In This Issue
2018 GWINNETT CO. SPORTS HALL OF FAME; GRAYSON FOOTBALL COMMITMENTS; GA's NFL DRAFTS BY YEAR
Alpharetta 1 (5), Dalton 1 (4)
Armuchee 3, South Atlanta 2
Athens Academy 2, Stratford Academy 1
Atlanta International 8, Brookstone 0
Benedictine 6, Jefferson County 1
Blessed Trinity 6, Sandy Creek 0
Calhoun 1, Morgan County 0
Cambridge 8, Allatoona 2
Campbell 3, Roswell 2
Carrollton 1, Clarkston 0
Chattahoochee 2, Creekview 1
Chestatee 3, Cartersville 2
East Hall 4 (4), Coahulla Crk. 4 (2)
Decatur 2, Clarke Central 1
Druid Hills 3, Perry 2
Fellowship Chr. 3, Darlington 1
Gainesville 2, Alexander 1
Glynn Academy 4, Forest Park 0
Grady 5, Rome 3
Greenbrier 9, Coffee 1
Hillgrove 2, Lowndes 1
Johnson-G'ville 6, Riverwood 0
Lambert 2, Brookwood 0
Marist 5, LaGrange 1
McIntosh 2, Veterans 1
Model 4, Callaway 0
North Murray 2, Dawson County 1
Northwest Whitfield 6 (4), North Oconee 6 (3)
Paideia 3, Providence Christian 1
Peachtree Ridge 4, Grayson 0
Pepperell 1, Lamar County 0
Pike County 3, Pierce County 2
Putnam County 4, Spencer 2
Richmond Academy 2, Shaw 0
Richmond Hill 5, Grovetown 2
Savannah Arts 7, Dougherty 1
Savannah Country Day 2, Georgia Military 1
So. Forsyth 1 (3), Norcross 1 (1)
South Gwinnett 2, Milton 0
St. Anne Pacelli 4, Aquinas 2
Starr's Mill 6, Thomas County Central 2
Tattnall County 4, Peach County 0
Thomasville 5, Westside-Aug. 1
Tucker 4, Valdosta 2
Union Grove 2, Statesboro 1
Upson-Lee 6, Eastside 1
Walton 1, Pebblebrook 0
Wesleyan 7, Pinecrest Academy 1
Westminster 3, Greater Atlanta Christian 0
Whitefield Academy 2, Hebron Christian 1
Whitewater 1, South Effingham 0
Windsor Forest 3, Long County 1
Woodward Academy 5, Spalding 1
Union Grove 10, Warner Robins 0
Allatoona 5, West Forsyth 4
Cambridge 15, River Ridge 7
Centennial 22, North Cobb 3
Etowah 16, Lakeside-DeKalb 5
Johns Creek 17, Campbell 4
Mill Creek 20, East Coweta 9
North Gwinnett 18, North Atlanta 2
North Paulding 12, Dunwoody 3
Brookwood 16, North Paulding 13
Cambridge 17, Harrison 6
Centennial 26, North Cobb 0
Johns Creek 22, North Atlanta 1
Mill Creek 20, Newnan 1
Northview 17, East Coweta 2
Pope 10, Archer 4
West Forsyth 15, Allatoona 4
GWINNETT CO. SPORTS HALL OF FAME
By I.J. Rosenberg
Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame: A good time had by all, especially this writer
I have been in Atlanta now for more than 33 years covering sports, and every once in a while I run up on an event I really enjoy and make sure I don't miss.
||Bobby Cox and Jeff Francoeur
The setting Monday night was the Grand Ballroom over at Infinite Energy Arena for the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame. The group was installing its ninth class, and going in was Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who in my mind had the best-ever career for a high school athlete in Georgia. What Frenchy did at Parkview on the football and baseball fields was legendary, and friend and longtime Brookwood football coach Dave Hunter likes to sum him up this way: "In my many years in Georgia, I have never seen an athlete that was the leader Jeff was. He was the pied piper and the rest of the kids followed everything he did. One time when we were playing them, I noticed he crossed his legs and was stretching and all of a sudden everyone on his team was doing the same thing. By the way, he wasn't leading exercises."
Hunter himself is in the Gwinnett Hall and saw Francoeur up close as he led Parkview to baseball and football state championships his junior and senior seasons. But this column is not about Francoeur, but about a feel-good evening to support the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation.
More than 550 showed up to honor Francoeur, Peachtree Ridge punter and kicker Drew Butler, Norcross basketball player Joyce Pierce, and softball player Michelle Green and golfer James Mason, both having played at Duluth High.
Interestingly, I had ties to many involved in the evening.
Francoeur, who played 12 seasons in the major leagues, came after my years as the Braves beat writer with the AJC, but we have been following him at Score Atlanta since we first opened our doors in 2004. I actually covered Pierce during her years at Georgia Tech in the 1980s when I followed the Yellow Jackets for the AJC, and I went to high school (Lakeside) with Drew's mother, Cathy, in the 1970s. By the way, Drew's dad is some guy named Kevin Butler who kicked years ago for Georgia.
Also, in my few years on Wall Street at Bear Stearns, my senior partner was Aaron Lupuloff, who is now the Senior Executive Director of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation and spearheaded this event. Trust me, Aaron had plenty of help but his arrival a few years back at the Foundation has been key, giving it a seasoned salesperson who has raised millions for students in what is the biggest county in Georgia. In fact, one out of every 10 children who goes to school in Georgia is being educated in Gwinnett.
To top off the night, the speaker was former Braves manager and recent Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Cox, who I spent more time with than my wife when I covered the Braves in the 1990s. He told some great stories including several I witnessed, which I will share.
