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2011: A year for the record books
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The first year of the decade was one marked by historic events for Rockdale's high school sports teams.
Several won titles or finished the furthest in the playoffs they ever have before.


The first team to make history was Heritage's swim team.

Heritage wins all 3 categories
For the first time in 13 years the Heritage swim team has won all three team categories of the County Swim Championship.

Heritage was the top girls' finisher with 282 points, a full 115 points more than the second place team, Salem, followed by Rockdale in third with 141 points.

The Patriots boys' swim team also took first with a score of 225 points, followed by Rockdale at 204 points and Salem at 167.

The two scores also allowed Heritage to take home the combined Conyers Cup with a score of 507. Rockdale was second with 245, followed closely by Salem with 334.
"Simply put, all swimmers came prepared to swim their best, having great swims across the board," Heritage swim coach Karl Koening said.

Jarrett wins title
The area's first state title of 2011 went to Rockdale's Grady Jarrett. Jarrett brought a state wrestling championship to Rockdale.

The Rockdale High School senior heavyweight defeated Southwest DeKalb's Gabriel Echols 6-0 in the 285-pound championship in late February.

"I just felt like it was the cherry on top of a great high school career," Jarrett said. "One of the things I had on my accomplishment goals was to succeed in it. I feel really good about winning."

Jarrett achieved a 43-4 record in his senior season on the mat, earned two All-State titles in football, two All-Star football game and many other accolades.

Rockdale reaches championship
The Rockdale boys' basketball team reached the Class AAAA championship game on March 11. The Bulldogs fell 67-59 to Miller Grove, but nonetheless, the season was a resounding success.

Rockdale was within five minutes of finishing off what would have been a championship season, but the Bulldogs couldn't overcome what has been a Class AAAA powerhouse in a 67-59 Miller Grove win.

"I'm proud of my kids," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "They fought, and I couldn't ask for more of a fight. That was a fight; in fights you lose some and you win some."

Rockdale (26-6) took a 6-4 lead early, before the Wolverines (32-1) reeled of 10 straight points. Justin Colvin sparked the spurt with the first eight points, including two 3-pointers. Colvin finished with 11 points, nine coming from behind the arc.

Miller Grove scored the first 12 of the second half's first 14 points, but the streak stopped cold. Rockdale used a big third-quarter run to pull back within five, 50-45 and trailed 50-47 heading into the final period.

The Bulldogs outscored Miller Grove 16-13 in the third quarter.

Rockdale then tied it at 53-53 with 4:30 remaining after starting the fourth quarter on a 6-3 spurt.

"We had some good leadership and some great character," Williams said. "I'm very proud of them."

From there, the Wolverines proved to be too much. Miller Grove took a 55-53 lead, before a free-throw by Clark made it a one-point game. However, the Wolverines scored the game's next 10 points for their third 10-0 run of the contest.

"It was a great season; it just didn't turn out like we wanted it too," Clark said. "We proved a lot of people wrong. I'm proud of our whole team."

Rockdale tennis reaches playoffs
The year 2011 marked one of many firsts involving state playoffs in Rockdale. The beginning of that streak was on Wednesday, April 20, when the Rockdale girls' tennis team reached the state playoffs.

The Lady Bulldogs can also lay claim to the first playoff win for Rockdale girls' tennis.

Rockdale defeated Lakeside DeKalb 3-1 on Wednesday, taking two wins in singles and another in doubles.

The Lady Bulldogs picked up a win in doubles as Libby and Abbey Bradford defeated their opponents 6-3, 6-1. Shortly after the Bradfords' win, No. 1 singles player Summer Walker took a 6-1, 6-1 victory.

With the match now at 2-1 in favor of Rockdale, the Lady Bulldogs had No. 2 singles Amanda Hordt on the court down a set, and No. 3 singles Ciara Chesser on the court up a set.

Chesser was focused on her match but knew from coach Stephen Sansing keeping her apprised of the score and seeing her teammates off the court that the Lady Bulldogs needed just one more win to advance to the second round.

"I just wanted to get it over with and win for my team," Chesser said. "I really wanted to win for my team. I said to myself, ‘You need to continue on; I'm not going down without a fight.'"

A revolution begins
While there have been several firsts as far as playoffs, the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association had the most unique first in forming a semi-professional team.

In a matchup of two brand-new National Premier Soccer League teams, the Georgia Revolution came out the victors.

The Revolution, a team sponsored by the Rockdale Youth Soccer League and playing out of the RYSA Soccerplex, defeated the Jacksonville United FC 2-1 on Friday.

The Revolution showed an up-tempo style moving around on both sides of the field in the first half before Jamal Harewood found an opening.

Harewood, of Trinidad & Tobago, got within the 18-yard box after a centering pass and volleyed a shot above the Jacksonville goalkeeper's head.

"They played really well," Revolution coach Rafe Mauran said. "They all worked their tails off and we got the result."

Rockdale volleyball finishes ranked
Back to the high school ranks, Rockdale continued to make history, this time on the volleyball court.

The Bulldogs fell 3-0 in the Class AAAA quarterfinals to Pope on Oct 21, ending a two-year run that featured back-to-back Region 8-AAAA championships and more wins than any other two-year period in Rockdale volleyball history.

"I told them after the game that it takes nothing away from our season," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "We had a tremendous season where we won the region championship. Nobody thought we could beat Northgate (in the first round) and we did; nobody thought we could beat Harris County (in the second round) and we did."

That run won't continue after the Elite 8, as Rockdale faced arguably the best team in the state on Saturday. The Pope Greyhounds have so far amassed a 41-2 record, winning 91 games while losing just nine.

