Story of the Year -- Braves announce move to Cobb County
by MDJ staff reports
December 31, 2013 10:36 PM | 2661 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman, left, and Luis Avilan, right, high-five teammates after the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 in a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman, left, and Luis Avilan, right, high-five teammates after the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 in a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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1. The Atlanta Braves make a shocking announcement Nov. 11 that they will be leaving Turner Field and relocating to Cobb County.

The Braves plan to build a $672 million mixed-use development complex around a new 42,000-seat stadium on the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285 near Cumberland Mall.

The first pitch inside the new stadium is expected in 2017.

This news came as such a surprise that many perceived this as a hoax.

Reactions from local residents were mixed. Some worried that the already congested traffic on Interstates 285 and 75 would only get worse.

A few were surprised that such a move was announced when Turner Field is not even 20 years old. Others praised the area, indicating that Turner Field is located in a bad area and hope there is more safety and amenities at the new location.

Turner Field presented challenges.

The Braves don’t own the stadium. It was built for the 1996 Olympic Games. The Braves paid $125 in infrastructure improvements and it needs $150 million worth of improvements.

The Braves are also looking to expand on the “game-day experience on the stadium grounds and provide activities for fans before and after games. At Turner Field, the Braves are landlocked.



2. KENNESAW STATE HAS FOOTBALL PROGRAM APPROVED; BOHANNON NAMED FIRST COACH: A process just over three years in the making finally came to a head in February when the Georgia Board of Regents officially approved Kennesaw State University’s desire to have a football program.

The Owls were finally given the go-ahead to start football when the Regents approved a $100-per-student athletic fee increase to help fund the football program, which is scheduled to play its first game in Fall 2015.

A substantial monetary contribution from a private entity helped spur the Regents’ decision and allow Kennesaw State to move forward with its plan. A day after the Regents’ approval, KSU announced a 10-year, $5 million agreement with Fifth Third Bank for naming rights to the existing 8,300-seat stadium where the football team would play as well as sponsorship of the Kennesaw State athletic department.

In March, KSU athletic director Vaughn Williams hired Brian Bohannon as the team’s first head coach. Bohannon was an assistant coach under Paul Johnson during their tenure together at Georgia Southern, Navy and most recently at Georgia Tech.

3. COBB BECOMES FIRST COUNTY IN STATE HISTORY TO SEND THREE BOYS BASKETBALL TEAMS TO THE FINAL FOUR IN HIGHEST CLASSIFICATION: Cobb became the first county in state history to send three boys basketball teams — Hillgrove North Cobb and Wheeler — to the semifinals in the Georgia High School Association’s highest classification.

It was also the first time Cobb County had so many as two boys semifinalists since 1986.

All three teams had strong seasons with North Cobb and Wheeler each capturing their respective region championships and Hillgrove earning a runner-up trophy. Each team also won quarterfinal matches on the road to get to the semifinals.

Despite the enormous accomplishment, none of the local teams could bring home the title.

The Hawks toppled the Wildcats — a five-time state champion — in their semifinal to reach their first state championship game, while the Warriors fell to Norcross. The Blue Devils went on to earn their fifth state championship following a 60-48 finals victory over the Hawks.

Hillgrove, North Cobb and Wheeler combined to go 75-19 on the season. It was North Cobb’s first appearance in a state semifinal game.

4. KENDELL WILLIAMS NAMED NATIONS BEST: Kell High School track sensation Kendell Williams capped a near-perfect high school career by becoming the Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Her name goes down on a short list of athletes to have claimed national awards in their sport. The list includes NFL greats Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith, NBA star Dwight Howard and MLB’s Derek Jeter.

Williams, who is now running track at Georgia, finished her career with 11 state championships.

Her 2013 state meet time of 13.23 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles was a state record and ranked first in the nation among high school athletes.

She also set a state record in the long jump by leaping 20 feet, 9 ¾ inches.

Other accomplishments for Williams include winning 2013 national title in heptathlon at the U.S. Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

She’s the first athlete in the state to have won Gatorade Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year for four straight seasons.

She was also a four-time Marietta Daily Journal Track Athlete of the Year.

5. COBB SENDS FOUR TO QUARTERS, TWO TO SEMIS: Cobb County sent four teams — Kell, McEachern Hillgrove, and Mount Paran Christian — to the state football quarterfinals in 2013.

Kell and McEachern ended up advancing to the semifinals, marking the first time since 1959 that two Cobb teams from two different classifications got this far in the playoffs.

The visiting Indians, who were the No. 3 seed out of Region 4AAAAAA, came from behind to beat Collins Hilll with less than 1 minute to play on an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Taj Griffin to preserve a 35-32 win. Kell took advantage of early turnovers by Warner Robins and won 52-28.

Although McEachern won the coin toss to host North Gwinnett in the semifinals, the Indians came up short, losing 26-21 to the eventual state finalists. Kell, which was undefeated going into its semifinal game against Creekside, was outmatched by the eventual state champions and fell 55-10.

