Transfer turned Pungo poster boy

Published 5:11 pm Monday, March 24, 2014



Cole Austin Woolard’s arrival at Pungo changed the philosophy of Raider athletics

During the 2011-2012 Northside basketball season, sophomore Cole Austin Woolard was a familiar face on head coach Michael Proctor’s bench. Getting most of his limited playing time on the Panthers’ junior varsity squad, Woolard’s prickly demeanor and desire to compete caused the 16-year-old to reconsider his role as an athlete at Northside High School.

He lived in the shadow of his older brother Taylor, who graduated in 2010 as was one of the top contributors on the baseball diamond and soccer pitch. A confident Woolard knew he had to make a change to get the playing time he deserved.

Today, Woolard is a prevailing athlete in baseball, soccer and basketball, a model student and the face of Raider athletics and Pungo Christian Academy.

“To me, Cole coming to PCA completely changed the landscape of PCA baseball, 100 percent,” said Raiders’ baseball manager John Scott Cutler. “I’ve only been helping here for four years, but the time I was here, we always had fun during baseball season, but we never really had any good baseball teams. Now, with him and the rest of the pitching staff, we’re right there at the top.”

Woolard is the starting shortstop, ace of the rotation and undisputed leader of the Raiders baseball team. He injected a program with a shot of adrenaline, a newfound attitude, the will win. In a unanimous decision, he was named captain by his coaching staff and teammates. No questions asked. No opposition made.

In his first season in Pungo baby blue, he batted .375 and led his team in hits and plate-appearances. On the mound, his low- to mid-80s fastball and knee-buckling slider boosted him to the top of the rotation. After knocking off Northeast in the first round of the Tarheel Conference Tournament, the Raiders’ fell to baseball powerhouse Lawrence Academy in the second round.

This year, the Raiders are 3-2 with a cluster of conference games on the horizon. Cutler will look to Woolard to motivate the Raiders and lead them further into the conference tournament has season’s end.

“It’s a little bit of everything that makes him so unique,” Cutler said. “Everybody on the team knows that Cole wants it. They know he’s the leader. They know if the game is on the line, he wants to be on the mound and he wants to be at the plate. I think that’s what makes him standout from everybody else.”

Baseball is Woolard’s technically superior and favorite sport, but his presence on the basketball court over the last two seasons has made him a fan favorite and a name synonymous with Pungo’s recent success.

His consistency on offense and smart, conditioned defensive play brought the Raiders from a losing record to a 13-win team last season.

On the back of Woolard, Pungo would improve this season and prove to be one of the most talented squads in school history. The highlight of his senior campaign came on early in the season on Dec. 6. After Ridgecrofts Jay Lane buried a three-point basketball with four seconds left on the clock, a deafening cheer by the Rams’ faithful indicated they thought their team one the game. Even the Pungo coaching staff was thrown into a state of shock.

Woolard grabbed the clipboard. He and senior forward Thomas Mann drew up a play, and they executed it perfectly. Woolard hit the game-winning shot, received tournament MVP and etched his name into Pungo history.

The Raiders went on to win their next 13 scheduled games after the fact, finishing the season with a 19-5 record and a NCISAA state tournament appearance. Woolard notched his 1000th career point and finished averaging about 24 points per game and was the Tarheel Conference’s leading scorer.

“I’m proud of his determination and I’m proud of his success here,” said Melissa Woolard, Cole’s mother. “They love them here and he loves it here. He’s proud of his school everywhere he goes. He’s a walking spokesman.”

In May, Woolard will graduate from Pungo, but not before he left his mark on an athletics program. While unsure whether or not he will play baseball or basketball in college, many schools have shown interest in Woolard’s talents, including UNC-Pembroke, Guilford and Chowan.

If he doesn’t end up playing a sport at the next level, Woolard has his eyes set on the dental programs at Wake Technical Institute and East Carolina University.