The 2012 sports year in Newton County saw plenty of the old mixed with plenty of the new.
Two of the area's most notable sports names were recognized for stellar careers, and the county's youngest school continued to move into the state's basketball scene.
Legendary Newton basketball coach Ron Bradley was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in May, recognize for 53 years of coaching. He coached the Newton Rams for 21 of his 49 years as a high school coach. The Rams received national fame under Bradley by winning a national record 129 consecutive home games from Dec. 11, 1959 until Dec. 28, 1967.
He is now named among the country's best, beyond just the county's or even the state's.
In June, Jake Reed was also recognized for his greatness beyond Newton County. The former Rams' football player was elected to the Grambling Legends Hall of Fame after leading the Tigers to 17 wins over his final two seasons in 1989-90 with 954 collegiate receiving yards. That came after a 1,000-yard NFL career with the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.
Reed and Bradley are icons from Newton's past, and in 2012 there was plenty to be seen of the future.
As the 2011-12 basketball season rounded out with Alcovy's boys' basketball team reaching the elite eight and its girls team reaching the final four.
The 2011-12 Tigers had a record-breaking season, at one point winning 18 straight games. Alcovy won the Region 3-AAAA championship and then defeated Forest Park and Bainbridge at home before falling to North Clayton in the playoffs.
The Lady Tigers also had a stellar season, losing in the Region 3-AAAA championship after a season with winning streaks of 10, six and five games. Alcovy defeated Mundy's Mill 60-48 in the first round of the state playoffs before going on the road to beat Warner Robins and Forest Park. The lady Tigers ultimately lost to state champion Miller Grove in the semifinals at the Gwinnett Center.
The playoff runs helped vault Alcovy into preseason rankings in Class AAAAAA, where they began the 2012-13 season.
Alcovy moved up two classifications after the Georgia High School Association had a reclassification in 2012. The reclassification moved Eastside from AAA to AAAA, Newton from AAAAA to AAAAAA, the state's newest and largest classification, and Alcovy from AAAA to AAAAAA. The move also enhanced Alcovy and Newton's rivalry from strictly geographical to divisional.
That translated onto the football field, where Alcovy and Newton faced each other for the first time since 2009. Newton picked up the gridiron victory, 14-7, for the first of five region wins, propelling them to second-place in 2-AAAAA and a No. 2 seed in the state playoffs. The Rams came out of the gate as the area's favorite in 2-AAAAAA for football, but the region looks like one that will shape up as a strong one for years with Lovejoy and a young Alcovy and Rockdale team in the mix.
While the football season began the 2012-13 school year, soccer season ended it, and leading the way on the pitch for Newton County was the Eastside girls' team.
The Lady Eagles put together a 12-win season, losing just once in region play and complying six straight wins at one point. The Lady Eagles reached the second round of the state playoffs, after beating visiting Westside 3-0.
As 2012 concluded the past and future of Newton County athletics met as former Rams' basketball standouts started to come into their own in college. The Rams had six players starting at once in college, ranging from Alex Ordu in junior college to a freshman in Stephen Croone at Furman to a sophomore starter in Derrick Henry at Winthrop.
The year 2013 could support much of the same success with former Newton football standout Demetrius McCray a NFL Draft prospect, the Newton boys' basketball team getting off to a good start and Alcovy's girls' team boasting two future Southeastern Conference players.