Jake Little of Trinity made a big impact in baseball for the Bulldogs and he’ll continue playing in 2024. (File photo)
Here’s a check on some of Randolph County’s top athletes from the Class of 2023 with their college intentions:
** Asheboro’s Nicolas Chavez signed to go to UNC Asheville for men’s track and field. He was a hurdler and pole vaulter for the Blue Comets.
** Katelyn Thomas of Asheboro is headed to Anderson (S.C.) University to play women’s tennis. She has been on the Mid-Piedmont Conference all-conference team the past two years.
** Diego Gutierrez of Asheboro is going to Carolina University for men’s soccer. He also was a wrestling standout for the Blue Comets.
Edwin Perez is slated to play men’s soccer at Chowan, which is the same destination for Asheboro teammate Calvin Smith. Smith was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Piedmont Conference, while Gutierrez and Perez were all-conference choices.
** Trinity’s baseball team had several players pegged to extend their playing careers. A trio of All-Piedmont Athletic Conference players will make stops in junior college.
Pitcher and outfielder Jake Little is going to Florence-Darlington Tech in Florence, S.C., to play for the Stingers, who’ve been a regional power. Pitcher Cade Hill is heading to Rockingham Community College. Jaxson Coble, who also played football for the Bulldogs, is going to Guilford Tech after being dubbed the Bulldogs’ top offensive player in 2023.
** Three-sport standout Dylan Hodges of Trinity is set to play men’s basketball at Division III Pfeiffer.
Hodges was a high-flying swingman, averaging 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-best 2.5 steals per game as a senior. Hodges was also a receiver for the football team, while he excelled as a high jumper and sprinter in track and field.
** From Providence Grove, Caroline Wright is going to Pfeiffer to play women’s golf. She was last year’s Player of the Year in the Piedmont Athletic Conference for girls’ golf.
Previous stories have documented intended destinations for many other Class of 2023 athletes from Randolph County.
TRINITY – Details are coming together for the first Trinity High School Athletics Hall of Fame, with the first induction class likely coming later this year.
“Trinity has an extremely rich heritage,” athletics director Robert Mitchell said. “We’ve got years and years of great athletes and championships. We’ve got decades and decades of special accomplishments.”
Mitchell said the goal is to recognize achievements of coaches, student-athletes and contributors. The school has been around in some form for more than 125 years.
“We have a wide variety (of potential Hall of Famers) from different generations,” Michell said. “It won’t be a problem finding them. This first class, the toughest part is going to be just narrowing it down.”
Criteria has been established for inductees and there will be a nomination process. If an individual or team is nominated, that nomination will stand for five years (unless the person or team is selected for induction).
An immediate matter is putting together a full Hall of Fame committee. The school principal, athletics director and Booster Club representative will have spots on the committee, while up to four more board members are sought, Mitchell said.
The committee will have the assistance of longtime school observer and historian Dan Warren, who has chronicled and preserved much of the history associated with Trinity athletics. Mitchell said he has been a caretaker of trophies and uniforms through the years.
Potential board members should contact Mitchell ([email protected]). Committee members will be involved in the selection process, fundraising and banquet organization.
Mitchell, a 2006 Trinity graduate and 18-year staff member, has served as athletics director for 10 years. He said the concept of an athletics Hall of Fame for the school was initiated shortly before the pandemic and then put on hold.
“I’ve always kind of wanted it,” he said. “Right now is the perfect time to move forward.”
While honoring the history of Bulldogs athletics will be at the forefront of the Hall of Fame’s mission, Mitchell said there are other benefits. He said this is a way to show current and upcoming high school students the wide scope of Trinity athletics in hopes that they, too, can appreciate the history.
To make a Hall of Fame nomination, a form is located on the school’s athletics and alumni Facebook pages. Mitchell said the goal is to have the committee at work by next month with the first induction in late autumn. The intention is for it to be an annual event.
Baseball player Landon Mowery of Trinity has made a college choice. (Bob Sutton / Randolph Record)
THOMASVILLE – Landon Mowery has had an eye on becoming a Division I college baseball player for quite some time.
From his perspective, there might be no sense in putting that off.
