Brian Paglia, email@example.com
This was about a journey. One spanning three months and 41 games — the fastest marathon imaginable.
This was about a family. One of all ages and personalities piled into buses and dugouts.
This was about history — a first-ever team state championship and a moment to cherish.
Union Grove’s victory over Pope in the Class AAAAA tournament finals in Columbus was all those things, a superb story by a team hungry to redeem themselves from last season’s disappointing finish. Second chances are never a guarantee, so the Lady Wolverines didn’t waste theirs.
Thankfully for Henry County fans, these moments are becoming more and more and more frequent.
Let’s dispense a little math:
• Since the 2004-05 school year, Henry County teams have now won 11 state titles in major sports.
• During this span, Henry County teams have won five softball titles, three wrestling, two baseball and one volleyball.
• Eagle’s Landing Christian has won six of those 11 state titles, including four straight Class A softball championships from 2006-09. The Chargers have also won titles in baseball (2006) and volleyball (2011).
• Stockbridge won two titles in the same season, winning the state duals and traditional wrestling tournaments in 2007.
• Union Grove is the first public school during this span other than Henry County or Stockbridge to win a state title.
Now here comes the scary part — there could be more on the way ... this season.
ELCA football is currently the No. 1 team in Class A and beating opponents by an average score of 47-8.
Eagle’s Landing boy’s basketball just officially started practice with more talent on one team than this county has seen in perhaps ever.
What about next season?
There’s Ola softball, who spent much of this season ranked playing in arguably the toughest region (see Union Grove) without one single senior on the roster.
And ELCA softball, who reached Columbus after a two-year hiatus with a starting nine of seven sophomores and three freshmen.
Or even Stockbridge football. Why not? Sure, it’ll have quite the quarterback to replace, but the Tigers have just two seniors on one of Class AAAA’s top five defenses.
Yes, Henry County, you can dream like that now.
You once went 36 years between state championships — from a Henry County girl’s basketball title (1960) to an Eagle’s Landing boy’s golf title (1996).
But those days are over.
Indeed, let’s all enjoy Union Grove’s state title. From the magnificent defensive plays to the comeback out of the loser’s bracket to senior pitcher Megan Betsa’s gutsy three-game marathon performance to clinch the title Saturday.
There will be a special commemorative page for Union Grove’s achievement in Friday’s edition, something for the Wolverines community to take and keep for documentation and memory’s sake.
And then you can reasonably ask the question — who’s next?
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him @BrianPaglia.