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HAMMOCK: Breakout year for Archer

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Shock was the reaction through the Gwinnett basketball community as news of Tuesday night’s Archer boys upset of top-seeded South Gwinnett traveled through area cell phones.

The eighth-seeded Tigers’ upset also resonated statewide, not surprising when the regular season Region 8-AAAAA champion falls to an 11-15 team that had to win a play-in game just for the opportunity to play South.

As for the Archer players and coaches, they weren’t as stunned by their accomplishment.

“We weren’t shocked,” Archer boys basketball coach and athletic director Tim Watkins said. “We’ve been playing really well and battling, coming on with a young group and playing well. We weren’t surprised but I can see how others were.”

The days of surprises may be over soon for Archer. Just a second-year school, it is beginning to make a statewide mark in athletics already. Tuesday’s upset win gave Archer its first state qualifier in the three major sports, joining four other teams from the school (softball, cheerleading, cross country and wrestling) that reached the state level in 2010-11.

Archer swimmer Lydia Jones won the school’s first individual state title at last weekend’s state meet, and the Tigers also may get their first state champion wrestler this Saturday as well.

“We’re just trying to keep up with all of our other teams,” Watkins said of his basketball state berth. “The success over here has become contagious.”

The overall athletic success in just its second year is even more of a shock considering Archer’s enrollment. The school still has a Class AAAA enrollment, but elected to play up in AAAAA, both to prevent travel woes and to play Gwinnett rivals.

“Our kids wanted to compete against kids they’ve competed against their whole lives,” Watkins said. “We thought it was best for us in the long run and the short run.”

Not that the move to AAAAA didn’t come without some struggles. There is much progress to be made before the Tigers even begin to see some of the success that Watkins witnessed during his years at Parkview.

But the state berths and recent success show that Archer is on the right track.

“It’s a fantastic community here, we’ve got really good kids, really good administrators and coaches who are working extremely hard,” Watkins said. “It’s an awesome place to be.”

And it’s only getting better.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.