Panthers Roll to Super Bowl 50 with Talent from Georgia

FB Mike Tolbert played for Douglas County HS in Douglasville, GA.

FB Mike Tolbert played for Douglas County HS in Douglasville, GA.

If there is a bigger bitter pill being swallowed by Atlanta Falcons fans other than their NFC South rival going to Super Bowl 50, it would have to be the fact that the Panthers accomplished the feat with a roster chuck full of local talent. Eight players on the Panthers roster, including four starters, played high school football in the peach state. Four of the Georgia-raised Panthers played college ball within a two hour drive of the Georgia Dome.
Cam Newton, QB- Westlake HS, Auburn
Mike Tolbert, FB- Douglas County HS, Coastal Carolina
Charles Johnson, DE- Hawkinsville HS, Georgia
Thomas Davis, LB- Randolph-Clay HS, Georgia
Kyle Love, DT- North Clayton HS, Miss. State
Chris Scott, G- Lovejoy HS, Tennessee
Fernando Velasco, G- Jefferson County HS, Georgia
IR-Stephen Hill, WR- Miller Grove HS, GA Tech

Harvick Takes Over Vegas

While most of the country was still dealing with the perils of winter, NASCAR fans on the West Coast received their first sign of spring as the Sprint Cup series kicked off a 3 race western swing beginning with the Kobalt Tools 400.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the 3rd round in the Chase for the 2015 Sprint Cup Championship. Among the story lines heading into the weekend was the early season success of Penske Racing’s Joey Lagano. The driver of the #22 Shell Gas/Pennzoil Ford won the season-opening Daytona 500 and followed it up with a strong finish in Atlanta. The victory by the 25-year-old in the Daytona 500 made him the 2nd youngest driver ever to win that race.

If Logano set the tone for the youth movement, then veteran Jeff Gordon dominated the headlines with his preseason announcement that 2015 will be his final year competing full-time in the premier NASCAR series.

The weekend looked bright for Gordon on Friday as he put the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy on the pole by setting a new track record lap of 194.679 mph. However, things changed dramatically during practice on Saturday after Danica Patrick spun her car and made contact with Gordon who was then forced to go to a backup car. That move required him to start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.

As the race unfolded, it was the “Closer”, Kevin Harvick who proved to be the class of the field. Harvick was “Freaky Fast” and dominated the 400-mile race capturing his first win of the year. With the victory, the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion all but assured himself a spot in the Chase for the 2015 Sprint Cup championship.



Busch Rolls, Gordon Continues Farewell Tour

Sonoma, CA – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made its way to Sonoma Raceway in Wine Country to compete at the first road course of the season. The event marked the 4th race back for JGR driver Kyle Busch, but the weekend was undoubtedly more meaningful to Hendricks Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon, a Vallejo, CA native because this would be his final race start at his home track.

On Saturday, it was AJ Allmendinger who set the tone for the weekend by winning the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350. Allmendinger drove his JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet to the top qualifying spot with an average lap speed of 96.310 mph.

In what would be considered a surprising result, Kyle Busch managed to hold off 6 time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, as well as the fierce charge by his brother Kurt Busch, to win his first race of the season. This would mark the first time in their Sprint Cup careers that the Busch brothers would finish 1-2. Despite missing the first 11 races of the season, the victory for the younger of the 2 Busch brothers proved he’ll be a force to be reckoned with as the year unfolds.

The farewell tour for Jeff Gordon continues as each track he’s visited has honored his racing career in their own way. Gordon finished Sunday’s race in a disappointing 16th place. The series now heads to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400.

