Friday, July 25, 2014

Concord First Assembly's O'Donnell commits to Virginia Tech

O’Donnell commits to Virginia Tech

Concord First Assembly (CFA) junior wide receiver Conner O’Donnell verbally committed to play at Virginia Tech Friday night, according to his father Geoff O’Donnell.

O’Donnell was the first Virginia Tech commit for the class of 2016, giving his commitment to Virginia Tech assistant, Shane Beamer, also the son of Hokies’ head coach, Frank Beamer. He also had offers from UCLA, Mississippi State and Akron with interest from most of the schools in the ACC, Big 12, SEC and more.

O’Donnell recently transferred to CFA from SouthLake Christian where he played for the elder O’Donnell, helping the Eagles to a NCISAA Division III state championship last season.

O’Donnell had 48 catches for 1,308 yards (27 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns for SouthLake Christian last season earning all-state and all-Lake Norman News’ honors in the process.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Major coaching shakeup at Ardrey Kell High

There has been a major coaching shuffle at Ardrey Kell High School:

-- After helping open the school eight years ago, athletics director Cheryl Feeney is resigning. Under Feeney’s leadership, Ardrey Kell won five straight Wachovia Cups for athletic excellence and quickly developed one of the area’s top overall sports program. The school is currently accepting applications for her replacement, via principal David Switzer.

-- After a year at Charlotte Latin, volleyball coach Zoe Bell is returning to Ardrey Kell, which she led to a N.C. 4A state championship in 2012.

-- Brian Thompson, a member of the Winston-Salem Parkland powerhouse teams, is the school’s new wrestling coach. He was a four-year starter and captain at UNC-Pembroke.

-- Junior varsity girls basketball coach Jeff Buseick is the new varsity girls coach. Rachel Isenhour is the new cheerleading coach. She was junior varsity coach last year.

Friday, June 6, 2014

All-Meck football star, Clemson recruit Van Smith transfers from West Meck to Hough

All-Mecklenburg football player and Clemson recruit Van Smith has transferred from West Mecklenburg to Hough, his father told the Observer Friday.

Van Smith Sr., who was defensive coordinator at West Meck for three seasons, said his family has moved into the Hough district. He said the family wanted to live near the lake. Smith Sr. said his son was looking forward to the challenge of joining a team that was 10-2 last season and is expected to challenge Mallard Creek for a MECKA 4A conference championship this fall.

"Van is a competitor," Smith Sr. said. "I know he has to go there and compete. The plan is to graduate early (in December), so he has to go through one semester there and start his collegiate career at Clemson if all goes well."

ESPN ranks Smith as the No. 16 player in the class of 2015 in North Carolina. Smith is a 5-foot-11, 172-pound junior who plays multiple positions. He's being recruited as an athlete. He had scholarship offers from Duke, Kansas State, N.C. State, Penn State and Vanderbilt, among others.

Van Smith Sr. said he would continue to work at West Mecklenburg, but would not return as a coach.

"I've coached for 25 years," he said. "It's time for me to be a dad."

West Mecklenburg coach Jeff Caldwell said losing Smith would hurt.

"It's a big loss," said Caldwell. "It's a big change to lose a kid like Van. That's the kind of kid that doesn't come along but every so often. He's always positive, never a problem. He's a got a great personality. He's a role model. He gets along great with kids here, there's no tension (about the move). He still loves his teammates. It was a family decision."

Caldwell said his team would return five offensive starters and three on defense from last year's 9-3 team. He graduated two major college recruits in QB Jalan McLendon (N.C. State) and Shaun Wilson (Duke). Eight other West Mecklenburg seniors have signed with colleges.

Caldwell has hired former Providence Day assistant Ben McGarrity to be his new defensive coordinator. Another former Providence Day assistant, Andy Kiker, will join the staff to coach the defensive line. Former Olympic assistant Zach Griffin will coach offensive and defensive lines.

