High School Highlights

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.

Terry Sanford, Gray’s Creek bowlers claim state titles

14 01 Bowlers Cumberland County was one of the first school systems in the state to begin offering team bowling to its students years ago, and that has been reflected in the success the county has enjoyed competing in the sport at the state level.

This year, the county brought home a pair of state championships as the boys from Gray’s Creek and the girls from Terry Sanford were recently crowned winners at the state finals at Sandhills Bowling Center in Aberdeen.

In addition to the team success, Terry Sanford bowler Rolf Wallin captured individual honors as he was the boys state champion in the same event.

Here’s a closer look at the championship efforts of both teams.

Terry Sanford

Susan Brady is in her second year coaching the Bulldog girls. She was a little apprehensive about her team’s chances in the state tournament when she learned one of her top bowlers, Avery Schenk, was going to be unable to compete in the tournament due to a cheerleading commitment.

An interesting footnote: Schenk is the granddaughter of Howard Baum, longtime owner of B&B Lanes and one of the originators of high school bowling in Cumberland County.

Terry Sanford defeated a tough Lumberton team in the semifinal round of the state tournament, then took on county rival Cape Fear in the championship match.

Going into the 10th frame, Terry Sanford was clinging to a 142-140 lead.

14 02 canaddyBrady was hopeful that her anchor bowler, Zoe Cannady, was going to lock up the win for the Bulldogs, but she was unsuccessful.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, so was the final bowler for the Colts, leaving Terry Sanford with a two-pin victory for the championship. “I didn’t have much of a visual reaction,’’ Cannady said of the clinching moment for the Bulldogs. “It ended up okay. I felt a lot of pressure and missed that spare. I had to hope for the best.’’

Cannady, who bowls for Terry Sanford but attends Cumberland Polytechnic High School, felt the Bulldogs had a great team that encouraged each other during the final match.

Brady said until the final frame, every ball Cannady had thrown had resulted in either a strike or a spare for Terry Sanford. A junior, Cannady will return next year. The major losses for Terry Sanford will be seniors Katie Silas, Abby Carson and Reagan Johnson.

“We’ve got pretty high chances,’’ Cannady said of the Bulldog hopes for another title next season.

Cannady made the All-State team along with fellow Cumberland County bowlers Jayda Gignac of Jack Britt, Ariel Williams of Douglas Byrd and Donna Kerechanin of South View.

14 03 Rolf WallinMeanwhile, on the boys’ side, the Bulldogs’ Wallin rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the conference tournament to capture the individual state title.

Michael Toler, who coaches the Bulldog boys, said Wallin has always been a consistent bowler.Toler said Wallin came up to him during the conference tournament and predicted he was going to qualify for the state tournament. “He did exactly that,’’ Toler said. “He was cool and consistent all the way through.’’

Wallin went over to the Sandhills Bowling Center before the state championship match to get a feel for the lanes. “When I figured out where to go and adjusted, I had a pretty good game,’’ he said. “You have to adjust every single time your ball isn’t hitting exactly where you want it to go.’’

Wallin didn’t appreciate how big a deal a state championship is until he began receiving accolades from classmates and teachers. 

“You have to put pressure aside and just bowl your game,’’ he said.

Joining Wallin on the All-State boys team from Cumberland County were Terry Sanford teammate Alex Schenk, Douglas Byrd’s Brandon Mesa-Turner and South View’s Nick Robertson.

Gray’s Creek

Kris Williams gave himself a hard act to follow as coach of the Gray’s Creek boys bowlers. This was his first season coaching bowling, and he concluded it with a state championship.

Williams said he approached his role of coach as being more of a manager, with the task of setting the five-man bowling lineup for each match the major role he had to perform.

One thing that made it easy was the bowlers he had to work with. “They are blessed by the good Lord with some natural talent,’’ he said. “They can do things in the bowling lanes that most people can’t do.’’

Williams also said the team had good chemistry. “They really get along and are used to working together,’’ he said. “They really do support each other, more than just cheerleading.’’

The Bears suffered a bad day as a team in the conference tournament, losing two straight to a South View team that was on a hot streak.

Williams expected better after the Bears were second in the regular-season matches. After that disappointing loss there wasn’t even time for an extra practice before the state tournament began.

But the Bears rebounded with what Williams said was a true team effort. “One thing that struck me about the whole season, these kids love to compete,’’ he said. “That’s one thing you want in any sport.’’

