In a high school sports year filled with pandemic protocols, the wearing of face masks, fan limitations and fearful uncertainty, Wilkes County prep athletes rose to the occasion in 2020-21.
Six Wilkes high school sports teams—count ’em, six!—achieved undefeated records in Mountain Valley 1A/2A Athletic Conference play in 2020-21. To go unbeaten over the course of an entire regular season is a rare feat in any sport.
The West Wilkes volleyball team got the ball rolling in January by completing a perfect 14-0 league slate. That was notably the second straight 14-0 campaign for Steve Bryan’s club, and the Blackhawks are 41-1 in league contests over the last three seasons.
That winning synergy carried over to Allie Greene’s Lady Blackhawk basketball team, who went 11-0 in a shortened season with many of the same players.
Only two teams were good enough to hand the West volleyball and basketball teams a postseason loss, and those clubs (Fred T. Foard and Mountain Heritage, respectively) went on to win 2A state championships.
Moving on to the late winter/early spring hybrid season, the Wilkes Central girls soccer team was simply dominant, cruising to a 14-0 mark in the MVAC for the second year in a row. Once again, the only team to beat Matt Matthew’s Eagles (Lake Norman Charter) later captured the 2A state title.
The West Wilkes softball team also achieved perfection, mowing down their MVAC foes en route to a 14-0 regular season and a fifth straight conference championship.
West Coach Michael Woodruff summed it up perfectly when he told me, “Any coach will tell you it’s tough to go through a conference and see teams twice … and remain undefeated.”
The Blackhawks’ only loss came at the hands of West Stanly in the playoffs. And—you guessed it—West Stanly went on to win the 2A softball state title.
And in the late spring/early summer slate, two teams went undefeated in the regular season: the East Wilkes girls tennis squad and the West Wilkes baseball club.
Aaron Simmons’ Cardinals volleyed their way to a 14-0 mark and a third straight MVAC title. East’s mettle could not be tested in the postseason, as the N.C. High School Athletic Association canceled the dual-team playoffs, as was the case with wrestling.
Drew Ward’s hardballers shone brightly on the diamond, going 14-0 and winning by an average score of 12.6 to 1.8. It was the Blackhawks’ second straight perfect campaign and fourth MVAC title in a row.
As far as I can determine, there’s never been a Wilkes prep sports year with six undefeated league champions. I haven’t found a recent year with five, even.
There were four in 2019-20 (the aforementioned West volleyball and basketball and Central soccer teams, plus the West wrestling squad), one in 2018-19 (Central boys basketball), two in 2017-18 (East Wilkes football and North Wilkes girls basketball) and two in 2016-17 (West softball and North volleyball).
Every student athlete rose to a new level this past school year—regardless if he or she played on an undefeated team—and it’s even more astonishing the ascension came during a pandemic.
Take a well-deserved bow, Wilkes prep athletes of 2020-21. Make a curtain call, too, while you’re at it. You’ve made 2020 an unforgettable year for the right reasons.