Former Cherokee High School basketball players Helen Dawson and Ellen Dawson Ewers, and former Etowah wrestler John Winkler were inducted as members of the 12th class, during the ceremony at First Baptist Church of Canton.
Ewers and Dawson, who shared an introduction by their former coaches, Ronnie Smith and Ron Ely, took time to thank their family and teammates.
“We wouldn’t have gotten here without you,” Ewers said.
The pair played basketball for the Warriorettes from 1973-75. During that time, they won a state championship (1973) and finished as runners-up (1974) and third (1975). The twin sisters were selected all-region and all-state, and they went on to play two years at Gainesville Junior College.
Ewers continued her playing career at Berry College, where the team won the state NAIA championship in 1979.
Both women went on to be teachers and coaches in the community. Ewers was the girls basketball coach at North Cobb from 1984-95, and she also started the volleyball program at the Kennesaw school.
In his introduction of the sisters, Ely said they made him proud.
“Helen, Ellen — you have my heart, and I appreciate you,” Ely said.
Winkler, introduced by his former coach at Etowah and fellow Hall of Fame member, Bob Eddy, stressed the importance that family played to him as an athlete.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Winkler said. “I didn’t dream that his would ever happen. I worked hard, and I just want to thank everybody.”
Winkler said he wouldn’t have been the wrestler he was if not for Eddy.
As a freshman, Winkler qualified for state, but he didn’t win a match in the tournament. The following year, he was a state champion.
Winkler went on to finish his high school career as the winningest wrestler in Etowah history. When he won the state title as a senior, he became the county’s first two-time state champion and first three-time placer.
“I went from two-and-out my freshman year to a state champ my sophomore year because of great coaching,” Winkler said. “I went on to make the state finals every year after and winning it again my senior year. … In my opinion, coach Eddy is the greatest coach in the world. Period.”
The 1972 Cherokee High football team, which finished the season 10-0, was also recognized Friday, as were the team’s coaches, including Ely, Bobby Pate, Will Heath and Danny Cronic. Many of the players from the ’72 team were on hand.
Pate spoke of the team, calling it one of the two highlights of his career — the other being winning a national championship as the coach at West Georgia.
“When I came the previous year, (Cherokee) had only won one game, and I think that was on a blocked punt,” Pate said.
He recalled barely winning the first two games of the 1972 season before the team caught fire.
“By the last game, it was like 45 or 50 to nothing,” Pate said. “I had never seen a team gain confidence like these guys did. They were a very special group of young men. They made their county proud. They made me proud, and their families.”
The evening opened with the Hall of Fame recognizing the top male and female senior athletes from each of the county’s six high schools. They were chosen based on their accomplishments in not only their sport, but in the classroom.
Honored from Cherokee were Savanna Dover (softball) and Ja’Davin Keith (basketball, baseball). Dover will be continuing her career next year at Southern Illinois, while Keith’s athletic future is on hold after he was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs last fall.
Creekview’s Lauren Johnson (cross country, basketball, track) and Joseph Sorrentino (football, wrestling) were also recognized. Johnson is the current record-holder in points in a single game for the Lady Grizzlies, while Sorrentino finished wrestling season as the Class AAAAA state champion at 182 pounds.
Etowah recognized a pair of Division I-bound athletes in Megan Young (swimming) and Jack Shaughnessy (basketball). Young will be taking her talents to Georgia Tech in the fall, while Shaughnessy will be going to Seattle University.
River Ridge chose to honor a pair of two-sport standouts in Jessica Baker (basketball, softball) and Steven Spears (football, basketball). Baker and Spears were both four-year letterwinners in their sports, and they helped set a standard of success at the county’s newest high school.
Sequoyah recognized Alexa Zorzi (cheerleading, soccer) and Peter Rohan (football, track and field), who are not only solid in their sports but in the classroom. In the fall, Rohan will be joining the Kennesaw State football program as a preferred walk-on.
Savannah Wood (tennis, cross country) and Kylon Drones (track and field) were selected by Woodstock. Wood will be attending Samford to play tennis next year, while Drones’ prep career isn’t quite over. He qualified for the Class AAAAAA state meet in three events and will compete next weekend.