August 2022

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Princeton hopes to make another run at a state title. Pictured left to right are: Back row - Caleb Nichols, Barry Creech, Jake Crocker and Dalton DeBonis. Front row - Hunter Raynor, Andrew Rose, Brandon Turner and Colby Phillips.




06 07 08 10 12 14 15 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 31 32 34

The aging process isn’t always graceful Clayton set to host magical experience Eastfield development beginning to take shape Nurse, compliance coordinator named Johnston Health Ambassadors of the Month Cleveland High graduate receives Sam Narron Award New coach brings experience, excitement to Clayton Cleveland looks to reload after losing record-breaking offensive standouts Corinth Holders to rely on new players, staff for 2022 campaign North Johnston hopes a simplified approach leads to more success Princeton hopes to take final step toward title in 2022 Spartans hope veteran defense, offensive line can keep momentum going Trojans hope to have same winning attitude with new faces in 2022 Consistency is key for West Johnston Board of Education honors JCPS Employees of the Year Museum completes mural and rose garden project JCPS names Teacher Assistant of the Year JCC, county commissioners announce Promise Program Big Night Out raises $8,000

[PUBLISHER] column

The faces change, but the game stays the same Chris Norman, a former at the quarterback position. coach at Shelby, gave me one The six Johnston County of my favorite truths about schools that feature traditional high school football. He quarterbacks will have new said, “The best thing about starters this fall, and North freshmen and sophomores Johnston, which runs the is that they grow up to be single wing, will likely have RANDY CAPPS juniors and seniors.” some new faces behind center I’m pretty sure that quote as well. wound up in a Shelby Star So, your favorite high football preview story of mine about 15 school football team will likely be a years ago. little different in 2022. But the nature The flip side to this, of course, is that of the game is change, and how teams those juniors and seniors eventually move respond to it is what often separates the on. The cycle then begins again. victors from the vanquished on Friday The most obvious example for me nights. when I put this year’s preview together is With that in mind, we proudly present


TEAM Volume 6, Number 9

A Shandy Communications, LLC publication

Publisher Randy Capps

Marketing Representative

Wanda Sasser

General Manager Shanna Capps

Office Manager

Terri Atkinson

the 2022 Johnston County High School Football Preview. As usual, I need to thank the coaches who let me bother them with high school football questions in the middle of the summer. Without them, you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. There are plenty of countywide storylines for the coming season, and we’ll touch on some of them in this edition. In closing, I’ll leave you with another of my favorite Coach Norman sayings: “If you give me a team full of orphans, I’ll win you a state championship.” Well, he never had one of those teams, but he won three titles anyway. Happy reading!

Creative Consultant Ethan Capps

Advertising Operations Manager Kayla Stott

Editor Mike Bollinger

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David Osorio

919-980-5522 • • • 1300 W. Market Street, Smithfield, N.C. 27577 • Johnston Now Magazine is a monthly publication of Shandy Communications, LLC for our Johnston County neighbors. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written consent by the publisher. Advertisers take sole responsibility for the validity of their advertisement. ©2022 Johnston Now. All rights reserved.



The aging process isn’t always graceful In searching the internet for “aging gracefully,” I learned the term is often used for “looking old, but still holding on” or “showing signs of aging, but still moving forward with life.” I prefer the second definition. I definitely like to think that, while for sure showing signs of aging, I am still moving forward. Some things are just a little harder than they once were.



It’s not as easy as it once was to get in and out of the car. In the not-so-distant past, I would just walk over to the car and sit down when it was time

to get in. When it was time to get out, I would just put my feet on the ground and stand up. That’s not the case these days. Now, to get in, I walk to the car, turn my back to it, then sit down and then swing my legs into the car. In order to get out, I swing my legs slowly out of the car first, then slowly stand up. Gone are the days of putting one foot on the ground and springing out. The same principle applies for getting out of chairs, getting off the couch, getting out of bed, etc. It also applies to stairs and steps. If there is a long flight of stairs, the elevator has become my friend. I’ve been a tennis player for going on 50 years now. In recent years, it has become more and more of an issue to move. Obviously, the older I get, the more of an issue this becomes. Truth be told, it has become frustrating at times. I see the ball going to a particular spot, and my brain still knows how I should get there and what I should do once I get there. However, many times my legs are no longer cooperative. I’m trying to realize that I can still have fun playing and hitting the balls I’m able to hit. Sometimes this goes fairly well. Other times, it goes fairly badly. It’s an adjustment

for sure not being able to do a thing you were once pretty good at the same way you used to do it. I’m not sure if it’s the result of trying to deny the aging process or not, but since I left the full-time workforce last August I haven’t cut my hair. The last time I had long hair was in high school, which was in ... well, it was a while ago. I had a ponytail back then. I could probably have one now, except I can’t remember how to do it. I guess I’ll have to have someone give me ponytail lessons. Having this much hair is, at times, like living in a house with a dog that sheds, except I don’t have a dog. Hair winds up everywhere. At least constantly sweeping it up is a low-impact way to get some cardio in. Thankfully, for the most part, I can still remember things. I do have an oldschool calendar I write places I’m supposed to be on just in case. I’m still not one to use the fancy one on my fancy phone that is way smarter than I am. While I’m not always pleased with the results of aging, I’m happy to have made it this far (almost 63 when this comes out). As I say more frequently these days, “It’s a good day when I’m on this side of the dirt.”

Clayton set to host

magical experience By GABRIELLE BRYANT

CLAYTON — A new adventure awaits families in Clayton. From Aug. 18-21, MAGiCon will be pulling out a myriad of events from its top hat at the Clayton Center. From an open mic night to family-friendly classes, to professional shows for all to see, MAGiCon will inspire the art of magic for everyone, young and old. All afternoon and evening, families and friends are invited to come and learn from professional magicians from all over the United States. There will be a number of seminars geared toward families, medical professionals, grandparents and educators. There are several different options for everyone in the community to learn from master magicians. Hosted by the Mystic Tower, a new company created by magicians SarahElla Phant and Dan Harlan, MAGiCon is the first major event for the couple. “It was SarahElla’s idea to have the Mystic Tower,” Harlan said. “It is a big vision. It will eventually be a showplace and a museum and a classroom.” Both Phant and Harlan come from a background in theater, and they are seeking to build a solid community of magicians in the area. They want to ignite the same inspiration for magic that they felt when they began their careers.

SarahElla Phant and Dan Harlan will be bringing MAGiCon to the Clayton Center Aug. 18-21.

Phant discovered her new dream after one of her favorite places to go unfortunately had to shut its doors. “Raleigh used to have this great little magic shop. It brought tons of people in and did great business, but it closed down about five or six years ago,” she said. “I really felt like it left this area missing and needing a magic shop, a place for people to come and get magic.” Now, she and Harlan are in full swing bringing her their ambitions to life. While the Mystic Tower does not have a physical location yet, MAGiCon is the kickstart of the idea. At present, the Mystic Tower operates from their home and online through its website. Magicians frequently get together in their house to share their love of performance magic. Harlan has been doing

magic performances for years. In fact, part of Phant’s initial learning of magic came from a DVD created by Harlan. “I’ve never turned back. It’s all I’ve done for my whole life,” Harlan said. Phant has a background in theater and music, but she transitioned to education. During that time, she grew an interest in magic again once watching “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” a magic competition

television production that Harlan won. After classes for all ages and occupations on Friday, Aug. 19, there will be standup magic showcases followed by the Midnight Spooky Show at Revival. Saturday night, Aug. 20 is the big reveal, where the magicians will unveil to the public what they have been learning throughout the convention, as well as for more experienced ones to demonstrate their talent. “No other magic convention brings in the public the way that we’re bringing in the public,” Phant said. Along with Harlan and Phant’s productions, Luna Shimada, Alain Nu and Joshua Lozoff will be lecturing and performing. To learn more about the Mystic Tower and MAGiCon or to register for this event, visit https:// Editor’s Note: Johnston Now will be a part of the Big Stage Show when Harlan reveals his guess of what this issue’s cover was going to be, based on a June prediction.

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 7

AdVenture Development announced recently that plans for the Eastfield Business Park in Selma are moving forward.

