Longtime Pals Power Undefeated Westover
By Earl Vaughan Jr.
At 5-0, Westover is the lone undefeated team in the All American Athletic Conference, and the combination of quarterback Joshua Jones and receiver Jamari Stallion has a lot to do with it.
It’s not a surprise the two have developed a strong kinship on the football field as their relationship began years before the two arrived at Westover.
“Me and Jamari have been friends since we were 7 years old,’’ Jones said. “We’ve been together years on top of years.’’
More than friends, the two have been frequent workout partners during the offseason, spending many hours together practicing throwing, catching and working on routes together.
Wolverine head coach Ernest King said that continued this past summer with seven-on-seven sessions and other development tools.
“I’ve seen the way both of them have grown in the past year, especially in the weight room,’’ King said. “They stayed after workouts, working on their timing. We had high expectations for them. I knew it would be a big part of our offense.’’
For his part, Jones went to several camps to focus on his mechanics.
While King knew the passing game would be a big part of the Wolverine offense, he didn’t plan for it to be the focus of the offense.
Running backs Kaivaughn Spence and Jansen Gibbs have helped share the load, Spence rushing for 334 yards and Gibbs 322.
Jones feels that only makes the passing more effective. “We are showing we’re not a one-sided team,’’ he said.
King said the Wolverines are also showing they’ve got solid leadership in Jones and Stallion. “Josh has been a leader of our offense and Jamari is the leader of our receivers,’’ he said. “They make sure everybody works hard.’’
Hard work will be essential this week as the Wolverines travel for a key conference game tonight at Terry Sanford. The Bulldogs have been somewhat up and down this year, but they remain a dangerous opponent and it’s also their homecoming game.
“It’s always been a tough game,’’ King said. “They’re trying to make the playoffs like we’re trying to make the playoffs. They’ll fly around the football and they’re a very physical football team.’’
Jones said the key for Westover will be matching the Bulldogs in physicality and intensity.
Stallion said the Wolverines need to focus on getting off to a faster start. “Once we do what we’ve got to do on offense, nobody can mess with us,’’ he said.
• As expected, the Cape Fear and Terry Sanford girls’ tennis teams wrapped up conference titles this week in their respective leagues, Cape Fear winning the United 8 and Terry Sanford the All American.
Terry Sanford also swept top honors in the All American Conference tournament, which wrapped up Wednesday. Play in the United 8 tournament continued past deadline for this week’s Earl’s Pearls.
In the All American 3-A conference tournament, Terry Sanford’s Annie Lieberman beat teammate Mary Anna Stiles for the singles title, while Hannah Johnson and Sophie Blankenship of the Bulldogs beat teammates Paige Canady and Sophie Blankenship in doubles.
In the 4-A tournament, Natalie Zumwalt of Pine Forest won the singles crown over over teammate Kellsie Weisler.
Doubles was won by Pine Forest’s Lauren McDonald and Caroline McMillan over teammates Nhi Truong and Jacelyn Santos.
State playoff competition in both the individual and dual team tournaments will begin next week.
• The Gray’s Creek volleyball team wrapped up the United 8 Conference volleyball title this week, giving the Bears three consecutive league championships.
The Bears finished the regular season 21-0 as they head into the league tournament next week, which is scheduled Oct. 18-21. The NCHSAA playoffs will follow.