Standings as of Sunday, June 28, 2015:
• Jimmie Johnson: 4 wins
• Kevin Harvick: 2 wins
• Kurt Busch: 2 wins
• Martin Truex Jr: 1 win
• Joey Logano: 1 win
• Dale Earnhardt Jr: 1 win
• Brad Keselowski: 1 win
• Matt Kenseth: 1 win
• Denny Hamlin: 1 win
• Carl Edwards: 1 win
• Kyle Busch: 1 win
• Jamie McMurray: 0 wins
• Kasey Kahne: 0 wins
• Jeff Gordon: 0 wins
• Paul Menard: 0 wins
• Ryan Newman: 0 wins


Earnhardt Jr Wins in Phoenix

Phoenix International Raceway hosted the final qualifier round in the race for the Sprint Cup Championship. The Valley of the Sun was anything but that, as off and on rain showers created a challenging day for fans, NASCAR officials, and the championship contenders. Heading into the weekend, only Hendrick Motorsport driver Jeff Gordon was assured a spot in the season-ending race for the championship at Homestead, FL.

This weekend also marked the final appearance of Gordon as a driver at PIR. To honor his remarkable career, the track was renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for one day.

A nearly seven-hour rain delay forced what was supposed to be a day race, into a night time affair with stakes on the line for 3 potential drivers to accompany Gordon at Homestead.

Kevin Harvick had the dominant car in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, but after leading 143 of the first 199 laps, he lost the lead to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was completing a pit stop when a caution flag came out.

Sometimes in NASCAR, it’s good to be lucky, as well as fast. In the case of Dale Earnhardt Jr., he had a helping of both on Sunday.

After several attempts to restart the race after the caution, more rain forced NASCAR to stop the race after 219 laps. The strategic pit stop gave Dale Earnhardt Jr. the win.

“We were sitting here in Victory Lane tonight and thinking about what four to six inches would’ve mattered at Talladega,” Earnhardt said. “We’d been going to Homestead with a chance to race for the championship under the circumstances. It works out for some people, and some people it doesn’t. This is a quirky little sport with weird days, and this is one of them.”

The win was Earnhardt Jr’s third of the season. Following up on a four-win year in 2014, it’s the first time in his career that he’s won three or more races in consecutive seasons.

With Harvick finishing second, Kyle Busch fourth, and Martin Truex 14th, they qualified to join Jeff Gordon next weekend in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Championship will be decided by the finishing order of those four racers.


Harvick Stakes His Claim in the Desert

Avondale, AZ – Phoenix International Raceway hosted the second stop of a 3 race western swing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The Valley of the Sun lived up to its name, as temperatures hovered near 90 degrees all weekend.

Kevin Harvick, a California native, seemed right at home in the desert as he continued his incredible stretch of race finishes with a victory in Sunday’s 500. The Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet driver led 224 of the 312 laps on the way to his 4th win in a row at the track. That feat prompted jokes that the facility should be renamed to Harvick International Raceway. Dating back to last season, Harvick has finished first or second in the last seven races.

The weekend also saw Harvick’s teammate, Kurt Busch, return to the track after missing three races. He was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR while facing domestic violence allegations. Busch showed little signs of rust as he finished fifth on Sunday.

Season Standings after 4 races:
1 Kevin Harvick #4 – Chevrolet
2 Joey Logano #22 – Ford
3 Martin Truex Jr. #78 – Chevrolet
4 Kasey Kahne #5 – Chevrolet
5 AJ Allmendinger #47 – Chevrolet
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 – Chevrolet
7 Jimmie Johnson #48 – Chevrolet
8 Ryan Newman #31 – Chevrolet
9 Brad Keselowski #2 – Ford
10 Matt Kenseth #20 – Toyota
11 Paul Menard #27 – Chevrolet
12 Casey Mears #13 – Chevrolet
13 Denny Hamlin #11 – Toyota
14 Aric Almirola #43 – Ford
15 Clint Bowyer #15 – Toyota
16 Greg Biffle #16 – Ford
17 Kyle Larson #42 – Chevrolet
18 David Ragan #18 – Toyota
19 Jamie McMurray #1 – Chevrolet
20 David Gilliland #38 – Ford


2015 Mt. Sac Relays

Jenna Prandini may be the indoor and outdoor NCAA champion in the long jump, but the University of Oregon student is fast making a name for herself as a sprinter.

