Teams Take to Field as New Season Looms
Let the games begin -- almost.
Athetes from North Moore, O'Neal, Pinecrest and Union Pines tested themselves against unfamiliar competition this week as teams from all four schools participated in scrimmages.
With the seasons for some less than a week away, teams were trying to find the right combinations of players, assess team skills and see how practice efforts and offseason workouts translate when the games begin.
Tuesday, O'Neal hosted North Moore for volleyball and soccer scrimmages. Wednesday, Pinecrest hosted several teams in a jamboree, while Union Pines held an intrasquad scrimmage.
This weekend North Moore and Union Pines will be among the teams that participate in a soccer jamboree held at the Morganton Road soccer fields.
Tuesday brought debuts for two North Moore head coaches. Ben Shamberger (soccer) and Melissa Powers (volleyball) both took over programs at their alma mater this summer.
Both are recent college grads whose names dot the Mustang record books. Both bring a ton of enthusiasm and competitive fire to the sidelines.
Tuesday, both were doing plenty of evaluating and instructing.
Shamberger continues to add to his roster, and Powers has great turnout for the program. She played 18 players during the scrimmage.
"There were a lot of positives," she said. "I have a lot of girls who haven't played together and they were in there against a good team (O'Neal). I am happy how they handled things," Powers said after the scrimmage.
O'Neal features a veteran volleyball team that has six seniors among its eight players. The team is led by Kendall Harper, who is in her second year as head coach.
The soccer program features a great deal of youth, but second-year head coach Ted Hassenfelt is eager to see what his team can do.
"There is no doubt we have all the pieces to be a successful team if we can put things together quickly."
Wednesday, whistles chirped, and the thunder of helmets hitting shoulder pads was in the air at Union Pines and Pinecrest.
A six-team Jamboree at PHS drew a crowd of interested spectators.
There were plenty of long runs, key catches, big hits and bigger plays during the jamboree. One of the highlights was a sensational leaping catch by Pinecrest wide receiver James Baldwin, who outjumped two defenders to haul in a pass at the goal line. It was one of three touchdown receptions for Baldwin, all from quarterback Ben Williams
It's a scrimmage and our boys competed and that's what we wanted," Pinecrest head coach Chris Metzger said. "Obviously we played some quality teams and it's good to see them early."
Two of the teams, Jack Britt (4AA) and Douglas Byrd (4A) lost in the state championship game last year. Marlboro County was 10-4 and went deep into the playoffs in South Carolina.
Knightdale and South Johnston were the other two teams.
Patriot senior Baldwin made three touchdown grabs over the five scrimmages, including two of the spectacular variety. Bret Toomer picked up a rushing TD. The Patriots were not outscored in any of the 10 plays on offense and 10 plays on defense scrimmages, but long scores by South Johnston and Byrd in the last two sessions and some fumbles on offense give the team plenty to work on in the coming days.
The Patriot jayvee team also played well in the five 6-play on offense and 6-play on defense scrimmages.
At Union Pines the blue-clad Vikings worked hard to continue to adjust to the systems and styles of new head coach Ryan Riggan. The first-year coach, who graduated from Pinecrest, has brought an enthusiasm to the program that the players have picked up on. The Vikings scrimmaged East Montgomery.
"I was really happy with the way our guys competed today," Riggan said after the scrimmage. I think they enjoyed the opportunity to hit someone other than their teammates."
Thursday the team was scheduled to travel to Southern Lee for a jamboree.
"This particular type scrimmage is incredibly valuable," Riggan said, "because we'll get to experience the whole Friday game day scenario."
North Moore's football team was scheduled to scrimmage at Piedmont High School on Thursday.
Union Pines football players have said they are working harder this season than they have in the past.
North Moore and Union Pines will debut newly renovated fields this year. Not to be outdone, O'Neal will begin play in a new gym that is part of a new student center on the school's campus.
The three public schools, Pinecrest, North Moore and Union Pines, will also begin play in newly aligned conferences.
For more on all the teams, check out our Football and Fall Sports preview section in Wednesday's print edition of The Pilot.
Charlie Bergmann and F.W. Manning II contributed to this story.
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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