Mowery, a Trinity standout, is considering reclassifying and heading to college a year early to join the Western Carolina program.
Last week, he committed to play for the Catamounts and by the end of the week things had accelerated.
“A big decision to be made,” Lowery said. “They want me to come up early to hopefully win a spot.”
Mowery, who plays for the High Point-Thomasville Post 87 American Legion team, will need to finish coursework this summer at Trinity to become eligible to head to Cullowhee.
“Ever since I was a kid growing up, to play for a Division I school is a dream come true,” he said.
Lowery is a 5-foot-8, 185-pound shortstop who says he takes pride in being a steady contributor. He was a three-year starter for Trinity.
“I’m not a numbers guy,” he said. “You have to see me.”
If early entry to college doesn’t pan out, Lowery, 18, said he plans to play his senior season for Wesleyan Christian in High Point after holding key roles in Trinity’s 35-21 record across the past two seasons.
There could be openings in Western Carolina’s middle infield. Pascanel Ferreras started all 54 games at shortstop as a junior and batted a team-best .325. He has been a first-team All-Southern Conference selection the past two seasons and is a potential draftee this month. Second baseman Brandon Butterworth is transferring to North Carolina State after two seasons with the Catamounts.
Post 87 teammates Yates Sikes and Wyatt Stanley are also heading to Western Carolina, though they finished senior seasons of high school.
Mowery said a strong showing last year in the State Games of North Carolina in Chapel Hill boosted his profile. He batted .423 with three home runs and 11 doubles in his final season at Trinity.
“I’m more of a contact hitter, gap to gap,” he said.
Randleman’s Austin Lemons had a big night on the mound and at the plate in the PAC Tournament final. (Bob Sutton/Randolph Record)
RANDLEMAN – There was so much going on with Randleman’s baseball team in the Piedmont Athletic Conference Tournament final.
Everything from Drake Purvis making his much-anticipated season debut to the Tigers racking up their 20th victory of the year.
Yet pretty much nothing could overshadow Austin Lemons.
The senior who mostly waited in the wings behind a stacked roster from a year ago emerged as the pitching and hitting standout in Randleman’s 4-0 victory against visiting Trinity on Thursday night.
“This is the biggest game I’ve probably ever pitched in my life and I feel like I handled it really well out there. I could trust my team. We got some runs. I knew right when we got those runs, I felt good about it.”
Make no mistake, the Tigers got their runs because of Lemons, who hit a two-run homer and later doubled to set up another run,
So he went from having a up-close view of Randleman’s record-setting 2022 season as a reserve to becoming one of the main participants for this year’s conference titlist.
“It definitely feels rewarding after working a lot,” Lemons said. “It’s not just for me. Hunter (Atkins) and Seth (Way) are the two that were in the lineup last year. They’ve been killing it this year. Everybody else had to fill really big roles and I think we’re doing a really good job of that.”
Lemons, a UNC Greensboro signee as a pitcher, must have been paying good attention last year.
“He has worked for this,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said. “He has seen people being successful in front of him.”
Lemons said he grew as a player last summer and in the fall on the travel ball circuit. Combined with what he learned from watching his former Randleman teammates, he applied it all to his final high school season.
“I feel like I just stuck through the process. I came out here and practiced just the same as everybody else,” Lemons said. “I took a lot of time to learn watching these guys on the field and I think it really carried over to this year.”
So that’s why the Tigers felt good about sending Lemons to the mound for the tournament final after he tossed two shutout innings in relief in Tuesday night’s eight-inning escape against Providence Grove in the semifinals.
“He competed and threw strikes,” Smith said. “His body language, his presence. He’s very focused.”
He gave Randleman six innings vs. Trinity, allowing two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
Lemons relies mostly on fastballs and sliders. He said his control tended to be a glitch in past years, but that’s an area where he made significant improvement.
“I definitely feel like I’ve always had some of the talent there,” he said. “There’s potential, but I really had to work. I feel the biggest thing that changed for me is my mental approach, just being more confident.”
Randleman (20-4), the two-time defending Class 2-A state champion, will hold a high seed when the state playoffs begin next week.
