The Central High School wrestling team made history by clinching its first-ever trip to the GHSA State Duals after finishing in second place in the Area 5-AAA Duals at Pepperell. The Lions were joined locally by Mount Zion, Bremen and Carrollton in Macon, as the Eagles and Blue Devils won their respective area tournaments, while the Trojans placed second.
College Ranks Come Calling For Zackery
Following a three-year run as the head coach of the Central High School football program, Rico Zackery stepped down from his post to take a position at his alma mater as the recruiting coordinator at Georgia Southern.
Zackery went 30-6 during his three years with the Lions, including a run to the Class AAA state quarterfinals in 2013 and an undefeated regular season and Region 5-AAA title in 2014.
State Of Seconds
The Mount Zion and Bremen high school wrestling programs captured runner-up efforts at the GHSA State Duals in Macon, with the Eagles placing second to Commerce in Class A, while the Blue Devils fell to Social Circle in their final year as a Class AA program.
In its first trip to state, Central finished 1-2 in Class AAA, while Carrollton also went 1-2 in the Class AAAA bracket.
Robinson Nets Milestone Win
Villa Rica High School boys' head basketball coach Jason Robinson netted a milestone on Jan. 16 behind a 79-44 victory over Paulding County, securing career win No. 200, all of which have come during his 12 years in charge of the Wildcat program.
County 3-Peat For Eagles
The Mount Zion High School wrestling team maintained its reign as the Carroll County Dual champions for a third straight year, knocking off Central in the championship match in Bowdon.
Kesler Lands Lion Job
Following 15 years as an assistant coach and coordinator, Larry Kesler took over the Central High School football program on Jan. 21 after previously serving as the offensive coordinator at Elbert County.
Kesler's run at Central proved to be short-lived, however, as he resigned following an 0-10 campaign in 2016.
Calhoun Takes Top Spot With Trojans
Sean Calhoun was officially approved as the new head football coach at Carrollton High School on Feb. 4, landing his first head coaching job after winning back-to-back state championships as the offensive coordinator at Colquitt County the previous two seasons.
Calhoun also won a national championship at Valdosta State as the backup quarterback.
Russell Dances With Devils
The Bremen High School football team found its man to take over Blue Devil football in first-time head coach Davis Russell, the grandson of legendary coach Erk Russell, as he was officially approved on Feb. 5.
Russell previously served as the defensive coordinator at Northgate and offensive coordinator at LaGrange. He was also a team captain on Valdosta State's 2007 national championship team as the starting center.
History For Haralson
In its first year as a program, the Haralson County High School wrestling team qualified three grapplers for the GHSA Traditional State Championships, as Blake Rice, Daniel Muse and Mattaniah Harris led the charge for the Rebels under head coach Nick White, who was named the 2015-16 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year. Harris was also honored as the Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year.
The Drive For Five
Five local prep wrestling standouts won rings at the GHSA Traditional State Championships in Duluth on Feb. 13, as four Bremen grapplers joined a Mount Zion state champion on the podium.
Eagle heavyweight Chandler Butler captured a Class A crown, while Joseph Stroud, Drew Cook, Jacob Bumgardner and Paul Robinson were part of the Blue Devil victory tour.
Stroud was selected as the 2015-16 Times-Georgian Lower Weight Wrestler of the Year, while Bumgardner was the Upper Weight Wrestler of the Year.
Region Title Quartet
Four local girls' basketball teams finished as region tournament champions in February, as Villa Rica captured the 5-AAAAA crown, while Carrollton won its region in AAAA, Haralson County took the title in AAA and Heard County followed suit in AA.
The Lady Trojans and Lady Braves both reached the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs before falling in their respective classifications.
VR freshman phenom Deasia Merrill was awarded the 2015-16 Times-Georgian All-Area MVP for her star-studded performance for the Lady Cats, while Shon Thomaston of Carrollton was voted as the Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year and Lady Trojan sophomore Taylor Brown earned All-Area Newcomer of the Year accolades.
