Another exciting sports year comes to a close|From the pros to the kids, athletes able to ‘Excel’

Published 1:27 pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
A gripping, exciting, intriguing and challenging sports year is coming to a close.
There were smiles. There were tears. There was joy. There was heartache. There was hope.
The Washington Daily News takes a look back at the Top 10 area sports stories of 2009.
Justin “Weasel” Moore has been a force ever since stepping onto the mat.
The Washington High School senior, who finished runner-up at the N.C. High School Athletic Association Classic 3-A state wrestling meet last year, became the school’s all-time career win leader earlier this month. Moore, a 171-pound senior, set the record when he beat New Bern’s Demitrieus Davenport during the Milt Sherman Duals. It gave Moore his 140th career win, eclipsing the previous Pam Pack career record of 139 wins, held by Gerald Lawrence (139-13). Moore is currently at 142 wins and counting.
Cedric Moody ran wild for the Williamston Tigers all season. The shifty running back finished the season with 1,959 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns. Moody’s top performance came in a 60-18 win over Southside in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A state playoffs. Moody galloped for 239 yards on just 12 carries. He scored on runs of 67, 50, 35 and 33 yards.
Former and current professional athletes returned home to give back to their communities. Damien Wilkins, a Washington native and current starting forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves, returned home to host his fifth annual “Fun Day” and basketball camp. This year’s was extra special for Wilkins as his father, Gerald Wilkins, participated in the camp. Also, Charles Bowser, a former great with the Miami Dolphins, returned to Plymouth to host his annual football and cheerleading camp. Mark “Super” Duper and Nat Moore joined Bowser at this year’s camp.
Trent Whitehead, a former star at Washington High School and now a standout with the East Carolina Pirates, had a sensational sophomore season. He set the ECU single-season hit record with 105 hits last year. That number ranked fourth in the nation. The lefty leadoff hitter hit .376 with seven home runs, 47 RBIs, 24 doubles and 78 runs scored. Whitehead was named the NCAA Greenville Regional Most Outstanding Player after hitting .381 with a homer, five RBIs and five runs scored. A second-team All-Conference USA and C-USA All-Tournament selection last year, Whitehead was named to the 10th Annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Pro-Line Athletic Preseason All-America Second-Team this year.
The Washington 12U All-Stars played their hearts out. The team made it to the Babe Ruth World Series, becoming the first local team to win a World Series game since the 16U squad won three games in 2002.
That 16U squad won its first three games in Greenville, before dropping its final three. Manager Ann Lang and her players, like Allison Brantley, Catie Dority, Haley Wright, Adriana Tyson and Kelsey Lang have reason to be proud.
The 30th annual Washington Daily News holiday basketball tournament may arguably have been its biggest. Pamlico was able to defend its tournament championship with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Mattamuskeet. Fans were also treated to two showcase games, pitting The Miller School (Va.) against Stevens Prep (Raleigh) and The Miller School against South Central. Possible future NBA players Mychal Parker, who put on a show in front of the home crowd, and Chris Hill, a dynamic all-around talent, certainly treated the fans to some exciting dunks. South Central coach Chris Cherry, a former coaching great at Plymouth, led his Falcons to a victory over Miller School in the final Showcase game.
It certainly was a trying year for the Southside Seahawks family. They suffered and persevered through tragedy. On the soccer field, on a night when the Seahawks honored former player Jeremy Ward, who tragically lost his life earlier this year, Southside knocked off rival Northside, 1-0. “This is awesome,” said Southside coach John Lohman after the game. Senior Joshua Sheppard scored the loan goal Southside would need.
Southside also had a special moment on the football field. On a night when the Seahawks honored Neal Whitney, a former star who was tragically killed earlier this year, and Ayden Jordan, the four-month old son of former Southside assistant Jeremy Jones and wife Lindsay Jones, Southside ran past Pamlico, 25-0. The victory also came in the first Fossil Bowl. “The biggest part of this win was for the community,” Southside coach David Hines said at the time. “This community has been waiting for something to rally around. They’ve needed something good to happen. This was really important for the area. It was important for the players, but even more important for the community. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Whitney’s family members, including Davelle Whitney, a former Southside star himself, went down to the field at halftime. A painting of Neal Whitney in his No. 66 uniform was presented to the family. It was an emotional time as Davelle, wearing his brother’s old No. 66 jersey, comforted his weeping sister, Danielya, during the tribute.
A painting of Ayden was also presented to Jeremy Jones in another moving ceremony.
A large “66” in honor of Whitney, and the initials “AJ” for Ayden Jones are painted on the field. Southside athletic director Sean White said those will remain there for the rest of the season.
C.J. Wilson made sure his Senior Day was going to be a special one. A former star at Northside High School, Wilson treated family, friends and fans to a play that will live on forever. At sun-splashed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Wilson came up with the biggest play of his college career. His block of a PAT, and subsequent return for 2 points helped lift the Pirates to a 25-20 victory over Southern Miss. It helped ECU win the Conference USA East division, an eventual C-USA championship and a return trip to the Liberty Bowl.
“I’ll never forget it,” Wilson said at the time. “Coming on Senior Night, I’ll never forget it. I’m glad I could help out my team.”
Thanks to the incredible efforts of Allen Pittman, Donna Pittman and a strong community, everybody wins on the field. Physically or mentally challenged athletes are still athletes, and the ExCEL (Exceptional Children Enjoying Life) program is proof. In one small snippet from an incredible summer, Jacob Pittman slowly made his way into the batter’s box. He gripped the bat, while getting assistance from Morgan Bryant, and awaited the pitch. After a smooth swing that made solid contact with the ball, Pittman, an 8-year-old with autism, trotted to first base for a single. He was safe.
Then again, each batter was safe, and each batter scored, during a spectacular Sunday afternoon of T-Ball at the Susiegray McConnell Sports Complex.
Each player left the field a winner and that’s just how ExCEL (Exceptional Children Enjoying Life) founder Allen Pittman, the father of Jacob Pittman, likes it.
“Everybody is a winner,” Pittman said. “This has been wonderful.”
Let’s hope it continues.