Athletics

PackBackers Varsity Spring Sports 2017 Recap
Categories: General, Athletics
Posted: 5/22/2017

Girls Soccer

This season, Coach Cobb saw tremendous growth under the senior leadership of Elizabeth “Pridg” Pridgeon, Lauren Burke, and newcomer Natalie Bell. It was a hard-fought season in a new and difficult area, where four of the teams were ranked in the top 10 in 1A. Every one of Whitefield’s eight losses were to teams ranked in the top 10 in 1A or 3A during the 2017 season. As disappointing as it was to finish fifth and not move on to the state playoffs, the team had much of which to be proud.

Coach Cobb said, “The culture on the team has changed to have higher expectations of each other and our results. Next year will be a huge challenge to break into the top four in such a tough area, and success will be determined by what the girls decide to do between now and the beginning of the season next year.”

Key wins this year were against Darlington (3-0), who went on to win their area, and Providence (2-0), who finished third in area eight.

Standout underclassmen players:

• Freshman Caroline Browne, central defender, who was a rock in the back. “We are looking forward to watching her grow as both a player and a leader in this program over the next two years,” said Coach Cobb.

• Junior Macy Kendrick, who was a captain this year and controls the midfield. “Macy’s work rate and tenacity dictates the game for our team. We were able to move her up top some this year, which also gave us more options. She is our creator in our attack as well. Macy and the very strong senior class will lead this team next year, and they are very motivated to make a statement next year,” said Coach Cobb.

Seniors:

• Natalie Bell, new to the team this year, raised the standard in the program from a fitness perspective as well as bringing an inspiring work ethic. She came every day to practice as a selfless teammate, expecting nothing in return.

• Lauren Burke, goalkeeper. She was the cornerstone of the program for four years, and her selfless leadership, commitment, and competitiveness will be greatly missed. She left her mark on the program. Lauren will go on to play at Appalachian State, where Coach Cobb worked for 10 years as an assistant coach.

• Elizabeth “Pridg” Pridgeon. “Elizabeth’s growth as a player from sophomore to senior year was truly remarkable and is a testament to how hard she worked in the off season and her coachability. Her senior year, I am most proud of her ability to be consistent both mentally and physically on the field. She stopped many of the best forwards in the state,” said Coach Cobb.

Looking forward:
The next several years look promising for this team. The program will have a large group of upperclassmen for the first time in several years in 2018. They will return 14 juniors and seniors complimented by a strong sophomore class with reinforcements coming from several eighth-graders who just helped their team win the Middle School championship.  The goal will be to return to the state playoffs, and it will take every player being on the same page for that to happen. The future is exciting. 


Varsity Lacrosse

What stood out to Coach Hunter the most this season was not only making the GHSA tournament, but also the team’s spiritual growth that got them there. 

Lacrosse competes in class 1-5A, making it very difficult for the smaller teams like ours that simply do not have the depth that larger schools naturally come by. Whitefield, however, has exceptional players and coaches that enabled the team to compete well and come out with an 11-6 record overall. They were 28th in 1-7A and 10th in 1-5A! The only losses were to Lovett, Westminster, Kell, Creekview (6A), Marist, and Wesleyan.

Coach Hunter attributes the team’s success to a shift that happened about a third of the way through the season, when the team really began to embrace honoring God - as our athletic team motto reads “Work Hard, Play Hard, Honor Him.” 

Seniors:
Six out of the nine seniors will go on to play in college and be in the same conference.

• Carter Dixon & Jack Fitzgerald – Berry College
• Jonathan Wood & Mitchell Ryan – Sewanee (The University of the South)
• Connor Callan - Rhodes College
• Brenner McCutcheon – Centre College
• Preston Bates
• Carson Brown
• Jordan Saibu

This group of outstanding seniors has been 51-18 over the last four years.

Looking forward: 
Coach Hunter sees great promise in this team and their ability to continue to succeed. Much of the success will come from the work these boys will do in summer leagues, which will help develop their skills in the off season.


Baseball

Coach Jason Godbee was new to the team this year and felt blessed to have been a part of Whitefield baseball.

There were three pillars Coach Godbee taught his team this year - brotherhood, character, and tenacity - based off of 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.”

Their season divided up into three parts.

The first part of the season started off fast (8-1), and the team enjoyed some big successes, sweeping teams like Walker.

Then came mid-season, which Coach Godbee dubbed “the dark ages” (2-6), where things began to go the wrong way. However, it was during this time that character was built and revealed. The team's tenacity came into play, and the seniors pulled the team together to continue to push forward. Without their leadership and focus, the end of the season would have come up short.

The team finished with a 17-8 regular season record, but it was the last eight games that stood out with multiple challenges that demanded a response, which is something the team had discussed. Senior Night was one of those games, where the game was suspended due to darkness and resumed on Tuesday against Fellowship Christian. They came back the next day for "Senior Night 2.0" and defeated Fellowship 8-7.

The guys then traveled to Heard County, ranked second in 2A at the time, and delivered one of the team's best performances all season. Sam Fuller took the win on the mound, pitching a complete game two hit shutout, and Griffin Combs provided the only offense needed to secure the win with a homer.