The region title marked the first for Haralson County since 2004 and it also won its first state playoff game since 2005 under head coach Tammy Norred.
Sweet 16 For Tigers
For the first time since 2006, the Temple High School boys' basketball team punched a postseason victory, knocking off No. 2 Riverside Military Academy as a No. 3 seed in the Class AA state playoffs in a 50-40 triumph.
Tiger head coach David Cottrell went on to become the 2015-16 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year.
Golden Knights Go National
The West Georgia Technical College women's basketball team earned a third consecutive GCAA/Region 17 Tournament title and followed it up with a victory in the District G Championship in Pennsylvania to reach the NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament in New Jersey.
The Golden Knights, under the leadership of head coach Kenny Edwards, finished fourth in the nation with an overall record of 26-7, marking the best finish in school history.
Following five seasons in charge of the program, Edwards announced that he was stepping down from his post in May.
Gulf South Slayers
The University of West Georgia men's basketball team captured its first Gulf South Conference Tournament title since 2002 behind a 99-82 triumph over Alabama-Huntsville on March 5 in Homewood, Alabama.
Led by GSC Tournament MVP Iakeem Alston and All-GSC Tournament selection Marcus Dortch and under the direction of head coach Michael Cooney, the Wolves would go on to land a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Division II Tournament.
UWG fell to No. 5 Stillman in the opening round of the tourney, 85-79, in Huntsville, Alabama, on March 12.
Central High School boys' track and field standout Tyler Terry established a new school-record and put himself in the conversation for the No. 1 long jump in the nation at that point of the season with a leap of 24 feet, 7 inches at the Central Invitational on March 12.
The Mount Zion and Heard County high school weight lifting teams both hoisted state championship finishes in the GACA State Weight Lifting Championships at Jefferson High School on March 12, with the Eagles claiming the top spot in Class A and the Braves matching the feat in Class AA.
The Braves won their third state title in the past five years behind individual championships from DayVin Troy, Austin Miller, Austin Barron and Andrew Cannon.
The Eagles won their first-ever state title with five individual champions: Coleman Gubbins, Jace Jordan, Ivery Wheat, Chandler Butler and Antonio Brown.
Lions Net Historic Title
The Central High School boys' tennis team netted a historic victory by securing its first-ever region championship on April 14 at Sunset Hills Country Club, which marked the start of a memorable run for the program under head coach Jeff Wadlington.
Central would go on to reach the quarterfinal round of the Class AAA state playoffs, also a first for the program, before falling to Sonoraville in a 3-2 battle.
Four-Peat For Lady Lions
The Central High School girls' tennis team registered its fourth straight region crown on April 14 at Sunset Hills Country Club en route to a run to the Class AAA state semifinals, which was another program milestone for the Lady Lions.
Central was led by seniors Sydney Stone and Lindsey Pierce at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, who were part of all four region crowns.
Score Four For Carrollton
The Carrollton High School boys' tennis team also made it four region title runs in a row on April 13 at the South Fulton Tennis Center. Carrollton reached the Class AAAA state finals for the first time in program history and bowed out to private school power Marist in the finals at the Clayton County International Park Tennis Center in Jonesboro on May 7.
The Bremen High School boys' and girls' tennis teams both delivered their fourth consecutive league titles in Region 5-AA on April 13 at Heard County. The Bremen netters both reached the Class AA state quarterfinals before their tremendous spring campaigns came to a close.
Emotional Exit For Temple's Rogers
Temple High School head football coach Seth Rogers described it as an "emotional day" upon making the decision to step down from his position on April 19 to accept an administrative position at Villa Rica High School in the capacity of assistant principal.
Rogers had served as the head coach sine 2007, highlighted by recording the school's only winning record at the time in 2011 by leading the Tigers to the Class AA state playoffs.
Cats Close Historic Campaign
The Villa Rica High School boys' tennis team reached the state playoffs for the first time in school history in 2016, closing out the historic season on April 19 in a first-round setback to Gainesville.
