A Look Back At Sports In 2022
By Mike Branch Sports Editor [email protected] Contributions from Local High Schools and Coaches
It was a big year for local sports in 2022. From Area and Region Championships to State Titles, local athletes showed that they are some of the best in the state. These are some of the top stories from 2022 in chronological order.
It was a big year for both Vidalia and Toombs County high school in wrestling. The Vidalia High School wrestlers claimed the Area Dual Championship with a 4-0 run in the tournament. They had four wrestlers go undefeated on the day, Gabriel Hightower, Tommy Walker, Javarius Worthen, and Hunter Manning.
At the State Traditional Tournament, the Indians sent seven wrestlers and two alternates to Macon. Three Indians placed in the State Championships with Hunter Manning earning his second straight State Championship.
Manning wrestled at 160lbs. for VHS. He didn’t have to wrestle until the quarterfinals and in that first match he won by an 8-1 decision. In the semifinals Manning defeated Brady Guild of Union County by a major decision, 14-5. Then in the finals of the tournament Manning beat Corbin Davenport of Fannin County by a 7-1 decision to win the State Championship.
TCHS Toombs County High School hosted the Area 2 Traditional Wresting Tournament and came away as the Area Champions with six individual champions.
Kameron Clark, Samuel Register, Davin Johnson, Tank Morris, Wil Watts, and Brock Nobles all won Area Titles for the Bulldogs.
Basketball RTCA It was also a good year for local basketball teams. RTCA had the biggest year for local teams as they came away as the GISA State Runner-up for the second year in a row.
In the Region Tournament the Crusaders picked up an easy win over First Preparatory Christian Academy by the score of 70-39 to advance to the Championship Game.
In the Title Game RTCA took on Twiggs Academy and rolled to the title. RTCA won the game 65-30 over the Trojans.
The Lady Crusaders also won the Region Championship in a game against Twiggs Academy. RTCA jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter and rolled to a 55-13 win.
The Crusader boys finished as the State Runner-up for the second year in a row to the Lions of Solid Rock Academy. The Crusaders won a big game in the Final 4 against Terrell Academy where they had to make a late comeback, but in the Championship Game the Lions were just too much with their size, including two players over seven foot tall.
RTCA played hard all game but were outmanned by the height of the Lions. With six players over 6’5” including two over 7’ tall, the Crusaders had a lot to deal with in this game.
RTCA kept playing hard, but just did not have an answer. The final score of the game was 85-53 with Solid Rock taking the Championship.
The Indians of Vidalia High School won the Region Championship. The #5 ranked Indians defeated Jeff Davis and Woodville-Tompkins in the Region 2AA Tournament held at VHS to claim the title. Woodville closed the title game to 54-46 with just a few minutes to go but VHS held them of to take the win, 56-48.
VHS made it to the Elite 8 before falling to Northeast of Macon by the score of 67-53.
The Lady Eagles of Montgomery County High School had one of the best year’s in school history as they only had two losses in the regular season and finished the year with a record of 25-3, and a trip to the Elite 8.
The Lady Eagles were ranked as the #1 team in the state, and they showed why as they brought home the Region Championship with wins over Wilcox County and Dublin in the Region Tournament.
MCHS won over Wilcox by the score of 74-25 and then beat Dublin 46-26 to claim the Region Title.
In the first round of the playoffs MCHS defeated Brooks County 63-26 and then won over Trion in the second continued from page
round, 52-36. MCHS got upset in the Elite 8 by Hancock Central. The Eagles had a tough second quarter that led to the close 5856 loss. Hancock went on to take second place to Lake Oconee in the title game.
In their first year of appearing in the GHSA Game Day Cheer Championships, the Vidalia High School Indians brought home the gold, as Vidalia won the A/AA State Championship in Macon on Saturday.
The Championship, the third State Championship in six years for the Vidalia Cheer Team, solidifies Vidalia as one of the top programs in the state, and Head Coach Ann Michelle Toole said, “We are so proud of the team’s growth this season and we are ecstatic with the outcome.”
The Vidalia team was one of 17 teams in the A/ AA division heading into the competition, with the top 9 advancing to the Finals Saturday afternoon. Vidalia qualified in 2nd place with a score of 196.35, 7.1 points behind Commerce after qualifying. “We felt really good about our Preliminary performance, which is what earned us a spot in Finals,” added Toole.
Two local baseball teams brought home State Championships in 2022 with Vidalia High and Heritage Academy winning titles.
The Indians won their first State Championship since 2003 with an epic three-game Championship Series against Thomasville. The Indians were 30-11 on the year and went undefeated in Region with a record of 15-0 to take the Region Championship.