"We've got some positive momentum here and we want to keep it going," Caldwell said. "We've got a lot of good athletes and some of them played varsity last year but didn't have to start because of the guys we had, but they played good minutes and now they get to show what they can do. I feel really good about the winter and spring we had as far as lifting and putting things together. We're moving forward."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Alexander Central's Vada Sherrill named NC softball player of the year

CHICAGO (June 5, 2014) — In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Vada Sherrill of Alexander Central High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade North Carolina Softball Player of the Year.  Sherrill is the second Gatorade North Carolina Softball Player of the Year to be chosen from Alexander Central High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Sherrill as North Carolina’s best high school softball player.  Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award announced in June, Sherrill joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Alicia Hollowell (2000-01, Fairfield HS, Calif.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.), Angela Tincher (2002-03, James River HS, Va.) and Kenzie Fowler (2006-07, Canyon del Oro HS, Ariz.).

The 5-foot-8 junior second baseman has led the Cougars to a 33-0 record, a No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and a berth in the Class 4A state finals against Cape Fear, scheduled for June 6. Entering the state championship series, Sherrill was hitting .555 with three home runs, 40 RBI and a state-record 59 runs scored. The North Piedmont Conference Player of the Year and an All-State selection, she has also contributed 17 doubles, three triples and 48 stolen bases in 50 attempts.
Sherrill has maintained a 3.94 GPA in the classroom. A talented singer and a devoted member of her church youth group, she has volunteered locally on behalf of a nursing home and a food pantry.

“Sherrill is a phenomenal leadoff hitter,” said Carlee Carpenter, head coach at North Lincoln High. “She not only does a great job of getting on base, but nine times out of 10, when she gets on, she will score. She also drives in runs as well or better than most clean-up hitters. She’s the total package.”

Sherrill will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

Sherrill joins recent Gatorade North Carolina Softball Players of the Year Lexi Shubert (2012-13, Fred T. Foard High School), Lexi Davis (2011-12, Porter Ridge High School), Chelsea Wilkinson (2010-11 & 2009-10, Alexander Central High School), Tisha Mahon (2008-09, North Davidson), Chelsea Leonard (2007-08, Central Davidson), and Ashton Ward (2006–07, Butler) among the state’s list of former award winners.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jason Grube named new boys basketball at Hough High

Jason Grube, who led East Mecklenburg to the 2008 N.C. 4A state boys basketball championship, is the new head coach at Hough High.

Grube won his 200th game in January 2013 and has a career record of 218-164. His 2013-14 Eagles team finished 14-13.

At Hough, Grube takes over for Justin Batts, who resigned to pursue a graduate degree.

Batts was selected the Observer's coach of the year for its All-Lake Norman area boys team for the 2013-14 season. Hough finished the season 22-6 and won the conference championship in the MECKA 4A, perhaps the toughest conference in North Carolina.

In the 2012-13, Batts led the Huskies to the school's biggest win, a N.C. 4A sectional championship win over heavily favored West Charlotte and then All-American center Kennedy Meeks to reach their first N.C. 4A Western Regional.

Next season, Hough is expected to return 6-8 forward Luke Maye, a high major Division I recruit. Maye made the All-Observer team for the second time this season.

Hough athletics director Masanori Toguchi said the school has also named former boys assistant Robert Ruthenburg as its new girls coach.

Read more here:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hough soccer stops Myers Park in three overtimes to make history

Hough's nationally ranked girls soccer team made history Tuesday night in the N.C. 4A state semifinals.

The Huskies (24-0-2) beat Myers Park in the first sudden death overtime, 2-1 on a header by Alex Denny with 74 seconds left. Hough made its third straight N.C. 4A state championship game, a first for Mecklenburg County girls 4A team.

The teams played two 40 minute halves, two 10 minute overtimes and nearly all of the first of two sudden death five-minute periods.

Myers Park lost for the third time to Hough this season. The Mustangs (23-3) were unbeaten against everyone else. Myers Park is 0-6-1 all time against Hough.

