High School Highlights

Earl's Weekly Predictions: 11/9/17

EarlVaughansmallLast May, just after the N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted to use MaxPreps rankings when putting together this year’s state high school playoff brackets, I spoke with Patty Evers. Evers represents our region on the board, serving as girls’ basketball coach and athletic director at East Bladen High School.

She didn’t support using MaxPreps and had strong reasons as to why.

“I’m not for a ranking system in high school,’’ she said. “How do you give somebody a ranking?’’

She cited last year’s girls’ basketball season as an example. Jacksonville Northside was consistently ranked ahead of her East Bladen team by MaxPreps. “We met them in the regional and beat them by 17,’’ Evers said. “How do you know who’s good and who’s not? Who’s going to do all that research?’’

Another problem Evers has with rankings, and one that impacts Cumberland County: how do you rank teams in a split conference, which has schools of different classifications?

In a split league, Evers noted, you have to play schools not the same size, and if you’re among the bigger schools in the league, that’s a liability. It’s also a liability if you’re in a big conference like the Patriotic Athletic and many of the teams on your schedule that you’re forced to play are considerably weaker.

“Look at your geographic area,’’ Evers said. “We’re not going to travel three hours to beef up our schedule because we can’t afford the gas.’’

So how should the NCHSAA address the problem? First, I’d do away with MaxPreps rankings. I don’t think strength of schedule is fair in a high school setting when schools are locked into playing teams they have no choice over playing.

I have no problem with ranking teams by overall records, but let’s take the whole record, no dropping games for any reason.

When you seed, seed conference champions first, then everybody else by records.

I also think you’ve got to stop showing too much preference to split conference teams that don’t win the conference title. Set a minimum win total to qualify for the playoffs, like the NCAA does for bowls. If you don’t make it, then use a bye or give it to a deserving wild card that didn’t qualify otherwise.

I hope this issue is addressed quickly and fixed before we disappoint many more teams.

The record: 79-22

I made a strong rebound from the disaster of 4-4, going 6-1. The season record is 79-22, 78.2 percent.

Rocky Mount at Terry Sanford – As D.K. Sports Page co-host Trey Edge noted earlier this week, good things have happened to Terry Sanford when the Bulldogs met Rocky Mount in the state playoffs. Let’s see if that will take place again.
Terry Sanford 28, Rocky Mount 14.

West Carteret at E.E. Smith – The big problem for the Golden Bulls this week is shaking off the disappointment from a tough loss to Terry Sanford and focusing on the playoff challenge ahead. If Smith plays like it’s capable, they should be headed to the second round.
E.E. Smith 24, West Carteret 12.

South View at Jamestown Ragsdale – Ragsdale has a rich tradition, going back to the '70s when they battled East Bladen to a 16-16 tie in the state title game in Elizabethtown. I’d like to pick South View, but I think this will be a tall order for the Tigers.
Ragsdale 21, South View 14.

Cape Fear at Hillsborough Orange – I’m hoping that Orange takes the 11th-seeded Colts lightly. I’m also hoping that some of Cape Fear’s numerous walking wounded, like quarterback Justice Galloway-Velazquez and running back Zaire Boykin, are going to be able to suit up and play Friday.
Cape Fear 22, Hillsborough Orange 20.

Raleigh Millbrook at Jack Britt – Millbrook was the top Raleigh football power back in the day before all the newcomers stole the show. The Wildcats aren’t the same program they were back then, and I think the Buccaneers can pull off a win at home.
Jack Britt 24, Raleigh Millbrook 21.

Westover at Southern Nash – This will be a good experience for the Wolverines, even though I don’t think the outcome is going to be especially positive.
Southern Nash 30, Westover 12.

Seventy-First at Durham Jordan – Once again, the Falcons get the short end of the stick and have to travel to play a team with a record worse than theirs. The reward, however, should be a first-round playoff win for Duran McLaurin’s team.
Seventy-First 21, Durham Jordan 7.

