Up & Coming Weekly

October 31, 2017

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 40 of 48

40 UCW NOVEMBER 1 - 7, 2017 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM When the Patriot Athletic Conference was formed, Gray's Creek found itself as the relatively new kid on a tough boys' soccer block that included successful programs at Terry Sanford and Pine Forest. But when the smoke cleared from the regular season, it was Gray's Creek on top of the pack by the slimmest of margins, headed to the state 3-A playoffs as the No. 1 team from the new nine- team league. Asked what the key to success for this year's team was, head coach Bryan Pagan quickly point- ed to chemistry. "It was a little bit of an issue for us at the begin- ning of the year,'' he said. "Slowly but surely, we started putting our tightness together.'' Unfortunately, as the team started stringing wins together, Pagan found himself with another prob- lem. "When you start having wins and success, it's hard to keep teenagers focused,'' he said. "We had a couple of hiccups with losses, but I've been really proud of a lot of the leadership and composure we've had this year.'' Two of the younger leaders on the team have been junior Hayden Diaz and freshman C.J. Eley. Diaz leads the Bears in scoring with 26 goals while Eley has 11. "Hayden has come a long way,'' Pagan said. "He started out playing defender, and he has gradually moved himself up the field. He's a very quick, strong kid able to take people off the dribble and get a lot of opportunities for us.'' At 6-foot-3 inches, Eley is unusually tall for a soccer player. He brings a physical presence to the team that has been a big asset. "That helps with set pieces and corner kicks,'' Pagan said of Eley's height. "He's been able to find the back of the net quite a bit this year.'' Like his coach, Diaz said chemistry has been a big factor in the Bears' success. "Everybody hangs out with everybody,'' he said. "We joke with each other and have fun with each other. To have that chemis- try on the field shows.'' Eley said the Bears felt a little intimidated early on, but it didn't last. "As soon as we got into the swing of things, we got comfortable,'' he said. "We just stayed determined and worked hard and want- ed it more than the other teams.'' Gray's Creek was assured the Patriot Conference's No. 1 berth in the state 3-A playoffs regardless of how it fared in last week's confer- ence tournament. Now that the Bears are in the postseason, Pagan said maintaining composure is crucial. "We've emphasized it all season,'' he said. "There are going to be times you're down. The first three or four games we were down and came back and won. From that point on, I didn't see a lot of us being down. "For us to be successful, we've got to keep orga- nized and make sure we're not giving up silly goals. We've got to make sure we're able to react.'' Bears come of age en route to soccer title by EARL VAUGHAN JR. New policy has cheerleaders stomping mad by EARL VAUGHAN JR. There are some high school cheerleaders in Cumberland County who are stomping mad. And stomping is at the heart of the issue. Over the past year, the Cumberland County Schools have had to spend $30,000 to repair aging and damaged bleachers in high school gymnasiums. A possible culprit in the problem is a common practice among cheerleaders and student cheering sections of banging or stomping on the bleachers to make noise and build enthusiasm. When informed of the sizeable outlay of money to fix bleachers that may have been dam- aged by the stomping, interim county school superintendent Tim Kinlaw went to the senior high athletic directors earlier this year and advised them to end the practice of stomping or banging on bleachers. When Jack Britt senior cheerleader Alexa Solorzano heard about it, she wasn't pleased. "If you take that away it's like taking the ball out of basketball,'' she said. "They can't take it away because it's tradition.'' Solorzano started a petition online to convince school officials to allow stomping. As of Tuesday evening, Oct. 24, her petition at thepetitionsite.com had over 5,500 digital signatures. When told about the cost of fixing the bleach- ers, Solorzano suggested county schools increase the cost of tickets to basketball games by $1 and use that money to repair or if needed replace any aging bleachers. Vernon Aldridge, student activities director of Cumberland County Schools, said that's not as easy as it sounds. "Prices are set by conferences,'' Aldridge said, noting that the county's 10 senior high schools compete in two different conferences that include non-county schools. Other problems with stomping and the bleach- ers were explained in a letter from Donna Fields, director of operations for the Cumberland County Schools, to another cheerleader. Fields noted that damaged bleacher seats are a safety hazard, Aldridge adding that in extreme cases someone could fall through a weakened board to the gym floor. There are some states, including Georgia and South Carolina, where stomping on the bleachers is banned entirely. Fields said she attended one game where a visiting cheerleading squad was escorted out of the gym for stomping. As far as options for making noise, the rules of the N.C. High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations limit what cheerleaders can do. The NCHSAA handbook bans everything but non- electronic megaphones at indoor athletic events. National Federation rules put additional restrictions on when music can be played and on when and what the public address announcer says. If the end result is no stomping, Solorzano fears many people will be upset. "There are a lot of cheers that help the basketball players do better,'' she said. "Cheerleading is just as important as any other sport.'' EARL VAUGHAN JR., Sports Editor. COMMENTS? EarlUCWS- ports@gmail.com. (910) 364-6638. L-R: Hayden Diaz, Coach Bryan Pagan, C.J. Eley HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS Alexa Solorzano

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