Perfect inning for Purvis
Now, they’ll have Purvis ready to contribute. He hadn’t pitched in competition in about 10 months because of elbow surgery.
The junior left-hander entered in the seventh – though Lemons stayed loose on the side – and pitched a perfect inning.
“A couple of days ago we knew this would be the night,” Purvis said. “Slowly returning back. This is what you want. The place was packed, a big crowd.”
Second baseman Shawn Miller fielded a grounder toward the hole and snagged a line drive for the first two outs before a called third strike ended the game. Purvis celebrated with an emotion-filled prance toward the dugout.
“Wanted to see some live hitters in game in game situations,” he said. “Have that playoff mode. I’m used to this. It’s not my first rodeo and definitely not my last, either.”
It pretty much went by design for the Tigers. Purvis pitched a no-hitter in last June’s Game 1 of the state championship series vs. Farmville Central.
“We had to get him in and see him, and it was a positive,” Smith said. “He was amped up, for sure. I don’t blame him, I would be, too.”
Some offense, too
In part because of Randleman center fielder Way’s diving catch in right-center field that likely saved a run to end the top of the fourth, neither team had scored. In the bottom of the inning, Atkins drew a lead-off walk and scored on Lemons’ second home run of the season.
The lead grew to 3-0 on Chesney Welch’s first varsity home run when he led off the bottom of the fifth with a blast to right-center field.
“I’m just getting out of my spring training phase,” Welch said of bolstering his production. “Sometimes they feel a certain way, and that (swing) was one of them.”
Soon after, Trinity starter Ethan Willard was gone. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out, but didn’t score again in the fifth.
Lemons’ lead-off double in the sixth resulted in the game’s final run after a couple of defensive miscues.
Randleman posted its first shutout in an 11-game span.
Trinity (15-10) failed to score in the tournament final for the second year in a row. Last year, the Bulldogs bounced back and reached the fourth round of the state playoffs.
Trinity used Andon Simmons’ two-hitter in a 4-0 semifinal victory against visiting Uwharrie Charter Academy with Landon Mowery and Brody Little both homering. The Bulldogs needed a fifth-run sixth inning to rally past seventh-seeded Eastern Randolph 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
TRINITY – Bear Bradley is taking a job as a football head coach at a school in Randolph County.
Even though it’s a different stop than in a previous role, he said it feels like a return to a comfort zone.
Bradley has become the football coach at Trinity, leaving a similar position at Southern Guilford.
“The more I got thinking about it, I think it was one of those things, I already had some of those relationships,” Bradley said. “To be back in Randolph County, and people you’ve known. There’s a family atmosphere and you’re welcomed.”
Bradley spent four seasons (2013-16) as head coach at rival Wheatmore. So he said he’ll be familiar with many of the families who will have players on his first Trinity squad.
Bradley, 44, compiled a six-season record of 24-38 at Southern Guilford, a Class 3-A team. The Storm went 6-5 overall last season, finishing third in the Mid-State 3-A Conference behind Greensboro Dudley and Eastern Guilford.
Bradley replaces Marlon Morris, who stepped away after three seasons and a 9-16 record. The Bulldogs have posted back-to-back 4-6 records, with seven of those victories coming in non-conference games.
So becoming more competitive in the Piedmont Athletic Conference is among the objectives.
Bradley coached from 2013-16 at Wheatmore with a 14-31 record. Previously, he spent time as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Smoky Mountain, and at Randleman.
Bradley had two sons playing for his Southern Guilford teams. Malachi Bradley, a center, will graduate this spring, while quarterback / linebacker Noah Bradley will join him at Trinity and be a junior on the 2023 team.
Coach Bradley said he’ll embrace the culture at Trinity.
“It’s a very appealing situation,” he said. “They’re more than ready and know what it takes to compete. They were always scrappy, blue-collar kind of people.”
Even though his new school will be a neighboring one from his role at Wheatmore, he considers this a chance “to come back to a place with business left unfinished.”
Clashing with traditional powers such as Greensboro Dudley and Southeast Guilford should prove beneficial, Bradley said.
“As a coach, you learned and grew,” he said. “It really challenges your knowledge of the game and pushes you to expand what you do.”