Other games

Charlotte Latin 24, Trinity Christian 20.

Village Christian 29, Harrells Christian 14.

11/8/2017 - Scholar Athletes of the Week

 

17Alexia Cross Grays CreekAlexia Cross

Gray’s Creek

• Senior

• Cross country/soccer/track

Cross has a 3.92 grade point average.

She is active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Government Association, National Honor Society, Girls Expecting More Success, Future Farmers of America, Art Club and Thespian Honors Society.

She is also her school’s yearbook editor.

 

 

 

18Michael Wright Terry SanfordMichael Wright

Terry Sanford

• Senior

• Football

Wright is an offensive lineman with a 5.0 grade point average.

He is active in Student Government Association and also plays baseball.

 

Earl's Weekly Predictions: 11/2/17

EarlVaughansmallThere are Friday night high school football games, and there are classics.
 
Terry Sanford at E.E. Smith this week is shaping up as the latter.
 
I was searching through the archives at Mike Molin’s Ncprepsports.net website trying to discover when or if Terry Sanford and Smith had met this late in the season with this much riding on the game.
 
I couldn’t find when they had. I know my memory is fuzzy at times, but I truly think you’ve got to reach back to the days of legends like Charlie Baggett and Frank Townsend and on and on to find a game that is this significant. 
 
This one’s so important I called in a couple of experts to help with analysis. Jake Thomas and his Cape Fear team managed to beat Terry Sanford while Bill Sochovka and Pine Forest knocked off E.E. Smith.
 
Here is what they think.
 
Thomas, like everybody, is impressed with Bulldog quarterback Christian Jayne and his ability to spread the ball around. “He’s very smart with the football, very poised,’’ Thomas said. “Defensively, they’ve got speed in their secondary and safety positions, and they have some linebackers that run and flow to the football.’’
 
Thomas said E.E. Smith has a lot of weapons on offense, especially quarterback Xeavier Bullock, who Thomas calls the X factor. “He can make a play running or throwing,’’ Thomas said.
 
Sochovka agreed. “If Xeavier can get his legs in the game and run, that will put a lot of pressure on Terry Sanford,’’ he said. “Terry Sanford hurt us with the long pass and their quarterback running the ball.’’ Sochovka gives a slight nod to E.E. Smith because of a more consistent running game, with Bullock being a key part of it.
 
I’ll tell you my prediction later in the column.
 
The record: 73-21
 
Can we pretend last week didn’t happen? No such luck. There were a lot of what I call coin flip games that could go either way, and I missed just about all of them. The 4-4 record is one of my worst weekly performances ever.
 
The season count is 73-21, dropping me to an anemic 77.7 percentage. I hope that string of sevens gives me a little bit better luck this week.
 
Jack Britt at Seventy-First – This is a big game for both teams with state playoff implications on the line. I think Seventy-First is playing with a little more confidence at the moment.
Seventy-First 28, Jack Britt 14.
 
Terry Sanford at E.E. Smith – This is another coin flip game. Normally I’d go with the home team in a close call, but Terry Sanford is on an extended streak, and I think Smith caught a big break last week when Cape Fear lost its placekicker and had to go for two points the entire game.
Terry Sanford 21, E.E. Smith 20.
 
Gray’s Creek at South View – Gray’s Creek is playing for pride while South View is trying to regroup from a disastrous collapse and see if it can salvage a state playoff berth. I think the Tigers have too much going for them.
South View 28, Gray’s Creek 12.
 
Douglas Byrd at Westover – Both teams have had frustrating years. Only Westover is going to end its season on a high note.
Westover 32, Douglas Byrd 12.
 
Overhills at Pine Forest – Huge game for both teams as they battle for the No. 1 seed in the 4-A part of the Patriot Athletic Conference. The hardest part here is figuring who will show up. I’ll give Pine Forest a slight edge playing at home.
Pine Forest 22, Overhills 18.
 
