By R. Alan Richardson
It’s that time. The Morgan County Bulldogs and Lady Dogs will tipoff their basketball season this week with a girls’ scrimmage game Nov. 7 and the season opener Nov. 9. Coach Timothy Roop’s team will get their feet wet against an always stout Madison County squad Thursday at 6:00. The boys won’t have the advantage of a preseason scrimmage, but will be tested right out of the gate by the neighboring Newton Rams Saturday. Newton is always tough and this year should be no different.
One big difference for the Rams will be the addition of first-year head coach Charlemagne Gibbons. He replaces Rick Rasmussen who had a tremendous run over the past decade at the tradition-rich basketball school. Rasmussen took a new position at North Oconee, and Gibbons was the pick as his replacement. Gibbons is no stranger around these parts. He brought home the first State Basketball Championship in Morgan County boys’ history in 2014 before departing for the college game. He spent last season as the head coach at Starr’s Mill, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to coach the Rams. He told us, “As far as my thoughts on this weekend. I would expect it to be a great atmosphere because of the success that both programs have enjoyed over the years. For me personally it’s great to get to come back to a place that is home for my kids and where I was able to start something special. I’ll be glad to see so many people that supported our program during the time I was there. I’m not a super emotional person, but I’m sure I’ll feel some butterflies once we get close to game time. As far as basketball it should be a great game. Coach Sims will have his troops ready. People may not be familiar with the names of the new players ready to step in and continue the success that both Newton and Morgan have had, but rest assured there will be a lot of talent on the floor. I told the paper here that this should be fun! ‘The Battle on I-20.’ I can honestly say it’s a great feeling to know the work that we have done has brought basketball to a different level in these communities!”
Newton’s girls are also a perennial powerhouse in AAAAAAA. Long-time head coach Tiffany Johnson has the program set to make deep playoff runs year after year. Both teams will have their work cut out for them.
Over the past two seasons the two schools have rekindled the old rivalry with Newton getting the first win in 2017-18 by defeating the Dogs at home in one of the most highly attended games in recent memory. Packed house. Morgan took revenge a season ago with a win on the road in Covington that turned out to be an all-out war. Our girls have yet to get a win over their bigger opponent, but have given the Lady Rams their money’s worth in two competitive games.
Coach Jamond Sims was excited about the opener. He said, “We are looking forward to kicking off the season at home on Saturday. The guys are eager to get the chance to compete against some fresh faces. The returning varsity members have done a good job at keeping the team focused on one play at a time. The schedule of competition for the season is consistent with the level of play the program is accustomed to facing. It’s been great to watch new faces embrace different roles for the team.”
When asked about the Gibbons connection to Morgan County basketball history, Sims noted, “Actually, the guys haven’t mentioned the Gibbons storyline. With us losing out on a preseason contest with Madison County, this is essentially our scrimmage game. The focus has been on getting ready for Region play.”
Saturday’s regular season opener at home will begin at 2:30 with JV girls followed by JV boys at 4:00. The girls’ varsity matchup will tip off at 5:30 p.m. with the boys to follow.