Top Atlanta Sports Stories of 2010
Patch sports reporter Dustin Swedelson shares his most memorable sports moments in Atlanta this year.
Patch sports reporter Dustin Swedelson shares his most memorable Atlanta sports moments from 2010.
Bobby Cox's Final Season
Most coaches and managers in today's world don't make it three years. Some don't even last one. Bobby Cox is one of the last of a dying breed. His second and final stint as Braves manager came to an end this year after 20 consecutive seasons with the club (He also managed the Braves from 1978-1981). Cox, who holds the record for most ejections in a career, not only managed the franchise, but also helped assemble it as general manager in the 80s. Under Cox, the Braves went to the playoffs 14 consecutive times from 1991-2005 (excluding the 1994 strike season) and won the World Series in 1995.
Dirty Birds Return to the Top
It took the rest of the country a little bit longer to take notice, but as we approach the NFL playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. From the Michael Vick incarceration to Bobby Petrino leaving in the night, not many believed the team could be turned around this quickly. But now, in Mike Smith's third year, he has brought the Falcons back as one of top teams in the NFC and the NFL. Atlanta has been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL from start to finish with a high-energy defense, solid special teams, great running game and top notch passing attack. In 2010, the Dirty Birds got their groove back
Atlanta Native Gets National Attention
Had Cam Newton ended up at Georgia this would have been at the top of the list. Since he is originally from College Park, played at Westlake High School and the controversial church in this saga is located in Newnan, he cracks this list. One of the most controversial stories of the year saw Auburn quarterback Cam Newton caught up in a "he said, she said" drama. With his father Cecil Newton playing the role of Ricky Roe's dad in the movie "Blue Chips," extorting his son's services to play college football. At one point in the story, Newton was deemed ineligible and eligible in the span of 24 hours. The investigation and story are both somewhat unfinished, as is Newton's season. The Heisman winner will lead Auburn in the BCS National Championship January 10th against Oregon.
Braves End Postseason Drought
For the first time since 2005, the Atlanta Braves went to the playoffs. In spite of injuries to multiple key players, the Braves still ended up playing postseason baseball. In 2010, a new hometown hero emerged in Jason Heyward. Martin Prado became a hit machine at the top of the lineup. Meanwhile, the starting rotation was arguably the deepest in all of baseball. The Braves 2010 campaign may not have went according to plan or how most envisioned, but a foundation was laid down, priming this mix of veterans and youngsters for another possible multiple-year run into October baseball.
Joe Johnson Becomes A Hawk to the Max
One of the most surprising NBA offseason decisions other than "The Decision" may have been the Atlanta Hawks and their retention of all-star guard Joe Johnson. Amid trade rumors and comments throughout the season, Johnson remained a Hawk mainly because nobody else was willing to shell out similar money. At 29-years-old, Johnson signed a six-year, $119 million maximum contract, making him a Hawk until he is 35 years old and still the bulk of Atlanta's payroll. It was a stand pat move for a team many felt needed to make minor changes to get to the next level of contention. The Hawks are still believed to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but match up similarly to teams that have failed to advance deep into the postseason. Only time will tell if this was the right move. From the looks of it, it may have been the only move.
Georgia State Takes the Field
Three years in the making and finally Georgia State unveiled its first football program in school history. The Panthers were led by legendary Head Coach Bill Curry, who won two NFL Super Bowls as a player and numerous coaching awards in college football. After playing an unofficial Junior Varsity season in 2009, this time around the games were for real. In front of a Georgia Dome crowd of 30,000, the Panthers won their inaugural game against Shorter College. Led by Henry County native Drew Little at quarterback, the young Panthers with just five seniors on the team finished their first season of football with a 6-5 record. Those games were headlined by a telling loss of the program's capabilities. On September 18, Georgia State fell to Football Championship Series playoff team Jacksonville State 34-27, just after the Gamecocks had beaten Ole Miss the prior week. Jacksonville State later went on to the playoffs and finished the season ranked in the top ten of FCS.
Georgia Tech's Running the Derby With Ponies
There is a saying in sports: "You don't win the Kentucky Derby with ponies. To win you need thoroughbreds." Since Paul Johnson implemented the triple option at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Yellow Jackets have been a dominant force in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But that was with the likes of running back Jonathan Dwyer, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Derrick Morgan and Safety Morgan Burnett, who were all taken in the 2010 NFL Draft. Georgia Tech found out how special that group was when they were unable to replace their production in 2010. Without similar weapons, the Yellow Jackets went a disappointing 6-7 with key losses to North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Miami and Air Force in the Independence Bowl.
Thrashers Revamp Team
After a 2009-10 finish one game above .500, the Atlanta Thrashers made wholesale changes to the franchise. Atlanta brought in 11 new faces to the roster, headlined by Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien from the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. But perhaps the biggest offseason additions came in management. General Manager Don Waddell became the team's President of Hockey Operations, while Assistant General Manager Rick Dudley was named his replacement. Dudley's first and perhaps biggest move in reconstructing the Thrashers was the hiring of Craig Ramsey as head coach. Three months into the season, Ramsey has Atlanta thinking about the postseason as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Metro Atlanta Dominates HS Football Playoffs
Outside of the GHSA's A level of football, Metro Atlanta football teams made major statements in the state's prep world. The constant debate of Gwinnett County vs. South Georgia vs. Columbus area vs. Camden County's coastal dominance against any and everything in between, was won by Atlanta area schools. There are more schools from this area than any other, but this year metro Atlanta took all but the trophy Clinch County raised for South Georgia. Brookwood's win over South Georgia's Colquitt County, Chattahoochee beating fellow Atlantans Starr's Mill, Sandy Creek taking down the West's Carrollton and Buford's continued dominance all gave metro Atlanta bragging rights.