Matthew Brown: Reporter of champions

Mar. 15—Not to refer to myself as any kind of good luck charm, but one of the fortunate things about my high school sports reporting career is that, at most of the places I set up stakes, championships followed.

For the sake of space, I limit this piece about high school varsity, and that encompasses both the GHSA and the GISA (which, I know, is now called GIAA, but it will always be GISA in my heart with a 'geeza' pronunciation, just like how a certain posting site got a new name from its new owner last year, but just about everyone still uses the old name, not the single letter of the alphabet).

And when I talk about covering state champions, that also covers almost the entire spectrum of what these associations offer. Yes, there have been champions in cheerleading, wrestling, swimming, diving (I was in Colquitt County, remember?), cross country running and track and field.

Some of these were of an individual nature, like a youngster who came up in the Moss Farms Diving Tigers program of Moultrie. This program is geared towards training divers for national competitions and has hosted USA Diving meets plus had Olympic divers visiting for training. A homegrown fellow named Carson Tyler went from there to Indiana, where he won the NCAA championship in platform last year and just won his second straight Big 10 Diver of the Championships.

I also worked where competition cheerleading, wrestling and track and field teams won state titles. All great accomplishments. The big team sports do garner the most attention, draw the biggest crowds and create the best memories.

Such a great memory occurred at the Macon Coliseum on March 6, and it took 31 basketball seasons to get it, but the Baldwin High Bravettes became my first state champions covered on the hardwood. That's special for several reasons, one being basketball might be my favorite sport out there (baseball and football are close, with softball and volleyball creeping up over the years). Plus, head coach Kizzi Walker was Kizzi Trawick when I arrived in Americus and started covering Georgia Southwestern State University's Hurricanes. She became an NAIA All-American in 1999-2000, and later, in 2008, was inducted into the Hurricane Hall of Fame.

When it comes to covering state championship basketball games, there's been very few occasions, this one being only the fifth in those 31 years. And that's only the fourth I was able to attend. The first two were right over at Georgia College's Centennial Center, where the John Milledge Academy people filled the place with so much food I about forgot why I was there. Both the Central Fellowship and the Westfield girls teams lost those finals. One of those losses was to an Arlington Christian powerhouse Lady Grooms had going, she being the coach of one of Baldwin's playoff victims this year, Trinity Christian from Sharpsburg.

Through the miracle of television, I was able to cover the only boys championship game of my career from the comforts of home. It was a good thing, for another powerhouse, Miller Grove, destroyed Warner Robins (one year later the Demons beat MG in the quarterfinals in front of a massive crowd at Veterans High).

The first title game in Macon I went to saw Americus-Sumter beat the Veterans girls in 2016. These were the controversial finals when apparently the goals were not set correctly and 3-pointers became much more difficult.

That's also an example of a former team I covered playing a current team. Or, there was the time a current team played a future team when Southland Academy of Americus played at Westfield in baseball. Then, I go work in Perry and cover Westfield winning it all over Deerfield-Windsor on its home field.

In baseball, that would be seven seasons that ended in a state finals. Two times Southland was toppled before finally breaking through, and Westfield made it in back-to-back seasons splitting the two.

Houston County High, with a future UGA quarterback named Jake Fromm, won two times in three years, but I only saw one of them in person. That would be the one the Bears in 2016 hosted before the GHSA moved baseball to neutral sites.

And when I arrived in Milledgeville, John Milledge Academy was in the middle of a soon-to-be season of celebration. I count that because of the long ride to Savannah, the long series that went three games and all those eerie Savannah Bananas.

No doubt, though, football and softball seasons usually go all the way to the end.

Starting with football, there was Americus two times, Northside-Warner Robins five times, Westfield three times and Colquitt County two times. That's 12 games, seven of which were wins for my team.

Softball has to be divided between the slow- and fast-pitch eras. Two slow-pitch teams from the early days were champions, but I wasn't at the tournaments. Only one fast-pitch team, Westfield in 2006, won it all after a long Saturday in Dublin.

Yes, Westfield has dominated fast-pitch for years now, but before all of that the Hornets went 0-for-4 in a four-year stretch. Three of those losses were to Jeff Treadway's Stratford teams. Yes, the Jeff Treadway of the Atlanta Braves infield in the early 1990s and a native of Griffin.

Several teams I covered got to the GHSA Elite 8 in Columbus, but only one made it all the way to the last game. Two times. That was Houston County in 2009 and 2015. Collins Hill had to beat the Bears twice in the main stadium in 2009 and did it, one game being credited to a tight strike zone.

May have forgotten about something, like two or three soccer games (losses) streamed live online. Oh well. Now, I got my sights set even higher. You listening Bobcats?

(If at all possible, give pet adoption a try through the Animal Rescue Foundation in Milledgeville. Donations of any kind are also in great need. ARF is a little red building at 711 S. Wilkinson St., and more information is available at