High School Highlights

Cumberland Post 32 Bombers to take on Alamance Post 63 in American Legion tournament

Picture for EarlStan Bagley hopes to continue the strong first-year performance of his Cumberland Post 32 Bombers in the upcoming American Legion state softball tournament scheduled to begin Monday in Shelby.
Cumberland, 12-2, will take on Alamance Post 63 in a 4:30 p.m. game at Cleveland Community College. The winner will be the Lady Legion softball Eastern state champion and move on in the winner’s bracket of the tournament. The loser will also be alive but will drop into the loser’s bracket.
Other teams in the field are Caldwell Post 392, Davidson Post 8 and the host team, Shelby Post 82.
Bagley’s Cumberland team is made up mostly of players from Gray’s Creek High School, but also includes players from South View, Pine Forest and Riverside Christian.
Under the current rules for American Legion softball in North Carolina, Bagley is allowed to pull from any school in Cumberland County.
He wasn’t surprised by the success his team has enjoyed so far this season. “The talent in this area is phenomenal,’’ he said. “I Picture for Earl 2think there are five girls that were on the first Dixie Youth World Series team out of Hope Mills on this team.’’
As with Cumberland County’s only American Legion baseball team, the Hope Mills Boosters, Bagley said his biggest problem this season was having enough players available to remain competitive. Many girls on the team take part in showcase softball and had to miss Legion games because of those commitments.
For weekend games, Bagley said his roster would often thin to 10 to 12 players from a maximum of 18. “We were fortunate we had enough talent that didn’t play showcase ball,’’ he said.
Offensive leaders include McKenzie Mason of Riverside Christian and Jaden Pone of Gray’s Creek.
Pone has a .708 batting average and leads the team in RBIs with 14. Mason has a .714 batting average to lead the team.
Leading the way on the mound are Bagley’s daughter, Madi, and Lexi Glemaker. Bagley is from Gray’s Creek and Glemaker attended South View Middle School last season.
Bagley has a 7-1 record with 53 strikeouts in 46 innings and a 2.59 earned run average. Glemaker is 5-0 with 21 strikeouts in 20.2 innings and a 3.05 earned run average.
Coach Bagley’s main concern heading into the state tournament is the experience advantage the Western teams will have over the Cumberland squad.
“I think talent-wise we’ll match up, but those girls have been playing together,’’ Bagley said of the Western entries. American Legion softball started in the Western part of North Carolina and has only recently made inroads in this part of the state.“We’ve knocked off some older teams this year, but that bond is huge when it gets to crunch time,’’ Bagley said.
Bagley said Cumberland will need to continue its solid hitting and take advantage of the speed at the top of its lineup. “Our speed makes a lot of defenses uncomfortable,’’ he said.
Top picture: Front row l-r: Megan Cygan, Casey Dees, Catie McGrath, Summer Powell, Emma Cobb, Sarah Edge.
 Middle row l-r: Becca Collins, Korie St. Peter, Madi Bagley, Carey Dees, Courtney Cygan, Alex Daville, Alyssa Norton.
 Back row l-r: Coach Amy Dombrowski, Coach Stan Bagley.
 NOT PICTURED: Ashton Fields, Kenzie Mason, Jaden Pone, Lexi Glemaker.
Bottom picture: Jaden Pone

Britt’s Mac Lain living dream as ACC Network analyst

18 Eric Mac LainWhen former Jack Britt High School standout Eric Mac Lain became an All-ACC lineman at Clemson University, his major was health science and his plan was to follow in the footsteps of his parents in the medical field.

But from his Britt days to his years at Clemson, Mac Lain had frequent positive encounters with the media and was always a good interview. The stars aligned and the next thing Mac Lain knew, he was offered the chance to come to Bristol, Connecticut and interview for a job with ESPN’s new ACC Network.

On Aug. 23, he’ll make his first appearance on "The Huddle," a studio program that will air each week on the new network on Friday evening and Saturday morning previewing that week’s ACC football games.

“What a cool thing for a young man to be able to pursue with this great company on an awesome network with its launching and us being the ground zero,’’ Mac Lain said. “It’s just a great opportunity and I can’t wait for the launch.’’

It was during his time at Clemson that he began to realize a medical future might not be his best choice. “When I figured out how much school that took after the fact, I kind of changed my mind and got my master’s in athletic administration,’’ he said.
The offer from ESPN came at Clemson’s National Championship game with Alabama earlier this year in Santa Clara, California.

Mac Lain got a text from an ESPN representative who wanted to meet and talk with him. He initially blew it off as just another request for an interview to get his opinions on the game.

He had been sightseeing in California with his wife and her family, until the ESPN representative finally pinned Mac Lain down for a meeting hours before kickoff.

The talk at first was about the upcoming game, but then the representative offered to fly Mac Lain to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to audition for a job with the new ACC Network.

