2012 Year in Review: Cherokee sports
by Chris Byess
cbyess@cherokeetribune.com
January 02, 2013 01:00 AM | 2091 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
1) CAREER COMES TO A CLOSE FOR MORRELL: As the 2012 season came to a close, Cherokee County bid farewell to its longest-tenured football coach, Creekview’s Al Morrell.

After eight years of coaching the Grizzlies — including one year of junior varsity play before they even had their own stadium — the 55-year-old Morrell decided midway through the 2012 season that he would be retiring.

Creekview’s players made sure Morrell’s last year would be considered one of his finest, as they finished the season with a county-best 9-2 record and were only one of two county teams to host a playoff game.

In his time with the Grizzlies, Morrell, who also spent time as an assistant at Etowah and Sequoyah during his career, amassed a 48-25 varsity record, giving him a .658 winning percentage.

Morrell also found success against county opponents, ending his career with a 6-1 record against other local teams. Four of those wins came against archrival Sequoyah, which Morrell only lost to once.

With Creekview’s 9-2 finish this year, Morrell led the Grizzlies to three nine-win seasons, as well as three trips to the playoffs.

2) INGLETON BREAKS AWAY FOR 2,193-YARD SEASON: Though Sequoyah running back Blake Ingleton had his sights set on having a successful senior season, even he admitted that he was surprised by what transpired in 2012.

While helping to lead the Chiefs to a 7-4 record and their first trip to the playoffs since 2008, Ingleton carried the ball 250 times for a total of 2,193 yards and 32 touchdowns. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry and an average of 199 yards a game.

In his 11 games, Ingleton rushed for more than 200 yards in six of them, and more than 100 in nine.

Against Forsyth Central, Ingleton ran for 386 yards, the best performance of any county player this year.

At the beginning of the season, Ingleton had set his sights on breaking Sequoyah’s single-season records for rushing yards and touchdowns, and not only did he succeed in doing so, he also set county records in both categories as well.

Ingleton was named a Class AAAAA all-state honorable-mention, despite having rushed for more yards in fewer games than any of the four running backs that were selected ahead of him.

Sequoyah coach James Teter, with close to 20 years of coaching experience, described Ingleton as the best running back he had ever coached.

3) WOODSTOCK, RIVER RIDGE MAKE CASE AS VOLLEYBALL ELITE: Of all the volleyball teams to make the state playoffs in the fall, two managed to make unlikely runs to the quarterfinals — River Ridge and Woodstock.

In its first year in Area 6AAAA, River Ridge amassed a perfect 9-0 record. In its area tournament, the Lady Knights went 3-0, beating Cass and then taking care of Carrollton twice to win their first area title.

River Ridge went on to defeat Grady in the first round of the playoffs and Cross Creek in the second before losing to Marist in the quarterfinals. The Lady Knights finished the year with a 27-12 record, their best ever.

Woodstock found its path to the playoffs a bit more complicated.

After losing to Roswell in the opening round of the Area 4AAAAAA tournament, the Lady Wolverines needed to win three matches straight to make the postseason.

They did just that by defeating Cherokee, Milton and Lassiter, and they went on to finish as the area runner-up behind eventual state champion Walton after defeating archrival Etowah in the semifinals.

Woodstock easily defeated Hillgrove in the first round and Brookwood in the second before falling to Johns Creek in the elite eight.

The Lady Wolverines finished the year with a 35-15 record, their best since the 1998 season.

4) KAYAKER HURD REPRESENTS WOODSTOCK AT OLYMPICS: At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Woodstock found itself being represented among the top athletes from around the world by kayaker Eric Hurd.

Hurd, a 25-year-old Woodstock High graduate who lived in Woodstock until 2006, and partner Jeff Larmier narrowly missed out on making the semifinals of the double-slalom event by finishing 12th in a qualifying heat that saw the top 10 teams advance to the semifinals.

After finishing with a time of 112.91 on their first run of the heat, the duo cut more than 3 seconds off of their time and finished with a 109.78 on their second run.

Unfortunately, they made three illegal touches on course gates, which knocked them out of the top 10 and ended their Olympic competition.

The pair qualified for the Olympics after finishing ninth at the Slalom Word Cup in Wales in June.

5) RIVER RIDGE MAKES FIRST PLAYOFF RUN: At the midpoint of the football season, River Ridge looked to be a unlikely playoff contender.

With a 1-4 record, and with the losses coming by an average of 24.5 points, it seemed that the Knights would continue to struggle during Region 7AAAA (A) play, in their first year of postseason eligibility.

Instead, they looked a different team in the second half of the season.

After scoring a surprise 35-27 victory over Cedartown, River Ridge went on to beat Cass and then Gilmer — in a game won on a field goal as time expired — to move their subregion record to 3-0.

The Knights’ work to win the subregion seemed as if it was going to come to an end, however, when they found themselves down 26-10 late in the third quarter at Pickens. But they rallied to score 18 unanswered points and clinch their first subregion title.

After losing to eventual state runner-up Ridgeland in the Region 7AAAA championship game, River Ridge went on to host in its playoff debut, losing to Grady 27-17 and finishing with a 5-6 record.
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