1. 2002 Gainesville baseball (33-3)
Despite losing two games (to Germantown, Tenn., and Class AAAAA’s Walton High) during the regular season, the 2002 version of the Gainesville Red Elephants were as good as they get. Behind the arms of John Carroll and future major leaguer Micah Owings, the Red Elephants steamrolled the competition once they reached the Class AAA state playoffs. While Owings and Carroll kept the opposition at bay, Gainesville outscored the opposition by a combined 105-16, including back-to-back 7-0 wins to win its second consecutive state championship.
“That 2002 team, from top to bottom was the most talented team I coached,” said Wayne Vickery, who coached five state championship teams during his 20-year tenure at Gainesville High.
2. 2007 Buford football (15-0)
When it comes to dominant football teams of the past 30 years, the 2007 Buford Wolves are at the top of the list. A talented team on both offense and defense, the Wolves outscored their opponents 680-66 en route to their fourth Class AA state title in seven years. The state title was all but theirs once the Wolves beat Charlton County 21-14 in the quarterfinals. After it demolished Dublin 48-0 in the Georgia Dome, Buford cruised to the state title with a 50-0 win over Lovett in the championship game.
“This was certainly a special football team this season,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said after the title game. “They worked real hard and earned this state title.”
The Wolves, who won their games by an average of 42 points per game, were led by a defense that allowed only two rushing touchdowns all season. Eleven members of the 2007 Wolves were awarded college scholarships, and two more were preferred walk-ons at the University of Georgia.
3. 1994 Gainesville girls basketball (30-0)
There’s nothing like winning that first state championship. And when a team completes an undefeated season with a title, the year is nothing short of special. That’s the case with the 1994 Lady Red Elephants, who went unscathed in the regular season en route to the program’s first girls basketball championship.
“You never think you’re going to go undefeated,” coach Manson Hill said. “We knew coming into the season that we had a chance to be very good.”
Led by 1994’s Miss Georgia Basketball, Mahogany Hudson, the Lady Red Elephants cruised through the regular season unbeaten. But their road to the title wasn’t easy. Along with Gainesville, two other teams (Crim and Randolph Clay) entered the Class AA semifinals with a 28-0 record. In a battle of unbeatens, Gainesville proved that it was the best team in the class with a 56-35 win against Crim in the state championship.
4: 1984 Gainesville boys basketball (30-0)
Led by the dynamic duo of Cris Carpenter and Patrick Hamilton, the 1984 Red Elephants successfully repeated as Class AAA state champions with the only undefeated season in their history.
“When you look back on it, that was the high point of the Gainesville basketball program,” said Steve Pettit, a longtime assistant coach under Jerry Davis. “We had a good team, there’s no doubt about that.”
After winning the state title in 1983, the Red Elephants returned the majority of their roster and were the top-ranked team in the state for the entire season. Despite the pressure of repeating as champions, Gainesville rolled through the regular season unbeaten and entered the playoffs with a 25-0 record.
After squeaking by Decatur with a 64-59 win in the second round, Carpenter and Hamilton made sure that the Red Elephants would not be denied a championship. Hamilton finished with 32 points, and Carpenter added 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists to send the Red Elephants into the state finals against the Fulton Red Birds, who they defeated by 25 points.
5: 2005 East Hall boys basketball (31-1)
Out of the 18 members of the 2005 Vikings, all but four went on to play college basketball. Now that’s a stacked team.
“That was an incredibly gifted group,” said coach Joe Dix, of the team that won the Class AA state championship and finished the year ranked No. 11 in the nation. “The biggest thing was the fact that they were unselfish. They bought into what I was trying to get done.”
That year was the first of Dix’s tenure at East Hall. After longtime coach Seth Vining left to coach Lakeview Academy, Dix took over and continued the success of the program that had won state championships in 2001 and 2003.
Not only did the Vikings dominate opponents in Georgia, but they also took out Seton Hall Prep, a team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Five members of the 2005 Vikings scored more than 1,000 points in their career at East Hall — led by Walter Hill and Frank Davis each scoring more than 2,000 points each.
6: 2003 Jefferson wrestling (25-0)
With eight straight state dual and traditional state titles under their belts, it’s hard to determine which of the eight versions of the Dragons are the kings of the mat. So hard, that coach Doug Thurmond wanted nothing to do with making that decision.
