HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS MAGAZINE
In This Issue:
Gentlemen Impact Players
Lady Impact Players
Ft. Pulaski: First Yankee Stadium
Lovdy Heller: A Life's Legacy
Vidalia High School
30 Junior Standout Brad Stewart
Benedictine Military School
34 Coach’s Corner Michael Thompson
Memorial Day School
40 Accident Recovery John Eck
Toombs County High School
22 Signing Day 2014 26 Dalton Sisters Katie & Jesse Dalton
Savannah Country Day School
20 Player Spotlight Miranda Weslake
Nicole Weller National PGA & LPGA Junior Instructor
Swainsboro High School
13 Sales Pinckney Sales Pinckney
18 Player Spotlight J.D. Rogers
In The Stands
Savannah Christian Preparatory
10 Overcoming Adversity
FCA: Inspirational Corner
08 Academic Athlete Sam Bignault
Hilton Head Preparatory
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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS MAGAZINE
Mark Dykes Kaitlynn Passmore
Megan Strickland Jennifer Alexander
Tina Helmly Tina Helmly Photography
Tina Helmly Photography Janice Hilliard Nicole Weller Staff Angela Hooks Barney Bonfield Charles Mills Photography
Tiffany Allnutt Tom Hilliard Janice Hilliard Ruby Nicole Hilliard Robert Preston, Jr.
Crystal Hubbard Ashley Dailey Tiffany Allnutt
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Website Manager Kaitlynn Passmore
From The Publisher Playing sports at the next level is a dream come true for many high school athletes. February 5 was National Signing Day, and years of hard work by the athlete, sacrifices by parents, and skillful coaching and encouragement resulted in several student athletes receiving college athletic scholarships in our coastal area. The smiles were big at all the signing presentations we attended, many resulting in a high-spirited celebration (sometimes with cake). As you can imagine, the student athletes and parents were excited, ready with applause, handshakes and hugs as they watched the athletes put on a new caps signifying their next teams. Photos and television interviews made for one of the most memorable days for any high school athlete. This issue recognizes over 30 coastal scholarship athletes, and as signings continue over the spring, we expect many more for our next issue. Having enjoyed some excellent basketball and winter sports, the high school season moves quickly to the activities of spring. Baseball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, golf, and track and field occupy the afternoons of March, April, and May. Our Player Spotlights this issue are J.D. Rogers of Toombs County High and Miranda Weslake of Beaufort Academy. J.D. is a wrestler in the 195 pound weight class and just won his first State Championship Title for 2A. He and his team also won the area sectional tournament and came in 4th in the State. Miranda Weslake is a special athlete who has signed to play soccer with Clemson University. A strong competitor, she has game on the basketball court as well.
Battery Creek High • Beach • Beaufort Academy Beaufort High • Benedictine Military Bethesda School for Boys • Bible Baptist School Bluffton High • Bryan County High Bulloch Academy • Calvary Day School Claxton High • David Emanuel Academy Effingham County High • Emanuel County Institute First Presbyterian Christian • Groves High Heritage Academy • Hilton Head Christian Academy Hilton Head Island High • Hilton Head Preparatory Islands High • Jenkins County High • Jenkins High Johnson High • Memorial Day School • Metter High Pinewood Christian Academy • Portal High Richmond Hill High • Ridgeland Hardeeville High Robert Toombs Academy • Savannah Arts Academy Savannah Christian Preparatory Savannah Country Day • Savannah High Screven County High • South Effingham High Southeast Bulloch High • St. Andrew's • St. Vincent’s Statesboro High • Swainsboro High Tattnall County High • Thomas Heyward Academy Toombs County High • Vidalia High Whale Branch Early College High Windsor Forest High • Woodville-Tompkins
Brad Stewart, one of Benedictine School’s most heralded athletes, is our Junior Spotlight. Anyone who has seen Brad play football, basketball or baseball knows there is something special about this 6’3” athlete. He is good at all sports, but his quickness and speed in the outfield and power punch with the bat might just bring out a few pro scouts this spring. Put him on your “must watch list.” Achieving high academics requires extra concentration for athletes who must manage their time in both arenas. Sam Bignualt of Savannah Christian helps us understand how he sets and achieves high goals on the court and in the classroom. The Coach’s Corner this month is Michael Thompson of Memorial Day School, whose teams have won consecutive basketball and football state championships. He has limited practice facilities and not many players, however his record reveals he produces winning teams year after year.
Publisher & Features
Overcoming injury and illness is a part of life, but it isn’t always easy. Three young men share their experiences dealing with cancer, ACL tears and concussions. Their stories of overcoming obstacles are truly inspirational and reveal the challenges and positive mindsets that are a part of any rehabilitation. Several other special features and impact players await your discovery in this issue. What you will find are many local athletes and coaches who are in sports because they love it and value the relationships, challenges, and opportunities that each activity provides.
Robert Preston, Jr.,
Features & Commentary
As a sports fan, I invite you to cheer along with me for all our teams and players. Every team needs faithful sports fans who celebrate the wins and lift up and encourage over the losses. In this way we all can be In the Game.
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See you in May. Tom Hilliard
Features & Specials
Tom Hilliard In the Game High School Sports Magazine is published bi-monthly. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in part or in full without written consent from the publisher. Dykes Publishing Group, Inc. makes no representation or warranty of any kind for accuracy of content. All advertisements are assumed by the publisher to be correct. Copyright 2014 Dykes Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1945-1458.
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Sam Bignault Academic Athlete
Savannah Christian Preparatory School
Achieving More Than Academics by Ruby Hilliard
ophomore Sam Bignault is a standout academic athlete for Savannah Christian Preparatory School. He has been a varsity basketball player for the Raiders since his freshman year. Academically, he is ranked number one in his class. One of his main goals is to finish high school with the highest average in his class, and with an average of 99.2, he is well on his way. “I think learning has come naturally for me my whole life, but I do have to put work into all my studies. I feel I am more competitive with myself rather than other people around me, but when they do well it does push me to do even better. My competitiveness and drive to be the best I 8
photography by Tina Helmly
can possibly be in everything is my biggest motivator. I try to improve myself in whatever way possible in everything I do,” says Bignault. “Sam’s naturally smart. I always told him that you couldn’t just be smart and not do the work,” says his mother, Cindy. “He works at it really hard. I let him know that’s it’s all going to pay off. You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression so make it a good one,” says Bignault’s father, Michael. Bignault is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. He has won awards in Advanced English, Government, Life of Jesus, Old Testament, Advanced Ancient World History, and Geometry. One of his favorite awards
is the Headmaster’s Award, which is given to the basketball player with the highest GPA on the team. He received the Headmaster’s Award throughout his entire middle school career. Bignault was also a candidate for the Governor’s Honors Program in math. “I feel very proud of my accomplishments, and I believe they are an accurate reflection of my hard work and dedication to my classes. I feel very privileged to have such supporting parents and great teachers,” says Bignault. When Bignault isn’t playing basketball or working on his academics, he volunteers. One of his favorite organizations to work with is Animal Control. Every weekend he tries to pay them
a visit and walk the dogs that are up for adoption. He also belongs to his school’s Key Club and the Environmental Club, where members clean up school grounds. In addition to his clubs and charity work, Bignault is Sub-Deacon for his church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, where he assists the priest with his duties. Bignault loves playing basketball for his team. His coach, Steven Edenfield, saw Bignault’s potential for basketball when he watched the young man play for the middle school team. Edenfield is looking forward to even bigger things from Bignault in his high school basketball career. Says Edenfield, “Sam’s a sophomore and he’s played on the varsity team the past two years. He’s one of the big guys I keep around the basket. From the first time I saw him play I knew we had a good player on our hands. He’s played in almost every game. That is unusual for a freshman or a sophomore to get so much time on the court. I think a lot of the things that make Sam a good student make him a good basketball player too. He’s very analytical. You can really see the wheels turning when he’s thinking about how to improve his game. He’s eager to learn the nuances of the game and asks really good questions.” One memorable sports moment for Bignault was forcing a steal against rival Country Day
School. “The guy brought the ball up across half court, and I saw his eyes look to the side to his teammate. I jumped the pass, tipped it, and my teammate grabbed the ball then dribbled it towards our goal. He got stuck, passed the ball back to me, I shot it and someone from the other team hit my arm, fouling me. The crowd was going wild, and I ended up making my free throws. The entire student section was chanting my name,” says Bignault. The most inspiring person in Bignault’s life was his grandfather, Milton Hoyt Rahn. “He lived in Savannah during a time when there was a great deal of civil rights movements. I think that he was way ahead of the curve in his conduct toward African Americans. He always treated everyone in the same way and was very respectful. I learned a lot from him and respect him,” says Bignault. “My father was young when his family left the farm in Effingham County and came to Savannah to work for Union Camp,” says Bignault’s mother. “When he was seventeen, his father signed for him to join the military, and he spent thirteen years in the Navy. After returning to Savannah, he opened up a convenience-type store, followed by coin-operated laundromats and real estate investments. He was a real entrepreneur and very wise with his money even though he lacked formal education. His greatest
quality was how he treated people. Every person he met, he would look them straight in their eyes while speaking with them, giving them all of his attention and respect and making them feel like they were the only person there. He made everyone, no matter what color they were, feel special. He didn’t believe that there was any difference in skin color and everyone was his friend. He imparted not only his knowledge of money, but his high respect of others to Sam. Sam reminds me a lot of my father.” Some of Bignault’s most important memories are his travels with his father. So far their journeys include: Melbourne, Australia; Paris, France; Prague, Poland; and Bangkok, Thailand. Bignault loves experiencing different lifestyles, cultures, and food. He especially loves the food. “He’s like a robot when it comes to food. When we were in Paris walking around, Sam says to me ‘Dad, where are we going for dinner?’ and I said ‘Son, we just ate an hour ago!’ He was already planning the next meal,” says Bignault’s father. Their next trip is scheduled for spring break. They plan to go to Tokyo, Japan, where they will take a tour to Mt. Fuji, go on a boat ride, then take the bullet train from Kyoto back to Tokyo. Also, not surprisingly, they will be going on a food tour. ITG
