Tifton Gazette


June 17, 2014

Banner year for sporting Blue Devils

TIFTON —  It was a great year to be a Tift County Blue Devil. Athletes, coaches and fans alike were treated to success after success on the playing fields.

The school was again named the region's top team in the Georgia Athletic Directors Association Regions Directors Cup and were the highest ranked non metro-Atlanta team in Class AAAAAA.

The big news for athletics during the 2013-14 school year was that the boys basketball team captured their second overall state title and first since 1996 with a 63-49 championship win over Wheeler. The team had a 29-3 record and were only beaten once by a team from Georgia.

Tadric Jackson was selected as the state's best player by the Georgia Sports Writers Association, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and in the top 25 nationally by MaxPreps. Dr. Eric Holland was named Coach of the Year by both the GACA and GSWA.

State was a familiar place for Tift teams. Nearly every sport had a squad advance to the tournament or had individual qualifiers.

Baseball made it to the sweet 16 of the state tournament after finishing 2nd in the region. Deviner McCray and Blake Suggs played in the Georgia Dugout Club's Senior All-Star games. A third Devil, Alex Abbott, was also invited, but he was involved in pro workouts that weekend and was selected in the 6th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The second round was the finishing point of several more squads: girls soccer, girls basketball and softball.

After pulling an upset over region winners and state top 10 squad Westlake in College Park, the Lady Devils basketball team lost a tight contest to Marietta on the road.

Softball hosted their first round game with Westlake and moved on in dominating fashion, beating the Lady Lions 8-0 and 11-2.

Girls soccer beat Newnan to advanced to the sweet 16 after a season of battling injuries. They were joined in state by the boys, who fell in the first round to Tri-Cities.

Another set of dual state tournament qualifying teams belonged to golf. The boys were 15th in the championships, while the girls were 8th. Helping the girls' cause were Anna Greer and Lynsie Belan who both recorded scores in the top 20.

Girls tennis also made it into the state tournament.

Cross country each sent a squad north to the final run in Carrollton. Their spring counterparts with track and field made their mark in individual accomplishments. Katie Utley capped her high school career with a 2nd place finish in pole vault and Staceyanna Murrell was 3rd in both discus and shot put as four Lady Devils went to Albany. A week later, the boys 4x400 team finished 7th in the state at Jefferson while Dalton Ellis had a personal best mark in pole vault.

Swimming sent nine athletes to state in eight different events and five wrestlers also made state.

While falling just short of a state tournament, volleyball made a big statement in its debut at the high school.

Football posted its best mark since 2010 as John Reid's defense-minded Devils had a miracle win over Coffee, nearly upset Camden County and Colquitt County and blew out Brunswick to end the season. On National Signing Day, center Ike Powell declared for Auburn.

College and Tift County athletes were a combination that went together several times as over 20 of them either declared or signed deals to play at the next level in a variety of sports. Some were staying local at ABAC, while others went as far west as Eastern New Mexico. They signed with schools small and large as the SEC, ACC, Gulf South and SIAC were among those receiving a Blue Devil.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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