“I wasn’t pursuing a different career at all,’’ Mac Lain said. “I just stumbled into it.’’
Other than being interviewed by reporters for print and television, he’d had no previous TV experience. He had done some work hosting a postgame radio show for Clemson football that provided game analysis and commentary on other ACC games.

“You never really know which interview did the trick or who threw my name in the hat where,’’ Mac Lain said. “I knew all along something like this could happen.’’

He said he shares that same message when he speaks with college or high school students or church groups. “You create your brand with social media and all the opportunities you’re going to get as an athlete,’’ he said. “It’s cool to be an actual story and an actual example of that.’’

The show Mac Lain will help host, "The Huddle," will be anchored by Jac Collinsworth. Collinsworth has been the regular host of ESPN’s NFL Live since early 2018.

Joining Mac Lain and Collinsworth will be former Georgia and Miami, Florida, head coach Mark Richt and former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.

“I love this team we have put together and the chemistry we already have,’’ Mac Lain said. “It seems like we have been working together for five or 10 years, but we just met a month ago so it’s really cool.’’

Mac Lain said the challenge for him in preparing for the show has been to expand his knowledge beyond his alma mater. “It’s an entire conference, not just one school,’’ he said. “I’m going to be faced with knowing the key players and the role players people may not be familiar with.’’

Mac Lain said his goal will be to avoid speaking in technical terms and draw a picture anybody can understand. He thinks the coaching and playing backgrounds of himself, Richt and Manuel will be an asset to the show.

“Just being able to dip inside of a player’s helmet or a coach’s headset, what was happening at this moment or what is this guy thinking,’’ Mac Lain said. “I think viewers will really appreciate that.’’

Mac Lain currently calls Charlotte home, but although ESPN has a studio there where it does production for shows on ESPNU and the SEC Network, Mac Lain will be flying to Bristol and the home office every weekend during the ACC season to do "The Huddle."

“We are very excited to get rolling,’’ he said. “It’s been a really cool thing to get to know these men and women throughout the network.’’

Eric Mac Lain points to the historic ESPN logo during his trip to Bristol, Connecticut for audition with ACC Network. 

First day of practice

WEBBrian Edkins Cape Fear principalIt was an early start of the official first day of football practice yesterday for Cumberland County high school teams.
Some were on the field ready to go before 7:30 a.m., while others waited a little later in the morning. Douglas Byrd and Pine Forest opted for evening practice sessions.
Here’s a  few observations from the first day.
• For years, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from high school football coaches is how limited they are in teaching one of the biggest parts of the game, tackling.
For safety reasons, high schools in North Carolina are limited to having body-to-body contact within the bounds of the season.
That means it’s pretty hard to teach young players the fine points of aiming their body at a moving target, wrapping it up and bringing it to the ground.
I saw an innovation at Seventy-First’s practice that provides a partial solution to the problem.
A company called Safe-Tackle has created an interesting gadget the Falcons were using at this morning’s practice. Even during the early days of official practice, players can’t wear pads or hit each other.
This gadget solves the problem. It’s a giant cushioned doughnut with a flat surface on the outside so you can stand it and roll it. A coach aims it at a player, rolls it in his direction, and the player charges, wraps up and makes the tackle.
Finally, a safe way to do this without wearing pads or breaking the rules. 
• There was an interested spectator at Cape Fear’s first day of football practice, new principal Brian Edkins. Edkins replaces Lee Spruill, who stepped down near the end of last school year.
This is Edkins’ second stop as a principal in Cumberland County. He was athletic director then principal at South View High School before leaving to serve as principal at Scotland High School for a couple of years. 
• E.E. Smith was the second stop on my tour of Cumberland County Schools this morning. As I left the practice, I paused for a few moments at the monument in the end zone to the late D.T. Carter. The field at Smith is named for him, and the most recent generations of Smith players who never knew Coach Carter missed a really class act.
Carter created an intramural program for E.E. Smith’s physical education classes that won him national attention. 
After football wins, he used to light up those slender White Owl cigars to celebrate.
But win or lose, Carter always remained the optimist.
His favorite saying was, “The sun will come up tomorrow.’’
• Westover’s football team looked about as sharp as you can at practice, with all of the players wearing specially-made blue t-shirts with a big white W on the front.
Head coach Ernest King said it’s all part of his aim to get the Wolverines more organized and headed in the same direction.
He said this year’s Westover team is well ahead of a year ago when he was literally a last-minute hire before the season got started. 
• I heard a hysterical story from my former co-worker Thomas Pope that he got from his dad Arnold, longtime local football official who also was briefly a high school coach.
There was a local junior varsity high school football coach who had an incredibly gifted athlete on his team. Unfortunately, while the athlete was blessed with awesome physical talent, the good Lord did not see fit to do the same regarding the young man’s mental faculties.
At one especially frustrating practice, the player made one mistake after another.
Finally, the exasperated coach looked at him and said, “Son, what exactly is your IQ?”
The player stood with a blank expression, then twisted his face for a moment, and said, “20-20?”
Pictured: Cape Fear Principal Brian Edkins


Fayetteville Academy begins year-long 50th anniversary observance

17 Ray Quesnel Athletic events will be an important part of a year-long celebration at Fayetteville Academy as the school marks its 50th year of being open in 2019-20.

Current head of school Ray Quesnel said the reason for coordinating the celebration with the school’s athletic side is common sense.

“Traditionally, most of the time our alumni are on campus revolves around athletic events,’’ he said. “We wanted to capitalize on the fact we usually have them here anyway.

“We want this to be for our current students and families but also for 50 years of Fayetteville Academy students and families.’’

The festivities begin on Friday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. with the annual alumni soccer game, pitting this year’s Academy boys soccer team against players from previous years.

“We are expecting a big crowd for that,’’ Quesnel said. “We’ll parachute in the game ball and we’ll have other surprises.’’

A free hot dog and hamburger cookout will also be held.

The next big event will be the alumni basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 26, which will include recognition of this year’s class of inductees into the school’s Hall of Fame.

Homecoming will be observed at a basketball game in late January or early March.

The big event will be a weekend long anniversary observance March 27-29. A formal gathering of some kind is tentatively scheduled on Saturday, March 28. There are also plans to possibly hold alumni games in spring sports like baseball, soccer and tennis.

• Village Christian Academy athletic director Harold Morrison announced earlier this month that the school would not field a football team this season.

“At this time, it is apparent that we do not have enough players to have a football team,’’ he said. “It is our priority and goal to continue to plan and evaluate our program in preparation for the future.’’

Morrison said the Sandhills Titans club football team has invited the remaining Village football players to join their team this fall.

The announcement of no team for the coming season is the latest setback for the Village football program. The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association previously cited Village for recruiting and offering impermissible benefits to players.

The penalty included forfeiture of all football wins in 2017 and 2018 along with state runner-up and state championship finishes.

• Former E.E. Smith High School football standout Junior Smith has been named to the East Carolina University Hall of Fame.

Smith is East Carolina’s all-time leading rusher with 3,745 yards. He was three-time honorable mention All-American and first team All-South Independent. He is the only player in ECU history with three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

He averaged 5.1 yards per carry during his Pirate career from 1991-94.

Pictured: Ray Quesnel 

Local athletes shine in East-West All-Star games

15 Alex Scruggs copyHere’s a brief recap of how Cumberland County’s players fared in the annual East-West All-Star football and basketball games held earlier this month in Greensboro in conjunction with the annual North Carolina Coaches Association Clinic. 

Basketball: Wake Forest-bound Alex Scruggs of E.E. Smith High School was named Most Valuable Player for the East girls’ team as she led her squad to an 81-78 victory. The East built a comfortable 48-35 lead at halftime but had to hold off a strong West rally to get the win.

Scruggs hit nine of 14 shots from the floor and one of three 3-pointers for a game-high 20 points. She led the East in rebounding with eight. East teammate Kendal Moore of Pine Forest, who’s headed for N.C. State, also stood out with 17 points. She made six of 14 shots, two of six from 3-point range, and grabbed three rebounds. Scruggs and Moore both started in the game. 

Terry Sanford’s Kate Perko, who will attend Meredith, scored two points and had four rebounds. 

Pine Forest’s David May got the win as head coach, his final game as a head coach as he will be stepping into an assistant’s role next season.

16 Kyler Davis copyIn the boys basketball game, Brion McLaurin of Seventy-First and his East teammates had a tough night as they lost to the West 119-80. McLaurin was one of four East players in double figures, coming off the bench to score 11 points on four of nine shooting from the field. He made his only 3-point attempt. He was the East’s No. 2 rebounder with six.

Football: The East’s Kyler Davis of Seventy-First and Dante Bowlding of Terry Sanford both started and contributed to a dominating 20-8 win over the West All-Stars.

Davis earned a spot in the East-West All-Star game record book when he threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Lamont Murray of Pamlico County in the first quarter. That broke the record for longest completed pass in game history by two yards.

Davis finished with five completions in nine attempts and no interceptions for 116 yards.

Bowlding started in the secondary for an East defense that totally throttled the West. The West team got no first downs in the game and finished with minus 15 total yards, including minus 36 rushing. 

The only touchdown the West scored came on a fumble return in the first period.

Also enjoying the win for the East was Seventy-First head coach Duran McLaurin, who served as an assistant coach on the East staff.

From top to bottom: Alex Scruggs, Kyler Davis

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