Eastfield development beginning to take shape Submitted by ADVENTURE DEVELOPMENT

SELMA — With the recent announcement of Do Good Foods bringing its food recycling production company to Building 100 at Eastfield Business Park, AdVenture Development’s 3 million-plus square foot mixed use development project in Selma begins to take shape. Do Good Foods, which turns excess food from grocery stores into animal feed, plans to invest more than $100 million over the next 12 to 18 months as it retrofits its new Selma operation and hires 100 workers with annual wages averaging more than $60,000. With Building 100 leased, AdVenture Development plans to break ground on Building 200, a 175,000-plus square foot Class A Industrial Product, later this year. 8 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

Phoenix Commerical Properties will serve as the leasing agent. Other active projects at Eastfield include: • Retail - Seven national tenants have signed leases to move into 200,000 square feet of retail space in Phase I of Eastfield Crossing. • Multi-family - AdVenture is under agreement with a real estate developer to build a large, multi-family garden apartment development with amenities. • Residential - AdVenture is entertaining letters of intent to develop a single family residential development, to include medical and senior living. • Lodging – Design is completed on a 104-room Springhill Suites by Marriott. Construction is slated to begin in 2023. • Dining - Old North State Food Hall is slated to open at Triangle East

Collaborative in early fall. Supply chain issues related to securing restaurant equipment have caused delays. Hospitality HQ will manage the food hall. A chefcurated list of vendors will be announced soon. “Sen. Brent Jackson and Rep. Larry Strickland have been great supporters of smart development in North Carolina, and we sincerely appreciate their efforts and vision for this area. We’re also so thankful to the town of Selma and Johnston County for all the encouragement, support and insight they’ve provided along the way. It’s been a team effort from all involved, and we’re excited to grow in Johnston County,” said AdVenture Development President Kevin Dougherty. For more information about AdVenture Development, visit

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 9

Palliative care nurse Barbara Grimes is the UNC Health Johnston Ambassador of the Month for June. From left are associate vice president of patient care services Tracey Carson, clinical manager of home care and hospice Kyle Mobley, Grimes, Johnston Health CEO Tom Williams and chief operating officer and chief nursing officer Ruth Marler.

Nurse, compliance coordinator named Johnston Health

Ambassadors of the Month Submitted by UNC HEALTH JOHNSTON

SMITHFIELD — UNC Health Johnston has recognized Barbara Grimes, palliative care nurse, as Ambassador of the Month for June and Mark Fang, a compliance/risk/audit coordinator, as Ambassador of the Month for July. CEO Tom Williams said Grimes makes it a priority to educate teammates, providers and patients about comfort care, options and transitions. “In every encounter with patients and families, she is compassionate, empathetic and helpful,” he said. “She is a clear, thoughtful communicator.” 10 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

Before joining Johnston Health in July 2019, Grimes started a palliative care program at a hospital in Pinehurst. Earlier, she was a palliative care specialist and an ICU nurse at a hospital in Florence, S.C. As an ICU nurse, she enjoyed seeing patients get better. But over time, she realized there were chronically ill patients she couldn’t help. “I saw the multiple layers of the disease. It didn’t just affect them physically, but also socially, financially and spiritually,” she said. And as she got to know her patients, she saw them as unique with their own stories. Her approach is to listen to

patients and to understand and honor their wishes, Grimes said. “I try to explain what they don’t understand about their illness or disease and then put together a plan that works best for them,” she said. Grimes grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She started out as a veterinarian tech. As her interests evolved, she became a pharmacy tech and worked in a nursing home. That’s when she got interested in nursing and enrolled in nursing school. She and her husband, Randy, live near McGee’s Crossroads. Together they have four grown children, two grandsons and three dogs. Williams said Fang analyzes situations

and seeks solutions through EPIC and other technology to improve processes and to make patient care safer. “He eagerly accepts any task he’s given, and does so with a friendly smile and kind words,” he added. “He’s always polite and calm when faced with difficult interactions.” Fang’s introduction to UNC Health Johnston was as a junior volunteer in the compliance and outpatient rehabilitation departments. At the time, he was a student at Neuse Charter School, where his mother was a teacher. After graduating from high school, he studied at UNCChapel Hill with plans to follow a pre-health track to medical school and become a surgeon. Fang says his strengths, however, turned out to be economics and business

Mark Fang, second from right, is the UNC Health Johnston Ambassador of the Month for July. Congratulating him, from left, are Donna Gibbons, director of compliance; CEO Tom Williams and Theresa Lasky, compliance/risk management/audit analyst.

administration. After graduating with his degree, he returned to Johnston as an adult volunteer in the compliance department. Before assuming his current role, he worked a short while in behavioral health as a certified nursing assistant and in home health and hospice as

an applications liaison. “I love all the departments I’ve worked in,” Fang said. “I like getting to know everyone. There’s a feeling of community here.” Fang says he would like to become a hospital CEO one day. It’s a position that can have a positive impact on the

community, he said. Fang grew up in Clemson, South Carolina and relocated to Smithfield with his family. His mother continues to teach at Neuse Charter and his father is a molecular biologist for the USDA in Raleigh. He has a younger and two older brothers, one of whom is a network engineer for UNC Health. In his spare time, Fang enjoys cooking, hiking and spending time with his girlfriend, a nurse practitioner with UNC Physicians Network. Through the ambassador program, Johnston Health recognizes employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. They deliver quality care, foster teamwork and offer excellent service. In addition to a designated month-long parking space, Grimes and Fang each receive eight hours of paid time off.

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 11

Cleveland High class of 2022 graduate Skyler Locklear (center) was recently awarded the prestigious Sam Narron Baseball Award. With Locklear are Rooster Narron (left), son of the award’s namesake, and Cleveland High Athletic Director Jamie Lee.

Cleveland High graduate receives


CLEVELAND — Cleveland High class of 2022 graduate Skyler Locklear was recently awarded the prestigious Sam Narron Baseball Award. The award celebrates a Johnston County high school senior baseball player who demonstrated a love for the game through determination, dedication and sacrifice. Locklear is the 26th recipient of the 12 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

award. He received a $500 scholarship and a recognition plaque. Additionally, his name will be placed on a plaque with past recipients which hangs in the Evander S. Simpson Building in Smithfield. Locklear is a multi-sport athlete and is attending Austin Peay State University, where he will play football in the fall. The award is named in honor of Sam Narron, who was raised in the Emit community near Corinth Holders. In

1934, Narron, using most of the money he had, purchased a ticket to Hot Springs, Arkansas to attend the first ever baseball school. The award’s namesake played and coached professional baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. He was part of two World Series championship teams in a career that spanned from 1936 to 1964. Narron is a member of the Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame.





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[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 13

New coach brings experience, excitement to Clayton By RANDY CAPPS

here’s been a bit of turnover in the head coaching position at Clayton High School in recent years, but the latest hire has brought a different level of buzz to the Comet program. Scott Chadwick, most recently the director of recruiting operations for the University of Maryland, brings a wealth of experience and possibility to the job. Before his stay in College Park, he was the coach at Myers Park in Charlotte from 2014-2020, where he rang up a 60-20 record. “(I’m) Excited to see if my formula for building programs can work one more time,” he said. “Our success will ultimately be determined by how quickly we adapt to new systems and new ways of doing things.” Last season’s squad produced a 5-6


record and a first-round playoff loss to Heritage under former coach Shane Handy, and five starters from each side of the football will greet Chadwick as he lays the foundation for this year’s Comets. That base of talent, coupled with the recent facility upgrades at the school, made the position an appealing one for Chadwick. "(I’m looking forward to) seeing how our revitalized program, new facilities and partnership with the town of Clayton can rally the school and the community together,” he said. Like most successful football coaches, Chadwick is quick to look to the trenches. “(We’ve got a) very solid offensive line and a deep group of receivers,” he said. “A good group of linebackers, too.” Senior Will Coats is the focal point for what figures to be another big, physical offensive line group. Another

senior, Nadir Simmons, figures to get the first crack at the starting running back position after rushing for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns last fall. “He’s a strong, good-sized downhill runner,” Chadwick said. AJ Foster (26 carries, 99 yards, 13 tackles) and Ian Martin (7 receptions, 172 yards, 2 TDs) will play on both sides of the ball, according to Chadwick. Clayton’s two best defensive players from 2021, Donovan Spellman and Cade Cyrus, have graduated. That means there are plenty of opportunities for younger players, like defensive lineman Jordan Caldwell, to take a step forward. The same is true at the quarterback position, since both players who took snaps last fall are no longer on the roster. “We would like to seriously contend for the conference championship,” Chadwick said of his goals for 2022. “We need to find a quarterback and develop our guys in the secondary. Those are two of biggest need areas.” He’ll get an early measuring stick for how that’s going when the Comets open the season at home on Aug. 19 against Greensboro Grimsley, which finished 11-1 last season.


Clayton's Zach Klingenbeck, 73, and Mason Ketchie prepare for the next play during a game last fall. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.


Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 2 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

Greensboro Grimsley at Wake Forest Wakefield BYE *at Fuquay-Varina *Garner *Southeast Raleigh *at South Garner *Corinth Holders *Willow Spring *Cleveland

* — Greater Neuse 4A Conference game

Cleveland looks to reload after losing record-breaking offensive standouts By RANDY CAPPS

hen Cleveland kicks off the 2022 season on Aug. 19 at Cary, the Rams will begin life without running back Omarion Hampton and quarterback Skyler Locklear. Both players were staples throughout their prep careers, and together they accounted for just shy of 4,700 total yards and 75 touchdowns last fall en route to an 11-1 season. While the aforementioned offensive standouts drew most of the headlines, the Rams have been churning out wins at all levels in the past few seasons.


