2019 Sports: Year in Review
Below are The Champion’s picks for DeKalb County’s top sports stories of 2019.
Three DeKalb alums drafted into NFL
Former DeKalb County high school football players will now play at the highest level of football.
Three players from the county were drafted into the National Football League April 25-29. Former Stephenson Jaguar Montez Sweat was the first DeKalb alum to have his name called in the draft.
The former Mississippi State defensive end was drafted 26th overall by Washington in the first round. Sweat, a 2014 graduate, finished his senior year at Stephenson with 33 total tackles, six tackles for a loss and one sack.
Southwest DeKalb High School 2015 graduate Abdurrahman Ibn “Rock” Ya-Sin was drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts with the 34th overall pick. The defensive back was the Dekalb County leader in interceptions (seven) his senior year. He also accumulated 42 total tackles in his senior year. Ya-Sin was a three-time region champion, three-time county champion and two-time state champion wrestler at Southwest DeKalb. He played football at Presbyterian College for three seasons before transferring to Temple University in 2018.
Tucker High School alum YaQuis “Duke” Shelley was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round with the 205th overall
pick. The 2015 graduate finished his senior year at Tucker with 31 total tackles, nine pass breakups and three interceptions. On offense, he rushed for 324 yards and scored three touchdowns.
At Kansas State, Shelley started 37 games at corner back and tied for fourth in school history in career interception-return touchdowns (2). He was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer by the league’s coaches in 2018.
Chamblee boys, Marist girls take home state tennis titles
Two more DeKalb County tennis teams were crowned champions May 7.
Chamblee boys’ tennis team won the Class AAAAA state title and Marist girls won the Class AAAA state title.
Chamblee defeated Grady 3-0 at Piedmont Park, and Marist beat North Oconee 3-2 on its home tennis courts. Freshman Andrew Pietkiewicz gave the Chamblee Bulldogs their first game point of the match after beating Grady senior Josh Wolfe 2-0 (6-2, 6-1) in No. 1 singles.
Sophomore Hap Howell gave Chamblee its second point of the match with a 2-0 (6-2, 6-3) win over Grady’s Jack Stegelman in No. 3 singles.
Senior Carter DiFonzo and freshman Bryce Starks clinched the state title for Chamblee with a 2-0 (6-2, 6-1) victory in No. 1 doubles. The win gave Chamblee a sweep in the Class AAAAA state championships as Chamblee girls won the state title on May 4.
The state title was the second for Chamblee boys in program history. Their first championship came in 1998. Marist’s state title win was its 22nd in program history
and first since 2014.
Marist was tied 1-1 with North Oconee before the match was rained out on May 4.
Marist went up 1-0 after a victory in No. 2 doubles by senior Dylan Elledge and junior Katie Gerrick. North Oconee tied the match before play was suspended. The two
teams were tied 2-2 during the conclusion of the match before freshman Anya Nelson clinched the state title for Marist after a victory in No. 1 singles.
Dunwoody girls, St. Pius boys win state track titles, break records
DeKalb County had more success at the state track and field meet May 9-11.
Dunwoody girls won their third state title in program history after winning the Class
AAAAAA title in Carrollton, and St. Pius X boys won their second consecutive title and fifth overall after winning the Class AAAA state title in Albany.
Dunwoody Lady Wildcats edged out Cambridge 50 points to 47.50 points to claim the title. They were led by senior Jahvene Waldner, who medaled in three events. She finished second in the 300-meter hurdles and third in the 100-meter hurdles (14.68) and high jump (5-04.00).
St. Pius X won the state title with 81 points, beating runner-up Chapel Hill by nine points. Senior Matthew Harris defended his 2018 title in the long jump (23-06.50); he also won the 300-meter hurdles (37.39) and finished second in the 110-meter hurdles (14.31). Senior Tanner Duffin defended his 2018 state title in the discus throw with a throw of 187-01, and he broke the state record in the shot put (66-10.50).
In the boys Class AAAAA meet, Arabia Mountain junior Jordan Barrow won gold in the boys’ 200-meter dash (21.49).
St. Pius X girls bring home another soccer state Championship
St. Pius X Golden Lions are back on top of the soccer mountain after winning the girls’ Class AAAA state title May 17 at Mercer University in Macon. St. Pius defeated Flowery Branch 6-0 to win their sixth state championship in seven years and ninth in program history. Sophomore forward Renee Lyles led the team
with three goals. Lyles said her contribution to the team’s victory feels great.
“I think we all worked really well together as a team, and I’m happy to see all of our hard work pay off,” she said.
Coach Sara Schmitt said the team played their best game.
“We had a tough game [in the semifinals]; we really didn’t play our best and I think today was more about, ‘Hey, we can play better,’” Schmitt said. “So, we went out there, we kind of knew [Flowery Branch’s] game plan and what they were going to do, and we stuck to our game plan and just kept putting it on them.”
Senior Helen Cherry gave St. Pius a 1-0 lead at the 35-minute mark after a backward kick to the goal. Lyles extended the lead to 2-0 before halftime at the 39-minute
mark after she got past the goalie for a goal.
In the second half, sophomore forward Clare Gornowicz extended the Golden Lions’ lead to 3-0 after an assist on a corner kick. Two second-half goals by Lyles gave St. Pius a 5-0 lead. Schmitt said Lyles has been a great addition to the program.
More than 80 sign on National Signing Day
The long snapper position isn’t a highly recruited position. However, long snappers do receive college scholarship offers and Cedar Grove High School long snapper Anton Cousins was one of several long snappers across the country to sign on National Signing Day Feb. 6.
Cousins signed with Albany State University in Albany, Ga.
