As 2009 comes to a close here's a look back at some of the year's top sports stories. Compiled by Ross Blair.
1. Brocato fired; Guy hired
RHHS Principal Charles Spann fired head Wildcat football coach Brian Brocato mid-season and promoted offensive line coach Lyman Guy to the top spot. Spann cited Brocato’s lackluster win-loss record (six wins over the last four years) and desire to take the team in a new direction as reasons for the move.
Brocato retained his teaching duties at RHHS. Guy has 12 years experience as a head coach at other schools, including leading Robert Toombs Christian Academy to a pair of Georgia Independent School Association titles. He has also won numerous region titles as well as being named Coach of the Year at a number of levels.
2. Lady Redskin softball team advances to Elite 8
The BCHS softball team (28-10) was nearly unstoppable this year as they made it all the way to the Elite 8 round of the state tournament in Columbus. Three players from that team made All State -- Bridget Bacon and Samantha and Tiffany Howard.
3. Lady Wildcat basketball team upsets No. 1 state seed to advance to Sweet 16Fresh off a 58-56 overtime victory over Burke County in the Region 3AAA tournament, Coach Elizabeth Bennett and her Lady Wildcat basketball team stormed into the state tourney to face what critics were calling unbeatable odds against No. 1 state seeded Woodward Academy. Not only did RHHS hold their own, but they defeated Woodward 53-48 in overtime to make it to the Sweet 16 round.
4. Richmond Hill soccer dominates across the board
Richmond Hill soccer sent out a message to anyone listening in 2009 as both the RHHS boys’ and girls’ teams and the RHMS boys’ and girls’ teams took home region championships. The RHHS teams both went as far as the quarterfinal round at state.
5. Hires retires as AD
After serving nearly two decades as the athletic director for Richmond Hill High School, Jimmy Hires retired in June from the position. He continues to work as a teacher and head coach for the RHHS track and cross country teams.
RHHS Principal Charles Spann commended Hires for his decorated past as AD and championship basketball coach. He said Hires would not be replaced but rather the AD responsibilities will be "absorbed within the present administration."
6. Pembroke man wins Mr. Georgia title
Pembroke’s Adam Lane beat out over 100 of the state’s top bodybuilders to win the title of Mr. Georgia in July in Atlanta. Lane, a middleweight, was crowned "Best Arms" and as the winner of his weight division before being deemed the overall champion.
The title, sanctioned by the NPC (National Physique Committee), is considered the highest level of achievement in the state for bodybuilders.
7. RHHS swimmer wins multiple state titles
RHHS freshman Preston Jenkins started the month of February by winning the Region-3AAA high school level title for the 100 meter backstroke. Jenkins ended the month by winning the Club state titles for the 100 and 200 backstroke competitions – in record-breaking times for his age group. By month’s end, Jenkins was ranked second in the nation for his age group by USA Swimming.
Among his other 2009 accomplishments was named Bryan County Athlete of the Month for February and being selected for the National Select Camp in September, which is known for grooming Olympic hopefuls.
8. RHHS moves to Class AAAA
RHHS officials announced in November that they will move up from Class AAA to AAAA. This means less travel and a whole new lineup of region opponents for the next two years.
Division A of Class AAAA will include RHHS, Brunswick, Glynn Academy, Liberty County, Ware County and Wayne County. Division B will include Effingham County, Evans, Greenbrier, Lakeside, South Effingham and Statesboro.
9. RHHS boys’ tennis advances to Elite 8
New Wildcat tennis coach Jeff Graham proves his worth by taking the Wildcats all the way to the Elite 8 round of the state tournament. The girls made it to Sweet 16.
In other tennis news, the RHMS girls’ tennis team won the region title.
10. Tiffany Howard named Region 3A Softball Player of the Year
Howard was one of the leaders that took the Lady Redskin softball team to the Elite 8 at state. Among the honors she took home this season were Region 3A Softball Player of the Year and All-State.
