High School Highlights

Terry Sanford keeps top award in Cumberland County

14Exemplary schoolCumberland County Schools made history at last week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association annual meeting in Chapel Hill at the Dean E. Smith Center. For the first time, the same school system captured the NCHSAA’s coveted Exemplary School Award in consecutive years. Cape Fear won the honor in 2019, and Terry Sanford made it two straight by winning this year’s award.

They are the second and third county schools to take the honor. Jack Britt won it in the 2009-10 school year.

Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for Cumberland County Schools, said the award means much more than athletic success. He said the award also recognizes the number of nationally certified coaches a school has on its staff.

“On the academic side, they look at testing scores and the number of students taking advanced placement honors classes, as well as how students do on advanced placement exams,’’ he said.

“It’s an all-around award, truly recognizing a school that has embraced the idea of the student athlete.’’ 

Terry Sanford athletic director Liz McGowan said it’s great for the school to be recognized by both its peers and a statewide organization like the NCHSAA. “It’s not just coming to school and doing a good job,’’ she said. “It’s my coaches taking extra classes, my kids going to leadership conferences they are invited to. My kids’ grade point averages are awesome, working hard inside the classroom as well as on the field.’’

Terry Sanford principal Tom Hatch said the award validates what the school’s coaches do every day, as well as the work they do beyond the athletic field.

Retired Cumberland County student activities director Bill Carver often referred to high school athletics as the front porch of the school. Hatch said he agrees with that philosophy.

“Athletics allows people who graduated from a school or live in that community to come around and watch a lacrosse match or a wrestling match, football or basketball, talk about what’s happening with their child,’’ he said.

‘’Athletics is the front porch of the school, and our front porch looks pretty good right now.’’

Photo:  Left to right: Vernon Aldridge, Cumberland County Schools student activities director; Joe Franks, NCHSAA Board of Directors member; and Liz McGowan, Terry Sanford athletic director

Scholar Athletes of the Week

21Emilya HoltEmilya Holt

Cape Fear • Soccer • Senior

Holt has a 3.9 grade point average. She’s a member of the Student Media Specialist Association, Key Club, and Students Against Destructive Decisions. 


22Matthew RaynorMatthew Raynor

Cape Fear • Baseball • Senior

Raynor has a 4.6 grade point average. He’s a member of Student Government Association, Game Day Operations Staff, and the Creative Writing Club.

Cape Fear, Pine Forest’s Hopkins, prevail in golf

19Josiah HopkinsA year ago, Pine Forest’s Josiah Hopkins had his worst round of the regular season in the final match and fell short of winning the Patriot Athletic Conference individual golf championship. Cape Fear boys golf coach Todd Edge entered this season with a young team that included no seniors as he tried to rebound from a second-place finish to Pine Forest last year.

Both Hopkins and the Cape Fear team found the answers last week during the final regular season conference match at Baywood Golf Club.

Hopkins shot a final round 74 at Baywood to win both the weekly tournament and the regular season title. It was his lowest round of the season.

The Cape Fear team completed a sweep of the seven regular-season matches, shooting a 326 on its home course at Baywood.

“I think one of the main reasons I blew up last year was my mindset wasn’t in the right place,’’ Hopkins said. “I guess you could say my chances were pretty good, but when push comes to shove, I just wanted to have fun this year and give all the glory to God.”

Hopkins didn’t feel any one part of his physical game made a big difference for him this year. “I don’t hit the ball that far,’’ he said. “I don’t hit the ball that straight. I’m not the best chipper, and I don’t make the most putts.

“Frankly, there are better golfers in our conference than me. The only thing that separates me from the rest is keeping a good attitude when I hit the bad shots.’’

Hopkins feels last Monday’s win gives him some momentum entering postseason competition in the regionals and possibly the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state tournament if he or the Pine Forest team manages to qualify.

“I hope I qualify for the states,’’ he said. “That’s been my goal for this season.’’

Edge said his team entered this year leaning on the play of junior Colton Danks. “He was the most experienced player coming back,’’ Edge said. “He didn’t have a good sophomore season.’’

Freshmen Austin White and Mason Starling contributed to the Colt effort in some tournaments this year. Edge also got some good rounds from Luke McCorquodale and Alex Benbenek.

“We didn’t have the best player every match, but we had four consistent players every match,’’ Edge said. He said he could count on two or three players shooting in the 80 to 85 range every match. Danks turned in a 76 at Baywood last week, his lowest round of the regular season.

