Heavy Is The Head

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If there’s a problem with success, it’s the expectation of repeating it. That’s the case in many walks of life, and so it is in Major League Baseball. Winning teams are expected to follow up successful seasons with more successful seasons.

For the Atlanta Braves, who have now won three consecutive National League East Division Championships, they are expected to repeat that feat a fourth time. Especially, given the youth of the team and the starting rotation holes from 2020 that GM Alex Anthopoulos has already taken steps to fill in the guise of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly.

In fact, the crown likely lies even heavier, given that the Braves went (much) deeper into the playoffs in 2020 than in the previous two seasons, coming within one game of the World Series.

With that on their recent record, Atlanta will be looked at to not just win their division, but to advance to the World Series in 2021 as well.

But there are some teams that would like to stop them and since we often talk about why a team will win, let’s look instead at the four teams that might stop the Braves’ quest to four-peat, in order of least concerning to most concerning.

  1. The Washington Nationals-The crazy thing here, and really about this division in general, is that the Nationals are not a bad team.

They have a top-tier pitching staff that couldn’t stay on the field in 2020, and they won the whole thing just 2 years ago (admittedly with the help of an MVP-caliber Anthony Rendon).

They’re really only one or two good pieces away from being back in the trophy hunt and word is that they’ve been meeting with top free agents like JT Realmuto.

Which brings up to the team he may not be returning to:

  1. The Philadelphia Phillies-They really should have been much, much better in 2019.

They spent tons of money bringing in players to shape their lineup into something intimidating, and then they just…didn’t win.

Bryce Harper was signed and then surrounded by loads of other acquisitions, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

Now Realmuto, arguably the next-best player on their team and inarguably the best catcher in the game, is a free agent and may walk.

I couldn’t really pinpoint what it is that makes the Phillies not work right now – though certainly their rotation isn’t as good as ¾ of the rest of the division – and neither can they.

But the thing that separates them from the Nats is that they could flip a switch without really making any roster changes and be a huge threat in the division.

  1. The Miami Marlins-The other team from the NL East to make it to the playoffs in 2020, the Marlins starting rotation is young and gifted in a way that only the Braves can even come close to touching in the division.

They leaned on Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez, and Sandy Alcantara last year, and it served them very well.

There’s no reason to believe that Derek Jeter and the rest of the Marlins brass is going to waste that kind of talent in their primes and a few moves to bolster their lineup could make Miami the toast of the division.

1.The New York Mets-That’s right, the New York Mets. This might seem like a crazy choice for the top threat in the NL East to unseat Atlanta’s three-year stint on the throne, but there are few things scarier than a new owner with a vision and a deep, deep wallet.

They’ve already got Jacob DeGrom, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball and Noah Syndergaard will be back with a vengeance after missing last year due to injury.

New owner Steven Cohen could very well fund new GM Jared Porter to go out and add Trevor Bauer to the rotation too and he could make a lucrative offer to Realmuto, or put together a trade package for Nolan Arenado wherein the Mets absorb his massive contract.

The point is, there’s a new top dog in New York, and that brings the threat of a massive upheaval in an attempt to make a splash and a statement in 2021.

Granted, that doesn’t always work (see #3), but it should be enough to strike at least a little questioning fear in the heart of Braves Country.

Out Of Gas

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Gus Bus finally ran out of gas at Auburn.

After eight years at Auburn, head coach Gus Malzahn will no longer serve as Auburn’s head coach as he was relieved of his duties, the program announced in a release.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as the interim head coach.

“After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership,” Athletic Director Allen Greene said.

“We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level.”

During his time as head coach, Malzahn had a 68-35 record, going 39-27 in SEC play.

In his first season at Auburn, he led Auburn to a National Championship appearance.

Auburn must pay Gus a buyout of $21 million dollars with $10 million of that coming to Malzahn in the next 30 days. 2021 will start off very nice for Gus and family.