“The JV players coming up to varsity this year that came from Cleveland Middle have never lost a game,” head coach Scott Riley said. “Cleveland Middle hasn’t lost a game in (more than six) years and the JV team (hasn’t) lost since September of 2019. Expecting to win is a valuable skill.” The hallmark of Riley’s teams is speed, and the 2022 version should be no different. “We have a lot of guys that can really run,” he said. “On offense that makes easier to have explosive plays, and on defense, it makes it easier to erase mistakes.” Despite the losses, there are six starters coming back on the offensive side of the ball. Jashawn Middleton led the team in


Cleveland's Cam Goins walks up to the line of scrimmage during a game last fall. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.

Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 2 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

at Cary Greenville Rose at Greenville Conley BYE *at Corinth Holders *South Garner *at Fuquay-Varina *at Willow Spring *Southeast Raleigh *at Garner *Clayton

* — Greater Neuse 4A Conference game

receiving with 47 grabs for 915 yards and 12 scores while Cam Goins (28 receptions, 406 yards) adds punch and versatility. Jackson Byrd, the JV quarterback who saw some snaps last season, should be a dual-threat for what should still be a potent attack. “Jashawn Middleton, Cam Goins, Jackson Byrd and Anthony Greene (a transfer from Southeast Raleigh) are vocal leaders on offense that pack big playmaking ability to back it up,” Riley said. “And Kedar Mangum anchors the offensive line.” Five starters return on defense, but plenty of other players earned experience in 2021. “Our defense brings great intensity to whatever they do and that is lead up front by Demarrius Plummer and Karson Cook,” Riley said. “Ryan Klimp, Markice Rawls and Gage Tremaine are at linebacker while Josiah Peters, Isaac Piatek and Landon Inscoe will man the back end.” A 29-21 loss to eventual state champion Cardinal Gibbons spoiled an otherwise spotless season for the Rams. That, of course, followed a loss in the spring 2021 title game to Mount Tabor. So, the goals on Polenta Road are pretty clear. “(We want) to win the state championship,” Riley said. “To do that, we must focus on the details that can the difference in a one-score game so we can be 9 points better this year! ... I think our team will be exciting to watch, so I look forward to seeing them play.”

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 15

Corinth Holders to rely on new players, staff for 2022 campaign By RANDY CAPPS

fter a 4-6 season in its first as a member of the Greater Neuse 4A, Corinth Holders will need some new leaders to emerge for head coach Adam Khavari in 2022. “(We’re) looking forward to a fresh start,” he said. “We’ve got new faces on our coaching staff, and new players in the lineup on both sides of the ball.


Always get excited about the possibilities of a new season.” Fred Foreman, Jaheim Fields and Isaiah Faulker accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and 22 of the Pirates’ 26 touchdowns last season, but none of them will be wearing purple when Franklinton visits for the season opener on Aug. 19. While only four starters return on offense, senior Seth Rayfield should step into

Faulkner’s role as the starting quarterback, and is the team’s leading offensive threat after rushing for 240 yards and two scores in his junior season. Carter Felix will also be counted on to help offset the losses of Fields and Foreman at running back and figures to see some action at defensive back as well. “Seth is very athletic, poised and doesn’t get rattled easy,” Khavari said. “Carter is a very tough, strong, explosive playmaker on both sides of the ball.” There’s a little more experience on the defensive side of the ball, with six starters expected back. Donte Whitehead is the headliner, as the senior led the team in tackles (67) and sacks (7) in 2021. Khavari will also be leaning on Walter Powell (51 tackles, 1 sack) and Barak Young (9


Corinth Holders tight end Camden Weber reacts after a play during a game last fall. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.


Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 2 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

Franklinton Southern Nash at Northern Nash BYE *Cleveland *at Willow Spring *at South Garner *Fuquay-Varina *at Clayton *at Southeast Raleigh *Garner

* — Greater Neuse 4A Conference game

tackles) to anchor the defense. “Walter is a strong vocal leader, he’s a physical player, and extremely intelligent,” he said. “Barak brings a lot of experience to the corner position and leadership in the secondary.” The turnover doesn’t stop with the roster, either. “We’ve got several new assistant coaches this year,” Khavari said. “Steve Wale is joining us from Southeast Raleigh, and Shane Handy has come on with a wealth of experience at the collegiate and high school level, most recently at Clayton. We’ve made some changes to some of our schemes that we hope will allow our players to better utilize their skill sets as well.” It all adds up to an interesting mix for the Pirates, who will be looking to repeat last season’s feat of reaching the playoffs. “Our goals are always to win the conference and compete for state championships,” Khavari said. “In order for us to do that, we’ve got to focus on the day-to-day process of getting better. Work hard, compete and focus on the daily tasks for the big picture stuff to work out. “We’re excited to be back for another season representing our phenomenal school and community. Our players are excited to be back on the field and we look forward to seeing everyone out on Thursday and Friday nights.”

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 17


North Johnston's Cooper Gibson fights for yardage during a game last season. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.

Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 1 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

Farmville Central Rosewood Smithfield-Selma at Nash Central BYE North Pitt *at Spring Creek *at Wilson Beddingfield *Goldsboro *Eastern Wayne *at Princeton

* — Neuse Six 2A Conference game

North Johnston hopes a simplified approach leads to more success By RANDY CAPPS

ast fall, North Johnston didn’t score a touchdown until it tallied four of them in a 28-6 Neuse Six 2A Conference win against Spring Creek in Week 6. It was the end of a slow start to what turned out to be a 2-8 campaign, but those growing pains came with a silver lining. Fourteen starters from last season’s team will be on hand again this fall, and head coach Michael Barnett is excited about the group’s progress. “We’re so far ahead of where we were last year it’s unbelievable,” he said. “We switched offenses. It took me a while to commit to that thing, but now I’m married to that thing. This summer, the timing has gotten better. Our ball security has gotten better. Our assignments have gotten better. We simplified some things, and the kids have bought into it. I’m really really looking forward to our offensive output this year.” As the 2021 season progressed, the Panthers morphed into a single-wing offense. It was a move designed to make things a little less complex and play to his team’s strengths.



“We struggled offensively last year, and I couldn’t put my finger on it,” he said. “So, I went back to the drawing board. I remembered the guy from Union, (John) ‘Doc’ Ward, who runs the single wing, and I called him up. That’s how we got hooked on it.” Two of the three leading rushers from last season, Cooper Gibson (357 yards) and Ayden Pone (149 yards) return at the head of what could be a rather large contingent of would-be ball carriers. “We’ve got about seven running backs who could start, so I’ve decided to do it by committee and pair them up,” Barnett said. “Because those seven guys play defense as well. Our goal is to keep games as close as we can until the fourth quarter, and then that freshness can maybe push us over the hump.” Gibson and Pone figure to play key roles on defense as two-way players, as should Adrian Durant. The unit, which took its lumps at times last fall, should be improved. “We’ve got sophomore Traquin Watson playing outside linebacker and Jordin Moore, he’ll be a junior, they’re going to anchor our defense,” Barnett said. “He’s our contain man, our blitz man. ... We’ve got about six guys we can rotate at

offensive and defensive line. Hopefully it won’t be the same 11 guys all night long.” Barnett credits his staff for his team’s growth during the offseason. “I’ve got the best staff in the state,” he said. “I know everybody says that, but I had back surgery this spring and missed all of spring football and some of the summer stuff. My guys had it rocking and rolling. You hate to say you can’t tell I wasn’t there, but when you have a good staff, things like that can happen. I like to brag on them. They work hard, and they make my life easier. Without them, we would be in trouble.” While Princeton is still the favorite in the conference, Barnett is hoping to climb a bit in the standings in 2022. “We finally have all those freshmen and sophomores as juniors and seniors,” he said. “Their bodies have changed. They’ve been in the weight room. They have a little bit better understanding. We have a better grasp on the offense than we had last year. We have a better grasp on the defense. We’ve worked hard this summer. I think we’ll be more competitive. Princeton is still the crown jewel of the conference, but instead of getting beat by 40 every night, I think we might sneak up on some people this year.”

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[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 19

Princeton's Jake Crocker, 74, and the rest of the offense gathers for a huddle. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.