On the fourth and final day of the Mt SAC Relays in the Californian city of Walnut on Saturday (18), Prandini successfully defended her title in the 100m, winning in 10.92 (1.4m/s) to equal the world-leading mark set by Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson.

Behind her, Brazil’s Ana Claudia Silva broke her own South American record with 11.01 to finish 0.01 ahead of USA’s multiple world and Olympic finalist Muna Lee.

It was the third year in a row in which Prandini had set a 100m PB at the Mt SAC Relays. Two years ago she clocked 11.31 when finishing seventh, and then at last year’s edition of the meeting she improved to 11.11; a time she went on to equal later in the season in the semi-finals of the NCAA Championships.

On Saturday, little more than two hours after her 100m victory, she was back on track for the 200m. Once again she came away victorious, reducing her PB to 22.42 (0.1) to beat US indoor 400m record-holder Phyllis Francis (22.70) and 2013 US 100m champion English Gardner (22.74).

There was also a notable double in the men’s sprints. Canada’s Andre DeGrasse, representing the University of Southern California, first won the 100m in a heavily wind-aided 9.87 (4.0m/s). But the conditions calmed down for the 200m later on, which he won in 20.16 (0.3) to equal the Canadian record.

Jeff Henderson was the stand-out performer on the infield. In his first long jump competition of the year, the US champion flew out to a world-leading PB of 8.50m (1.8m/s). Job done, he wisely passed his remaining five attempts.

In second place, Yohei Sugai broke his five-year-old PB with 8.18 (1.3m/s) to move up to third on the Japanese all-time list. India’s Prem Kumar Kumaravel was third with 8.04m, just five centimetres shy of his own national record.

Stadium construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2015 and be completed in early spring or summer of 2017, in plenty of time for the Olympic Trials in 2020.

Mt. San Antonio College plans to renovate its 65-year-old stadium and place a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Track and Field Trials.



War Eagles Outlast Golden Lions

Woodward Academy won a hard-fought seesaw battle in double overtime over arch rival St. Pius X 36-29 at George B. Maloof Stadium in Atlanta, GA.

Friday night’s rematch of last season’s semi-final matchup that sent the Golden Lions of St. Pius X to the GHSA State Finals lived up to the hype.

Earlier that day Woodward Academy running back Elijah Holyfield made his announcement of where he will take his considerable talents to next year by releasing two bulldog puppies into the room.

Theatrics aside and the game underway, St. Pius turned a fumble by Holyfield into 7 points. Junior quarterback Reed Egan called his own number on the read option and scampered into the end zone. A fumble on the ensuing kick-off provided another Golden Lions offensive possession. Unable to move the ball, St. Pius turned to junior kicker Nick Jones for a field goal.

It’s hard to keep a good running back bottled up for long. Everyone in the stadium knew that with each touch of the ball Holyfield was likely to make something special happen. They didn’t have to wait long as the speedster busted loose outrunning the junior defensive back Michael Bresnahan for a 60-yard touchdown.

The War Eagles took the lead on junior quarterback Ryan Glover’s 10-yard strike to junior wide receiver Josh Johnson across the middle.

When St. Pus regained the lead in the second half 19-14, Woodward Head Coach John Hunt turned to his star tailback again. After scoring his second touchdown, the charismatic tailback celebrated by flashing the Georgia ‘G’ logo on the gloves he was wearing.

Rather than risk losing on a field goal the War Eagles went for the two-point conversion. Glover lofted the pass to the spot and Johnson was there to haul it in.

A strong defensive stand by the War Eagles left the Golden Lions with nothing but hope and a prayer. Woodward needed only to control the kick and run out the clock. St. Pius’ prayer worked as the War Eagles fumbled the kick. Jones made good on the kick and sent the game into overtime.

Both teams posted touchdowns in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Woodward Academy struck first with a touchdown. To keep pace, the Golden Lions needed a score. Egan’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by the War Eagles and the celebration was on.



