- Tuesday, 27 August 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
With a pair of All-Sandhills Conference players returning, new Jack Britt volleyball coach Jess Grooms is hoping she can continue in the tradition of former coach Leigh Ann Weaver in leading the Buccaneers to the top of the league volleyball standings.
Meanwhile, in the Patriot Athletic Conference, veteran Cape Fear coach Jeff Bruner will be looking to retool his lineup after major graduation losses following the Colts’ latest conference title.
Grooms said maintaining communication will be a key to success for the Buccaneers this season as she hopes to build on the foundation established by Weaver.
“Our libero, Ilena Hall, has done a phenomenal job all summer,’’ Grooms said. “She’s grown so much and has become more of a vocal leader on the floor.’’
Kaiah Parker, who like Hall was all-conference last year, will be counted on to be a top hitter for the Buccaneers.
“I think I’m going to move her outside because she’s such a dominant hitter,’’ Grooms said. “I think she’s going to be a big impact player.’’
Grooms thinks Britt returns enough talent to contend for the Sandhills Conference title again this season. She got a chance to see a number of the teams Britt will face this season in preseason scrimmages and saw signs of improvement in all of them.
“This year we genuinely have a group of girls that likes each other,’’ she said. “That makes my job a whole lot easier when there are no issues between the girls on the team.’’
Cape Fear’s Bruner lost nearly all of the offense from last year’s conference championship team but does return the core of his defense in Taylor Melvin and Marlie Horne.
“They have always kind of been our back row and done everything for us,’’ Bruner said. Another key returner is Tori McGowan, who frequently came off the bench last season but will be pressed into a starting role this year.
“We’ve made her a full-time setter,’’ Bruner said. “She’s always been able and capable to play for us.’’
So far this season Bruner has been focusing on his team’s defense. “We’ve always had the concept of anytime we get the ball over the net, we’ve got a good enough defense someone is going to get a hand on it,’’ he said. “Essentially if we’re all playing and we’re all aware after someone touches it and everyone’s helping, there’s no reason in our mind that a ball should ever hit the floor.’’
He expects the Patriot Conference to be highly competitive this season. “Cumberland County has improved its level of play,’’ he said. “Across the board, there is no easy game.’’
Pictured from left to right: Ilena Hall, Kaiah Parker, Taylor Melvin, Marlie Horne
- Thursday, 22 August 2019
- Written by Stephanie Crider
I hope everyone out there appreciates that I’m choosing to put myself through the torture of writing this high school football prediction column each week.
My publisher, Bill Bowman, and my editor, Stephanie Crider, didn’t ask me to do it. I’ve just been in the habit of calling these Friday night outcomes for so long that it’s as much a part of the weekly routine this time of year as praying for cool weather to return and seeing how many points Clemson and Alabama will win by before playing for the national championship.
Before we delve into the first week’s selections, I say this for about the millionth time. Please don’t take this seriously. It’s not rocket science. It’s not quantum physics. It’s just one old guy’s opinion on who is going to beat who on a given Friday night.
Just because I pick a team to win doesn’t mean I have a rooftop apartment over the gym of that school, as I was once accused — or that my son plays in the band for that school, as I was also accused. I have no children I’m aware of and if I did, with my lack of skill playing any musical instrument save the tone flute in grade school, I’m sure they would not have the gene set for band.
I’m just making as honest a call as I can, based on history, statistics, talent and sometimes just pure gut instinct, as to who’s going to win.
So don’t fume. Enjoy and maybe find a way to laugh if you can. That’s the key to a long life.
The record: 82-27
Last year was not among my best. I missed the magic 80 percent marker, closing with an 82-27 record, 76.3 percent. I was 0-1 the final week of the season as I missed the call on Scotland over Seventy-First.
These first few weeks are always tough as we feel out who the haves and have nots. Here’s hoping to more right ones than wrong at the start.
Cape Fear at Clinton - The coaches and media in the Fayetteville area have good preseason opinion of the Colts. They were voted in the top half of the coaches and media polls in the Patriot Athletic Conference.
Cape Fear has some young faces and a few new ones that need seasoning, but Coach Jake Thomas wasn’t picked to coach in next summer’s East-West All-Star game in Greensboro for his looks alone.
Cape Fear 21, Clinton 12.
Douglas Byrd at Western Harnett
- Eagle coach Mike Paroli told me during the spring that his team will be young and likely a year or more away from contending for a conference title.
That doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t be able to pick up a few wins this season, and this is one of those games where I think they can do just that.
Douglas Byrd 24, Western Harnett 12.
E.E. Smith at Lee County
- They are calling this the Revenge Tour at Smith as the Golden Bulls seek to atone for last year’s 0-11 record.
Smith may get its share of revenge this year, but not likely at Lee’s expense. The Yellow Jackets are coming off an 11-1 season and are led by senior defensive end Desmond Evans, considered by many to be the state’s top college football prospect.
Lee County 28, E.E. Smith 7.
Gray’s Creek at South Johnston
- I want Gray’s Creek to have a great season for one reason, junior running back and strong safety Jerry Garcia Jr.
You have to be a part of my generation or older to appreciate the significance of that name. For all you under 30 folks out there, Google it. Young Garcia’s namesake and his band the Grateful Dead were quite the music legends.
Anyway, it’s a name I’d love to write a lot this season, and I think the Bears have the potential to make that happen, starting tonight.
Gray’s Creek 24, South Johnston 7.
Jack Britt at South View
- What a great rivalry to start the season. Jack Britt dominated this series starting in 2008 but for the last three seasons the tide has shifted in South View’s direction.
I expect it to continue this year.
South View 20, Jack Britt 14.
Pine Forest at Purnell Swett
- It seems like Pine Forest didn’t get a lot of time to celebrate last year’s Patriot Athletic Conference regular season title. The good news is they may get to celebrate another one because they are again among the best teams in the league as the season starts.
Just how far the Trojans go will likely depend on what kind of a season University of North Carolina-bound running back. D.J. Jones has.
I look for a good start tonight at Swett.
Pine Forest 31, Purnell Swett 12.
Westover at Seventy-First
- Few coaches in Cumberland County can claim the solid record Duran McLaurin has carved as a head coach, first at E.E. Smith and now at his alma mater Seventy-First.
I don’t know if McLaurin is coaching a state champion on Raeford Road this season, but I expect him to win more than his share of games again, starting tonight with neighborhood rival Westover.
Seventy-First 22, Westover 6.
Terry Sanford at Lumberton
- I’ve been hearing stories about the Bulldog defense all summer, and when a team is strong on defense that always bodes well for the season.
It’s especially true with a team like Terry Sanford, which suffered some key offensive losses but has some pieces back that will make Coach Bruce McClelland’s job of rebuilding things a little easier.
I look for the Bulldogs to get off to a good start tonight as they make the short drive down I-95 to Lumberton.
Terry Sanford 29, Lumberton 8.
Other games: Trinity Christian 30, Metrolina Christian 12; Faith Christian 29, Fayetteville Christian 6.