Bear Bradley will finish the school year as a teacher at Southern Guilford, where he instructs weightlifting. He said he’ll make the approximate 14-mile commute in afternoons to address topics with the football program at Trinity.
Hakeeme Butler tries to get Asheboro on the board in the first quarter of Thursday night’s loss to Greensboro Smith in the Class 3-A state playoffs. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
ASHEBORO – Asheboro’s special season in boys’ basketball didn’t come to a fitting conclusion.
That’s what made losing so hard to grasp for the Blue Comets.
Ambushed from the start by Greensboro Smith, Asheboro couldn’t sustain any of its rallies long enough in a 73-46 loss in the second round of the Class 3-A state playoffs Thursday night at raucous Asheboro Recreation Center.
“That’s the thing about this team, we all really care for each other,” senior guard D.J. Headen said. “We’re a really close group.”
So it was a teary-eyed departure for many of the players.
The accomplishments have been notable for the Blue Comets, who made it to the second round for the first time since 2017 and recorded the program’s first 20-win season in seven years.
They’ve done this amid unprecedented circumstances, coming out of a pandemic and then displayed from their home on-campus gym for two seasons.
“To win a conference championship, to win 20 games doing this,” coach Brian Nance said, referring to challenges of irregular practice times and other logistical snags. “It’s really kind of a little bit unbelievable to a point. For what these kids have been through for two years, but really the senior class for four years.”
Then in what became its final game of the season, seventh-seeded Asheboro (20-6) ran into 10th-seeded Greensboro Smith (26-3), which bolted to leads of 11-0 and 20-2 in the West Region game.
“We just came out slow to start,” senior Hakeeme Butler said. “The turnovers killed us.”
The Blue Comets later closed the gap to 24-16, but their deficit grew to 43-25 at halftime. The Golden Eagles began the second half on a 13-0 run, though Asheboro answered by notching the final nine points of the quarter.
“We kept trying to attack them at different angles,” Headen said.
“We just got punched in the face early, that big run,” Nance said. “They took it to us a little bit and we didn’t respond very good early on. Made some good runs.”
Butler’s 20 points and Camden Walker’s 17 points paced Asheboro.
The Blue Comets went 10-0 in regular-season play in the Mid-Piedmont Conference for one of their accomplishments. Headen said he hopes the team is considered one of the best in school history.
“A great season,” Butler said. “We’ve all been together for this. I’m proud of my boys.”
Nance, a veteran coach, had a similar reaction. This was the second season – and ideally the final season – that Asheboro plays home games downtown as renovations take place on campus. Gym capacity was reached and some fans were turned away for the state-playoff game.
“The kids put the time in and bought in to what we’ve tried to do and we couldn’t be more proud of them,” Nance said. “They believed in what they were doing. We just ran into a better basketball team.”
At Reidsville, undefeated Reidsville pulled away for an 81-66 victory.
Trinity (21-8) trailed 37-33 points at halftime but couldn’t keep up. The Rams (23-0) benefitted from a 28-11 third-quarter advantage.
At Ramseur, Pierce Leonard scored 20 points and third-seeded Eastern Randolph rolled past 14th-seeded Avery County 75-60.
On Saturday, the Wildcats (26-2) play host to sixth-seeded Robbinsville (23-5), which in the playoffs has won 46-45 vs. Mountain Island Charter and 51-49 vs. Swain County.
Eastern Randolph went up 42-24 by halftime against Avery County (18-10).
Davonte Brooks posted 18 points and Timothy Brower had 16 points for the Wildcats.
Asheboro’s Jerquarius Stanback heads to the basket in a Class 3-A opening-round game against East Henderson in the state playoffs. (Scott Pelkey/Randolph Record)
Four of the six girls’ basketball teams and half of the six boys’ teams from Randolph County entered in the state playoffs won in the West Region’s first round Tuesday night.
Winning teams advance to second-round games Thursday night. Higher-seeded teams will play at home.
Top-seeded Randleman took care of business with a 52-34 victory against No. 32 seed Bandys in Class 2-A.