Most inspirational person: My grandfather, Milton Hoyt Rahn \ Favorite subject in school: Math and chemistry Favorite college Team: Syracuse for basketball Favorite college player: Marcus Smart Favorite pro team: Boston Celtics Favorite pro player: Kevin Garnett Favorite thing to do in life: Travel the world and eat the local food
Thang Lieu SWAINSBORO HIGH School
Serving an Ace by Tom Hilliard
igh School junior Thang Lieu is a competitive tennis player who is ready to play first singles for the Swainsboro Tigers this spring. He played first doubles last year, winning Region 2AA and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with his partner. Lieu’s story is one of courage and inspiration as he competes at a high level even though he plays the fast pace sport of tennis with a prosthetic leg from the knee down. He recalls those early days, in the eighth grade, when he was trying to work through the cancer that was attacking his body. After ten weeks of chemo, the results showed that the cancer required amputation of his right leg. Lieu struggled mentally with the life-threatening effects of cancer as tumors were also found in his lungs that required surgical removal. Homebound and confined to a wheelchair Lieu feared the worst, but thankfully the cancer went into remission. Like most athletic boys, Lieu thought his physical disability would mean limiting some activities like playing in the band or getting back on the tennis court. However, this is not a story of defeat, but one of a second chance that would drive him out of the wheelchair and back into action full force. With the help and encouragement of friends and family, Lieu was fitted with a prosthesis and a runner’s blade that enabled mobility and balance. After much trial and error and many slips and falls, Lieu found out that tennis could still be his game. Lieu said that he felt his faith lift him up during those early cancer days, giving him the courage to make his disability an inspiration not a handicap. Lieu’s cancer experience propels him into the spotlight each time he takes the court. What people see on the court and hear from his mouth is a young man with a big heart who feels blessed and grateful for a second chance. A second chance on the court also turned into a second chance in the classroom. Having been an uninterested student Lieu says, “I was determined to do better.”
photography by Angela Hooks
Lieu is now an “A” student, taking honors classes and dedicating time to his studies. He has found it rewarding to get better grades and to be regarded as a student-athlete that gives his best at everything. Coach Donna Godowns says Lieu’s story has been inspirational to everyone. “He is a compassionate young man who loves to help others on the tennis court and in the classroom. His willingness to give back and his desire to be known as someone who gives 100 percent plus effort has just made a huge impact. From not knowing if the cancer was going to take more than his leg,” says Godown, “to winning the Tennis Doubles Region Championship, Thang’s story has inspired us all.” Lieu played doubles as a sophomore which seems safer than having to cover the entire tennis court, but Lieu says he prefers singles.
“I prefer singles because I truly enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally in the sport of tennis. I like showing other players and opponents that just because I have a physical disability does not mean that I cannot still fight as hard as any other athlete on the court.” Through it all, his mother, two brothers, and sister have supported Lieu through this encounter with cancer. Some two years later, he feels great but must continue to have quarterly x-rays taken to monitor his body. It is said that no one knows how much we can affect others with the way we live our daily lives. Thang Lieu’s heroic story is just more proof that our impact on others can be enormous. Cancer is big and bad, however, it is not the cards we are dealt, but how we play them that matters. ITG
Pro Player: Roger Federer Book: My Bible • School Subject: Math Food: Double Bacon Cheeseburgers and a triple order of hash browns from Waffle King Sport you wish you could play: Golf Superpower: Teleportation 11
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Pro or College Player: Dustin Pedroia Book: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Food: Spaghetti Sport you wish you could play: Hockey Superpower: Invisibility School Subject: History
Sales Pinckney Savannah Country Day School
For the Love of Sports: Injury Recovery by Tom Hilliard
photography by Janice Hilliard
avannah Country Day School senior Sales Pinckney has paid a price for his love of baseball with two left knee ACL tears during his high school career. His story of injury and recovery is one that many student-athletes encounter as they play the sports they grow up loving. Sports have always come easy for Pinckney, and like many boys starting high school, he was looking forward to competing at a high level on several teams. In his freshman year an unfortunate ACL injury in football sidelined Pinckney for several months. He says, “The surgery actually hurt more than the injury itself,” as he explains the process of recovery. Recovery started out with six weeks of using crutches and not walking. Then it was another six weeks before Pinckney was able to run on an antigravity treadmill. As can happen, his recovery was extended even longer due to a large amount of scar tissue in the knee. Pinckney says, “It was not a complicated rehab, just a lot of weight lifting for a very long time, and I felt like I would never recover to play sports again.” As he finished up his freshman year, he could not practice at full speed in baseball nor compete in spring football drills. Pinckney’s baseball season was not a total loss as he was able to be the team’s DH, but there was no field play or running the bases. After an injury-free sophomore year, Pinckney again injured his ACL on the same knee during his junior football season. While he could walk sooner this time, he was not allowed to run on the anti-gravity treadmill until four months post surgery as they did not want to rush a recovery on a “redo.” At five months, Pinckney hit a wall and was not able to increase strength in his knee due to tendinitis. “This made the recovery all the more torturing and disappointing, as I stayed at the same spot for a month,” says Pinckney. “The feeling of never recovering came back.” Pinckney points to physical therapist Ernie Ledesma and school trainer Ed Livingston who kept pushing him and instilling the belief that he would be back stronger than ever.
No spring baseball in 2013 or football practice made Pinckney frustrated, as all he could do was watch and help on the sidelines. As his senior football season came around, Pinckney made the tough decision to give the sport that gave him his two injuries another try. His second rehab had taken nearly a year because of the carefulness and protective hold backs that were issued. In the third game of the season, Pinckney was given the all-clear and proudly put on his uniform, protective knee brace, and took the field with his beloved Hornet football team. Pinckney had a good senior season in football, and he was rewarded with First Team All-Region honors. As his senior year comes to a close and the days of college loom closer, Pinckney very much looks forward to the spring baseball season and the thrill of competing on the diamond. He hopes to both pitch and play infield this year and finish his high school sports career on a high note with lots of wins but most importantly in good health. ITG
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State Champ 2A-195lb janice hilliard
Toombs County High School
Toombs County Senior Turns Love of Wrestling into Impressive High School Career by Robert Preston Jr.
.D. Rogers, a 17-year-old senior at Toombs County High, knew from an early age that he wanted to wrestle. His father had wrestled in high school and had even done a little coaching in the sport. As a youngster, Rogers was exposed to wrestling constantly; he saw his father’s awards, watched wrestling tournaments on TV, heard the old stories of his father’s exploits on the mat. “I learned to love the sport from him,” recalls Rogers. Rogers’s wrestling career began in USA Wrestling when he was just four years old. By the time he reached high school, Rogers was a seasoned veteran with state and national titles on his palmares. He took that experience and used it to forge an impressive wrestling career at Toombs County High. “With experience comes solid technique. J.D. is a technician, and he can win in a variety of ways. He has a lot of Greco-Roman experience, so he can go up top and make something happen. That makes him very dangerous. He has tremendous upper body strength,” says his coach, Bradley Benton. The reason Rogers has all that experience is because, quite simply, he loves to wrestle. He also plays a little football and tennis at Toombs County, but there is nowhere he’d rather be than on the wrestling mat. He respects the sport and
its traditions and as such strives to always do his best. And his best is pretty good. “I like the man versus man aspect of wrestling. There is no team with you on the mat. It’s you against your opponent. You’re out to beat him, and he’s out to beat you. The best man wins,” says Rogers. Throughout his career, Rogers has been the best man most of the time. He has won the AAU National Championships, Dixie Nationals, PostSeason Nationals, two Folkstyle state championships, two Freestyle state championships, two Greco-Roman state championships, and the Triple Crown once (Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman titles in the same year (2007)). Rogers, who now wrestles in the 195-pound class, has accomplished the goals he set for his high school career as a freshman. Heading into his first high school season four years ago, Rogers wanted to make the varsity team first and foremost (he did). From there, he wanted to win team Area championships in Duals and Traditional formats, which his Bulldogs did in 2011 and 2012. This year, they have won Duals; at the time of this writing, Traditional hadn’t been held yet. Rogers does not, however, have an individual state championship at Toombs County. He has come close. Last year, he advanced to the
semifinals but lost in a controversial match that kept him out of the finals. He finished the season fourth in the state. Toombs County hasn’t won a team title, either. The Bulldogs were fourth during Rogers’s freshman year, eighth his sophomore year, and third last year. At the time of this interview, Rogers had finished the regular season and was training for Area. He went through the season with just four losses and was in good position to have a solid post-season. “The key is not to get overconfident or cocky. You have to keep your head on straight and work hard. When you step on the mat, it’s time to go to work,” he says. Heading into the postseason, Benton is pleased with where Rogers is. “He has gone toe to toe in every match he’s wrestled this year. When I came to Toombs, I wanted to tap into his talent. I wanted him in the 195-pound class. He had to get strong enough to compete in that class. Now, he’s physically and mentally ready to go into a state tournament and win it,” says Benton. Throughout his career, Rogers has been recognized for his hard work, community service, and character. Benton has won the Coach Parks Athlete Award from Dodge County High School, which is awarded in memory of Dodge
County coach Rickey Parks to a Georgia athlete who exemplifies excellence and leadership in athletics and academics, and the Class AA State Good Character Award in football as a sophomore. He is also an excellent musician (he plays saxophone), and he’s played onstage with the Swingin’ Medallions. “I’m well-rounded in a number of activities. I love my God, my country, my family, and my sport,” he says.
