High School Highlights

Earl's weekly predictions: 10/10/10

Now that we’re seven weeks into the high school football season with five left in the regular season, here is how things stack up according to the statewide MaxPreps.com football rankings.
We’ll start with the rankings for all classes, public and private, in North Carolina.
The top Fayetteville school is Jack Britt, which comes in at No. 24. Next is Trinity Christian at No. 44.
South View is No. 57 with Terry Sanford No. 63. Seventy-First is No. 81, Cape Fear No. 85. 
Gray’s Creek is No. 156, E.E. Smith No. 161 and Pine Forest No. 196.
Completing the list are Westover at No. 248 and Douglas Byrd at 284.
Fayetteville Christian, which plays eight-man football, is ranked only in North Carolina, and is No. 7 among the 8-man teams.
Moving to the specific rankings for classifications, among 4-A schools, Jack Britt is No. 15, South View No. 24, Seventy-First No. 31 and Pine Forest No. 63.
Among the 3-A schools, Terry Sanford is No. 23, Cape Fear No. 31, Gray’s Creek No. 54, E.E. Smith No. 56, Westover No. 83 and Douglas Byrd No. 94.
In the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class II 11-man rankings, Trinity Christian is No. 1 in the state.
While I respect the work of those who try to forecast who’s going to be in or out of the playoffs, there are too many directions things could go at this point for me to try and make that projection.
We’ll have the answer for sure when the state playoff brackets are announced the second Saturday in November.
The record: 40-14
I was 5-2 for the week, putting the season total to 40-14, 74.1 percent.
Douglas Byrd at Cape Fear - Cape Fear finally has a winning streak going and is looking to make it three in a row this week. 
Cape Fear 28, Douglas Byrd 7.
Westover at E.E. Smith - The Golden Bulls continue their rebound from a rough start to the season.
E.E. Smith 21, Westover 14. 
Gray’s Creek at Terry Sanford - This is a dangerous game for the Bulldogs, who control their own fate in the Patriot Athletic Conference but have played inconsistently in recent games. Gray’s Creek has also had its share of problems, but the Bears are a potent offensive team and the Bulldogs need to take them seriously.
Terry Sanford 28, Gray’s Creek 14. 
Richmond Senior at Jack Britt - I’d love to keep drinking the Kool-Aid with the Buccaneers this week, but Richmond looks like one of the best teams in the state this season.
Richmond Senior 32, Jack Britt 18.
South View at Pine Forest - Despite a rugged start, Pine Forest still can control its fate in the Patriot Athletic Conference. But in order to maintain that control, a win against South View is a must this week. I’m not sure the Trojans can make that happen. 
South View 29, Pine Forest 12.
Lumberton at Seventy-First - I think the Falcons will snap their surprising three-game slide this week.
Seventy-First 35, Lumberton 8.
Other games: Trinity Christian 30, North Raleigh Christian 8; St. David’s 30, Fayetteville Christian 12.

Scholar Athletes of the Week: 10/0919

21 01 SierraSierra Gosselin

South View•Volleyball•Senior
Gosselin has a weighted grade point average of 4.05. In addition to playing volleyball, she’s a member of the National Honor Society at South View.

Jay Benefield

South ViewCross country•Sophomore

21 02 Jay BenefieldBenefield has a weighted grade point average of 4.31. In addition to running cross country for the Tigers, he’s enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Academy at South View.


Pictured from top to bottom: Sierra Gosselin, Jay Benefield





Cape Fear ends tennis drought against Terry Sanford

19 Brooke BieniekChris Lucas is in his fifth season as head girls tennis coach at Cape Fear High School.

He inherited a program where most of the players hadn’t played the sport until they went out for the Cape Fear team.

But five years of pushing his players to perform their best reached a peak last month when Cape Fear defeated perennial Cumberland County tennis power Terry Sanford 6-3 in the second meeting between the teams this season.
According to retired Terry Sanford tennis coach and local high school tennis historian Gil Bowman, it was the first time since the 2003-2004 tennis season that Cape Fear won a match over the Bulldogs.

