Photos Andy Calvert

Playing together like a family, aiming for a good region finish, and possibly advancing to state highlight the thoughts of three Armuchee High School athletes. Those three athletes, Olivia Fields, Desiree Espy, and Jack Rogers all have high aspirations for themselves and their teammates this season.

Olivia Fields

Fields, a senior on the golf team, already knows she is going to be playing golf at Reinhardt College next year. However, she’s not ready to close the book on her high school career just yet.

“Hopefully, we can get to state this season. We have a lot more girls and boys on the team this year,” she says. “I’m really hoping that both teams can end up getting to state.”

Fields began playing golf her freshman year and enjoys both the individual and team aspects of the sport.

“Golf really isn’t a team sport, but the way we all come together as a team is nice,” she says. “We all go out and play individually, and then we come back together and celebrate when we do well.”

With a goal of reaching the state tournament, Fields knows it’s not going to just be handed to them.

“We’re going to need to play as much as possible. We don’t need to take breaks, and we need to practice every moment we get a chance. You only get so many moments on a course each week, and we don’t want to waste that time,” she says. “I’m on the course twice a week, but I’m also out hitting as much as I can to make sure I get better.”

When asked about her best round of golf, she smiles and shakes her head.

“I hit a 52 one day and it was on a day I felt terrible,” she says. “I didn’t want to play that day, but I went out and battled through it and ended up shooting a 52.”

Desiree Espy

Espy was on the Armuchee soccer team that advanced to the state finals two years ago, so she and her teammates know what it takes to advance deep in the state tournament. The squad made state last year but was upset in the opening round and had to watch their opponent advance to the final four.

“A perfect season for me would be for us to make it all the way to state again and just have fun with everybody on the team. And hopefully, I don’t get hurt and get to play the whole season,” she says.

She is optimistic about the squad, which has a new head coach this year in Chase Watterson.

“We do have a new coach, and he knows a lot about soccer. He’s been helping us at practice doing drills and passing and helping us build trust in each other,” she says. “I think we have a better chance of going further in state because of him.”

Espy plays defense and sometimes moves into central midfield as well, but she says she prefers the defender role because she’s able to have lots of action and send lots of passes forward.

And like everyone else, she loves her teammates. “I really do like my teammates. I have made a lot of friends while playing soccer. Everybody is encouraging, and we’re all out there having fun,” she says. 

In many ways, soccer is a relaxing sport for Espy, who also cheers for Armuchee and was part of this past season’s state championship team.

“The differences between soccer and cheerleading are that in cheerleading we do one routine, and we repeat it over and over. Soccer is different in some ways, but we are also working passing and ball touches over and over as well,” she says. “I stress a lot more over cheerleading than I do soccer. With soccer, I feel like I can just go out there, relax and have fun.”

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Jack Rogers

Rogers, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder, understands the stress that comes with being the No. 1 guy in the pitching rotation.

“I know every time I step out on that field everyone expects a win, and that’s what I try to give them every time I take the mound,” he says. “Before a game, I’m just trying to dial in and make sure my pitches are hitting the strike zone, and I’m not giving anyone any free bases.”

Like the others, Rogers and his teammates have goals of placing well in the region and possibly making a run in the state playoffs.

“Our goal for the year is to obviously win the region. Now that we are back in a region with local teams, it’s a bit more fun. We want to at least get back to the first round of state like last year, but now we want to go further,” he says.

Rogers, who has been playing baseball since he was three, also plays travel ball but says there is a lot of difference between travel and high school.

“Travel ball for me is a lot more relaxed. I just pitch, so when I’m not pitching I’m in shorts cheering on my teammates,” he says. “High school ball is way more tense, because we want to go out there and win every game.”

One aspect Rogers really loves about Armuchee is the coaching staff.

“The coaching staff is great here. I don’t think there is a better coaching staff in America like the one in Armuchee,” he says. “If you’re struggling, the coaches will stay after practice as long as needed to get you where you need to be. They really care about the players and us doing our best.”

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An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.