TOP 10 SPORTS STORIES OF ’10: Heisman winners, big-league pitchers top local sports stories

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 30, 2010 

The Year in Sports for the Chattahoochee Valley had a little bit of everything.

There were championships on the high school, college and professional levels.

There were remarkable performances by professional athletes from the Bi-City.

There was an individual winning his sport’s ultimate award.

There was even a scandal.

So as we get ready for what is to come in 2011, we first look back at the top 10 local sports stories as selected by the Ledger-Enquirer sports staff.

1. Cam Newton wins Heisman Trophy, surrounded by scandal

The Cam Newton story in 2010 involved the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Newton won the Heisman Trophy in December after leading the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season and the SEC championship. Newton was not a complete unknown when the season started, but even the Auburn coaches didn’t know that Newton would produce one of the best seasons in college football history.

Newton accounted for 49 touchdowns (20 rushing, 28 passing and one receiving) and time after time rallied the Tigers to come-from-behind wins.

But just as Newton‘s season was kicking into high gear, ESPN and others published a series of stories that Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, had tried to get Mississippi State to pay him $180,000 for Cam to attend MSU.

Cam Newton denied any knowledge of the pay-for-play scheme, and, in a controversial ruling, the NCAA ruled that Cam, and therefore Auburn, would not be punished for Cecil’s actions.

The Cam Newton story has one chapter left to be written. He and the Tigers play Oregon for the BCS national championship Jan. 10.

2. Alabama wins BCS title

Nick Saban delivered a national championship in just his third year at the Capstone.

The Tide was led by a suffocating defense, which was anchored by linebacker Rolando McClain.

Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was the key to Alabama’s offense.

The Tide, which crushed Florida in the SEC championship game, easily handled Texas in the BCS title game, which was played at the Rose Bowl.

3. Auburn goes undefeated, wins SEC Championship

The Tigers were picked to finish third in the SEC West before the season started. But that may have been because no one really knew what Newton could do at quarterback. Even the Auburn coaches were unsure.

But the undefeated season didn’t come easily. The Tigers needed comeback wins over several teams. The biggest comeback came in the Iron Bowl, where the Tigers fell behind 24-0 but rallied for a 28-27 win over archrival Alabama.

In the SEC title game, no rally was needed as the Tigers mauled South Carolina.

4. Little League All-Stars go to Williamsport

The Columbus Northern all-stars, under coach Randy Morris, made it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., for the second time in five years.

Though this team didn’t win the championship like the 2006 team, it did provide great stories during the summer.

The team, playing in nationally televised games on ESPN and ABC, made it to the United States final before losing twice to Hawaii.

Young stars such as Jacob Pate, Blake Hicks, Brandon Pugh, Knox Carter, Kobie Buglioli, Troy Gilliand, Cason Sizemore, Jack Tanner, Jalen Latta, Jack Copley, Matthew Lang and Zac Cravens emerged.

5. Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter

The former Shaw High standout etched his name into the record books by throwing a no-hitter June 25. Jackson pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks and against one of his former teams, the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Diamondbacks won the game 1-0 as Adam La-Roche hit a home run. Jackson needed 149 pitches to finish the game. He walked eight and hit a batter.

On July 30, the Diamondbacks traded Jackson to the Chicago White Sox. For the season, Jackson was 10-12, but he was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts for the White Sox.

6. Georgia struggles to 6-6 record in football

The Bulldogs figured to struggle with a freshman, Aaron Murray, at quarterback, a new defensive coordinator and a switch to a 3-4 scheme on defense.

If that was not enough, the NCAA suspended wide receiver A.J. Green for the first four games of the season. Georgia went 1-3 in those and lost in Green’s first game back.

The Bulldogs rallied and beat Georgia Tech in their regular-season finale to finish at 6-6. Georgia ends its 2010 season Friday against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.

7. Tim Hudson’s comeback

Former Glenwood, CVCC and Auburn standout Tim Hudson produced one of the best seasons of his major league career.

The 35-year-old Atlanta Braves hurler went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA. Even more remarkable, he was just a couple of years removed from major elbow surgery that could have ended his career.

Hudson helped the Braves earn the National League wild-card berth as the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

After the season, Hudson was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

8. Jarvis Jones transfers to UGA

Jarvis Jones, a former Carver High standout linebacker, decided to transfer from Southern California to Georgia in June.

Jones signed with USC in 2009 after an intense recruiting battle that also included Georgia and LSU. He played in eight games as a freshman and made 13 tackles for the Trojans, but he also suffered a sprained neck.

Jones had to sit out the 2010 season, per NCAA transfer rules. He will have three years of eligibility, starting with the 2011 season.

9. CSU hires Robert Moore

Columbus State hired Robert Moore as its men’s basketball coach in April.

He spent six years as an assistant coach at CSU (1994-2000).

Moore went to CSU after five seasons as the boys basketball coach at Brookstone. Before that, he was the coach at Tift County High for two seasons.

10. Other championships

The Alabama and Auburn football teams were not the only area squads to win championships in 2010.

State team titles were won by Columbus High baseball and boys golf, Glenwood baseball and softball, Brookstone boys golf and the Calvary Christian volleyball teams.

Individual state crowns were won by Northside shooter Ariel Mouhot and Columbus wrestler Ian Walker.

Meanwhile, Columbus State shooter Johnathan Hall won an NCAA national championship in in air rifle.

It wasn’t just high school and college kids winning titles. The Columbus Lions won the Southern Indoor Football League title with a 68-13 rout of the Louisiana Swashbucklers at the Columbus Civic Center in July.

Damian Daniels had a pair of interceptions, the defense had six sacks, and quarterback Chris McCoy threw for five touchdowns.

Daniels was named the SIFL Defensive Player of the Year, while McCoy took the same honor for offense and Trey Crum for special teams.

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