TIFTON — The Tift County Athletic Hall of Fame will soon get new members.
The sixth class was recently named and seven individuals, one coach and three teams are in the honorees. Going in for their achievements as Blue Devils players are Worth Bowers, Regiena Brown, Brian Massingill, Eric Taylor, Becky Thomas, Israel Troupe and Katie Utley. Tommy Seward is being inducted as a coach as are the members of the 2014 boys basketball teams and gymnasts from the 2011 and 2012 squads. Also being honored is Jim Clayton for Meritorious Service.
Inductees will be honored on the field Oct. 18 during the Lowndes game at Brodie Field. The Hall of Fame ceremony will be Oct. 19. Ticket details have not been announced yet.
The 2019 class participated in a wide variety of sports at Tift County High School, from baseball to gymnastics to golf to tennis.
Bowers was one of the most prolific passers in Tift County football history. He helped lead the Blue Devils to a second place finish in the state playoffs in 1997, setting season and career records in completions, yardages and completion percentage, numbers that stood for 20 years. Those efforts earned him All-State Player of the Year recognition from both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Associated Press. Bowers also helped win three team state championships from 1995-97 in golf under his father, Emmett Bowers. Bowers later gave college football a try at the University of Georgia.
Brown starred in basketball for the Lady Devils. She was named Region 1-AAAA Player of the Year in 1996, a season she scored in double figures in 28 of Tift’s 29 games. She averaged 22 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots per game that year. Brown signed a basketball scholarship with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and later played professionally in Europe.
Massingill played football and baseball for Tift County. In two seasons as a starter, he threw for 3,039 yards and 40 touchdowns and, in 1983, led the Blue Devils to the Class AAAA football state championship. On the diamond, he pitched and played first base. Massingill received a scholarship from the University of Florida.
Taylor went 101-11 for Tift County on the wrestling mat, including a 36-0 record en route to winning the 1990 Class AAAA title at 119 pounds. In addition, Taylor was a three-time region wrestling champ.
Thomas starred in basketball and tennis for Tift County, whose women’s teams then used the nickname of Angels. She won the state doubles tennis title with partner Darby Cottle in 1978. The next season, she led Tift in scoring on the basketball court, averaging 13 points per game, with a high of 24 against Albany.
Troupe was a dynamo for the Devils in both baseball and football. Before being named Super 11 by the AJC and Offensive Player of the Year for Class AAAAA by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association in 2006 and first team All-State twice by the Associated Press and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Troupe scored 15 career touchdowns on the football field. As a senior, Troupe snared 62 passes for 672 yards and terrorized opponents as a returner. As a senior, he hit .400 as a baseball player. Both sports were interested in him beyond high school. The Colorado Rockies drafted him in the 31st round in 2007, but Troupe elected to play college football at UGA. Most recently, he was named offensive coordinator at Valwood.
Utley spent most of her high school career in the air. She was a three-time GHSA state champion in pole vault, including as a freshman. The Atlanta Track and Field Association named her the 44th annual Red Smith Award winner in 2013, the year she shattered the Georgia High School Association state record in pole vault, with a mark of 12’6”, which gave Utley her third straight state title. She finished second in the state as a senior. She still holds state records in the event in Class AAAAAAA and AAAAAA. Georgia Tech inked Utley to a track scholarship.
Seward led Tift on two playing fields as a head coach. He helmed the Diamond Devils from 1976-96, where he won region championships and reached the state final four in Class AAAA in 1988 and 1990. After a stint at Houston County, Seward returned to Tift in 2001 to take over the football program, a position he held for four seasons. The Devils reached state in 2002. Before coaching at Tift, Seward was part of Gene Brodie’s staff at Central High in Macon.
The 2011 and 2012 gymnastics teams were both state championship winners for Tift County and head coach Jodi Roberts. In 2011, the Gym Devils edged Alpharetta by two-tenths of a point for the crown. The following season, Tift took another close win, scoring 112.125 points to win by .25 over Lambert. Tift doubled its winnings in the individual competition, with Beth Roberts taking her first all-around title.
Under Dr. Eric Holland, the 2014 Blue Devils won the school’s second ever state basketball title. Tift went 29-3 on the season, and behind 22 points from D.J. Bryant and 15 from Tadric Jackson, defeated Wheeler by a 63-49 score in the championship game. Jackson won multiple honors, including Class AAAAAA Player of the Year from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and by the Georgia Sports Writers Association.
Clayton was the football “voice of the Blue Devils” for 40 years, before retiring after the 2012 season. The pressbox at Brodie Field is named in his honor. In addition, he taught in the Tift County school system and coached middle school sports. He died in 2017.
Individuals and coaches inducted in 2014 were Nanci Bowen, Gene Brodie, Nick Green, Arthur Mott, Jody Patton, Clay Shiver, Darrien Teals, Darby Veazey and Travis Williams. 2015: Earl Anderson, Nancy Anderson Mark, Alfred Bell, Tommy Blackshear, Buddy Cawley, Todd Fordham, Roy Hart, Ken Hobby and Pablo Machado. 2016: Emmett Bowers, Justin Brownlee, Monroe Jones, Morgan Jones, Monique Jordan, Johnny Lipsey, Todd Shiver and Winford Vickers. 2017: Alvin Davis, Z.B. Hamilton, David Johnson, Wesley McGriff, Stan Shiver, Shirley Strawter, Nate Taylor and Dylan Windom. The Class of 2018 were Bobby Anderson, Stanley Brownlee, Joseph “Pogo” Carter, Tye Cottle, Landy Ewings, Luther Jefferson, Bobby Simpson and Michael Turner.