The road seemed rocky at times for Gus at Auburn. Rumors started floating around back in 2016 that he may be fired, but then 2017 happened where Auburn beat number #1 Georgia and then beat #1 Alabama in a three week window, and won the SEC West.

Auburn lost to UGA in a rematch for the SEC Championship, and Auburn rewarded Malzahn with a 7-year $49 million dollar contract extension.

In 2018 Auburn finished 5th in the SEC West with an 8-5 overall record, and followed that up in 2019 with a 9-4 record with a loss to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl.

The 6-4 record this season with a bad loss at South Carolina heated up the fire Gus talk.

Then you factor in blowout losses at UGA and Alabama then the dye was cast.

Since 2014, Auburn has lost 33 football games with highly rated talent on the roster.

Malzahn had a 3-5 record in the Iron Bowl against Alabama, which is very good considering how dominant Alabama has been in the SEC.

His 2-7 record against Georgia in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry had become a point of contention with the Auburn alumni base.

The 5-12 record against the two biggest rivals was a big factor in his firing. If you are the head coach at Auburn University you can’t consistently lose to Alabama and Georgia. Auburn never beat these two rivals on the road during his tenure at Auburn.

While Gus had overall top ten recruiting classes at Auburn two areas of major concern recently have been the lack of top tier offensive linemen and the QB position.

Auburn has failed to recruit and develop talent in the OL for years now and it shows up in the biggest games when Auburn gets dominated by the better defensive fronts in the SEC.

At QB, other than the great season by Nick Marshall in 2013, Auburn has been average at QB. Bo Nix currently was highly rated coming out of high school, but has been average at best at Auburn.

Gus ran a clean program and will hopefully get another Head Coaching job after he gets tired of spending Auburn’s buyout money.

I believe Auburn had a big name agree to take the job when Gus was let go, but since has backed out, and now you hear rumors of Kevin Steele having the interim dropped from his title, and if that is the case you have a public relations nightmare on the plains of Auburn.

Early signing day has come and gone and Auburn’s early signing period class was ranked 40th.

Whoever Auburn hires has his work cut out for him to try and salvage this recruiting class.

Committed

Coastal Georgia Area Football Early Signing Period Commits  

 

Glynn Academy

TJ Lewis-QB/Louisville

Jaiden Miller-DB/College of Charleston

 

Camden

Micah Morris-OL/Georgia

Shawn Hardy-WR/Nebraska

Hudson Tucker-DT/Tennessee Tech

 

Brunswick

Caleb Cook-OL/Georgia Southern

Kyle Rehberg-K/Rose-Hulman Insititute Of Technology

 

MCA

Khay Loyd-DB/Army

 

The Flying Shoe

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Last week the Florida Gators had a loss Florida fans never saw coming, a 37-34 shocker against LSU.

UF being a three touchdown favorite and losing won’t be forgotten in Gainesville.

The Gators weren’t a shoe in for the College Football Playoffs with a showdown with mighty Alabama this Saturday night.

This game was a microcosm of the Florida Gators season. Florida’s sloppy and unemotional play by the entire team all came together last Saturday night.

The Gators have been fun to watch this season but they have not yet been a dominant team.

Other than the Georgia game, I can say there hasn’t been one game where the entire team played with the passion and desire to destroy the opponent.

Mistakes through lack of effort by the offense, defense, special teams and coaches cannot go overlooked.

Kyle Trask has brought the Fun & Gun back to Gainesville, but the critics will knock him for the three turnovers.

Trask finished the night making University of Florida history by surpassing Danny Wuerffel’s 1996 single season touchdown record, setting a new high with 40 touchdown passes on the season.

After starting the second half with back-to-back touchdowns drives (nine plays, 156 yards, 3:42 time of possession), the offense followed up with three consecutive three and outs.

Rewatching the game, Florida’s running backs and wide receivers did not help Trask with six drops on the night. The offensive line allowed too much pressure and missed assignments that put the Gators behind the sticks.

The Gator’s defense had been struggling all season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has been under fire by the media and fans all season.

In the past two games (Tennessee and LSU), Florida’s defense has blown coverages, lined up incorrectly, and made costly penalties.

