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Counting down Southwest Georgia’s Top 10 sports stories of 2012 --- #4: Three area high school coaches achieve career milestones

Deerfield boys basketball coach Gordy Gruhl cuts down the net after winning his 1,000th career game earlier this year against rival Sherwood. Gruhl was one of three coaches who hit big milestones in 2012 as fellow Deerfield coach Allen Lowe, the leader of the Knights' football team, reached 200 wins, while longtime Lee County baseball coach Rob Williams reached 500. (File photo)

Deerfield boys basketball coach Gordy Gruhl cuts down the net after winning his 1,000th career game earlier this year against rival Sherwood. Gruhl was one of three coaches who hit big milestones in 2012 as fellow Deerfield coach Allen Lowe, the leader of the Knights' football team, reached 200 wins, while longtime Lee County baseball coach Rob Williams reached 500. (File photo)

There are big victories, memorable victories and cherished victories, and every now and again there are victories that mean all that and much, much more — wins that mark a lifetime of work and dedication.

Deerfield-Windsor boys basketball coach Gordy Gruhl, Deerfield football coach Allen Lowe and Lee County baseball coach Rob Williams had those milestone moments in 2012 when all three men stopped and looked back at careers that define their programs with character and class and with treasured milestone achievements.

Gruhl said as he looked up at the scoreboard during the final seconds of his 1,000th victory that he was washed over by the images of countless players and moments that filled up his heart and a lifetime of dedication to the young men and women he coached.

The DWS fans stood and shouted, “Gordy! Gordy! Gordy!”

Gruhl stood in the gym after beating rival Sherwood in the region title game and became emotional. They honored Gruhl in 2012 by naming the DWS gym the “Gordy Gruhl Gym” for the man from Indiana who found a home and so much more in Southwest Georgia.

For Lowe, it was a different road, one that started at DWS then went winding away and back to the school, where he once set the record for interceptions in a game as a teenager.

Now he stood on the same field, decades later as the school’s longtime coach, and he, too, was emotional and at a loss for words on the night he won his 200th football game, a remarkable feat that now includes four state titles at Deerfield.

In the case of Williams — Southwest Georgia’s longest-tenured high school baseball coach — he ended the 2011 season stuck on win No. 499, meaning he had to wait nearly a year to hit the magic 500 mark. But when it finally came in late February, Williams compared his experience to that of Gruhl’s, which had just played itself out in The Herald’s sports pages two weeks earlier.

“I felt a little like (coach Gruhl said he felt like when he won his 1,000th game recently,” Williams said at the time. “I did a lot of thinking about the early years and (reminisced a little).”

Williams took over at Lee in 1989, and he’s since established a career that’s averaged 22 wins a season and earned him an induction into the Georgia High School Baseball coaches Hall of Fame in 2006.

And that’s why these unforgettable milestone moments are The Herald’s No. 4 sports story of 2012.