The 2021 calendar year offered quite a bit of sports news in Union County. Here’s a review of the highlights over the past 12 months.


Cuthbertson wins 3rd straight state title

The Cuthbertson girls won their third 3A cross country state championship in a row in late January, finishing with a score of 31 — 15 points fewer than second place.

Senior Madeline Hill — who is currently a freshman at ECU — won the 3A individual state title with a time of 18:11.96. This was Hill’s second individual state title, as she also won the race in 2018 as a sophomore.

FEBRUARYSpring football starts

Because of COVID-19, the 2020 football season was pushed to the spring of 2021. The first games of the season were held on Feb. 26.

The highlight of the 2021 spring football season was the play of Monroe, which advanced to the 3A state semifinals before falling to Charlotte Catholic. Weddington, which won the 3AA title in 2019, lost in the second round of their tournament to Mount Tabor.

MARCHWeddington boys win state basketball title

The Weddington boys basketball team won the program’s first ever state championship in March with a 56-47 win over Northwood. The Warriors finished the season perfect at 18-0.

Weddington had three players average at least 10 points per game — juniors Chase Lowe (14.5) and A.J. Cook (13.8) and senior Brock Bowen (10.3). Lowe was named Union County MVP after also leading the team in rebounds (7.2), assists (6.1) and steals (2.9) per game.

Marvin Ridge wins boys lacrosse title

After years of playing second fiddle to Weddington, the Marvin Ridge boys lacrosse team earned the program’s first ever state title with a 14-7 win over East Chapel Hill on March 27.

The Mavericks defeated the Warriors in the state semifinals, 7-6. Marvin Ridge’s top player during the 2021 season was senior Emmett Houlihan, who had 45 goals and 45 assists to lead the team. Houlihan is currently a freshman on the Michigan lacrosse team.

APRILWatts drafted into WNBA

In mid-April, former Weddington High basketball McDonald’s all-American and Union County’s all-time leading scorer Stephanie Watts was drafted No. 10 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

Watts, who is the highest drafted former Union County player in any sport, was eventually traded to Chicago before being released. She is now playing in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) for the Sydney Uni Flames.

Bailey named new FH coach

Also in April, Forest Hills announced that Danny Bailey would take over as the school’s new head boys basketball coach. Bailey played under former Yellow Jackets head coach Matt Sides at Anson until the former graduated in 2012.

Sides was 201-50 in nine seasons with Forest Hills. Sides helped the Yellow Jackets win the program’s first-ever state title in 2018 and consistently put together one of the best teams in Union County.


Piedmont hires Jensen as boys coach

In May, Piedmont hired its next boys basketball coach. Brett Jensen previously served as an assistant coach at Cuthbertson.

Jensen also coached Cuthbertson’s boys tennis team and was named the 2021 Southern Carolina Conference boys tennis coach of the year. He took over the Piedmont basketball job from Jay Fitts, who went 49-65 in five seasons as the team’s head coach. Jensen’s hoops team currently 3-5 this season.

JUNEWingate wins D2 World Series

In June, the Wingate baseball team shocked the world by winning the D2 College World Series in the team’s first-ever appearance in the event.

Wingate won despite losing its first game of the double-elimination tournament, the first team to do so since the field expanded to eight teams and the first to do it at all since Florida Southern in 2005.

This was Wingate’s first national title in any sport since the men’s soccer team won the 2016 D2 championship.

Cuthbertson sweeps track and field titles

The Cuthbertson girls and boys track and field teams swept the 3A state meet in late June. This was the first time either team had won an outdoor track and field state title.

Leading the way for the girls was sophomore Alyssa Preisano, who won both the 800- and 1,600-meter races. The Cuthbertson boys won the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relay races.

JULYSurratt wins Junior PGA Championship

During the summer, Union Academy senior Caleb Surratt won the 45th Boys Junior PGA Championship with a final score of 16-under-par.

The tournament was held at Kearney Hills Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. During the third round, Surratt shot a 62, one stroke shy of the course record for any round, set by former PGA professional Jason Teater.


Knotts commits to Maryland

In August, Monroe senior Shaleak Knotts, a four-time all-county receiver, announced his commitment to Maryland on social media.

A four-star prospect, Knotts is the No. 210 overall player and the No. 32 receiver in 247Sports’ composite rankings for the Class of 2022. In four years with Monroe, Knotts caught 176 passes for 2,986 yards and 42 touchdowns.

Burke breaks out

In his first career start back in late August, Cuthbertson sophomore quarterback Parker Burke tied the school record with six touchdown passes in a 47-30 win over Parkwood.

Burke finished the game 12-of-17 for 220 yards and also ran for 56 yards and another touchdown on 11 carries.

He finished the 2021 season completing 58.3% of his passes for 1,967 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

SEPTEMBERFootball coach resigns midseason at Sun Valley

In September, six games into the 2021 fall football season, Drew Hackett stepped down as Sun Valley’s coach with the Spartans 0-6.

Former Monroe standout Quay Chambers was named the team’s interim coach and led the Spartans to a 30-0 win over Central Pageland. The Spartans finished the year 2-8 overall, but Chambers was 2-2 in the games where he served as the team’s head coach.


Emezie breaks N.C. State record

In mid-October, former Marvin Ridge standout Emeka Emezie caught his 202nd career pass in a blowout win over Boston College. The reception moved Emezie into first place all-time in catches among N.C. State players.

With his bowl game still to play, Emezie has caught 229 passes for 2,895 yards and 19 touchdowns across five seasons for the Wolfpack. N.C. State will play UCLA in the San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 28.


3 state titles

In November, three Union County teams won state championships in three different sports.

The Union Academy volleyball team captured the program’s first-ever state title with a 3-1 win over Neuse Charter in the 1A state final.

That same day, the Cuthbertson girls won the 4A cross country meet by placing five runners inside the top 20.

Also, the Marvin Ridge girls tennis team swept East Chapel Hill in the finals of the 4A state tournament. The Mavericks finished the season 23-0 and won their first state title since 2016.

DECEMBERMcCall closes season on high note

Former Porter Ridge quarterback ended his redshirt sophomore season with the Coastal Carolina football team in mid-December with a 47-41 win over Northern Illinois in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl.

McCall was 22-for-30 for 315 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He finished the year having completed 73% of his passes for 2,873 yards and 27 touchdowns against three interceptions.

McCall announced a week later that he would return to Coastal for his junior season in 2022.

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