High School Highlights

Earl’s predictions for 08/29/19

20 american football ball brown 2570139After a nightmarish opening weekend to the 2019 season that bad weather stretched from Friday until Monday, let’s hope for a much fairer forecast and games played on schedule this Friday night.
There were no huge surprises for the Cumberland County Schools during that long opening weekend of games.
I expected Terry Sanford and Seventy-First both to do well and they didn’t disappoint.
South View, a team many think could win the Patriot Athletic Conference, got its toe stubbed early with a home overtime loss to Jack Britt.
Pine Forest, last year’s Patriot champion, didn’t overwhelm anybody but they got the win at Purnell Swett.
For the week the county schools went 5-4, not the best of starts but not the worst.
There are some interesting matchups this week that could help us begin to sort out contenders from pretenders.
The record: 6-2
I’ll take an opening week record of 6-2 any year. There’s a lot of guesswork the first week of the season, so starting at 75 percent correct is a good base to build from.
Seventy-First at Cape Fear - This is a big early showdown between two of the county’s best programs from recent years. Cape Fear is still looking to play its first game after last week’s contest with Clinton was rained out and won’t be made up.
Seventy-First got off to a slow start against Westover but cruised home for a one-sided win over the Wolverines.
Even though Seventy-First is on the road tonight, I like their chances having already played a game and gotten a chance to work out some of the early-season bugs.
Seventy-First 21, Cape Fear 14.
E.E. Smith at Hoke County - The Golden Bulls got off to a rough start with their lopsided loss on the road against Lee County last week. I think they’ll be more competitive Friday against Hoke County, but I still think Smith will come up on the short end of the score.
Hoke County 18, E.E. Smith 16.
Gray’s Creek at Fairmont - The Bears squeaked out a road win against South Johnston while Fairmont had no trouble getting past a struggling Marshville Forest Hills team.
Jerry Garcia had a solid night running the ball for Gray’s Creek last week and I look for the Bears to try the same thing again Friday at Fairmont with similar results. 
Gray’s Creek 20, Fairmont 17.
Terry Sanford at Jack Britt - One of the surprises of the first week, at least for me, was Jack Britt’s win over South View. Britt head coach Brian Randolph has been preaching the mantra of restore order at Britt, seeking to return the Buccaneer program to the football glory years it enjoyed consistently when Richard Bailey was the school’s head coach.
I think Randolph has the Buccaneers pointed in the right direction, but as good as Terry Sanford looked last Monday against Lumberton, I think Britt will be taking a slight detour Friday.
Terry Sanford 24, Jack Britt 12.
Lumberton at Pine Forest - For the second week in a row, Pine Forest takes on a team from Robeson County as Lumberton pays a visit to Harold K. Warren Stadium. Last week’s win over Purnell Swett wasn’t pretty, but the Trojans are 1-0 and that’s all that matters for Coach Bill Sochovka and company.
I expect it will be 2-0 after Friday’s game.
Pine Forest 29, Lumberton 14.
Triton at South View - South View is likely still stinging from its overtime defeat to county rival Jack Britt. This was a game the Tigers could have won, but mistakes proved costly.
Triton put up a ton of points in a season-opening loss to Overhills, so it looks like the Hawks can score. But I think South View can score more and keep possession of the ball with Matthew Pemberton carrying it, and that will be crucial Friday night.
South View 29, Triton 24.
 Open dates: Douglas Byrd, Westover, Fayetteville Christian.
Other games: Trinity Christian 30, Wake Christian 12.

Cumberland savors state Legion softball title

19 01 Alexa GlemakerStan Bagley knew his Cumberland Post 32 Bombers had no shortage of talent this season, but even he was surprised by the way the team coasted through the rest of the field at this year’s North Carolina American Legion Lady Fastpitch state tournament in Shelby.

Cumberland, in its first season of American Legion softball field, cruised through the double elimination event with a 3-0 record and outscored the rest of the field 30-10 en route to the title. They finished the season with an 18-2 record.

“I was a little shocked that we hit the ball as 19 02Legion well as we did late,’’ Bagley said. “In all three games, seeing those pitchers the second and third time, they really zoned in and showed me what they were capable of doing.

“I knew they had the potential. Just to watch it click when we needed it was awesome.’’

Among the leading hitters for Cumberland in the three games in the state finals were McKenzie Mason with a .727 average, Alyssa Norton .556, Alexa Glemaker .500 and Courtney Cygan .455.