Sparking Gray’s Creek in the finals were regular-season MVP C.J. Woodle and Gio Garcia.

“C.J’s got all the natural skills and ability and puts in all the work,’’ Williams said. “Gio has a lot of natural talent and is a natural leader.’’

“We were kind of upset we didn’t win the conference,’’ Garcia said. “We knew we still had a good chance at state. We had to step up our game and be more consistent.’’

Gray’s Creek defeated Hoke County and Jack Britt en route to the title.

Woodle said a lucky break in the sixth frame of the finals helped get Gray’s Creek untracked and sparked the team to the win. “I’m proud of my whole team, how much practice they put in,’’ he said. “It means the world to come home to Gray’s Creek and say we were the state champions.

“I feel we have another state championship team next year.’’

 

Picture 1: Gio Garcia, C.J. Woodle, Hunter Cole. 

Picture 2: Zoe Canaddy 

Picture 3: Rolf Wallin

Girls club lacrosse program helps sport grow locally

21 lacrosse Wes Davis is on a mission to get young women to put down their smartphones and trade them in on a lacrosse stick.

“Girls lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport for high schools around the United States for four years in a row,’’ he said.

His love for the sport led him to approach the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Parks and Recreation Department eight years ago to ask them to start a lacrosse program.
“They said they were starting but only had four or five girls sign up,’’ Davis said.

So he went on a recruiting mission to elementary and church league basketball teams.

Davis feels girls’ lacrosse shares common ground with the sport of basketball, calling it more of a finesse game and less physical than boys’ lacrosse.
“We use the same skill set as basketball and soccer,’’ Davis said. “We run set plays. We run zone defense. We do the pick and roll.’’

Davis wound up with 19 girls that first year who agreed to give lacrosse a try. Two years later he began the Fayetteville Flames club lacrosse team for girls.

“It was a way for girls playing in the spring to play in the summer and the fall,’’ he said.

Through his work with the Flames, offseason opportunities for girls have continued to grow.

Last spring he had about 135 girls involved in his program.

The spinoff is visible in the local high schools as Cape Fear, Terry Sanford and Jack Britt have girls’ teams. Davis said Fayetteville Academy is planning to field a girls’ team this year.

Meanwhile, Davis is continuing plans to offer offseason opportunities for lacrosse players. His Flames program will conduct a short season in the summer, from around May 7 to June 7. That will be followed by a more extensive program during the fall, which will run from around August 24th until Nov. 1st.

In the meantime, both high school and recreational lacrosse are getting set to start up for the spring, with the program at the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Parks and Recreation Department and the local high schools fielding teams scheduled to kickoff this week on Thursday, Feb. 13. “They provide the equipment for you, which is pretty awesome,’’ Davis said of the recreation program.

Interested athletes at the high schools with teams should contact the school athletic director or lacrosse coach. Anyone interested in the parks and recreation program should call the lacrosse director, Robert Corzette, at 910-433-1393.

Davis said one of the biggest challenges in growing the sport locally is finding good coaches, but they’ve been helped in that effort by Fort Bragg, where a number of people with experience playing and coaching the sport are stationed.

He also said the lacrosse program at Methodist University has been supportive of the local club program.

Davis said the recreation department program is especially important because it exposes the girls to competition from established lacrosse areas in the state like Pinehurst, Raleigh, Apex and Holly Springs.

He hopes more girls will take part in the sport and see it as a possible avenue to a free college education. “We’ve had a lot of girls get college scholarships,’’ Davis said, noting that seven girls from the Flames program are competing at either the Division I, II or III level.

One of them is Davis’ daughter, Mattie Davis, who signed with Jacksonville University, a traditional women’s lacrosse power. Jacksonville was 17-4 last year, won the Atlantic Sun Conference and qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Davis has scored 104 goals in her career at Terry Sanford with one season left.

Scholar athletes of the week: 2/12/20

22 01 William PryorWilliam Pryor

South View •Basketball/tennis• Senior

Pryor has a grade point average age of 4.5. He has been accepted to Harvard. A member of the International Baccalaureate Academy, he is student body president and an inductee of several honor societies. He also serves on the Superintendent’s Student Voices Council and the Hope Mills Mayor’s Youth Council.


22 02 audra sweetAudra Sweet

South View• Swimming• Sophomore

Sweet has a 4.33 grade point average. She is in the International Baccalaureate Academy and has been on the A honor roll every semester at South View. She is active in the Health Occupations Students of America. She enjoys theater. She plays bass in the school orchestra. A writer, Sweet is a published poet. She is active in scouting and volunteers at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and Balm in Gilead.