Several different colleges are in pursuit of Rogers as he winds up his senior year. He has offers to wrestle from schools throughout the country. Right now, though, he has his sights set a little closer to home. Among the schools vying for his attention is Brewton-Parker College in nearby Mount Vernon. “I haven’t decided yet, but I really like Brewton-Parker,” he says. ITG
The 2013-14 wrestling season has been a particularly poignant one for J.D. Rogers. He dedicated the season to the memory of his grandparents and a former coach , Brad Bell . He lost his maternal grandfather to cancer and both his maternal grandmother and Bell in automobile accidents. Rogers feels their presence when he’s on the mat and does his best to honor their memory. “I know they are proud , and they watch every one of our matches,” he says.
J.D.'s Favorites: Subject: Calculus
College Team: Penn State (Wrestling), Auburn (Football) College Player: Quinton Wright (Penn State), Tre Mason (Auburn) Pro Team: Denver Broncos • Pro Player: Knowshon Moreno Who would you most like to meet? Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner
(Olympic gold medalists) What sport do you wish you could play? Lacrosse/rugby Where would you like to travel? Brazil
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Miranda Weslake Beaufort Academy
Weslake Signs With Clemson to Play Soccer by Ruby Hilliard
iranda Weslake is a senior at Beaufort Academy where she is a sports star for the Eagles in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She is such a valuable player in soccer that she has played on the varsity team since eighth grade. She was captain of the soccer team last year and will be the captain again this season. Her striking ability is phenomenal; she was even recruited to be the kicker for the football team, a position she ended up turning down. Weslake has been playing soccer since she was four years old. “We put her in soccer because she was in perpetual motion, and we decided we needed to do something to run some energy out of her,” says her mother, Lisa. “She’s still in perpetual motion. One of her biggest strengths in soccer is her speed.” “When she was about six or seven, she played on a team mixed with boys and girls. She was always tall for her age, bigger than the boys and the girls, and was faster than
photography by Tina Helmly
all of them. It was fun to watch her and realize she had a talent for that sport,” says her father, Tom. Eagles' high school soccer coach David Byrne has known Weslake since she was about 10 years old. He coached her on a U12 club team. “She’s a special talent,” says Byrne. “I remember it like yesterday. I remember her walking onto the field, and she’s tall for her age so that’s the first thing that strikes you. I was watching her juggle the soccer ball and thinking to myself ‘My gosh! I can’t even juggle a soccer ball that well!’” When Weslake was in seventh grade she was asked to play on the Mount Pleasant club team out of Charleston. “When I was asked to join the club team, that’s when it really became real to me that there was actual good, competitive soccer in this world. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without my club soccer career,” says Weslake. Weslake has earned numerous achievements. She was one of only one hundred freshmen from around the na-
tion to be invited to try out for the U15 National soccer team in Portland, Oregon. She has also been the Eagles MVP for the past four years, South Carolina Independent School Association, SCISA, Player of the Year, and on the AllRegion Soccer team for the past two years. “She’s the most talented soccer player I’ve ever coached. She’s a natural striker, and she plays at a very high level through the Mount Pleasant organization. On our team, however, she’s asked to take a different role. We put her in the mid field. She has tremendous foot skills, has a great eye for the soccer field, and she distributes the ball extremely well. I’ve always looked at it as a tremendous example of selflessness and sacrifice for the team. I don’t need her to score goals. I need her to control the midfield. I’ve got other players that can score the goals, but no one is as good as her in the midfield. She has really enabled the soccer team to have a lot of success over the past couple years,” says Coach Byrne. “I don’t have the records right in front of me, but she has broken them all. I almost feel bad keeping records like that because players are always wanting to beat them, but Miranda will be a hard act to beat.” In addition to soccer, Weslake’s volleyball team was All-Region this past year. She has also been the MVP for her basketball team for the past three years as well as All-Region Basketball team for the past two years. Weslake says one of her favorite memories in sports was scoring her thousandth point in basketball her junior year. “It was crazy!” says Weslake. “It was against our rival, Thomas Heyward Academy. They had a banner hanging up where the spotlight is. I had nine more points to score, and the banner was numbered from nine counting down. Every time I would score a point they’d rip off the number until, when I was at the foul line shooting two foul shots, there were only two points left. I knew if I made these two shots I would get my thousandth point. I remember my heart was pounding, I was so nervous and saying to myself, ‘Okay, this is it! You still have the rest of the game, but this is a big spotlight moment.’ I made both of them, I was so excited I ran and hugged my friend Charlotte, and everyone from the team came and hugged me. Everyone in the crowd was cheering. Our principal brought out balloons, and they gave me the basketball. It was awesome.”
“I had all our family there,” says Weslake’s mother. “It was an exciting night, and a lot of fun. And you know what? That hasn’t happened since the 1980s. It’s kind of ironic that it was actually a girl in my graduating class at Beaufort Academy who held the record. I called her on the phone and told her, ‘My daughter is about to beat your points record!’” “What makes her special are her instincts,” says her basketball coach, Brock Vaigneur. “She’s got incredible instincts, like knowing where to go to steal the ball. She can read the girls in front of her and make the proper play. So her instincts are what make her great. The athletic ability doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t know how to use it, and she knows how to use it. I always tell people Miranda is a soccer player playing basketball. She uses the same instincts. The same things she can do with her feet on the soccer ball are the same things she does with her hands on the basketball. It is the combination of her athletic ability and instincts that make her great, and that is why Clemson signed her to play soccer for them.” Weslake, her family, and her coaches are
looking forward to her playing soccer for Clemson University. “Her signing with Clemson was a great moment for everyone involved, especially for her,” says Weslake’s father. “It was a culmination of years and years of hard work that paid off for her in the end. “Miranda going to Clemson is a legacy,” says Byrne. “It’s a great school and a great fit for her. I’ve already told my wife - we have five-year-old triplets at home - but I’ve already told her the first game Miranda plays in, I won’t be home that weekend, so you can just plan on that!” “I graduated from Clemson. My parents graduated from Clemson - my brother and cousins, too. Lots and lots of schools, prestigious and Ivy league schools scouted her. So, when Clemson first showed interest I made sure she got to their summer camp, and she really seemed to like it. I wanted her to go to Clemson but only if she wanted to go. I wanted her to make her own decision in her life, but we are all thrilled that she chose Clemson. We can’t wait to watch her play,” says her mother. ITG
Miranda's Favorites: Sports moments: Shooting my 1000th point in basketball and getting chosen to try out for the U15 National Soccer team College team: Clemson University College player: Sammy Watkins Pro player: Wayne Rooney Subject in school: Spanish Most influential person: Club soccer coach Kian Brownlee
Signing Day 2014 Savannah High School Treynearious Dillard: Savannah State University, Football
Savannah Christian Preparatory School Bryce Evans: Flagler College, Baseball
Savannah High School Quaron Hilliard: Savannah State University, Football ellen scripture
Benedictine Military School (L-R) Ellison Burns: Savannah State University Tristan Harkleroad: The Citadel Sean Fogarty: Savannah State University
Southeast Bulloch High School John DeMerlier: Reihardt College, Football
Vidalia City School System
Vidalia High School Traâ€™ Hardy: Western Carolina University, Football
Beach High School Willie Cooper: Savannah State, Football
Bible Baptist School Keynnard Campbell: Savannah State University, Football
amy l. altman
Signing Day 2014
Savannah Christian Preparatory School Trudy Shuman: Anderson College
Statesboro High School Jackson Ware: Mercer University, Baseball janice hilliard
St. Andrews School Dominique Desautels: LaGrange College, Soccer
Bethesda Academy Eddie White: Stetson University, Football
amy l. altman
Memorial Day School Deric Wright, Tae Singleton, Rodheem Green, & Marlin Latson: Savannah State University, Football
Statesboro High School Sara Jane Bowers: Brenau University, Golf
Calvary Day School Andre Wilson: Alabama State University, Derek Kirkland: Savannah State University, Milan Richard: Clemson, Tripp Pearson: Kennesaw State University
Savannah High School Jamal Norman: Savannah State University, Basketball Chris Cokley: University of Alabama Birmingham, Basketball janice hilliard
Savannah Country Day Natalie Goodman: University of Georgia, Soccer amy l. altman
Savannah Christiain Preparatory School CJ Harper: Piedmont College, LaCrosse christy dyson
Signing Day 2014
Hilton Head Island High School Poona Ford: University of Texas: Football Ashley and Amanda Greene: Armstrong Atlantic University, Soccer Dillon Heffner: USC Sumter, Baseball Mackenzie Hrobar: Limestone College, Competitive Cheer Khalil Lewis: Gardner Web, Football Ciara McMahon: Wofford, Cross Country Michael Perez: USC Salkehatchie, Baseball
Statesboro High School Joe Corless: Georgia Southern University, Football Diquan Brunson: Cumberland University, Football Anthony Gore: Kennesaw State, Football Jacob Schofill: Georgia Southern University, Football Dezmond Brinson: Middle Georgia College, Football
Bryan County High School Nick Scott & Damion Dixon: Albany State, Football
Katie Dalton Jesse Dalton Sisters Tee Off Towards the State Championship
Vidalia High School
by Ruby Hilliard