Princeton hopes to take final step toward title in 2022 By RANDY CAPPS

he 2021 season had almost everything Princeton could have wanted. It featured a perfect regular season and a Neuse Six Conference title in its first season as a 2A school. That success led to a No. 1 playoff seed and four straight postseason wins to clinch a berth in the 2A Eastern Championship game. Unfortunately, Wallace-Rose Hill spoiled the fun with a 34-25 win in front of a packed house at Harvey Brooks Field, ending the Bulldogs’ season with a 13-1 record. “Our community, and not just our local Princeton folks, but kind of all of Johnston County, was so supportive,” Princeton head coach Travis Gaster said. “We felt like nobody was envious that they weren’t playing and we were. It was like, ‘hey, man, you guys are representing Johnston County now, and we’re going to come watch you and want to see you do well.’ That’s a great feeling. The support from our local community has always been here. Even in bad times. To see the number of people that would come to little-bitty Princeton High School on a Friday night — that was really exciting for the kids to know that they were there for them. “We had a group that was self-led. We had great leadership on that team, and a lot of the guys that we have coming back



were able to be a part of that experience and get a taste of what it’s like playing in really big-time games in the postseason and how exciting and fun that can be. Hopefully, it just makes them more hungry and want to work harder to try to build on what we’ve done.” What they did was pile up eye-popping points and yardage totals with an offense based on principles as old as the sport itself. The Bulldogs and their modified single wing attack averaged nearly 49 points per game, rushed for a little more than 5,900 yards and averaged a first down on every carry (10.6 yards per attempt). Those numbers explain why Princeton only threw 23 passes last fall, completing 15 of them. And while there are individuals who piled up some impressive stats, that sort of production starts at the line of scrimmage. “With our system, it’s never going to be any different,” he said. “We’ll go as far as our O-line will take us. The offensive line is the heart and soul of our program, and they know their importance. They work hard at being great at what they do.” Four starters return up front for the Bulldogs, led by Jake Crocker. The senior tackle looms large, both literally at 6-6, 295 pounds, and figuratively for Gaster’s team. “Any time your best players are your hardest workers, you’ve got a great chance to be successful as a team,” he said.

“Because the rest of the guys just feed off of that. And in Jake’s case, he’s an unbelievably hard worker. He cares about football. In his mind, he feels like he was born to play football. His body size and everything he brings to the table as a natural leader just fit perfectly for what we do. He’s got an opportunity to have another great year. He’s been starting for us since he was a freshman, so we kind of feel like by now, he ought to be the one out there teaching folks and coaching folks instead of us. He’ll have a lot of pressure put on him as a senior, but he’s proven that he’s up to the task. “Coaching folks like Jake is very rewarding. Because you see him influencing other people. You see people growing, not just for themselves, but in how they influence a large group of people that you’re going to be around for a while. The young people who look up to Jake, they all know who he is. He coaches in our little league program. Those kids all come to watch him play. To them, he’s a giant and he’s a superstar. It’s a great thing playing in a small town and being a big fish. But not letting that go to your head. Continuing to work hard and staying hungry. He checks all those boxes.” Jaydon Brooks was the primary ball carrier last year, racking up 2,127 yards and 26 touchdowns in his senior season. Christian Perris (1,961 yards, 31 TD) and Brandon Turner (712 yards, 11 TD) are in line to continue the recent trend of high-

production running backs in Princeton. “If you’re a good enough athlete at Princeton High School to stand out, then we have to put you in a position to be successful,” Gaster said. “Those guys normally start out on the defensive side of the ball. They play corner for us, or safety. Then, as they gain our trust, we put them in a position to carry the ball for us. Unlike most programs where even a stud tailback might carry the ball 14-15 times a game, for us, it’s more than likely you’re going to carry the ball 30 times. “They’ve earned it well before you guys see it. They’ve proven themselves in practice because we practice pretty heavy. We want them to get banged around a little bit, know what it feels like to get hit with the ball in their hands. By the time they get out there and the lights are on, they know they’ve got a great offensive line and an offensive system, and they’re ready to take advantage of that. Brandon and Christian both work their butts off in the weight room, and they’re proud to be able to go out there and try to complement what we’re doing on offense. When they need to break tackles, they can break tackles. And they’re fast enough kids to where, when they need to run away from people, they can do that, too.” Peyton Mitchell has the tough task of replacing Paul Edens at the “Fred” position. He’ll be charged with throwing

the occasional pass, but will spend most of his time lead blocking for Perris or Turner. He’s also the third-leading returning tackler after posting 84 of them as a junior, to go along with a team-high four interceptions. Andrew Rose had a breakout junior season with 93 tackles in 2021, while Jack Harrow added 89. “Andrew’s a kid that’s grown considerably in terms of football IQ,” Gaster said. “He’s always been an athletic kid, but it really clicked for him last year. He had a nose for the football all year long. And he’s fast enough where we can line up up at safety, 10-12 yards off the ball, and he can still make plays near the line of scrimmage. Not everybody’s able to do that.” The versatility of being able to call on Perris and Turner at times is a key part of the Bulldogs’ defensive plan as well. “When you line up to play East Duplin, you don’t need as many defensive backs,” he said. “You better have enough D-linemen and linebackers who love to hit and don’t mind getting hit in the mouth. But then when you line up to play Eastern Wayne and the athletes they’re going to have out there, you better have folks that can do it all. Having that mix is key for us. On offense, you are who you are. But on defense, you have to change based on who you’re facing.”

The only real question mark facing Princeton is how to replace Mckinley Uzzell, who signed with UNC Pembroke, at kicker and punter. “He was such an asset that we haven’t had since I’ve been here, and that was year eight,” Gaster said. “We’ve had consistent kickers, but we haven’t had a guy who could kick and punt and kickoff at a very high level. What he brought to the table was such a luxury. When you look at the analytics of football, teams that start on their 20 (after a touchback on a kickoff) and have to go 80 yards, the numbers are against them to just score points, much less a touchdown. When you give them the ball on the 40-yard line, that number starts creeping up. He never played a snap of defense for us, but we counted him as a defensive player because of what he did for us. “At this level, with special teams, you never know what you’re going to get — and you better be flexible. We’ll piece it together, see who can do what and try to put the best product out there we can.” Princeton is the prohibitive favorite to win another Neuse Six title this fall, but Gaster is taking nothing for granted. “Our goal as a team never changes,” he said. “We want to be a champion. We’ve always said you get two chances to do that. If you can ever do it twice, it will be a season you won’t ever forget. You can be a conference champion and you can be a state champion. You don’t have to have one to be the other, but that normally puts you on the right path.”

Schedule Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 1 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

at Smithfield-Selma East Duplin at Rosewood BYE Richlands Louisburg *Eastern Wayne *at Goldsboro *at Spring Creek *Wilson Beddingfield *North Johnston

* — Neuse Six 2A Conference game

Spartans hope veteran defense, offensive line can keep momentum going By RANDY CAPPS

oming from E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, Deron Donald was no stranger to challenging coaching jobs when he took the reins at Smithfield-Selma before the COVID-delayed 2020 football season. The Spartans finished with a 2-5 mark in the spring of 2021 and followed that up with an 8-4 record last fall. It was the first playoff appearance for the Spartans since 2008 and the most wins at the school since 2005. But many of the key playmakers in an offense that averaged almost 35 points per game have moved on, leaving some spots for Donald and SSS to fill. “We lost a lot offensively, but we still have some pieces,” he said. “We only lost one offensive lineman. Anytime you have


a veteran O-line, you’ve got a chance. We may not be able to throw it all over the ballpark, but if those guys can block down and move their feet, we’ll be OK.” Gerard Sanders figures to get the first crack at the starting running back spot, after logging 96 yards on 17 carries in spot duty on offense last fall. He also piled up 63 tackles and recorded an interception at safety. “He’s one of those guys who’s kind of waited his turn, but I think he’s going to do some great things for us,” Donald said. “He’s going to start at safety as well. He’s done what he needed to do in the weight room to get bigger, stronger and more explosive. And he’s running track to make sure he can carry that load. We don’t always have the numbers, so some of our guys do have to go both ways.” With last year’s starter, Dashawn McCullough, heading to Lane College, there’s also a help wanted sign hanging at the quarterback position. “There’s going to be somebody new at the helm at quarterback,” he said. “We have three guys pushing for that spot. We haver rising senior John Renfrow, and he’s done a great job just being a leader


Smithfield-Selma's Martez Anderson lines up before a play during a 2021 game. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.


Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 1 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

Princeton Nash Central at North Johnston BYE *at South Johnston *at Wilson Hunt *Wilson Fike *at West Johnston *Southern Wayne *at Pikeville Aycock *East Wake

* — Quad County 3A Conference game

and just does what’s expected. He’s a very cerebral kid, and he’s athletic as well. ... Then we have rising junior Jayden Brinkley, who starts in the secondary. He’s a great athlete as well. When he has that ball in his hand, he can mesh it and run it. And we have a rising sophomore, Dwight Nesbitt. Great athlete, probably an 11.2 100 (meter) guy, so he can move. He’s young, but he’s in the mix.” Isaiah Dawson and Martez Anderson should be the starters at wide receiver after combining for 36 catches and almost 500 yards in 2021. “They’re both explosive,” Donald said. “They can go get it. Isaiah Dawson went to VTO Camp (recently) and won the fastest man award. He ran a 4.4, so that’s pretty fast.” Seven starters return on the defensive side of the ball, including leading tacklers Jalill Howell (115 tackles, 23 tackles for loss) and Jaylen Stancil (101 tackles, 35 tackles for loss). Throw in Michael Hightower, who had 80 tackles, and Joshua Hightower, who had 61 stops and 27 tackles for loss, and you have quite a few building blocks for what should be a solid defense. “Those guys can go,” he said. “We’re stronger defensively because we have more veterans coming back on that side of the ball.” “We’ve got a good chance to do some good things this year,” Donald said. “We’re looking forward to pushing for a conference championship. That’s the goal. We don’t focus so much on just that. I was talking to (UNC assistant head coach for defense) Gene Chizik when he came to the school, and he said, ‘We don’t talk about championships much. We talk about habits and behaviors.’ I kind of took that from him. So we try to make sure our habits and behaviors are positive and we’re doing things the right way. Everything else will take care of itself.”