In the playoffs VHS swept Putnam County in the first round, Banks County in the second round, and Callaway in the third round. That set up VHS to take on Lovett in the Final 4.
The Vidalia Indians hosted the Lovett Lions in a double header State Semi-Final series at Greg James Field on Monday, May 16. The two teams split a pair of games with the Lions taking Game 1with a 4-1 score and the Indians taking Game 2 by a 5-3 score. In Game 3 of the series VHS took a tough fought win 5-4 over the Lions to move on to the Championship Series. continued from page
It took three games to decide the State Championship, but the Indians pulled it off in dramatic fashion on Wednesday, May 25, as “Comeback Kid” Kevin Cox threw a complete game two-hitter to secure the State Championship for the Indians in Game 3. The Vidalia Indians and Thomasville Bulldogs met on Tuesday morning, May 24, at J.I. Clements Field on the Georgia Southern campus starting at 10:00 a.m., due to a rain out from the night before. This was a best-of-three series to determine the AA State Champions for 2022. The two teams split a double header with Vidalia taking Game 1 by a 14-4 score in five innings and Thomasville taking Game 2 by a 10-3 score in seven innings.
That forced a Game 3 on Wednesday back at GSU. The Indians prevailed in the exciting game by a score of 7-0 to win their first State Baseball Championship since 2003. Cox struck out all three batters in the seventh inning to secure the win for VHS. The Indi-ans completed the season with a 30-11 record.
That State Championship for VHS was also a fitting ending for local broadcasting legend John Koon. He wrapped up his career with the final calls at Georgia Southern as the Indians won the State Title before making his way onto the field to celebrate the championship with the Indians baseball team, going out on top.
VHA The Eagles of Vidalia Heritage Academy also brought home the State Championship in baseball. Heritage finished their season with a record of 22-3 and were 7-0 in Region play. It was just the fourth season of varsity baseball for VHA.
Heritage won their second straight Region Championship with wins over Nathanael Greene, 14-20 and 22-0, and Habersham, 11-0 and 172. That moved them into the State Playoffs.
In the playoffs VHA swept Covington Academy 15-0 and 14-1 in the first round and then won over Flint River, 14-1 and 10-1, to advance to the State Championship against Praise Academy.
The Eagles baseball team of Vidalia Heritage Academy are the State Champions. In just their fourth season of varsity baseball, VHA claimed their first GAPPS State A Title. Last year Heritage fell in the Championship Game to Habersham, but this year they took care of business as they swept the Lions of Praise Academy in the finals in Powder Springs, GA.
VHA picked up a win in the first game of the Championship Series, 5-2, and then rolled to an 8-1 win in the second game to bring home the State Title.
VHA Head Coach Seth Sitzman said, “This is just so fun. Up here north of Atlanta, playing for the State Championship, wow, just a blast. These kids knew what they wanted after getting second last year, and they worked so hard to make this happen. They have put in the time, and it has paid off. We just buckled down and just did what they needed. This is all about these kids, it is just a beautiful thing.
“I have to give a lot of thanks to all the coaches and everyone at Heritage, a special thanks to my wife for all of the help that she gives me all season, and to all of the fans that come out and support these kids. State Champions…It just sounds good!”
The Robert Toombs Christian Academy baseball team earned the Region Championship. The Crusaders went 6-0 in Region play to bring home the title. They went into the playoffs as the #1 seed, but were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Piedmont Academy.
State Track Championships were brought home by Montgomery County and Robert Toombs this year with both also having a State Runner-up finish. VHS came out of nowhere last season as their boys brought home second place in what was nearly a huge upset.
The Eagles boys track team came home as the State Champions. Montgomery County High School Eagles track & field teams had a solid showing at the GHSA State A Track & Field continued from page
Championships at Hugh Mills Stadium. The boys brought home the State Championship, and the girls came away as the State Runners-up. Xavier Brantley was the High Point Athlete for the boys State Meet and Marly Bell was the High Point Athlete for the girls State Meet.
Robert Toombs Christian Academy’s varsity boys and girls track teams competed at the GISA State Meet hosted by Strong Rock Christian Academy. The varsity girls fell short at State but finished strong with a State Runner Up trophy. The varsity boys put together three solid days to bring home the AA State Championship by one point.
The Crusaders were down by two points going into the 200m and senior Jackson Newton and sophomore Aaron Hankerson took home first and third place, which pushed the Crusaders to a five-point lead going into the last race. The Crusaders had to finish fifth place or higher to claim the State Championship, and they did just that.
Head Track Coach, Jacob Wilkinson, said, “Any time you can leave a meet with two trophies and compete the way we did, you can’t help but not be proud of these athletes. The majority of these athletes play other spring sports, but here at State you could see their drive and determination to get that trophy. I love our school and students, and I am so proud to finish the season with a State Championship and Runner Up.”
