It was a tough first week for high school sports in the region, as schools battled weather and COVID-19 health concerns, as well as other programs. For the most part, contests were rescheduled with the majority completed by the end of the week. COVID-19 claimed a couple of football games Friday night, while some had to outlast lightning delays that stretched games into Saturday morning.
It’s another week of nonconference action coming up as teams prepare for conference play. Here are some of the highlights for this week.
1) Watauga at Fred T. Foard volleyball (Tuesday)
On the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2019, Fred T. Foard welcomed Watauga to Linda Richards Court for a nonconference volleyball match between two of the state’s top programs. Before that match, Foard posted a video on YouTube comparing the upcoming tilt to Ali-Frazier, Yankees-Red Sox and Duke-UNC.
The two teams entered a loud, boisterous Copus Gym unbeaten. Visiting Watauga was 20-0 and had won 46 regular season matches in a row. Foard was 21-0 and had won 33 straight in the regular season.
The match lived up to its billing. Foard won the first two sets before the Pioneers battled back to force a fifth-set tiebreaker. The Tigers and Pioneers went toe to toe before Watauga took the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.
Since that match, Foard has lost once heading into this week. More specifically, Foard has lost one SET. The Tigers won the last 11 matches en route to the 2019 2A state title, then all 19 last season to add their eighth state title. After sweeping Maiden and Bandys last week, Foard has won 32 in a row.
Following that match, Watauga added two more wins to close out the regular season in 2019, then added three more last season before Providence took a 3-2 win to close out the Pioneers regular-season streak at 51.
Both teams have had turnover since that epic match, but the expectations are the same. Watauga began its rebuild last year with a young squad that was advanced to the second round before losing to 3A power West Henderson in five sets. The Pioneers opened with wins over West Wilkes — a team Foard defeated in last season’s 2A West Final — and North Henderson. They were scheduled to play 3A power North Iredell and West Rowan Saturday.
Foard lost four seniors from last year’s title team, but thus far there has been little drop off from, as the Tigers little trouble putting away Maiden and Bandys last week.
While the Tigers have had almost no troubles putting away opponents, Watauga has been the exception. In fact, the Pioneers have won six in a row against Foard with the Tigers’ last against Watauga coming on September 8, 2015.
The match figures to prepare both for their respective conference seasons, as well as the postseason. If you can get to Copas Gym for this one, it should be worth your money.
2) Watauga at Maiden football (Friday)
Among the things missing from the COVID-19 football season last spring was the occasional nonconference game that offered intrigue. Friday night’s game at Maiden is certainly that, as two conference champions square off.
Maiden returned to the top of the heap in the South Fork 2A Conference, while Watauga won its third Northwestern 3A-4A Conference title in a row. Although both swept their respective leagues, the playoffs provided a cruel reality of just how far each were from state contention. Maiden lost 52-12 at home in the first round to eventual 2-AA champion Salisbury. The Pioneers got a wake-up call in a non-conference lost to T.C. Roberson to close out the regular season, then lost a home to Dudley by 20.
Each returned this season with a solid core from last season with the promise of better times ahead — at least based on the first week. Watauga got revenge by shutting out TC Roberson 33-0, while Maiden blasted Foard 56-0.
Both teams look to be strong contenders for conference titles again. Friday’s match should provide how much progress each has made from last season.
3) Charlotte Catholic at Hickory boys soccer (Saturday)
The boys’ soccer teams from Charlotte Catholic and Hickory rarely play each other, but when they did over the past decade, a lot was at stake for championship hopes.
Back in 2012, Hickory scored in the 32nd minute in the 3A West final and made it stand up for a trip to the state final. Two seasons ago in the 3A state quarterfinals, Catholic scored in the 60th minute, then with Hickory pushing players forward to get the equalizer, the Cougars added a late goal. Catholic won the next match and went on to the state final before losing.
The two soccer state powers meet up for an early-season nonconference match this time. Hickory replaces several key starters from a team that was close to a return to the state final last spring. Catholic had hoped for a chance to return to the 3A state final, but a 2-0 to Marvin Ridge in the regular season final bounced the Cougars from the playoffs.
4) East Lincoln at Maiden volleyball (Tuesday), Bandys at East Lincoln volleyball (Thursday)
East Lincoln is the common thread in this reunion from the former South Fork 2A Conference. A season ago, COVID-19 restrictions limited the conference to two qualifiers for the state playoffs and the battle came down to the Mustangs, Maiden and Bandys.
After a season-opening loss to Maiden, Bandys put its claim in for one of the two spots by taking out East Lincoln in a thrilling five-set match at home. A second loss by the Trojans to Maiden set up a winner-take-all meeting in the rematch between the Trojans and Mustangs, which East Lincoln took in a sweep.
The Mustangs win in that rematch was a part of a run of six matches in nine days, as the team sat out from December 3 to 28 due to a COVID-19 quarantine. With no margin for error, East Lincoln not only defeated Bandys, but defending conference champion Maiden twice during that stretch to win the South Fork.
