For better or for worse, I’ve been on The Madison County Journal sports desk since Feb. 1998, a mere eight months after my graduation from Madison County High School.
My first assignment was a girls’ junior varsity basketball game in Franklin County under the guidance of then MCJ news editor Bert Brantley, who’s now Gov. Sonny Perdue’s spokesperson.
In newspaper years, that feels like a lifetime ago.
My dozen-year stint covering Madison County sports (and news) ends this summer as I’m moving to another publication under the MainStreet Newspapers umbrella.
But 12 years has afforded me an anthology of local sports memories. Some of them good, some of them sad, but it’s all a part of the week-to-week recording of history on a local level.
So – since I love lists — I thought I’d leave you with my 10 most memorable sporting moments of the last 12 years.
10. Madison County vs. Jackson County, football, 1998: Madison County broke a 16-game losing streak on the gridiron with a blowout victory over Jackson County nearly 12 years ago. During the rout, my younger brother, Thomas Munro, caught a long touchdown pass from his good friend Steve Sanders, a note that big brother jotted down with pride that October night on the sideline.
9. MCHS boys’ state basketball playoffs, 2010: The tough-luck Madison County boys’ hoops program ended a lengthy state playoff hiatus this past winter with a high-flying 22-win season. If any group of players and coaches deserved a trip to state, it was this one.
8. Madison County Senior League all-stars, 2002: Sporting a roster that included future UGA star, Joshua Fields, the Madison County Senior League baseball all-stars won the 2002 state title and fell one run shy of reaching the Senior League World Series. Had these all-stars advanced, The Journal would have been on a plane to Bangor, Maine.
7. MCHS girls’ state basketball playoffs, 2008: Truly one of the great turnaround stories we’ve covered. Three years removed from a one-win season, the MCHS ladies advanced to the Final Four and came one point shy of playing for the state tile.
6. MCHS softball state playoffs, 2001: A special year in what’s been a succession of special years on the softball diamond. Doug Kesler’s group won 30 games that year and nearly won the state title.
5. MCHS baseball state playoffs, 1998: A very pleasant memory from the early years. I’d get out of my freshman classes at UGA and drive to cover some great baseball games. The Red Raiders finished as state runners-up that year.
4. Jedd McLuen playing in the U.S. Open, 2000: My high school classmate and former Whispering Pines co-worker, Jedd McLuen (an MCHS golf standout and later a collegiate golfer) played his way into the U.S. Open in the summer of 2000. Enough said.
3. Cleveland Indians vs. Atlanta Braves, 2004 (the Jake Westbrook game): A good portion of Madison County relocated to Turner Field for a night as MCHS alum Jake Westbrook pitched against his home-state team. The nice people in the Braves’ media relations department granted The Journal field-level press access so we could capture the event for our readers.
2. MCHS state football playoffs, 2005: MCHS broke a 22-year postseason hex in 2005 when it qualified for the state playoffs and nearly took down Rome in the first round. High school football is such a significant part of our culture in this state, so it was special to see Madison County have its time to shine.
1. MCHS vs. Loganville, football, 2005: The most moving moments are often the saddest ones. And there was never a more moving moment than when Madison County had to play a football game Sept. 23, 2005 one day after the death of classmate and cheerleader Jodi Torres. Torres’s boyfriend, Jamie Rice, scored the game-winning touchdown in double overtime in a tear-jerker of a victory. There was no real postgame celebration. Just mourning students pointing to the sky.
I may cover bigger games in the future, but that’s the one I’ll never forget.
Ben Munro was a long-time reporter and sports editor for The Madison County Journal. He is now the sports editor for The Journal’s sister paper, The Jackson Herald.
This may have been outside the window, but I was at a Madison County football game at Athens Christian that MCHS won to complete an undefeated season. There was a HUGE crowd. (Seems like ACS had senior night that night. Fireworks at half-time.) That has to be on my list of best MCHS sports memories.