Among her top performances were pitching no-hitters against Telfair at the Region 3A tourney and against non-region Monticello at a tournament in September.
11. Recreation teams win district titles
At least three recreation-level teams in the county took the top prize for their division this year: Bryan County Little League won the District 9 title to advance to the state baseball tournament; the Diamond Dolls won their district and competed at the state softball tournament; the 12U Wildcat football team won the District 2 GRPA championship.
12. RHHS volleyball wins region crown in their inaugural year
Senior Gaby Parker played a strong role in putting Coach Ashleigh Davis-Lee’s RHHS volleyball program (16-10, 9-1) on the map in its very first year of operation. The girls won three straight games during the region tournament in Dublin to become Region 3-AAA champions.
13. RHHS wrestling goes to state; Sheffield wins region crown
In only its second year as a varsity program, the RHHS wrestling team earned the right to compete at state.
At the individual area traditional competition, Zach Sheffield went undefeated to claim the Region 3AAA championship while seven other Richmond Hill grapplers placed second. Sheffield and senior John Phifer went on to individually compete at state.
14. Two RHHS basketball players reach the 1,000-point mark
Senior Chakiris Moss and junior Tyler Carlson both reached the prestigious 1,000-point mark during their respective seasons. One season highlight included Moss scoring 42 points in a region game against Thomson.
15. BCHS and RHHS have stellar track and field seasons
Both schools proved to have plenty of top track athletes. Here is a rundown of some season-ending highlights: for RHHS track, Shaquille Walker won the region title for the 800 meter race and placed second at state as 9 athletes in all represented RHHS at the state track meet; for BCHS track, Willie Deloach won the region title for long jump and Tiffany Howard won region titles for the 800 and 3200 while 11 athletes in all represented BCHS at the state track meet.
16. ‘On the Brink’ wins pro fishing title, breaks record
On the Brink, a pro fishing team made up of Richmond Hill residents Kelley Clements, Ellis Phillips, Tracy Shaw, Michael Moseley and Rusty Rogers, took first place in the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) Yamaha pro Tour event in Jensen Beach, Florida in May. They took home $65,000 in cash and prizes for the win.
The team’s 58.58 pound kingfish not only broke the Jensen Beach record, but it currently stands as the biggest kingfish on record caught by an amateur or professional so far this season.
17. ‘Signing Day’ at RHHS sees three athletes off to the next level
The RHHS media center played host to three simultaneous signings for Richmond Hill athletes to go on to play their respective sport at the collegiate level. Kevin Wilson signed on to play baseball for Covenant College; Stefanie Ortiz signed on to play softball for Brewton Parker; Tyler Steptoe signed on to play golf for Shorter University.
Since that date, Tyler Carlson has signed on to play basketball for Mars Hill College and Anna Hall has signed on to play softball for Thomas University.
18. RHHS cross country girls, Carlson take region crowns
For RHHS cross country, the girls overall team and Tyler Carlson individually won region titles while the boys came in second. Carlson came in 16th at state in 20:38.
The BCHS girls’ cross country team fared well also. The Lady Redskins came in third for Region 3A while Tiffany Howard came in second individually. Howard came in 11th at state in 20:57.
19. Billy Kilmer throws a no-hitter
The RHHS sophomore, 3-AAA All-Region Team player and April Bryan County Athlete of the Month made his mark April 4 versus Washington County as he shut them out for a 6-0 region win.
Kilmer was one of several players that earned his team the right to play at the state tournament. Kevin Wilson was a strong contributor as well as he hit .700 in the final three games.
20. Little League comes to Richmond Hill
The RHRA Board voted in January to add a Little League Baseball affiliation to the city’s GRPA baseball and softball program for the 2009 season.
This meant changes for the 9-12 year old boys program and possibly the girls softball program in the near future. The rec association added this to the program in an attempt to develop the players and offer more challenging baseball for those interested in a higher level of play.
This is reportedly the first time any area recreation departments have elected to bring Little League baseball to South Georgia.