“It’s hard for me to pick which would be the toughest,” Thurmond said. “It’s not fair to the kids for me to pick one year. Each year was special, and each of the teams were great.”
In all fairness to the 2005 and 2008 teams, the 2003 team takes the top spot, largely because it won 10 tournaments, had five state champions and five state runner-ups, and was awarded the best team in all classifications. Not to mention the 2003 version of the Dragons, had Jeremy Smith (three-time state champ) and Forrest and Hunter Garner (both four-time state champions), who combined to win 11 state titles.
7: 2004 Gainesville girls basketball (30-3)
If Hill thought going undefeated in a season was tough, being the “team to beat” throughout the year proved to be equally as difficult. Still, the 2004 Lady Red Elephants began and finished the year as the top-ranked team in Class AAA.
“A lot of teams really got up for us,” Hill said. “We had a big target on our backs, much bigger than in 1994. We were expected to win the whole year.”
The Lady Red Elephants were coming off their second state title in three years. And with nine players with varsity experience, they were poised to repeat.
In the title game and her final game at Gainesville, Tasha Humphrey nearly outscored Fannin County by herself, scoring 29 points to lead the Lady Red Elephants to the 61-33 win. But the team was not all Humphrey. Seven members from the 2004 team went on to play college basketball.
8: 1997 Gainesville baseball (34-4)
If the 2002 team was the most talented of Wayne Vickery’s 20-year career at Gainesville, the 1997 squad is a close second.
Led by shortstop and future major league draft pick Victor Menocal, the Red Elephants won three consecutive state titles from 1996-98, but according to Vickery, it was the 1997 team that was the best of the bunch.
“We peaked a year early and won it in ’96,” he said. “In 1997, we were ranked No. 1 all year and returned eight starters. We were expected to win that year.”
With a 34-4 record, the Red Elephants had little trouble making and advancing in the state playoffs.
9: 2006 North Hall boys cross country
For 10 consecutive seasons, the Westminster boys team dominated the world of Class AAA cross country. That was until a team from North Hall ruined that streak and literally ran away with the 2006 state title.
“We knew they were king of the hill,” said Danny Thomas, who coached alongside Jean Foster in 2006. “We were aiming for them all year, and it felt good to finally knock them off.
“To win a state title in cross country you have to have five good runners, and that’s what we had,” he added. “We had a special group of five really good runners.”
That group was led by Bert Harrison, who finished fifth in the state that year, and the trio of Grant Russell, Nolan Clark and Nick Long, who all finished in the top 10. The fifth runner, Johnny Jimenez, finished 18th, just 20 seconds behind the 10th place finisher.
“We were lucky to get those five there together at the same time,” Thomas said.
10: 1996 Gainesville boys golf team
After the previous golf coach left to coach elsewhere, then tennis coach Paul Gilbert decided to take over the team. And in his only year coaching golf at Gainesville, his team won the Class AA state championship.
“I joke that I am the only coach to win a state tournament and get fired,” Gilbert said.
After finishing the region tournament in second place, Gainesville, which hosted the 1996 state tournament at Chattahoochee Golf Course, carded a team score of 322, which was six strokes better than the team from Lovett.
Leading the charge for Gainesville was George Watson, who finished tied for third with an 18-hole score of 77. Andy Dyer (78), Brian Smith (82) and Will Scanlon (85) all contributed to the state championship.
1978-79 East Hall girls basketball (28-2): Class AA state champions
1981 Commerce football (13-1-1): Class AA state champions
1998 Gainesville boys soccer: Class AA state champions
1999 West Hall girls basketball (30-1): Class AAA state runner-up
2001 East Hall boys basketball (30-2): Class AA state champions
2002 Gainesville football (13-1): reached Class AAA state semifinals
2002-03 Riverside Military Academy wrestling: GISA state champions
2003 Buford football (15-0): Class AA state champions
2004 Lakeview Academy baseball (31-9): Class A state champions
2005 Jefferson wrestling (23-1): Class A state traditional and duals champions
2005 Riverside Military Academy football (12-0-1): GISA state champions
2006-07 East Hall girls basketball (31-1): Class AAA state champions
2007 Buford softball (33-6-1): Class AA state champions
2007 North Hall football (13-1): reached Class AAA state semifinals
2007-08 Jefferson wrestling (28-0) Class A state traditional and duals champions