Hephzibah Middle School wins championships in three sports

Hephzibah Middle School might be adopting a new nickname - Powerhouse.

In the past school year, the Rebels won the Richmond County middle school softball, track and baseball championships and were second in football and golf.

"We have athletes out here. It's finally coming to a head, showing what they got," said Anita Toney, the athletic director and softball coach. "We're just awesome folks out here."

In October, the softball team beat Sego Middle School 6-4 to win its third-straight championship. Having only two players back from last year's team presented a challenge at the start of the season.

"We were a whole new team and we didn't know how good everyone's ball skills were," said Amber West, a team captain. "No one thought we would win the championship."

Ms. Toney said that she had to adjust because the team was new to her routine but that it helped that many of them had played recreational softball before.

Despite the challenge, the team had a 10-1 record. It lost to Sego Middle at the start of the season when the game was called because of darkness. The loss increased the desire to win the championship, Ms. Toney said.

"They really wanted that game. They didn't want to lose to Sego," she said. "So they did what they had to do."

The players learned to help one another, said Molly Lillis, a team captain.

"It's a team sport, not just for one person. We learned to just worry about ball when you're playing and leave everything else out of the game," she said.

Watching them grow was an enjoyable experience, Ms. Toney said.

"Usually you have bickering, but I can't say that for this team. They worked very well together, especially for being such a young team," she said.

She is confident the team can defend its title next season.

"With (the) majority of the team coming back next year, we're going to make it a fourpeat," she said.

Months after the Lady Rebels won the softball championship, the boys track team left its opponents in the dust.

"We started out strong (in) our performance in track meets, and we averaged a 50-point lead in all the meets, including the championship meet," said Anthony Stephens, the team's coach.

At the championship meet, Dijon Streetman placed first in both the 200 meter and 100 meter; the team placed first in the 4-by-100-meter relay; the first team placed first and the second team placed second in the 4-by-400 meter relay; Mark Medlock placed second in the long jump; Derwin Butler placed second in the shot put; Michael Tucker placed second in the mile run; and Altaye Knight placed second in the 400 meter.

Mr. Stephens credits the team's success to its hard work and to his law that states, "Be where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there and do what you're supposed to do."

That law has developed the players into better pupils and leaders. This was the first year Mr. Stephens coached track.

"I was really impressed with the guys and their level of enthusiasm and willingness to work. It's refreshing to get a group of kids who want to work (hard)," he said.

Shortly after the track championship, the baseball team stepped up to the plate to win the school's third championship of the year.

Teamwork was important to the season's success, said Eric Ortiz, one of the players.

"We were a team with potential but we weren't showing it. We improved a lot over the season and lived up to our potential in the championship," he said. "We learned to be more focused and work as a team. We had to work together to win."

Coach Robert McCarty agreed.

"They have gotten better as a team and have become comfortable playing with each other. In the championship game, we were able to come together and play better as a team," he said.

Teamwork came in handy during the fifth inning of the championship game, when the team found itself in a position it was not accustomed to.

"We really haven't been behind before, but in the championship game, we found ourselves down 8-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning," Mr. McCarty said. "We were able to stay focused and come back to win."

They defeated Sego Middle 13-10.

After achieving an 11-0 record, the team will be losing more than half its players next year. Because of the leadership on the team, Mr. McCarty said that doesn't worry him.

"We will have a lot of rebuilding to do next year, but our goal will still be to win the championship," he said.

Winning has increased school spirit, Ms. Toney said.

"The atmosphere around here has been upbeat. You can see it on the students faces, hear them talking about (the championships) in the locker rooms and in the classrooms," she said. "They are proud."

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

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