enior Katie Dalton and freshman Jesse Dalton, sisters at Vidalia High School in Vidalia, Georgia, are on the same golf team this year. Katie has played for the Lady Indians for the past three years. While this is Jesse’s first year on the team, the sisters are looking forward to leading the team to the state championship. Katie got her start at about age eight, when she used to tag along with her father and his buddies on the course. She says she was out with her father on the course one day and thought golf looked interesting, so she picked up some clubs and started swinging them. “Katie started dragging along with us,” says her father, Richard Dalton. “She didn’t have any of her own clubs, but she was out there swinging one of mine when the boy's high school coach, Dennis Watkins, came over to us. He asked me, ‘Who’s working with her?’ I said, ‘She doesn’t play golf.’ Watkins respond-
photography by Tina Helmly
ed, ‘She swings that club pretty well for not playing golf. Do you mind bringing her out one day, letting me work with her and see what she can do?’ The very first time he worked with her he said she could be as good as she wanted to be. ‘She’s just a natural,’ he said.” Watkins started working with her and taking her to Gale Peterson at Sea Island for lessons. “Coach Watkins thought I had natural potential, and he started working with me. Then he took me to get lessons from Gale Peterson, and that’s when I really blossomed,” says Katie. “She played a lot of junior golf regionally and nationally before she came on the team as a freshman,” says her high school coach, Chad Barker. “She was really experienced, and as a freshman she was the best golfer on our team. She made everyone else on the team strive to be better, and we really started improving as a team. At first they were intimi-
dated, but she has a bubbly personality and once she got over that hump, everyone accepted her. She is really competitive, and she was able to make the team a whole lot more interested in playing and wanting to do better.” Some of Katie’s wins include Regional Low Medalist with a 77, State Low Medalist with a 71, and three times she was First Time AllState, an especially esteemed title to hold for three years. Her favorite course is TPC Sawgrass, where she had her best three holes in a row. “It wasn’t my best round ever, but on 16, 17, and 18 I played par, birdie, birdie,” says Katie. When asked about her favorite moment in golf, Katie replies, “My favorite moment was when I got my first hole-in-one at my home golf course, Rocky Creek. The sun was in my eyes. I was about 150 yards out, and I hit my hybrid. I did not see the ball go into the hole, but when I got to the green I didn’t see the ball
anywhere. When I looked into the hole, it was in there. I was so excited! I was also at Rocky Creek, playing with my dad, when I shot my lowest round, a 67.” Katie was scouted very early on in high school, and on November 11, 2013, Katie signed with Mercer State University. Some of the girls she already knew from high school and junior golf play there, she liked the smaller atmosphere of the campus, and she’s looking forward to it being her new home away from home. She would love to be in the LPGA one day, but if that doesn’t happen, she loves anatomy and has a backup plan to be a physician’s assistant. In addition to golf, Katie is also a cheerleader and was on the homecoming court this year. Her father describes her as being a social butterfly who never stops talking in contrast to Jesse, who is shy and more quiet. “Katie is very, very competitive, and Jesse is not as competitive. Sometimes when we all go out to play now, Jesse can give Katie a run for her money. If Jesse is beating Katie, Katie gets really mad, but if it’s the other way around, Jesse doesn’t get mad. She can take it or leave it. It’s interesting that they’re sisters, and they’re so different,” says their father. When Jesse was younger, she played soft-
ball and took karate, where she earned a black belt. She began playing golf at about the age of twelve because she saw how much fun Katie was having with it. In eighth grade, she had the highlight of her golf career when she won Region Low Medalist at Green Acres. “It was exciting! I’d had a pretty good round, and then I bogeyed the last hole to shoot 37. It was the lowest score I’ve ever shot,” Jesse says of her win at Green Acres. “My lowest round was at Rocky Creek. It was when I went out to play with my dad. I usually play the best when it’s just him and me because I can stay focused, be relaxed and not feel like I have any competition. Rocky Creek is my favorite course because it’s my home course and the one I know the best,” says Jesse. When asked about what it is like to play on a team with her sister, Jesse says, “It’s kind of intimidating because a lot of people are expecting me to do well because I’m Katie’s sister. It puts a lot of pressure on me. I’m a little bit nervous, but I think by the time the state championship comes around I’ll have my scores where they need to be. It’s just about experience.” Both sisters are very into golf fashion. Making sure they always look the part is their mother, Joelle Dalton.
“The only thing I really do is arrange their clothing. I’m the fashionista in this whole party. I don’t play golf. I have no idea how to play golf. I ride around in the carts and give them water and food on every hole. I’m really proud of them,” she says of her daughters. “Joelle doesn’t have a lot of the golf knowledge part, but she’s always there for support. Katie calls her her dresser because she dresses her up in the nice golf attire, makes sure all the clothes she has are modern and that she looks good. Richard, their dad, takes them out on the course frequently. He works with them, hitting shots from different parts of the green or whatever it is they need to improve on. It’s a real help to their game and to me, as a coach. Both of their parents are very supportive, just in different ways,” says Barker. Barker is looking forward to the upcoming season with both the girls on his team. He knows what to expect out of the Dalton sisters. “I have ten on the team, and I’m looking at Jesse to come in and take the number-three spot. She has the potential to do that. She can shoot in the mid-80s and maybe by the end of the season break into the 70s. She’s definitely following in her sister's footsteps.” ITG
Course: Rocky Creek Course: TPC Sawgrass Golf moment: Winning Region Low Golf moment: Hole-in-one at Rocky Creek Medalist at Green Acres, 37 Best round of golf: Rocky Creek, 67 Best round of golf: Rocky Creek, 77 Memory: Signing with Mercer State Pro player: Ricky Fowler. “I love the University to play golf way he plays and the way he dresses.” Food: Steak, Medium well Food: Chicken, specifically chicken Most influential person: My mother, sandwiches because she is the strongest person I School subject: Math know. 27
by Tom Hilliard photography by Weller Staff Photography
PGA & LPGA National Junior Golf Leader
icole Weller enjoys first time experiences. She relishes the opportunity to introduce youngsters to golf and then watch them grow as they learn new skills. “It never grows old,” says Weller, “watching a junior hit that first big drive or sink that first long putt. It produces a smile that’s a mile wide every time.” During a career that spans some 18 years, the last nine at The Landings Club on Skidaway Island, Weller has won many awards that recognize her extraordinary efforts to make golf a better game. In 2013, however, it was a big first for Weller as she was presented the National Junior Golf Leader Award from both the PGA and the LPGA, representing more than 22,000 golf professionals and coaches. This distinguished award has brought Weller a flood of speaking appearances as well as a huge recognition dinner at January’s PGA Show in Orlando, Florida. Weller says her father introduced her to golf
at age four. By the time she was in high school, she was the co-captain of the boys golf team. A natural athlete, Weller has played most every sport, including acquiring a black belt in karate. Her musical talents compliment her sports skills as she enjoys playing the classical piano. Weller’s husband Ty is also a PGA professional. The couple enjoys playing sports together and spending time together. Coaching has been a passion for Weller since receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wake Forest in 1994, then her masters in human performance/motor skills/sport psychology from Tennessee Knoxville in 1995. Since then she has studied and collaborated with many of the best golf instructors in the country, coaching and teaching sports while continually improving upon physical and mental training. Weller says helping young people enjoy golf and realize their potential requires instructors to have a relationship with the students. She says,
“You have to connect with a student to help them learn, noting that some juniors are too conservative and need a gentle nudge with injections of confidence to move forward. Others are too impatient and want things to happen too soon. These kids need to have smaller goals that do not detract their enthusiasm while the learning is happening. Each person is unique and when a coach and player really connect, it’s an amazing experience for all involved with the learning and ‘positiveness’ that comes forth.” Weller encourages parents to not squash creativity by using adult methods and feels youngsters need space to try to work things through, learning in many different ways. “Be a guide not an enforcer,” says Weller, who believes and promotes goal setting between the coach and the student. “Once an environment of learning takes place for a youngster, the game of golf can be a lifetime experience that yields many positive results.” Her current goals involve creating
new ways and approaches for learning and promoting the game to juniors through incentive goal setting similar to martial arts. While Weller is humbled by her awards and believes that they are shared with others on her team at work and her family, her love of
coaching and teaching juniors is noted by everyone who sees the effort and care she puts forth. She says her career has been shaped by so many in her life, and she is extremely appreciative of all those who cared enough to encourage and guide her. ITG
Nicoleâ€™s Tips For Helping Juniors Get Into Golf Introduce the game early in life, at ages twoto-three years old. No methods, just get them swinging a club - grandparents are a great help at this age. Have fun and be safe. Find a coach who uses a holistic and tiered approach to help your child learn. Look for programs that place a big emphasis on having fun while providing a safe environment. Use properly fit clubs. There are several companies that offer junior clubs that are the right length and weight, and children need to change often as they grow taller and stronger. Get into PCA, Positive Coaching Alliance. Weller says that parents and coaches who understand and use PCA concepts will make their sport more enjoyable as well as build a good foundation. 29
r t o i u Jun ndo Sta
College Player: Michael Bennett
Pro Team: Atlanta Falcons
Pro Player: Calvin Johnson
College Team: University of Georgia
Person To Meet: Wes Walker and Mike Trout Place to Travel:
“I would love to visit all the islands in the Caribbean.”
