Milton Jackson, Mallard Creek High School, wrestling, sr.: Jackson wasn’t supposed to be back on the mat until December, after having knee surgery in June. He had wrestled most of the last two years with a ruptured posterior cruciate ligament. He worked hard and was cleared to start the wrestling season with the rest of his team.
Jackson, a senior captain, is 6-0 (in the 126-pound weight class) in his opening week of competition, including 4-0 at the Trojan Duals at Chase High on Nov. 19. Jackson won his 100th career match at the Trojans Duals.
“Milton has lived and breathed wrestling since his freshman year,” Mallard Creek wrestling coach, Benjamin Barry said. “I knew he was going to work hard to get back on the mat. And he did, getting back about a month ahead of schedule. I don’t think there was any way he was going to miss his senior year. He’s worked too hard.”
Emme Nelson, Community School of Davidson, swimming, fr.: Nelson set four new, school records in her first high school meet.
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Nelson won the 200 individual medley (2:09.76), 100 breaststroke (1:05.27) and helped the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams to first-place finishes at the Cavalier Kickoff at Draughn High. Nelson’s 50 cut (25.12) and 100 cut (54.77) in the respective relays also were school records.
Nelson is also a SwimMAC Carolinas’ standout.
Tommy McNeal, North Gaston, boys basketball, sr: The 6-foot guard led his team to a 69-64 upset victory at No. 12 (Observer Sweet 16) Sun Valley to start the season. McNeal scored 28 points.
McNeal and Coach Wes Hepler (first year at North Gaston, coming from Myers Park) is looking to help the Wildcats to their first winning season since 2005. The North Gaston boys’ team has only won 13 games in the last three years.
Jackson Gabriel, Lincoln Charter, boys basketball, so: The 6-foot-2 athlete did a little bit of everything in the Eagles’ season-opening win over Uwharrie Charter. He scored 25 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out six assists, nabbed five steals and took three charges on the defensive end. Gabriel, who is getting college recruiting attention from Appalachian State, Mount St. Mary’s, Milligan and Radford, also made seven, three-pointers in the same game.
M.J. Armstrong, Gaston Day, boys basketball, jr.: The 6-foot-2 guard got off to a strong start, averaging 21 points in two games to help Spartans to wins over Christ the King and Carmel Christian. Armstrong had 25 points in a 79-69 win over Carmel Christian on Nov. 18. He also shot nine-for-13 from the three-point line in two games.
Steele Creek Seahawks, Little Panthers’ Pop Warner Football (11-13 age group): The Seahawks had gotten to the Pop Warner Little Panthers junior varsity championship game each of the last two years and lost.
This season the Seahawks (7-1) rolled to a 32-6 win over the Police Athletic League (PAL) Raiders to win the league championship Nov. 1.
Coach Greg Paylor and the Seahawks now will play for the Division I, Mid-South Regional championship in Virginia Beach on Nov. 26 against the Churchland Tigers of Portsmouth, Va. If the Seahawks win, they will advance to the Pop Warner National championships at the ESPN Wild World of Sports in Disney World in Orlando on Dec. 3.
The Seahawks’ championship run is just another part of a special season, as they played at halftime of the Carolina Panthers-New England Patriots’ preseason game on Aug. 26. Paylor also was honored as coach of the week at the Carolina Panthers-Arizona Cardinals’ game on Oct. 30.
The Seahawks have a balanced team on both offense and defense. The no-huddle spread offense averages 28 point per game and is led by quarterbacks, Matthew Tuomala and Cameron Ziegler, as well as running back, Zion Rasheed, and offensive lineman, Will Lowman and Cade Watrous. The Seahawk defense, which has four shutouts in eight games and has allowed 18 points all season. That group is led by defensive tackle Miles Addo, defensive end Nashawn Pritchett and linebacker Darius Bowser.
Robbie Epler, Concord, swimming, jr.: Concord all-state junior, Robbie Epler, also got off to a strong start in the Spiders’ first meet of the season against Charlotte Latin and Greensboro Day.
Epler, the defending 3A state champion in the 50 freestyle, won that event with a time of 22.38. Meanwhile, Epler also won the 100 butterfly, breaking the Concord school-record (set in 2013) by 1.07 seconds with a time of 52.18.
Curtis and Kevin Wiltsey, Weddington, swimming: The brothers, respective a junior and freshman, helped lead the Weddington boys’ swimming team to a decisive win over Cuthbertson and Piedmont in their season opener at Wingate University on Nov. 18. Curtis won the 200 and 500 freestyle, while Kevin won the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke.
The brothers, who also compete for SwimMAC Carolinas’ club team, helped the Warriors’ 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams to first-place finishes.
Luke Johnson, South Mecklenburg, sr., swimming: Johnson won two individual events, the 200 individual medley adn100 breaststroke, and helped the 400 freestyle relay (with teammates, Kellen Stillman, Weston Youngblood, Christopher Pfuhl) to a first-place finish in the Sabres’ opening meet of the season against Myers Park and West Mecklenburg.
Johnson, a senior captain, also recently committed to the United States’ Naval Academy. He hopes to help the South Mecklenburg boys’ swim team to their third straight, 4A state title this season.
Janelle Bailey, Providence Day, girls basketball, sr.: Providence Day’s 6-foot-3, all-American, all-state forward scored 37 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked five shots in the season-opening, 73-57, win over Wesleyan Christian on Nov. 15.
Bailey, a University of North Carolina signee, also went 15-for-15 from the free-throw line in the same game. The team is focused on winning their eighth straight, NCISAA state championship.
Jerod Carrier, Ardrey Kell, boys basketball, sr.: The Ardrey Kell, 6-foot-2 forward scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed a career-best, 12 rebounds to lead his team to a 55-51 win over Marvin Ridge in the season opener Nov. 15. Carrier, who averaged 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season, had never scored in double figures for the Knights.
Carrier also is the son of three-time, Pro Bowl, safety, Mark Carrier, who played most of his career with the Chicago Bears.
Gerrale Gates, Butler, boys basketball, jr.: Butler forward, Gerrale Gates, helped the Bulldogs open their season with an 82-64 win over Mallard Creek on Nov. 17. He scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and five steals. Gates, a 6-foot-6 forward, has a college basketball offer from University of New Orleans.
B.J. Mack, Charlotte Christian, boys basketball, so.: Mack scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in three quarters of play in his first game in a Knights’ uniform. He helped his team to a 72-21 win over Christ the King on Nov. 18. Mack, a 6-foot-9, Virginia Tech commit, helped lead Charlotte Catholic to a 4A state championship as a freshman.
Robert Gibson, Independence, boys indoor track, sr: The Patriots’ senior opened his indoor track season with a bang, winning the 1,600-meter run at the Mecklenburg Invitational at the JDL Track in Winston Salem on Nov. 18. He posted a personal-record, 4:58. 50, nearly 12 seconds better than his previous best.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.