The Tigers (25-1), who received 15 points from Elizabeth York and 14 points from Gracyn Hall, led 25-8 after the first quarter. Randleman will meet Hendersonville (18-9) in the second round.
No. 15 seed Southwestern Randolph, the only team to defeat Randleman this season, topped 18th-seeded West Lincoln 60-40 with Caressa King and Jordin George both posting 14 points. The Cougars (19-8) visit second-seeded Shelby next.
Also in Class 2-A, No. 11 seed North Wilkes trounced No. 22 seed Trinity 67-37. No. 8 seed East Rutherford dominated No. 25 seed Wheatmore 70-32.
** In Class 1-A, Brecken Snotherly poured in 36 points as fifth-seeded Eastern Randolph defeated No. 28 seed South Davidson 55-36.
Snotherly was 15-for-19 on free throws.
Next for the Wildcats (18-7) is a home game against 12th-seeded Rosman.
** Uwharrie Charter Academy was the only Randolph County team to win a road game in the opening round. The 23rd-seeded Eagles defeated No. 10 seed Christ the King 39-38 in overtime.
UCA (12-15) heads to seventh-seeded Bessemer City for the second round.
At Ramseur, Julian Brooks scored 20 points and Eastern Randolph ran past No. 30 seed Cherryville for a 97-60 victory in Class 1-A.
The third-seeded Wildcats (25-2) also received 16 points from Davonte Brooks, 13 points from Nicah Taylor and 11 points from Timothy Brower.
Eastern Randolph, which next meets 14th-seeded Avery County, led 52-20 at halftime. Julian Brooks had 14 of his points in the second half.
Also in Class 1-A, No. 31 seed UCA dropped a 91-53 decision at No. 2 seed South Stokes.
** In Class 3-A at Asheboro, No. 7 seed Asheboro handled No. 26 seed East Henderson 75-54.
Hakeeme Butler’s 23 points and Jerquarius Stanback’s 22 points led the way.
Now the Blue Comets (20-5) have a home game vs. No. 10 seed Greensboro Smith (25-2), which has a 15-game winning streak, at Asheboro Recreation Center.
** In Class 2-A, ninth-seeded Southwestern Randolph suffered a 56-50 home loss to No. 24 seed Burns.
Cougars (15-11), who trailed 39-38 going to the fourth quarter, lost their second game in a row following a 10-game winning streak. Sean Adkins supplied 16 points for Southwestern Randolph.
Dylan Hodges racked up 31 points and Dominic Payne had 27 points as No. 15 seed Trinity rolled past No. 18 seed Newton-Conover 81-55. That means the Bulldogs (21-7) now head to second-seeded Reidsville (22-0).
No. 13 seed High Point Andrews dispatched No. 20 seed Randleman 62-53. The Tigers finished the season with a 15-12 record.
Eastern Randolph’s Timothy Brower goes up for a basket as Trinity’s Jacob Hodges, right, defends. Other Trinity players, left to right, Brandon Campbell, Grayson Earls, Dylan Hodges and Dominic Payne look on. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
RAMSEUR – Timothy Brower was down on the court in pain in the first quarter of the Piedmont Athletic Conference Tournament’s boys’ basketball championship.
The Eastern Randolph guard delivered much of the punishment for the rest of Friday night’s game.
Brower’s 28 points helped propel the regular-season champion Wildcats in a 74-64 victory against visiting Trinity that marked their first conference tournament title in seven years.
Brower said he sensed his tumble was pleasing to the opposing team’s fans.
“It kind of hit me,” he said. “That turned something on inside me.”
The Wildcats sure know how to turn it on, and even though a 17-point lead shrunk to two points in the fourth quarter they had what it took to turn away third-seeded Trinity.
It’s the winningest season in program history for Eastern Randolph (24-2).
“I knew we were going to have a good season, but I didn’t think it would be like this,” said senior guard Pierce Leonard, a transfer from Uwharrie Charter Academy.
The latest example from the Wildcats might have been fitting.
“It was how our boys persevered,” first-year coach Johnny Thomas said. “We’re not only showing people that we can be a fast team, we’re showing people that we can be a smart team. We can play half-court basketball and in the process of playing half-court basketball, we can get the job done.
