Creekview’s slow-pitch softball team earned Cherokee County’s only team state championship in April, and it did so in dominant fashion.
Playing at Woodstock’s Twin Creeks Softball Complex, the Lady Grizzlies defeated Franklin County 27-2 in the final game of the state tournament. It was only the second team state championship in school history, following the fast-pitch softball team's state title in 2017.
Creekview finished the season 20-1, but after a falling 14-11 to Franklin County in the second round of the state tournament, the Lady Grizzlies’ backs were up against the wall. Creekview rebounded to beat Haralson County 13-1 to set up a run that saw the Lady Grizzlies win four straight games, en route to the championship.
A second loss would have eliminated Creekview from the double-elimination format but the Lady Grizzlies outscored their opponents 82-14 over their final five games.
Creekview recorded a 16-run sixth inning in the championship game against Franklin County, and Josie Johnson picked up the win.
It was the top of the lineup, however, which carried Creekview over the course of the tournament with Brianna Stubbs, Emily Wilkie and Ari Wright leading the way. In the final four games, the trio batted 27-for-42 (.642) with seven home runs and 37 RBIs.
2. Two wrestlers claim individual state titles
Creekview’s Eli Daugherty and Sequoyah’s Christian Small each won individual Class AAAAAA state championships in February in Macon.
Daughterty’s win gave Creekview an individual champion for the sixth straight season, while Small’s championship was Sequoyah's first in 13 years.
Wrestling in the 120-pound weight class, Small finished his junior season with a record of 54-1 and knocked off the defending state champion, Pope’s Max Druhot, in the final. After knocking off Druhot earlier in the season, Small’s said his belief in himself was bolstered, and he went on to defeat Druhot 7-2 in the state final.
Daugherty began his junior season wrestling at 220, but by season’s end, he made the move to the highest weight class at 285. He claimed the region and sectional titles and went on to beat Valdosta's Allen Demetrius 11-4 in the state final. Daugherty ended his season with a record of 57-10.
Daugherty moved back down to 220 for his senior year and currently holds a record of 25-1. Small moved up multiple weight classes for his senior year and is undefeated with a 24-0 record at 138 this season.
3. Etowah alum Drew Waters continues to dazzle in minors
At only 20 years old and less than three years removed from his high school graduation, Drew Waters is on the brink of reaching the highest level of baseball.
After being drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft, the Etowah graduate has steamrolled his way through the Braves’ minor league system.
Waters spent 2018 with the Class A Rome Braves before being promoted to the Florida Fire Frogs, the team’s Advanced Class A affiliate, toward the end of the season.
This past year, Waters earned an invitation to Braves' major league spring training camp and tore through the Southern League while playing for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. Waters led the Southern League in hits (134), doubles (35), triples (9) and batting average (.319), while finishing second in OPS (.847).
The youngest Southern League MVP since Delmon Young in 2005, Waters was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett with fellow outfield phenom Cristian Pache in August and batted .271 over 26 games with the Stripers.
4. Sequoyah volleyball makes run to state championship match
Led by a lineup filled with underclassmen, the Lady Chiefs came within a few points of claiming the Class AAAAAA state championship earlier this fall.
Sequoyah took Region 6AAAAAA rival Allatoona to the five sets in the championship match at Marietta High School, but the youth finally showed itself and the veteran-laden Lady Buccaneers won their first state title.
Despite falling short of the ultimate prize, the heartbreaking loss did not dampen the extraordinary season put on by Sequoyah, which finished 41-2 for the best single-season winning percentage (.953) in program history. The Lady Chiefs won 93 sets while dropping only 14, and it was the first time in which the team won its annual Sequoyah Classic in addition to the county and region championships.
Outside hitter Paige Powers and the talented trio of freshmen Skylar Martin, Taylor Pecht and Sara Siefert were all-county selections, and with this past year’s experience, the Lady Chiefs could be state title contenders again in 2020.
5. GHSA realignment brings new rivalries
The opponents for Cherokee County's schools will see changes beginning with the 2020-21 school year, following the Georgia High School Association’s most recent realignment.
The two-year realignment is highlighted by a new relationship between Cherokee and north Fulton counties. The proposed alignments were released Nov. 8 and finalized weeks later following the appeals process.
In Class AAAAAA, Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah will no longer be paired with Cobb teams and Dalton. The new Region 7 will consist of the three Cherokee schools, along with Cambridge, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek and Riverwood.
In Class AAAAAAA, Cherokee, Etowah and Woodstock will also no longer be tied with east Cobb County within region play. The three Cherokee teams will now be in Region 5AAAAAAA with Alpharetta, Milton and Roswell.
The drive times should improve with the new alignments. The longest trip for the Class AAAAAA schools will be to Riverwood in Sandy Springs, while the longest trip for the Class AAAAAAA schools will be to Alpharetta.
6. Local players selected in Major League Baseball draft
June saw five local players selected in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.
Sequoyah alum Hunter Gaddis was the first off the board when the Cleveland Indians took the right-hander with the 160th overall pick out of Georgia State in the fifth round. Etowah alum Sawyer Gipson-Long, a right-hander from Mercer, was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round.
Former Creekview standout Kyle Wilkie, a catcher at Clemson, was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round, with former River Ridge catcher Luke Berryhill selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round out of South Carolina.
Brennan Milone was the only high school player drafted from Cherokee County this year, with the Woodstock standout selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 28th round.
The four college players all began their professional careers, while Milone moved on to play in college, taking advantage of a scholarship from South Carolina.