"They're an awesome team," Sansing said. "If they don't win state, I will be shocked."

Sansing is able to talk about how good the Greyhounds are because they showed it in early October. Pope won the first game of the best-of-five match by a score of 25-12, and set a theme for the match. Before the season started Rockdale volleyball coach Stephen Sansing told his players they had a chance to do things Rockdale has never done before.

On Saturday the Bulldogs achieved one of those unprecedented goals and won their second straight Region 8-AAAA championship.

"This was a totally new group (from last year), so to be able to go and still go through and win the region it's really nice," Sansing said. "It's a testament to the girls putting the work in and being prepared."

"We had several seniors who hadn't played a whole lot of varsity before this year, and they stepped up."

Patriots set precedence
Heritage's historic run came to an end Nov. 18 at the hands of the Ware County Gators.

The Patriots' drive through the 2011 playoffs came to the same conclusion as many of their drives on the field - just short of the goal line in a 24-3 loss.

The game started out in favor of the home team with Heritage causing three fumbles in the opening minute. On the game's first kickoff, Ware County fumbled the ball on the return with Heritage's Obe Fortune coming up with it.
The Patriots would turn the Gators' miscue into three points on Harisson Kulp's 33 yard field goal 2:10 into the game.

Ware County continued to be plagued by turnovers, fumbling on the Patriots' 36 into the hands of Tyler Weaver on the Gators' next offensive drive. After Heritage went three-and-out, Ware County fumbled once more; this time it was recovered by Miles Kiett on the Heritage 8-yard line.

Heritage won the most regular season games in school history at 10, earned a No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time, and most importantly won a region title.
Heritage made history on Nov. 4.

Its 35-18 win over Madison County wasn't exactly a ground-breaking victory, but it concluded a season that was already special. Add in a little help from Clarke Central and it became the best regular season in school history.
With Clarke Central's 38-35 win over Flowery Branch, the Patriots earned a share of the Region 8-AAAA championship - the first ever region football title in school history.

"It's amazing," Heritage quarterback Ryan Sutton said. "It's the best accomplishment Heritage High School football has ever had."

While Sutton celebrated Friday night, it wasn't anything even he could predict.

"I didn't think this would happen, to be honest with you," said Sutton when asked if he predicted a region title at the beginning of the year.

Although they don't mark firsts or team histories, the 2011 athletics calendar brought many other big stories to the pages of The Rockdale News.

Bright futures
Several high school athletes moved on to college programs, most notably Grady Jarrett to Clemson. The former Rockdale High standout played for the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson Tigers. Jarrett wasn't the only former prep athlete to earn a scholarship to a major Division I school.

Kevin Ware, of Rockdale basketball, earned three.
From a Volunteer to a Knight, Kevin Ware's journey through the college basketball recruiting process may finally have ended as a Cardinal.

The Rockdale High standout guard, who helped lead the Bulldogs reach the state championship this past season, has reportedly committed to Louisville.

A number of media outlets, including the Louisville Courier Journal, said the 6-foot-4 point guard will enroll in classes at Louisville sometime this summer.
Ware, who could not be reached for comment, posted on his twitter account, "Go Cards."

Rated as the No. 56 player in the country by, Ware had committed to Tennessee after his sophomore year, and signed with the Volunteers during his senior season. However, when Tennessee was in the process of firing then-coach Bruce Pearl, Ware decided to seek his release from the commitment.

In April Ware committed to Central Florida, although due to NCAA rules could not sign a letter of intent.

Shortly after, however, the NCAA launched an investigation on UCF concerning someone with connections to an agent that reportedly had contact with Ware in connection with the Knights.

Ware averaged 13.2 points and 4.5 assists a game as a senior for the Bulldogs.

With Rockdale sending players to Division I schools, a Division I school caused Salem to change course.

New logo
Salem High school reached an agreement to change its logo and all likenesses from the Seminoles, due to a deal made with Florida State.

Now the Salem Seminoles, the school re-branded its image after students designed a new logo.

After Salem's logo sent Florida State on a warpath, the Rockdale County high school set out to distinguish itself from Florida State University and its mascot the Seminoles.

On Aug. 12 Salem took the largest step in a process to disassociate its identity with FSU and adopted a new logo. That logo is an Indian chief in profile, with a headdress that forms the word Salem.

The Salem Seminoles set out to form a new logo after entering a settlement agreement with FSU in March, agreeing to remove the Seminole head, Lady Seminole head and spear marks from its websites and publications within 30 days of the settlement and take the logos off its football helmets before Aug. 1, 2011.

Salem Principal Tonya Bloodworth, along with her administration, agreed the best way to redesign the logo was to involve the entire Salem family, especially the students.

The students then offered several ideas, designs and sketches that were presented at Salem High school to the public.

"The students were a vital part of this process," Bloodworth said. "They had a difficult time hearing they would have to change the logo. Instead of complaining about it, they wanted to be a part of the process."

After students and other members of the Salem family let it known to Bloodworth and her staff which drawings they liked the most, the administration went about selecting three.

The students then had the first 10 days of the school year to vote on the three finalists and selected one that was not only done by Salem students, but also involved other Rockdale County Public School institutions.

The winning design was drawn by Salem High junior and football player Lorenzo McWilliams and colored by Brandon Jones Jr., a member of the class of 2011. The two were not only Salem students, but also attended Rockdale Career Academy, where they brought the logo into their design class and worked on the finished product.

"It was not just the school family, but it was the Rockdale community that voiced their concern," Bloodworth said. "I had several parents and community members that called and they were able, for many of them that came in during the summer, to see the sketches provided by our student body."