It’s still fresh in many people’s minds, as for some sports, the fall season just finished. With that, it’s time for the resolutions for football, soccer, volleyball, and girl’s tennis.
Football ran through Ronda this past season, as the East Wilkes Cardinals went undefeated en route to their first conference championship since 1986. In speaking to Coach J.K. Adkins before the season, Adkins said his senior class would be the one to change the culture of the program, and he was absolutely right. The team was nothing short of incredible on defense throughout the regular season, and were the most exciting team to watch in Wilkes County. They finished the season as the winningest team in both program history and Wilkes County history at 13-1 after falling in the third round of the playoffs.
Starmount’s expectations were high, and for the most part, they lived up to them. Last year’s runner-ups lost some players, but retained the brunt of their running attack. With that, they got revenge on Elkin in the Battle of the Bridge and won six more times for a 7-5 record. They barely missed out on a home game in the playoffs, ultimately falling in the first round to Swain County. Elkin did not look pretty this past year, posting a 1-11 record overall, their lone win coming against North Wilkes.
So where does that leave these teams for next year? There’s reason to believe East Wilkes won’t be a one-and-done team. They’re losing quite a lot of seniors, but they’ll be keeping a good amount of people who played a key role this year. Three that come to mind right off the bat are Bryce Vestal, Jared Wood, and Joah Logan. Vestal came in under center when Chris Ward went down with an injury, and Vestal stepped up in a big way. One of his big targets was Jared Wood, who he connected with for a game-winning TD against Ashe County. Logan came through late in the year with some big interceptions that changed the momentum of games when the team needed it most. Their biggest hole to fill will likely come in their biggest player on the field. Camon Bryan had a career year, and losing him will be tough, but it should be doable.
Starmount is also losing some speed in Brandon Prescott and Trey Lomax, but they seem to always find a way to pull together late in a season. They can get back to the state championship game if they re-establish their running game and couple it with the deep ball. To do that, they’ll need a new quarterback, as they’re losing Andrew Smythers to graduation. They’ll likely be looked at as underdogs early on, but that won’t matter at the end of the season if they end it on their terms.
The only way Elkin can get better for next year is if they have it within themselves to improve in every aspect of their game. Their biggest weakness this year was their endurance. Even if they were playing tight through the first half, they looked like a completely different team coming out of the locker room for the second. Playing an entire 48 minutes will be key if they’re to grab some wins. Looking at the middle school team, the talent is coming and the Buckin’ Elks program will get back to championship form if they continue to work at it. However, if they’re going to get back to being a great program come August, it will be a very long summer for the Elkin squad.
Starmount was the most thrilling team to watch this season for soccer, and while they did not come away with the conference championship or state championship, it’s coming, and it could be coming next year. A former player, Edgar Zamora helped lead the team to the fourth round of the state playoffs in his second season as head coach. They’re only losing two seniors this upcoming season, and there’s one player, if he can stay committed in the classroom and the field that will be a weapon. Jeyson Pineda broke the school record for goals scored in a single season in his first year with the team, and with seven more months to mesh with the team, he can be one of the guys who leads this team to their first conference championship, or even state championship.
Elkin improved as well, and keeps the bulk of their talent for next season. The team gradually got better every game, even upsetting Starmount late in the season. It could not pull off the postseason magic, losing to North Moore in the opening round of the state playoffs. Their team is young enough that they can grow and get back near the top of the conference standings.
East Wilkes, unfortunately, saw their season come to an end following an incident during their game against Ashe County. The team was disqualified from postseason contention, but that didn’t stop them from upsetting Elkin on their home turf. They’re only losing one senior, so there’s reason to believe they’ll improve, and if they can contain their physical strength, they will be a team that seriously threatens some of the top-tier teams in the Mountain Valley.
Starmount played with a chip on their shoulder all season, and it seemed to work very well. With just one senior, the odds were stacked against them, but as sophomore Maggie Freed said, “Don’t judge us until you’ve seen us.”
As the team grew, so did the number in their wins column. They finished 14-11, but more impressively 10-4 in the MVAC, good for second in the conference. It came down to the final game of the season as far as seeding went for the playoffs, but in the end, it was Starmount who prevailed over East Wilkes, who finished 9-5 in the MVAC. Both teams then went on to win their opening round matches in the playoffs before falling in the second round. Elkin’s early season struggles cost them dearly, as they just missed out on a playoff berth.
Next year, it seems clear that Starmount will be a serious threat again. However, if one of the players can grow physically, there’s no doubt that will help. It’s been a while since they had someone tall, and no volleyball coach in their right mind would decline having a tall player on their team. East Wilkes, meanwhile, lost a good chunk of seniors, so they’ll need leadership from within. Elkin is losing only two seniors, and if their JV squad gives any indication of where the program is headed, the team will continue to improve.
Elkin and East Wilkes were the top team in the MVAC, but only one could establish themselves as the best. The Lady Elks made sure that it was them, thanks to a phenomenal undefeated season. However, three seniors, from both schools, would could away with trophies. East Wilkes senior Amber Parks won the MVAC Singles Championship, while Morgan Randleman and Miracle Walters found a way to make it all the way to the State Championship match as a doubles team.
Looking at the future for Elkin, East Wilkes, and Starmount, it’s still bright. However, they’re all losing seniors who will be greatly missed.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.