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[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 23

Trojans hope to have same winning attitude with new faces in 2022 By RANDY CAPPS

ee Webb made the transition from defensive coordinator to head coach at South Johnston last fall, and the result was an 8-3 record and the school’s first playoff appearance since the 2019 season. One of his first orders of business in the big chair was to reengage the communities of Four Oaks, Benson and Meadow with the program. With a turnout of about 100 kids to the annual football camp this summer, that process has gone well, too. “Good things are


happening,” Webb said. “We’re getting ready to do some new things to our field (with new bleachers and a new press box). Ashley Ennis has taken over as AD, and he’s stressed the importance of getting everybody’s scoreboards up to date — baseball, softball and football. You can’t beat the type of support that we’ve had.” Of course, change is the nature of high school sports, and it’s coming for the Trojans this fall. With just two starters returning on offense and four more coming back on the defensive side of the ball, Webb is looking for some

new leaders to emerge for this year’s squad. “It comes down to us,” he said. “Offensively, defensively, we’re never going to be the biggest team out there. How hard we work in the weight room and on the practice field is what separates us on Thursday and Friday nights.” “We’re going to be young. My thing is that these young guys, during that COVID year, a lot of guys didn’t play and they had to step up. These juniors coming up on varsity have two years of playing experience under their belts. I think they’re going to come in and take the lead from where the seniors left off last year.”

Lucas Layman is a building block for the Trojan defense after a junior campaign that featured 77 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. “He’s trying to get his name out there, going to prospect camps and such,” he said. “He’s going to play a big role for us this year on defense, special teams and offense. We might put him in there a little bit as well. A lot of it is his motor and work ethic. Just trying to beat somebody. People look at him, and he’s tall and lanky. He weighs 200 pounds, but he’s real long and fast off the ball.” Webb also singled out Lance Parker (45 tackles) and Angel Rodriguez (38 tackles) as potential leaders for the defense. Offensively, the team is still looking for a successor to Paul Olive at quarterback. Riley

Schedule Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 2 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28 South Johnston's Lucas Layman, 32, makes a tackle against Southern Wayne. Photo courtesy of John Lucas/Dunn Area Sports.


Western Harnett at Triton at Southern Lee BYE *Smithfield-Selma *at Wilson Fike *Pikeville Aycock *at Southern Wayne *Wilson Hunt *at East Wake *at West Johnston

* — Quad County 3A Conference game



Adams and Cole Parker are still competing for the spot at press time. “They’re both going to play offense,” Webb said. “One just won’t be the quarterback. Cole, he’s someone we’re going to depend on, whether he’s at quarterback or playing at receiver somewhere. He’s a guy who, in the off season, has stepped it up in the weight room and come into his own. I’m glad to see it. He’s going to start somewhere. Same thing with Riley Adams. He’s got two years of JV experience.” Senior Brandon Giles is the leading returning rusher with 91 yards and a score, Aiden Williams and Sadevion Ruffin are both in the backfield mix after picking up two years of JV experience. Elliot Butler and Zack Sellers, who Webb says have “grown as much mentally as they have physically,” bring some experience and stability to the receiving position. Offensive line is an area where, despite the youth of the group, Webb has reason for optimism. “We’ve gone from barely having enough to get on the field to where we have 13 offensive linemen battling for five spots,” he said. “We’ve got one returner on the offensive line. That’s Amando (Guerrero) and I expect him to be a big leader for us. He’s very vocal in practice and he knows our expectations. We’ve got some senior guys who are fighting for spots. That’s Jason Hines and Kameron Corey, and they’re wanting it pretty bad right now. They’ve worked their tails off in the weight room and in spring ball to make sure those spots are theirs. “Competition breeds championships. And that’s what we’re looking for.”

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[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 25

Schedule Aug. 19 Aug. 26 Sept. 2 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 Sept. 23 Sept. 30 Oct. 7 Oct. 14 Oct. 21 Oct. 28

Harnett Central at Western Harnett at Gray’s Creek BYE *at Wilson Fike *Southern Wayne *at East Wake *Smithfield-Selma *at Pikeville Aycock *at Wilson Hunt *South Johnston

* — Quad County 3A Conference game

West Johnston celebrates after a play during a game last fall. Photo courtesy of We Journal Great Sports.

Consistency is key for West Johnston By RANDY CAPPS

fter a narrow 27-24 loss to Durham Jordan in the season opener, West Johnston raced to a 5-1 record to begin the 2021 season. Things went south after that with five straight losses, including a first-round playoff defeat at Lee County. “The main thing is weathering the storm,” head coach Jermaine Harper said. “We started out well, then halfway through the season, the wheels fell off. That’s what we talk about when we talk about being consistent. Being a winning program. We need to be consistent throughout the duration of the season, because it’s a long season. These guys have been getting it since February in the weight room, then we come in for summer practices and all the way through to November. We’re asking a lot of these guys. Just being able to stay consistent, stay healthy and keeping that drive. Because the football season is so long.” Harper won’t have his son, Donte’, along for the journey this fall, as last



season’s starting quarterback committed to Saint Augustine’s earlier this spring. “It’ll be a little different,” Harper said. “But TJ (Denning), the guy we have returning, got some experience a year ago. I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to do this year as a senior.” Denning completed nine of his 19 passes for 202 yards and a score in spot duty last fall. There will be a new face at running back for the Wildcats as well, with allconference selection Nicolas Robinson (1,208 yards, 14 TD) moving on. “Alijah Brooks will be stepping into that role for us,” Harper said. “He had a couple of carries a season ago. He’ll have a little bit of help in the backfield from Lamont Turrentine.” Alex Wilson, who emerged late last season at receiver, is also expected to play a key role. “He made a couple of plays for us in that Lee County game,” he said. “We’re looking for him to be an impact player for us on offense and defense.” Caleb Lichlyter, Joey Nunnery and Jesus

Torres should anchor the offensive line for the Wildcats this season. On the other side of the football, Turrentine is the leading returning tackler after recording 72 stops in 2021. “He’s a returning all-conference player for us at linebacker,” he said. “He’s one of the guys we’ll be looking to come out and set the tone and be a leader for us.” Linebackers Patrick Schmidt and Jon Johnson are in line to be key contributors, as are Jack Gibson and Wyatt Singeltary in the secondary and defensive line, respectively. The Quad County 3A will be a tough test for Harper’s team this fall. The Wildcats finished fifth in the new league last season. “On any given night, anybody can win,” he said. “I think the teams are stacked up that evenly in our conference. “We just want to keep that culture going with our younger guys. Because we had a lot of guys graduate. We got younger guys that need to step up and fill that void. We just want to be consistent, year in and year out.”

Parade My Kids Club 46th annual Railroad Days 5k run/walk Selma Firefighters Association BBQ Cook-off little engineers stations Chew Chew food truck Rodeo Vendors Crown Miss Hispanic Heritage Johnston County Inflatabales Live Entertainment Community Stage Model Trains Much More!

for more information, contact Selma Parks & Recreation at 919-975-1411

Chase Ferrell, left, auxiliary services and safety officer, was named the 2022 Auxiliary and Administrative Services Employee of the Year. With Ferrell is JCPS Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary and Administrative Services Dr. David Pearce.

Caitlin Furr, executive director of communication, was named the 2022 Central Office Employee of the Year.

Jill Kreacic, left, a school counselor at Dixon Road Elementary, was named the 2022 Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability Employee of the Year. With her is Dixon Road Elementary Principal Amy Creed.

Board of Education honors

JCPS Employees of the Year Submitted by JOHNSTON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

SMITHFIELD — The Johnston County Board of Education honored the 2022 Johnston County Public Schools Employees of the Year at a recent meeting. Each year, educators who serve outside the classroom setting are recognized for the important roles they play in Johnston County Public Schools. Through a nomination and blind judging process, employees of the year were named in auxiliary and administrative services, central office, curriculum, instruction and accountability; facilities and construction and media specialist. Recipients for the awards are Chase Ferrell for auxiliary and administrative services, Caitlin Furr for central office, school counselor Jill Kreacic of Dixon Road Elementary for curriculum, instruction and accountability; Billy Norris for facilities and construction and Melissa Waring of Corinth-Holders Elementary for media specialist. Ferrell, auxiliary services and safety officer, was nominated by Ben Barbour, 28 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

who said that he has never met someone that is as involved and passionate about his job as Ferrell is. Barbour said he has personally witnessed the relationship that Ferrell

has built with the Johnston County emergency services department, police departments and the sheriff’s office and believes that Johnston County is a better place because of the work that he does.

