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Ahlers, Falcons top prep stories

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D.H. Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers holds up his Letter of Intent to play at ECU at Tie Breakers Sports Bar on Dec. 20, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Monday, December 25, 2017

The prep sports landscape in Pitt County was dominated in 2017 by some big performances — both individually and collectively — on the football field. There were plenty of headlines left to go around, though, for one team’s run to the verge of a state basketball championship and one school’s search for a head football coach.

Here are some of the top stories from the year:

Ahlers ascends: D.H. Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers kicked off the year by committing to East Carolina over N.C. State in January. It turned out he was just getting started putting his name all over 2017.

Once his senior season started, Ahlers helped guide Conley to a 10-1 regular season and its third straight Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference title. Though the Vikings’ playoff run ended in the second round of the 3-A playoffs, Ahlers constructed a masterful final high school season, tossing a state-leading 61 touchdown passes and producing more than 4,500 total yards passing and rushing.

He was named The Daily Reflector’s all-county offensive player of the year for the second straight season, and was the Associated Press offensive player of the year. He capped the year by signing to play for the Pirates on the first day of the early signing period last week.

Falcons fly: Ahlers and the Vikings commanded their fair share of attention during the season, but across town, another team in the ECC 3-A/4-A was busy earning some attention of its own.

South Central returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, breaking multiple program records in the best season in school history. Coach Andy Tew, who won Daily Reflector all-county coach of the year honors, led the Falcons to a 10-3 record to set a new mark for wins in a season. SC also made its first appearance in the third round of the playoffs.

The Falcons boasted the highest-scoring offense in 4-A football, fronted by quarterback Dexter McDuffie, running back Nazir Monroe-Smith and wide receiver Emannuel Lewis, all of whom were all-county selections.

Oh, so close: While South Central’s football team enjoyed a resurgence in the fall, its boys’ basketball team was its same old dangerous self as it made a run at a state championship in the spring.

Coach Chris Cherry’s club spent the early part of 2017 carving its way through conference play en route to an undefeated league record and another conference crown. The Falcons then sliced their way through the first four rounds of the postseason, earning a trip to Fayetteville for the East Regional finals.

SC was cut down by underdog Leesville Road, falling in crushing fashion as the Pride slipped by with a 44-43 win that denied Cherry’s squad a spot in the state finals. The Falcons finished 27-2.

Musical chairs: North Pitt spent part of 2017 doing the same thing it did in 2016: searching for a head football coach.

Former athletic director and head coach Brent Wooten, who led the Panthers in the 2016 season, resigned in June to take a job at Havelock. That led NP to name offensive coordinator Garrett Wingate as interim head coach for a season in which the team went 1-10.

Wingate was the third head coach in as many seasons for the Panthers, and the school is again in search of someone to lead the program as the calendar prepares to turn to 2018.

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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