It was fitting that during an event Wednesday night celebrating Forsyth County’s excellence in high school athletics, many in attendance were also tracking the developments in the Denmark High School baseball team’s game against Blessed Trinity for a chance to reach the state championship.
That a first-year program, with no seniors, had reached such an advanced stage of the state playoffs seemed to only underscore the purpose behind the inaugural Forsyth County News Athlete of the Year banquet.
“It’s crazy to think how much talent we have in just one county compared to the rest of the state,” Lambert girls soccer player Madison Haugen said. “It’s pretty cool to see all these athletes who are so good at what they do.”
Twenty-six of the best athletes in Forsyth County from each varsity sport converged Wednesday at 6140 Events to be recognized for their accomplishments during this school year, but two received a little extra.
Haugen was one of them. In addition to being named the county’s girls soccer player of the year, the junior from Lambert was also named the overall county girl athlete of the year for her dominance on the field that has helped propel the Longhorns to their second appearance in the state championship in three years.
Lambert will face North Gwinnett on Saturday at 5 p.m. at McEachern High School, and Haugen has a chance to add to her already record-breaking stats this season that includes 30 goals and 14 assists.
“I was really shocked,” Haugen said about receiving the award. “I didn’t expect it. But, overall, a great feeling.”
Denmark junior Ze’Vian Capers was named the county’s overall boy athlete of the year for being arguably the county’s best two-sport athlete.
He made a name for himself on the football field this past year, catching 60 passes for 1,182 yards with 11 touchdowns to be named the county’s football offensive player of the year, but Capers also excelled in a sport he didn’t intend to play.
Caper initially balked at playing two sports. As one of the top football recruits in Georgia, Capers intended to focus on navigating the recruiting process (in February, he committed the University of Arkansas) and prepare for the Danes’ next football season.
Instead, Denmark boys basketball coach Tyler Whitlock convinced Capers he could help develop his character with a season of hoops. Capers agreed to join the team, and he excelled, averaging 12 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game while helping the Danes win the Region 7-4A title and reach the Class 4A state quarterfinals in their first year.
“It was actually kind of hard playing two sports," Capers said. “My family and I decided not to play basketball this year. But Coach Whitlock, he said that if I played basketball this year he’ll develop me as a better man, and that’s what he did. He kept his word.”
The presentation of Caper’s and Haugen’s awards was followed by another example of Forsyth County’s achievement with remarks by Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who was an accomplished athlete before being elected to the second-highest office in the state.
Duncan played baseball at Chattahoochee High School and earned a scholarship to play at Georgia Tech. There he participated in the College World Series and was drafted by the then-Florida Marlins.
Shoulder surgery ended Duncan’s professional career, he said, but sports instilled in him several values that benefited him when he transitioned into business and later politics.
“Sports is going to end up meaning so much more to you than wins and losses,” Duncan said. “It’s going to continue to build your character. It’s going to continue to be a part of who you are. “I can truly look back on my life and seeing sports as something I’m truly proud of, and not just the wins and losses.”Still, at the end of the night, the winning part of sports was pretty exciting — Denmark defeated Blessed Trinity, 8-4, to reach the state championship.
And the award goes to ...
Boys Athlete of the Year: Ze’Vian Capers, Denmark
Girls Athlete of the Year: Madison Haugen, Lambert
Athletes of the Year
Baseball (player): Wyatt Crowell, West Forsyth
Baseball (pitcher): Anthony DiMola, North Forsyth
Basketball (girls): Ansley Allen, North Forsyth; Caroline Martin, North Forsyth
Basketball (boys): Mitch Ganote, Lambert
Cross country (boys): Calan Gizelbach, Forsyth Central
Cross country (girls): Madelynne Cadeau, South Forsyth
Football (offense): Ze’Vian Capers, Denmark
Football (defense): Jamal Camp, South Forsyth
Golf (boys): Drew Shell, South Forsyth
Golf (girls): Iris Cao, Lambert; Averi Cline, Lambert
Gymnastics: Brianna Greenlow, Lambert
Lacrosse (boys): Patrick Deans, Lambert
Lacrosse (girls): Cami Merkel, West Forsyth
Soccer (boys): Hayden Fontana, Lambert
Soccer (girls): Madison Haugen, Lambert
Softball (pitcher): Bailey McCachren, Forsyth Central
Softball (player): Makenna Segal, South Forsyth
Swimming (boys): Jack Aikins, West Forsyth
Swimming (girls): Hailey Galbraith, North Forsyth
Tennis (boys): Will Fullett, South Forsyth
Tennis (girls): Brooke Despriet, Lambert
Track and field (boys): Jalen Battle, Lambert
Track and field (girls): Madelynne Cadeau, South Forsyth
Volleyball: Mary Ellen Enright, North Forsyth
Wrestling (boys): Paul Watkins, North Forsyth
Wrestling (girls): Sophia Eglian, North Forsyth