Another highlight that week was the region crossover games against Trion in which the team was down 4-2 in the last inning down to their last strike and out and tied the game up with a two out two strike double by Carter Huffman. The game would continue another five innings before Trion would finally end up winning game one 8-7. The second game against Trion was suspended at 11 p.m. due to the late hour according to GHSA rules that ended with Whitefield leading 6-5. They would travel back to campus, arriving after 2 a.m. to go to class the next day and then complete game two against Trion, winning in dramatic fashion down to their last strike with a two out double by Griffin Combs scoring Russell Bell from second. In the rubber match, game three of the series against Trion, we were able to jump out early and dominate, winning 9-3 behind three homers offensively (Carter Huffman, Sam Fuller, and Jimmy McCarthy) and solid pitching from Griffin Combs.

The team’s overall finish was 18-10, with the second-most wins in program history and the third playoff appearance.

Seniors:
One will be going on to play in college, while another was drafted into the MLB.

• Sam Fuller – Los Angeles Angels
• Mason Jones - Trevecca Nazarene University
• Jimmy McCarthy
• Griffin Combs
• Robert Wood

Standouts:
• Junior Luke Persons, especially on the mound. Luke is getting a lot of attention to play at the division 1 collegiate level.
• Freshman Ian Kennedy

All-Region Team:

• First Team - Senior Sam Fuller, Freshman Ian Kennedy
• Second Team - Junior Luke Persons
• Third Team – Senior Mason Jones, Senior Jimmy McCarthy, Junior Carter Huffman

Team Awards:

• Most Valuable Player - Mason Jones
• Offensive  Player of the Year - Carter Huffman
• Pitcher Player of the Year - Sam Fuller
• Charlie Hustle Awards - Jacob Pitts & Ian Kennedy
• Eleazar Award - Sam Fuller

Looking forward: 
Leadership will be what continues to help this team grow. Making everyone feel a part of this team like the seniors did this year will determine the success for next year.


Boys Soccer

Putting this season into words was especially difficult. It is clear that the Lord’s hand was all over this season, as the great gift Giver chose to gift this group of boys not only on the field, but eternally by giving them opportunities to build character and thereby lead them into a closer walk with Him. This was the true success of this state championship team. 

Obviously winning the state crown was the highlight of this season, but it was the road to success in which the team found true success. 

“We had the perfect storm,” Coach Hellier stated, referencing an incredible group of coaches whose gifts were so diverse and worked together for the good of the team day in and day out. “The beauty of the season was the relationship that the players had through the highs and lows they went through.” 

The Kell game was one of those lows that turned the tide of the team. It was an emotional, nasty game, and the postgame celebration was ridiculous, but afterward the team had a “come-to-Jesus meeting.” This was the moment they realized the Lord had His purpose in this season. It was not in their control - they had to learn to let go of anger and make a conscious effort to die to self and submit to the Lord.  As Coach Heiskell points out, this is in large part due to the humility of Coach Hellier, who exposed his own difficulty with chasing winning over purpose and modeled this submission to the team.

While winning the state championship and ending the season with a 21-3 record was an incredible blessing, seeing this team fight pride and honor the Lord above all else was the true win.

Seniors:

• William Hellier – (Attacking Mid-Fielder) Four-year varsity starter, two-year captain. William not only led the team on the field, but spiritually as well. With 30 assists and 13 goals this season, he was a force to be reckoned with. In some respects, he even served as another coach. William was named All Area 1st Team this year and was a finalist for the Vince Dooley Scholarship Award.

• Aaron Harges – (Center Back) Four-year varsity starter, co-captain this year. Aaron had an unfortunate final season, being hurt much of the year, but has been a key component in rebuilding the team. He played a significant role in the final game when he was able to play again and shut down any forward that came his way.

• Chip Soud – (Forward) Three-year varsity player. He was a dependable striker who impacted several important games. Chip will always be remembered for scoring the final goal last year against AIS, the team that had won the state championship the year before. This win was a signpost on the way to this team’s rise from the ashes.

• Trae Terrell – (Defender) Three-year varsity player. Trey was an incredible leader by the example he set. He came to every practice, weight trained in the off season, and poured every ounce of himself into the team, knowing that he might never see the field, all while keeping a great attitude.

Looking forward:
We are returning 10 out of 11 starters, with a target on our backs and high expectations. The key to success will be not allowing worldly success to go to our heads and continuing to humbly seek Him.

We also want to thank the school, student body, and PackBackers for their sacrificial support of the team. Everyone coming to the state game was so enjoyed and appreciated by us all!


Track

To understand track competition, you need to know that each event you compete in at area, sectionals, and state is a championship in and of itself.  Area and sectionals are like the playoffs, and only a few will make the cut to go on to compete on the state level. This is why we are so proud of how our teams performed this year and the personal achievements that were made.

The Whitefield boys track team finished their season at the 2017 state meet at Berry College in Rome with an unexpected team trophy and fourth-place finish in 1-A private competition. Based on seeding and entry times, the team had been projected to finish 11th with 19 points, but as a result of some outstanding personal record performances, they surprised themselves and others by scoring 36 points, just one to three points ahead of four other teams vying for the fourth-place trophy! The boys also won the area meet this year.