Friday college football extends its reach this season

20 Football genericTwitter can be a wonderful thing, especially when you heed the advice of Coach Herman Edwards, one of my heroes, and don’t press send before you transmit something ignorant into cyberspace.

One of the best ways Twitter is helpful is as an archive to record statements and promises people have made in the past to see if they’ve lived up to them.

It was just five years ago in late January when the Atlantic Coast Conference released its 2015 football schedule. I happened to save a portion of the press release from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association on Twitter, when that schedule included Friday night college games going head to head with high school football.

Here is what the statement said:

“At the NCHSAA we believe Friday nights should be reserved for high school football as the tradition has been for a long time. The ACC has indicated this should not be a regular occurrence, but there are contractual obligations out of our influence and control. We will maintain our focus and hope fans, parents and supporters of high school football will continue to attend local games on Friday nights in the fall.’’

Fast forward to late January this year, when the ACC released the 2020 football schedule.

Let’s quickly examine that second sentence. “The ACC has indicated this should not be a regular occurrence, but there are contractual obligations out of our influence and control.’’

Why am I immediately getting an image of Pinocchio with the growing nose from the insurance commercials?

On the 2020 ACC schedule, from Friday, Sept 4. until Friday, Nov. 27, there are eight Friday night football games. That includes a doubleheader on Friday, Sept. 4, and six games that will take place during the thick of the regular season.

Most people have given up on fighting the Friday college football trend, saying it’s a lost cause and that the colleges will never walk away from all that money and exposure.
I’m not among them. Neither, fortunately, are some of the college football coaches.

One who has spoken out frequently against the Friday night games is the University of North Carolina’s Mack Brown. As soon as it was announced his Tar Heels will host North Carolina State on Friday, Nov. 27, Brown issued a statement saying he disagreed with playing college football on Friday nights and is lobbying for that game to be scheduled for an afternoon kickoff so it won’t interfere with the state playoff games that will be held that evening.

Other people who’ve given up, including many in the media, tell me I’m complaining for no reason. I heard some talking heads on a regional radio show say they didn’t see college games on Friday having much impact on high school football. They noted with the advance of technology you can easily watch a college game on a mobile device while you sit in the stands at a high school game.

That may be true in some locations, but not everywhere. I’ve been to a few high school stadiums in my day, and most of them didn’t have the benefit of free Wi-Fi for everyone to plug in and use their smartphones without draining the data they’ve purchased.

I bet that’s especially true in the rural areas of the state where small, unsuccessful football schools count heavily on every dime they get from gate receipts when people come to the game to watch.

Yes, diehard fans are going to show up for high school games. I won’t argue that. But high school football pays the way for the entire athletic program at a lot of schools, and it needs every walkup ticket from casual fans it can get.

Throw in an inviting college game on TV on Friday nights, add some inclement weather, and it’s likely going to hurt everybody’s gate.

College football coaches have some clout, and I beg them to make use of it. Band together. Don’t let voices like Mack Brown and a few others be the only ones out there in the wilderness with me complaining this is wrong.

Reach out to your boosters, your alumni, your average fan, and preach to them that this dog does not hunt and it’s time for the NCAA to stop desecrating the rich tradition of Friday night high school football with the college brand.

Let’s give Friday nights back to the high school coaches and players.

Whenever the Fayetteville Sports Club announces its newest Hall of Fame Class, after the congratulations are handed out, one of the first things I hear is, “Why is so and so not in the Hall of Fame?’’

The best answer I can give is they likely haven’t been nominated. The committee that picks the Hall of Fame members is not omniscient and doesn’t have a crystal ball that shows every viable candidate when it sits down to vote.

If anyone has a candidate in mind that should be considered, nominations are welcome, but it should be much more than an email saying this person deserves to be chosen. Anyone who’d like to nominate someone for the Hall of Fame can send the information to me at earlucwsports@gmail.com and I’ll forward it to the committee.

Please include as much background information on the candidate as you can, including major athletic accomplishments, providing documentation for why the individual should be chosen.

This year’s class will be honored on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. at Highland Country Club. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by contacting Ashley Petroski at Nobles and Pound Financial at 1315 Fort Bragg Road. The number is 910-323-9195.

Members of the class are Melanie Grooms-Garrett, Neil Buie, Brent Sexton, Roy McNeill, Jimmy Edwards Jr. and Bob Spicer Sr.

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