When we combined three small-town newspapers into one big county paper, there were a lot of adjustments readers had to make. Sure, there was some initial resistance to the idea, but for the most part, people around the county enjoy the extended coverage. People in Augusta and El Dorado had to make some adjustments, sure, but thankfully they stuck with it and saw how much better a product the paper is.

The staff has had to make adjustments of its own, including me.

No longer was I to think just in terms of how sports affect Augusta. Now, I am concerning myself with at least up to 10 area high schools and a handful of college stuff, too.

Having said that, Augusta is still my No. 1 priority (just as El Dorado will be our new sports reporter Garrick’s responsibility). Hopefully Augusta readers still felt that way this year as they adjusted to me covering more than just the Orioles. But I rarely, if ever, covered another team when the Orioles were playing; the only time is when Augusta plays in a town with another one of our papers (i.e. Wellington).

I still kept up with area schools as much as possible. I made it to plenty of Douglass, Andover and Circle games, among other schools. That gave me the opportunity to see their athletes in action, as well. But Augusta athletes are the ones I know most. They’re the ones I cover the most, they’re the ones who I talk with after games the most. I don’t get many chances to do so with athletes at other schools.

I say all this in preface to my Awards Week, a special section I dedicate to all of the highlights that Augusta sports produced the past year. I, of course, feel qualified to do so because I’m at all the games. I do not feel so qualified to give out awards with the same weight and merit for the other area schools, but that won’t keep me from giving as much recognition as I can separately.

But this Awards Week, which Augusta readers will recognize the most, mostly will be dedicated to just Augusta. Again, I know I am the sports editor of a county paper and should not favor one school more than the others, so don’t think that I’m doing that. With Augusta as my main “beat” and priority, though, this is the way it should stay, at least for one more year.

As far as the way the awards will go, I’m shaking them up a bit. With the changes to the paper, I haven’t really had opportunities to write my “Looking back” columns on each team after the season was done, so the first awards section will be a ranking, of sorts, of the top MVPs from each season (not from every sport, necessarily). As always, when reading my Awards Week stories, please keep in mind that they all are the opinion of just one person, and I rank, recap and highlight everything unbiasedly.

Today, we’ll look at the top five Augusta teams. There will be a Top area teams list Thursday. Other awards the remainder of the week include freshman of the year (boys and girls), best wins, worst losses, top seniors, top area athletes and top Augusta athlete of the year.

Thanks for reading.

5) Tie-Cross country boys, boys golf

Team-wise, the Orioles didn’t really score a lot of points during the cross country season, but the Orioles had a strong 1-2 punch and a handful of runners who had their moments throughout the season. The boys golf team also had some really high highs, including a state placer and several golfers who could lead the team on any given day. The golf team returns nearly its entire squad for next year’s campaign, so it should be a great season.

4) Boys track

The Orioles had a strong core group of athletes who were consistent, multi-faceted and had plenty of talent. The Orioles had a few strong competitors in the field, several good runners, and a successful 4x100-m relay team. All in all, the Orioles were 3-for-4 in earning medals at the state track meet last week.

3) Wrestling

There’s a reason this program is among the top teams every year. Just when the Orioles lost a huge crop of seniors from a record-setting year, this season’s squad not only replaced that group well, but did even better. The Orioles qualified a “Dirty Dozen” for the state tournament on way to capturing the team’s first-ever regional championship. Two Orioles won medals at State, and they dominated the All-League list.

2) Boys basketball

The Orioles’ bitter end in a wacky sub-state tournament in no way reflected the incredible season Augusta had. The Orioles were one of the best scoring teams around and played like a unit extremely effectively.

1) Softball

For the second straight season, the softball team was the best thing Augusta High School had going. While the excitement of an undefeated season was gone after one game, the Orioles were able to finish what they started last year and, this time, win the Class 4A-Div. I state championship game. The Orioles’ run through State - which included 9-1, 9-1 and 11-5 victories - showed how dominant they were. The scary thing? The Orioles return a large core group of players that very well could defend their state title.