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Pinecrest signees on Thursday, pictured from left to right, Caden Bertagnole from the golf team, Logan Laton from the lacrosse team and boys soccer's Gray Smith, Cade McLaughlin, Nick Vences and Johnny Grgurevic.

Having grown up playing soccer together for more than 10 years, a quartet of Pinecrest boys soccer players gathered together Thursday for their signing ceremony marking the continuation of their soccer careers to the next level.

“Everything is coming back around for us. Those four guys I coached from 11 to 14 years old,” Pinecrest soccer coach Jeremy Blake said. “It’s been kind of exciting to watch them grow from 10 and 11 years old to now young men.”

The four soccer players were also joined with Logan Laton from the boys lacrosse team and Caden Bertagnole from the boys golf team in the Pinecrest auxiliary gym Thursday.

While college often means high school teammates will go their separate ways, Nick Vences and Gray Smith signed their letters of intent to play soccer together at Lees-McRae College.

Vences was all-conference and all-region selection last season for the Patriots. He currently is second on the team in goals and assists.

“I’d like to thank Coach Blake who has helped me since I was a little kid,” Vences. “He’s also helped me find where I want to be.”

Smith has scored a pair of goals this season with one assist.

“I’d like to thank Coach Blake and all my coaches at Fusion, AC Sandhills and ODP,” Smith said. “Thanks to all the parents that supported us all through the years from U9 to about 18 years old.”

Helping distribute for the offense in the early goings of this season, Johnny Grgurevic leads the team with five assists and will play for Belmont Abbey next year.

“I’d like to thank all my teammates who have become my friends,” Grgurevic said, “and my coaches from AC Sandhills and Fusion.”

Anchoring down the defense, Cade McLaughlin will play for North Greenville next year.

“I want to thank my coaches for helping me get to this point, especially Coach Blake who has helped me a lot through this process,” McLaughlin said. “All my friends and teammates have helped out a lot.”

A lost season last year due to COVID-19 and an injury that cost Laton part of this sophomore season made recruitment this offseason hard for the senior, and then another tough decision came when football and lacrosse seasons were scheduled to overlap.

“A year ago I was in a boat where I had to choose between football and lacrosse and I didn’t know what to do yet,” Laton said. “I was still undecided until about October or November. I just want to thank my parents and coaches for pushing me to do this and I’m very happy.”

The senior attacker signed with William Peace.

“One thing I remember with Logan is that he was always willing to play any position on the field, and eagerly willing,” Pinecrest coach Brad Thomson said. “I’m extremely proud of the player and young man he has become. He’s taken a leadership role with this team.”

Laton leads 4A lacrosse in the state in assists.

Having to move from Wyoming to the area ahead of this school year, Bertagnole joined a storied Pinecrest program after earning All-State and being a regional standout in his area during his high school career.

“We’re really lucky to have him,” Pinecrest coach Linda Beechler said. “We’re really glad that he’s trying out for the team and we are looking forward to our season ahead.”

Bertagnole signed with Belmont Abbey, marking the third Pinecrest boys golfer who has signed to the next level.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to play college golf,” he said. “Thank you to my parents, friends and family for making that dream come true.”

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.

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