Florida’s secondary has blown coverages the entire season. I cannot remember one game this season where an opponent’s receiver isn’t running wide open. Majority of the time it ends in a touchdown or a chunk play that sets up a touchdown.

For some reason, Grantham likes to corner blitz. The safeties are on another page and they allow the receivers to run their routes against air.

He called corner blitzes twice in the LSU game, first one led to a 51-yard touchdown and the second one set up LSU’s last touchdown.

The Gator’s defense has struggled to line up correctly due to the play calls getting to players in a timely manner. This has been an issue the entire season and it has reared its head a couple times Saturday night.

The Shoe! No one is ever going to forget about the shoe. Marco Wilson’s boneheaded unsportsmanlike act didn’t lose the game but it helped hammer the nail in the coffin. This blunder won’t be forgotten soon by Gator fans or their rivals.

With all of those miscues, Trask and company got the ball on their own 25-yard line. Three big plays later, Evan McPherson was lining up to try a 51-yard field goal to tie the game.

McPherson is more than capable of drilling a 51 yarder, but there is no denying that McPherson blew the most important field goal of his college career on Saturday night.

Dan Mullen and his staff are not blameless. Mullen’s arrogance was costly, telling the ESPN production crew that he felt the Gators would get into the College Football Playoff even if they lost to LSU as long as they beat Number 1 Alabama. My biggest issue with the statement is his mindset. WHY?

Many believe Kyle Trask’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy disappeared just like Florida’s College Football Playoff hopes.

That may not be the case. Trask completed 29 of 47 for 474 and 2 touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns; good looking stats for an ugly loss.

Whether it’s right or not, Trask’s turnovers will enhance the chance of Alabama’s Mac Jones to win the award.

Everyone please take a moment to pray for Keyontae Johnson.

SEC In Aerosmith Albums

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the regular season essentially over, here is how I think each team fared, worst to best, and the corresponding Aerosmith album it equates to, also in ascending order. (No particular reason for choosing Aerosmith, just been listening to them lately and they do have 14 original studio albums. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy Aerosmith.)

 

  1. Rock and a Hard Place- Vanderbilt. When you lose every game by an average of 22.5 points and fire your head coach, your season is as forgettable as this album. Even the most ardent Aerosmith fans forget these were ever recorded.

 

  1. Night in the Ruts- Tennessee. The only positive thing I can say about Tennessee’s season was it was better than Vanderbilt’s.

 

  1. Music From Another Dimension- Mississippi State. Much like the last album Aerosmith has released, there are one or two highlights, but not much else to get excited about.

 

  1. Just Push Play- LSU. A season most Tigers’ fans would like to forget. Will certainly never be a success story, but ten years from now it won’t be viewed as quite the disaster it is today.

 

  1. Nine Lives- South Carolina. If you look at their on-field production and results they should be ranked lower. I boosted them up a few spots based solely on parting ways with Will Muschamp, which was their biggest win of the season.

 

  1. Done With Mirrors- Kentucky. Middle of the road album, middle of the road season. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

  1. Draw the Line- Auburn. A decent but underwhelming album that immediately preceded Aerosmith’s two worst records. Auburn lived up to the first part, with Malzahn now gone the second part is sure to follow.

 

  1. Permanent Vacation- Arkansas. The album was a comeback of sorts for the band and even though the Razorbacks only won three games it feels as though they’re on the right track.

 

  1. Aerosmith- Ole Miss. Their offense is as good as “Dream On”; if they can just get their defense to the level of “Mama Kin” they may wind up being the second best team in the West.

 

  1. Get A Grip- Missouri. Having trouble finding any correlation between the team and other than it’s my fifth favorite Aerosmith record and I thought Missouri had the fifth most successful season.

 

  1. Rocks- Georgia. Admittedly this album has held up better over time than this season will for Georgia. I know the end result is a disappointment for most fans, but it very easily could’ve been worse. Plus, you’ve found your quarterback for next year.