“We played well off each other,’’ Danks said of the Cape Fear team. “We had each other’s backs, and we knew what we were capable of.’’

Playing the final match of the regular season at Baywood, Cape Fear’s home course, was also a boost, Danks said. “That’s something we looked forward to, that we could finish up at home, having all our parents there to see us win,’’ he said.

If Cape Fear survives the regional tournament, Danks thinks the Colts could challenge for a top five finish in the NCHSAA championship match.

“There is going to be a bunch of higher level competition, but I believe we could give it a run,’’ he said. “We are going to have to play with a more defined strategy than we’ve had all year. We’re going to have to be confident and believe in our abilities for us to do well in the postseason.’’

Here is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference golf team, which is based on order of finish in the regular season. Coach of the year was based on a vote of the head coaches.

Player of the year: Josiah Hopkins, Pine Forest

Coach of the year: Todd Edge, Cape Fear

First team: Josiah Hopkins, Pine Forest; Max Canada, Terry Sanford; Colton Danks, Cape Fear; Spencer Barbour, Terry Sanford; Luke McCorquodale, Cape Fear; Austin White, Cape Fear.

Second team: Hunter Cole, Gray’s Creek; Walker Shearin, Pine Forest; Mason Starling, Cape Fear; Alex Benbenek, Cape Fear; Chandler Parker, South View.

NCHSAA adopts policy on transgender and home-schooled students

20schoolTwo complex issues, the athletic status of transgender students and allowing home-schooled students to play for public school teams, were addressed at the May 1 spring meeting of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors in Chapel Hill.

On the subject of transgender athletes, the NCHSAA ruled that when the gender an athlete identifies with differs from the one listed on his or her birth certificate, the student must submit a Gender Identity Request Form to the NCHSAA.

The form lists a variety of supporting information the student must provide to the NCHSAA, which will refer the matter to the Gender Identity Committee for consideration. That committee will include a member of the current NCHSAA Board of Directors, a school administrator, and a physician and a psychiatrist or psychologist with credentials in the area of gender identity health.

Home-schooled students will be allowed to participate in athletics with the school located in the district where they live. They must provide notice to the school principal 10 days before the first practice of the sport in which they wish to participate. They must also provide documentation on such things as attendance, immunization and transcripts before being allowed to play for a high school team.

East Bladen High School’s Patty Evers attended her final NCHSAA board meeting May 1. Evers has represented Region 4 for the last four years. The region includes Fayetteville and surrounding counties.

“I think we moved in a positive direction,’’ Evers said of the announcements on both transgender athletes and home-schooled athletes.

Evers thinks the new language added to the NCHSAA Handbook for the 2019-20 school year is a good starting point. “Like everything else, there will be tweaks along the way,’’ she said.

Speaking specifically about the transgender issue, Evers said she knows there are transgender athletes in some parts of the state and that their parents have questions.

“It’s something we needed to do,’’ she said. Other action taken by the board at last Wednesday’s meeting included the following:

• Wilson, the official ball of the NCHSAA, will be used in all playoff competition for volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, softball, baseball and tennis. Schools that don’t use the Wilson ball will be penalized for illegal equipment.

• An increase in fees for officials for five percent will be established every four years starting with the 2020-21 school year.

• Baseball and softball teams can play doubleheaders with both games lasting five innings, subject to mutual agreement.

• Wrestlers can take part in two tournaments per day. But there are limits. They can’t exceed any weekly limitations. The two tournaments must be on the same day. Only varsity wrestlers can do this, and only a maximum of three times per season.

• An annual girls wrestling state tournament was approved. The NCHSAA held its first-ever all-girls wrestling tournament this past season on a trial basis. It drew more than 80 female wrestlers from across the state.

Scholar Athletes of the Week

16Nyielah NickNyielah Nick

Seventy-First • Basketball • Junior

Nick has a 3.9 grade point average. In addition to playing basketball for the Falcons, she participates in Find-A-Friend with Fayetteville Urban Ministry and the Student 2 Student organization, which welcomes incoming military students to their new school.


17Trenton Finley copyTrenton Finley

Jack Britt • Soccer, lacrosse • Senior

Finley has a weighted grade point average of 4.36. During soccer season, he recorded three assists for the Buccaneer soccer team.

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