At the beginning of the season, the Vidalia High School Boys Track Team was projected to finish 10th in AA by MileSplit. But two months and a Region Championship later, the Indians just about pulled off one of the great upsets in GHSA Track history. Down just three points heading into the last event of the GHSA State Track Meet, the In-dians needed to finish no lower than second place in the 4x400m. Unfortunately, the Indians fell short and ended the meet and the year in second place, nine points behind Pace Academy. The Vidalia Girls also had a good showing in the State Meet finishing fifth.
“The team motto this season was ¨Be Transformed,” and that is just what they did in every single event!” Said Vidalia Head Coach Mandy Godbee. “This team thrives on competition, and they were so hungry for a championship. They fought hard and were in the lead for the entire meet, up until the next to the last event. Pace had three guys place in the 3,200m, and we just could not overcome their accumulation of points in that one event.”
Past players and friends of former Toombs County Coach and Athletic Director Jacky Jones gathered at the monthly Toombs County Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 9, where Jones was honored by Board members and Superintendent Barry Waller.
The longtime coach of football, baseball and girls’ basketball, was presented a memorial home plate from the Jacky Jones Baseball Stadium, which was demolished in 2020 to help increase parking space at Booster Stadium. Waller also announced to Jones that there would also be a plaque placed in the exact coordinates of the location of home plate at the former field.
“Our Board has mentioned a couple times lately they wished to honor a very special and beloved person in our community, who has been very special to our school system as well for many, many years, and tonight we get to do that,” Waller told attendees.
The banner that hung on the scoreboard at the old field was also presented to Jones. A bronze commemorative home plate will be placed in the exact coordinates of the home plate at the former field. The plate will be inscribed with a brief history of the Jacky Jones Field from 19652020.
Following these announcements, Waller surprised Jones by having the Board members vote on a motion to rename the field at Booster Stadium, which was unanimously passed. The field will now be known as Jacky Jones Field at Booster Stadium.
Three youth teams from Vidalia and Lyons claimed Georgia Recreation and Parks Association Championships over the summer.
The Lyons Recreation Department 8U boys baseball team fought their way through the losers’ bracket to bring home the State Championship.
Lyons had to beat the undefeated Camden team twice to win the title, and they did just that. Lyons easily won the first game 16-4 to force a Game 2. In that second game Lyons came out on top 10-4, to win the State Championship.
The LRD 10U girls’ softball team claimed the State Championship in Moultrie in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association tournament. They went undefeated in the tournament to bring home the title.
In the semifinals of the losers’ bracket Swainsboro squeaked by Murray County, 13-12, to advance to take on Lyons in the Championship. The title game was another close one, but the girls from Lyons took a one-run win over Swainsboro. Lyons won the game 14-13 to earn their State Championship.
The Vidalia Recreation Department’s 12U baseball team brought home the State Championship in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association tournament held in Statesboro. The VRD went undefeated in the tournament to claim their title.
VRD was in the semifinals where they met up with Wayne County. This was the closest game of the tournament for the VRD boys, but they still won by five runs. Vidalia took the win 10-5 over Wayne to move into the Championship Game.
Wayne County worked back through the losers’ bracket to get the rematch with Vidalia, but in this game VRD blanked Wayne as they won 8-0 to take the title.
The Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby was in Akron, OH, in July for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships. More than 300 boys and girls from across the country participated in the 84th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron for the chance to win $36,000 in college scholarships.
The Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby got to add another World Champion to their totals as Cash Driggers of Tarrytown raced his way into the winners circle of the Masters Division Rally Race. Driggers beat out Ronan Johnson of Camano Island, WA, by .075 seconds and Chris Kovach of Meriden, CT, by .09. Alyssa Head of Lyons also took sixth place in the race.
Aidyn Driggers had a great showing as she earned another second place finish in the World Championships. She had taken second in the Rally Super Stock Division last year, and this year she was second in the Local Super Stock Division. Eleni Fishcher of Columbus, OH, was the winner of the race with Driggers in second, and Garret Minch of Cleveland, OH, in third. Driggers also took third place in the All-Star Super Stock Race.
It has been a big year for the TCHS Bulldogs Esports team as they have claimed some huge wins and worked their way up to the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the State.
Fall 2022 marks the third season of Splatoon competition for PlayVS affiliated esports leagues. During this span, no one has ever beaten the Northview Titans. The Titans have won the last two PlayVS Eastern League Championships, which include schools from the entire eastern half of the United States, and have never dropped a game in the entire history of their Splatoon program. This impressive run came to an end in Octrober as the Toombs County High School Bulldogs snapped the Titans’ streak and extended their own win streak to 13 games.
