There were certainly some ups and downs for Harnett Central athletics in 2018-19, but overall it was a very good year for the Trojans. Five Central teams qualified for state playoffs, three won conference titles, and one individual finished as a state runner-up. The Trojans also finished second behind Union Pines in the Tri-County Conference Wells Fargo Cup — a competition that scores teams based on all-around athletic performances.
“Obviously we’re always gunning for first place, but we are definitely satisfied with finishing second,” said Harnett Central athletic director Will Gage. “Second place in our conference is quite an accomplishment, and I think it shows the wide range of great athletes that we have at Harnett Central.”
The fall saw lots of challenges for the Trojans, but the cross country team helped set a high standard for the rest of the year. Central took home the Tri-County Conference Championship behind junior sensation Maggie McCormick, who won the conference meet, won the NCHSAA 3A Mideast Regional and finished second overall in the State Championship meet. McCormick won every single race this year except for the state final. And the boys team had a strong year too, finishing sixth overall in the Regional to qualify for State, where they finished 19th. Leading the boys were sophomore Robert Bowman, junior Drew Adams, senior Jesus Gonzalez, senior Colton O’Briant and senior Kyle Hadding.
Central’s volleyball team started off the year strong with an impressive comeback win over 4A Sandhills Conference champs Jack Britt, and swept through Record teams, beating South Johnston, Overhills, Western Harnett and Triton. The Trojans finished third in the Tri-County Conference and qualified for the NCHSAA state playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. They were led by six seniors this year: Ally Honeycutt, Kylee Frailey, Ashlyn Rich, Shelbie Gill, Katelyn Everett and Lyndsey Brewer.
Central’s football team had a tough season as they constantly struggled with depth issues. But the Trojans remained competitive in several games and showed a lot of promise in a 24-0 win at Smithfield-Selma. Highlighting the team were seniors Hayden Smith, Jaden Meadows, Devon Crumpler and Zach Lynch, among several others.
The boys soccer season was a bit of a roller coaster. The Trojans struggled at home but put up some impressive efforts on the road, picking up wins at South Johnston, Triton, Western Harnett and Tri-County Conference runner-up Lee County. They were led by seniors Zach Sippel, Jonathan Coello, Brandon Cervantes, Luis Silva and David Aguirre.
Central’s teams started to heat up in the winter, with the girls basketball team leading the pack. The Trojans went 18-7 this year with a strong balance of experienced role players and talented young players. After a tough loss in the regular season to Union Pines, Central bounced back to beat the Vikings in the final game of the regular season and clinch a share of the Tri-County Conference regular season championship. The Trojans qualified for the NCHSAA state playoffs for the second-straight year. They’ll retire five seniors — Fayth Brown, Aleecya Williams, Marcayla Jones, Lyndsey Brewer and Keanna Womble — who will be tough to replace. But Central’s got a strong group of returning players, led by rising juniors Syniah McMiller and Brittany Mills.
The boys basketball team had a bit of a slow start to the season, but the Trojans got hot as they jumped into conference play, winning six of their first seven games against league opponents. The Trojans finished second in both the Tri-County Conference regular season and tournament, falling behind perennial power Southern Lee. They also qualified for the NCHSAA state playoffs for the third-straight year. Central was led by five seniors: Chase Mullins, Kasey Perkins, Jaden Meadows, Hayden Smith and Kaleb Darden.
Harnett Central’s swim team also had a solid season. The boys finished 19th at the 3A East Regional, while the girls finished 25th. Matthew Rogers finished sixth in the 500-yard freestyle, qualifying him to compete in the state meet, where he finished 20th.
The spring started off a little slow for some of Central’s teams, but the softball team caught fire in the middle of the year and never cooled off. After losing the first four games of the season, the Trojans won 14 of their final 16 games, including a three-game sweep of Triton to take home the Tri-County regular season and tournament titles for the second-straight year. Central hosted a first-round playoff game and won in walkoff fashion on a three-run homer by senior Amaya Bell. They faced a tough road challenge in the second round at Southern Nash, but came away with an impressive 10-2 win. Central eventually fell in the third round to Eastern Regional runner-up D.H. Conley, but it was an impressive run for the Trojans. Central led by a strong core of eight seniors: Fallon Wimberly, Kylee Frailey, Amaya Bell, Ansley Lee, Kolby Medlin, Marcayla Jones, Lyndsey Brewer and Shelbie Gill. The conference title also made two this year for head coach Chelsey Cabe, won also coached the girls basketball team.
Central’s baseball team didn’t quite have the same success, but there were certainly some bright spots throughout the year. The Trojans picked up their first win of the year on a walkoff against Lee County, beat a tough Gray’s Creek team on the road, beat Union Pines in extra innings, and capped off the regular season with a 13-12 win over Triton on senior night. Leading Central were senior Jared Raynor, senior Jackson Yarbrough and junior Justin Perkins.
The girls soccer team had a strong start to the year, winning the first three games of the season by a 21-0 margin. They hit a tough stretch in conference play, but finished the year going 7-1 against Record opponents, picking up wins over Midway, South Johnston, Overhills, Western Harnett and Triton. They had one senior on the team — McKinley Heston — so they should look to improve next year, led by rising seniors Austin Bowling, Alexis Gordon and Madeline Langdon.
In total, Central had nine athletes sign to play at the next level. Ansley Lee signed to play softball at Gardner-Webb University. Fallon Wimberly signed to play softball at Meredith College. Kyle Hadding signed to run cross country and track and field at Mars Hill College. Hayden Smith signed to play football at Campbell University. Chase Mullins signed to play basketball at Central Carolina Community College. Gavin Rankin signed to run cross country at Central Carolina Community College. Jared Raynor signed to play baseball at Pitt Community College. Madeline Shewmaker and Mattilyn Talley both signed to cheer at Campbell University.
Central had eight Student-Athlete of the Week winners throughout the year: Maggie McCormick (cross country), Lyndsey Brewer (basketball), Chase Mullins (boys basketball), Syniah McMiller (girls basketball), Emily Parker (girls soccer), Hayden Smith (football), Fallon Wimberly (softball) and Amaya Bell (softball).
Central also had five All-Record selections and five honorable mentions. Syniah McMiller made the All-Record girls basketball team, and Brittany Mills and Fayth Brown were honorable mentions. Chase Mullins and Kasey Perkins were both honorable mentions for boys basketball. Fallon Wimberly was the Record Pitcher of the Year for softball. Ansley Lee and Kylee Frailey also made the All-Record softball team, and Kolby Medlin was an honorable mention. Jared Raynor made the All-Record baseball team.
Reflecting on the year as a whole, Gage said he was pleased with the all-around success Central’s teams had this year.
“I thought our senior class provided outstanding leadership in all of our sports,” Gage said. “And it’s always refreshing when you get contributions from underclassmen early on. The future is bright at Harnett Central.”