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Annual soccer tournament kicks off weekend
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This week marks the start of a major local tournament for high school soccer. The 25th Northeast Georgia Mountain Cups kicks off Saturday with games at Chestatee High and the Allen Creek Soccer Complex.

Girls participants this season include Buford, West Hall, Apalachee, Stephens County, Chestatee and Habersham Central. The boys bracket includes West Hall, Riverside Military Academy, Buford, Johnson, Chestatee and Apalachee.

The tournament format allows for two groups with three teams each in both the boys and girls. Placement of teams is based on a lot, or by previous season record.

Each group plays a round-robin series and the winner of each group moves to the championship game on March 28.

In boys opening round action, Riverside Military face Apalachee at 2 p.m., followed by Buford against Chestatee at 4 p.m.
Saturday at Chestatee High. For the girls, Buford faces Apalachee at 6 p.m., followed by Stephens County versus Habersham
Central at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex.

Spring football practice at the University of Georgia also kicks off this week. These next three weeks of practice drills are the precursor to the spring game Apr. 11 at Sanford Stadium in Athens.

Spring practice is a time for the Bulldogs’ coaching staff to get acclimated to the new names on the roster.

It’s also a time for players to jockey for a starting position for the 2009 season. Georgia will need to find replacements to three key juniors that decided to forego their senior season for the NFL: quarterback Matt Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and cornerback Asher Allen.

But a school that year-in and year-out signs a top 10 recruiting class nationally is never without tremendous talent.

Junior linebacker Rennie Curran has already been named to the Lombardi Award watch list, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker. Sophomore wide receiver A.J. Green (56 catches, 963 yards) is coming off earning SEC Freshman of the Year in 2008, and defensive tackle Jeff Owens was granted a fifth year of eligibility after a season-ending knee injury in 2008 against
Georgia Southern.

Some of the most fierce competition for playing time will be at running back and tight end on offense.

At running back Caleb King looks to be the clear No. 1, with sophomores Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and incoming freshman Washaun Ealey competing for playing time.

At tight end it’s a competition to see which player can fit in best.

On defense, the biggest position holes to fill are at defensive end and at cornerback. Defensive tackle is probably the deepest position on that side of the ball with Owens, Kade Weston, Geno Atkins, Brandon Wood and DeAngelo Tyson primed to play.

Also, the NCAA basketball tournament opens this week with first and second round action. First and second round tournament
sites are Miami, Minneapolis, Dayton, Ohio; Boise, Idaho; Greensboro, N.C.; Kansas City, Philadelphia and Portland.
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