Decatur High winter sports teams chasing championships as new season gets underwayThe Girls hoist the 5A 4 region trophy after a 62-58 win over Arabia Mountain. Photo by @kesonthedhspics
By David McFarland, contributor
Decatur, GA — It’s almost go-time for Decatur High School’s winter sports teams. The Bulldogs will be in action across five sports, from the swimming pool to the basketball court.
The girls basketball team was one of Decatur’s most successful teams last season, winning its region and making the second round of the state tournament. This year, however, is a changing of the guard, with three seniors graduating and Nick Deloach replacing Vincent Gatling as head coach.
Coach Deloach is no stranger to the program after previously serving as assistant coach.
“Being that I already had a great relationship with players, coaches, and parents from Coaching at Beacon Hill and being visible at the varsity games, I would say my transition has been awesome,” Coach Deloach said.
He was part of the team that did so well in 2023 and can take those lessons to the current crop of players. “Last season the team learned that staying focused, working together, persevering through adversity, and being disciplined are all ingredients necessary for success, not only on the basketball court but in life.”
That’s going to be particularly important as the team rebounds from losing three seniors, two of whom were named to the All-Region team last season.
“The team this season looks to be younger than last season,” Deloach said. “Replacing three seniors will take a collaborative team effort to replace their leadership and experience.”
The Bulldogs aren’t daunted and hope to have similar levels of success on and off the court as last year.
“Our goal for the upcoming season is to create a culture that teaches accountability, work ethic, teamwork, being disciplined, being academically inclined, and to compete at a high level. We plan to meet these goals by creating these habits on and off the court on a consistent basis,” Deloach said.
Coach Deloach was more than enthusiastic about the Bulldogs’ chances of on-court success. “We also plan to make another playoff run as well. We are excited about the future here in Decatur. We have an awesome staff and a great athletic team to help support us along the way. GO BULLDOGS!”
The girls were joined in their success by the boys team, which also hoisted a region trophy and reached the second round of the State Tournament. Head Coach William Faulkner described the lasting impact of 2023’s success, even if it ended sooner than planned. “We learned that we have to come to play every game and that we are as good or better than a lot of teams if we stay focused and stick to our game plan. Losing in the second round of the state hurt us a lot.”
Along with the sting of that defeat, Decatur also has to overcome the departures of several key players.
“We lost a great deal of talent and leadership from last year,” Faulkner said. “We lost seniors Turner Cummings, Jacob Ruark, Adam Tewell, JaMon Foy, and Harrison Hannah. We also lost a talented junior in Quay Wallace. All of these guys provided valuable pieces to our success this past year. You cannot replace talented players like these, you only hope that the returners have a next man up mentality.”
The early signs of the new era are positive, however, starting as soon as last summer, when the Bulldogs won the Georgia Coaches Association championship in June. That victory has set the bar high for the upcoming campaign, according to Faulkner.
“Our goal this year is the same as years in the past and that is to win the State Championship,” Faulkner said. “We made strides toward this during the summer by working hard and winning the Georgia Coaches Association championship this summer. We are also returning three starters in Bryce Howson, Luke Brooks and Alden Daniels. We are also expecting big things out of senior John Carreker and several newcomers.”
Along with the on-field sports, Decatur also has an E-Sports team with both Varsity and JV levels. The team competes in several different video games against other high schools using the platform PlayVS. Head Coach Rodney Swift’s favorite aspect of coaching the team is “seeing kids compete in what they love. I’m an avid gamer and enjoy the interaction with my athletes.” He hopes to add more players and games to play in the upcoming season and continue to build up the program.
Decatur’s Varsity Swim team is looking to build off a strong 2023 season in the upcoming campaign.
“I am so proud of our team last season,” Head Coach Molly Randall said. “At the State meet, we had several athletes swim personal best times, finish in the top 20, and even had one relay team podium (3rd place).”
The loss of several seniors to graduation has shaken the team up a bit after last season’s state success, but Decatur, with over 50 swimmers on the team, remains quite formidable, Randall said. “We have a strong group of returning athletes. The seniors this year are actually the first group I worked with back when they were at Beacon Hill. Additionally, we have several freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who are helping us to build a stronger team.”
Along with a changing of the guard amongst players, Randall described how the upcoming season will see Decatur change its mentality as well.
“For this year, I want athletes to focus on effort rather than achievement,” Randall said. “We love to win, but I want athletes to recognize that their 100% may look different from day to day. I want our team to celebrate one another when we succeed, and support one another when we struggle.”
Randall has already begun to implement this mindset through a pre-season meeting of expectations and individual and team goal-setting in order to create “more cohesion throughout the team as a whole,” in time for the real action to start with swim meets.
The Decatur Wrestling team is another program undergoing a coaching change. Head Coach Nicco Salvador is in his first year at the helm, but that isn’t the only thing that’s changed for the Bulldogs. Coach Salvador described how the program has developed since the prior season. “The team has changed a lot from last year. Last year’s team consisted of around seven or eight people,” Salvador said. “This year’s team will have over 30 members, many of whom will be new to wrestling and learning how to wrestle.”
Salvador is ready to take on the challenge, however, and lead Decatur to success in its own unique way.
“Our goal for this year is to grow as people and learn how to wrestle,” Salvador said. “Everything we do in our program is based on our motto Tough Together. Success to us is if our team is getting better as a person, wrestler, and team.”
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