Wilkes County high school sports were defined not only by triumphs in 2020 but by seismic shifts stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Spring sports canceled

After briefly starting but then suspending spring sports in March, the N.C. High School Athletic Association on April 24 canceled all athletic events for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

“Today’s decision is difficult for the NCHSAA board of directors and staff,” said Commissioner Que Tucker on April 24. “We empathize with the thousands of student-athletes, especially graduating seniors, coaching staffs, officials and family members affected by this decision.”

Tucker continued, “However, this decision reflects a commitment to keeping our student-athletes, officials and member schools’ staffs and their communities safe, while following the guidelines provided by the governor and his team, along with the department of public instruction and the state board of education.”

The NCHSAA had first suspended all high school athletic competition on March 12, two days before the state basketball championships, which were never played. The first suspension was announced for all games until at least April 6.

Fall football was shifted to the winter in an effort to see as much abatement of the coronavirus as possible before engaging in full-contact sports. Similarly, wrestling matches were postponed until April 26.

The first of seven conference football games will kick off for Wilkes schools on Feb. 26. The final regular season football contest is on April 9 and the state playoffs begin on April 16.

Masked athletes

Following the delayed start of fall high school sports, practice was allowed to resume on Nov. 4, but it came with a whole new look. Volleyball players, coaches and other participants were required to wear masks at all times while indoors, including during games that resumed on Nov. 16.

After consulting with Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, the NCHSAA decided to allow no more than 25 spectators at volleyball games. Aside from players’ families, the general public was prohibited from attending games.

Faced with those spectator limits, Wilkes County high schools started livestreaming volleyball matches and cross country meets on YouTube. This is expected to continue with basketball games.

Cross country runners were also asked to wear masks except when competing outdoors. Many athletes chose to wear masks voluntarily while completing the 5,000-meter runs.

Basketball players were required to wear masks when practices started on Dec. 7. The first prep contests of the year will tip off on Jan. 5 with split venues for basketball games.

Central is runner-up

Wilkes Central High School finished runner-up in the Mountain Valley 1A/2A Athletic Conference standings for the 2019-20 Wells

Fargo Conference Cup, which recognizes overall excellence in varsity sports, the NCHSAA announced in September.

Ashe County led the Mountain Valley final standings with 91.5 points. Wilkes Central had 75.5 points, followed by West Wilkes (73), Elkin (63), North Wilkes (55), East Wilkes (48.5), Starmount (41) and Alleghany (39.5).

West golf tops GPA

In May, the West Wilkes golf team was recognized by the NCHSAA as having the highest team grade point average (3.95 cumulative) in the state for the 2019-20 school year.

Team members were Gavin Blankenship, Cameron Roten, Trenton Teague, Payton Paisley and Ethan Greer. The team’s coach is Andy Teague.

Top wrestlers

The West Wilkes wrestling team swept the MVAC regular season and tournament championships. West Coach Kelly Nichols was named MVAC coach of the year.

In the state championships on Feb. 22, East Wilkes seniors Dustin Blackburn and Austin Bauguess both finished second in the 1A bracket. Blackburn competed at 160 pounds and Bauguess at 145.

The 2A podium finishers from Wilkes were West Wilkes sophomore Alex Roland, who took fourth at 182; West Wilkes senior Garrett Shumate, who placed fourth at 195; and North Wilkes senior Cameron Teague, who finished fifth at 106.

Parity in girls hoops

Alleghany, Ashe County and Wilkes Central finished in a three-way tie for the MVAC girls basketball championship with identical 11-3 marks. After winning the title outright the year prior, the Central girls saw their season end in the second round of the 2A state playoffs.

The West Wilkes girls also fell in the second round of the 2A tourney, finishing with a 19-7 record, the program’s second straight campaign with 19 victories. They were fourth in the MVAC with a 10-4 record.

Wilkes Central senior Erica Wyatt and West Wilkes junior Jamilyn Wilcox both surpassed 1,000 career points in 2020.

West, Central boys tie

The West boys had an 11-3 league mark in 2019-20, which tied them with Central for second place in the conference behind Starmount. Overall the Blackhawks were 18-8 and fell in the first round of the 2A state basketball playoffs, as did the Eagles, who were 14-10 overall.

West captured the league tournament crown for the first time in school history. It was the program’s first title overall since the 1991 regular season.

West senior Jacob Brown was named a third-team all-District 11 pick and the MVAC tournament MVP. Central senior Daylon Banks joined Brown on the district team.

Brown averaged 18 points per game and four steals a game with a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also added six rebounds per game and finished his career with over 1,100 points.

West’s Scottie Greene was tabbed as MVAC coach of the year.

Roten all-state

Millers Creek Christian School senior Eathan Roten in June was named to the Carolina Athletic Association for Schools of Choice all-state basketball team.

During the 2019-20 season, Roten averaged 21 points and 3.5 rebounds. He also became the second player in the school’s history to score at least 1,000 points.

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