In track, the top eight finishers in an event all score points that add to the team's total. Freshman Devin Wade started Whitefield's team scoring on Thursday night by beating his personal best time by more than 20 seconds with a 10:22.96 and moving from an 11th seed to sixth place in the 3200m run. On Friday, senior Carson Brown finished out a stellar career at Whitefield by placing third in the discus and seventh in the shot put. Then, junior Nicholas Harris, who was the last qualifier in the triple jump at sectionals, surpassed his personal best by more than two feet and finished third, setting a new school record of 43'4" in the process.

Then on Saturday, the 4x100m relay team of Nicholas Harris, senior Willie Fulks, sophomore Julian Munoz, and senior Brian Pickens picked up where their teammates left off by finishing second with a season-best time of 43.37. Brian Pickens, who anchored the 4x100m relay team with a blazing finish, completed the best meet of his Whitefield career by going from an eighth-place seed in the 400m to finishing third with a season-best time of 51.04. Then our final competitor, senior sprinter Willie Fulks, finished out his excellent career at Whitefield by placing fourth in the 100m with a personal best time of 11.10.

The Whitefield girls track team placed third in area and completed their season at state by experiencing both elation and disappointment. Freshman Emily Little scored points and was on the podium twice for the Lady WolfPack by finishing sixth in the 3200m on Thursday night and eighth in the 1600m on Friday night. Then on Saturday came the disappointment. Our 4x100m team of freshman Logan VanArsdale, sophomore Shelby Wingate, senior Kaitlyn Johnson, and sophomore Amilya Little, which had been seeded second coming out of sectionals, inadvertently dropped the baton and finished eighth. But then Shelby Wingate brought the girls team back by placing sixth in the 100m in a personal best time of 12.53.

A huge shout out to the coaches - Coach Friday who coached sprinters and is himself a Hall of Fame inductee who won six state championships as the head coach at Marietta High School; Coach Todd Brown, a decathlete at UGA; Katie Weihe, who jumped at Purdue; Allison Duncanson, who was a sprinter at Vanderbilt; Caroline Pattillo, our distance coach and a graduate of Whitefield’s cross-country program; Jim Heiskell, who is the glue that sticks everyone together; and, of course, Coach Unsicker! Whitefield is enormously blessed by this group of coaches.
Seniors:

• Kaitlyn Johnson – (long jump, ran 4x100, 4x400 and 100m) Three-year competitor, captain. Kaitlyn brought to this team an incredible work ethic and a willingness to fill whatever roll was needed. She is truly a team player.

• Kate Taylor – (800m, 1600m, 3200m, 4x400) Three-year competitor. Kate is the most improved runner, not only in performance, but also in her work ethic and attitude since joining track her sophomore year.

• Willie Fulks – (100m, 200m, 4x100, 4x400) Four-year veteran, captain. His passion for competing has served him well. He has not only been a leader on this team, but an anchor as well. Willie will go on to play football at Mercer University.

• Coby Gregory – (long jump, 100m) Coby has a likable personality as well as an awareness of himself that is infectious. He draws people to himself because he is a lover of people.

• Brian Pickens – (400m, 4x100) Four-year veteran. Brian showed tremendous improvement this year and had the meet of his life at state with a new PR of 51.04. Brian will go on to compete at Columbus State.

Looking forward:
Cross country has helped establish some continuity among the distance runners that has helped our program. Only a few graduated, so the team should be stronger than ever next season. Coach Unsicker is especially looking at the young girls team to make great strides next year.


Golf

The golf team is a very young team in terms of experience, which set them up for a year of really focusing on skills and fundamentals. Success was not measured in wins and losses, but rather the improvement of each golfer in their skills and coming together as a team. Coach David had many conversations with the team about golf, but, more importantly, he said, “We talked and encouraged each other to walk in the image of Christ and not in athletic performance.”

There were no seniors on the golf team this year.

Looking forward: 
The next season shows great promise with everyone returning and being led by rising seniors Zac Lundy, Parker Cantrell, and Jackson Williams. Each of these seniors will bring a unique dynamic to the team. The team will also be acquiring a couple of very skilled freshmen. If each member of the team stays committed to the golf program by playing over the summer and through the fall, Coach David expects they will be more competitive this coming spring.


Tennis

The tennis team continues to bring great success to Whitefield. Coach Tillman Hamilton, Whitefield tennis alum, was impressed with the team and how they grew as players this year. Being a young team that faced more experienced players was difficult, but it only made them stronger.  Their hard work paid off, with the boys team making it to the region tournament and the girls making it to the state playoffs! 

Senior:
• Ansley Guthrie – She competed all four years of her high school career. Ansley has been a valuable doubles player, both at 1 and 2 doubles, and will be missed.

Looking forward: 
Coach Hamilton is excited to have most of the team returning and to add some great talent from the rising freshmen, who she coached in the fall, added to the roster. The team needs to work on their fitness to be able to outlast opponents on the court and continue to improve their game to make it to the next level, but both teams will hopefully make it to state playoffs next season.