6. MASON TAKES OVER AT GEORGIA: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray tore his ACL in his left knee against Kentucky, putting Hutson Mason in the forefront as the new starting signal caller for the Bulldogs.

And his first start came against Georgia’s archrival Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium. After only a week of getting acclimated with “Aaron’s team,” Mason’s first start was a success. He completed 22-of-36 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in leading the Bulldogs to a 41-36 win over the Yellow Jackets.

However, it did take Mason nearly the first half to get settled in as the new starter. He started completing four of his first eight attempts for 44 yards and one interception and Georgia was trailing 20-0 with 1:43 left in the half.

That was when Mason began looking like the record-setting quarterback of his Lassiter High School days. He threw a touchdown pass to get on the board and went on to lead Georgia to six more scoring drives to seal the win.

With the Trojans, Mason set a state record with 4,560 passing yards and 54 touchdowns as a senior. He also broke single-game passing records that year with 545 yards and six touchdowns against Milton and 552 yards and eight touchdowns against South Gwinnett in the playoffs.

7. POPE WINS CLASS AAAAA BASEBALL TITLE: It was the second state crown for the Greyhounds, who also won the Class AAAA championship in 2009.

Pope swept Greenbrier in the final, but not before going through some adversity to do so.

Pope came from behind to beat Winder-Barrow in Game 1 of a second round series and earned a eighth-inning victory in Game 3 after allowing the Bulldoggs to load the bases in the seventh.

After winning 10-2 in Game 1 against Evans in the quarterfinals, the Greyhounds’ fell 11-2 in Game 2. Pope found its stroke in the decisive third game and won 12-2 to reach the semifinals.

In the semifinals against Starr’s Mill, Pope lost the first game of a doubleheader 14-0, but held on for a 9-7 victory in the nightcap. The Greyhounds led 5-3 in the top of the seventh of Game 3, but the Panthers rallied to tie and took a 6-5 lead in the eighth. But the Greyhounds answered with two in the eighth for the win.

Trailing 5-2 in the seventh in Game 1 against Greenbrier, Pope scored three runs with two outs to tie and added six more runs with two outs in the eighth to post an 11-7 victory. The Greyhounds exploded for a 15-2 win in Game 2 to clinch the title.

8. POPE WINS STATE WRESTLING DOUBLE: Pope earned its first sweep of the dual and traditional championships at the region and state levels for the first time in 2012.

The Greyhounds managed to repeat the accomplishment this year, cementing their status as one of the top programs in the state. The feat also marked six straight Cobb County championships as well as six consecutive area duals and traditional titles, three straight state traditional crowns and two state duals titles in a row.

Along the way, the Greyhounds challenged themselves on a national level, resulting in a No. 36 national ranking from Amateur Wrestling News and No. 44 from InterMat.

The Greyhounds sent 13 of 14 wrestlers to the Class AAAAA traditional tournament and crowned five state champions. Five other wrestlers also placed. Pope scored 215.5 team points and the next closest school, Ware County, totaled 99.

Pope also won tournaments at Hillgrove and Walton as well as similar events in Loganville and Cleveland, Tenn. The Greyhounds finished with a 34-4 dual record.

9. WALTON WINS FOURTH STRAIGHT VOLLEYBALL TITLE: Walton’s volleyball team needed four sets to beat Chattahoochee and win its fourth straight state championship.

The Lady Raiders have nine state volleyball championships to their credit, winning five straight from 1998 to 2002. Only Woodward academy (10) has more championships since volleyball became sanctioned in 1993.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Sloan, who has committed to play at the University of Dayton, had 19 kills in the match and her counterpart Lindsay Seagraves finished with 17.

The Lady Raiders went into a lull late in the third set after winning the first two but bounced back in the fourth with a seven-point service run to set the tone.

Two of Walton’s past four championships came against Cobb County rival Harrison. Harrison took the Lady Raiders to five sets in 2011 and when the same teams met in the finals a year later, Walton prevailed in four.

Walton started its current streak with a four-set win over Northview in 2010.

Former Walton standouts Kelly Murphy (Michigan) and Katherine Plessy (Floida State, sand) played major roles in helping Walton win state in 2010 and 2011.

10. WALTON RECLAIMS CLASS AAAAAA TENNIS TITLE: Walton’s volleyball team needed four sets to beat Chattahoochee and win its fourth straight state championship.

The Lady Raiders have nine state volleyball championships to their credit, winning five straight from 1998 to 2002. Only Woodward academy (10) has more championships since volleyball became sanctioned in 1993.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Sloan, who has committed to play at the University of Dayton, had 19 kills in the match and her counterpart Lindsay Seagraves finished with 17.

The Lady Raiders went into a lull late in the third set after winning the first two but bounced back in the fourth with a seven-point service run to set the tone.

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