Central Golf Swings Into Record Books
The Central High School girls' golf team recorded a program milestone on April 18 by winning the first-ever region championship at the Cherokee Golf and Country Club in Cedartown. Ainsley Cowart led the way with low medalist honors by firing an 89. The Lady Lions would go on to make a long-awaited state appearance in Class AAA.
Amazing Run For Red Devils
The Bowdon High School baseball team capped off an incredible regular-season run at 25-1 on April 23 to capture the Region 5-AA title, marking the first for the program since 2002.
The Red Devils had a 25-game winning streak snapped in the final game of the regular season, but they took the No. 1 seed and ran with it all the way to the state quarterfinals, marking the first elite eight appearance for the program since 2006.
Cason Parmer was honored as the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area MVP, while Todd Eubanks was voted the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year.
Bowdon Soccer Kicks Into Playoffs
In just their first year of existence, the Bowdon High School soccer programs both reached the Class AA state playoffs under head coach David Bramble.
The Red Devils fell to Riverside Military Academy in the first round on April 28, while the Red Devilettes dropped a first-round matchup with Social Circle on April 29.
Jones Inks With Patriots
Former Carrollton High School and Auburn University star defensive back Jonathan Jones had his professional football dreams come true when he signed a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots on April 30 following the 2016 NFL Draft. Jones has played a key role on special teams during his rookie season and has also seen time on the defensive side of the ball in certain packages for the Super Bowl contenders.
Elite Eight Run For Bremen Soccer
The Bremen High School soccer program enjoyed a run to the elite eight in the Class AA state playoffs for both the boys' and girls' squads for the first time in school history under the direction of head coach Jason Fields.
Riley Vaults To State Crown
Bremen High School girls' track and field standouts Kaylee Riley and Katie Hanegan continued the legacy of the program's domination in the pole vault, with Riley winning the Class AA state championship in Albany by clearing 11-4, while Hanegan placed second at 10-6.
Riley has already signed to continue her career at the University of Alabama, while Hanegan signed with Kennesaw State.
Sewell Shines At State
Haralson County High School girls' track and field star Jaylen Sewell made it a 5-for-5 showing when it came to podium trips in the Class AAA portion of the state championships in Albany.
The Rebelette junior sensation recorded four third-place efforts to go along with a sixth-place finish to help HC tally a sixth-place team placement, marking the best in the history of the program.
Sewell's third-place efforts came in the triple jump (37-8), long jump (17-10) and 300-meter hurdles (45.63) individually and she also ran a leg on the third-place 400-meter relay squad and sixth-place mile relay.
Eagle Duo Go 1-2 In Discus
The Mount Zion High School boys' track and field team had a pair of stellar showings in Jefferson at the state championships, where Antonio Brown and Daniel Anderson went 1-2, respectively, in the Class A discus. Brown took the title behind a toss of 129-5, while Anderson was right behind him at 126-1.
Ward Tabbed As Top Tiger
Temple High School announced the promotion of former defensive coordinator Scotty Ward to the top spot in the Tiger football program, replacing his former boss, Seth Rogers, as the new head coach.
Terry Sweeps State Sprints
Central High School track and field star Tyler Terry closed out his career with a pair of Class AAA state titles in the sprints by winning the 100 (10.72) and 200 (21.46) to go along with his 300-meter hurdle title he won as a junior. Terry's dominating performance in Jefferson helped the Lions finish third as a team in AAA.
Record Showing For Tiger Track
The Temple High School boys' track and field team sent a school-record 11 qualifiers to the state championships, and they wouldn't disappoint. The Tigers finished fifth in Class AA — establishing a new program benchmark — as the best finish in school history.
Lipscomb Captures Class AA Crown
Bremen High School freshman star and University of Alabama commit Tyler Lipscomb capped off a dominating spring showing by capturing the Class AA individual state crown at the Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson on May 16, firing a round of 69.
