Now that the curtain has closed on 2015 and a new year has begun, the Coastal Courier is taking a quick look at notable moments in the sports arena from the last year.
History has somewhat repeated itself as former Liberty County football player Raekwon McMillan played in yet another bowl game, just as he did last year around this time. In January 2015, McMillan and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the national championship by beating Oregon 42-
20 during his freshman year. On Friday, McMillan, now the sophomore starting middle linebacker, played in the Fiesta Bowl, where the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame 44-28. In that game McMillan made five total tackles to close out his season.
During the 2015 season, McMillan earned several accolades including making the final list for the Butkus Award, being named to the NFL watch list, making the Big Ten top 50 list and leading the Buckeyes in tackles with 119.
Change of command
In March, Long County football coach Ron Flott announced his resignation, four years after taking over the Blue Tide program. Flott was 10-30 with Long County. One month later, Eric McNair, the Blue Tide’s former offensive coordinator, was named the new head coach. For his first season at the helm, McNair led the Tide to a 3-7 overall mark and 2-5 Region 2-AA record.
Another coaching change happened in 2015 at Liberty County. In April, longtime varsity boys’ basketball head coach and assistant principal Willie Graham resigned from the school system. That closed the door on a 37-year coaching career and 38 years as an educator for Graham. The longtime coach finished the 2015 basketball season as the Region 3-AAAA Coach of the Year after taking the Panthers all the way to the Final Four of the state playoffs. Graham’s career record with Liberty was 394-256.
Just before the start of the 2015-16 season, former LCHS football and basketball player Julian Stokes was named the new varsity boys’ basketball coach. Stokes inherited a team that has the talent to make another run at the state playoffs led by juniors Davion Mitchell and Richard LeCounte. As of Friday, the Panthers are 8-1 overall.
College football scouts started noticing Richard LeCounte during his freshman year while scouting his former teammate Raekwon McMillan in 2013. In 2015, LeCounte jumped up quickly into the four-star and five-star Class of 2017 prospects because of his speed, athleticism and versatility on the football field. LeCounte played offense, defense and special teams, playing nearly every snap of every game in the Panthers’ 2015 season. Just a few weeks ago, he verbally committed to Georgia, and on New Year’s Eve, the junior standout played in the 2015 Rising Seniors Foundation Georgia Junior Bowl in Macon.
Liberty County basketball player Davion Mitchell was the Region 3-AAAA Player of the Year for 2014-15, just one of many accomplishments the standout guard earned. Mitchell became a four-star recruit in 2014-15, drawing offers from more than a dozen NCAA Division I basketball programs across the nation. He is ranked fourth in the state among point guards by 247Sports.com and the 12th in the nation. ESPN also has him ranked fourth in the state in point guards and 49th overall in the nation. The junior verbally committed to Auburn in October.
Riceboro native DeLisha Milton-Jones entered her 16th season in the WNBA after signing with the Atlanta Dream in 2015, and soon broke the WNBA record for games played. In August, Milton-Jones played her 497th game as Atlanta defeated Indiana 90-84. In that game, she had seven points, seven rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes. Milton-Jones, 40, is the oldest active player in the league and finished the year with 499 games played. Her résumé includes two WNBA titles (with Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002) and two All-Star selections (2000 and 2007). She is one of six players all-time with more than 5,000 points and 2,400 rebounds, ranks fourth all-time in WNBA history in steals, sixth in career rebounds and ninth in points. She also earned two Olympic Gold medals for Team USA in 2000 and 2008.
Former Bradwell Institute track standout Quintunya Chapman set University of Georgia records en route to collegiate all-time top-10 scores in the Bulldog Decathlon/Heptathlon in April. A UGA press release stated that Chapman broke the record and won the heptathlon title by finishing the 800-meter run with a personal-best time of 2 minutes, 14.22 seconds. Chapman established a personal best in the long jump — and the ninth-best mark in school history — with a leap of 20 feet, 6½ inches. Chapman also made the list of U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s 2015 All-Academic honorees. Chapman was one of 838 women honored from 207 Division I schools. She is currently training for the Olympic trials, which will be held in July in Eugene, Oregon.
Jordan McRae and Rion Brown, both former basketball players for Liberty County, entered their second seasons as professional basketball players in 2015. Brown currently plays for Brussels, Belgium, where he is averaging 6.4 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game. McRae is on the Delaware 87ers of the NBA D-League. McRae is averaging 22 points and 3.8 rebounds per game to date.
It was a notable year for two teams that rarely get much attention in print.
The Liberty County girls’ tennis team qualified for the state tournament for the first time since the program’s inception at the new LCHS. The girls qualified by placing third in the Region 3-AAAA playoffs. The boys’ team also placed third and qualified for state.
At First Presbyterian Christian Academy, Lady Highlander Anchalee Chinwitayakul finished as the singles runner-up to highlight FPCA’s play in the Georgia Independent School Association Class AA state tournament. The boys’ team won the Region 2-AA title before heading to the state tournament, while the Lady ’Landers finished second. FPCA tennis coach April Causer was named Region Coach of the Year.
Bradwell Institute soccer player Justus Hofmann had to deal with the tragedy of losing his mother, Anttonia Marie Hofmann, to cancer in March, as the Tigers battled in the heart of region play. Bradwell hosted South Effingham just one week after her death and, fittingly, Hofmann kicked in the Tigers’ first goal. After scoring, Hofmann raised his hands in the air, making a gesture to the skies in a salute to his mom. The entire team and coaching staff were moved to tears.