By Doug Hawley
Most people would be hard-pressed to name an outstanding football lineman who’s a top-flight tennis player, but Dalton High School senior B.J. Rowland is an exception.
Rowland, offensive captain for the Catamounts’ football team from his center position last fall and a member of The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Team, displayed his dexterity on the tennis court Tuesday.
He and junior Thomas DeLay teamed up at No. 1 doubles to help get the Catamounts started in a 5-0 blitz of Atlanta’s Grady in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at Lakeshore Park.
DeLay and Rowland breezed past Chase Mosri and Max Tracht-enberg, 6-0, 6-0.
“I played last fall in football at 255 pounds,” the 5-foot-11-inch Rowland said.
“I’m at 215 now. It’s partly due to the tennis, but I just have no reason to be 255 now. I’ve lost the weight mainly through diet and exercise.”
Rowland will enroll at the University of Georgia next school year, although only as a student rather than a student-athlete.
“I wouldn’t expect them to be interested in a 215-pound center,” he said with a smile. “I will be there on a HOPE scholarship and some other smaller scholarships.”
Dalton coach David Hilley has appreciated Rowland’s efforts throughout his career on the court for the Cats.
“He was almost No. 1 singles for us this year,” Hilley said. “However, he has been so valuable in doubles for us for four years.”
DeLay no doubt will miss his tennis partner next year.
“We’ve been at No. 1 doubles for the past three years,” DeLay said. “We’ve had a couple of second places in the region and one third place. We both felt that we were not outstanding today, but we got the job done.”
Dalton, the No. 2 seed from Region 7, advances to the second round against the winner of Region 8 champion Madison County and Region 5 No. 4 seed Shaw. Grady was the No. 3 seed from Region 6.
“We fully expect to play Madison,” Hilley said. “They’re a No. 1 seed. If that is the case, we would go on the road, probably next Monday or Tuesday.”
Grady coach Scott Stephens came away quite impressed with the Cats.
“Dalton is very deep,” he said. “They’re about as deep as any team that we’ve faced. They’re about as good as any team that we’ve played.”
At No. 1 singles, 5-foot-6-inch, 140-pound sophomore Jacob Johnson handily defeated Eli Mansbach, 6-2, 6-1.
“I just like to show that I’m small but not bad,” Johnson said. “I played with more intensity today in what might have been my best match. I practiced yesterday on getting more height on the ball, and it worked.”
Johnson has improved dramatically since his freshman season, Hilley said.
“Last year, he was our ninth or 10th player, and now he’s No. 1,” the coach said. “He’s played in a lot of tournaments since last year. He just might be back out here tonight playing. He loves the game.”
Nathan Bryant was the only Dalton player forced into three sets. The junior lost the first set at No. 2 singles to Alex Lepik, 3-6, but he rebounded to dominate the final two sets, 6-0 and 6-2.
“I just had to grind it out,” Bryant said. “In the last two sets, I had to find a way. My forehand was bad most of the day, but my backhand was better.”
In No. 3 singles, Cats junior Shazman Ali defeated Quinn Mulholland, 6-0, 6-3.
“I didn’t play as well as I’ve been playing,” Ali said. “I made too many mistakes. I would give myself maybe a ‘B’ grade.”
At No. 2 doubles, junior Sam Dyer and senior Efra Uscanga beat Troy Kleber and Patrice Scollard, 6-0, 6-4.
“We were better at each position,” Hilley said. “We know that the competition will get a whole lot better from here on. We had some breakdowns in the region tournament, which has been a motivation for us.”
Hilley’s Lady Cats, who won the Region 7-4A tournament, begin their state action against Banneker of College Park in an 11 a.m. match Thursday at Dalton High.
“Our boys will be able to get out of class to support the girls,” Hilley said. “Both teams are a close-knit group. I don’t know anything about Banneker. Although they’re a No. 4 seed, we can’t take them lightly.”
• Coahulla Creek’s second-year tennis programs got their first look at the state tournament and a drive around the campus of the University of Georgia, but the school’s boys and girls teams both lost 4-1 at Oconee County in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament.
“It was a great experience, and it was something we can build off of in the future,” Coahulla Creek coach Laura Jager said.
In the boys match, Alex Jarjoura captured the lone win for the Colts with a 6-4, 7-5 victory at No. 3 singles. Coahulla Creek’s boys, the No. 4 seed from Region 5, end the season with a 10-8 record. The Warriors are the Region 8 champions.
In the girls match, Vanessa Suarez scored the lone victory for the Lady Colts (8-10) — the No. 3 seed from Region 5 — in an extended contest at No. 3 singles. Suarez dropped the first set 6-1, but she battled back to take the second set 6-2. In the deciding tiebreaker, Suarez rolled to a 10-3 win to claim the match.