Here’s to a normal fall sports season-we can make a difference

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

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The first volleyball matches are in the books. Soccer and cross country will have their first matches soon and football kicks off Friday night. None of the players on any of the teams I’ve seen so far are hindered by wearing a mask during practice or competition. Hallelujah, things are finally back to normal.

Not so fast. Hold the phone. COVID-19 cases rose significantly in Beaufort County over the weekend and Southside’s football opener has been pushed to Monday because of a positive test within the North Duplin program.

It doesn’t have to be this way, folks. Anybody 12 and over is eligible for the Pfizer shot. Vaccination rates are improving and let’s keep trending upward. The last thing anybody wants is for games to get moved around or cancelled and players and coaches don’t want to resume wearing masks.

The solution is simple. Get vaccinated. I would hate to see another group of seniors get cheated out of their last year of competition by an avoidable situation.

Speaking of seniors, good luck to the Class of 2020 who checked into dorms, started community college or joined the workforce or the military.

They were the first group I covered, so I don’t really have a frame of reference, but it seems to me like they were a pretty successful group.

Washington High School won another Wells Fargo Conference Cup for overall excellence, while winning eight league titles and sharing another, with a solid group of seniors in each.

Individually, Ethan Sommers competed in the state championships in cross-country and track, Mary Emma Holscher made to the state tennis semi-finals, qualified for the state cross country meet and was part of the Pam Pack’s playoff softball team. Kimaja Spencer took third in the 400 meters at the state track meet and Savanna Craft swam in the state meet and pitched the Pam Pack to the softball playoffs.

Walt Gerard, Ben Swinson, Jaden Hambric, Hayden Anderson, Kris Hill and Robert Pollock led the football team to the East title game.

Twins Jamauri and Jeremee Bryant and Omarion Blount helped the basketball team capture their first title in many years.

Lilly Francis Lobos and Rebecca Zerniak made sure the girls soccer conference unbeaten streak continued, while Brandon Cox and Seth Davis fueled a playoff run on the boys side.

A solid senior group led Northside’s run to the 1A state championship football game. James Gorham, Tyler Modlin, Peyton Woolard, Fred Taylor, Sam Vansant, Zion Wilson, A.K. O’Neal, Nick Baker, Will Godley and Tyler Harris made the most of their last season as Panthers.

Katie Godley led the volleyball and basketball teams to the state playoffs, while Caroline Boyd qualified for the state meet in cross country and track.

Caleb Alligood qualified for the state golf tournament, then there is Kathleen Slade.

I’m not supposed to play favorites, but how can anybody not like her story?

She was part of the playoff volleyball and softball teams, then decided to join the track team toward the end of the season after Boyd convinced her.

Veteran coach Bob Girani taught her the high jump and she ended up winning the state title on her last jump. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Southside had more underclassmen than usual, but Hundley Stallings and Davion Carter are continuing their football careers in college. Jaquan Cobb made his first appearance at the state track meet in two events, while classmate Nic Crawford also competed twice. Tajhe’ Speller ran in the 4 x 100 relay.

Sarah Petty contributed in three sports, while Laquisha Woolard helped the girls basketball team to deep playoff run.

We also can’t forget Pungo Christian’s Lauren Kellie Ricks, Riley Cutler and Emma Williams, who made it to the Final Four in volleyball, basketball and softball.

Grayson Warren also finished second in the state golf tournament and will play at ECU.

I’m sure I left somebody out, but it wasn’t intentional.

This year’s group has a tough act to follow. I’m excited to see them try.