2013 Sports in reviewPublished 11:30am Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The year 2013 was a good one for sports in the Atmore area.
Local teams and athletes performed well on the field, on the court, and in the gym. There were stories that touched the heart and exciting individual achievements this year.
In no particular order, The Atmore Advance presents the stories that highlighted 2013 in sports.
The year in football
This has been a good year for Auburn fans in the area. Not only are the Tigers poised for another trek to the BCS National Championship game on Monday, but the local Auburn club got off and running again.
Area Tiger fans held their annual meeting at the Club on Highway 21 in June. The resurgent club boasted 164 members on its roster after an eight-year hiatus. The club heard from special guests and enjoyed a banquet dinner as part of the festivities.
Atmore native and Tiger player Tyler Nero said in a preseason interview with The Advance that the team would surprise fans in 2013.
“I’m very excited about this year,” Nero said. “I think we’re going to shock the SEC.”
Local Alabama fans were saddened to hear about the passing of Athletic Director Mal Moore in March. Atmore native and former Crimson Tide assistant coach Woody McCorvey and Escambia County High School basketball coach and former Tide wide receiver Earlando Courtney shared their memories of Moore with the paper.
McCorvey said although he’s known more for playing and later coaching football at Alabama, it was Moore’s love of the university’s other sports that helped him succeed in his position.
“He was proud of the accomplishment of all other sports,” McCorvey said.
In addition to three football national championships in four years, teams in softball, gymnastics and women’s golf have also taken championships back to Tuscaloosa.
McCorvey said he and Moore spoke regularly on the phone, the last time being a month before Moore’s passing. He last saw Moore in New York City at a meeting of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, where he was given an award as the nation’s top athletic director.
“He’s done so many great things over the years,” Courtney said. “He’s going to be a tough act to follow.”
Bill Battles was named Alabama athletic director shortly thereafter.
Escambia Academy Cougars’ fans had something to cheer about last year with the success of their football team. The Cougars won 10 games for only the second time in school history, in coach Hugh Fountain’s second year.
EA went 10-3 last season and nearly tied a 15-year-old record with eight straight wins this season, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society website. The Cougars were also undefeated at home this year — a perfect 5-0 in Canoe.
The Cougars took down Glenwood Academy, 53-26; Sparta Academy, 35-3; Hooper Academy, 48-7; Morgan Academy, 35-14; Pike Liberal Arts, 50-8; South Choctaw, 44-10; Clarke Prep, 26-14; Southern Academy, 40-0; and Tuscaloosa Academy, 41-27. The Cougars suffered a loss to Monroe Academy for the second time last year and were eliminated from the Alabama Independent Schools Association playoffs.
Escambia County High School coach Lev Holly resigned late last year after a 2-8 season, with the only Blue Devils’ wins coming against winless Baldwin County and winless Monroe County. Holly went 5-15 in two seasons as head coach.
Holly cited a “family decision” as the reason he was leaving the school, after being hired in May of 2012.
“It was the best thing to do for my family,” he said. “I would rather be considered a great father, than a good coach.”
Three teams from Northwest Escambia took home youth football titles in the Escambia River Conference last year. The sophomore, junior and senior teams all won titles.
The Eagle sophomores beat Poarch 26-6, the juniors beat Jay 35-0, and the seniors beat Flomaton 40-30. In addition, the junior team won the Gulf Coast Youth Football Championship over Thanksgiving break to finish the season at 12-0.
ECHS makes a state final four run
The Blue Devils made the Class 4A final four in basketball for the second-straight year last season. After a slow start on the season in Courtney’s first year at the helm, ECHS caught fire and ran through area opponents in January on the way to the state tournament.
The Blue Devils once again fell short of the state title game, though, suffering a 71-68 loss to Madison County in the tournament held in Birmingham.
“It’s not the storybook ending that we hoped for,” Courtney said. “I’m proud of my guys for playing their hearts out to the very end, but the ball just did not bounce our way at the end.”
The loss marked the final game in the high school careers of team leaders Tyrell Ford and Fred Knight. The Blue Devils are 8-8, so far this season.