With the conference realignment, East Lincoln has moved on the Western Foothills 3A while leaving behind its former conference foes. With conference play in volleyball starting in a week the reunion could give a clue as to how Maiden and Bandys may fare in the league and in battles to come.
5) Boys soccer minitournament (Hibriten, Foard, Newton-Conover, Cramer)
Four state playoff teams are scheduled to play a round-robin tournament this week. The feature team is last year’s 2A state runner-up Hibriten, along with 2A state quarterfinalist Fred T. Foard. Newton-Conover and Stuart Cramer also are among the mix.
Hibriten will host the first round Monday with a match against Newton-Conover, preceded by a match between Foard and Cramer.
The action shifts to Belmont on Wednesday, with the Storm taking on Newton-Conover in the nightcap, after former Northwestern conference members Foard and Hibriten square off.
Foard will host Friday’s matches, as the Tigers play the Red Devils and Stuart Cramer plays Hibriten.
HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY SCHEDULE:
Schedules listed are taken from information provided by the conference secretaries, athletic departments of individual schools, from information published by the schools on its websites, or on maxpreps.com. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Volleyball times are approximate, as they often follow JV matches. Contact the school for information on ticket policies and to confirm time of the event.
WEEK OF AUGUST 23-28
MONDAY, AUGUST 23
Cherryville at Maiden, 5 p.m.
Freedom at Chase, 5 p.m.
Fred T. Foard vs. Stuart Cramer (at Hibriten), 5 p.m.
Patton at East Burke, 5 p.m.
Alexander Central at Wilkes Central, 6 p.m.
Ashbrook at Hickory, 6 p.m.
Bunker Hill at Challenger, 6 p.m.
West Caldwell at South Caldwell, 6 p.m.
West Iredell at Bandys, 6 p.m.
Newton-Conover at Hibriten, 7 p.m.
Alexander Central at St. Stephens, 4 p.m.
Bandys at Hickory, 5:30 p.m.
East Burke at Draughn, 5:30 p.m.
Freedom at Wilkes Central, 5:30 p.m.
St. Stephens at Crest, 5:30 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson at West Caldwell, 5:30 p.m.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 24
Alexander Central at Hopewell, 6 p.m.
Draughn at West Lincoln, 4 p.m.
Fred T. Foard at Hibriten, 4 p.m.
Newton-Conover at Hickory, 4 p.m.
South Iredell at Maiden, 4 p.m.
East Lincoln at Maiden, 5 p.m.
Alexander Central at Statesville, 5:30 p.m.
Patton at Draughn, 5:30 p.m.
Watauga at Fred T. Foard, 5:30 p.m.
Wilkes Central at Hibriten, 5:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25
Northwestern 3A-4A Conference
Northwestern 3A-4A Relays at Alexander Central, (Riverbend Park) 5 p.m.
Hibriten vs. Fred T. Foard, at Stuart Cramer, 5 p.m.
Maiden at Bessemer City, 5 p.m.
West Caldwell at Patton, 5 p.m.
East Burke at Freedom (Catawba River Soccer), 6 p.m.
South Caldwell at St. Stephens, 6 p.m.
West Rowan at Bandys, 6 p.m.
Newton-Conover at Stuart Cramer, 7 p.m.
Alexander Central at North Iredell, 4 p.m.
Hickory at South Caldwell, 4 p.m.
St. Stephens at Newton-Conover, 4 p.m.
Alexander Central at Bandys, 5:30 p.m.
Bunker Hill at St. Stephens, 5:30 p.m.
Freedom at East Burke, 5:30 p.m.
Lincoln Charter at Hickory, 5:30 p.m.
Hibriten at West Caldwell, 6 p.m.
Patton at South Caldwell, 6 p.m.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 26
North Iredell at Alexander Central, 6:30 p.m.
University Christian at Bunker Hill, 6 p.m.
Bunker Hill at Alexander Central, 4 p.m.
North Lincoln at Maiden, 4 p.m.
South Caldwell at Fred T. Foard, 4 p.m.
South Iredell at St. Stephens, 4 p.m.
Hickory at Newton-Conover, 5 p.m.
Bandys at East Lincoln, 5:30 p.m.
East Burke at Patton, 5:30 p.m.
Draughn at Freedom, 5:30 p.m.
Fred T. Foard at Lake Norman, 5:30 p.m.
Hibriten at North Wilkes, 5:30 p.m.
St. Stephens at Maiden, 5:30 p.m.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 27
Bunker Hill at St. Stephens, 7 p.m.
Bandys at Fred T. Foard, 7 p.m.
Newton-Conover at West Iredell, 7 p.m.
Alexander Central at North Gaston, 7:30 p.m.
Freedom at East Burke, 7:30 p.m.
Huss at Hibriten, 7:30 p.m.
Patton at Draughn, 7:30 p.m.
Watauga at Maiden, 7:30 p.m.
West Caldwell at R-S Central, 7:30 p.m.
Newton-Conover at Fred T. Foard, TBA
Hibriten vs. Stuart Cramer, at Fred T. Foard, TBA
SATURDAY, AUGUST 28