It was one of many highlights for the Blue Devil phenom, who earlier in the season established a new tournament record at the 12th Annual Lion Invitational at Oak Mountain Championship Golf Club on April 2, firing a round of 7-under 65. It bested the old mark by three strokes and was a whopping seven strokes better than the three second-place finishers that day.
Regional Return For Wolves
For the first time since 1998, the University of West Georgia baseball team made an NCAA Division II Regional appearance as the No. 6 seed in the South Regional in Tampa, Florida.
The Wolves staved off elimination three times in Tampa before falling to Delta State on May 22, ending a campaign that featured 42 wins. The 2016 UWG squad was just the third team in program history to record 40 or more wins.
Hardcourt Homecoming For Sims
Deion Sims proved that you can go home again. The former Central High School basketball standout returned to his alma mater to take over the boys' basketball program in early June after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant.
Sims took over as the Lions were in the transition of moving from Class AAA to AAAA.
On the girls' side, Josh Smith was also promoted to the top spot after serving four years as an assistant and middle school coach.
Harrod Shines On Big Stage
Former Heard County High School softball standout Cali Harrod enjoyed a freshman season for the ages at Florida State, leading the Seminoles to an ACC tittle and NCAA Tournament Regional and Super Regional en route to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The shining moment of her season came with FSU trailing 7-4 and two runners aboard, where Harrod stepped up to the plate and smashed a game-tying, three-run homer in an elimination game against Auburn on national television.
Even though FSU fell in an 8-7, extra-inning affair, it was a moment the Heard County product, and more than likely all of Franklin, will never forget.
Bowdon's King Ralph
After spending 16 years as the face of Bowdon High School softball, head coach Ralph Sanders announced he was stepping down to take an assistant coaching position at Thomas University to join forces with his daughter and former Red Devilette star, Jessica Sanders.
Sanders led Bowdon to the 2005 Class A state championship, a third-place finish in 2008 and fifth-place showings in 2002-03 to go along with four region championships during his time in charge of the program.
Prior to his resignation, Bowdon honored Sanders and his late wife, Janet, by naming the new softball facility 'Sanders Field.'
Longtime BHS assistant coach Stephen Mitchell was soon named Sanders' replacement.
Hannah Steps To The Plate In VR
When the Villa Rica High School baseball team went looking for a new head coach following the resignation of Adam Graham at the culmination of the spring season, it didn't have to go looking too far.
The Wildcats promoted assistant Neal Hannah to take over Wildcat baseball, as the former prep and college star hit the ground running since being appointed in June.
The Bremen High School product played two years at Gordon State and one year at Mercer and was drafted three times — twice by the Toronto Blue Jays and once by the Los Angeles Dodgers — before getting out of baseball and moving into the private sector.
Turf Times For Local Football Programs
Three local football programs received a facelift when it came to facilities this summer, as Bremen, Central and Temple installed new turf fields along with other amenities to their respective stadiums.
Heard County High School football standout Emory Jones made a verbal commitment via video to Ohio State University on July 29, choosing the Buckeyes over Clemson, Georgia and Tennessee. The junior standout entered the 2016 campaign ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2018.
Former Temple High School track and field/football standout and Troy University sprinter Hakim Montgomery captured a gold medal for Team USA at the Junior World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on July 30. Montgomery ran a leg on the 400-meter relay squad that turned in a time of 38.93 seconds.
Lady Trojan Trifecta
The Carrollton High School softball team rallied to a region tournament title three-peat on Oct. 6 behind a 7-3 victory over local rival Villa Rica, marking the Lady Trojans' first region championship as a Class AAAAA program.
Carrollton would go on to reach the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs, led by 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Co-Newcomer of the Year Aslinn Spradlin.
Five-For-Five In Franklin
The Heard County High School softball team made it a clean sweep by winning the regular-season region championship and Region 5-AA Tournament title on Oct. 8 to earn the No. 1 seed for the Class AA state playoffs.
And for the Lady Brave seniors, they closed their career by delivering an unprecedented fifth consecutive trip to Columbus for the elite eight, with obviously four of those coming on their watch.