Open date - Cape Fear.
 
Other games:
 
Trinity Christian 30, Raleigh Ravenscroft 12
 
Village Christian 29, Northside Christian 8.

Eagles soar to 16th state soccer title

 

16.1 Fay Ac soccerThe banner hanging on the soccer field fence listing the state championships won by the Fayetteville Academy boys’ soccer team is going to have to be updated. Again.

The Eagles brought home title No. 16 recently when they defeated Coastal Christian 3-1 for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A title.

Since the string of championships began with the first one in 1984, that’s an incredible average of a state title just shy of one every two years.

Nine of those championships were engineered by one coach, Andrew McCarthy, who took over the program in 2001. McCarthy has been aided by another former Eagle head coach, Jimmy Maher, who now serves as McCarthy’s assistant.

Talking with players from this year’s team, it’s easy to see the respect and admiration they have for the coaching duo that has guided this school to unprecedented success.

“They know everything about soccer,’’ said Marcos de Paz, a senior and the leading scorer on this year’s Eagle team. “We just have to look at them and learn.’’

Julian Barbaro said the work of McCarthy and Maher goes far beyond practice. “They’re always motivating you to be the best you can, like giving us extra things like summer workouts starting in June,’’ he said. “They give us everything they possibly can, which leads to big things.’’

Drayton Smith said it’s a two-way street for the players, who want to perform to the best of their ability to please their coaches. “They are just great people,’’ he said. “You want to play to the best of your ability just for them. Making them happy makes you extremely happy. They are great people on and off the field.’’

Goalkeeper Carter Boliek thinks what makes McCarthy and Maher a great team is they know how to balance work with play. “They know when it’s time to joke around and have fun,’’ he said. “But when it comes to practice, it’s all business. And when it comes to games, it’s all business.

“We can still have fun, but they really take it seriously, and I think it translates into the team taking it seriously and us giving our best effort.’’

16.0Fayetteville Academy soccerWith nine state champions to his credit, McCarthy – like all coaches – hates the question about how the current team stacks up against his previous ones, but he still tried to give a good answer.

“We’ve certainly had more talented teams,’’ he said, “but from the beginning, there was always potential. It was definitely a together group, and the team chemistry was very good.’’

McCarthy agreed with the players that the relationship he has with Maher is important.

“We’ve known each other for 20 plus years,’’ he said. “I have the utmost respect for him, and he has the utmost respect for me.’’

That includes the ability to question each other and offer critical advice. “I think it’s a comfort level of being able to tell each other things,’’ McCarthy said. “I trust him implicitly.’’

If there was a turning point to the season, McCarthy thinks it came after a tough overtime win late in the season against Cape Fear Academy. “That was the last game going into the playoffs,’’ he said. “That week, practice was not good the first two days, and we had a meeting about it.’’

McCarthy said some of his past teams might not have been able to get over that hurdle, but this team did.

“We rallied well and really got together,’’ he said. “We were playing really well in the playoffs.’’

One player McCarthy pointed to as a key to the good chemistry on the team was newcomer Hudson Zeisman. “He’s a fun-loving kid who’s also a leader,’’ McCarthy said.

McCarthy added that leadership as much as anything is critical to that mysterious thing called chemistry. “Sometimes when you try to create team chemistry, it backfires. You’ve got to let it flow and monitor it and try to make a few subtle suggestions. But the key is good leadership. The team chemistry normally takes care of itself.’’

The Eagles lose some key seniors like de Paz and Boliek, but McCarthy is optimistic about 2018.

“We’re always excited,’’ he said. “We feel it will be a good year again.’’

 

PHOTOS: Top: The Eagles are adding another year to the banner. Bottom: L-R: Drayton Smith, Marcos de Paz, Coach Andrew McCarthy, Carter Boliek, Julian Barbaro

 

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