Melissa Waring, a media specialist at Corinth-Holders Elementary, was named the 2022 Media Specialist of the Year. From left are Corinth-Holders Elementary Assistant Principal Michelle Butler, Waring, Corinth-Holders Elementary Principal Chad McLamb and JCPS Area Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Patty Whittington.

Billy Norris, a JCPS electrician, was named the 2022 Facilities and Construction Employee of the Year. From left are facilities and construction team members Matthew Johnson, Denise Fox, Norris, Shane Johnson and Brooks Moore.

Barbour said Ferrell truly puts children and staff safety as his number one priority, always has a positive attitude and can find the good in a bad situation. Furr was nominated by Kathryn Farrior, who said that Furr works tirelessly to promote JCPS programs and maintain a positive image for the school district. Farrior said Furr confidently, proficiently and promptly attends to the needs of administration and directors and also leads school staff in properly relaying information to the public via websites and social media platforms. Farrior said Furr is the voice of the district to its most important stakeholders, the parents and students. Kreacic was nominated by Laura Costa, who said she is like a fairy godmother who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make programs and instruction at Dixon Road happen effortlessly. Costa said that as a

counselor, Kreacic is involved in all areas of the school family. Costa added she coordinates with area businesses and churches to provide Backpack Buddies kits for kids, she distributes supplies as needed, she volunteers to have lunch with students in need of a person to listen and she organizes the school’s peer tutoring group which provides muchneeded practice with younger students. Costa said Kreacic goes far beyond the requirements of her job because she desires to serve the staff and student body. According to Costa, she teaches lessons regularly that are tailored to classroom needs, and readily consults with teachers about what lesson would best work at this time. Norris was nominated by Matthew Johnson, who said Norris knows what it takes to show up to work every day ready to give it his all. Johnson said Norris is always determined to take on tasks that

no one else wants to accomplish and his resolve to consistently do what is best and do it well characterizes strong character. Johnston added he personifies the idea that while life may be difficult and not always go our way, it does not have to dictate or negatively affect daily relationships and work ethic. Waring was nominated by her principal, Chad McLamb, who said she is the face of the school’s media center. He noted as the head of the dismissal line, Waring knows every parent by name. McLamb said Waring displays empathy daily, as she cares more about others than herself, and would truly do anything to put a smile on anyone’s face. He said Waring’s passion for her job is what you want working alongside you every day and she constantly seeks ways to bolster our morale and Waring shares her love of reading with anyone that she comes into contact with. [ AUGUST 2022 ] | 29

Museum completes mural and rose garden project Submitted by JOHNSTON COUNTY VISITORS BUREAU

SMITHFIELD — This year’s Ava Gardner Festival will include a multitude of exciting events, new exhibits and the debut of numerous projects through the remainder of 2022 and into 2023. The first two projects are already open to visitation by the public. The Ava Gardner mural, located on the side of the museum and visible to westbound traffic on Market Street in Smithfield, is the culmination of nearly a year of work by the Ava Gardner Museum. Greensboro artist Brian Lewis (aka Jeks One) was selected to bring the Ava Gardner mural to life. Lewis was chosen by the board for his stunningly realistic portrayal of many famous film stars, politicians and musicians around the world. Getting Gardner’s face and expressions just right was the most important criteria for the board when considering an artist. The mural portrays her life from her dscovery photo, three selections from her career and her later life in London with her beloved Corgi, Morgan. “In our opinion, Brian was the perfect and only choice for our project and we are thrilled with the mural,” said Lynell Seabold, executive director of the museum. Visitors to the Ava Gardner Museum and to downtown Smithfield can view the massive and incredible life-like mural now as the backdrop for the second project, a rose garden. The museum is billing this as an “outdoor exhibit,” and visitors will be prompted with a QR code to visit the museum’s website about the project, with more information on the artist, the garden and video documentation. The idea for the rose garden was proposed to the museum board of directors by Carmen Vargas, Gardner’s housekeeper and companion. Vargas first 30 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

Chloe Gutierrez, a Gardner family member, poses in front of the first “outdoor exhibit” for the Ava Gardner Museum, a project which is attracting a lot of interest for the upcoming festival and providing a beautiful selfie location in downtown Smithfield.

requested to import a rose variety named Brighton from Ecuador, however, the North Carolina climate was not suitable. “Yellow roses were Ava’s favorite and very special to her,” said Seabold. “After their divorce in 1957, Frank Sinatra and Ava remained very good friends. Every year on her birthday Frank would send her a huge, beautiful bouquet of yellow roses and Ava would keep them on her dressing table till next year’s arrangement arrived.” The garden was recently installed by Witherspoon’s of Durham and includes 18 Hotel California Yellow tea roses with boxwoods and hedges surrounding the roses in a bed that lies beside the museum and directly under the mural. Funding for this project was provided by Vargas and grants from the Joy W. Pope Memorial Foundation and the Johnston County Arts Council. Site preparation was sponsored by Piedmont Pump and Tank, LLC and BSG Stump Grinding. As part of October’s festival schedule, the dedication of the Ava Gardner Mural

and Rose Garden will be held Saturday, Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. to share the story behind the project and thank all those that contributed to its success. The Ava Gardner Museum hosts an annual festival in honor of the legendary actress, fashion icon, and humanitarian Ava Gardner, a North Carolina native who grew up just seven miles east of Smithfield. This year’s Ava Gardner Festival, scheduled for Oct. 7-9, kicks off Ava’s Centennial Celebration. The Southern starlet would have celebrated her 100th birthday on Christmas Eve, and the museum plans to make the entire year all about marking the occasion. The Ava Gardner Museum is located in Downtown Smithfield at 325 E. Market St., convenient to hotels offering special rates for the weekend and nearby local shops and restaurants also planning to celebrate the weekend with special offers. For more information, visit www., call 919-9345830 or email

JCPS names Teacher Assistant of the Year Submitted by JOHNSTON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

SMITHFIELD — Johnston County Public Schools teacher assistant Chellie Cherry from West Smithfield Elementary School was named the 2022 Teacher Assistant of the Year at the Johnston County Association of Teacher Assistants annual banquet. Teacher assistants work alongside teachers to give students additional attention and instruction. Cherry’s coworkers said that she is beyond deserving of the Teacher Assistant of the Year

award, and is an integral part of the West Smithfield Elementary team. The first runner-up for the award was Joe Gilmore from Cleveland High. The banquet also included recognition of the Teacher Assistant of the Year nominees, schools with 100 percent membership in the TA organization, and those who are retiring this year. Nominees for Teacher Assistant of the Year included Cherry, Gilmore, Robin Jernigan from South Johnston High, Ashley Parker from Benson Elementary,

Chellie Cherry from West Smithfield Elementary School was named the Johnston County Teacher Assistant of the Year at the Johnston County Association of Teacher Assistants banquet in April.

Ashley Perry from Princeton Elementary, Melissa Williams from Cleveland Elementary, Stephanie Daugherty from West View

Elementary, Norma Langdon from McGee’s Crossroads Elementary and Michelle Ranson from Wilson’s Mills Elementary.

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 31

Johnston Community College and the Johnston County Board of Commissioners have announced the formation of the JoCo Commissioners Promise Program, which will cover the cost of tuition for 2022 high school graduates during the 2022-23 school year.

JCC, county commissioners announce

Promise Program Submitted by JOHNSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SMITHFIELD — Johnston Community College and the Johnston County Board of Commissioners are pleased to announce the formation of the The JoCo Commissioners Promise Program, which will cover the cost of tuition for 2022 high school graduates during the 2022-23 school year. The county appropriated $250,000 to help fund the initiative. The JoCo Commissioners Promise Program will bridge the gap for any 32 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

tuition not covered by the Longleaf Commitment Grant, federal Pell grants or other state funds. Students will only be responsible for the costs of textbooks, supplies and program-specific fees. “We would like to thank the Johnston County commissioners for their commitment to JCC. Investments in our college are investments in the local economy,” said Dr. Kenneth A. Boham, interim president of JCC. “We are grateful for our partnership with this community. This promise program is essential to positioning the college’s service.”

“The board of commissioners places a great value on its investment in education,” said Chairman Butch Lawter. “By supporting this promise program, we hope to create a clearer path for graduating seniors to enter into the local workforce as we bolster our commitment to Johnston Community College.” Students must meet eligibility requirements, apply to JCC and fill out their FAFSA forms to qualify. Registration for the fall semester ends Aug. 12. For details, visit www.

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[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 33

The Junior Women's League of Smithfield raised $5,000 for the ReEntry Family Services "Towards No Drugs" program at Big Night Out. The event also raised $3,000 for the organization's Blessing Box program.

