High School Highlights

Colts have multiple holes to fill this year

17Caleb KringsEditor’s note: This is part of a series on Cumberland County high school spring football workouts.

Cape Fear High School continued the most successful era of football in school history last season with a 7-5 record. It included a trip to the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-AA football playoffs.

But for that tradition to continue, head coach Jake Thomas is going to have to fill some significant gaps caused by graduation.

“Obviously we lost some really good linebackers,’’ Thomas said. “We also lost some good running backs. That’s the main focus of the guys we’ve got to replace from last season.’’

The good news for Thomas is he’s got a few skilled players back this year, among them quarterback Ki’mani Britton and running back Cayden McKeithan.

Britton completed 70 of 138 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns.

McKeithan rushed 89 times for 289 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Thomas said Britton has progressed well from his freshman season last year and showed positive signs during the spring.

The Colts’ leading receiver from 2018 is back, Taiquan Gamble. He had 33 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

One of the most experienced Cape Fear returnees is offensive lineman Caleb Krings.

Krings said the Colts have a new team and a new beginning as they head into summer and fall workouts. “In the offensive line we’ve got half of us coming back,’’ he said.

On the defensive side of the football, Thomas will be counting heavily on cornerbacks Micah Nelson and Lamon Lock to anchor the pass defense, along with versatile athlete Nick Minacapelli.

There is one returner in the linebacking corps, Donta Autry. Thomas said he has put in a lot of hard work in the offseason.

Most of the spring, Cape Fear has focused on getting its base defensive package installed so the team can immediately react to any offensive formation or motion it sees in a game.

Offensively, the team stressed learning three or four base plays with the ability to run a counter play and a pass play off each one.

Photo: Caleb Krings

Falcons seek to continue winning tradition

16Russell HewettEditor’s note: This is part of a series on Cumberland County high school spring football workouts.

The winning tradition established under Duran McLaurin continued at his alma mater, Seventy- First, last fall. The Falcons made the deepest run in the state football playoffs of any of the Cumberland County Schools, reaching the 4-A Eastern Regional finals before falling to Sandhills Athletic Conference rival Scotland. They finished the season with an 11-4 record.

To make a similar run this season, McLaurin will have to improve the Falcons’ depth and fill a big loss at quarterback caused by the graduation of multi-talented Kyler Davis.

McLaurin will coach Davis one last time next month. The two are scheduled to take part in the annual North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star football game in Grimsley High School’s Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro.

“Losing Kyler is going to be a big area of concern for us,’’ McLaurin said. “We’re going to have to replace Kyler’s production at several positions.’’ McLaurin indicated the Falcons will need to get more offensive production from their running backs and receiver corps to offset Davis’ exit.

One player McLaurin is counting on is receiver Jermaine Johnson, who had 29 catches and two touchdowns last fall. There will also be some younger prospects joining the varsity from the Falcons’ last two successful junior varsity teams.

“Seventy-First has a winning tradition,’’ McLaurin said. “That’s what we do over here, and we’re going to try to continue that.’’

One key to that this season will be the play of two-way lineman Russell Hewett, who will again see action on the offensive and defensive fronts.

“We are depending on his veteran experience and leadership on both sides of the ball,’’ McLaurin said of Hewett. “He’s very important where it counts, in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines. He’s one of our toughest players. We’re expecting a whole lot from him.’’

Hewett said the focus of Seventy-First’s spring workouts was to get better than the day before. “We just keep working so we can be successful this season and make it to the championship,’’ he said.

Whoever winds up playing quarterback for Seventy-First this year, Hewett said the pressure is on the offensive line to protect him. “We need to block for our quarterback,’’ he said. “Our key is just to block for them, and they’ll take us to the championships.’’

Photo: Russell Hewett

Boosters dedicate bus to memory of McFayden

Screen Shot 2019 06 17 at 100855 PMThe Hope Mills Boosters American Legion baseball team solved a nagging problem while also paying tribute to a beloved supporter who recently died.

Getting to road baseball games each summer was a challenge for the boosters as coaches and team members had to find their own transportation to and from games. 

That problem was solved thanks to the support of the Massey Hill Lions Club and one of its members, Fred McFayden. With their help, the Boosters bought an old Cumberland County school bus and converted it into an activity bus.

They used it for the first time last month. 

