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Top 10 sports stories of 2005

No. 1

Francoeur, McCann break through to the bigs

It doesn't get any sweeter than this.

Gwinnett products Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann get called up to the major leagues. To top it off, they also get to play for their hometown team, the Atlanta Braves.

Their stories get even better as the season goes along, including playing keying roles as the Braves win their unprecedented 14th straight division championship. Atlanta uses a core of rookies in its successful season, but the two Gwinnett standouts are at the forefront.

McCann, a Duluth grad, is called up first on June 10, gets an RBI single in his first career at-bat and homers in his second game. He goes on to become Braves' star pitcher John Smoltz's personal catcher. His playoffs also begin with a bang as he becomes the first Brave ever to homer in his first playoff at bat, going yard against future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens, no less.

He finishes the season with a .278 batting average, five home runs and 23 RBIs.

His good friend Francoeur joins him with the Braves less than a month later, debuting in the majors on July 7. With a flair for the dramatic dating back to his days with Parkview's football and baseball teams, the outfielder hits an eighth-inning, three-run homer in his first game.

Francoeur's sizzling start - he hit over .400 for a spell - earned him the feature photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline "The Natural." His bat cools down some, finishing the year with a .300 batting average, 14 home runs, 45 RBIs and 20 doubles, but his defense also earns rave reviews with his 13 outfield assists.

No. 2

Big year for Louis, South

It was a huge year for the county's all-time leading scorer, South Gwinnett basketball star Louis Williams.

Although he doesn't cap his prep career with a state title, the high-scoring guard helps his high school team to wins over prep school power Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and Arlington Country Day (Fla.) on ESPN. The postseason honors roll in for Williams, a McDonald's All-American who also is named the Naismith National Player of the Year.

Williams turns pro out of high school and is selected in the second round, 45th overall, by the Philadelphia 76ers.

No. 3

Pollack, Greene go high

Longtime friends and Georgia football teammates Davey Pollack and David Greene both are drafted on the first day of the NFL Draft after outstanding college careers.

Pollack, one of only two Bulldogs to earn first-team All-American honors for three seasons, is selected in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals, who take the Shiloh grad at No. 17.

Greene, a South grad and the NCAA's winningest quarterback with 42 career wins, goes in the third round to the Seattle Seahawks.

No. 4

Big-time college backs

Former Gwinnett stars Kenny Irons and Darius Walker have huge seasons in college, Irons at Auburn and Walker at Notre Dame.

Irons leads the SEC in rushing at 109.5 yards per game, averaging 130.1 rushing yards in his nine games as a starter. The Dacula grad finishes the regular season with eight 100-yard rushing games in those nine starts.

Walker, a Buford grad, rushes for 1,106 yards, including four straight 100-yard games to open the season, a first for a Notre Dame runner. He also catches 36 passes, one off the Fighting Irish record for a running back.

No. 5

Collins Hill girls dominate in hoops

The Collins Hill girls basketball team, led by star Maya Moore, completes an amazing five-year run under head coach Angie Hembree with a Class AAAAA state championship. The 69-52 win in the finals is preceded by a satisfying semifinal win over Stephenson, which beat the Eagles in the previous year's title game.

Hembree guides her team to a five-year mark of 144-14 with three state titles and one runner-up finish. The dominance continues in the 2005-2006 season as the Eagles rise to No. 2 in the nation, as ranked by USA Today.

No. 6

Year of the running back

The 2005 Gwinnett high school football season was known for its large pack of big-time running backs, guys like Parkview's Caleb King, Brookwood's Cameron Smith, Collins Hill's Rock Robinson and Central Gwinnett's Beau Johnson.

King rushes for 19 TDs and a school-record 2,765 yards, the highest known total ever in Georgia's largest classification and the most ever by a state junior. Smith sets county marks with 347 rushing yards against East Coweta and seven TDs vs. Meadowcreek and finishes with a school-record 2,434 yards and 32 TDs. Robinson also sets a school record with 1,909 rushing yards in just 11 games.

No. 7

Parkview sweeps soccer titles

Parkview matches its feat of 1997 when it wins both the boys and girls soccer state championships in the same season. The Panthers win the girls championship on Friday, May 14, with a 3-0 win over South Forsyth.

The boys complete the sweep two days later in front of a huge Monday night crowd at Brookwood, beating their chief rival 2-0.

No. 8

Parker, Collins Hill wrestling shine

Stanford recruit Tyler Parker caps his career with a fourth straight state championship, all at the state's highest level. The senior pins Walton's Richie Boland in his final match.

It's also a banner year for Parker's team as Collins Hill wins both the traditional and duals state championships in the same season.

No. 9

Rash of repeat champs

There were no shortage of repeating state champions in 2005. Four Gwinnett teams won their second straight state title and one, the Collins Hill girls cross country team, won its third in a row. The Eagles were led by star runner Jackie Drouin, who also repeated as state champion.

The Parkview boys won their second consecutive cross country title and two Wesleyan teams, girls basketball and volleyball, got title No. 2 in two years. The Collins Hill boys swimming and diving team also repeated at the state meet, giving Gwinnett every boys team champion in the sport since 2000.

No. 10

First-time champs

The senior-laden Collins Hill fastpitch softball team wins the program's first state championship with a 3-1 triumph over Woodstock. A No. 6 seed entering the Region 7-AAAAA tournament, the team came together at the right time for the milestone win.

The Eagles' win also brought Gwinnett fastpitch softball its first state championship in the state's biggest classification since Duluth's title in 1999.

- From staff reports