Benedictine Junior is Three-sport All-Region Selection by Robert Preston Jr.
hen you talk about Brad Stewart, a 6’1”, 178-pound three-sport star for the Benedictine Cadets, it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin. He plays football, basketball, and baseball at a high level; he’s been an All-Region selection in all three and two All-State selections in football (one Honorable Mention, one Second Team). Stewart has compiled an impressive list of athletic awards, and he’s also an excellent student who takes Advanced Placement and honors classes. Much to the joy of the Benedictine faithful and the chagrin of Cadets opponents, Stewart still has a year left in his high school career. As impressive as Stewart’s athletic career has been through his first two and a half years of school, he was having a difficult time when In the Game spoke with him. He was recovering from an injury, one that ended his basketball season prematurely and left him sitting on the sidelines watching his teammates get ready for the region tournament. He had developed a stress fracture 30
photography by Tina Helmly
in one of his heels after jumping for a pass at the Elite Junior Classic, played at McEachern. He opened up a small fracture in his foot on that play but refused to come out of the game. “It was hurting, but I played through the discomfort,” he recalls. Stewart scored a 41-yard touchdown on a pass from Coffee County’s Tyree Paulk in the game. As Stewart transitioned from football to basketball, the injury didn’t have time to heal properly and worsened, eventually ending his season. “I’m out, and we have another player out with a bad ankle. But we’re going to make a run in the region tournament,” he says. With his basketball season over, Stewart has his sights set on baseball. He won’t say which of the three sports is his favorite, but he has been playing baseball longest. He first wandered onto a baseball field when he was four years old, and he’s been playing ever since. When Stewart was 10 years old, his first travel team called. The Savannah Mudcats wanted him on their squad, and
it was at that time that he realized just how much he loved baseball. “That was a turning point in my baseball career,” he recalls. “We played every weekend all over the place. That’s when it started getting serious.” Stewart made Benedictine’s varsity as a freshman. Primarily a centerfielder, he also closes when needed. Stewart simply refuses to lose. When a ball is coming his way, he will do whatever he needs to in order to make a play. He flies around the outfield with little regard for limb or livelihood - all that matters is getting the ball in his glove. When he’s at the plate, the same will to succeed takes over. Hitting is a challenge to him, one he takes personally. It’s him against the pitcher, and he is determined to prevail. “How can you call getting something right three out of 10 times success? That drives some people crazy, but I love it,” he says. His first year with the Cadets, they made the 5A playoffs but lost in the first round. Last year, Benedictine had moved down to 2A, and the Ca-
In three short years, Brad Stewart has already amassed an impressive collection of awards in all three sports: Football: Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame
Football Player of the Year 2013, Best of Preps 2013 Most Versatile Male Athlete of the Year, All-State Honorable Mention Football/Offense, Greater Savannah First Team Wide Receiver, All-Region First Team Wide Receiver, All-State Second Team.
Basketball: All-Region First Team, Greater Savannah Honorable Mention.
Baseball: All-Region First Team, Greater
Savannah First Team, Top 100 Georgia Dugout Club Prospect, and Perfect Game’s Top Prospect list.
dets rolled through the season, eventually getting to the Final Four. Benedictine faced Wesleyan in the quarterfinals, and that’s where Stewart made one of the biggest plays of his career. The Cadets were the home team, and the game was in the top of the seventh. Benedictine was holding on to a slim, one-run lead. There were two outs in the inning, but Wesleyan had two runners on. The hitter got into one and scorched a line drive directly at Stewart. It wasn’t going to land in front of him - he either had to catch it or it was going to the fence. “When it started coming my way, my first thought was, ‘Oh no.’ When I made my first move, I tripped a little. The ball was hit really hard. I turned and ran as hard as I could. I just dove at the end and caught the ball.” He came to a rest about 20 feet from the fence. Had the ball been hit a little higher in the air, it would have been a three-run home run. The appearance in the semifinals in baseball wasn’t Stewart’s only opportunity to play in a Final Four. The Cadets football team also went to the semifinals this year on the heels of a 13-1 season. Benedictine lost to Lamar County in the semifinals for the team’s second loss in as many years to Lamar in the playoffs. Stewart, a wide receiver, cornerback, and kick/punt returner, enjoyed every minute
of the Cadets’ playoff run. “It was a blast. We have something special here at Benedictine,” he says. During the 2013 season, Stewart caught 30 passes for more than 700 yards. He also scored 11 touchdowns. That kind of production, coupled with a grade point average north of 4.0, has a number of colleges courting him for football. Marshall has already come forward with an offer and several other Division I schools are in steady contact with him. Stewart would like to play at least one sport in college, though he won’t say which one he prefers. “It’s a goal of mine. I’m hoping it will happen,” he says. Throughout his career, a great deal of attention has come Stewart’s way. He finds all the attention a little unsettling. After all, he plays sports because he loves to get out there and compete. The other stuff is just one big distraction that can derail his enjoyment of the sports he loves if he isn’t careful. Stewart’s father Brandon keeps him well-grounded. “He constantly reminds me that I’m no different than anybody else. Determination and discipline is what will move me forward. He helps me stay in the present and not dwell on the past or look too far into the future,” says Stewart. ITG 31 31
Gentlemen Impact Players Bryce Evans
Senior • Savannah Christian Preparatory School Sport(s): Baseball, Basketball Jersey #10 • Mascot: Raiders Height: 5’10” • Position(s): Shortstop, guard Stats 2013: Batting Average .389 OBP .505 Awards and Recognition: All-City (Best of Preps)2012, 2013, All-Region 2012, 2013, All-State 2013, Highest Batting Average for Savannah Christian Varsity Baseball 2012, 2013, Georgia Dugout Club Top 100, 2013 Most memorable game: My most memorable game was against Hawkinsville. It was game two of the first round of the playoffs. I had a walk off hit which forced a game three that we won.
Most influential person to you and why: My dad has been very influential in my life. He was my first coach. He introduced me to baseball at a young age and taught me all about the game. He has always supported me and encouraged me to do my best. Other activities you enjoy: basketball, hanging out with friends and weightlifting Favorites: Pro or College Player: Chipper Jones Book: The Count of Monte Cristo Food: Steak • School Subject: Science
Jared Clark Senior • Windsor Forest High Baseball • Jersey #14 • Mascot: Knight Height: 5’7" • Position(s): Center Field Nickname: Hammer Time Stats 2013: Batting Average .323 Awards and Recognition: Second Team All-Region (sophomore/junior) Most memorable game: My first game of my sophomore season when we were losing, and I came up to bat and started the inning off with a double that got my team going to lead us to a comeback victory.
Most influential person to you and why: My dad, he taught me how to play the game when I was young, and he continues to be there and support me. Other activities you enjoy: Playing MLB: the Show and spending time with family Favorites: Pro or College Player: Byron Buxton/ Todd Gurley Book: the Bible • Food: Smothered Shrimp Sport you wish you could play: Basketball Superpower: To be able to read the pitcher’s mind to know what pitch he is going to throw. School Subject: English
Junior • Johnson High School Wrestling/ Cross Country • Mascot: Atom Smashers Height: 5’11” • Weight Class: 138lb • Nickname: Mike Stats 2013-14: 15-5 with 15 pins; fastest pin: 4 sec. Awards and Recognition: MVP Cross Country team 2013 Most memorable match: My freshman year, I was wrestling a kid from Savannah Arts at the Groves Rebel Duals. I picked him up and took him down hard to the mat, and the whole gym got loud.
