October 21, 2018

The Heard Citizen’s Top 17 Good News Stories of 2017

(Franklin) — With the arrival of the year 2018, the Heard Citizen takes a look back at the best good news stories we reported on locally during the year 2017.

This list was comprised based on several factors including number of views, comments, and shares not only at our website but also on our facebook page.

We hope our readers enjoy this look back and we at HeardCitizen.com look forward to covering the best good news stories of 2018 in the coming months. You may click on the links provided to read more about each story as it was originally posted.

Happy New Year to all of our loyal readers and sponsors! Thank you all for another great year!

Top 17 Good News Stories of 2017

#1  Historic Brave Season

Heard County fans were lined up at the gates in Thomasville a full two hours before kickoff time on Black Friday in South Georgia where Coach Tim Barron and the Braves varsity football team looked to make school and county history by advancing to the GHSA Class AA State Semifinals for the first time. Those fans would not walk away disappointed as Heard would pound out a 28-14 quarterfinal win thanks primarily to a ferocious effort by the Brave defense. Many experts across the state were predicting a two touchdown win by the Bulldogs (the No. 3 ranked team in the state), but the No. 8 Braves had other ideas. The setting was a raucous playoff environment at Veterans Memorial Stadium with an estimated 5,000-6,000 people in attendance. The win was just one of several memorable good news moments in a first ever Final Four season that saw the team play on ESPNU, win the ‘Pulpwood Classic’ over then No. 2 Callaway, claim Coach Barron’s 6th Region Title, and set a new school record for wins with twelve. (Photo: Rodney East)

#2   ‘Shop with a Cop’ brings Christmas Smiles 

Local police officers partnered with Heard County special needs children before Christmas for the second annual ‘Shop with a Cop’ event. Uniformed officers escorted the kids to the Target and followed them through the aisles as they carefully selected toys, games and other holiday gifts. Down Syndrome West Georgia, the Franklin Police Department, and Heard County Elementary School partnered to plan the special shopping sprees. All 31 special needs kids from the Heard County School system were able to participate in the excitement which included receiving $100 each to spend and meeting Santa Claus himself.

#3  Happy Ending at Heard High

Thanks to the Heard County community, one man’s golf cart accident turned into a very happy ending in November when cherished local Heard High icon Mr. Edward Potts received brand new wheels. The presentation of the new cart was made prior to the senior night football game in front of a large crowd of Brave fans. An older golf cart had long been Edward’s primary mode of transportation to and from his job at the school before an accident that took place in the earl morning hours of October 23. Edward was driving his personal golf cart to the high school in the dark and rain early that day when he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle and crashed into a large ditch. He tried to call and wave for help but no one could see him so deep in the ditch. Thankfully, Edward managed to free himself and made it to the school where an ambulance was called for him. He suffered a deep laceration to his head requiring several stitches but other test results were clear of any further damage. A fundraising page for Edward by started by Lori Cabe and other donations from the local community raised a remarkable $10,400 in just the matter of a few days.

#4  Blue-chip Brave Signs with Florida

Heard High senior star quarterback Emory Jones announced on December 20, 2017 that he would be signing with the Florida Gators to play college football under new head coach Dan Mullen. The anticipation was high as several of the top programs in the nation awaited Emory’s final decision during the first day of the early signing period. Jones had verbally committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2016 but other top programs continued to call with several of the top coaches in the nation visiting Heard High in 2017 including Nick Saban from Alabama. Ultimately, the recruiting cycle came full circle as Emory ended up signing with the first coach to ever offer him a D-1 scholarship. Emory will compete in the Under Armour All-America game in Orlando this Thursday at 6:00 PM on ESPN.

#5  Georgia State Patrol celebrates oldest surviving trooper

A Heard County native was celebrated in 2017 by the Georgia State Patrol as the oldest surviving member in the state. Retired Sgt. James Franklin Terrell, Jr. (a.k.a. Jeff) celebrated his 93rd birthday in August and although retired, Terrell is still considered a hero by many current troopers following his huge sacrifice in the line of duty in 1969. Trooper Jeff Terrell was shot at point-blank range near Noble, GA (just outside of Lafayette) on Valentine’s Day in 1969 by a double barrel shot-gun after spotting the vehicle of a couple of wanted felons. He was transported to Erlanger Hospital that day for emergency life-saving surgery. Terrell was again honored in November by being part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Villa Rica that included Governor Deal.

#6   Heard County Athletics inducts 17 into first Hall of Fame

A star-studded lineup of athletes, coaches, and members of the community were inducted into Heard County High School’s inaugural athletic Hall of Fame class on August 18 prior to the season opening football win over South Atlanta. Over 200 friends and family members were present as the 17 esteemed members of the first class were officially inducted in the school cafeteria and then ushered down to Staples Stadium to be introduced to the large crowd in attendance for opening night football. Following the stadium introductions, inaugural community class member and long time HHS employee Mr. Edward Potts cut the ribbon in front of the ‘wall of fame’ where names of inductees are engraved and will be proudly displayed for years to come. At the initial induction ceremony in the cafeteria, those in attendance were able to hear remarks from one guest of honor for each inductee and in most cases from the inductee themselves. The Hall of Fame committee is already accepting nominations for the next class which will be inducted in the fall of 2018.

#7   ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ caravan descends on Franklin

During the summer, Heard County High School played lunch host to a larger than life convoy of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ replica vehicles, fans, and Trans-Am owners. The annual pilgrimage known as the ‘Bandit Run’ passed through Heard County en route to the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1977 film in Jonesboro. An estimated 200 vehicles and upwards of 350 people from all over the country took part in the festivities at HHS. Local spectators and fans of the show were able to spend time speaking with the vehicle owners and score lots of neat photos in the process.