 

  1. Toys in the Attic- Florida. A really good season marred by a bad Austin Powers impersonation (“Really, who throws a shoe”) and a coach who can’t keep his foot out of his mouth. The Gators podiatry program has been working overtime this year.

 

  1. Get Your Wings- Texas A&M. No standout tracks, solid from beginning to end, just not as strong as the album above it. No standout wins, strong in all aspects of the game, just not as talented and deep as the team above them.

 

1.Pump- Alabama. You can argue my pick for best Aerosmith album, but not with which SEC had the best season; undefeated, averaged 49.5 ppg, average margin of victory 32.7, and actually played all ten games. You don’t have to like them, but you damn sure have to respect them.

All Area High School Football Team

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

 

 

Offense

QB-TJ Lewis/Glynn Academy

RB-Trenton Johnson/MCA

RB-Jordan Triplett/Frederica

RB-Ree Simmons/Brunswick

WR-Deonte Cole/Camden

WR-Tyrease Jones/Brunswick

WR-Shawn Hardy/Camden

TE-Ryan Burkhart/MCA

OL-Micah Morris/Camden

OL-Caleb Cook/Brunswick

OL-Kanaya Charlton/Brunswick

OL-Nick Muchison/Glynn Academy

OL-Garrett Squire/Frederica

 

Defense

DL-Hudson Tucker/Camden

DL-Will Counts/Frederica

DL-DeTerias Glover/Camden

DL-D’Marius Clinch/Glynn Academy

LB-Jadin Jones/Camden

LB-Miles Wood/MCA

LB-Miles Smith/Glynn Academy

LB-Zane Rosenbaum/Brunswick

DB-Keith Giddens/Camden

DB-Jaden Drayton/Glynn Academy

DB-Amarion Whitfield/Brunswick

DB-DaMarion Hayes/Glynn Academy

 

Coach Of The Year-Brandon Derrick/Frederica

Pirates Voyage

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Brunswick High Pirate Football team finished its season with a tough loss to Lee County in the second round of the State playoffs last week.

Brunswick finished with an 8-4 record. Head Coach Sean Pender and the Pirates won a share of the Region 2-AAAAAA crown this fall, which is something the Pirate football program has not done since 2009.

The eight-win season is something the program has not accomplished since 2010. The 2020 Pirates also won their first City Championship since 2013, and in spite of these accomplishments Sean Pender was not named the Region Coach of the year and the award went to a team and coach he defeated. 2020 strikes again. Maybe a recount should be requested.

This edition of the Pirates got off to a rocky start with a loss at Pierce County, where star running back Chukobe Hill suffered a knee injury that that kept him out of action for a month.

BHS bounced back and beat MCA in week two.

In week 3 the Pirates fumbled away a chance to beat highly thought of Benedictine deep in Cadet territory with a minute left in the contest.

After the 1-2 start the Pirates went on the road on a Thursday night and beat a good Northeast Macon team 41-12 and that began a four-game winning streak that included the “Miracle between the Bricks” 75-yard TD pass from KJ Lee to Tyrease Jones with 16 seconds left in the contest to win the City Championship.

On Halloween weekend the Pirates came up short against Richmond Hill but then won three straight before falling at Lee County last week.

The Pirates were well represented on the first team All-Region selections with the following Pirates be named to the first team:

 

OL- Caleb Cook

OL- Kanaya Charlton

DB: Amarion Whitfield

WR: Tyrease Jones

RB: Ree Simmons

LB: Zane Rosenbaum

 

Second Team Selections:

KJ Lee

Xaiver Bean

David Newbauer

Kayshawn Thomas

Kaleb Hampton

Camron Crump

Devontae Gadson

Anthony Elvine

 

Honorable Mention:

Kevin Thomas

Chukobe Hill

Quan Gibson

Keon Leggett

AJ Wilson

Kyle Rehberg

 

This Senior Class has put the program back on solid ground moving forward for the future.  Coach Pender when asked about this group of seniors got a little emotional when commenting on this group:

“These kids bought into everything we were trying to teach them. They worked hard, and there was a spirit of unity with this group that has been infectious for the younger players in the program. They have laid the foundation for a winning culture here. They were the first group I have had here for all four years, and this group will always hold a special place in my heart because the foundation they created will produce results long after they will no longer walk these halls at BHS. They leave us as champions both Region and City and it has been a while since we have said that here, and now that is the expectation moving forward with this football program”.

