When Marist senior Grey Taylor lined a shot into left center for a walkoff win for the War Eagles on May 20 in the Class 4A state finals, it marked the end of a remarkable run for the Benedictine baseball team.
It was also the final play of the high school sports season for teams from the Greater Savannah area. It wasn’t the way the Cadets wanted to end it, but senior Carter Holton put things in perspective the next day. He could have been speaking for athletes and coaches in all sports when he commented that he and his teammates felt lucky to have their senior season after their junior years were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 seasons for spring sports came to a close before the midway point of the schedule, and fall sports — including football — were in danger of being canceled altogether in 2020.
But somehow, the seasons went on and student-athletes were able to experience everything that comes along with high school sports in what turned out to be a memorable year.
In football, Benedictine had a strong run as the Cadets moved up to GHSA Class 4A, with quarterback Holden Geriner cementing his reputation as one of the top quarterbacks in the country. The junior, who has since committed to Auburn, teams with wide receiver Trent Broadnax (Duke) and jack-of-all-trades Justin Thomas to lead a Cadets squad that reached the state semifinals — losing a heartbreaker to Jefferson 42-35.
Geriner and Thomas will return on a squad still stacked with talent ready to make another playoff run in the fall.
Islands had the best football season in school history led by quarterback Jadon Adams, and a defense led by Bubba Chisholm and Damonte Smith. The Sharks had a stunning fourth-quarter comeback to beat Hardaway for the first playoff win in school history. Look for more of the same coming soon under coach DeShawn Printup.
Calvary Day embraced a new sport as the GHSA sanctioned girls flag football, and the Cavaliers had players from a number of different sports come out for the team. The Cavs had standout basketball guard Hannah Cail at quarterback, with Mahkayla Premo, another basketball star, playing as huge role as the won a state title under head coach Chad Griffin.
Nevaeh Hamilton, one of the stars of the squad, signed to play flag football at Warner University when the team got their state championship rings a few weeks ago.
Basketball season had its ups and downs as teams were affected by COVID-19 cases and quarantines after exposure. On the boys side, Windsor Forest was a basket away from a berth in the state finals as the Knights lost to eventual champion Cross Creek in what was star guard Shamar Norman’s final high school game.
The Knights will be strong again next year with the return of one of the top recruits in the state as D’Ante Bass plays out his senior year, with Mike Cabellero, Abasi Scott and Qurahn Anderson providing a supporting cast stacked with talent.
Johnson was the best squad on the girls side this season, reaching the state quarterfinals. The Atom Smashers hope to be back in the mix for a state crown next year with Amani Hamilton and K’Lya Hankerson seeking to close out their senior campaigns in style.
Smaller schools also fashioned memorable years. The Habersham School won another GAPPS state title in volleyball, and also won state crowns in boys tennis and in baseball, while swimmer Sam Parker swept three events in the state championships — his final high school meet before he starts swimming at UGA.
Gaby Van Brunt of St. Andrew’s also swept three events in the GISA state swim meet — setting three GISA state records in the process.
Aaron Seymour of Savannah Arts won another GHSA Class 1-3A state crown in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 50.89 seconds, while finishing third in the 200 individual medley.
Richmond Hill wrestler Tate Evans closed out a stellar high school career with a state title for the Wildcats as he won the GHSA Class 6A 170-pound state title. The victory was a special one as his father, Wildcats coach Bill Evans, was in his corner to share the moment. Evans later signed to wrestle at Newberry College.
Spring sports had a better feel than winter, as things moved outside and the COVID-19 vaccines became readily available.
Benedictine had another excellent season on the baseball diamond with Holton, who has signed with Vanderbilt, leading the way along with center fielder Justin Thomas, a UGA commit. The Cadets were playing for their third state title under coach Kevin Farmer since 2014.
Savannah Christian and South Effingham also had excellent baseball seasons, with the Raiders advancing to the Class A Private quarterfinals, while the Mustangs went to the 6A quarterfinals, losing to Pope in three games.
Calvary Day made a strong run to the state quarterfinals as a No. 3 seed, knocking off Landmark Christian and then beating No. 1 seed Brookstone in the second round as freshman Will Hampton threw complete-game shutouts in both series.
The Islands boys soccer team made school history advancing to the semifinals for the first time in Class 4A in Dante Casagrande’s final year as head coach.
On the girls side, the St. Vincent’s soccer team moved down from Class 2A to the much tougher 1A-Private classification and made an impressive run to the quarterfinals in Katie Knight’s first season as head coach.
The track and field season featured Meon McLeod of Liberty County, who posted the best 100-meter time in the state among all classifications as he went on to win state titles in the Class 3A 100 and 200 meters, with another gold in the 4×100 relay.
His teammate, Leia Williams, took gold in the shot put.
Cameron Edwards of South Effingham won a state crown in the 6A triple jump.
Savannah Christian’s Maggie Byrd took home a gold medal in the Class A Private high jump, while Brogan Korta of Calvary won the 100-meter hurdles. Savannah Country Day’s Kenny Odom, Paul Mosley, Alex Wynn and Johnathan Jackson set a school record and won a state title with a time of 42.50 to win the state Class A Private crown in the 4×100 relay.
Looking back, it was a year no one will forget. The return to sports was a part of the return toward normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic finally seems headed to passing.
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN