High School Highlights

County football jamboree features few changes

22 01 Vernon AldridgeThe schedule is set for the annual Cumberland County Schools Football Jamboree, with few changes from last year’s event.
This year’s games will be Thursday, Aug. 13 at South View High School and Friday, Aug. 14, at Terry Sanford High School. That will be the first athletic event held in Terry Sanford’s rebuilt stadium.

There is no rain date for either scrimmage. A final decision on ticket prices will be made at next month’s Cumberland County Schools athletic directors meeting.
Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for the Cumberland County Schools, said all of the non-Cumberland County schools that took part in last year’s jamboree asked to return this season.

22 02 Bill SochovkaOne of the main reasons may have been a change Aldridge made last year, switching the format from what most jamborees do in having four teams on the field at the same time, each pair playing on half the field.

Last year, Cumberland County changed to a full-field format for each scrimmage session. Aldridge indicated that was a hit with the coaches.

“It allowed them to open up their playbooks,’’ Aldridge said. “It also allowed them to know they could return punts, and to get in some snaps out there with the kicker
and punter.’’

Pine Forest football coach Bill Sochovka, who has spent 25 years at the school, the last 13 as head coach, echoed some of Aldridge’s points about the advantage of full-field
scrimmages.

“It gives a really good sense of where your kids are in terms of game preparation,’’ he said. He added it’s a benefit for younger players, especially quarterbacks, who get a better sense of the speed of the game on a full field.

“You coach all year, do your 7-on-7’s, then all of a sudden you’ve got a full rush,’’ Sochovka said. “It also helps when you break down film the following week.’’

Another big plus since Aldridge expanded the county scrimmage to bring in more outside teams is Cumberland County Schools don’t have to see someone they’ll play in the regular season.

“You don’t want to do that,’’ Sochovka said of meeting a regular-season opponent in a scrimmage setting.’’

Here is the schedule for the 2020 BSN Cumberland County Schools Football Jamboree:
 
Thursday, Aug. 13 at South View High School
5 p.m. - Lumberton vs. Douglas Byrd
6 p.m. - Hoke County vs. Overhills
7 p.m. - Union Pines vs. Gray’s Creek
8 p.m. - Clinton vs. Pine Forest
9 p.m. - Seventy-First vs. South View

Friday, Aug. 14 at Terry Sanford High School
5 p.m. - Apex Friendship vs. Triton
6 p.m. - St. Pauls vs. Westover
7 p.m. - Richmond Senior vs. Cape Fear
8 p.m. - Scotland vs. Terry Sanford
9 p.m. - E.E. Smith vs. Jack Britt

Long-range talks about possible E.E. Smith move begin

21 EENobody’s cranking up heavy machinery and clearing land just yet, but the Cumberland County Commissioners recently addressed the idea of some day having to relocate E.E. Smith High School.

Board Vice-Chairman Glenn Adams is closer than any of his fellow commissioners to the importance of the issue. A Smith graduate, Adams has spent the last 16 years as the color commentator for E.E. Smith high school football games aired on local radio station WIDU.

Adams said the final decision on closing E.E. Smith and moving it to a new location rests in the hands of the Cumberland County Board of Education.

But because of declining enrollment at the school, Smith said the commissioners need to consider what the school’s future is before serious decisions have to be made on coming up with money for a new building if it has to move from the current one.

According to the 2019-20 average daily membership figures compiled for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, Smith’s enrollment of 1,153 students made it one of the smallest public senior high schools with athletic teams in Cumberland County.

Adams suggested the current enrollment at Smith is closer to 900 students.

While the existing E.E. Smith school building on Seabrook Road has been home to the school for many years, it wouldn’t be the first time the campus has relocated Adams said.

Adams believes the school has moved twice previously in its history, once from Washington Drive and a second time probably from a location on Orange Street.

What’s causing the concern, Adams said, is there aren’t enough people living near the current Seabrook Road location to continue providing students to attend the existing school.

“You’ve got to have some kind of alternative and you can’t wait until the end to decide where that is,’’ he said.

Even if the school does have to move, Adams stressed it’s not the building that makes a school. It’s the people who walked the halls and competed on its athletic fields and in its gymnasium.

“That heart will go wherever the building is,’’ he said. “They (the alumni and faculty) are forever going to be there.’’

The big question would be where to put a new building, and Adams said that decision is in the hands of the Board of Education. “You don’t want to go into someone else’s district,’’ he said, noting that Smith is bounded by the Pine Forest, Westover and Terry Sanford districts.

“You have to be cognizant of those other schools,’’ he said.

Adams stressed that any plan to relocate E.E. Smith is years down the road, but now is the time to begin the discussion so as many people as possible who will be affected by the move can offer their opinions on what to do.

“There are always going to be those who are nostalgic and say don’t move it,’’ Adams said. “There are others of the opinion that the school is not the building. I think it goes both ways. People are probably hearing this for the first time.’’

Adams said he has spoken with Dr. Marvin Connelly, superintendent of the Cumberland  County Schools, and said the superintendent is open to all options available.
“He hasn’t put anything off the table,’’ Adams said.

While the school board will make the final decision on what happens with E.E. Smith, Adams said it’s the task of the county commissioners to give the school board as many viable options for what to do with E.E. Smith as possible.

“It’s the county commissioners that fund the schools,’’ Adams said. That’s why he wants to start the conversation now, to provide for as many options as possible to make sure whatever alternatives are on the table will be positive.

Scholar athletes of the week: 2/19/20

16 britney watsonBritney Watson

Pine Forest  • Cross country• Junior

Watson has a  4.25 grade point average. Her favorite subject is science. She loves R&B and hanging out with friends and family. Her inspiration for track is to follow her sister's footsteps. She runs outdoor track and loves the 100-meter hurdles.


16 02 Colby BlackwellColby Blackwell

Pine Forest • Swimming• Senior

Blackwell has a 4.38 grade point average.  He will attend UNC-Wilmington and major in Coastal Engineering. His favorite swimming events are the 100 breast stroke and 400 freestyle relay.  Science is his favorite subject. He won the Coaches Award for swimming. He loves hanging with friends and playing tennis.

Westover’s Willis-Shaw picked for Carolina Classic

20 02 George StackhouseWestover High School’s Traymond Willis-Shaw has been named to the North Carolina roster for this year’s Carolinas Classic All-Star basketball game.

The contest pits the top senior basketball players from North Carolina and South Carolina. It will be played at John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington on Saturday, March 28.

Willis-Shaw, a 6-foot-6 wing player for the Wolverines, is a major reason the team rolled to the Patriot Athletic Conference regular-season title and carried a 24-0 record into the opening round of last week’s conference tournament.

20 Traymond Willis ShawWestover head coach George Stackhouse said Willis-Shaw has been with the Wolverine basketball program since his freshman year at the school.
He began to occupy a central role on the team after another Wolverine who played in the Carolina Classic, Damani Applewhite, graduated. Applewhite is currently a senior on the basketball team at South Carolina State.

Through Feb. 17, Willis-Shaw averaged 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Westover. He’s made 13 3-point baskets and is hitting 71% of his free throws.
Stackhouse said Willis-Shaw is a major contributor for the Wolverines on the defensive end of the floor.

“When he’s active, our defense is so much better,’’ Stackhouse said. “He’s a very good finisher in transition. Our crowd gets going when he throws down a slam or two. It does a lot as far as giving our guys energy and our crowd energy as well.’’

Willis-Shaw said he’s looking forward to playing in the game and hoping it will increase the looks he’s been getting from colleges. So far he’s had interest from such schools as South Carolina State, Queens, Radford, Mount Olive, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina Central and Lincoln Memorial.

“I want to stay closer to home,’’ Willis-Shaw said of his pending college choice. “My parents want to make some games.’’

Stackhouse said having Willis-Shaw picked for the all-star team give the school a lot of positive publicity. “Traymond goes out and represents himself and the school well,’’ Stackhouse said.

As far as Westover’s season is concerned, Stackhouse said neither he nor the team is focusing on the unbeaten record and don’t see it as a distraction as they prepare for the conference tournament and state playoffs to follow.

“We’ve been focusing on each day at practice, trying to get better,’’ Stackhouse said. “We try not to look at any game as a big game. All of them are important.’’
Stackhouse thinks the regular season has prepared Westover well for the games ahead.

“We played some tough non-conference teams,’’ he said. “I think we play in one of the toughest conferences, just having to go through that conference and see different styles.

“If we continue to win, we’ll have a lot of home games and hopefully it will give us an advantage.’’