#8  Making History: Braves Claim First Region Championship Since 1960

The Braves varsity basketball team entered the Region 5-AA Championship clash in February as the top seed in the tournament and were undefeated in the region, there were still many doubters that Coach Keith Simmons and company would be able to take that next step — a step not taken in Heard County boys basketball in over 50 years — that step of hoisting a region championship trophy. The Braves faced a difficult challenge in the Callaway Cavaliers, who came in as four-time defending region champions in Class AAA. The first quarter of the title game set the stage for what would be a hard-fought 79-72 victory and an entertaining contest for the largest non-football sports crowd in school history.

#9  Local Law Enforcement Officer Hailed as a Hero

A local resident and law enforcement officer was hailed a hero after his quick thinking and swift action likely may have saved a young boy’s life. Charles Israel, a resident of Franklin and Detective with the Fairburn Police Department was working security outside a grocery store in Fairburn, GA on January 2, 2017 when he spotted the child (approximate age 3 or 4) about to be backed over by a pickup truck. Israel was able to snatch the toddler up before he was backed over by the driver who never saw the boy or Israel. The detective was interviewed 11-Alive News in Atlanta about the moment that would likely have gone unnoticed if not for an anonymous bystander that thanked the 48-year-old detective after the incident and later phoned the Fairburn Police Department to commend his good deed.

#10  River Cleanup Volunteers Remove Trash from River

Despite heavy rains and flooding along with concerns about unsafe levels of E-coli contamination, the 7th annual ‘Sweep the Hooch’ campaign sponsored by the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper organization went on as planned in April with some modifications. After deciding that water-based activities (paddlers and waders) would be limited to land-based volunteers in some areas, the cleanup went on as planned with one group cleaning up right here in Heard County at Chattahoochee Old Town (a.k.a. Brush Creek Park). The small group of volunteers worked for several hours that weekend and according to Middle Chattahoochee Outreach Manager Henry Jacobs, the group managed to move 80 bags of trash and four tires from the park adding up to a total of 1,600 pounds of refuse. The event has been going on since 2011 and the next edition is already scheduled for April 7, 2018. Click here for more information on the 2018 event.

#11  Softball Championship Caps Perfect Season at HCMS

The Heard County Middle School Lady Braves completed a perfect season at Heard High School in front of one of the largest softball crowds in county sports history in early October. The middle Lady Braves shut out the Bowdon in dominating fashion, winning via run rule in four innings to take the West Georgia Small School title from the 2016 Champion Red Devils. The Middle Lady Braves outscored their opponents by a remarkable tally of 162-20 during the season and several of the players will be moving on to the varsity team later this year.

#12  Marching Braves Shine Bright

Director Eric Vogel and the Heard County High School Marching Braves band closed out the competition season in exciting fashion on October 28, 2017 at the 40th Annual East Georgia Marching Band Festival in Statesboro, Georgia. The Marching Braves competed against 27 other high schools and for the first time in several years earned all superior ratings and Class A placement awards in all captions including Drum Major, Color Guard, Percussion and Band. The Braves were named the Class A Champions outshining nine other bands in the largest class at the festival. It was one of the top performances in the history of the HCHS band program. The band also hosted its first ever competition at HHS (The Stateline Showdown) this year and it too was very successful. 

 #13  150 Years and Counting

The oldest continuous event in Heard County held its 150th event in the Ephesus community. The Sacred Harp singing began right after the Civil War and is now held every third Sunday in June. How does a small church in a small community in one of Georgia’s least-populated counties keep such an event going for so long? The answer has a lot to do with perseverance, faith, and a strong sense of family. The singing was started by James A. Denney and his wife, Mary Anne Patterson Denney.

#14  Two Heard Students named Georgia DOE Readers of the Year

Two Heard County students were recognized by the Georgia Department of Education in September as 2017 Georgia Readers of the Year. Whit Pope was honored as the Georgia Middle School Reader of the Year and Ethan Pendoras-Johnson was distinguished as the Elementary School (PreK-5th) Reader of the Year. Pope (now a freshman at HHS) represented Heard County Middle School with Pendoros-Johnson representing Centralhatchee Elementary. They each met Georgia State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods in Atlanta as part of the honor.

#15  ‘Spirit Night’ at Hometown Pizza Raises Funds for Teen

Angie McCullough and Hometown Pizza spearheaded a ‘Spirit Night’ fundraiser in November to help a local the family out during a medical crisis. Brave sophomore baseball player Caden Raines was hospitalized at Children’s healthcare of Atlanta for several weeks after being stricken with a very rare illness known as Stevens–Johnson syndrome, a rare disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. Caden has since recovered nicely and returned to school in December.

#16 Heard High Receptionist Nominated for National Award

Heard County High School receptionist, Lori Cabe was nominated for the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year award in the early fall. Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, the national LifeChanger of the Year program recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 public and private school educators and employees across the United States who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership. Rodney Kay, Superintendent and former Heard High principal made the nomination because of the years of dedication that she has given to HHS. Click here to visit Mrs. Cabe’s Lifechanger of the Year Nominee Profile and post a comment about her.

#17  Irma Leaves Heard County Largely Unscathed

Hurricane Irma arrived in the Heard County as heavy winds and rains swirled during the afternoon hours on Sept. 11 before conditions finally calmed. Many homes were without power temporarily due to trees falling on power lines, but only a few isolated meters remain without power as crews worked quickly to restore service. There were many downed trees reported throughout the county and Heard County road crews worked late into the evening to clear hazards from county roadways. Thankfully, this ended up being good news as there were no major injuries or structural damage although there were a couple of uncomfirmed reports of homes damaged by falling trees/limbs. The damage was much more severe statewide.

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