Parker Scarborough Senior • Calvary Day School Soccer • Jersey #3 • Mascot: Cavaliers Height: 5’9” • Position(s): Outside Mid
Stats 2013: (in 18 games) Goals: 3, Assists: 9 Awards and Recognition: Elected to the Coastal Georgia Soccer All-Star Game (junior) Most influential person to you and why: John F. Kennedy; I admire his patriotism and truly wanting to make America a better place. Also for his famous quote,
Other activities you enjoy: running, spending time with friends, learning new things, and volunteering Favorites: Pro or College Player: Dwayne Wade Book: The Secret • Food: Mac and Cheese Sport you wish you could play: Lacrosse Superpower: Invisibility • School Subject: Biology
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Other activities you enjoy: wiffle ball during our school lunch Favorites: Pro or College Player: Cristiano Ronaldo Book: Thr3e by Ted Dekker • Food: Double Stuffed Oreos Sport you wish you could play: Competitive Ping Pong Superpower: Teleportation like in the movie Jumper School Subject: Chemistry
Randolph Solomon III Senior • St. Andrew’s School Baseball • Jersey #17 • Mascot: Lions Height: 5’11 • Position(s): First Base, Catcher, Pitcher Stats 2013: BA: .450, Doubles: 9, Triples: 3, Homeruns: 3, On Base Percentage: .821 Awards and Recognition: First Team All SCISA 2-AA All-Greater Savannah Under Armour National Tournament Team Selection Most memorable game: When my Chain fall ball team came back from being down 14-2 in the fourth inning to winning in a walk-off 15-14. It was amazing to comeback with my teammates like that; everyone focused up, and everyone started smashing the
Senior • Savannah Christian Preparatory School Tennis • Mascot: Raiders Height: 6‘5 Position(s): First Singles Stats 2013: Match Scores 6-7 Awards and Recognition: 2012 and 2013 Savannah Morning News All-Area Tennis Team Honorable Mention Most influential person to you and why: My parents are the most influential people in my life. They encourage me to do my best in all areas of my life. They have taught me to try my best in the classroom and on the
ball. I went 3-5, with a triple and a double and four RBIS. Two of my best friends almost went yard; our PO who had to DH went 2-3. It was definitely one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of and a great memory going into my senior season. Other activities you enjoy: working out, playing video games, hanging out with my friends, reading books about history. Favorites: Pro or College Player: Bo Thompson Book: The Boo • Food: Cream of Mushroom Pollo Sport you wish you could play: Basketball Superpower: Mind Reading • School Subject: History
court; most importantly, they have taught me to love God with all my heart. Other activities you enjoy: bird watching, drawing, fishing, kayaking, reading, science quiz bowl, and quiz bowl Favorites: Pro or College Player: Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins Book: To Kill A Mockingbird • Food: Cheeseburger Sport you wish you could play: Baseball Superpower: Flying • School Subject: English and Math Doubles or Singles: Singles
Mason Michael Johnson Senior • Windsor Forest High School • Mascot: Knights Baseball • Jersey #18 Height: 6’3’’ • Position(s): First Base Stats 2013: BA: .397, Slugging Percentage: .430, On Base Percentage: .476 Awards and Recognition: Second Team All-Region Most memorable game: Most games have those moments you will never forget, but last season against Portal High School left some great memories. As a first baseman, I take pride in always catching the ball, so those one hops to first that you see a baseman catch are always a thrill. I had a lot of those moments that game, and as we came to the last inning, we were down by one, I got on base with a nice line drive to left field. I advanced to third after stealing second and stealing third off an error from the catcher. My teammate hit the ball
and got on base; he shortly got to second. After another error, I scored the tying run, and my teammate got to third. Our left-fielder came up to bat, hit a ball, and it went by the first baseman for the win. Most influential person to you and why: My parents; they have always been there for me through all my injuries and successes. No matter what they are there, so there opinion means a lot. Other activities you enjoy: lifting weights, soccer, football, games, and reading Favorites: Pro or College Player: David Ortiz Book: The Stand by Stephan King • Food: Roast Beef Sub Sport you wish you could play: I have never tried Cricket. Superpower: Super Strength
Senior • Calvary Day School Baseball • Jersey #31 • Mascot: Cavalier Height: 6’2 • Position(s): Pitcher, Outfield
Most influential person to you and why: My dad is the most influential person in my life because he gives great advice and is always there to help me.
Stats: 15 games: 53.0 innings, 4 wins, 5 losses, 1 save, 27 walks, 62 strikeouts,49 hits, Earned Runs: 17 WHIP: 1.434, ERA:2.245
Other activities you enjoy: going out in the boat and to the beach
Awards and Recognition: Second Team All-Region Most memorable game: Beating Statesboro
Favorites: Pro or College Player: Andrelton Simmons Food: Chicken • Sport you wish you could play: Basketball Superpower: Teleportation • School Subject: Math 33
Matadors’ head basketball, football coach has five state titles and threerunners up in six years by Robert Preston, Jr.
ichael Thompson, head football and basketball coach at Memorial Day School in Savannah, has never ventured far from home. He attended Memorial Day, where he played football, basketball, ran track, and played one year of baseball, then moved on to Georgia Southern University. At Georgia Southern, he was a linebacker who helped the Eagles win a pair of conference championships. After obtaining a degree in recreation from GSU, he coached for two years at Southern before returning to his alma mater, Memorial Day. He took over the Matadors football and basketball programs then, and in a short period of time, he has taken them to the top of the GISA Class 2A heap. Thompson’s impressive resume includes three state championships in football, two in basketball, two state runners-up in football, and another in basketball. Between the two sports, Thompson has been named state coach of the year five times and region coach of the year six more times. “We’ve been able to be successful because we’ve had some continuity in our coaching staff and everyone has bought into the same philosophy. We believe in working hard and being dedicated to one another,” he says. When Thompson came to Memorial Day, he figured he would end up coaching football and basketball. He had a strong background in both and knew he could contribute in each program. At the time, Memorial Day was known as a bas-
photography by Janice Hilliard
ketball and baseball school. The football team was relatively weak and hadn’t done very much. With basketball, he had to continue the winning tradition that had already been established. He did so, remaining uncompromising in his philosophy and demanding the best out of his
players. They responded favorably and the wins came in droves. A few years after he arrived, the Matadors won their first state basketball championship in 2011. Another state championship followed in 2013. This season, the Matadors got off to a slow
Michael Thompson enjoys everything about
coaching. He most enjoys being around the kids. Like all good coaches, he knows that what he does is about more than just winning games. He is helping shape and mold the leaders of tomorrow, and he wants them to make good choices on and off the field. “I want my players to give everything they have when it comes to football, basketball, and life. My father gave me advice that helped me experience positive outcomes in life, and I want to do the same for my players.”
start and at the time of this interview, with two weeks left in the regular season, they were sitting in fourth in the region. That’s not typical of Memorial Day basketball. Thompson believes his team will turn things around as the region tournament nears. “I believe we can win a few more games at the end of the season and head into the tournament as a first or second seed. I know we can be very successful in the tournament,” he says. Thompson might have done his best work on the gridiron. The Matadors struggled in football before Thompson came to Memorial Day. They didn’t win many games and weren’t far removed from a winless season when he arrived. In Thompson’s first year, he led the Matadors to a state title. Two more followed in 2009 and 2013. This season, the Matadors defeated the defending state champion Valwood Valiants in the finals. Valwood had defeated Memorial Day 1312 on a last-second field goal in the third game of the season. “When we watched film from that game, we saw that we left a lot of points on the field and we made a lot of mistakes. We knew we could compete with them. We had to play fast and fix those mistakes,” says Thompson. In the state championship game, which was played on a neutral field in Macon at Mercer University, Memorial Day took a 14-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. “It was a close game. We challenged our kids and made a few adjustments in the second half,” he says. In the final two periods, Memorial Day took control of the game and outscored the Valiants, 28-7, in the second half. The Matadors cruised to a 42-20 win and a third state title. In the process, they had handed the Valiants their first loss under second-year head coach Ashley Henderson.