EA wins state title in weightlifting
EA celebrated a state title in weightlifting last year. The Cougars were dominant in the one-day meet, taking championships in 10 of the competition’s 20 weight classes.
“I was pleased with them,” said coach Hugh Fountain. “They lifted well and didn’t make mistakes.”
James Fuqua led the team with a 495-pound squat, a 540-pound dead lift and a 330-pound bench press. Alden Lassiter was the lightweight lifting champion at the meet.
The following lifters picked up first-place finishes in their respective divisions: Garrett Nasmith in the 242-pound class, Trae Lee in the 205-pound class, Gordon Brooks in the 165-pound class, J.P. Sawyer in the 140-pound class, Derrius Brooks in the 123-pound class, Kanoia Gumapac in the 105-pound class, Tyler Sells in the 98-pound class and Chase Bell in the 81-pound class.
These lifters picked up second: Nolan White in the 258-pound class, Cameron Murphy in the 220-pound class, Reid Bell in the 198-pound class, Drew Parker in the 123-pound class, Jackson Bonner in the 98-pound class and Sam Smith in the 81-pound class.
The Atmore Dragway underwent a $1 million renovation last year and has been thriving ever since. Mobile Dragway owner Gary Moore leased the track from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The $1 million renovation included 40 to 50 new light poles with two 1,500-watt bulbs around the 1/8-mile track and parking lot.
“It is brighter than the Fourth of July in the middle of the day,” Moore said.
There is also a new drainage system that was added, as well as new concrete and asphalt for the racing surface. The surface matches International Hot Rod Association specifications.
Crews have added a new equipment building and cleaned the existing stands.
The track features bracket racing on Saturday nights, where cars get a stuttered start.
The year of achievements
Several local athletes hit milestones in 2013. The achievements stretched across many sports, including volleyball, softball, basketball and weightlifting.
Escambia Academy guard Grayson Emmons hit her 1,000th point in a game last season for the Lady Cougars against Fort Dale Academy.
Emmons came into the game only needing seven points to achieve the milestone. The junior only had one point at halftime of the game.
“I was thinking I wasn’t going to get them at first,” she said. “I couldn’t score. I was getting a little frustrated.”
Although the Lady Cougars lost 40-37, Emmons did score her 1,000th point on a free throw against the Lady Eagles.
Last month, Northview setter Lily Townson was named the best volleyball player in Florida for Class 1A.
The Century native was selected the top player out of more than 14,000 other volleyball players in the state. It was the first time a Northview player has received the award. Her stats last year included: 13 aces, 16 kills, 230 assists, or sets and 108 digs.
EA softball pitcher Autumn Corley was selected as one of 14 girls to represent the United States in a tournament in Grosseto, Italy.
Corley made the team when her play caught the eye of Robertsdale High School and USA Athletes International softball coach Barry Roberts. Corley played with U.S. teammate and Golden Bear catcher Emily Sinclair, whose grandfather J.D. Ashcroft lives in Atmore, when she played summer league ball.
NHS weightlifters La’Mikal Kyles and Arkelle Elliot each placed in the state tournament in Kissimmee, Fla., last year.
Kyles placed eighth in the 183-pound weight class with a personal best of 560 pounds lifted. Elliott finished 11th in the 199-pound weight class, with a personal best of 575 pounds lifted.
The year of the scholarship offer
Last year saw a slew of local athletes receive scholarships in diverse sports, including: Football, softball, baseball and golf.
Former ECHS golfer Jazmine McGinnis was awarded a scholarship to Dodge City Community College in Kansas.
Former Northview shortstop and pitcher Kevin Vaughan and softball pitcher Misty Doran were both awarded scholarships to play at Wallace State Community College.
Former EA softball second baseman Hannah Fountain was awarded a scholarship to Alabama Southern.
Several former Northview football players were awarded scholarships in 2013. The field was highlighted by defensive back Neiko Robinson, who committed to Penn State, but later left the program.
Former offensive and defensive lineman Blake McCall signed with Jackson State University in Mississippi last year, while lineman Stetson Nash signed with Division II Harding University in Arkansas.
Former Northview players Roderick Woods and La’Mikal Kyles remained teammates after each signed with Northeast Mississippi Community College last year.