Drake Power isn’t a punter by nature but as it turned out, the position was a natural fit for him.
The Winder-Barrow senior punter was selected last week to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s GHSA Class AAAAAA all-state first team. With the honor, he became the first Bulldogg player to earn a first-team all-state selection since offensive lineman Matt Sorrells in 1996 and just the 10th ever, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Power, who also earned first-team all-Region 8-AAAAAA and MainStreet Newspapers all-area selections, averaged 42.2 yards per punt this fall for the Bulldoggs, who went 5-6 and advanced to the state playoffs. Six of his punts traveled longer than 50 yards — including a school-record 69-yarder — and for good measure, he booted one 50 yards in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes all-star game in Athens on Dec. 17 while Bulldogg coach Heath Webb manned the sidelines.
Webb said Power’s accomplishment was a special one and noted his devotion to the team as the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder also saw playing time on offense at wide receiver, on defense at linebacker and on other special teams assignments.
“I’m really proud of Drake,” Webb said. “He’s not a punter by nature, but we had a need there and he stepped up.
“He’s a good all-around player. He was a team player who did whatever we needed.”
Power still has a chance for more accolades for his stellar season of punting as the Georgia Sportswriters Association is expected to release its all-state team in conjunction with the Associated Press in the coming days.
The Winder-Barrow girls basketball team couldn’t quite seal the deal in last week’s Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational at Myrtle Beach.
But the runner-up finish in a tournament filled with top-notch competition from around the country may very well have given the Bulldoggs back the swagger they had that led them to the brink of a state championship last season.
After a back-and-forth battle with Monacan High School of Richmond, Va. on Thursday night, the Bulldoggs weren’t able to make a 7-point second-half lead hold up as the Chiefs rallied for a 54-49 win in the tournament championship game.
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Bulldoggs (8-4), who reached the final after beating South Shore High School of Brooklyn, N.Y. 48-46 the previous night.
“I think the girls really did gain some confidence from the whole tournament,” said Winder-Barrow coach Brandon Thomas, whose team’s victories in the 16-team field also included Dreher High School of Columbia, S.C. and Wesleyan of Norcross. “We got some wins we were really looking for like the ones we had in the playoffs last year, but not necessarily in the regular season.
“Even with the loss to the Virginia team, playing against those type caliber of teams will only help us because those are the kind of teams we’ll have to be able to beat to go far.”
After a back-and-forth first half that featured five lead changes and ended with a 23-22 Winder-Barrow advantage, the Bulldoggs stretched their lead to 34-27 when sophomore point guard Chellia Watson drained a 3-pointer with 12:50 remaining. (The tournament games had two 16-minute halves instead of four 8-minute quarters.)
But the Chiefs quickly erased the deficit with an 8-0 run and led by as many as eight points the rest of the way to keep the Bulldoggs in check.
Monacan was led by tournament MVP and University of Connecticut signee Megan Walker with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. The Bulldoggs were paced by Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who had 16 points and a whopping 22 rebounds.
Nelson-Ododa, the top-ranked junior in the country, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was an all-tournament team selection along with teammate Latrice Perkins.
Winder-Barrow is set to return to action on Tuesday when it will host Class AAAAA Flowery Branch at 6 p.m. in a non-region contest before opening up its Region 8-AAAAAA slate against Apalachee on Jan. 6.
The Falcons, a former region rival, have proven to be a thorn in the Bulldoggs’ side as of late, topping them five times over the last two seasons, including twice this year — 55-46 on Nov. 21 and 50-43 on Nov. 29.
Thomas is hopeful the Bulldoggs’ strong performance in South Carolina, coupled with the return of Watson who missed most of the first and all of the second game against Flowery branch this season, will give his team more confidence against the Falcons.
“Coming out of the holidays, I’m not sure how sharp we’ll be, but that’s everybody,” Thomas said. “We’re glad to get started with them so it can help get us ready for region play. We think we match up pretty well with them. It’s just been kind of a mental thing. But they’re a very good team as well.
“It will be one of those games to see if we’ve grown mentally since our trip to the beach. It should be a good motivator for us to get cranked up again.”