“We were able to pull away. We forced several three and outs, and then we moved the ball offensively.” With the kind of success Thompson has experienced at Memorial Day, he will almost certainly have opportunities to coach at larger programs in the future. He says his career goals include coaching at another level, maybe even in college. Right now, he is committed to the
Memorial Day program. He also knows that he still has a great deal to learn about football. “I want to keep learning the game of football and doing what’s best for this program. When I got here, we were strong in basketball and baseball. Now we’re strong in football, basketball, and baseball. We had four kids get Division I football scholarships this year. I want to keep that going here,” he says. ITG
Michael Thompson Memorial Day School
Lady Impact Players Juliet Salgueiro Senior, St. Vincent's Academy
Tennis/Cross Country • Mascot: Saints • Height: 5’7” • Position(s): #1 Singles Stats 2013: #1 Singles 16-3 record, won 22 sets out of 26 (84.6%), went undefeated during GHSA 2AA Region Tournament (helping team win region title for the first time since 1996), won first round of state play-offs against East Laurens Awards and Recognition: Varsity Tennis 9-12th grades Savannah Morning News Best of Preps, Honorable mention (sophomore and junior year) Team Awards: 2nd place GHSA Region 2AA (freshman), 2nd place GHSA Region 2AA (sophomore), 1st place GHSA Region Title (junior) Varsity Tennis Team: Runner-up in Coastal Empire Tennis Tournament (sophomore) Other Activities you enjoy: Surfing, playing the piano, 5k races Favorites: Food: My favorite food has always been southern cooking. I can’t narrow it down because I honestly cannot choose just one dish. My grandmother is from Alabama, and southern food has always been a part of my life. Sport you wish you could play: Lacrosse and Polo Super Power: Breathing underwater School Subject: English and AP Government Doubles or Singles: Personally, I prefer singles because it offers more control of the court, ball, and overall point. Singles requires more stamina to play and to win, which I always use to my advantage. The stamina I have from cross country is a huge help when playing singles. I also enjoy singles because of the mental toughness it requires.
Emily Drown Senior, St. Vincent's Academy
Soccer • Jersey #10 • Mascot: Saints • Height: 5’3 • Position(s): Midfielder, Forward Awards and Recognition: Savannah Morning News “Best of Prep” Soccer 2013 All-Greater Savannah Girls’ Soccer Team Other activities you enjoy: CrossFit Watching Netflix Spending money on food Favorites: Pro or College Player: Lionel Messi Book: The Hunger Games Food: Steak Sport you wish you could play: Football Superpower: Teleportation School Subject: Calculus
Dominique Desautels Senior, St. Andrew's School Soccer • Jersey #2 • Mascot: Lion • Height: 5’4 Nickname: Dom
Position(s): Center Mid
Stats 2013: Assists: 7, Goals: 19 Awards and Recognition: SCISA All-Star for Soccer honorable mention from All-Greater Savannah Volleyball Team has been practicing soccer since 3 years old Most Memorable Game: Our first win my freshman year; it was the first for our school in years. Other activities you enjoy: Volleyball Most Influential Person to you and why: Mia Hamm because she was such a great soccer player. She excelled at such a high level receiving many honors and medals with her team. She was an extraordinary player and continues to be a great role model for striving young athletes. Favorites: Pro or College Player: Wes Welker Book: I read various books that my English teacher loans me Food: Pretzels with peanut butter, Pineapple and apples, and Little Debbie’s treats Pro Team: Boston Red Sox Place to Travel: Italy or Spain • Sport you wish you could play: Tennis College Team: University of Georgia Bulldogs
Lauren McCall Senior, Calvary Day School Soccer /Cross Country • Jersey #10 • Mascot: Cavalier • Height: 5’7 • Position(s): Midfield Stats 2013: Goals: 3, Assists: 7 for 13 points Awards and Recognition: starter in back to back Area 1-A championship teams starter for Calvary in back to back Elite Eight appearances in Class A soccer Selected to Participate in Coastal Empire Soccer All-Star Classic as sophomore and junior (honorable mention sophomore year, winning team junior year) Savannah Morning News All-Coastal Empire second team junior year club soccer for 10 years with two years at Coastal Georgia Soccer Association soccer scholarship with Middle Georgia State College Other activities you enjoy: boating, going to the beach, shopping, and traveling Favorites: Pro or College Player: Messi Book: Gossip Girl • Food: Lasagna Sport you wish you could play: Tennis Superpower: Fly • School Subject: Math
The First “Yankee Stadium,” Fort Pulaski by Ruby Hilliard
he origins of baseball are a little fuzzy. It is generally accepted that baseball was created by Abner Doubleday in the 1830s, but there is no documentation to prove this. Doubleday himself refuted that claim. It is more likely that baseball or base ball, as it was originally named, was a variation of the British games of rounders and cricket. In 1845, Alexander Joy Cartwright and other New York City men founded the Knickerbocker Baseball Club. They created a structure for the game, building a foundation for baseball as we know it today. They established regulations such as foul lines, bases, outs and also ruled that plugging or soaking the runner, throwing a ball at the runner for an out, was illegal. These rules made baseball distinctly different from rounders and cricket. When the Civil War started in 1861, the spread of troops and the exchange of prisoners spread the game all over the nation. With a uniform set of rules, clubs were formed and troops played amongst themselves for entertainment and to increase morale. Soon after, baseball became an American tradition. In 1862, Company G, 48th New York Volunteer Infantry played a baseball game on the grounds of Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia, giving it the nickname “The First Yankee Stadium.” The way the game was played is a little different than the modern sport. The pitcher, or bowler/hurler as he was previously called, threw the ball underhanded. The ball, or the apple, horsehide, or onion, was made of leather strips or rags wrapped around a small wooden ball. The willow, or the bat, as we know it, was shaped more like a pole, being fatter and longer, and weighed more than a modern bat. A modern bat weighs between 33 ounces and 36 ounces and a vintage bat weighed about 75 ounces. The ballers/players, base tenders/infielders, midfielders/centerfielders, the scouts/outfielders and the rover/shortstop wore no leather mitts. They used their bare hands or their hats to catch the ball. There were no restrictions on the number of balls that the striker could swing at and outs were determined by the catch of the ball. A striker would only be out if the ball was caught before touching the ground or by catching the ball after the 38
photography provided by National Park Service / Fort Pulaski National Monument
first bounce. When a player was out it was referred to as “player dead” and when three outs were achieved it was called “three hands dead.” Early games lasted five innings rather than nine. Every year, usually around the Fourth of July, Fort Pulaski reenacts this baseball game, only they play North vs South or Blue vs Gray. The staff re-enactors from Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson and the nearby U.S. Coast Guard station make up the teams of nine. They play in wool uniforms worn by the original infantry with the only change to wardrobe, for some, being shoes. Hardcore re-enactors will play in the traditional leather cavalry boots with wooden soles and horseshoe-plate heels. Matt O’Neal, a re-enactor volunteer at Fort Pulaski, has played in a few of the games and says he always wears his traditional shoes while some opt for sneakers and even a few others play barefoot. The game is played in the same place as the original with the cranks/spectators looking on from the top and sides of the fort. They also play with the same rules of the 1862 game. The ground in the fort is uneven and makes for tricky play, at best. They play with a traditional ball that doesn’t pitch, hit or roll on the ground with the same accuracy of a modern ball. They also play with a traditional willow, but modern bats are available for use if one can’t handle the weight of the old fashioned bat. The wool outfits are hot and sweaty in the Savannah heat, making for a very different kind of game than what modern players experience. They also use no mitts, and use their hat - if they remembered to wear it - to catch the ball. After the five innings of the game are played, spectators can join the field to try their hand at an 1862 version of baseball. They can take their chance at swinging the willow, hitting an onion, and legging it around the bases to the dish/home plate. O’Neal says the game and festivities surrounding it draw more people to the park on that day than any other. To plan your visit to Fort Pulaski and try your hand at vintage baseball, check out their website’s event page at: http://www.nps.gov/ fopu/planyourvisit/events.htm
Herschel V. Jenkins High School
Discipline and Consistency: A Life's Legacy
hen watching a basketball game, one of the first things you do is take in the surroundings of the gym. Where is the concession stand, which side is the home team on, how many players does each team have, and who are the referees and coaches? If you are at a game against Herschel V.Jenkins High School, you might be surprised to see who the coaches are, but once the game has started, you will be impressed. Lovdy Heller, 60 years old, sits on the bench beside head coach Bakari Bryant as his assistant. She is right there in the action, taking everything in and coaching just as she has been for the last 30 years. Coming from a family of “preachers and teachers,” Heller says growing up, she loved sports and always knew she wanted to teach. Originally she planned to attend college and major in piano. Growing up in Appling County, Georgia, she stayed busy with sports year round - softball, track and field, and volleyball were all part of her youth. Basketball however, stole her heart. Playing college ball at Fort Valley State for four years and graduating in 1976 with a teaching degree was the beginning of a legacy for Heller. Heller recalls how her Fort Valley coaches, Flossie Love and Jessie Brown, were her family away from home and credits them with instilling in her the coaching traits of “being strong, consistency and fairness to all.” This coaching wisdom didn’t fall on deaf ears. Heller still stresses that “discipline on and off the court, practice and academics, are the characteristics of an athlete.” Heller says, “The game and the kids might have changed over the years but old school still pays off.” Her coaching strategy stresses discipline. “The kids know if I say something I mean it, that’s the way I grew up, my family expected us to show respect and I expect it as well. I am consistent with the students and coaches I work with.” Heller enjoyed the opportunity to coach with people such as Mickey Stephens, Tim Jordan at Savannah High, and coach Oliver at HVJ, who was her assistant coach. She became his assistant when she retired. To say she never gives up is an understatement. During her tenure as a coach she did a tour of duty with the Army National Guard and spent a year in Saudi Arabia as a Sgt. E5 -Ammunition Specialist before returning to her first love, coaching basketball. As far as being a female coach on the boys bench, Heller got her start right out of college at age 22 as the assistant boys basketball coach at Thompkins High School in Savannah. Heller has