“We allowed ourselves to stay positive and stay motivated. So the highlight for me is walking away with not only the (regular-season) championship, but the tournament championship.”
Eastern Randolph’s Davonte Brooks, despite not feeling well at times, racked up 20 points and Connor Carter’s 12 points came on four 3-point baskets.
“They run their system well,” Trinity coach Tim Kelly said. “They have so many different weapons. They’re the best team in our league.”
Brower, a sophomore, nearly doubled his season average of 14.9 points per game.
“I knew whoever was guarding me couldn’t guard me,” Brower said, dealing with what he described as a hyperextended knee.
“He got everywhere he wanted to get to,” Thomas said of Brower.
Despite now tripling last season’s eight-win total, this title game was far from automatic.
“We just couldn’t close out,” Kelly said of rallies that faded.
Dominic Payne racked up 25 points, Dylan Hodges had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Campbell tallied 12 points for Trinity (20-7).
Eastern Randolph ended the first quarter on a 20-3 stretch and extended its lead to 30-13 by scoring the first five points of the second quarter. Trinity’s 14-1 run changed the game’s complexion.
The Wildcats’ 38-31 halftime edge grew again as Brower put together a stellar third quarter. Trinity ended up in the bonus early in the second half, but the Bulldogs also encountered foul trouble as Campbell and Hodges picked up their fourth fouls with more than seven minutes to play.
Still, Trinity shook off a 12-point hole, with Payne’s three-point play and his baseline jumper cutting the deficit to 59-57. The Bulldogs had a possession with a chance to tie or go ahead.
The next points came from Brooks on a putback of his own missed shot, then Brower drained a 14-foot jump before Carter’s 3 made it 66-59 with less than two minutes left.
“It felt awesome because no one thought we could do it,” Brower said.
The final score might have been closer, but Kelly didn’t want his team to back off.
“Why do that?” Kelly said. “Give yourself a chance to win.”
Leonard ended up on the PAC Tournament title-winning team for the second year in a row.
“I do what I got to do to allow us to win,” he said.
It was the first time either team had reached a conference tournament final since 2016. Eastern Randolph also won that matchup.
Marlon Morris spent three seasons as Trinity’s head coach. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph record)
TRINITY – Trinity is amid a coaching change for its football program.
Marlon Morris stepped down from his role as head coach after three seasons.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Trinity athletics director Robert Mitchell said. “He decided it was best not to stay as coach.”
Trinity was 9-16 in three seasons under Morris. The Bulldogs had back-to-back 4-6 seasons after a 1-4 mark in the pandemic-reconfigured 2021 spring season.
“We’re going to give it a few weeks and see how the next month goes,” Mitchell said Monday of hiring a replacement. “It’s still fresh now and we want to see what openings we might have (on the school staff).”
Within a few days of word spreading about the vacancy, Mitchell said about a dozen potential candidates made contact with him.
Trinity’s 2023 team could have up to 30 seniors. Mitchell said there were good roster numbers for the junior varsity team last fall.
Morris, also a social studies teacher, was defensive coordinator in 2019 before he was named head coach in March 2020 shortly after the start of the pandemic. The High Point Central alum previously had been on the coaching staff at Ledford.
Morris replaced Brett Andrews, who had been coach for five seasons.
Morris’ first season as head coach was the 2021 adjusted spring season because of the pandemic. Trinity ended a 17-game losing streak that March.
“I think he did a great job during the pandemic,” Mitchell said, “because that was tough for everybody.”
In 2022, the Bulldogs won four of their first five games, but ended the season on a five-game losing streak and were the last-place team in the Piedmont Athletic Conference. Except for a one-point loss to Wheatmore, the other PAC defeats were by 31 or more points.
“It was definitely a rough ending,” Mitchell said.
The problems were compounded by injuries. Senior Dylan Hodges, one of the team’s top two-way players, suffered a broken collarbone in the third game of the season. Injuries mounted, with quarterback Dominic Payne missing the last two games with an ankle ailment.
With changes at Asheboro and Providence Grove, it means three of the seven football-playing schools in Randolph County will be under the direction of new coaches this year.