By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
The Morgan County faithful turned out by the hundreds on a beautiful, sunny 73 degree day with dogwoods in full bloom to cheer and thank four state champions. The parade started at MCHS and wound its way through Madison streets onto the town square with the streets lined to the max with supporters. The teams landed at Town Square with more fans cheering and awaiting their arrival for the proceedings to follow. Music and cheerleaders welcomed the team before Principal Dr. Jim Malanowski began the event. He said, “Thanks to all the players, coaches, wives, parents, relatives, and to this great community for supporting these teams this year. It’s all meaningless if we aren’t there to give them a feeling of community. One Morgan!” Superintendent Dr. James Woodard came up as the state basketball state championship teams entered the stage. His comments were, “I want to thank all these teams; boys and girls basketball teams, wrestler Jody McAlister, and Nate’s 11-12 year old basketball squad for bringing home state championships. These are great student-athletes and we appreciate the community coming out tonight. We had a lot of people at Macon. We also had a lot of effort by our players, parents, administration, teachers, and coaches.
A really big congratulation goes out to all these players. It’s a special night with Dr. Mal’s retirement and his leadership of these students and where they are.” Girls’ coach Josh Reeves was next at the podium with Mayor Fred Perriman. Here’s what the mayor had to say, “On behalf of Madison and the City Council we would like to congratulate and recognize our girl’s team. One Madison-One Morgan. We are excited to have not one, but two state trophies. Way to go!” Reeves commented, “Let’s give the Lady Dogs a big hand. They worked to the bone since November to achieve this. They have to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas break, and have really paid the price. We hope to bring home many more. Love y’all. Thanks so much. The boys came onstage with Coach Jamond Sims, and Mayor Perriman was there to be the first to congratulate them. He said, “It’s not often that the mayor gets to hold up a trophy and say congratulations. I would like to thank Coach Sims and his team for bringing back the trophy to Madison. It’s unbelievable for our school, city, and county. Man, hard work pays off. It was a job well done.” Sims stepped to the microphone with these words, “It’s been a long season, but I want to thank our fans first. The guys are ready to work and get back to the task for next year already. It takes so many people to make something like this happen. The coaches, players, parents, the coaches’ wives and children, administration, teachers, and staff all played a part in this. Go Dogs!” Lead assistant gave an emotional thank you to his Mom and wife for their role in his career and the success of the team, “We brought home two trophies in three years after 10 years of hard work. Thank y’all!” Both teams were presented with a proclamation by Perriman at the end of the ceremony.
Retiring Athletic Director Steve Cisson summed it all up, “I would like to thank the Morgan County Citizen for providing us 100 plus newspapers for the players to sign and these big poster boards for all the players to sign. Both of these teams played team ball. They showed talent, a great work ethic, great poise, and heart and had great coaching. At Macon our fans really impressed GPTV Channel eight. Every time we needed a lift our fans would rise up and give the team some energy. You deserve a lot of credit.” Georgia has a long lineage of great basketball players, coaches, and teams. However, since records were kept, there have only been 17 non-metro high schools that have claimed the honor of having both a boys’ and girls’ state basketball champion in the same year. The last time it happened was in 1987 by Clinch County. The Dogs and Lady Dogs just made it 18. There are plenty more historical takes on this once-in-a-lifetime season for the MOCO fans. It’s the first state championship for Morgan’s girls since 1983 when Coach Steve Cisson took that team to the Promised Land. Also, after losing 14 seniors going into their freshman year, most of these freshmen were thrust into starting roles probably before they were ready. That experience has paid off for them as each year Coach Josh Reeves has nurtured that young team into a group of winners that got better and better over that four year span.
The Lady Dogs have been on the AAA contenders’ map for some time, but this was their year going 28-3 after a 3-3 start and winning the finals 68-61. Morgan did not lose a game after taking those three losses in Ohio and vowed not to be just another team. Girls, you made us all proud. Over the past several years both Coach Charlemagne Gibbons and now Jamond Sims have built a program that is highly thought of on the state level each season. They’ve won five straight region championships and been in the state finals the past three, winning in 2014 and 2016. Many fans worried about the loss of all-time MCHS leading scorer Tookie Brown, but this team was senior-laden, deep off the bench, and highly experienced. The only other two Morgan teams that played for a state title were the 1986 and 1990 teams coached by Donald Harris, but neither of those teams could get over the hump to claim the trophy. This year’s squad finished 26-4 and faced a team in the Jenkins Savannah Warriors that they were very familiar with. Jenkins defeated Morgan by two points a year ago in the state finals to keep the Dogs from a three-peat.
The final score in this one was 66-56. Assistant wrestling coach Dusty Sidwell was up next with State Championship wrestler, Jody McAlister. Sidwell commented, “It’s been a phenomenal evening. A lot of our programs have multiple banners hanging in the gym and have been highly successful. It’s all about hard work, selflessness, and overcoming challenges and that is certainly true about Jody. He defeated a three-time state champion who was looking to make it four in a row. It would have been only the 33rd time a four-time champion could have emerged. Jody took him down to become the 138 pound AAA State Champion as a junior.” McAlister added, “It takes lots of dedication and the right mindset to win a State Championship. My brothers (teammates) pushed each other every single day at practice and chanted ‘State Champs-State Champs’ every day before practice. It was a motivating factor. I would like to thank my coaches, Mom and Dad (Jennifer and Joshua McAlister), my older brother Jacob and younger brother Joshua for all their support. The parade was a great thing that I truly enjoyed. That’s what we work and strive for. It’s great to celebrate with everybody and the community that supported me through all the adversity I encountered. Wrestling and sports teaches you responsibility, accountability, and how to be a man. It’s the best memories of your life.”
According to Head Coach John Robbins, “Jody is our sixth state wrestling champion since 2010, and the first non-senior to win since Jacob Akins won his first as a junior in 2010 (AAA 119 lbs). This year was also the first time that we have had three finalists since 2004 (McAlister, Antonio Robinson, and Dmonta Wright). Morgan wrestlers have made a habit of being in the finals, which has raised the expectations of every wrestler in our practice room, and in turn elevated our program to where it is today.” The final congratulations for a Morgan County team on the night went to our MCRD 11-12 year old basketball team that also captured a state title last week. Long-time community volunteer Nate Williams introduced his team and thanked them for their hard work.