Big Night Out raises $8,000


SMITHFIELD — The ladies of the Junior Women’s League of Smithfield hosted their annual Big Night Out Gala at The Farm at 95 benefiting ReEntry Family Services and JWL’s Johnston County Blessing Boxes. The league presented a check for $5,000 to ReEntry Family Services and for $3,000 to Johnston County Blessing Boxes. ReEntry Family Services will now be able to expand their “Towards No Drugs” program and maintain children in the county on a path of success, deterring interaction with the court system and steadying a direction towards healthy decisions. Johnston County Blessing Boxes will use funds to stock inventory for the 10 Blessing Boxes throughout the county to supply free non-perishable goods to feed those in need. “The Big Night Out committee executed another fabulous event where we exceeded expectations in raising money for our community. We really appreciate the support of local businesses and community members. None of this would 34 | [ JOHNSTON NOW ]

be made possible without them,” said Dana Peterson, Big Night Out committee co-chair. “There is no better way to raise money for the deserving organizations than filling the night with dancing, food and entertainment! We appreciate everyone’s continued support of JWL and our missions within the community,” added Heather Bryant, Junior Women’s League of Smithfield’s recording secretary and Big Night Out committee co-chair. In 2019, 12.25% of the people living in Johnston County were food insecure. Currently, the projected overall food insecurity rate of Johnston County residents is 13.5%, in part as a result of COVID-19. For these families, children and elderly neighbors, experiencing food insecurity means not always having daily meals or not knowing where their next meal will come from. That is why the Junior Women’s League of Smithfield remains steadfast in its fight to end hunger and positively impact the lives of Johnston County’s citizens through its Blessing Box program, small pantries located at fire departments throughout the county that are stocked

with free food and personal care items for people in need. ReEntry Family Services is a small nonprofit that began serving Johnston County families in 1998. They serve 60 families a week, providing a minimum of 90 minutes of service for programs such as the Family Pride parenting program, HALT domestic violence prevention program, and the Healthy Choices youth program. ReEntry is adding to their list of programs with the “Toward No Drugs” program. TND is a substance abuse program for teens that focuses on character building and providing life skills, while lessening substance abuse, deterring interaction with the court system and helping them succeed in school. It is ReEntry’s hope that teaching our youth these life skills will help them become successful individuals in our community. JWL is accepting applications from prospective new members through July 31. Partial member scholarships will be available at that time as well. For more information about joining the Junior Women’s League of Smithfield, visit www.

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 35

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CALENDAR of events

Friday, Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m.


Paint and Sip Night Artmosphere Community Arts Center, Clayton Join Artmosphere Community Arts Center for August Paint and Sip Night. Paint and relax as you imagine this serene Mediterranean getaway. They will give step by step instructions. All materials included. Please feel free to bring refreshments such as wine or other beverages and enjoy responsibly. Masks are currently optional. Disposable glassware is available. For tickets, visit

Friday, Aug. 5, 7 p.m.

Eddie Miles saluting country legends and Elvis Rudy Theatre, Selma There will be no jumpsuits, but Eddie Miles will salute country legends and the great Elvis Presley. For more, visit

Saturday, Aug. 6, 9 a.m.

Beginner Kayak Howell Woods, Four Oaks Ever wanted to use a kayak, but don’t know where to start? This program is for you! They will cover paddling techniques and have a chance to get out on the calm waters of Swan Pond or Sand Hole Lake. Please wear water shoes and dress for the weather. This program is for ages 12 and up, however, participants aged 12-15 must be accompanied by an adult. This program is $15 per participant. For more, visit documents/Summer-2022-Program-Flyer.pdf.

Thursday, Aug. 11, 1 p.m.

Community Science: Dragonfly Watch Howell Woods, Four Oaks Join them as they introduce a few community science projects this summer. Dragonfly Watch will cover how to identify common dragonflies in North Carolina and how you can do this project at home. Please wear closed-toed shoes and dress for the weather. This program is for all ages, however, children must be accompanied by an adult. This program is $5 per participant. For more, visit

Thursday, Aug. 11, 6 p.m.

Sundown in Downtown — Coastline Benson Singing Grove Can you hear the sounds of summer? Well, maybe not quite yet, but the Benson Chamber is ready to help get you in the summer spirit with Coastline. To learn more, visit

Saturday, Aug. 13, 10:30 a.m. and noon

Goat Yoga Homestead at Little Creek Goat yoga is starting up again at The Homestead at Little Creek. Classes will begin at 10:30 a.m. and noon. They partner with their friends at Victory Power Yoga in Clayton. All events are located outside. Once participants arrive at the farm, they will have the opportunity to snuggle all the

babies or catch a restroom break in the climate controlled kennel before classes begin. Mats are provided for each attendee included in the ticket price. For tickets, visit For more information, contact them at homestead

Saturday, Aug. 13, 1 p.m.

Pencil Artwork Drawing Class Artmosphere Arts Center, Clayton Even if you’ve never drawn before, you will be able to complete this pencil drawing of a Swirling Betta Fish during this one-day workshop at Artmosphere Community Arts Center. You’ll learn an easy image transfer technique (so you don’t have to draw freehand) and then you will learn how to shade and blend to achieve a professional, 3-D result that you will make you proud. Quality materials provided. This workshop is for adults and teens 16 and older. The cost is $45. For tickets, visit www.artmospherecac.coursestorm. com/course/pencil-artwork-drawing-skills-class.

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 4 p.m

Mamm & Glam Ambulatory Imaging, Brightleaf Blvd., Smithfield Is it time for your annual mammogram screening? Come out from 4-6 p.m. Registration is required. No walk-ins available. Screening events include a combination of breast health information, blood pressure screening, a complimentary chair massage, refreshments and a swag bag. Call 919-938-7749 to register for an appointment.

Thursday, Aug. 18, 6 p.m.

Downtown Clayton Concert Series The Downtown Clayton Concert Series, sponsored by Blue Recruit and Deep River Brewing Company, is back and better than ever. The Downtown Development Association, The Town of Clayton, and The Clayton Center will partner to host outdoor concerts at Town Square in 2022. The Malpass Brothers with Wade Hill is the featured act for August. Activities in Town Square will start at 6 p.m. and music will begin around 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 19, 6 p.m.

Third Streatery Downtown Smithfield Come downtown with your family, meet up with your friends, get takeout from a downtown restaurant and come out from 6-9 p.m. on Third Street to hear live music from Blazin’ Keys Dueling Pianos, shop from local businesses, have a beer or glass of wine and enjoy games and special activities. You can also catch a movie or enjoy drinks at one of the restaurants or bars. The 100 block of S. Third Street will be closed, and tables and chairs will be set up in the street. Several downtown businesses will be open and have special promotions. Visit to learn more.

Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m.

Pond Life Howell Woods, Four Oaks Tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, crayfish, oh my! Bring your mud boots and look for micro-wildlife at Ft. Island Pond using dip nets and microscopes to observe water critters. Please wear closed-toe shoes and dress for the weather. This program is for all ages, however, children must be accompanied by an adult. This program is $5 per participant. For more, visit documents/Summer-2022-Program-Flyer.pdf.

Saturday, Aug 20

MAGiCon The Big Stage Show The Clayton Center An exciting new show for everyone who loves magic comes to the Clayton Center Aug. 20. The MAGiCon Big Stage Show features internationally-acclaimed magic stars performing their greatest mysteries. You’ve seen them on television and in Las Vegas showrooms, now is your chance to see them live and in-person for one night only. Coming to you directly from his critically-acclaimed Las Vegas one-man show, Alain Nu is The Man Who Knows! His incredible feats of mind-reading will convince you that he can see your thoughts and predict your actions. The show also features the most versatile magician in the world, Dan Harlan, who will astound and amuse you with his original, audience-pleasing feats of wonder. Harlan transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary and the mundane into the miraculous, and he fooled Penn and Teller on the CW’s popular magic competition show “Fool Us.” The incredible lineup includes superstar magic legacy, Luna Shimada, captivating you with her enigmatic, powerful and visually-astounding pieces of artistic manipulation. She has delighted audiences in the finest showrooms in dozens of countries all around the world. And, don’t miss actor-turned-magician, Joshua Lozoff, who you may remember from his appearances in Cheers and Clueless, and world-renowned memory expert, SarahElla Phant. This fantastic show is the grand conclusion to the MAGiCon Festival, a fun, family-friendly experience for fans of magic of all ages. Reserve your seats now to guarantee an amazing night of magic you’ll never forget! For more information, visit email eventinfo@ or call 919-553-1737.

Thursday, Aug 25, 5 p.m

Rockin’ on Raiford Concert Series Downtown Selma Bring a lawn chair and enjoy live music on N. Raiford between Anderson and Oak streets. Call Selma Parks and Recreation for further information at 919-975-1411.

Friday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.

Jason Crabb in concert Rudy Theatre, Selma Jason Crabb’s electrifying stage presence, powerhouse vocals and magnetic personality have endeared him to millions across the world through extensive personal appearances, media coverage and social media including more than 20 million views on YouTube. For more, visit

Saturday, Aug. 27, 8 a.m.

Neuse River Day Trip Howell Woods, Four Oaks This 12-mile guided adventure on the Neuse River will be filled with Neuse River history and more. This program is for ages 12 and up. Participants aged 12-15 must be accompanied with an adult. Please wear water shoes and dress for the weather. River trips are $35 per participant. For more, visit

Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m.