“The bus was bought for safety reasons at the conclusion of last season,’’ said Mark Kahlenberg, coach of the Boosters team. “The Massey Hill Lions Club has been a great support system for our program. Fred was the biggest reason the bus was purchased, and he’s always been there for us.’’ 

Tragically, McFayden died unexpectedly this April, at the age of 64, before the 2019 American Legion baseball season began.

“The club thought it would be fitting to name (the bus) in honor of Fred as an enduring testament to his love for Legion baseball and his dedication to keep it alive in Hope Mills,’’ Kahlenberg said.

Pine Forest names Pless girls’ basketball coach

15Kayla PlessKayla Pless has been named the new varsity girls basketball coach at Pine Forest High School. The announcement was made last week by Trojan athletic director Jason Norton.

Pless replaces David May, who will be stepping down as the girls basketball coach but will continue to work at the school, his alma mater. His new position will be as assistant boys basketball coach and girls golf coach.

May will represent Pine Forest as girls basketball coach one last time at next month’s North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star basketball game at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Cumberland County players who will be on the East team include Pine Forest’s Kendal Moore, E.E. Smith’s Alex Scruggs and Terry Sanford’s Kate Perko.

Pless is a 2012 graduate of Topsail High School in Hampstead, North Carolina. She played college basketball at Methodist University, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor of science in sports management.

She coached youth basketball in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for two years and was a junior varsity coach at Terry Sanford High School last season. She also coached a 16-and-under Amateur Athletic Union team from Durham.

Pless is currently working on a master's of education at Methodist with a concentration in coaching and athletic administration.

Photo: Kayla Pless

Jack Britt seeks return to football glory days

19JoshTownsendEditor’s note: This is part of a series on Cumberland County high school spring football workouts.

Brian Randolph was an assistant coach under former Jack Britt football head coach Richard Bailey during the period when Buccaneer football enjoyed consistent success. Randolph has been working hard to return the Buccaneer program to that same level of winning. Last year’s 5-7 record, which included a trip to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A state playoffs, was a step in that direction.

Randolph hopes to keep the march to championship contention going in the season ahead.

“I want to set a standard of excellence that’s been here since the school was open,’’ Randolph said. “Nobody is going to be perfect, but we can all reach for that higher level in whatever we’re doing, whether it’s football or academics. That’s what restoring order is all about this year.’’

Britt rebounded from a 0-3 start last season to go 4-3 in the Sandhills Conference, including a win against 4-A Eastern finalist Seventy-First.

“We were within one game of finishing second in the conference,’’ Randolph said. “The mantra last year was don’t quit, regardless of what happens. They did not quit.’’

But the Buccaneers did suffer substantial graduation losses on both sides of the football, especially defensively, where the entire linebacker corps was wiped out.

The good news on offense is almost the entire line will return, but Randolph will have to replace veteran quarterback Brennan Shortridge.

“I think there are pieces in place to be successful,’’ Randolph said. “But as you know, the conference we play in is difficult.’’

The Buccaneers open with a brutal non-conference slate that includes South View, Pine Forest and Terry Sanford. Pine Forest was the Patriot Athletic Conference regular season title. That trio combined for 31 wins in 2018, and all reached the third round of the state playoffs.

Pass defense will be critical for the Buccaneers as Randolph hopes his team can play a lot of man-to-man coverage. “That frees us up to do more things up front, especially with the loss of linebackers and defensive line,’’ he said. He said Britt needs to find ways to put pressure on the ball and create what he calls havoc plays.

A player who figures to be central in making that happen is cornerback Josh Townsend, who will be a senior this fall.

Townsend said last season the Buccaneers weren’t entirely in the same flow. The focus so far for 2019 is to get everyone doing their job and knowing what that job is on the field.

“Younger guys have got to step up,’’ Townsend said. “Older people have to lead them there, teach them to do it the right way.’’

Townsend expects some familiar teams to be in the hunt for this year’s Sandhills Athletic Conference championship.

“Seventy-First always gives us a good run,’’ he said. “Richmond Senior was really good last year. They had a great team.’’

Randolph is working to get Jack Britt included in the discussion when the subject is conference championship.

“People in this building understand there’s a standard of excellence you have to attain to,’’ he said. “We’re following that same mantra on the football field.’’

Photo: Josh Townsend

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