coached her entire career in Savannah Chatham County schools. In 30 years, she has touched a lot of lives. She even coached the two current coaches at HVJ, Bakari Bryant and Jerry Hampton, with whom she now shares the bench during basketball season. When asked about Heller, Bryant says, “Oh wow! She knows more and has probably forgotten more about the game than I will ever know. I am so proud to have her on our bench with the boys, and whew, she is tougher than I am!” Heller has had many accomplishments during her career. She has seen students go on to play in college and professionally. She has raised a daughter, Thandi, who loves basketball and keeps stats for Savannah State College. She has a granddaughter, Kaiya, who she adores. Heller says, “The thing I find most satisfying is seeing young people improve, and grow to be successful. That is my coaching accomplishment.” Heller doesn’t have to escape from the rigors of coaching because it is the one thing she loves to do. Her goal “to assist young people to grow and achieve the best in life” is what keeps her going. Heller said her grandfather named her Lovdy and she has “always loved the words in the songs” she grew up playing on piano. “Those words inspired me and my motto is, if I can help somebody with a word or even a song, I know my being would not be in vain!” ITG
article and photography by Janice Hilliard
John Eck Hilton Head Preparatory School
Victory through Recovery by Tiffany Allnutt
ohn Eck, a senior at Hilton Head Prep, says his love for basketball began at an early age, idolizing Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and USC basketball. Although he played other sports a child, Eck feels that he knew from the moment he started playing basketball that it was his sport. Since seventh grade he has been rigorously training everyday to be a strong, successful athlete. Some of his best moments playing the game have been his first dunk, making the All-Star team in 2013 and receiving SCISSA All-Region, All-State recognitions. Eck also made the AAU team, an elite travel team out of Charleston, which required extensive practices and dedication. Because of an injury suffered in an automobile accident in June 2013, he was unable to participate in the tournament season. Although initially Eck seemed to have walked away from the accident unscathed, the following days proved otherwise. Eck began experiencing sensitivity to light, headaches, dizziness, and trouble remembering simple information. His mother took him to a neurologist where it was confirmed that he had all the signs of concussion. He was diagnosed with PCS, post-concussion syndrome. PCS is a form of mild traumatic brain injury that can cause side effects for weeks, months, or even a year. Eck was forced to stay inside, in the darkest room in the house, with as little stimulation as possible. Eck says “I couldn’t watch television or use the computer, 40
photography by Janice Hilliard
just a little bit of light would cause me to get a headache and get all dizzy.” This was a huge setback for such a dedicated athlete accustomed to intense training and practice every day. The symptoms persisted through the summer into the beginning of the school year, where juggling classes and starting basketball practice became a difficult obstacle to overcome. His coaches worked closely with Eck upon his return to the court in November 2013, taking small steps to ease him back into effectively training for the game.
What seems like a huge setback to some only made Eck fight harder to achieve his goals and get back out on the court. “He is a machine, he trains hard every day, he was made to play basketball,” says his mother.
At first Eck attended practice, unable to participate at all, but slowly he was able to regain his strength and agility on the court. His mother Cecile says, “There was an immense amount of support for John during this time, he had friends over all the time, who would just sit with him in the dark, and his coaches called every day to check on him and encourage him.” What seems like a huge setback to some only made Eck fight harder to achieve his goals and get back out on the court. “He is a machine, he trains hard every day, he was made to play basketball,” says his mother. Eck states that his mother and his coaches, and of course his love for basketball, encouraged him to work hard to overcome his injury and get back out there and keep playing the game. Having transferred to Hilton Head Prep starting in his junior year, Eck was honored to be recognized by his teammates for his obvious devotion to the game when he was elected captain in his junior year. The passion he shows is greatly respected. Hilton Head Prep head basketball coach Jerry Faulkner says, “John is unselfish, a true team player. He deserves every bit of accolades he can get, the kids respect him and you like to see kids that get attention that work hard. Nobody goes to the gym and shoots as much as John Eck. His love of the sport is inspiring because he deserves it.” Although it has been a difficult year full of achievements and hardships, Eck feels he is finally fully recovered and ready for whatever comes next. His dream is to play at the collegiate level following graduation this spring. Eck’s goals for this season have been to
maintain his concentration throughout the game and to win. He seems to be accomplishing both successfully as the Hilton Head Prep Dolphins are in the running for making the playoffs and he is currently ranked as the highest scorer in Beaufort County. No matter the outcome, this has been a victorious season for this courageous athlete. ITG
Hilton Head Prep head basketball coach Jerry Faulkner says, “John is unselfish, a true team player. He deserves every bit of accolades he can get, the kids respect him and you like to see kids that get attention that work hard. Nobody goes to the gym and shoots as much as John Eck. His love of the sport is inspiring because he deserves it.”
John's Favorite's: Subject: Science Healthy Food: Strawberries College Team: South Carolina College Player: Devan Downey Pro Team: Carolina Panthers Pro Player: Kobe Bryant Superpower: Hulk Most like to meet: Michael Jordan 41
s I write this article I am looking at the FCA Coach’s Mandate poster I have hanging on the wall of my office. It is a special, and rare, coach that fully embraces this pledge to see coaching, not as a career alone, but as a “calling” to be passionately pursued on and off the field for the purpose of equipping and enabling athletes to reach their potential for the Glory and Honor of God. Bradley Ward, Football and Baseball coach at Statesboro High School, is one such coach. He called me last spring believing that he had been given a vision that he had to carry out. In fact, he felt so strongly about what God laid on his heart that his future as a coach depended on it! The vision was simple. Pick 6 leaders from the football team, lead them through a weekly bible study, and take them to FCA camp in Black Mountain, NC. That is just what he did and the results were dramatic! Each of the athletes came away from camp with a completely new purpose for playing the
game and it had an incredible ripple effect through the entire team and coaching staff. During the week of camp the guys came up with the idea of 6 and 1. Each year they would encourage 6 more athletes and 1 coach to join them at FCA camp. One coach answering his “call” deeply influenced his athletes and now those athletes are using their talents to honor God and influence their fellow teammates. That is the “WIN” and that is what FCA is all about! As an FCA staff person it is incredible to see the impact of a coach that has a heart for Christ and to witness that change the lives of the athletes they coach! Statesboro High School will continue to feel the influence of these six athletes and one coach for years to come.
Boyd Green-Coastal Plains FCA “Camp meant a lot to me because it opened up passages to my heart that I didn’t know existed.” -Brandon MapleSHS-Defensive End “FCA camp taught me a new perspective on how to play sports. That perspective is to play for the Lord.”-Colin Chance-SHS Quarterback “FCA camp really made me realize the gifts and talents God has given me and how thankful I am for them.” Sherrodric Rawls-SHS Running Back “Camp really opened my eyes…it taught me to play and practice for God. It was a great experience.” -John Underwood-SHS Offensive Lineman “Camp has not only molded me into a better athlete, but it has made me into a more confident leader in the arena of life.” -Wesley Budget-SHS Defensive Back “Camp taught me that I am not just supposed to play for myself, coaches and team but for God.” -Tim Key-SHS-Linebacker
Who Inspires You? J.D. Rogers
“My dad because he is my best friend, and he and my mom have given up a lot (money, time, vacations, driving for hours and hours) for me to pursue my dreams in wrestling.”
“My dad; he taught me how to play the game when I was young, and he continues to be there and support me.”
“Jesus is the most influential person in my life. The reason why he was so inspirational to me was because he guided me when I was diagnosed with cancer, and he gave me a new perspective on life. He also gave me hope when I lost my leg to cancer. He has shown that with faith and dedication that anything is possible. It is a true blessing that I have been given a second chance to play tennis since before my diagnosis of cancer.”
“My grandmother, Maria Vinueza; she is such a strong and loving woman who always wants to make others happy. She’s one of the most hard-working people I know and always puts others first.”
Randolph Solomon III
“Definitely my mother; throughout my life she has been someone that I can always turn to and depend on. She supports me no matter what, and I know whenever I look into the stands she’s always someone I can look to for support.”
Michael Walker “My coach because he has always pushed me to do my very best even when I felt like giving up.”
“I believe that the most accurate definition of influential is, ‘To have the power to cause changes.’ I am so blessed to be surrounded by coaches, teachers, parents, and students that are the walking definition of influential. However, there has been one constant figure in my life that never ceased to amaze and support me, and that is my mother. She knew me even before I knew myself. She has instilled in me all my motivation and perseverance. She is my coach, cook, teacher, and above all she is my mom. She has taught me to never back out of anything just because something becomes difficult. I have always been extremely determined and competitive, but none of that would be possible if it wasn’t for her. Every child in the world loves their mother, however, few listen to them. Being a senior in high school and the captain of both the cross country and tennis teams, I have had to make decisions every day. These decisions will only get harder next year in college. I will always listen to my mom’s advice which sometimes is simply, ‘Juliet you have to make a decision.’ For always being my number one fan and for many more reasons, the most influential person in my life is my mother, Fonda Salgueiro.” 43 43