Northern Guilford's football season came to an end last Friday, dropping a 56-35 decision to Northwest Cabarrus in the second round of the state playoffs.
The 13-seeded Nighthawks finished the season 8-5 overall and 4-3 in the eight-team 2A/3A Mid State Athletic Conference.
"It was a good season for us," Coach Erik Westberg said. "I thought we played well Friday night. We just came up short. I'm proud of our guys."
The Nighthawks were in the game until the fourth quarter. They'd scored three touchdowns in 2 ½ minutes in the third to tie it all up. Down by six points early in the fourth, a promising Northern drive ended a yard shy on fourth down.
From there it was all fifth-seeded Northwest Cabarrus (12-1). The Trojans scored twice more to ice the win.
"They played extremely hard," Westberg said of his team. "We got in a position to win the game. We had that momentum. We just couldn't get that 1 yard we needed."
Although Northern will lose 27 seniors to graduation, Westberg is upbeat as he looks ahead to next year.
His quarterback - Will Lenard - will be back, and a number of players from this year's junior varsity squad, which went 9-1, will be moving up.
"We're going to be a little bit younger," Westberg said. "But we feel good about next year. We'll start back up in January getting ready."
Northwest Guilford WRESTLING
It will be hard for the Northwest Guilford Vikings wrestling team to top last season, which ended with a state championship - the first in school history. The team has lots of talented and experienced wrestlers returning, but lots of talent and experience also left with graduation and for other reasons, so some weight classes remain question marks.
"We have 40 kids in the program," Coach Ron Bare said. "But that doesn't mean they weigh what you need them to weigh. There's just not much you can do about that."
Still, the Vikings have wrestlers in all 14 weight classes. That means that, barring injuries, they won't forfeit any classes, which is a big issue for some programs.
Gone are seven seniors including Chris Garrison, who won two state individual titles during his time at Northwest and now wrestles for N.C. State. Also lost for most of the season is Steven Vega, who wrestles at 285 pounds. Vega, a senior, broke his ankle this fall playing football. Several other wrestlers from last year decided not to come back.
But among those returning are juniors Riley Edwards, at 126 pounds, and James Joplin, at 132 pounds. Both were key to the Vikings' march to the state title last season.
"They are very dedicated," Bare said of Edwards and Joplin.
Bare said he'll have wrestlers who are "very good with a lot of experience" in about half of the weight classes. Wrestlers in the rest, he said, show promise but need experience.
"It takes a while to learn to wrestle at the varsity level," the coach said. "Wrestling is a tough sport. It's always a challenge to fill those slots."
Still, he said, his team has "quality kids" who have worked hard during the off season.
"We're going to wrestle hard and get them ready for the post season," Bare said. "Hopefully that'll work out for us."
Northwest is off to a good start this season, winning its first six contests. In a duals tournament at South Stokes last week, the Vikings downed Glen 52-21 and South Stokes 64-18. At the Pete Martin Dual Team Tournament last Saturday, they defeated East Chapel Hill 84-0, Northern Guilford 41-30, Williams 77-6 and Pine Forest 60-18.
Northern Guilford GIRLS BASKETBALL
Northern Guilford will field a young, small girls basketball team this season, but its goals haven't changed.
"I think we can win the conference," said Kim Furlough, the Nighthawks' long-time coach. "I think we have the talent for that."
Assistant coach Josh Evans will be guiding the Nighthawks most of the season while Furlough undergoes treatment for a recurrence of breast cancer. She expects to be back courtside in late January.
"We've worked on a lot of fundamentals during the off season," Evans said. "We're going to be a fast team. We like to run."
The Nighthawks have won at least 20 games each season for the past 10 years. During that stretch they've picked up two state championships, one state runner-up finish and five conference titles. They haven't finished worse than third in the conference.
Furlough characterized last season as a rebuilding year. That team finished 20-8 overall and tied for second in the Mid State 3A Conference at 10-4.
This year's 14-player squad has three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen. None of them, according to the roster listed on MaxPreps.com, stands 6 feet or taller. Furlough puts her team's average height at 5 feet 9 inches.
"We don't have a lot of height," Furlough said. "We do have youth, but they're good youth. They can play."
Although the team continues to rebuild, Furlough has very high expectations for her players and is especially looking for big things from captains Janelle Henderson, 5 feet 9 inches, and Jayla Harris, 5 feet 8 inches, both seniors who were named to last season's All Conference team. She's also looking for major contributions from Jadyn Newsome, a 5-foot-10 freshman.
Henderson and Harris have both been on the school's state championship teams and Furlough said "they know what it takes to win."
In honor of Furlough, the Northern and Northwest Guilford teams will play each other in a Pink Out Game Dec. 6 to raise awareness of breast cancer.
The game, Evans said, is a way to let "her know we're fighting with her."