CCHS, Jemison in good shape to make state

Published 7:59 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Both Chilton County’s and Jemison’s boys tennis teams enter Thursday’s sectional tournaments with lofty seeds—and loftier expectations.

CCHS is the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A, Section 5 tournament, the program’s highest seed ever but one that was not unexpected for a senior laden club. Jemison, meanwhile, is the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A, Section 2 tournament for the first time in Benton Morton’s eight years as coach, though only one player has experience from a trip to the state tournament one year ago.

“It’s crazy,” Morton said about perhaps his most inexperienced team being the one to finally earn a top seed. “They’ve had a good approach, a lot of confidence, but we know that we can’t take anything for granted.”

To continue their streak of four consecutive appearances in the 4A state tournament, which this year is scheduled for April 27-28 at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, the Panthers (10-2) will have to finish in the top two at section.

The tournament will be played at the O’Connor Tennis Center in Montgomery. The Jemison girls’ team played there Wednesday and finished third, not good enough to advance to state.

Senior Blake Beard, the only Jemison player that competed in the 2008 playoffs, will provide leadership for his younger teammates.

Seventh graders Jake Long and Andrew Morton have been especially successful, finishing the season unbeaten as the No. 3 doubles team. Long was also 12-0 as the No. 6 singles player.

CCHS, on the other hand, depends on two juniors and four seniors. The Tigers (12-1) figured before the season they were primed for a breakout year, and things couldn’t have more according to plan.

“We knew that if we were going to compete, this would be the year,” coach Chris Miller said. “We really feel like we have a chance to go to state.”

Senior, but first-year player, Cody Cummings stepped into the No. 4 singles position behind veterans Cody Jones, Michael Elder and Andy Foshee. The result was a much stronger bottom half of the lineup, Miller said.

Doubles play has been a strength all year. Jones and Foshee, the No. 1 team, are playing together for their fourth season. Cummings and Elder paired up to form the No. 2 team and are unbeaten.

The going will be tough, though, against No. 1 seed, three-time defending 5A state champion and tournament host Walker.

Both local squads will begin play at 9 a.m.