Since coming to Cape Fear from Pinecrest High School, Lucas has been trying to change the tennis culture at the school. It’s a slow process, but the win over Terry Sanford shows Lucas is on the right track.

Lucas said his primary goal is to turn each of his players into a true tennis player and not just an athlete with a tennis racquet in hand. That means watching professional players on television, understanding the strategy and mental aspect of the game and playing as much tournament tennis outside the high school season as possible.

19 02 Paige Cameron“My biggest hope is they will fall in love with every aspect of the game,’’ he said. “I’m very fortunate I’ve had coachable girls and ones that have bought into that.’’

This year’s team has only one player, freshman Brooke Bieniek, who played the sport before she got to Cape Fear.

Bieniek plays No. 1 singles and won at both singles and doubles in the match with Terry Sanford. Her parents are both physical education teachers at nearby Mac Williams Middle School and got her into the sport at the age of seven.
“I love just hitting shots and getting all the emotions out,’’ she said. “Like if you had a bad day at school you just hit and hit a ball. It’s fun. Especially with teammates.’’

She gives all the credit for the team’s success to Lucas. “He’s taught us a lot of stuff and made us what we are today,’’ she said.

Lucas said that’s part of his philosophy, which he sums up in the phrase, "Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn."

19 03 Dajia Rucker“Every single match is a match where you can learn,’’ he said. “We broke down why we won that match, what we did right and what we didn’t do before.’’

Senior Paige Cameron, who plays No. 2 singles, agreed with Bieniek and said Lucas has always encouraged the team, even when they lost a match 9-0.

“Everything he’s done has pushed us to where we were when we finally beat them (Terry Sanford),’’ Cameron said. “Honestly, that was the best night because that’s what we’ve been looking forward to, beating Terry Sanford, and we finally did it.’’

Cameron, who is the team captain, said the energy the team got from newcomers like Bieniek was a big boost to this year’s team.

“The biggest energy is them being positive whether they are playing or not,’’ she said, “showing support for all the girls.’’

Dajia Rucker, a junior, won at fifth court singles and teamed with Bieniek to win in doubles against Terry Sanford. “Everyone just stepped up,’’ she said. “We knew we wanted to beat Terry Sanford, so that’s what we did.’’

But the Colts know they must keep working. “I think the main thing is we don’t take this one for granted,’’ Cameron said. “We need to play with the best we have and do the best that we can no matter who we are playing.’’

Meanwhile, Lucas is looking further down the road, hoping to continue to change the tennis culture not just at the school but in the community.

“Every summer, we hold a clinic for kids, ages 7-13, and every year it’s grown,’’ he said. “The younger we can get them, the better. We want to be a program that turns in good  team after good team and is a revolving door,’’ he said.

Pictured from top to bottom: Brooke BieniekPaige Cameron, Dajia Rucker

Jack Britt duo joins NCHSAA student-athlete council

20 NCHSAAThe North Carolina High School Athletic Association estimates there are over 200,000 student-athletes playing for high school teams across the state.

Every year,  16 students are chosen to represent their peers on the Student Athlete Advisory Council.

This elite group of sophomores and juniors represents every region of the state and serves as the voice for all the state’s athletes, reporting directly to the NCHSAA at both a regional and state level.

This year’s SAAC includes two students from Jack Britt High School, E.J. McArthur and Colin Baumgartner. McArthur plays basketball and is the son of Britt girls’ basketball coach Nattlie McArthur.

Baumgartner competes in indoor and outdoor track, cross country and swimming.

Both are looking forward to serving on the committee and are ready to come to the table with ideas to make things better for their fellow athletes.

McArthur has already had a taste of what the SAAC does. This summer the NCHSAA sent him and some other SAAC members to a national meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the headquarters of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

They learned about problem-solving, leadership and the Unified Sports program that is designed to increase interscholastic sports opportunities for special needs students.

“One of my main goals is to get Unified Sports in all schools, not just Cumberland County, but all of North Carolina,’’ McArthur said.

While in Indianapolis the SAAC members worked with special needs children. McArthur was moved by the looks on their faces when they got the opportunity to participate in sports.

