High School Highlights

Fall football preview: Pine Forest

23 01 Levonte McLean Pine ForestCoach: William Sochovka

2018 record: 10-3

Top returners: D.J. Jones, 5-10, 195, Sr., RB; Ahmad Simon, 5-5, 155, Sr., WR; Jamal McLean, 6-1, 195, Jr., WR; Levonte McLean, 6-0, 175, Sr., DB; Blake Paul, 6-0, 155, Jr., WR; Brendon Paul, 5-11, Sr., DB; Ethan Ward, 5-10, 200, Sr., RB/LB; Bernard Flerlage, 6-0, 230, Sr., LB; Seth Smith, 5-11, 280, Sr., OL; Blake Marshburn, 6-0, 270, Sr., OL.

Promising newcomers: Jaden Jones, 5-10, 200, Jr., QB; Jemel Hill, 6-2, 200, Sr., DL; Xavier Johnson, 240, Jr., DE; Zack Huys, 215, Sr., 23 02 Seth Smith Pine ForestOL/DL; Chris Green, 6-2, 180, Sr., DE; Tre Carter, 5-10, 175, Jr., LB; Josh Bell, 5-8, 220, Sr., OL; Patrick Maitland, 5-8, 165, Sr., WR; Josh Johnson, 6-0, 210, Sr., LB; Isaiah Epps, 6-0, 240, Sr., DE.

Team strengths: “Most of our returning starters are on the offensive side of the ball. Our strength this year will be our running game with our talent core of backs running behind our senior-heavy offensive line.’’

Team concerns: “Rebuilding our defense that has only four starters from last year’s team, and being able to play at the same level and higher than we did last year.’’

Pictured from top to bottom: Levonte McLean, Seth Smith

Fall football preview: Cape Fear

20 01 Taiquan Gamble Cape FearCoach: Jacob Thomas

2018 record: 7-4

Top returners: Cayden McKethan, 6-1, 215, Jr., RB/LB; Kimani Britton, 6-0, 175, So., QB; Taiquan Gamble, 6-2, 198, Sr., WR; Caleb Krings, 6-3, 280, Sr., OL/DL; Nic Minicapelli, 5-10, 220, Sr., FB/DL; Mark Burks, 6-0, 180, Sr., DB/WR; Micah Nelson, 6-1, 180, Jr., WR/DB; Lamon Lock, 5-9, 180, Sr., DB/WR; Cade Oliver, 6-2, 220, Sr., DL/OL.

Top newcomers: Jaleel Parks, 5-10, 185, Jr., RB/LB; Ricky McDonald, 6-2, 215, Jr., LB/TE; Chason Bryant, 6-1, 245, Jr., OL/DL; Tyree Kirk, 5-9, 175, Jr., DB/RB; Isaiah Lee, 6-1, 170, WR/DB; Mike Wesolowski, 6-2, 280, Sr., OL/DL; Isaiah McLean, 5-10, 165, Jr., W20 02 Micah Nelson Cape FearR/DB; Johnathan Miller, 5-10, 170, Jr., DB/WR.

Team strengths: “We have a good core of linemen both offensively and defensively returning. Leadership and effort will be two strengths of our team.”

Team concerns: “We don’t have a lot of senior returners, so a lack of experience there and a lack of offensive speed is a concern.’’

Pictured from top to bottom: Taiquan Gamble, Micah Nelson

Cumberland Post 32 Bombers to take on Alamance Post 63 in American Legion tournament

Picture for EarlStan Bagley hopes to continue the strong first-year performance of his Cumberland Post 32 Bombers in the upcoming American Legion state softball tournament scheduled to begin Monday in Shelby.
 
Cumberland, 12-2, will take on Alamance Post 63 in a 4:30 p.m. game at Cleveland Community College. The winner will be the Lady Legion softball Eastern state champion and move on in the winner’s bracket of the tournament. The loser will also be alive but will drop into the loser’s bracket.
 