Terrific Lady Tigers
The Temple High School volleyball team capped off a perfect run through the area schedule by dominating the Area 1-AA Tournament on Oct. 8 en route to a No. 1 seed for the Class AA state playoffs.
The Lady Tigers reached the Class AA state quarterfinals for the first time in school history, marking one of the greatest seasons ever for Temple volleyball under head coach Jessica Hok.
Lady Wildcats All Aces
The Villa Rica High School volleyball team secured its second-ever state playoff berth on Oct. 8 by finishing third in the Area 7-AAAAA Tournament in Rome, led by all-area performers Aleaha Faulk and Oneillia Fuller and Area 7-AAAAA Coach of the Year Vic Calhoun.
Villa Rica made its return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2006, where it suffered a tough setback, but still had a tremendous run. Fuller was named the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year.
Historic Finish For Haralson Volleyball
The Haralson County High School volleyball team earned a second consecutive state playoff berth on Oct. 8 by finishing third in the Area 1-AAA Tournament in Adairsville, but the Rebelettes weren't just satisfied by getting to the dance.
Haralson County won back-to-back road playoff matches to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history before bowing out to private school power Westminster.
For her efforts, Haralson County head coach Katrina Sullivan was voted as the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year.
Red Devilette Revival
The Bowdon High School softball team made its triumphant return to the elite eight in Columbus for the first time since 2008 under first-year head coach Stephen Mitchell, sweeping its way through the first two rounds of the Class A Public School state playoffs behind 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Pitcher of the Year Macy Bearden.
Uncharted Waters For VR Softball
The Villa Rica High School softball team enjoyed one of its best seasons in program history in 2016, finishing as the No. 1 seed in the regular season in Region 7-AAAAA and hosting the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs as a No. 2 seed.
Villa Rica would reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2002 and came just one win shy of a trip to the elite eight.
Freshman standout Madi Langford was honored as the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Co-Newcomer of the Year for her breakout performance.
Road Warrior Lady Eagles
As the No. 20 seed in the Class A Public School state playoff bracket, not many people gave the Mount Zion High School softball team much of a chance to make any noise on the postseason landscape.
But nobody told Jennifer Carter's ballclub that.
The Lady Eagles stormed through the first two rounds of the playoffs with long road trips to south Georgia to reach the elite eight for the second time in three years.
Lady Lion Title Roar
In its fourth and final trip to the GHSA Softball State Championships in Columbus, the Central High School seniors delivered an elusive state championship breakthrough at the Class AAAA level on Oct. 29.
Central didn't lose a single game during its run to the crown led by seniors Emily Williams, Maddie Dodson, Kayla Sales and Logan North, along with the rest of their teammates.
Head coach Dave McKenna was honored as the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year.
Without a doubt, the top storyline from Central's run to the Class AAAA state championship was the sensational performance from senior hurler Emily Williams.
The Lady Lion right-hander was beyond dominant, going 8-0 for the postseason, but she saved her best for when it mattered most in the elite eight.
Williams was simply flawless in Columbus, going 4-0 with three no-hitters and a perfect game. During the amazing run, she struck out 74 batters en route to the title and Class AAAA Pitcher of the Year honors.
For the season, Williams went 25-4 with a 0.70 ERA, striking out 436 batters in 192.2 innings. She allowed just 18 earned runs all year.
Williams, the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area MVP, signed with Mississippi State following the season.
Cat Scratch Playoff Fever
The Villa Rica High School football team punched its first state playoff ticket since 2008 on Oct. 28 behind a 23-17 victory over Cass, securing the No. 4 seed out of a loaded Region 7-AAAAA that featured the eventual state champion, a semifinal qualifier and a quarterfinal qualifier among the top three seeds.
Tigers Thrive Under Ward's Watch
First-year head coach Scotty Ward led the Temple High School football team to its sixth win on Oct. 28 — tying the school-record — in a 48-8 triumph over Jordan for Senior Night.
Even though the Tigers fell just short of reaching the playoffs, it was a special season for the Temple program, which also had a new turf field installed.
