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AJ Middle exudes sports excellence

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By The Staff

The Andrew Jackson area of Lancaster County is known as “Big Orange Country.”

Given that fact, the brightest spot in 2007 Andrew Jackson area sports is Andrew Jackson Middle School.

The school, which feeds neighboring AJ High School, has produced a fabulous fall.

The school’s volleyball team, under the guidance of second-year coach Tonya Smith, fashioned a splendid 14-0 record.

The Vols’ football team, under the leadership of veteran coach Jerry Pardue, produced a glittering 8-0 record.

The two teams, which include seventh and eighth-grade athletes, are easily the pride of the school.

Each coach had an inkling this might be a special season at AJMS.

The volleyball team captured the conference crown after going 11-1 last season. The Vols’ only loss a year ago was to rival North Central.

AJMS avenged that loss with two wins over the Kershaw County team this season, with each coming away from home. The Vols knocked off North Central on its home floor and then topped NCHS in a match at A.R. Rucker Middle School.

The Lady Vols’ glittering mark included 14 wins without a loss in all of its matches. In only one of those matchers were the AJMS girls amazingly pressed to a third game.

“There was pressure on them, but they handled it well,” Smith said. “After going 11-1 last year, it was tough coming back, but we did. We responded well and I was proud of them for their hard work and dedication.”

The football team also delivered in impressive fashion.

Coach Pardue’s Vols went 8-0, which included four shutouts. Over the course of the AJMS football season, the Vols allowed a scant 24 points for the season, no more than six in any one game. The AJMS offense compiled 320 points – an average of 40 a game.

“This group worked hard and they wanted to win,” Pardue said. “We had our share of challenges, but we responded and had an unbeaten season.”

The Vols went 5-3 the previous fall, but returned over half of its 51-player football roster.

“Both those teams took some lumps last season, but they also learned from them,” said AJMS principal Butch Dutton, a former teacher and coach before moving into administration.

Dutton said teamwork was the difference.

“This was a great accomplishment, a result of the coaches, players and parents working together,” Dutton said. “We had a team effort.”

One unbeaten season is outstanding, but two is twice is nice.

The AJMS can be doubly proud of its autumn of sports excellence, which saw the Vols rise to the top in a fall to savor for seasons to come.