Willis-Shaw said the Wolverines have made it where they are with teamwork. “We help each other with everything,’’ he said. “We play together as a team. We get the work done by everybody playing their role and playing hard.’’

He hopes to do the same in the all-star game. “I just want to play hard, get rebounds and finish in the paint,’’ he said.

E.E. Smith names Karcher football coach

15 andy karcherAndy Karcher has been in the Fayetteville area since 2007, moving here from Ohio. But it didn’t take him long to learn about the rich football history at E.E. Smith High School.

“It’s something that stood out to me,’’ he said, and led him to apply for the position of head football coach for the Golden Bulls. He was approved as the school’s new head coach by the Cumberland County Board of Education last week.

Karcher replaces Deron Donald, who stepped down from the head coaching position at Smith in December. In his four seasons with the Golden Bulls, Donald was 16-31. 

He managed two trips to the state 3-A playoffs, including one last season. At one point under Donald, Smith suffered a 17-game losing streak, but it ended the 2019 regular season with a 43-0 win over Cumberland County rival Cape Fear. The Golden Bulls finished the 2019 season 4-8 overall and 4-4 in the Patriot Athletic Conference. That put them in a three-way tie for fourth place with Pine Forest and Gray’s Creek.

A little over a month after leaving Smith, Donald was named the new head football coach at Smithfield-Selma High School. He inherits a program there that has gone 1-10 each of the last three seasons and 8-102 for the last 10 years.

Smithfield-Selma hasn’t had a winning season in football in 12 years.

Karcher, a graduate of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, has worked as a football coach at a number of area high schools.

He spent two years at South View Middle School when he first came to the area, following that with a short stay at Cape Fear High School. From there he went to Triton High School, then returned to Cumberland County for a couple of years on the Pine Forest High School staff.He has served as an offensive coordinator and spent his years at Pine Forest coaching the offensive line.

In addition to being impressed with the history at E.E. Smith, Karcher said he found the community to be strong, along with the Golden Bull alumni association.

“The backing for the program is there,’’ he said. “They have the kids, they have the athletes, to be successful.’’

But one area where Smith is clearly lacking is raw numbers of students. According to the latest average daily membership figures provided by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, E.E. Smith is the smallest of the 10 public senior high schools in Cumberland County that field athletic teams.

The Golden Bulls have an enrollment of 1,153 students, which makes them, along with Douglas Byrd High School, the only schools in the county with under 1,200 students enrolled.

Four Cumberland County schools that are also members of the Patriot Athletic Conference with Cape Fear — Pine Forest, South View, Gray’s Creek and Cape Fear — have enrollments topping 1,500 students. Pine Forest has 1,705 with South View at 1,642.

“Obviously, the numbers do make it a little bit more interesting, a little bit more difficult,’’ Karcher said. But he is hopeful that with some success on the field, he will be able to attract as many candidates as possible to come out for the football team.

As far as offensive philosophy, he describes himself as a ball-control coach. “I’m definitely going to have a good running game in place,’’ he said. “We also have enough athletes that we’ll throw the football around and kind of spread some people out when we need to.’’

Defensively he said he prefers downhill, physical football with players that will fly around and make plays.

Karcher said he’s hopeful to be working at E.E. Smith as quickly as possible so he can began offseason workouts with his new players during the offseason skill development periods.

He said E.E. Smith principal Donell Underdue and Pine Forest principal David Culbreth are working together to make it possible for him to begin his new role at E.E. Smith before the end of the current school year.

It is too early in the process, Karcher said, to try and speculate on any changes forthcoming with his assistant coaching staff at Smith. He said he will try to determine the best course of action concerning the staff as the situation progresses.

Karcher feels the timing of his hire bodes well for giving him the maximum amount of time to work with his players during the spring offseason along with the summer to make the installation of his offensive and defensive schemes go as smoothly as possible for his team.

The last dead period of the school year before summer began Feb. 12 and ends March 3. During dead periods, all sports that are out of season are not allowed to hold so-called skill development sessions.

Karcher is hopeful that by March 3 he will be on campus at E.E. Smith and be able to begin working with his new team.

“We’ll recruit the hallways and get more guys out playing,’’ he said. “We want to hit the ground running come spring and summer ball.’’

The first official playing date for the 2020 high school football season for NCHSAA member schools is Aug. 17.

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