Another concern for McArthur is sportsmanship. He and Baumgartner attended the recent Region 4 meeting of the NCHSAA held in Fayetteville. During the meeting they learned that no Cumberland County School managed to avoid having a player or coach ejected from an athletic contest during the 2018-19 school year.

“We want to form an initiative to get that (the number of ejections) down,’’ McArthur said. “Respect the refs, respect the rules. Do what you have to do as an athlete, but do it accordingly.’’

He thinks it’s important that the NCHSAA is open to getting input from student-athletes. “Adults don’t really understand what students want the way students understand what we want,’’ McArthur said. “Having this committee is better because they have a direct outlet to student-athletes.’’

Baumgartner agrees. “I feel like there’s a lot of situations where we might see things going on that might not be seen at a higher level,’’ he said.

Baumgartner wants more attention to sports not often in the spotlight. One where he has a personal interest is swimming.

He is concerned about access county swimmers have to indoor pools, noting they practice at times in outdoor pools covered by an inflatable dome that sometimes collapses and causes problems.

He also has a concern about alcohol abuse by his fellow students and thinks more needs to be done by students to curb the problem.

“We shouldn’t go to a party one day and a funeral the next,’’ he said. “Having a peer tell you something I think gives it a deeper meaning and a different perspective.’’

L-R:  Jack Britt students and SAAC members E.J. McArthur and Colin Baumgartner

Frustrated officials quitting, games being canceled

18 Soccer and footAbout four weeks ago, we distributed an op-ed suggesting that inappropriate behavior by parents and other adult fans at high school sporting events was causing many officials to quit before they even reached two years on the job.

Although we received mostly positive support from this article, some people thought we went too far in telling parents to “act your age” and “stay in your own lane.” On the contrary, perhaps we should have been more direct.

Last week, one of our member state associations shared a resignation letter it had received from a 20-year veteran soccer official who had taken all the abuse he could handle. A portion of that letter follows:

“Soccer parents: you are absolutely 100 percent the reason we have a critical refereeing shortage and games are being cancelled left and right. And you are at least a part of the reason I’m done here. The most entitled among you are the ones that scream the loudest. And every time you do this, you tell your son or daughter the following:

“'I do not believe in you, I do not believe in your team, I do not believe in your collective ability to overcome your own adversity and you absolutely will not win and cannot do this without me tilting the table in your favor.'

 “On behalf of myself and so many other referees — and I say this with every ounce of my heart and soul — shut up about the referees and let your kids rise or fall as a team, as a family. Because the vast majority of you truly have no idea what you’re talking about, and even if you have a legitimate gripe about one play or one decision, you’re not fixing anything.”

 And if that wasn’t enough, last week the Eastern Panhandle Youth Football League in West Virginia released the following statement:

 “Unfortunately, it has come to the point that because of the abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently from our players, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association president stated today that the association will no longer schedule officials for our league games at any field. This means effective immediately all remaining games are cancelled.”

This statement is from a youth league, which means the coaches are likely also parents of players, and the players are sons and daughters who are emulating their parents’ behavior.

So, no, our previous message was not too direct or emphatic. The kind of boorish parental behavior that compels a 20-year soccer official to quit cannot be allowed to continue. While we would hope that parents and other fans would embrace the concepts of education-based athletics by respecting the efforts of those men and women who officiate high school sports, that unfortunately is not occurring in some cases.

 As a result, schools must adopt and enforce a strict fan behavior policy. In soccer, a player receives a “yellow card” as a first warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. If the action occurs again, the player is hit with a “red card” and is ejected from the contest. Some schools have implemented a similar penalty structure for parents and other fans — not just at soccer games but all high school events. If the inappropriate behavior and verbal abuse of officials continues after one warning, the person is removed from the venue. There must be consequences for these offenders before we lose any more officials.

Most of the 7.9 million participants in high school sports are on the fields and courts every day to have fun and compete as a team with their classmates, and the 300,000-plus officials assist in that process. Now, if parents would let the players play and the officials officiate.

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