“It’s a blessing. I couldn’t have done it without my friends, coaches, teachers and counselors,” Cousins said. “They pushed me every day. When I didn’t believe in myself, when I didn’t think I had the chance, they saw something different in me. Albany State wanted me the most and I want to go there.”
Cousins, a two-time state champion at Cedar Grove, said he hopes to hoist championship trophies at Albany State.
“I’m looking forward to winning a championship,” he said.
Cousins was one of 80-plus players from DeKalb County to sign letters of intent on National Signing Day.
Several players signed during the early signing period, including Cedar Grove wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma) and Stephenson linebacker Tra Wilkins (Kentucky).
McCrary gets 600th win
Columbia High School boys’ basketball coach Dr. Phil McCrary made history Feb. 6 when he won his 600th game as head coach. McCrary’s 600th win was accomplished on his home court after a 56-47 win over Arabia Mountain in the Region 5-AAAAA basketball tournament.
McCrary’s coaching record is now 600-212 in 27 seasons and he has the most wins in DeKalb history.
In a Jan. 3 interview with The Champion, McCrary discussed approaching the historic mark and what 600 wins mean to him.
“[It means] no more than [coaching] a long time,” he said. “To be honest with you, [I’m] just humbled and grateful for the experience and opportunity that was given to me many years ago to be able to coach and touch lives and to be able to try to make a difference and give back.”
McCrary, a 2012 Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame inductee, has spent his entire coaching career at Columbia High School, where he led the boys’ basketball program to five state championships (2006, 2008, 2010-2012).
Chamblee girls, St. Pius boys win swimming state championships
Chamblee girls’ swim and dive team made history Feb. 9 after winning its first state championship.
Chamblee won the girls’ Class AAAA-AAAAA state title, the first swim and dive title in school history. The team claimed the title with 262 points, beating out runner-up St. Pius X
Four-time state gold medalist senior Jade Foelske won two individual gold medals at the state meet. She won the 100-yard butterfly (53.81) and 200-yard individual medley (2:00.22).
Foelske also won gold in the 200-yard medley relay (1:45.94) along with teammates Sophia Bell, Kayla Maloney and Teresa Maloney. Chamblee’s 400-yard freestyle relay team of Foelske, Anna Blankenship, Kayla Maloney and Teresa Maloney finished second with a time of 3:34.31.
Kyla Maloney won silver in the 100- yard backstroke (55.91). St. Pius X girls’ swim team’s second-place finish was led by senior Abby Cohen, who won gold in the 500-yard freestyle (5:01.80), and junior Riley Hendrix, who won gold in the 100-yard backstroke (55.77). Cohen also won a silver medal in the 200-yard individual medley (2:05.47). The 200-
and 400-yard freestyle relay team won bronze medals. St. Pius boys’ won its third consecutive state title after winning the Class AAAA-AAAAA state title with 364 points. The team was led by senior Ian Grum, who won gold in the 200-yard freestyle (1:38.10) and 500-yard freestyle (4:26.38).
Chamblee, Tucker defend middle school track titles
There were no new team champions at this year’s DeKalb County middle school track championships as Chamblee girls and Tucker boys defended their titles.
Chamblee won its third consecutive girls’ county title and sixth overall and Tucker won its second consecutive boys’ title and fourth in six seasons March 18 at Godfrey Stadium. Chamblee claimed the girls’ title with 77.50 points, outscoring runners-up Chapel Hill (66) and Henderson (63).
Chamblee won silver medals in the 4×100-meter relay (51.34), 4×400-meter relay (4:26.91) and 1,600-meter sprint medley (4:34.48). Jordyn Parker won silver in the long jump (17-04.50), Lilly Nicaruagua won bronze in the 1,600-meter run (5:55.49) and Solai Washington won bronze in the 100-meter dash (12.95).
Chapel Hill girls were led by Amya Hughes, who won gold in the 400-meter dash (1:00.70). The team also won gold in the 4×100- meter relay (50.63) and 4×400- meter relay (4:23.56). Henderson’s Hailey Davis won gold in the 1,600-meter run (5:45.55) and Henderson also picked up a gold medal in the 1,600-meter sprint medley (4:34.37).
In the boys’ meet, Tucker claimed the county title with 102 points, Bethune finished second with 72 points and Henderson finished third with 38 points.
Tucker sprinters Jayquan Billingsley and Eathan Sanders- Brown finished first (11.51) and tied for second (11.77) respectively in the 100-meter dash. Xavier Taylor won the 400-meter dash (55.08) and Tucker also won gold in the 4×400-meter relay (3:46.65), 800-meter sprint medley (1:42.87) and 1,600-meter sprint medley, as well as silver in the 1,600.
BACK-TO-BACK, State Champs
Cedar Grove Saints football team won its second straight state championship by beating Crisp County 21-14 Dec. 14 at Georgia State Stadium.
Cedar Grove’s (13-2) win over Crisp County (11-4) marked the Saints’ second straight state championship, their third state championship in the last four seasons and their first state championship under first-year head coach Miguel Patrick.
“This feels great,” Patrick said. “I couldn’t ask for a better start to my career as a head coach.”
Patrick said senior running back Chavon Wright was who the Saints started and finished the game with against Greater Atlanta Christian School, and after a scoreless first quarter, the state championship was no different.
With the first half almost over, and both teams tied at zero, Wright took a handoff for 25 yards and into the red zone before scoring a touchdown three plays later.
Wright finished the game with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Crisp County was close to scoring in the first half. The Cougars had the ball inside Cedar Grove’s 5-yard line, but a strong goal line stand kept the Cougars at zero. On that play, junior defensive tackle Demarius Jackson put an offensive lineman on his back and forced Crisp County to cut the run between the tackles, but senior linebacker N’Korian Newsom and junior safety Antonio Taylor tackled the ball carrier behind the line.