Other teams in the field are Caldwell Post 392, Davidson Post 8 and the host team, Shelby Post 82.
 
Bagley’s Cumberland team is made up mostly of players from Gray’s Creek High School, but also includes players from South View, Pine Forest and Riverside Christian.
Under the current rules for American Legion softball in North Carolina, Bagley is allowed to pull from any school in Cumberland County.
 
He wasn’t surprised by the success his team has enjoyed so far this season. “The talent in this area is phenomenal,’’ he said. “I Picture for Earl 2think there are five girls that were on the first Dixie Youth World Series team out of Hope Mills on this team.’’
 
As with Cumberland County’s only American Legion baseball team, the Hope Mills Boosters, Bagley said his biggest problem this season was having enough players available to remain competitive. Many girls on the team take part in showcase softball and had to miss Legion games because of those commitments.
 
For weekend games, Bagley said his roster would often thin to 10 to 12 players from a maximum of 18. “We were fortunate we had enough talent that didn’t play showcase ball,’’ he said.
Offensive leaders include McKenzie Mason of Riverside Christian and Jaden Pone of Gray’s Creek.
 
Pone has a .708 batting average and leads the team in RBIs with 14. Mason has a .714 batting average to lead the team.
 
Leading the way on the mound are Bagley’s daughter, Madi, and Lexi Glemaker. Bagley is from Gray’s Creek and Glemaker attended South View Middle School last season.
 
Bagley has a 7-1 record with 53 strikeouts in 46 innings and a 2.59 earned run average. Glemaker is 5-0 with 21 strikeouts in 20.2 innings and a 3.05 earned run average.
 
Coach Bagley’s main concern heading into the state tournament is the experience advantage the Western teams will have over the Cumberland squad.
 
“I think talent-wise we’ll match up, but those girls have been playing together,’’ Bagley said of the Western entries. American Legion softball started in the Western part of North Carolina and has only recently made inroads in this part of the state.“We’ve knocked off some older teams this year, but that bond is huge when it gets to crunch time,’’ Bagley said.
Bagley said Cumberland will need to continue its solid hitting and take advantage of the speed at the top of its lineup. “Our speed makes a lot of defenses uncomfortable,’’ he said.
 
Top picture: Front row l-r: Megan Cygan, Casey Dees, Catie McGrath, Summer Powell, Emma Cobb, Sarah Edge.
 Middle row l-r: Becca Collins, Korie St. Peter, Madi Bagley, Carey Dees, Courtney Cygan, Alex Daville, Alyssa Norton.
 Back row l-r: Coach Amy Dombrowski, Coach Stan Bagley.
 NOT PICTURED: Ashton Fields, Kenzie Mason, Jaden Pone, Lexi Glemaker.
Bottom picture: Jaden Pone
 
 

Full-field play highlights county football jamboree

One of the toughest parts about being able to enjoy a preseason high school football jamboree is they often feature four teams on the field at once going in opposite directions on either side of the 50-yard-line.

That won’t be a problem at this year’s Cumberland County Schools Football Jamboree, which begins a two-day run Thursday at Seventy-First and Friday at Gray’s Creek High School. Scrimmages at both locations begin at 5 p.m.

In a major change from previous jamborees, only two teams will be on the field at the same time, meaning fans can focus their attention on a single scrimmage during each session.

The format will be complete with a chain crew marking advancement of the ball and determining when the offensive team gets a first down.

Action should be over both nights by 10 p.m. The cost of admission to each scrimmage is $10.

In the event either scrimmage is postponed due to inclement weather, there will be no makeup date as most teams have a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday and the following week marks the start of the football regular season for most teams in the area.

Here is the full schedule for the scrimmage.

Thursday at Seventy-First High School

5 p.m. - Westover vs. Union Pines.

6 p.m. - Overhills vs. Hoke County.

7 p.m. - E.E. Smith vs. Apex Friendship.

8 p.m. - Terry Sanford vs. Clinton

9 p.m. - Seventy-First vs. Pine Forest

Friday at Gray’s Creek High School

5 p.m. - St. Pauls vs. Triton

6 p.m. - Douglas Byrd vs. Lumberton

7 p.m. - South View vs. Richmond Senior

8 p.m. - Cape Fear vs. Scotland

9 p.m. - Gray’s Creek vs. Jack Britt.

Britt’s Mac Lain living dream as ACC Network analyst

18 Eric Mac LainWhen former Jack Britt High School standout Eric Mac Lain became an All-ACC lineman at Clemson University, his major was health science and his plan was to follow in the footsteps of his parents in the medical field.

But from his Britt days to his years at Clemson, Mac Lain had frequent positive encounters with the media and was always a good interview. The stars aligned and the next thing Mac Lain knew, he was offered the chance to come to Bristol, Connecticut and interview for a job with ESPN’s new ACC Network.

On Aug. 23, he’ll make his first appearance on "The Huddle," a studio program that will air each week on the new network on Friday evening and Saturday morning previewing that week’s ACC football games.

“What a cool thing for a young man to be able to pursue with this great company on an awesome network with its launching and us being the ground zero,’’ Mac Lain said. “It’s just a great opportunity and I can’t wait for the launch.’’

It was during his time at Clemson that he began to realize a medical future might not be his best choice. “When I figured out how much school that took after the fact, I kind of changed my mind and got my master’s in athletic administration,’’ he said.
The offer from ESPN came at Clemson’s National Championship game with Alabama earlier this year in Santa Clara, California.

Mac Lain got a text from an ESPN representative who wanted to meet and talk with him. He initially blew it off as just another request for an interview to get his opinions on the game.

He had been sightseeing in California with his wife and her family, until the ESPN representative finally pinned Mac Lain down for a meeting hours before kickoff.

The talk at first was about the upcoming game, but then the representative offered to fly Mac Lain to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to audition for a job with the new ACC Network.

“I wasn’t pursuing a different career at all,’’ Mac Lain said. “I just stumbled into it.’’
Other than being interviewed by reporters for print and television, he’d had no previous TV experience. He had done some work hosting a postgame radio show for Clemson football that provided game analysis and commentary on other ACC games.

“You never really know which interview did the trick or who threw my name in the hat where,’’ Mac Lain said. “I knew all along something like this could happen.’’

He said he shares that same message when he speaks with college or high school students or church groups. “You create your brand with social media and all the opportunities you’re going to get as an athlete,’’ he said. “It’s cool to be an actual story and an actual example of that.’’

The show Mac Lain will help host, "The Huddle," will be anchored by Jac Collinsworth. Collinsworth has been the regular host of ESPN’s NFL Live since early 2018.

Joining Mac Lain and Collinsworth will be former Georgia and Miami, Florida, head coach Mark Richt and former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.

“I love this team we have put together and the chemistry we already have,’’ Mac Lain said. “It seems like we have been working together for five or 10 years, but we just met a month ago so it’s really cool.’’

Mac Lain said the challenge for him in preparing for the show has been to expand his knowledge beyond his alma mater. “It’s an entire conference, not just one school,’’ he said. “I’m going to be faced with knowing the key players and the role players people may not be familiar with.’’

Mac Lain said his goal will be to avoid speaking in technical terms and draw a picture anybody can understand. He thinks the coaching and playing backgrounds of himself, Richt and Manuel will be an asset to the show.

“Just being able to dip inside of a player’s helmet or a coach’s headset, what was happening at this moment or what is this guy thinking,’’ Mac Lain said. “I think viewers will really appreciate that.’’

Mac Lain currently calls Charlotte home, but although ESPN has a studio there where it does production for shows on ESPNU and the SEC Network, Mac Lain will be flying to Bristol and the home office every weekend during the ACC season to do "The Huddle."

“We are very excited to get rolling,’’ he said. “It’s been a really cool thing to get to know these men and women throughout the network.’’

Eric Mac Lain points to the historic ESPN logo during his trip to Bristol, Connecticut for audition with ACC Network. 

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