We were in Cincinnati at Riverfront Stadium and John Smoltz was on the mound with the Braves winning 7-0. It was the sixth inning and Smoltz gave up a leadoff home run, and in those days when the Reds hit a homer, fireworks would go off over the scoreboard. An actual worker stood on top of the scoreboard and set off the fireworks and then reloaded, waiting for the next long ball. Smoltz then walked a batter and gave up another home run. More fireworks. Then another home run. More fireworks. So, with the game now 7-4, Cox turned to pitching coach Leo Mazzone and told him he was going to go talk to Smoltz and calm him down. But typically, when Cox went out to the mound, he was going to call for the bullpen, so Smoltz met him halfway.
I will let Bobby take it from here.
"So," he said, "I head out to the mound and John hated coming out of games and says to me, 'Are you taking me out? You are not taking me out, no way.'"
So Cox put his arm around Smoltz and the two walked back to the mound. Bobby said, "I said to John while pointing up to the scoreboard, 'See that person on top of the scoreboard? I am just trying to give the poor guy a break.'"
The ballroom broke into laugher. And Cox wasn't finished, as the manager who won 2,504 games in the majors was a big hit. By the way, the Braves won that game over the Reds, but the story fit into a flawless ceremony where no one left their seats and everyone stayed until the end.
Money was raised for a great cause, Francoeur and the four others going into the Hall were lauded for their accomplishments and all the phone calls and texts coming from Lupuloff to promote the event finally stopped.
Yes, everyone got what they wanted, including me, who still needs evenings like this to remind me what a great sports town we live in.
By Craig Sager
Grayson's 'Fab 4' announce commitments
Grayson High School's football program has featured some of the most talented teams and prospects that have come out of the Peach State the past several seasons, and it's already apparent that one of the most star-studded senior classes in the entire country will be leading the Rams this upcoming season. It's been a busy offseason for this group of rising seniors, but the four highest-rated of the bunch came together this Tuesday at Sports and Social located in The Battery Atlanta to announce their college choices, putting the recruiting process behind them just days before the start of spring practice.
||Grayson LB Owen Pappoe. Credit: AJC
Headlined by Owen Pappoe, Grayson's 5-star outside linebacker that has been receiving offers since the eighth grade, teammates Wanya Morris (OT), Kevin Harris (WDE) and Kenyatta Watson (CB) gave the occasion a 4-for-1 special. Watson, the No. 20 ranked overall prospect in the state pledged to Texas. Harris, ranked No 9 in the state committed to Alabama, and Morris, Georgia's No. 8-ranked prospect committed to Tennessee. Pappoe capped the night by choosing Auburn over UGA and Tennessee, and becoming Grayson's 11th Class of 2019 prospect to commit to a D1 program before the start of next season. Athlete and 3-star Ronald Thompkins is currently the only one of Grayson's dozen prospects rated 3-stars or better that remains uncommitted, but he too has been deep in the recruiting process, receiving an offer from Alabama on March 5 and taking official visits to LSU and Penn State in April
Here's a look at Grayson's 12 leading Class of 2019 prospects with their state ranking (according to 247sports), positions, college choice and the dates of their commitments.
(#2) Owen Pappoe OLB [Auburn 5/1/18]
(#8) Wanya Morris OT [Tennessee 5/1/18]
(#9) Kevin Harris WDE [Alabama 5/1/18]
(#20) Kenyatta Watson CB [Texas 5/1/18]
(#30) Trente Jones OT [Michigan 2/21/18]
(#38) Kenyon Johnson WR [Texas A&M 4/22/18]
(#40) Ronald Thompkins ATH [Undecided]
(#58) Tru Thompson DT [Florida State 3/3/17]
(#69) Jalen Alexander CB [Duke 2/24/18]
(#97) Jeremiah Smith S [Georgia Tech 2/22/18]
(#114) Jakai Clark OC [Auburn 4/10/18]
(#119) Allen Smith OLB [North Carolina 4/7/18]
By Craig Sager
Georgia's draft day prowess still trends upward, despite a down year
Georgia High School Football has earned high praise for the abundance of former prep stars that have been taken in recent NFL Drafts, but after experiencing this proliferation, the state encountered a major dip in draftees taken in last week's draft. So what does it all mean?
Down from the nation-best 29 former Georgia prep stars drafted in 2017, just 12 Georgia High School players were picked up in this year's draft, putting Georgia well behind Florida (35), Texas (27) and California (27)and tying them with Pennsylvania for sixth, resulting in the lowest number of draft picks produced in a decade. Still, despite it being a quiet year, the larger sample size still supports years of progress and helps put the annual fluctuations into perspective.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, Georgia has averaged 19.1 picks per draft over the last 10 years, 13.5 from 2000-09 and 11.6 from 1990-99. In 2015, Georgia set its all-time record with 30 picks and then dropped back to 15 in 2016, before rebounding back up to 29 picks in 2017. Next year could very well repeat this pattern, which is also seen in real time as especially star-studded recruiting classes often come in years of twos. Additionally, the state's staying power in the NFL once its prospects make rosters has worked alongside these gradual increases in draft picks and grown the number of Peach State products on NFL rosters annually. After placing 119 players on rosters at the start of the 2016 season, the number grew to more than 130 by the time last season started. Even with just 12 picks added this year, there are still going to be undrafted free agents who can also make official rosters and add to this number, and there is plenty of confidence in the surge of young players who have entered the league recently to remain there.
The state did not produce 20 or more picks in a draft for the first time until 2013. And in the last six years, the state has maintained a 20.5 average (only Florida and California can say the same). So despite the downswing, Georgia High School Football's influence on the NFL remains at an all-time high.
Number of Georgia players taken in the NFL draft by year: