The names of Teddy Craig and Manny Pontonio were forever linked three years ago at Dalton High School.

Pontonio resigned as Dalton’s baseball coach after the 2004 season. At that time Pontonio left coaching with 350 victories, including three years coaching in New Jersey, and a couple of months later Craig was selected to lead the Catamounts’ program.

Last week, Craig stepped down as the Cats’ coach and, at least temporarily, is out of the coaching profession. It’s very likely Craig will land a job in the Nashville, Tenn., area by the start of school later this year.

As it turns out, Pontonio returned to coaching about the same time as Craig left.

Pontonio, who has a 350-139 career record with 300 of those wins coming in his 20-year tenure as Dalton’s top Cat, has been named head coach at West Hall High School in Oakwood. He succeeds Steve Rothschild. The Spartans were 14-12 overall and 10-10 in Region 7-3A this season.

Pontonio has been a “half-day” teacher the past two years at West Hall in the ESOL department.

The veteran coach won region titles at Dalton in 1988, 1989, 1997 and 1998, 2000 and 2001. His teams reached the state final four in 1988, 1989, 1997 and 1998; the Elite Eight in 2000; and the Sweet 16 in 2001.

As it turns out, Pontonio never completely got rid of the “itch” to coach.

In April, Pontonio was one of three finalists for the head baseball job at North Hall. That position was eventually filled by Trent Mongero, a prep coach in North Carolina. Former University of Georgia assistant Alan Osborne was the other finalist.

Pontonio picked up his 300th career win at Dalton in the Cats’ final home game of the 2004 season, beating Ridgeland, 8-1. The Cats defeated Rome in his last game and ended his 20th – and final season at Dalton – with a 10-13 record.

— Golfer Seth Brandon, who won a state individual title (2003) and led The Baylor School in Chattanooga to a state championship (2004) while finishing second as an individual, and is now a sophomore at Indiana University, has moved one step closer to qualifying for the U.S. Open.

In a field of 148 hopefuls, Brandon fired a 1-under-par 71 at Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati and tied with three other players for the 10th – and final – spot. Brandon won a three-way playoff against Kevin Grabeman of Springboro, Ohio, and Ben Hensley of New Richmond, Ohio, and earned a berth in the 36-hole sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, on June 4. At the sectional, Brandon will be vying for a berth in the prestigious U.S. Open Championship on June 11-17 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.

Brandon, who played at Dalton High before transferring to Baylor, used the friendship of Indiana teammate Alex Martin to gain a spot in the sectionals.

Brandon said Martin, who is from Cincinnati, knew the Maketewah course and pretty much knew where the pin placements would be for the qualifying round.

“You don’t have to shoot 65 to do well in qualifying rounds,” Brandon said during a telephone interview from Bloomington, Ind.

So, he focused steady golf, being aggressive when necessary, and making enough pars and birdies to make it work out.

The defending Southeastern (Columbus, Ga.) Amateur champion, Brandon has a demanding summer of tournament golf lined up. His top goal, obviously, is making the field for the U.S. Open, but it that doesn’t happen he’ll head back to Columbus, Ga., and defending his title in the

Southeastern Amateur.

“I don’t have to win every week,” Brandon said. “Consistently finishing in the top 10 will definitely help your ranking.”

While the Indiana campus is relative quiet these days as school winds down, Brandon has basically had the Hoosiers’ practice facility and course to himself. He admitted the time alone will help get his mind right for the sectional qualifying round.

Despite the hectic summertime schedule, Brandon is looking forward to the next couple of months on the golf course.

“I’m playing in some good tournaments with a chance to do some great things,” he said.

As a sophomore at IU, Brandon shot back-to-back 74s and finished in seventh place. His low round thus far at IU has been a 66 in the opening round of the Big Ten Championship as a freshman, the first Hoosiers rookie to claim a top 10-finish in the conference tournament since Jeff Overton in 2002.

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