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St. Pius 2012 Athletic Preview

Head football coach Paul Standard enters his 12th season with a 96-34 record and a strong returning corps of players.

Although classes began on August 10 at , the fall athletic teams were already in full swing with pre-season practice. All six Golden Lion fall programs captured region titles and advanced to the state playoffs last season. The 2012-13 campaign sees the Golden Lions enter Region 6-AAA after the last round of re-classification in which the Georgia High School Association moved to a six-classification system. St. Pius also finished second in the overall standings of the Regions Directors' Cup for 2011-12.

On the gridiron, Paul Standard (96-34) enters his 12th season as the second in all-time victories in St. Pius history behind the legendary George B. Maloof. The Golden Lions return five offensive and five defensive starters from the 2011 team which finished 12-1, advanced to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, and was ranked eighth in the final polls. St. Pius has advanced to the playoffs six straight seasons and will open the 2012 slate at Westminster on Aug. 31.

Key returnees for the team include juniors Nick Glass (Tucker) and Nick Ruffin (Johns Creek) as well as seniors Jack Spear (Atlanta) and Ryan Braswell (Atlanta). Glass, the team leader in interceptions last season, and Ruffin lead an experienced secondary that helped the Golden Lions hold opponents to just 103 total points on the year. Braswell is the leading returning rusher from 2011 with 570 yards and nine touchdowns as St. Pius lost four of its top five leading rushers from last season. Spear will be the signal-caller this season, and junior placekicker Thomas O'Leary returns after converting three field goals and 55 point after touchdowns in 2011.

Coach John Frederick (414-200) also begins his 12th campaign and continues to add to his school record win total as volleyball coach. The Golden Lions won a school record 49 wins en route to a state runner-up finish while taking home the area title for the fourth consecutive year. The Golden Lions opened as the No. 1-ranked school in the pre-season Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) AAA poll and lifted the lid on the regular season Aug. 14 by defeating Roswell and dropping a match to Chattahoochee.

The Golden Lions return senior Emily Morrison (Norcross), the team leader in kills and an All-State selection along with All-State junior Leah Hardeman (Atlanta). Hardeman, also voted Area 5-AAA Player of the Year, was second on the team in kills. Assist leader and senior Amanda Stitt (Sharpsburg) returns and will be joined by fellow seniors Kallan Arvidson (Atlanta), Bianca Borough (Atlanta), and Erin Villella (Tyrone).

Boys' Cross Country will look to win its third consecutive AAA State Championship as the Golden Lion harriers return three of the top four runners in the school history by time. Ryan McClay begins his fourth season with two runners, junior Austin Sprague (Dunwoody) and senior Calvin Tirrell (Atlanta), who finished third and seventh, respectively, at the state meet last season. Andrew Anastasiades (Atlanta) returns after his 18th place finish in the state meet and will be joined by Joey Ferrugia (Atlanta) and Sergei Templeton (Atlanta). The Golden Lions are the top-ranked school in AAA in the pre-season rankings and compete for the first time in 2012 in the Stage Races at the River Green Complex in Duluth on Aug. 25.

Debbie Guilbeau enters her 18th season as head coach of the Girls' Cross Country program. The 2011 edition of Golden Lions won the region championship and placed second in the state meet. The Golden Lions return several key runners this season, including seniors triathlete Devon Dabney (Atlanta) and Elizabeth Pettit (Atlanta) along with sophomores Tessa Schwarze (Dunwoody) and Emily Thurston (Dunwoody). Dabney finished 11th at the state meet while Schwarze and Thurston completed the race in 18th and 25th places, respectively. The lady harriers will race at the Mercy Invitational at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School to begin the 2012 campaign on Aug. 25.

The Golden Lion softball team enters its first season under first-year head coach Matthew McIntyre. St. Pius returns a first-team all-Region selection in junior Natasha Sherrod (Atlanta) who also owns the school records for doubles in a season and was a former region offensive player of the year. The Golden Lions also return two other starters from last year's team in seniors Natalie Corso (Suwannee) and Sarah Rawls (Norcross), who both will be looked to for offense this season.

St. Pius softball won the region championship for the fourth consecutive season and advanced to the state playoffs for the fifth straight year but lost six starters and eight players overall to graduation. The Golden Lions finished the season 20-13. St. Pius opened the regular season on Aug. 15, dropping a pair of games to Buford and Wesleyan.

Competition Cheerleading captured its seventh region title, and third in a row, in 2011. The Golden Lions also had its best showing in the state meet in school history finishing in 11th place. Under the direction of Alison Bruckert, the competition cheerleading squad is coached by Jennifer Moats and Morgan Carney. The team will look to the leadership of seniors Morgan Agnew, Alison Buchanan, Mackenzie Garrison, Niara Hayes and Stephanie Magri to blend with the younger members of the team for another solid year. The first meet for the ladies is Sept. 22 at the Bulldog Cheer Classic at North Gwinnett High School.

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