Local swimmers continue success
North Fulton and Forsyth County swimmers stood out from the pack again at the 2020 swim and dive state championships. Dozens of athletes earned state titles, the girls teams of Blessed Trinity and Cambridge won team titles, and North Fulton schools nearly swept the boys and girls podium in Class 6A.
The Cambridge girls team notched its first team state title behind six individual state championships. The Bears’ boys team also had a strong showing, placing third in 6A.
Blessed Trinity girls won their second team state title in three years, clinched by a championship performance from the 400-yard freestyle relay team.
Alpharetta’s boys and girls each finished on the podium in team scores, with the girls squad winning two individual and one team state titles.
Johns Creek boys were third, and the girls placed fourth. Centennial girls were third in team scores, with the boys in fifth.
West Forsyth’s boys team captured two individual titles and another in relay competition, while the girls team took home an individual state championship.
Roswell grads go pro
Two Roswell High School graduates began their careers in the pros this year — Xavier McKinney and Cal Jennings.
McKinney, a 2017 graduate of Roswell, was taken 36th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, following a standout career at the University of Alabama.
McKinney made his NFL debut during the 2020 season, appearing in two games for the Giants.
Jennings made his pro debut this season playing another type of football. The 2015 grad was drafted 17th overall by FC Dallas in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft in January.
Though Jennings did not play for Dallas, he made a big splash with the Memphis 901 in the United Soccer League, a Division II professional league. The Roswell grad was the top scorer for the 901, netting nine goals in 14 appearances.
In December, Jennings signed with the Indy Eleven of the USL.
Hooch, St. Francis boys win titles
In March, one North Fulton team lifted a basketball state championship trophy for the first time while another defended its title. The Chattahoochee boys took the Class 6A state championship, its first in program history, and the St. Francis boys captured their second straight Class A-Private title.
Chattahoochee’s historic season included a 25-7 overall record and its first region title since 2012 behind a comeback win over Cambridge in the 7-6A tournament finals.
Following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take a win in the first round, the Cougars continued to down the competition to earn its first berth in the state finals.
The final against Lanier provided an overtime thriller with Hooch taking a quick lead in the extra period to take a 69-66 win.
Chattahoochee’s win came a few days after St. Francis successfully defended its 2018-19 state championship.
The Knights compiled a 29-3 overall season, including a 16-0 mark in region play. The team took down region rivals Mount Pisgah in the semifinals to advance to the state championship for the third straight year.
St. Francis dominated Greenforest in the championship game, taking a 76-55 win for the program’s fourth state championship.
COVID-19 cancels spring sports
Perhaps the most significant sports story of 2020 was the cancellation of all spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 13, Fulton County Schools announced it was shutting the doors on all facilities, and spring sports were put on hold. Forsyth County Schools quickly followed. Following a two-week shutdown of all schools in the state, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that all K-12 schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, effectively cancelling the spring sports season.
While safety took precedence, it was heart-wrenching news for athletes, especially for the class of 2020, taking away what would be the final season of their careers.
North Fulton and Forsyth County schools are dominant in several spring sports, including lacrosse, golf, gymnastics and tennis, along with strong baseball, soccer and track and field programs in the area.
Football teams play through
The fate of the 2020 high school football season was in limbo throughout the summer and into the new academic year, but after delaying the start of the season several weeks, teams navigated an uncertain schedule.
The GHSA first allowed small groups for conditioning over the summer ahead of a decision to push back the start of the football season two weeks. Forsyth County Schools elected to allow teams to compete on the GHSA’s first permitted game day, while Fulton County schools opted to push back the start for its teams another 10 days.
While each local team was able to play through its regular season, and many well into the playoffs, there were dozens of game cancellations. Blessed Trinity played just six games in its regular season, Forsyth Central had three of its games cancelled, and several other local programs had at least two games cancelled or postponed.
The year certainly had a different look with limited fans in the stands, coaches, players and officials donning masks and alterations to pre- and post-game procedures. It was also an unusual year, because for the first time since 2014, no North Fulton team vied for a state title.
From 2015 to 2019, a number of local teams had earned state championship berths, with Blessed Trinity and Milton winning titles, but that streak ended this season. Blessed Trinity, Milton and Fellowship Christian all entered their quarterfinals matchups undefeated, but the three programs all lost their contests.
Runners shine in cross-country
The 2020 cross-country season was another strong campaign for local programs.
The Cambridge boys captured the program’s second state championship in four years by placing all of its five scoring runners in the top-30.
South Forsyth’s Carmel Yonas captured the Class 7A girls individual state title, besting the field by 17 seconds for the championship.
In boys team competition, Denmark placed fourth in Class 7A ahead of Milton. Chattahoochee was sixth in 6A. Blessed Trinity finished third in 5A
For local girls teams, South Forsyth, Lambert, Milton and West Forsyth earned top-10 placements in 7A.Cambridge, the three-time defending state champs, placed third in 6A, and Blessed Trinity was the state runner-up in 5A.
Alpharetta volleyball wins championship
After years of deep playoff runs and state runner-up placements, Alpharetta volleyball broke through in 2020 to capture the program’s first state championship. The title came in the Raiders’ first year in Class 7A.
The Raiders put together an impressive regular season and ran the table in region play. However, Roswell denied the Raiders the Region 5-7A title in the finals of the region tournament.
The Raiders bounced back, though, sweeping Collins Hill, Norcross and Harrison to reach the semifinals. Alpharetta then took down powerhouse Lambert in five sets to reach the state finals for the third time in five years.
There was no easy sledding in the finals with Alpharetta taking on Walton, winners of nine of the last 10 state championships in the state’s highest classification. Alpharetta stood toe-to-toe with the juggernaut and downed Walton in four sets for the title.