Howell Woods Summer Hike Series Howell Woods, Four Oaks Join Howell Woods staff as they host a group hike. Participants will traverse within their Habitat Diversity Trail System to learn more about local flora and fauna. Please wear closed-toe shoes and dress for the weather. This program is for all ages, however, children must be accompanied by an adult. This program is $5 per participant. For more, visit Summer-2022-Program-Flyer.pdf.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, 6 p.m.

Smithfield Running Club Join the Smithfield Running Club each week to meet new people, get back in shape, train for races and explore the growing downtown area of Smithfield. For more information, find them on Facebook by searching for Smithfield Running Club or email

Second and Fourth Tuesdays, 7 a.m.

Cleveland School Rotary Club Cleveland Draft House, Garner Cleveland School Rotary Club meets bi-weekly and serves the citizens of the 40/42 area of Johnston County and Garner.

Every Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Smithfield Kiwanis Club Meeting Golden Corral, Smithfield Come for dinner and learn about this volunteer service club with a focus on actively supporting children’s programs. Learn about Smithfield and neighboring communities from weekly presenters. Community and social opportunities as well. Visit to learn more.

Every Wednesday, 2 p.m.

Trivia Party Clayton Center for Active Aging Join the folks at Clayton Center for Active Aging with trivia each Wednesday at 2 p.m. Call 919-295-9163 to play. For more information, contact the center at 919-553-4350.

Saturday, Aug. 27, 6 p.m.

First and third Tuesdays, Noon

NAMI Support Groups and Classes

First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m.

Gospel Sing Four Oaks Church of God Join The Crusaders of N.C. from Erwin and their friends Potters Will from Robbins and Safe Haven from Zebulon as they share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ in song and testimony.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers free weekly support groups throughout Johnston County for both those who are in recovery with mental illness (NAMI Connection) and for their caregivers, loved ones and friends as well (NAMI Family Support). For more information on the support groups and educational classes of NAMI Johnston County, NC, visit, email or call 919-980-5277.

Clayton Rotary Mid-day Club Virtual meeting via Zoom This small group of service-minded individuals is very dedicated to community betterment in Clayton and Johnston County. Visit to learn more.

Smithfield Lions Club Mayflower Restaurant, Smithfield This group gathers for fellowship and business. The dinner is self-pay. The meeting and meal begins at 5:30 p.m. Come learn about the club and how we help with local community service projects. For more information, contact Karen Brown at 919-934-2555.

Hospice doesn’t mean giving up hope. 919.877.9959

[ AUGUST 2022 ] | 37

First and third Thursdays, 6:45 p.m. Clayton Civitan Club meeting Clayton Civitan Building, McCullers St., Clayton Join the Clayton Civitan Club for its monthly meetings. Call 919-550-0694 for more information.

First and third Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. Fellowship Masonic Lodge #84 meeting Fellowship Masonic Lodge #84, S. Brightleaf Blvd., Smithfield Fellowship Masonic Lodge #84 meets the first and third Thursday of each month. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., and visitors are welcome. The lodge will open at 7:30 p.m. For more information, email Grover Dees at

First Tuesday, Noon

Clayton Visual Arts meeting The Clayton Center Clayton Visual Arts (CVA) is a nonprofit 501(3)c organization dedicated to bringing Art to Clayton. Its members are artists, educators and art lovers. CVA engages and promotes the visual arts and strives to emphasize quality, diversity and accessibility to all local artists. Please consider joining and help support the arts in Clayton. Monthly meetings are the first Tuesday of the month from noon to 1 p.m. at The Clayton Center in the York Room on the second floor. They also host monthly artist receptions on the first or second Thursday of the month from 6-7:30 p.m. at The Clayton Center. For more information, visit or contact CVA president, Bronwen Fullington at bronwen.

Second Monday, 6 p.m.

PACT meeting Virtual Meeting via Google Meet Parents of Adult Children in Transition meets the second Monday of each month. To learn more about this program which benefits families coping with special needs, contact Jeff Holland at hollandjeff@


Second Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.

Johnston County Chapter of National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees meeting Golden Corral, Smithfield Join the Johnston County Chapter of National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees for their monthly meeting on the second Wednesday of each month at Golden Corral. Stay up to date on the latest educational programs and federal and state legislation affecting current federal employees and retirees. To learn more, email

Second Wednesday, noon

The Woman’s Club of Clayton meeting TWCC building, Church St., Clayton The Woman’s Club of Clayton (TWCC) is a nonprofit philanthropic organization made up of professional women who share a common goal: to work together to improve our local community, socially, physically, culturally and educationally. Please consider joining to help serve those in need of assistance. TWCC meets at noon the second Wednesday of each month (except June, July and August). For more information visit or email

Second Thursday, 6 p.m.

Johnston County Writers Group Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield Join a hard-working group of local writers and poets, beginner to advanced, who network, critique each other’s work, listen to guest authors and organize open mics and write-ins around the county. It’s free and open to the public. For more information, email facilitator Cindy Brookshire at

Every other Monday, 6 p.m.

Kiwanis Club of Clayton, N.C. Virtual meeting The Kiwanis Club of Clayton, N.C., serves the community with emphasis on school youth Kiwanis programs. It advises two local high school KEY (Kiwanis Educating Youth) clubs and one elementary school club and meets each month. Visit ClaytonKiwanis to learn more.

Vietnam Veterans of America Smithfield American Legion Post 132 The Smithfield Chapter 990 meeting of the Vietnam Veterans of America is every third Monday of the month at 7 p.m.

Third Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Johnston County Beekeepers Association meeting Johnston County Ag Center The Johnston County Beekeepers Association serves beginner and experienced beekeepers with educational programs and experiences. We teach and encourage better apiculture methods and promote cooperation and sharing among beekeepers, homeowners and farmers. Our monthly meetings are free and open to everyone. For more information, visit www. or email

Third Tuesday

Widowed Persons Fellowship Group Parkside Cafe, Pine Level The Widowed Persons Fellowship Group, Johnston County, cordially invites widowed males and females to join them at their monthly self-pay dinner meeting. There is no charge to join their group. Come and see what they’re all about. Call 919-9653865 with any questions.

Third Tuesday

Johnston County African-American Caucus meeting 1302 W. Market St., Smithfield The Johnston County African-American Caucus meets every third Tuesday of the month. Attend in person or visit www. to attend via Zoom. The Meeting ID is 921 613 2965. For more information, email or call 954696-7833.

Third Thursday

Johnston County Republican Women The Johnston County Republican Women (JCRW) meets on the third Thursday of each month (except in July and December). Our meeting location changes monthly. For more information email jcrwrocks@


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Third Monday, 7 p.m.

Fourth Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Disabled American Veterans meeting Smithfield DAV, Buffalo Road Smithfield Chapter 44 of the Disabled American Veterans meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m.

Every Thursday, 6:45 a.m.

Clayton Rotary Morning Club Virtual meeting via Zoom Every Thursday morning, 70 service-minded people, representing all ages, genders and races meet. Learn more at www.

Every Thursday, 6:15 p.m.

Clayton Area Toastmasters meetings JCC Workforce Development Center Clayton Area Toastmasters is a public speaking club in affiliation with Toastmasters International. Meetings can also be offered via Zoom if requested by a member. For more, visit

First Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Four Oaks American Legion meeting American Legion Building, Hwy. 301, Four Oaks All veterans are encouraged to attend the monthly meeting of Four Oaks American Legion Post 346 on the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m.

Fourth Thursday, 6 p.m.

Caring Hearts Civitan Club Cleveland Draft House, Shotwell Road, Clayton Caring Hearts Civilian Club would like to invite anyone interested in helping others in the Johnston County area to come to its meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month, excluding July. The club is a service-based volunteer organization that seeks members who are like-minded and would like to partner with other clubs and support worthy causes. Dinner begins at 6 and the meeting at 7. Those interested in attending or making a presentation about their organization should email


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Articles inside

Junior Women's League of Smithfield's Big Night Out raises $8,000

page 34

Johnston Community College, county commissioners announce promise program

page 32

JCPS names Teacher Assistant of the Year

page 31

Ava Gardner Museum completes mural and rose garden project

page 30

Board of Education honors JCPS Employees of the Year

pages 28-29

Cleveland High graduate wins Sam Narron Award

page 12

Nurse, compliance coordinator named Johnston Health Ambassadors of the Month

pages 10-11

Eastfield development starting to take shape

page 8

Consistency is key for West Johnston

page 26

Trojans hope to have same winning attitude with new faces in 2022

pages 24-25

Spartans hope veteran defense, offensive line can keep momentum going

page 22

Princeton hopes to take final step toward title in 2022

pages 20-21

North Johnston hopes a simplified approach leads to more success

page 18

Corinth Holders to rely on new players, staff for 2022 campaign

page 16

Cleveland looks to reload after losing record-breaking offensive standouts

page 15

New coach brings experience, excitement to Clayton

page 14

Clayton set to host magical experience

page 7

The aging process isn’t always graceful

page 6

The faces change, but the game stays the same

page 5
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