I have enjoyed covering this team and group of seniors, and like Coach Pender stated this group has laid the foundation for the future of BHS football.

The 2020 Brunswick High Football team will always be remembered as the “Drought Breakers” on Altama Avenue and as champions and this senior class will be champions in life, and that means more than winning football games.

Striking the Pose

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Heisman race is narrowing down to a two-man race, but it’s tightening up at the same time heading into the final week before conference championship games begin.

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask have separated themselves from the pack, but players like Desmond Ridder, (QB, Cincinnati) Najee Harris, (RB, Alabama) Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU) Trevor Lawrence, (QB, Clemson) Justin Fields, (QB, Ohio State) Jaret Patterson, (RB, Buffalo) and Breece Hall, (RB, Iowa State) have made major impacts in the 2020 season.

The Heisman trophy went to the best player in college football once upon a time. Today, the Heisman goes to the top quarterback on any winning team.

Last year at this time, Joe Burrow was being announced as the 2019 Heisman trophy winner after putting up early-gen PlayStation stats.

Burrow completed 402 passes for 5,617 yards and 60 touchdowns in 15 games. He also threw 44 touchdowns in the regular season.

The two front runners in this year’s Heisman race will have only played 10 regular season games, and only against SEC teams.

The voting deadline has been moved back to December 21st with finalists announced on Christmas Eve.

For the first time, voters will judge a Heisman winner on his conference championship game. That game being the SEC Championship in Atlanta on December 19th.

Mac Jones runs the Alabama offense at an exceptionally high level while putting up crazy numbers in the process. Against LSU, Jones completed 20-28 passes for 385 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Now that gives the first-year starter over 3,100 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions. It obviously helps having a stacked offense including DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, but Jones puts throws on the money and is a tough quarterback to stop.

Kyle Trask has brought the Fun & Gun back to Gainesville. Trask has no problem chucking the ball around without much of a running game.

Trask’s ability to make smart decisions and avoid mistakes helps make that a winning formula for the Gators offense.

As absurd as it may sound, Trask is on a better scoring pace and on the same yardage pace as last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Trask ignited the Heisman talk by leading the Gators victory of Georgia Bulldogs 44-28.

Trask was 30-43 for 474 yards passing 4 touchdowns and a pick. Trask’s ability to place the ball where only his teammate can make the catch is amazing.

That’s how good the Gators quarterback has been with over 3,200 yards and 38 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions with the season finale against LSU this Saturday.

The Heisman race might come down to the SEC Championship game in a couple weeks, but barring a complete drop off from Kyle Trask against LSU, it’s hard to imagine Jones catching Trask in this race.

One question to all my readers, if you took both quarterbacks off their respective teams, which team would be affected more?

Do You Really Care

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If you had asked me back in September if I thought there would still be a college football season in December, I would’ve told you you’d be more likely to see a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion with the original Aunt Viv.

The fact we are not only playing football in December, but it looks like most bowl games and the college playoffs are going to take place, is nothing short of remarkable.

Considering the difficulties, we all knew the NCAA would encounter to put any semblance of a season together, I think they’ve done an admirable job, overall.

They put together strict guidelines in regards to testing players and coaches multiple times a week, as well the protocols in place for those who tested positive.

They allowed programs to have the autonomy to cancel and reschedule games as they saw fit, which led to some interesting matchups, like Coastal Carolina and BYU, that we otherwise never would’ve gotten.

Still, for all those reasons I just gave the NCAA credit for, I have never been less interested, or watched fewer games than I have this year.

It’s been difficult getting excited for games where I had no idea what type of roster was actually going to be on the field or if the game was even going to be played at all.

