorpe High School, Hebron Christian Academy from Dacula, and West Forsyth High School.
The junior varsity team will also be matched up with schools, including Jefferson High School and Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School from Athens. “It’s usually a real good tournament with good competition,” said Patch.
The nearby location is also convenient for the team. “With gas prices the way they are, we don’t have to travel far,” said Patch.
Though there is no championship game of the tournament, Patch said the main purposes of the event are to evaluate players’ performances, catch a glimpse of what next year’s team will be like, and practice for the regular season.
The majority of the players from the regular season take part in the summer league. “It’s not a requirement,” said Patch. “But most of them do it because they want to get better.”
Hard work, dedication mark career
By Greg Sullivan
At the recreation level, the summer season has long been known for baseball and softball. The two sports seem to dominate the months of June and July.
For Morgan County children, though, there are some other recreation options. They come in the form of camps. And camps are big here.
"They enable us to reach out to the youth in the community," said Morgan County Parks and Recreation Department Program Director Andy Dunston. "They help us provide options for the kids."
This summer's camps cover the usual suspects, baseball and softball. There are also soccer and tennis camps.
The county is bringing in some familiar faces to lead the camps. Local baseball coach Mike McSherry is running the baseball camp that starts the first week of June. Morgan County High School Head Softball Coach Anne Stamps and her Lady Dogs are heading the softball camp that starts June 9. Tennis camp, led by Randy Bryant, starts June 16. Coach Jamie Williams will start her soccer camp on June 23.
"All of our instructors are of the highest quality," Dunston said. "And we are honored to have all of them."
All of the camps this summer will be held in Madison. This year's baseball camp is taking place at Municipal Park and the tennis camp will take place at the tennis complex across from Morgan County High School. Both the softball and soccer camps will be held at Heritage Park.
Dunston said that the Recreation Department will be taking sign-ups until the start of the camps.
The tennis camp only has room for the first 20 athletes that sign up. Soccer, baseball and softball camps can take as many athletes as are interested.
For more information on this summer's camps contact the Morgan County Parks and Recreation Department at 706.342.0588.
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."