Bagley credited the top of the Cumberland order — Jaden Pone, Cygan and Mason, for setting the table with their speed and putting the ball in play.

In the championship game, he praised Ashton Fields for sparking a huge rally that put the win away for Cumberland.

Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament went to Glemaker for her pitching, mostly in a relief role. She came on in the championship game after Cumberland fell behind early and pitched scoreless relief as the Bombers rallied for the win.

In 11.1 innings for the tournament, Glemaker recorded seven strikeouts, allowed no walks and just one earned run.

“All year long,  when we needed that relief off the bench she stepped up and came through,’’ Bagley said of Glemaker. “It seemed like she knew the pressure was on and she pitched better for us.’’

Glemaker, a freshman, will enroll at Cape Fear High School this fall.

“I know some people thought we weren’t going to be as good because we were a first-year team,’’ Glemaker said. “Watching some of the other teams,
I thought we had a good shot.’’

If no one else in Cumberland County decides to field an American Legion softball team next year, Bagley could potentially return everyone on this year’s team for the 2020 season. If another team is formed, a decision will have to be made on how the county schools will divide the players between them.

Bagley said with the success of this year’s entry, he expects Legion softball to continue growing around the state.

“The ultimate goal is to have one team in every county in North Carolina, then grow this thing in the Southeast and eventually the whole nation,’’ he said. 

Photo 1: Alexa Glemaker

Photo 2: Makenzie Mason, Jaden Pone, Courtney Cygan, Megan Cygan, Becca Collins, Carey Dees, Emma Cobb, Madison Bagley, Alyssa Norton, Ashton Fields, Korie St. Peter, Catie McGrath, Alex Deville, Sarah Edge, Alexa Glemaker, Coach Stan Bagley.

Eagles, Bulldogs look to regroup in soccer

17 01 Davis Saint AmandFayetteville Academy and Terry Sanford both enjoyed outstanding success on the soccer field last season, the Academy capturing another North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state title while Terry Sanford went unbeaten in the Patriot Athletic Conference and made the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.

But look for things to be much different at both schools this season. For one, both suffered major graduation losses, especially the Academy, which lost 12 seniors, 10 them starters.

Terry Sanford will be much younger with only three seniors back along with 14 juniors and three sophomores.

But the biggest change for the Bulldogs will be the loss of head coach Karl Molnar, who is taking over as the school’s 17 02 Cortez Herringvarsity boys basketball coach.

Replacing him will be another veteran coach in the Terry Sanford program, Steven Barbour.

“I’ve got big shoes to fill,’’ Barbour said. “There’s a winning tradition at Terry Sanford and its always daunting to come in behind a coach who was so successful.’’

Terry Sanford’s Jarred Miller and Andrew Troutman were the offensive and defensive players of the year in the Patriot Conference last season, but both graduated.

Barbour knows he’s got a lot of work to do to build chemistry and make use of everyone’s talents.

“We’ve got a deep pool of talent,’’ he said. “If we get everyone to work together and utilize their ability, I think we can be competitive.’’

17 03Ever AgueroBarbour expects the midfield to be the heart of the team with Davis Molnar, Alex Fox and newcomer Graham MacLeod leading the way.

Another returning forward expected to contribute heavily is Ever Aguero Aranda.

With the coaching change plus having to play all home games at Reid Ross High School while Terry Sanford’s stadium is being rebuilt, Barbour expects a challenging season.

“I feel we’re in the crosshairs of a lot teams,’’ he said. “Gray’s Creek, Cape Fear and Pine Forest all have their sights set on us. It’s going to be a fun season to rise to the challenge.’’

Fayetteville Academy’s Andrew McCarthy may have an inexperienced group but said they are working hard to get better every day.

“We’ve got players playing positions they’ve never played before,’’ he said. “They are certainly improving and that’s all we can ask for.’’

At this point, McCarthy said he can’t claim the Eagles are either a strong attacking or a strong defensive team, just a work in progress.

“The two captains, Cortez Herring and Davis Saint-Amand, are our two seniors,’’ he said. McCarthy said the two midfielders have been around the Eagle program for a number of years and will be counted on to provide needed leadership.

Pictured from top to bottom: Davis Saint-Amand, Cortez Herring, Ever Aguero Aranda

Britt, Cape Fear seek to continue volleyball success

18 01 Ilena HallWith 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.

18 02 Kaiah Parker“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 18 03Marlie HorneSandhills 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

Earl's weekly predictions: 08/22/19

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.

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