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The top Forsyth County sports stories of 2016
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From Jan. 15, Frank Hepler named Forsyth Central football coach

“My wife and I thought it would be great to get back to where we love.” – Forsyth Central coach Frank Hepler

The former West Forsyth head coach made a surprise return to the county’s coaching ranks, accepting the Central job shortly after it opened at the turn of the new year. Hepler went to teach in Florida in 2014, leaving behind the program at West that enjoyed a run in the state quarterfinals in 2011. He came back to Georgia, accepting the job at Discovery—a new school in Gwinnett—but never coached a game for the new program. Hepler guided the Bulldogs in their first season in Class 7A, renewing rivalries with county schools, and showcased his coaching style in the FCN’s Camp Chronicles, a video documentary series filmed during summer practice.

 

From Feb. 9, Lambert girls swimming team continues dynasty, wins fourth straight state title

“We did not win a first place on the girls side. That’s unheard of. When I gave my speech at the end of the year, I told everyone how it boils down to team.” – Lambert head coach Kerry Langley

Despite not having a single gold medalist, Lambert’s girls were able to capture their fourth straight state championship at the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech. Caroline Aikins led the way with two podium finishes as an individual, while her sister Katherine—now at Georgia—had one second place finish.

From Feb. 15, Bardall, Sheetz, Stonecheck bring home wrestling state titles

“Thirteen years since we’ve had a state champion, and he doesn’t even like wrestling.” – North Forsyth head coach Travis Jarrard

Three of the six Forsyth County wrestlers who reached the finals walked off the mat at Infinite Energy Arena as individual state champions in Class 6A. Lambert’s Matthew Sheetz (132), West Forsyth’s Denver Stonecheck (138) and Jackson Bardall (285) prevailed against Tift County’s Quen Campbell, Newnan’s Jason Moore and Kennesaw Mountain’s Kobe Gadsen, respectively.

From Feb. 25, How West Forsyth girls basketball’s historic season almost never happened

“I thought I was done. I kept saying to myself that I hate basketball. I’m not doing it.” – West point guard Carsen Parker

West Forsyth’s girls basketball team, behind eventual Miss Georgia Basketball and McDonalds All-American nominee Jenna Staiti, had its best season ever with a region title, a 25-7 record and a run to the final four of the Class 6A playoffs. The Lady Wolverines relied heavily on role players that nearly didn’t play on the team, including Parker and Brooke Pirkle (both soccer signees). Before that run they had never won a playoff game or won in region play.

From May 10, West Forsyth scores twice late to advance to state soccer championship

“Our hard work is paying off. We’re finally getting recognition. I’m excited because we didn’t make it in basketball, so we want to redeem ourselves.” – West forward Brooke Pirkle

West Forsyth girls soccer punched its improbable ticket to the Class 6A state championship with a dramatic 2-1 win over Harrison on the road in the semifinals. The Lady Wolverines trailed 1-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining when substitution Brooke Micham got credited with a slow roller past the net. Pirkle than added the game-winner moments later on a heads-up free kick. West fell in the state championship against Lassiter but finished with its best season ever.

From May 14, Lambert boys lacrosse rides defense to state championship victory

“Last year was the worst feeling, but this is the greatest feeling there is.” – senior Matt O’Rourk

Clinching its third state championship since the school opened in 2009, Lambert made its mark on the road with a 6-3 win over Lassiter to claim the crown. It was the lowest scoring output for the dangerous Longhorns on the season, but goalkeeper Ben Stump had 10 saves. The win capped a perfect season—21-0—which made the victory sweeter than the previous two titles, according to director of lacrosse Rich Wehman. Matt O’Roark had a hat trick in his final contest to lead the scoring.

From May 17, Owens goes low to help Lambert seniors to fourth straight state title

“This was awesome. I just wanted to do it for Lauren and Kayley.” – Lambert golfer Kate Owens

Lambert was looking for its fourth-straight girls golf state championship—an unprecedented feat. Seniors Lauren Lightfritz and Kayley Marschke were set to lead the way, but it was Kate Owens who burst onto the scene winning low medalist honors with a 73. Lightfritz and Marschke shot 78 and 79, respectively, while South transfer Tiffany Kang added an 85. 

From June 17, Lambert’s Beer named college baseball player of the year

“It’s just a great accomplishment, something not only I worked hard for but the blood, sweat and tears of my family to get me to this point.” – former Lambert standout Seth Beer

Seth Beer graduated a semester early and put the majors to the side to join Clemson in time for the start of the spring season. Considering his talent, the decision had him and his family on pins and needles for weeks. The pay off came over the summer when he learned he was the first freshman in history named the recipient of the Dick Howster Trophy, given to college baseball’s national player of the year. Beer hit .369 with 18 home runs, 13 doubles, 70 RBI and a .535 on-base percentage and used dramatic grand slams and a signature home run over the scoreboard at Foley Field when visiting Georgia to further etch his name in baseball lore.

From Sept. 1, Four middle school girls kick stereotypes

“At first I don’t want to say I was iffy about playing, but I was nervous.” – South Forsyth Middle kicker Maddie Franz

This past season there were four female kickers on middle school football teams in Forsyth County: Isa Aquilar at Vickery Creek, Haylee Dornan at Liberty, Maddie Franz at South and Anna Holloran at Vickery Creek. The quartet grew up friends, playing together on an elite middle school soccer club. They all jointly decided to follow in the footsteps of Dornan—an adamant football fan—and take up the game as kickers.

From Nov. 15, Lambert edges rival South Forsyth for fourth state championship

“This season we had six new varsity girls, so even though we’ve been to state and won before it’s a huge challenge. They all stepped up when it counted.” – Lambert cheer coach Brent Paige.

For the second season in a row the Lambert competitive cheer team edged rival South Forsyth at the state championship by a single point, 289-288. Lambert won its fourth title in five seasons and earned the 10th cheer title in county history since the GHSA began holding meets in 1993. It also marked the second year in a row that Lambert lost region and had to go through sectionals to get back into the spotlight.