Eagle Seniors Leave Legacy
The Mount Zion High School football team's seniors left a legacy as the winningest
class to ever come through the program by recording 29 victories over the past four seasons, including a nine-win campaign in 2016 that tied the single-season record.
Following a 9-0 run out of the gates, MZ suffered a tough setback to Fellowship Christian in the Region 6-A championship and then drew a difficult first-round matchup with Irwin County, ending the campaign in the first round of the Class A Public School state playoffs on Nov. 18.
Senior Jace Jordan was named the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Offensive Player of the Year.
Calhoun Restores Trojan Pride
The Carrollton High School football team celebrated a share of the Region 7-AAAAA title on Nov. 4 to close out the regular season with Rome and Kell in the first year under the leadership of head coach Sean Calhoun.
The Trojans finished the year 11-2 overall and reached the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals, falling to Buford in a 34-27 thriller.
Calhoun was named the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year, while Reid Dedman earned All-Area Defensive Player of the Year honors and the tandem of Mecose Todd and Kevin Swint were named Co-Newcomers of the Year.
Bailey Leads Blue Devils To Round 2
The Bremen High School football team also shined under the direction of a first-year head coach this fall in Davis Russell. Competing in their first year in Class AAA, the Blue Devils reached the second round of the state playoffs as a No. 4 seed, powered by the all-around play of Division I recruit Kyle Bailey.
Bailey closed out his prep career as the 2016 Times-Georgian All-Area MVP.
UWG Home For The Holidays
In one of the most anticipated football seasons in the program's history, the University of West Georgia endured a bumpy road in 2016, which ended on Nov. 12 in a 69-0 victory at West Florida.
The Wolves finished 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Gulf South Conference play, where a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season proved to be the difference in a third consecutive NCAA Division II playoff berth and having the season end early this fall following back-to-back runs to the national semifinals in the first two seasons under head coach Will Hall.
The Holy Ground Baptist Academy football team closed out its perfect 12-0 campaign with a 94-48 victory over Colonial Hills in the GICAA Division II state championship game in LaGrange on Nov. 18, marking the program's second state championship over the past four seasons.
Head coach Jamie Perry had just three seniors on his roster this fall, but he was able to get the most out of all of his players, including twin brothers Jackson and Brady Yates.
Brady Yates led the GICAA in rushing with 1,612 yards and 30 touchdowns on 225 carries to go along with 30 receptions for 527 yards and six touchdowns. Jackson Yates completed 55-of-109 attempts for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns with only one interception. He also rushed for 927 yards and 23 touchdowns on 136 carries.
At the conclusion of the 2016 prep football season, the coaching carousel began to spin its wheels on the local scene.
Central head coach Larry Kesler stepped down after just one season in charge of the Lion program, while Chad Frazier followed suit at Villa Rica following four years and Haralson County's Frank Vohun also resigned after two years back in charge of Rebel football.
Former Central head coach Rico Zackery was hired by Villa Rica and one of his former assistants, Darius Smiley, is making the return to Lion Valley as the new head coach after spending the past season as an assistant at Newnan.
The Haralson County head coaching job is in the final stages of the interviewing process heading into the new year.
New County Kings
There were a pair of changes at the top of the county food chain of bragging rights, beginning with the Central High School wrestling team dethroning three-time defending Carroll County Duals champion Mount Zion on Dec. 13.
From there, it was the Temple High School boys' basketball team following suit by doing the same to Villa Rica just a few days later in a double-overtime thriller at THS on Dec. 17 in the SMI Carroll County Christmas Classic.
On the girls' side, Villa Rica overcame last year's second-place finish by capturing the county crown this year behind tournament MVP Deasia Merrill.
The Haralson County High School girls' basketball team put forth a dominating display to repeat as champions of the 41st Annual Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational Tournament on Dec. 30, powered by tournament MVP Alexis Boykin.
On the boys' side, Mount Zion used a 3-0 performance to make a run to the title led by tournament MVP C.J. Ackles.