2015 Blazers Invitational

Indoor Track and Field got off to a great start as 11 meet records fell over the weekend at the University of Alabama Blazers Invitational in Birmingham’s Crossplex.

Five women’s and six men’s meet records fell during the two-day competition that featured competitors from 20 college teams as well as professionals from around the sport.

The Lady Hornets of Alabama State came away with the most wins for a team with 4 first place finishes (4×400, 800m, DMR, 500m) and the top finish for a collegian in the 400-meter dash. Junior Santina Williams ran 55.97 s finishing behind the likes of Olympic competitors Kineke Alexander and Allison Peter and former Texas A&M star Ibukun Mayunbe.

Other Highlights

Mississippi State’s Shayla Luckett finished third behind Alexander and Peter in the 300-meter dash with the top collegiate time 38.84 s. Luckett also finished second in the 200 meters behind Tulane’s Lilla McMillan.

Alabama State senior Kimberly Wedderburn broke an hours old meet record in the 500-meter dash set by Mississippi State’s Ocian Archer (1:14.70) by posting a 1:14.31 in the final.

Georgia State’s Hannah Stefanoff posted a 17:35.02 to break her own meet record (17:47.27) in the 5000-meter run.

Florida’s Bridgette Owens set a new meet record (8.11 s) in the 60 m hurdles. Owens bested the 8.20 s record she set just a year ago.

Former Alabama Crimson Tide star and event record holder Alexis Payne set a new meet record in the Pole Vault with a clearance of 4.30 m.

Mississippi State duo Ebony Brinker and Tiffaney Flynn went 1-2 in the triple jump. Brinker set a new meet record with a leap of 12.91 m.

Competition was just as fierce in the men’s bracket. Kennesaw State’s Drew Duggans nipped Florida’s Antwan Wright by a hair in the men’s 60-meter dash.

Jackson State’s Tamarick Johnson finished fourth in the 200-meter dash as the top collegian with a time of 21.75 s. Trey Hadnot, an 11-time WAC Champion won the event in 21.13 s.

In the 400-meter dash, former Baylor All-American Legerald Betters coasted to a top finish with a time of 47.46 s. Florida A&M’s Troy Pollard was the top collegian finishing in second.

Tennessee State’s Quamel Prince broke a two-year-old meet record in the 800 meter run with a time of 1:51.66. Southern- New Orleans’ Alex Saunders bettered the previous meet record finishing in second posting a time of 1:53.28.

Samford’s Brandon Hazouri set a new meet record in the 1000 meter run. Hazouri clipped 2 seconds off the previous record set in 2014 by Eliud Rutto.

Kenya’s Silas Too, running unattached, pumped his fist crossing the line while setting a new meet record (14:38.05 ) in the 5000-meter run. Middle Tennessee State’s Shadrack Matelong posted the top time (14:59.14) for a collegian in the race finishing second.

Former Savannah State sprinter and 2014 Class 5A State Girls Track and Field Championship coach Eric Keddo clipped Florida’s Yanick Hart at the line.

Florida A&M claimed the top finish in the 4 x 400-meter relay besting second-place Mississippi State by over a full second.

Kennesaw State went 1-2 in the high jump on the strength of finishes by Andre Dorsey and Bilal Abdullah. Dorsey claimed the top spot on the podium clearing a height of 2.15 m.

Samford’s Gavin Gautreau and Tray Oates gave the Bulldogs a 1-2 finish in the pole vault competition. Gautreau and Oates both cleared 4.85 m with the former accomplishing the height with fewer misses.

All-American Jason Harper set a new meet record in the triple jump. The Mississippi State senior leaped 15.93 meters in the finals of the event.

Senior Luka Mustafic, Florida International, set a new meet record in the shot put with a mark of 18.01 m.

Kennesaw State added a second top finish of the competition in the weight throw. Martynas Sedys’ winning throw of 19.78 meters set a new meet record in the event.



Miscues Mire Falcons Finale