The Bulldogs came into Tuesday’s match undefeated and enjoying an 11-game win streak stretching back into the preseason. The team, led by seniors Adam Copeland and Tyler James, managed to take three rounds off the Titans, winning the best of three series. Toombs finished the regular season undefeated.
RTCA Cheer The RTCA competition cheer squad earned the GIAA State Championship. GIAA, like for-
The RTCA Competition Cheerleaders – (L to R, Front): Addie Thompson (12th), Brittan Botelho (12th), Mary Claire Wolfe (12th), Nicole Acosta (12th), Marly Dismuke (11th), Rachel Threlkeld (11th), and Carolina Thompson (11th); (Back): Evi White (10th), Maggie Bowen (8th), Marlie Dismuke (9th), Emmie Davis (11th), Kylie Acosta (10th), Kailen Brantley (8th), Madaline Wolfe (9th), and Maecon Boatright (8th).
VRD 8U Soccer State Champions – (L to R, Front): Blaze Boston, Gabriel Strickland, Jese Cervantes, Freddy Fondren, Karson Tanner, Brody Boston; (Middle): Bryson Taylor, Landon Brownlee, Levi Carabollo, Solomon Johnson, Jaxson Snead, Brock Page; (Back): Coaches Justin Russell, Freddy Fondren, and Brandon Boston continued from page
mer GISA and CoEd GHSA, does not separate cheer teams into divisions based on school rankings or school class. RTCA would compete as the only single A school of nineteen that would include AA, AAA, AAAA and CoEd.
The GIAA 2022 State Championship was held at Columbus State in Columbus, GA on Saturday, November 12. The event began at 1:10pm and the Lady Crusaders were scheduled to be the sixth team to compete at 1:52 pm.
As the team exited the floor and took their seats, they worried and waited while watching the next eight teams compete. When the runner up was named, the teams, families, coaches and RT supporters in the crowd held their breath as the emcee announced, “Ladies and gentleman, your Champions and First place goes to Robert Toombs Christian Academy.” And history was made for RTCA on November 12 by a team who overcame many obstacles at the beginning of their season to end their season as State Champions.
The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Crusaders football team claimed the Region Championship last Thursday night against the Matadors of Memorial Day. It was the Crusaders first Region Championship since 2016. RTCA was coming off an upset win over Thomas Jefferson the week before and just had to defeat the Matadors to earn the Region Championship. They did that in dominating fashion in a 43-6 blowout.
The big win was the one over Thomas Jefferson. TJ was undefeated coming into the game, and RTCA pulled off a 35-34 upset to put them in the driver’s seat in the Region.
With the Region Championship RTCA went into the playoffs with a bye. RTCA beat Fullington Academy in the Final 4 to advance to the Championship Game for a rematch with Thomas Jefferson.
The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Crusaders were in Macon on December 1, at Mercer University to play for the GIAA State A Football Championship. RTCA faced off with the Jaguars of Thomas Jefferson Academy. Earlier in the season RTCA had defeated TJ, 35-34, but on this day, it was all Jaguars as they took the State Championship over the Crusaders. TJ won the Championship Game 38-8 over RTCA to win the State Title.
The Eagles football team of Heritage Academy had a solid season as they went 9-2 on the year and were 3-1 in Region play. Heritage went into the playoffs and took on Fideles Christian in the first round. It was a high scoring game with a total of 141 points being scored. VHA won the game 80-61 to move into the second round.
VHA faced off with Unity Christian in the second round, and after losing their starting quarterback very early in the game, the Eagles struggled to get the offense going. They fell in the game 52-8 to end their season in the Final 4 of the State playoffs.
The Vidalia Recreation Department’s 8U boys’ soccer team played in the District Tournament in November. The boys came away as the District Champions, winning the title game by the score of 9-0. This was the first Championship ever for the Vidalia Recreation Department in this age group. They then competed in the State Co-Ed Soccer Tournament last weekend in Madison County. The 8U team worked their way through the bracket and came home as the new State Champions.
VRD fell to Madison County making for a tougher trip to the title. Madison took the game 4-3 in the first round of the tournament.
Vidalia then came back with a 5-3 win over Liberty County to begin play on Saturday. VRD then went on to defeat Grady County in a tough game that ended 7-6 in a shootout.
That set up VRD for a rematch with Madison County in the State Championship Game. The 8U VRD All-Stars won the rematch against Madison County to win the State Title. What a year it was for the VRD 8U Soccer All-Stars as they won the first ever Soccer District Championship and Soccer State Championship for the Vidalia Recreation Department.
As you can see, it was a big year for local athletics as they claimed several State, Region, and Area Titles. With the dedication to sports seen throughout our communities, we look forward to the next year in sports and many more titles to come.