Hough will face unbeaten Panther Creek (23-0-1) in Saturday's state final in Raleigh. Hough is ranked No. 1 in the N.C. 4A soccer coaches poll. Panther Creek is No. 2.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

SoMeck 8 all-conference softball team

SoMeck 8 All-Conference softball

Hannah Davis, Haylee Ewert, Jessey Haasl, Erin Powers, Sterling Strickland, Ardrey Kell; Samantha Bates, Venus Gonzalez, Lori McCoy, Brooke Sanford, Lauryn Whitted, Olympic; Wyeth Folmar, Haley Reid, Kim Miramontes, Providence; Carrie Eberle, Callie Wiese, Charlotte Catholic; Jordan Harmon, Stephanie Mortensen, South Meck; Megan Hooper, Jill Sprague, West Meck; AJ Jenkins, Berry.

Player of the year: Grace Beatty, Olympic

Coach of the year: Rachel Dorr, Olympic

Friday, May 16, 2014

UNC offers Myers Park junior basketball star Rydeiah Rogers

North Carolina’s women basketball team has offered Myers Park junior Rydeiah Rogers. Rogers, a 6-1 forward shared the Observer’s All-Observer player of the year award with Providence Day’s McDonald’s All-American Jatarie White this season. Rogers led nationally ranked Myers Park to its first state championship in March, earning championship MVP in front of her father, Rodney Rogers, a former all-state high school player from Durham who went onto play at Wake Forest and in the NBA.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hough golfer Patick Cover wins NCHSAA state title, makes history

Hough High’s Patrick Cover made history Tuesday. Cover shot a first-round 68 at Carolina Trace Country Club to take a first round and lead and backed it up with an even par 72. That two-day total of 140 left him in a playoff win Raleigh Millbrook’s Stephen Franklin, who shot a 68 Tuesday.

Cover birdied the first playoff hole to win the championship and become the first Mecklenburg County golfer to win the 4A title since Independence’s Per Wickman in 1992.

Raleigh Millbrook won the team title by eight shots over reigning champ Southern Pines Pinecrest. Hough and Myers Park tied for third.

Gastonia Forestview’s Will Blalock won the 3A title with a 2-under 70 at FoxFire Golf and Country Club to win the 3A state title. Blalock also won the 3A title in 2013. His 142 total was two shots better than South Point’s Nick Stafford and Burlington Williams’ William Register.

Forestview won its third straight team title, finishing 11 shots ahead of Marvin Ridge.

Newton-Conover won the 2A state championship at Longleaf Golf and Country Club. It was the school’s second straight. Shelby finished second seven shots back. Salisbury was third. Cole Jeffreys of Southwest Edgecomb was the individual champion, shooting a final round 68.

Bishop McGuinness won its fourth straight 1A title, 54 shots ahead of second place East Surry at Whispering Pines Country Club. Bishop McGuinness’ Tanner Owen won the individual title.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Defending state champs to play in High School Football Kickoff

The 2014 high school football season will open with the High School Football Kickoff Night Aug. 21 and 23, which includes a match-up between defending public school and private school state champions. 

The event will start with a double-header Thursday night at Memorial Stadium and will end with a game Saturday at Providence Day. 

The first game of the Thursday night double-header is between Sun Valley and Hough at 5:30 p.m. Sun Valley played in the event last year, losing to Charlotte Christian. 

The late game Thursday night, scheduled for 7:45 p.m., will be between N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I state champions Charlotte Christian and N.C. 4AA state champions Mallard Creek. 

Both teams finished undefeated last season. 

"It's a big step up for our program and we're looking forward to it," Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep said. 

Providence Day will host Charlotte Catholic at 7 p.m. Saturday in the event's final game. 

Three of the six teams will have new head coaches when they kickoff the season: Mike Brodowicz at Charlotte Catholic, Miles Aldridge at Hough and Tad Baucom at Sun Valley.

-Corey Inscoe