It’s also been hard to care about the outcomes of games and how it affects bowl games and the college playoffs when there’s such a disparity in the number of games played.

The most difficult part has probably been the testing. While I applaud the NCAA’s testing requirements there’s something wrong when college kids can be tested three times a week, simply because they’re an athlete, while thousands of Americans wait in line 3-4 hours to get tested.

In many cases, they have to use sick or vacation time for work while they wait on the results because they are in quarantine.

I know it’s an apples to oranges comparison when it comes to the cost or type of tests being administered (public vs private) but I have to seriously doubt the motives of anyone who doesn’t admit the optics on that are bad.

When you take into account the billions of dollars to be made, or probably more important, to be lost, if there wasn’t a season, I completely understand why the NCAA proceeded with football and continues with basketball.

I just wonder for all those fans that were clamoring at the beginning of the season how much they needed sports so there could be some resemblance of normalcy in their daily lives, did it provide the escape they hoped for?

I, for one, felt that way two months ago, but my perspective has changed entirely since then.

Please understand this isn’t some sort of political statement on my behalf. I’m not arguing whether or not a season should have been played or advocating for any particular side.

The NCAA was in a no win situation and I give them credit for trying to make the best of it.

All I’m giving is my opinion on why my interest in caring about this season has basically been nonexistent.

Unless it was a topic I was going to write about, when given the choice to watch a football game or something else, I chose the latter.

After watching Aunt Viv be reunited with Will Smith, I have no regrets.

Increasing Altitude

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Because nothing can be anything resembling normalcy can exist anymore, the NBA is releasing the schedule for the upcoming 2020-2021 season in two parts – the first chunk covers the starts of the season (right around the corner, on December 22nd) to March 4th, at which they’ll have the All-Star Break.

The remaining schedule will be released at a later time. Ideally, they’ll still get in a full season of 72 games before the playoffs start on May 18th.

However, the big change will be who they play. Each team will play the teams in their own conference three times and will double the usual amount of games against teams from the opposing conferences (from 15 to 30).

There are some extra complexities mixed up in there, but instead of dwelling on those, let’s look at how the announced schedule plays out for the Atlanta Hawks.

The beginning of the schedule, including just four games in December and 16 in January, could be a difficult proving ground for Atlanta.

They’ve got the Memphis Grizzlies, who are just getting started, and the Brooklyn Nets, with whom Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving like to hang out, as half of those December games.

After that, they’ve got two more against the Nets, a road game in Milwaukee, and a trip out west that could be a major challenge.

Those could be backbreaking, but the Hawks certainly have the chance to win at least some of those and then there’s games at the Cavs, the Hornets, the Knicks, the Pistons, and the Timberwolves that Atlanta should have good showings against.

February is going to likely be even more of a challenge. That’s when the Lakers show up, as well as the Mavericks, the Celtics, and the Heat.

That’s all bad pretty news. While the Hawks could upset some of those better teams, that difficult stretch makes it all the more important that Atlanta takes care of business against the teams that they are, in turn, better than.

There’s barely any March schedule to talk about, so that rough February is going to wind down into an All-Star Break that will be well-earned.

How the rest of the year shakes out is yet to be determined, but if the Hawks can play up to the level they expect of themselves, they’ll be in good position.

January really stands out as a month that could swing either way and one in which the Hawks really need to get off to a good start.

There are winnable games to start, and if they can come away with victories, then I think that momentum could help carry them through the tougher games that will pop up as the month progresses.

February is going to be a difficult month regardless of how January goes, so if the Hawks want to make a run towards the playoffs (and they do), the first month of the season is going make or break them.

The Hawks have the potential to be one of – if not the – most improved teams in the NBA this season. This season – or the first half of it anyway – is actually going to help earn that rep, so long as they can win more games than they lose. They don’t need to dominate, just win the games they should and a handful of the ones they could.

If they can pull that off and continue it into whatever the second half looks like they’ll have a great chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-2017 season.